30 November, 2009

Your Daily Dose of Health Care Reform Stupidity

Congress is back in session, and Cons are outdoing themselves on teh stoopid.

Rep. Mark Kirk's busy fearmongering over mammograms.  Do these people know how to do anything other than lie and fearmonger?

You're right.  They don't.  Forget I asked.

Cons have a brilliant new idea: fuck health care, let's kill people, instead!
The policy debate in Washington is currently focused on two topics: a possible escalation of the war in Afghanistan and health care legislation. Both a troop escalation and health care reform carry significant price tags — roughly $100 billion and $80-$100 billion a year respectively. (It should be noted that health care reform, unlike a troop surge, would cut the deficit.)

When it comes to these two debates, hawkish senators have laid out their priorities. They are more than willing to fund a risky troop surge that is increasingly opposed by both Americans and Afghans, yet remain stalwart opponents of health care reform that could save the lives of the 45,000 Americans who die every year because they lack access to health care.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) demonstrated this preference for war over health care and other essential domestic priorities during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” yesterday. He heartily endorsed “a new surge of forces” in Afghanistan while dismissing a war surtax proposed by Rep. David Obey (D-WI). Graham suggested that we “trim up” the health care bill to pay for the war, prompting Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to remark that Graham and other senate hawks have a “poor set of priorities”:
GRAHAM: We’ll be evaluated by some pretty tough characters in the world by how we handle Afghanistan. … We’re gonna have the troops in Afghanistan to win the conflict. [...]
STEPHANOPOULOS: Does [Obey] have a point [about the war surtax]? If we’re going to fight a war, shouldn’t the American people pay for it?
GRAHAM: Well, I’d like to have an endeavor to see if we can cut current spending…to pay for the war. … Can we trim up the health care bill and other big ticket items to pay for a war that we can’t afford to lose? [...]
SANDERS: What Senator Graham is now saying as I understand it is, hey we can cut back on education, so middle class families can’t afford to send their families to college. We don’t have to rebuild our infrastructure. We don’t have to invest in sustainable energy, so we stop importing $350 billion a year in foreign oil. Let’s just spend more money in Afghanistan while Europe and the people of China and the people of Russia watch us do that work. I think that is a very poor set of national priorities.
I think Bernie's right.  And I think anyone listening to Cons on anything at all is an idiot of the highest caliber.

Oh, and you know how Cons wanted transparency?  Now that their amendments to the health care reform bill may come under public scrutiny, they're suddenly not wanting transparency at all:
"In light of some of the trust problems and transparency problems we have, while this appears to lead to greater transparency, we can also see ways that this can limit the ability for the minority to offer amendments," said Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), and, therefore, I object."
Why would that be, you ask?  Probably because of antics like this:
But to touch things off, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will likely introduce Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) who will offer a women's preventive health care amendment, according to a Senate Democratic aide--the first amendment of the process.

By contrast, the first Republican amendment will come from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who will propose that the bill be recommitted to the Finance Committee, which would be instructed to strip it of its Medicare cuts. At a 60 vote threshold, the amendment won't pass, but if it did, it would likely be the end of health care reform this Congress.

In other words, we're dealing with two very different species of amendments.

Indeed we are.  All they're doing is the usual, delay and attempt to kill.  No wonder transparency would make it harder for the minority party to offer "amendments."

And, lest you think McCain's some sort of hero for wanting to prevent Dems from cutting wasteful spending from Medicare and Medicaid, remember that this is the same man who wanted to cut three times as much from Medicare last year.

Meanwhile, Con Rep. Simmons, who totally opposes the "government takeover of health care," wants his constituents to know they can count on Medicaid if they lose their jobs.  Hypocrite much?

Everybody's girding their loins for battle.  Judging from the Cons' opening shots, it's going to be a long, ridiculous ride.

Meanwhile, the public option's been so watered down that folks are seriously reconsidering whether it's worth fighting for.  I think it is simply because I'm a spiteful bitch who'd like to force the not-so-fantastic-four to hold their noses and vote for the thing.

At least there's one thing for sure: as long as health care reform passes in relatively decent shape, folks will be paying lower premiums.  If we have to start small and build, so be it.

Oh, Yes, She Did!

My heart sister NP has an announcement:

I knew she could!

Raise a glass her way, my darlings.  It's one hell of an accomplishment!

Awesomeness on the Intertoobz

Yes, there are times when I escape the clutches of endless work and go spelunking the intertoobz strictly for fun.  And, like a good cantinera, I sometimes bring choice selections back for patrons of the cantina.  Like this delight, found via John Pieret, proving that Sarah Palin is actually Satan:
Given the interest so many people seem to have had in alleged prophecies about Barack Obama in the Bible, I am really astonished that the same individuals have been so slow to draw attention to the far clearer references in the Bible to another figure in modern politics. As any New Testament scholar can tell you, Palin is mentioned 141 times in the New Testament. Palin, you see, is the Greek word for "again." But the original meaning has not stopped people from making much of the alleged references to Barack Obama, and so presumably should not be allowed to stand in the way of finding (Sarah) Palin in there too.
Read on for the shocking truth!

Ed Brayton has some excellent entertainment news:
Matt Sigl sends a cease and desist letter to George Lucas, demanding that he stop making movies that destroy the legacy of his earlier work by sucking in the worst possible way.
It's about time someone took legal action.

Ed's also got a report on the stunning stupidity of the creationists who made a little film about their trip to the Galapagos in an ill-fated attempt to debunk Darwin.  I'm not going to excerpt it.  You must simply read it.  But for entertainment of this caliber, you really must have a snack.  Mrs. DoF has just the recipe.  And before you stop at the fact it's called "puppy chow," just listen to Mr. DoF's description:
We also have something called “puppy-chow”, which she makes from Ghiradelli chocolate and natural peanut butter, simmered on a double-boiler before being rolled together with Crispix cereal.
You know you want to scroll down the comments in that post for the recipe.  Go on and do it.  Make yourself a nice batch, settle in, and enjoy the bounty.

29 November, 2009

Sunday Sensational Science

Getting Acquainted with Agassiz
Parte the Second: The Ice Man Cometh

In Parte the First, I introduced you to Louis Agassiz, who dominated my hometown by way of the peak named after him.  We explored the odd fascinating fact, and I promised you much, much more.

In this edition, we shall discuss his illustrious career, and some of the details that made me fall in love with the man.  Grab your ice axe and follow me after the jump, where we'll go cover the earth in ice with Agassiz.

Companion to Rib Eating Cat

Can't have barbecue ribs without the corn on the cob, right?

You Know the Routine

It's Dana's weekend, which means she's buggered out to write and left you lot in charge of the cantina.  She'll pop back in for Sunday Sensational Science (probably), and perhaps a post or two if things get unignorably outrageous in the world o' pollyticks.

Otherwise, you know where the alcohol is, and you know where the glasses are.  Bottoms up, my darlings!  I'll see you on Tuesday.

28 November, 2009

Our Captain Be Missing in Action

(Postdated to leave no crew members behind. New content be below)

As ye know, our Captain Stephanie just went through surgery.  I haven't heard if she be up for helmin' the ship, so we be awaiting word.  Raise a tankard to her health, me hearties!

We'll stay in port an extra week, and if Captain Stephanie be ready t' take the helm then, it be hers.  If not, yer admiral will step up t' the wheel.  We be castin' off on the weekend o' December 5th.  Get yer submissions in to elitistbastardscarnival@gmail.com no later than Friday the 4th.

Ye've got extra time, so I expect yer very best elitist bastardry!

At Least One of You Will Laugh

Do I need to add anything?  No?  Didn't think so.

Evil Yellow Hurty Thing

You know you've gone native in Seattle when you check the weather report and get depressed because it's going to be sunny for several days.

I like it dark in the wintertime, damn it. 

Your Daily Dose of Health Care Reform Stupidity

Things have been remarkably quiet on the health care reform stupidity front over this holiday week.  That's given some folks a chance to assess why Joe Lieberman went from fairly progressive Dem to Con lapdog.  Conclusion: he's throwing a tantrum because Dems don't love him enough.  This WATB could sink the entire reform effort.  Remember that Joe's hurt feelings matter more to him than your survival.

Howard Dean has a simple message for Holy Joe: either vote for cloture or hand over your gavel.  Let's hope many, many more high-profile Dems take up that refrain.

Digby has the best quote of the day I've seen in quite some time:
From a commenter at Krugman's blog:
With all of the comparisons to Hitler and the Nazis, young people are beginning to think that the allied powers defeated Nazi Germany because Germany had too much health care.
And in case that didn't have you laughing hard enough, here's Palin getting pwnd by Canada's version of Jon Stewart.

Blue Cross Blue Shield's little scheme to whip its customers into a frenzy of anti-health care reform fear is backfiring badly.  Customers aren't scared, but pissed.   And it seems a lot of agencies are suddenly very interested in probing the company.  Just to prove the point that insurance company fools rush in where other insurance company fools have already tread and tripped, another BCBS entity is now trying the ol' whip-your-customers-into-a-frenzy tactic.  They'll never learn.

Which is why I'm still skeptical of triggers, but there might come a time when a trigger's a good idea.

Bobby Jindal doesn't want any Teabaggers to know he's the one who wanted Landrieu to stuff the health care bill full of cash for Louisiana.

And, finally, if you were wondering why Ben Nelson voted for cloture, let's just put it this way: it has a lot to do with him being shit-scared Harry Reid will force reform though with budget reconciliation.  Ooo, leverage.

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

Watching Cons go after a bogus talking point is like watching a herd of lemmings trained to play fetch: throw the ball over a cliff, and they don't hesitate to go over the edge after it en masse.

You may have hoped they'd show some small sign of intelligence and restraint with the whole Climate Research Unit non-scandal, but if you did, you wasted your hope.  They couldn't help themselves.  And Inhofe's leading the charge:
The publication of more than 1,000 private e-mails that climate change skeptics say proves the threat is exaggerated has prompted one key Republican senator to call for an investigation into their research. [...]
However, it is not immediately clear what Inhofe hopes to accomplish with his proposed hearing. U.S. lawmakers and scientists routinely cite IPCC evidence when discussing climate change legislation, but Congress can hardly force the United Nations to halt spending on a program over which it has no jurisdiction.
Rather, Inhofe perhaps hopes to deal a symbolic blow to next month's climate change conference, at which IPCC is likely to play a major role.
I didn't think Inhofe could get any more ridiculous, but I was wrong.  He could, and he did.

Jon Stewart's pride and joy's jumping right after him:

This week, Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of SuperFreakonomics, embraced the fevered “Climategate” ravings of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), and other global warming deniers in an interview with Fox Business Network host David Asman. Dubner purports that the hacked University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit (CRU) emails reveal that the supposed consensus on global warming is because “everybody’s scared to be an outlier, everybody’s scared to be a skeptic.” After Asman compared climate scientists to Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler — Dubner did his own Glenn Beck impression, accusing “potent” scientists of “colluding” to “tell Al Gore what to say,” and “distorting evidence” to “make their findings be right for their position”:
You can’t read these e-mails and feel that the IPCC’s or the major climate scientists’ findings and predictions about global warming are kosher. You can’t. They may be, but if you read these you have to have a whole lot of skepticism about that. And of course, coming into Copenhagen these are going to have a big effect how the world looks at you. They’re going to say, “Wait a minute. You say these climate scientists have been telling us we have to stop burning fossil fuel tomorrow?”

The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, National Public Radio, Washington Times, and other news outlets are participating in this Swiftboat-style smear campaign, following the lead of actual Swiftboat smearer and former Limbaugh and Inhofe employee Marc Morano — instead of bothering to understand what the scientists were actually talking about in the hacked emails.
There's a wee problem with every denier's favorite tale of climate change book-cooking:
However, as climate scientist Richard Somerville explained yesterday, “The ice has no agenda.” Arctic sea ice is at historically low levels, Australia is on fire, the northern United Kingdom is underwater, the world’s glaciers are disappearing, and half of the United States has been declared an agricultural disaster area. And it’s the the hottest decade in recorded history.
So, the climate itself debunks these dumbfucks.  Not to mention, Cujo explained days ago why this story has a definite odor of dead fish:

Given that the contents were obtained illegally, there has to be some doubt as to its authenticity. That's bad news for anyone trying to make a point using the supposed contents of this e-mail. Most conventional e-mail servers don't provide any means of discerning whether the contents have been changed. E-mail consists of a header portion and a main body that contains the actual message. Sometimes, as is the case with sendmail, those two parts are kept in separate files. There is no checksum, or other means, to ensure that the files have been preserved. Administrators are usually careful to ensure that hard disk problems don't make a mess of things.

In short, if I had access to this data, I could easily alter much of it to suit my fancy, and there would be no direct evidence I had done so beyond checking other copies of that information that were beyond my control.

Any point someone is trying to make using these e-mails should be viewed skeptically. The burden of proof is on them to show that the contents are genuine.
Of course, they won't prove a damned thing.  They can't.  But it probably doesn't matter, because it seems a growing number of Americans is stupid enough to swallow any climate change lie they wish to dish up.

But not you, my dear readers.  You are wise and wonderful.  And if you need ammunition in your arguments with imbeciles and those confused by them, here's the relevant bit from ScienceBlogs' weekly recap email:
The Climate Scandal That Wasn't

Last week, hackers pulled a data heist on the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia, releasing thousands of stolen documents and emails that purportedly exposed a scientific conspiracy to fabricate evidence of global warming. Climate change skeptics dug into the data with forks and knives, choosing the choicest morsels as evidence of fraud. But ScienceBloggers were unimpressed by the stunt. On A Few Things Ill Considered, Coby Beck placed tongue in cheek, rejoicing that the Greenland ice sheet is now refreezing. On Deltoid, Tim Lambert reported that NASA is being sued by the Competitive Enterprise Institute for scientist Gavin Schmidt’s activities on the RealClimate blog, where he “makes it perfectly clear that the claims of scientific malpractice are without foundation.” On Stoat, William M. Connolley debunked some of the supposed instances of hanky-panky, writing that “everyone with any sense seems to have got the right answer by now.” And James Hrynyshyn on The Island of Doubt called the stolen data “just plain banal” and “bereft of the context required to understand them in any meaningful way.” Hrynyshyn also presented some new projections from The Copenhagen Diagnosis, which show that global carbon dioxide emissions were 40% higher in 2008 than in 1990, and that by 2100, sea levels may rise by as much as two meters.

Now that we've dealt with that nonsense, let's catch up on all the political stupidity we missed over the holiday.

Remember the RNC's proposed purity test?  Looks like upwards of 40 Cons would fail it.  This could explain why various Con campaign committees aren't planning to use it to cull the ranks.

TPM put together a list of the Cons' greatest hit jobs.  I especially like the drawing of random lines on graphs, not because the line tracks any data, but because the line has to go that way to make Dems look bad.

The gun lobby's looking out for terrorists' rights to buy guns without uncomfortable FBI scrutiny.  As Steve Benen notes:
To put this in a slightly larger perspective, if the FBI is investigating someone who may have terrorist ties, that person will be put on a no-fly list. That same person, however, is free to purchase firearms, and the FBI will likely not know. In other words, those suspected of terrorist activity can't buy a plane ticket, but they can buy a semi-automatic.

Whither Con outrage? Strangely, nowhere to be found.

John McCain has decided we don't need no stinkin' exit strategy in Afghanistan.  America - breathe a deep sigh of relief that this assclown isn't our Commander in Chief.

Rep. David Obey wants to bring us back to the good old days when we used to actually raise taxes to pay for the wars we fought.  Bruce Bartlett points out the opportunity for entertainment contained within the Share the Sacrifice Act of 2010:
Republicans in particular will be forced to choose between continuing to fight a war that they started and still strongly support, or raising taxes, which every Republican in Congress would rather drink arsenic than do. If nothing else, it will be interesting to see those who rant daily about Obama's deficits explain why they oppose fiscal responsibility when it comes to supporting our troops.
I can't wait.

The concept of eminent domain has blown what's left of Glenn Beck's mind.  As Digby points out, it poses a dilemma for right-wing fucktards:
Right wingers hate Kelo and they hate the government but they love Masters of the Universe and they love property rights and they just don't know quite what to think about all this without their brains getting all muddled.

Kelo, for those who don't know their Supreme Court history, is the decision that allows governments of all stripes to strip private property from one set of owners and hand it over to other owners for economic advantage, even when the supposed economic advantage isn't one.  Digby has the whole sordid story, including Beck's inability to deal with the conflict of interests.

Speaking of Beck, go here for the greatest picture of him ever.

Note to the National Review: before you can attack the President's ability to reason, you must first learn how to reason.

Note to Dana Perino: the United States actually did suffer a terrorist attack under Bush.  Actually, several.  Including the worst act of terrorism ever perpetrated on American soil.  Strangely enough, that's how we ended up being conned into Iraq.  So it's probably best if you stop running around claiming otherwise.

Don't look now, but it looks like we've got a home-grown Rupert Murdoch carving out a right-wing media empire. As if we didn't have enough Con assclowns in charge of the media...

Karl Rove claims he wants an honest appraisal.  Steve Benen gives him one.  Something tells me that when Rove asked for an honest appraisal, he didn't mean honest, necessarily.

In political news that will make you sick, Palin likes the sound of President Palin.  I'm sure she does.

Speaking of people dreaming of electoral offices they'll never hold, Lou Dobbs is trying to reinvent himself as the champion of the Latino community by making an about-face and supporting amnesty.  I'm sure the Teabaggers will be thrilled.

And, finally, victims of predatory Catholic priests are going after Bishop "No Communion for Abortion Rights Supporters, But If You're A Death-Penalty Supporter, Feel Free To Have a Bite of Jesus" Tobin.  Gorgeous.

I think that catches us up well enough.  I've had all the stupidity I can stomach.

27 November, 2009

Awesomeness on Ze Intertoobz

George found something delightful.  Even if you hate rap, you'll probably love this.  I mean, c'mon, rap with a beat-poetry feel talking about Alexander Hamilton?  What's not to love?

Cujo's Sunday Photo pretty much explains why I refuse to move back to Arizona, even when it's cold and gray and rainy for months on end.

I'm sure there's plenty more awesome out there, but I have to get back to writing.  If you've posted something or find something particularly noteworthy, leave it for me in comments, my darlings.

Kitties You Were Promised; Kitties you Shall Have

Well, a kitty, anyway.  A cat who has decided that, no matter how crowded my lap gets, there's always room for her.

Here she is, helping me take notes for Sunday Sensational Science:

When she's not in my lap, she's usually being unbearably cute somewhere within my line of sight:

And then, of course, it's back to my lap, because I picked up a book:

Apparently, she got bored with that angle after a bit:

And that was how we spent Thanksgiving, pretty much.  I'm thankful for the fact I was able to eject her from my lap long enough to grab some food later on. 

Enjoy it now.  When the weather turns warm, the cuteness will decrease precipitously.

26 November, 2009

The Architecture of the Unexpected

One of the books I picked up during my unexpected side trip to Half-Price Books was Japanese Homes and Their Surroundings, by Edward S. Morse.  It contains surprises.

I didn't look at it closely before I bought it.  I needed something on non-Western architecture, and it fit the bill.  That's all I needed to know.  Now I've cracked it open, and it's given me several shocks.  For instance, I didn't anticipate its antiquity - it was written in 1885.  As Clay Lancaster points out in the Preface to the Dover Edition, this is a good thing - Morse was able to study Japanese architecture before the West left its footprint. 

The second shock is the fact it was written by a scientist.  Morse was in Japan to study brachiopods.  He was teaching zoology at the Imperial University in Tokyo.  Things like art and architecture were a sideline to him, until his friend Dr. Bigelow told him to stop bothering himself with brachiopods.  "For the next generation the Japanese we knew will be as extinct as Belemnites," Bigelow said.  And thus, a zoologist wrote a book about houses.

Then, reading the Preface by Morse himself, I see him thanking none other than Percival Lowell for "numerous courtesies."  Small world, isn't it just?  I'd had no idea that a man studying brachiopods and dwellings in Japan would have anything at all to do with my hometown astronomer, but there it is.

Perhaps the most unexpected shock is this: Morse is a wonderful writer who makes you laugh.  You don't pick up a book on architecture expecting a good giggle, but how can you not laugh when you come across a passage like this as Morse discusses the influence of Japanese art and architecture already evident in America in the late 1880s:
It was not to be wondered at that many of our best artists - men like Coleman, Vedder, Lafarge, and others - had long before recognized the transcendent merit of Japanese decorative art.  It was however somewhat remarkable that the public at large should come so universally to recognize it, and in so short a time.  Not only our own commercial nation, but art-loving France, musical Germany, and even conservative England yielded to this invasion.  Not that new designs were evolved by us; on the contrary, we were content to adopt Japanese designs outright, oftentimes with a mixture of incongruities that would have driven a Japanese decorator stark mad.  Designs appropriate for the metal mounting of a sword blazed out on our ceilings; motives from a heavy bronze formed the theme for the decoration of friable pottery; and suggestions from the light crape were woven into hot carpets to be trodden upon.  Even with this mongrel admixture, it was a relief by any means to have driven out of our dwelling the nightmares and horrors of design we had before endured so meekly, - such objects, for example, as a child in dead brass, kneeling in perpetual supplication on a dead brass cushion, while adroitly balancing on its head a receptacle for kerosene oil; and a whole regiment of shapes equally monstrous.  Our walls no longer assailed with designs that wearied our eyes and exasperated our brains by their inanities. We were no longer doomed to wipe our feet on cupids, horns of plenty, restless tigers, or scrolls of architectural magnitudes.  Under the benign influence of this new spirit it came to be realized that it was not always necessary to tear a flower in bits to recognize its decorative value; and that teh simplest objects in Nature - a spray of bamboo, a pine cone, a cherry blossom - in the right place were quite sufficient to satisfy our craving for the beautiful.
Isn't that delightful?  I expected a dry treatise on Japanese architecture.  What I'm getting is plenty of architectural information, but I'm also getting a lesson in style, an intimate glimpse into history, a draught of art, and the delectably dry humor of a man who has  suffered one too many brass children holding lamps.

There's also something to learn of sociology in here.  Morse says, in his Introduction:
It is extraordinary how blind one may be to the faults and crimes of his own people, and how reluctant to admit them.  We sing heroic soldier-songs with energy and enthusiasm, and are amazed to find numbers in a Japanese audience disapproving, because of the bloody deeds celebrated in such an exultant way.  We read daily in our papers the details of the most blood-curdling crimes, and often of the most abhorrent and unnatural ones; and yet we make no special reflections on the conditions of society where such things are possible, or put ourselves much out of the way to arouse the people to a due sense of the degradation and stain on the community at large because of such things.  But we go to another country and perhaps find a new species of vice; its novelty at once arrests our attention, and forthwith we howl at the enormity of the crime and the degradation of the nation in which such a crime could originate, send home the most exaggerated accounts, malign the people without stint, and then prate to them about Christian charity!

In the study of another people one should if possible look through colorless glasses; though if one is to err in this respect, it were better that his spectacles should be rose-colored than grimed with the smoke of prejudice. 
He's right, you know.  Utterly, absolutely right.  His observations and advice were excellent then, and they're excellent now. 

So here we have a book that not only explores Japanese architecture, but art, society, and human nature.  Morse isn't afraid to compare and contrast.  Many authors engage in that trick, but few are as brave as he is in exposing the warts as well as the wonders both of the society under observation and his own.  In the Introduction, in fact, as he's mentioning that there are some Japanese houses he doesn't like, he balances that by noting that English homes aren't so special, either:
Still another English writer says: "It is unpleasant to live within ugly walls; it is still more unpleasant to live within unstable walls: but to be obliged to live in a tenement which is both unstable and ugly is disagreeable in a tenfold degree."  He thinks it is quite time to evoke legislation to remedy these evils, and says: "An Englishman's house was formerly said to be his castle; but in the hands of the speculating builder and advertising tradesman, we may be grateful that it does not oftener become his tomb."
Morse took seriously the concept that one shouldn't forget the beam in one's own eye while whining about the mote in another's.  Of course, in this case, he was dissing England, not America, but we get the sense that he's lumping things East and West, by way of comparison - England's faults, therefore, became our own.

Morse was writing in an age where science wasn't as segregated as it is now.  Scientists could let their curiosity take them where it would - and if that meant throwing over brachiopods in favor of building materials, that would do.  Adding social studies to the mix, even better.  Books could breathe.  There wasn't such a rigid focus on sticking to the subject at hand (just ask Melville, who found it perfectly reasonable to insert several chapters on cetaceans in the middle of an epic adventure story).  Tight focus is admirable, but I think sometimes we focus the beam a little too much.  We forget that things are inextricably connected, because we're so used to erecting partitions.

That's why it's nice to read a nineteenth-century book on architecture.  All of the things that go in to architecture - the society, the environment, the history of the culture and the 1,001 things that influence the way a building is built and used - get explored, without apology, and without fear that a dose of opinion and humor will somehow cheapen the work.

We probably don't need a return to the extremes of 19th century segues (and if you're wondering what I mean by extremes, pick up an unabridged copy of Les Miserables for a weighty example).  But it certainly wouldn't hurt if fiction and non-fiction writers of today took a hint from Japanese architecture, and instead of erecting walls, used easily-rearranged partitions instead.

Epic Film, Epic Day

So, everything started because I watched Fearless, and decided to see what else actor Shido Nakamura has done, since I liked his portrayal of Tanaka.  I saw he's in a film called Chi bi, aka Red Cliff.  John Woo, even.  Interesting.  A gallop through the intertoobz showed me that, in fact, the film would be enjoying a limited release in the U.S. Thanksgiving week, it was actually at a local Seattle theatre, and I'd be off that day.  I drafted two of my friends as partners-in-movie-watching, one of whom is a die-hard Chinese epic fan.  Simple, right?

Well, until my intrepid companion's car broke down, and then we were two.

And then we get to Seattle, and discover that while Moviefone was correct that the film was playing at the Landmark Theatre, it failed to mention that there are many Landmark Theatres, and that Red Cliff was only playing at one of them.  We eventually found out which one.  Then we couldn't find a parking space.

Show time came and went.  Still no parking lots that took cards.  But we found Half-Price Books, which at least had customer parking, and could fill in some time before the next showing.  We could stop in for a few minutes, we said.  Just to browse, we said.

Several hundred dollars later, we made our escape.

And we found a pay lot that took debit cards.  And a little teriyaki joint called Kyoto Teriyaki, which is utterly delightful.  I've never had Japanese fast food that good.  If you're in that part of the U-District looking for good, quick food, head there.

All of that just to get to the film.  And was it worth it?  Fuck, yes.

It's brutal, beautiful, brain-bending film.  It's set in China's Warring States Period, which is the ideal time to choose for an epic.  I'm not going to try to summarize.  I'm just going to go through a checklist:

Heroic heroes and villainous villains?  Check.

Strong female characters who actually make a difference to the outcome?  Check.

War and chaos?  Check.

Relied on realism rather than supernatural shennanigans?  Check.

Didn't waste too much time on unrealistic battle sequences, but showed some incredible Chinese military tactics in a jaw-dropping way?  Check.

Pulled no punches as to the brutality of war?  Check.

Humorous lines?  Check.

Poignant lines?  Check.

Quotable lines?  Check.

Poetic beauty?  Check.

Tremendous acting?  Check.

A movie that will follow you home and beg you to keep it?  Check.

I shall say no more, because this movie can neither be explained nor summed up without doing it a severe injustice.  If you get a chance to see it in the theatre, do.  If not, buy the DVD.  Seriously.

Do I have quibbles with the film?  Sure.  It's too fucking short, and it shows.  Keep in mind that the Chinese release was nearly five hours long.  John Woo had to do some serious chopping to bring it down.  There are some moments that he could have done away with, like the obligatory sex scene, but really, there's not much not to like here.  And all the minor little quibbles are forgiven when you get to the end.  Trust me on this.

So, it's been a busy day, about to get busier because I bought an assload of books.  Much research to be done.  Once I get done hyperventilating over the movie, that is.

Leaving Pollyticks Out of It

The cantina's open for Thanksgiving, but we're going to lay off the politics for Thursday and Friday.  I've got writing to accomplish, you've got events of your own, and I think we could all use the break.  Besides, things are usually dead slow on holidays, political-news wise.

So you'll see a bit of me, but not too much, and when you do, we'll be talking about fun stuff.  Like cats, and Chinese epics, and brilliant stuff I've found round the intertoobz.

Happy Thanksgiving, my darlings!

25 November, 2009

Your Daily Dose of Health Care Reform Stupidity

Whelp.  I'd like to say there won't be much health care reform stupidity while Congress is enjoying turkey, but you know how it is.  Time off = time to grandstand.  I guarantee that before the week's out, we'll have a whole heaping helping of dumbfuckery to serve up with the cranberry sauce.

But there is a little bit of a break today, enough so that we can ask, "What do to with Joe Lieberman?"  Steve Benen speculates.

TPM analyzes the Final Four on the Dem side of the aisle who are standing in the way of meaningful reform.

Meanwhile, Rahm Emmanuel has assigned some required reading for the Dems.  Let's hope they read very carefully indeed:
Just a few days after David Broder argued the Democratic health care reform plan may not cut costs enough, David Brooks makes a similar case. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the NYT columnist argues, "Instead of reducing costs, the bills in Congress would probably raise them." Brooks concedes that Dems "have tried to foster efficiencies," but he doesn't expect them to succeed in "fundamentally bend[ing] the cost curve."

Perhaps the Davids should take the time to read this Ron Brownstein piece, published over the weekend, on the ways in which the reform plan would cut costs. The White House has been circulating Brownstein's item, and for good reason -- it's an important piece.
When I reached Jonathan Gruber on Thursday, he was working his way, page by laborious page, through the mammoth health care bill Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had unveiled just a few hours earlier. Gruber is a leading health economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is consulted by politicians in both parties. He was one of almost two dozen top economists who sent President Obama a letter earlier this month insisting that reform won't succeed unless it "bends the curve" in the long-term growth of health care costs. And, on that front, Gruber likes what he sees in the Reid proposal. Actually he likes it a lot.
"I'm sort of a known skeptic on this stuff," Gruber told me. "My summary is it's really hard to figure out how to bend the cost curve, but I can't think of a thing to try that they didn't try. They really make the best effort anyone has ever made. Everything is in here....I can't think of anything I'd do that they are not doing in the bill. You couldn't have done better than they are doing."
Gruber may be especially effusive. But the Senate blueprint, which faces its first votes tonight, also is winning praise from other leading health reformers like Mark McClellan, the former director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services under George W. Bush and Len Nichols, health policy director at the centrist New America Foundation. "The bottom line," Nichols says, "is the legislation is sending a signal that business as usual [in the medical system] is going to end."
Take that, Conservadems!

Speaking of must-reads, Digby found another one:
This must-read report in the New England Journal Of Medicine lays out the facts about the cost to society in lost lives, productivity and money for failing to assure that everyone is covered by health insurance. And the costs of treating them late in preventable emergency situations is far, far higher than it would otherwise be. This should be obvious, but it's not.
I think the Cons and the Conservadems need to spend their holiday weekend doing nothing but reading that report and the previous column.  As many times as it takes for them to finally get it.  Not that some of them ever will.  We can but try.

The White House hits back at the gun lobby.  You'll be utterly shocked, shocked, I tell you, to learn that the reform bill contains no cunning plans to disarm all the gun nuts.

And, finally, you knew there'd be a stupid Con trick coming.  Here it is:
The strategy for congressional Republicans isn't exactly a secret.
Even if a [health care reform] bill ultimately passes, Republicans hope to delay that moment until well into 2010 -- when all seats in the House and one-third of those in the Senate will be contested -- then make the case to voters that Democrats took their focus off the economy and an unemployment rate above 10%.
Got that? Congressional Republicans are desperate to delay progress on health care reform, while congressional Democrats want to complete work on health care and move onto a jobs bill. If GOP tactics are successful, Democratic efforts on jobs will be delayed.

At which point, Republicans will say, "Why haven't Democrats done more to address unemployment?"
If the Dems let these fucktards get away with that, I'm afraid there's no hope for sane, even somewhat effective rule in this country.  Not in our lifetimes.

Sparkman Murder Solved

Twasn't a right-wing lunatic, but despair, that did him in:
Census worker Bill Sparkman committed suicide and deliberately made it look like murder as part of an insurance scam, Kentucky state police have concluded.

State police, working with the FBI, said at a press conference moments ago that Sparkman had recently taken out two life insurance policies that would not pay out for suicide. It appears Sparkman hoped that the scheme would benefit his son, Josh Sparkman.
He did his best.  Murder looked pretty plausible for a while there.  I'm not glad he committed suicide, but I am glad we don't (yet) have a crazed maniac killing Census workers in Kansas.

This is one of those useful lessons in not speculating until the facts are in. 

My heart goes out to the family.  None of this can be easy for them.

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

Wow, it's just like old times.  Cantor's back to riding a dead horse:
This week, Cantor hosted a job fair, during which he trashed the economic recovery efforts as an "utter failure." It's one of those attacks that's idiotic for a variety reasons -- we know the stimulus rescued the economy from the abyss; we know Cantor's alternative proposal (five-year spending freeze at the height of the crisis) was hopelessly insane and would have made things much worse; and we know the stimulus was needed to fix a crisis Cantor and his cohorts were responsible for creating in the first place.

But in this specific case, there's another problem with Cantor's nonsense, and it's an ironic one.
Nearly half of the 30 organizations participating in a job fair Cantor is holding Monday in Culpeper were recipients of the stimulus.
The list includes a slew of government agencies and schools that have directly benefited from the package and may be using stimulus money to hire people (as the money was originally designed to do), including the Orange County public schools, the Transportation Security Administration and Virginia Department of Labor, and some companies that may have indirectly benefited such as Comcast and Terremark.
In other words, the job fair at which Cantor trashed the stimulus wouldn't have been possible were it not for the stimulus.
Ladies and gentlemen, Eric Cantor thinks every single American is a helpless idiot.  This seems to be a Con pattern, although the last few election cycles have demonstrated that this is a questionable assumption.  I'm insulted.  Are you insulted?  My dear readers who are either in Virginia or know people in Virginia, here is your mission: ensure absolutely everyone you can notify is aware that Eric Cantor is pimping jobs created with funds that he desperately didn't want his state to get.  Then let's ensure he gets insulted at the ballot box.

Speaking of typical Con tricks, here's your manufactroversy o' the day:
With an Indian delegation, led by Prime Minister Singh, at the White House today, President Obama will host his first State Dinner this evening. The conservative media machine has already decided on its preferred angle.

The far-right Washington Times, with its few remaining staffers and editors, published a report this morning with this headline: "Top Republican lawmakers not invited to State Dinner." (The print edition said, "Obama's big tent leaves out GOP bigwigs.") Drudge, naturally, took the bait, telling readers, "Not invited: Republican lawmakers..." Fox News, not surprisingly, soon followed, republishing the Times piece.

All of this might be more compelling if it weren't for the leading Republicans who were, in fact, invited.

Poor babies.  They apparently don't know how to read invitations.  Either that, or they somehow believe their scheduling conflicts mean they were never invited at all.  Funny way they have at looking at the world, innit?

Let's move on to 2012 hopefuls for a bit.  Here we have brave Mike Huckabee, too chickenshit to speak ill of Rush.  That's real presidential, there, Mikey.

Sarah Palin's je ne sais quois, ladies and gentlemen.

Lou Dobbs thinks he's somehow qualified to run for POTUS, and believes he's somehow reaching out to the Latino community.  I'm not sure what gives him that impression:
Since Lou Dobbs left CNN, he has been mulling a run for office — possibly even for president. Yesterday in an interview with WTOP radio, Dobbs said that part of his strategy to transition from being a media figure is to reach out to all the Latino organizations he alienated while at CNN:
DOBBS: And for the first time, I’m actually listening to some people about politics. I don’t think I’ve got the nature for it, but we’ve got to do something in this country, and I think that being public arena means you’ve got to part of the solution. By the way, I’m reaching out right now to Latino groups, to the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable — all of the groups with whom I’ve been in an ongoing debate, to try to bridge some of these conflicts and try to create solutions. And I think we’re well on our way to doing that.


ThinkProgress spoke with Lisa Navarrete, vice president at the National Council of La Raza, the nation’s largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States. Navarrette said that Dobbs had not yet reached out to the group at all.

Dobbs did recently do an interview with Telemundo, in which he said that he was one of the Latino community’s “greatest friends.” However, he also falsely denied ever saying that undocumented immigrants are bringing leprosy to the United States, instead attacking the interviewer for even bringing up the subject.
So.  His "reaching out" consists of not reaching out to the nation's largest Latino civil rights org, and lying to and then insulting an interviewer on Spanish-language television. Additionally, he doesn't think he's "got the nature" for politics, and this is the first time he's ever even listened to people about politics, but he thinks his ass would look good planted in the Oval Office.


We do, however, already have a campaign slogan: XENOPHOBES FOR DOBBS!

There's only one loser I'm aware of who's bigger than him potentially running for public office, and that's Sheriff Joe:
AZ Sheriff Joe Arpaio needs no introduction, his bigotry and illegal activity has been well documented. The latest outrage on his watch comes at the hands of one of his deputies, who forced a woman to give birth while cuffed at the wrists and ankles, then ordered the baby taken from the mother:
The bleeding kept her up all night, drenching her black-and-white-striped jail uniform.
Alma Chacón feared her baby would arrive early. Her nightmare had started with a traffic stop a day earlier. She'd been weeping since. "What if the baby is born here, in the jail?" she thought.
In the afternoon, she was shackled and transported to Maricopa County Medical Center, where she gave birth in a "forensic restraint." She couldn't hold her baby daughter or kiss her. She could only watch as hospital personnel carried the infant out the door. She wouldn't see the baby for 72 days.
Arizona.  Really.  Do you seriously think this fucktard's qualified to run the state?  Is this really who you want in charge?  Think carefully about this.  It shouldn't take you more than about ten seconds.

In news of other assclowns, Bill O'Reilly's opinion of himself has become comically large.  He thinks something he did two years ago drove Bill Moyers off the air.  He must be a very small, sad man inside, judging by the size of his efforts to compensate.

We have a special section today, wherein the President of the United States has earned a session with the Smack-o-Matic for egregious economic stupidity:
In a move that's akin to acknowledging the roof has massive leaks, but you won't consider any solutions that involve anything more costly than putting pots and pans under the leaks, President Obama announces he wants to do something about unemployment - but he doesn't want it to cost anything:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama assured Americans on Monday that boosting jobs was a top priority, but gave no specifics about how to meet this goal that some economists say warrants more government spending.
The White House said separately that all "sensible and reasonable measures" would be considered to encourage employment, but also stressed that it must be balanced with the need for the United States to tackle record budget deficits.

[...] Obama has also said he is interested in solutions that would not cost much public money, warning that adding to the U.S. debt could trigger a double-dip recession.
Reacting in the NY Times, Krugman is, well, appalled:
What? Huh? Most economists I talk to believe that the big risk to recovery comes from the inadequacy of government efforts: the stimulus was too small, and it will fade out next year, while high unemployment is undermining both consumer and business confidence.
Now, it’s politically difficult for the Obama administration to enact a full-scale second stimulus. Still, he should be trying to push through as much aid to the economy as possible. And remember, Mr. Obama has the bully pulpit; it’s his job to persuade America to do what needs to be done.
Instead, however, Mr. Obama is lending his voice to those who say that we can’t create more jobs. And a report on Politico.com suggests that deficit reduction, not job creation, will be the centerpiece of his first State of the Union address. What happened?
It took me a while to puzzle this out. But the concerns Mr. Obama expressed become comprehensible if you suppose that he’s getting his views, directly or indirectly, from Wall Street.

Mr. President, you're a smart man.  I know you're a smart man.  But you're an outrageous idiot where economic matters are concerned.  Might I suggest you have a word with Nancy Pelosi, who seems to remember that we've tried singing this song before?
On a conference call today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) explained how she plans to reconcile deficit complaints with the need to pass an adequate jobs bill:
We’re never going to decrease the deficit until we create jobs, bring revenue into the Treasury, stimulate the economy so we have growth. We have to shed any weakness that anybody may have about not wanting to be confrontational on this subject for fear that we’d be labeled not sensitive to the deficit. … The American people have an anger about the growth of the deficit because they’re not getting anything for it. … So if somebody has the idea that the percentage of GDP of what or national debt is will go up a bit, but they will now — and their neighbors and their children — will have jobs, I think they could absorb that. … If we pull our punch, as they did in the mid-30’s, we shouldn’t be surprised if history repeats itself.
Besides, you know what happens when you lower the deficit?  Americans think it went up anyway.  So just do the right fucking thing.

I hope we don't have to have this talk again, but I'm afraid we will.

Finally, we must close with a rare shout-out to Tweety, who wiped the floor with Bishop Tobin.  This doesn't make up for all of the stupid bullshit you engage in, but this was a thing of beauty, and we here at the cantina salute you.

24 November, 2009

And Many More

150 years young, old bean!

Your Daily Dose of Health Care Reform Stupidity

I didn't blog this over the weekend because it should've been a foregone conclusion, and I really couldn't get excited over it, but Dems managed to stick together just enough to ensure that the Senate health care reform bill could be debated.  Of course, now, Conservadems are posturing against the public option, and making sure we all know they're still perfectly willing to fuck us over in favor of the insurance companies.  Joyous.

Joe Lieberman has a new excuse as to why he hates the public option.  This month, he's against it because he says we've never done anything like this before.  I somehow doubt that, what with all the public/private competition we've got in this country.

The most important thing to remember about these dumbshit Dems (and the idiot Independent who pretends to caucus with Dems) is not Lieberman's lengthy history of piss-poor excuses.  No, it's the fact that Blanche Lincoln was for the public option before she was against it.  In fact, she was for the public option while she was against it:
But as Igor Volsky noted, as recently as yesterday, Lincoln's own website argued, "Individuals should be able to choose from a range of quality health insurance plans. Options should include private plans as well as a quality, affordable public plan or non-profit plan that can accomplish the same goals of a public plan."

That was the senator's official position a day after Lincoln stood on the floor of the Senate, "promising" to join a Republican filibuster of health care reform "as long as a government-run public option is included" in the bill.

After Volsky's post, Lincoln's office changed the senator's official position, scrubbing the page of any references to allowing consumers to choose among competing plans.

Can't cover your tracks that easily, Blanche.  You are so very, very fucked.  Paging Mike Stark...

Greg Sargent thinks Conservadems will realize the urgency of passing health care reform, and will, possibly, ultimately do the right thing.  Color me skeptical.  But perhaps polls showing that not passing reform murders Dem electoral chances will help clarify things for them. Perhaps not.  They're cunning, but they're not exactly smart.

They're certainly not willing to do the right thing.  Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet is.  And he doesn't care jack diddly shit about the political cost.  I hope he sits the Conservadems down for a long talk.

Let's hope Sebelius's state-by-state impact assessment of health care reform will help a few Dems see the light as well.

But enough about Dems.  Let's talk about Con fuckery.  There's plenty of it.  In fact, the sheer volume of lies pouring from Cons' lips is overwhelming:
Looking over the rapid-response list, the efficiency of the DNC operation is impressive, but the key takeaway is more important: Good lord, Republicans sure do lie a lot about health care.

I mean, GOP lawmakers weren't even close to the truth. Watching the debate as it unfolded, one got the sense that reform's opponents either know literally nothing about the issue at hand, prefer almost pathological levels of dishonesty, or perhaps both.

Over the weekend, Josh Marshall noted in passing that the congressional GOP lied quite a bit during the 1994 reform debate, but Republicans are now "upping their game ... lying even more shamelessly than in round 1."
That's because they've discovered there are no consequences for endless lying.  Teabaggers love it, and most Americans are too fucking clueless to realize they're being lied and lied and lied to.

In fact, the GOP has become so shameless that they feel perfectly comfortable claiming a number they just made up as gospel truth.  They're now saying health care reform will cost $2.5 trillion.  Where did this number come from?  Apparently, Sen. Gregg's ass:
It appears as if the number comes from a press release from Budget Committee ranking member Judd Gregg (R-NH), written the morning after the CBO released its analysis, which reads "American taxpayers are about to see an unprecedented expansion of the federal government that will cost a staggering $2.5 trillion when fully implemented."

 The underlying critique has a tiny bit of merit to it. Democrats did indeed diminish the 10 year cost by delaying the tax-and-benefit provisions for a few years after the bill becomes law--they felt they needed to push some key reforms down the road a year to keep the bill's 10 year cost from exceeding Obama's $900 billion top line. Hence the caveat "when fully implemented." But even if you were to start the clock in 2014, and stop it in 2024, the number $2.5 trillion seems to have been made entirely out whole cloth. Perhaps a projection line drawn arbitrarily on a graph cooked up by a Republican Budget Committee staffer.

And, of course, the critique elides the fact that, whatever the federal responsibility for health care becomes as a result of this bill, it's projected to dramatically reduce the deficit in both the near and long term.

Of course it does, because that's the truth, which is something Cons seem deathly allergic to.

Here's something even more outrageous: Gov. Barbour touting Mississippi as a model of health care reform when it "rates 51 (out of 50 states plus DC) in health care ranking."  Yup.  Sure is a perfect example - of what not to do.

So what are the Cons' allies up to?  Well, the Chamber of Commerce wants to kill health care reform so they have a better chance at killing climate change legislation later on.  The gun lobby's trying to kill health care reform because they have some paranoid fantasy that health care reform means all their guns will be taken away.  And Teabaggers are busy laughing at families who have suffered a tragedy:

From Chicago journalist Kristen McQueary, this deplorable story:
As a journalist covering Chicago politics, verifying information is like climbing a mountain of sand. With each step you take, the deeper you sink.

Last week while researching claims from a local Tea Party activist, I found myself asking a family for proof that they had lost an unborn grandchild.

The family, Dan and Midge Hough, of Chicago, spoke in favor of health care reform and in support of U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) at a Nov. 14 town hall meeting in Oak Lawn.

Their daughter-in-law, Jenny, and an unborn grandchild died recently due in part, they believe, to a lack of health insurance. They said Jenny was not receiving regular prenatal care and ended up in an emergency room with double pneumonia that developed into septic shock. Her baby died in the womb, and Jenny died a few weeks later, leaving behind a husband and a 2-year-old daughter.

Catherina Wojtowicz, of Chicago's Mount Greenwood community, an organizer for a Tea Party splinter group, Chicago Tea Party Patriots, falsely claimed that the Houghs fabricated their story. In an e-mail, she called them operatives of President Barack Obama who "go from event to event and (cry) the same story."

When the Houghs spoke at the Lipinski event, some Tea Partiers ridiculed them. They moaned and rolled their eyes and interrupted. Midge Hough began to cry.

Such a credit to their cause, aren't they?  Despicable dipshits.

In case anyone else needed any more proof we need reform, check out the results of the free clinic Keith Olbermann helped sponsor. You know, the one where people with diabetes, heart failure, and breast cancer haven't been able to get any sort of health care until now.

With all of the Con fuckery eagerly aided and abetted by Conservadem fuckery, I haven't been too hopeful about reform.  But here's news that makes me hope that something good will come out of this bill: it appears the Senate version strips Congress of its health insurance and throws them into the exchanges.  Kevin Drum reports it was a dirty trick by Grassley that went horribly awry, since Max Baucus decided it was a great idea and happily threw it into the mix.

I haven't had any inclination to congratulate Grassley or Baucus, but I have to offer them a heartfelt muchos gracias, even though in Grassley's case the good was unintentional.  Because if this resolution stays in, that means Congress is going to have to ensure that health care reform works, as they'll be suffering right along with the rest of it.

It's about fucking time.

Stupid Credit Card Company Tricks

Digby points out the length to which credit card companies go to ensure you rack up plenty of late fees:
I honestly believe that this is the kind of thing that affects people every day and is leading to a populist backlash. People not only blame those who do these things, they blame those who have the authority and power for failing to step in and stop it:

Three years ago, the Haggler’s credit card bill seemed to stop showing up in the mail. Another month went by — no bill. The month after that, still nothing. Each month, the Haggler would call the issuer, Bank of America, and pay over the phone, then ask the same question: "Why did you stop sending me a bill?"

We’re still sending you a bill, came the company’s reply each time.

Guess what? The company was right. It just was sending the bill in a restyled envelope, with no trace of “Bank of America." In other words, it looked like junk mail, and the Haggler kept throwing it away.

Now, the Haggler can’t prove it, but this seemed like a brilliant, low-cost way to pocket a fortune in late fees.
And that's not all:
And that's what people are dealing with all the time as consumers, with their health insurance, their credit cards, their mortgages, their pensions --- overwhelming complexity designed to trip them up and cost them money or deny them benefits to which they believed in good faith they were entitled. And its all perfectly legal --- or at least there's no visible accountability for it.

The late fee tricks we are seeing all over the news is apparently going to go on unabated for as long as they can get away with it. And it goes back to the same central problems that created the financial meltdown in the first place:

The backdrop of this boo-boo is an industry that for the last 10 years has been refining the low art of late-fee shenanigans. Edmund Mierzwinski, consumer program director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, says that starting in 1999 — when the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act allowed commercial and investment banks to merge — credit card companies started looking to late fees for profit.

“It began with regulators allowing banks to say that if a bill arrived on the due date but after a certain time on that day — like noon — then it was late,” Mr. Mierzwinski said. “Now, how many people know when a bank checks their mail?”

Some banks started moving up due dates without notice. Others required that payments sent via overnight mail use a special address, so that if you sent a payment by FedEx to the regular address, you were late.

Getting the picture?

And remember that the Cons think this is all fair and admirable and prevented Congress from stopping these nefarious fucks in their tracks.

That's all we really need to know about the Cons' concern for the common man, innit?

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

Aw, isn't this cute?  Cons are contemplating a purity test!
The Republican National Committee could be on the verge of imposing a strict purity test on GOP candidates and officeholders, if a proposed resolution passes at their upcoming meeting in January: If you disagree with the party line on three or more out of a list of ten key issues, no money or official party support for you.

The resolution, officially called "Proposed RNC Resolution on Reagan's Unity Principle for Support of Candidates" draws its standard through a literal interpretation of an old saying of the Gipper's -- that someone who agreed with him 80% of the time is his friend, not his 20% enemy. Thus, this resolution sets 80% as a floor for support of GOP issues.

There's a punchline.  You knew there'd be a punchline, didn't you?  Drumroll, please:
It occurs to me, looking over the list, that George W. Bush would have been deemed ineligible for support from the Republican National Committee. He did, after all, increase the size of government, run enormous deficits, endorsed cap and trade, allowed North Korea and Iran to become more serious security threats, and rejected the right's line on immigration.

For that matter, I'm not sure if Ronald Reagan would have gotten RNC support, either. Reagan, you'll recall, voted for several tax increases, began the modern era of massive federal debt, ran huge deficits, and approved an immigration measure the far-right still resents.*

And it's not just the past, either -- Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) of Maine would easily fail this test, and be made ineligible for support from her own party.

I can't wait to see how the purity test turns out for the RNC. They're a clever bunch, aren't they?

* Update: Reader S.T. also reminds that Reagan would have failed the RNC Purity Test after withdrawing Marines from Lebanon in 1983 in the wake of the barracks bombing. Dick Cheney bashed the decision years later.
I love it when they open fire and shoot their own heroes in the feet, don't you?

Here's another good on in the annals of Con stupidity - John "Daddy Helps Me Cover Up My Affairs" Ensign is even more of a reprehensible bastard than we knew:
More nuggets are being reported from Doug Hampton's interview with Nightline, set to air tonight, about Sen. John Ensign's affair with Hampton's wife. And they somehow make the Nevada senator look even worse than he already did, if that's possible.

Politico, which seems to have gotten a look at the full interview, reports:

Doug Hampton said that when Ensign fired him and his wife over the affair in April 2008, he still made the Hamptons attend a goodbye party in their honor so that no one would guess the real reason behind their dismissal.
"[Ensign] called me and said you need to come back here; I need to throw you a party. If you don't come back here and let me throw you a party, people will suspect something," Hampton told ABC. Ensign reportedly gave Hampton a crystal replica of the Capitol with the inscription "To the best AA on Capitol Hill."
So not only did Ensign sleep with his good friend's wife, before firing them both. He then forced both to attend a "goodbye party" so that no one would suspect the departure was anything less than cordial.
Words fail.

They certainly do.  Let's hope this douchebag gets the Sanford treatment very soon.

I'm a little sick of Sarah Palin, mostly because she's too easy a target - it's harder to hit a hippo with a howitzer than find something about Sarah to make fun of - but I have to say that Steve Benen has the definitive assessment:
I frequently get emails from readers warning me not to underestimate Sarah Palin. She has a rabid fan base, I'm reminded, who care little for reason, and are outwardly hostile towards reality. The right-wing enthusiasm surrounding Palin, the argument goes, is cause for genuine concern.

Perhaps. Time will tell whether the popularity of idiocy can endure and grow, but in the meantime, I think grown-ups should at least be able to agree that the half-term governor has the intelligence of a wilted salad.
O'REILLY: Do you believe that you are smart enough, incisive enough, intellectual enough to handle the most powerful job in the world?
PALIN: I believe that I am because I have common sense and I have -- I believe the values that are reflective of so many other American values. And I believe that what Americans are seeking is not the elitism, the kind of a spineless -- a spinelessness that perhaps is made up for that with some kind of elite Ivy League education and a fat resume that's based on anything but hard work and private sector, free enterprise principles. Americans are -- could be seeking something like that in positive change in their leadership. I'm not saying that that has to be me.
Ladies and gentlemen, the one national political figure that can make George W. Bush look like Socrates.

So sad, so true.

Oh, and about that rabid fan base - doesn't look like it exists in Fort Bragg, at least.

Meanwhile, Palin's ostensible running mate for 2012 has The Plan:
Yesterday, while promoting his latest book at “a festive campaign-style rally” in The Villages in Florida, Fox News host Glenn Beck announced that he was crafting “a 100 year plan” that will be “radical” and will “restore our nation to the maximum freedoms we were supposed to have been protecting.” In his speech, which Media Matters captured on video, Beck told his followers, “we need to start thinking like the Chinese“:
BECK: I’ve done a lot of reading on history in the last few years and I was amazed to find that what we’re experiencing now is really a ticking time bomb that they designed about 100 years ago, beginning in the progressive movement. And they thought, “you know what, if we just do this and this and this and this, over time if we do it in both the Republican and Democratic parties, we will have our socialist utopia.” Well, I say again, two can play at that game. I am drafting plans now to bring us back to an America that our founders would understand. … We need to start thinking like the Chinese. I’m developing a 100 year plan for America. A 100 year plan. We will plant this idea and it will sprout roots.

So, Glenn's using Communist planning models and thinks he's clever, but if a Dem jokingly quotes Mao, that's un-American.  I don't understand these people.  Deranged huckster, indeed.

Speaking of 2012, brace yourselves: we could not only see a Palin/Beck ticket, but Lou Dobbs is thinking of making a run for it.  And you thought our politics were nothing but a circus now.

And Arizona's apparently willing to elect Joe Arpaio governor.  If that happens, there's no hope for my home state.  I just hope I can persuade my parents and friends to abandon ship before the place falls apart.

Faux News has sent out a memo advising employees, after many embarrassing "mistakes," that there will be a zero-tolerance policy for footage fuck-ups.  I am putting $20 on the bar right now that says it's less than two months before we see another incident like using old campaign footage to inflate Palin's crowd size.  There's a further $20 saying that no one gets disciplined.  This is Faux News, after all.

In further evidence that the Catholic Church is run by a bunch of fucking two-faced lunatics, here's their latest bit of political fuckery:

You know, the Catholic Church certainly gets to enforce whatever rules they make - but this wouldn't bother me so much if they were consistent. After all, when was the last time a bishop singled out someone for supporting what the Church itself labeled an "unjust war" or for voting in support of the death penalty?
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin has banned Rep. Patrick Kennedy from receiving Communion, the central sacrament of the church, in Rhode Island because of the congressman's support for abortion rights, Kennedy said in a newspaper interview published Sunday.
Kennedy said the bishop had explained the penalty by telling him "that I am not a good practicing Catholic because of the positions that I've taken as a public official," particularly on abortion.
I know I'm not alone in thinking the Catholic Church should maybe just possibly lose its tax-exempt status after interfering so freely and directly in our political affairs as they have lately. 

And, finally, since the WND can't prove CAIR is a terrorist organization, they're choosing to call them terrorists anyway:
The head of the company that published Muslim Mafia says that the Council on American Islamic Relations is engaging in "economic terrorism" against the book's cash-strapped author, who can't afford to fight CAIR in court.

The comments by Joseph Farah, editor and CEO of WorldNetDaily, parent company of WND Books, are buried in a profile of Martin Garbus, one of the lawyers defending Muslim Mafia author Dave Gaubatz, and his son, Chris, who went undercover as an intern at CAIR.

In response to Gaubatz's decision to accede to CAIR's demand that he return thousands of pages of documents and electronic files taken by Chris Gaubatz, Farah said:

"But, remember, what is being returned to CAIR are documents that were headed for CAIR's shredder. Once CAIR was eager to dispose of them. Now, suddenly, the group is treating them like they are the crown jewels. Go figure."

Which makes sense, if you assume for some reason that private organizations are fine with the publication of documents sent to the trash.

Companies use shredders for a reason, and when fucktards steal documents from them, they sue.  If that's economic terrorism, well, every company I've ever worked for is a terrorist organization.  I'm sure if I waltzed into the WND offices and waltzed out with stuff headed for their shredder, they'd become "economic terrorists" pretty damned fast.

'Tis the season when most people are in need of snowblowers.  I, myself, am in the market for a stupidblower.  I'm tired of shoveling so much stupid shit.