Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Incredible Ad for Obama

As you probably know, Move On is sponsoring "Obama in 30 seconds" -- a contest to produce a 30 second Obama TV ad. The 15 finalists are incredible -- click (here) to vote for your favorite. This is my favorite video so far:

I suppose this ad will be most persuasive with those who have played Red Rover Red Rover Send Your Dog Over (one heck of a game -- but one that is probably responsible for a lot of emergency room visits).

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Coal lobby front group changes name -- still trying to destroy the Earth

The Center for American Progress is out today with an excellent analysis of where we stand in the fight against the coal industry. It's so perfect with so many wonderful links, that I quote the whole thing below. One of the factoids in their report caught my eye: Americans for Balanced Energy Choices has changed their name to American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. Now that may seem like a small change -- just like when Philip Morris changed their name to Altria (evoking images of philanthropy or a small Japanese car or something). But I think it's a pretty big poker tell. It tells us that progressive groups have so completely damaged the coal industry's brand, that they had to rename their front group. Which is pretty incredible when you remember that ABEC spends $35 million a year promoting their brand.

The coal folks are out with a new video too -- and it's so ripe for parody that I can't wait to get started on remaking it.

Also, if you are interested in tracking the PR fight against the coal industry, definitely check out: Desmogblog. They are doing fantastic work.

From today's Progress Report from the Center for American Progress Action Fund:

King Coal's Future

Coal-fired plants provide over 50 percent of the electricity in the United States and over 83 percent of the global-warming pollution from the power sector. A large coal-fired power plant emits the carbon dioxide equivalent of one million SUVs, and the United States has nearly 500 plants. Because power plants are a generational investment -- the average age of U.S. coal plants is 40 years -- the decision to construct new plants in a world at risk from global warming is monumental. NASA climatologist James Hansen argues that a "firm choice to halt building of coal-fired power plants that do not capture CO2 would be a major step toward solution of the global warming problem." In addition to the pressing issue of climate change -- exacerbated by the surge in coal-fired electricity in the developing world -- "the conventional coal fuel cycle is among the most destructive activities on earth." Coal is contaminated with toxic elements like mercury, arsenic, and lead that end up in the air, water, and soil. The costs of coal are disproportionately borne by the poor communities where it is mined and by children exposed to its pollution.

A GROWTH INDUSTRY: In the United States, "power companies have pushed to build more than 150 new coal-fired power plants." "European countries are slated to build about 50 coal-fired plants over the next five years." "China is completing two new coal plants per week." Since the rise of the Industrial Age, economic growth has been tied to increased electricity demand. Although the price of coal, like all other commodities, is rising to record levels, its economics are attractive to companies wary of the even greater price jump in natural gas, its primary fossil fuel competitor. But part of this drive to build new plants in the United States is driven not by demand, but by political calculus. The United States is poised to join Europe in placing mandatory limits on greenhouse emissions. Electric utilities hope they can successfully lobby for existing plants to be grandfathered into a new system of regulation, as they did in 1970 with the Clean Air Act, shifting the "significant financial and environmental risk" from the companies to everyone else.

THE POLITICAL BATTLE: Public opposition to coal plants due to their mercury, acid rain, smog, and carbon emissions has helped kill 60 coal plants in the past several years. Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC), the $40 million coal-industry public relations effort, is no more. In recent months, youth, environment, and health activists exposed ABEC's efforts to attack green-collar jobs and propagandize coal. ABEC and the Center for Energy and Economic Development (CEED), the trade organization that started the front group, have now become the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). Writing for Grist, Sean Casten translates the retooled message of ACCCE: "We need to burn more coal. We need taxpayers to pay for the cost of that coal. And we've got enough money to make sure it happens." Jim Rogers, President and CEO of coal-heavy Duke Energy, an ACCCE member, has become one of the most prominent industry voices calling for the regulation of global warming pollution from power plants and other sectors of the economy. In making his case for action, Rogers includes a very important caveat: regulate greenhouse gases, but regulate in a way that ensures that the American taxpayer foots the bill for cleaning up the company's aging and high-emitting power plants. The European Union this week signaled it is willing to invest government dollars into finding a possible future for coal, "pushing forward proposals for a dozen demonstration projects" of coal plants with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). CCS is still unproven but may be the "key enabling technology for a future in which we can continue to use our vast coal resources and also protect the climate."

ANOTHER PATH: If not hundreds of new coal plants a year, then what? Energy efficiency is the most powerful choice. A study this week by the electric utilities found that "energy efficiency improvements in the U.S. electric power sector could reduce the need for new electric generation by an additional 7 to 11 percent more than currently projected over the next two decades." McKinsey and Co. has found that improving energy efficiency could "offset some 85 percent of the projected incremental demand for electricity in 2030, largely negating the need for incremental coal-fired plants." Even with limited public investment, renewable technology is making dramatic gains. Wind turbines, once used primarily for farms and rural houses far from electrical service, are becoming more common in heavily populated residential areas as homeowners are attracted to ease of use, financial incentives, and low environmental effects. In addition to wind turbines and solar power, which can provide increasingly inexpensive but variable power, there is a host of renewable power sources that can be used for base-load electric capacity instead of a coal-fired plant. Solar thermal systems "gather heat from the sun, boil water into steam, spin a turbine and make power," like other solar thermal plants, and are designed to store the heat for hours or even days. Geothermal and tidal power are also available technologies. Although the challenge of transitioning away from coal-fired power is monumental, the first steps are clear.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Because sometimes you just gotta post a photo of a funny looking cat

A sphynx butler cat. Somehow this photo just summed up this past week for me. (Hat tip to my friend Anthony Miceli for the photo!!!)

There's a reason why people love USC's Pete Carroll

The LA Times published an extraordinary article on USC's head football coach, Pete Carroll. From the article:

Few know that about twice a month Carroll leaves his comfy digs at USC, hops in the back of a beaten Camry driven by a former gang member and heads to South L.A. neighborhoods where the snap of gunfire and the anguish of death occur with the steady regularity of a metronome.

These are not recruiting visits. He's trying to save lives.

Most often, he arrives near midnight and walks shadowy streets with that familiar, electric strut, surrounded by little boys, grandparents, crack heads and gang toughs. He empathizes, listens, encourages, laughs. He talks about jobs and kids and marriage, about perspective and courage, about how difficult it must be to be caught in the madness of the streets.

He realizes that some might think he's a fool, that some might say he should pay no mind to gang members. Naysayers do not stop him.

"I don't go to judge . . . just to show that someone cares," he said. "Just go to give people here a little hope. . . . Get folks to step back and think. Hopefully, get them to change."

Five years ago, moved by news of murders near USC's campus, Carroll formed a foundation called A Better LA, dedicated to ending inner-city violence. He hoped to use the self-improvement thinking he's long leaned on in coaching to help people in poor and dangerous neighborhoods.

He struggled to gain traction. He didn't have much in the way of relationships with the gang members he hoped to influence. Then Carroll met Bo Taylor, a former gang member who long ago had dedicated his life to turning street toughs to the straight and narrow. Carroll and Taylor grew close. To be truly effective, Taylor told the coach, Carroll would need to learn more about the dreams and fears of people living in forgotten neighborhoods. The only way to do that would be to become a regular at the hot spots...

The whole article is well worth a read.

Cormac McCarthy: one messed up dude

Remind me to never, ever read, watch, or listen to anything by Cormac McCarthy again.

I read The Road while on the plane coming back from Italy last summer. The entire book is set in post-apocalyptic England and there is little to no mention of the challenge of finding clean water to drink. How that book won the Pulitzer Prize boggles the mind (I wonder if the committee was just really impressed by his use of 50 cent words when a 5 cent word would have done just fine.)

This weekend I saw No Country for Old Men (based on his novel by the same name). Dude is dark. Look, I get that I can be dark sometimes but he makes me look like Mary freakin' Poppins by comparison. Again, huge gaping holes in the plot (our hero sits right in front of the door that he knows is gonna be shot open by the bad guy) and it freaking won Best Picture. Go figure.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Bowlingual: translating Republican code words

(editors note: I hate this post. I hate the language in this post. I hate the fact that I feel the need to write this post. I hate the fact that I believe I live in a country where the things I write in this post are true. And yet, this is how I see it. When the political discourse in the country has become so despicable that merely to describe and reflect it back is to also become tainted by it, what are we to do? Ignore it? Call it what it is? Is there another option? But that's always been the Republican game plan right? To create a politics so repugnant that no one dare name the monster in the living room?)

Perhaps you've heard of the Bowlingual? It's a little electronic device invented by a Japanese toy maker that claims to translate dog barks into human language. "The console classifies each woof, yip or whine into six emotional categories -- happiness, sadness, frustration, anger, assertion and desire -- and displays common phrases, such as "You're ticking me off," that fit the dog's emotional state."

I thought it might be a good idea to apply the Bowlingual to the code words that Republicans use every election season.
The more I watch and listen to the political debate in this country, the more I think my political science professors were really over-thinking things.
The reality is that Republicans speak in code in the public square in order to get media outlets to carry their message to their base. Republicans believe that their base will respond to five "anger points" keywords. Their entire political discourse is directed to tagging their opponent with at least one of these 5 words: fag, nigg*r, bitch, terrorist, or communist. Not only do race and gender matter in American politics, the Republican messaging machine operates from the belief that race and gender are THE ONLY THING that matters in American electoral politics.

When Republicans say:They mean:
"San Francisco"fag
"Volvo driving"fag
"Latte sipping"fag
"bad at bowling"fag
"out of touch"fag
"$400 haircut"fag
"Breck Girl"
"her voice is grating" bitch
"ball buster"bitch
"attended a madrassa"terrorist
"partied with Bill Ayers"terrorist
"no flag lapel pin"terrorist
"hates America"nigg*r
"hates our troops"nigg*r
"hates the flag"nigg*r or terrorist (you choose)
"doesn't reflect our values"nigg*r
uppity negro
"engaging in class warfare"communist
"big government"communist


1980Jimmy Carter fagRonald Reaganmanly man
1984Walter MondalefagRonald Reaganmanly man
1988Michael DukakisfagGeorge Bush, Sr
manly man
1992Bill Clintonmanly manGeorge Bush, Sr.
1996Bill Clinton
manly man Bob Doleold
2000Al GorefagGeorge W. Bushmanly man
2004John Kerry
George W. Bushmanly man
Barack Obama
John McCain

In the last few weeks, the Republican propaganda machine has rolled out the 'Obama is a terrorist' narrative. And it didn't seem to stick. So now, in the last week, the NY Times, ABC News, Wall Street Journal, National Review etc. have been rolling out the 'Obama is a fag' narrative. It's doesn't seem to be sticking either. But Republicans are gonna keep rolling out "fag", "nigg*r", "bitch", "terrorist", "communist" over and over and over between now and November to see if they can get any of them to stick. That's their drumbeat. If they get them to stick, they win. If they don't they lose. Clearly George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson got the memo.

Any talk of economic policy, foreign policy, domestic policy is all just dry ice smoke for the magicians. Republicans know that their base votes on the basis of one of those five anger words and all of their narrative about policy is really just designed to tag their opponent with one of those five words.

David Brooks, Bill Kristol, and George Will package these coded memes and distribute them to the wealthy and the powerful. Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, Chris Matthews, and Joe Scarborough market these five words through their cable "news" shows. Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, and Don Imus peddle these five code words to regular folks who get their news through the radio. Michele Malkin and Ann Coulter market these five code words through blogs and interview appearances.

Update #1: Shakesville has a 100 part (literally) "Hillary Sexism Watch" which is excellent. They are also up to post #46 on their "Obama Racism/Muslim/Unpatriotic/Scary Black Dude Watch."

Update #2: DHinMI also discusses the use of code words in a new post over at DailyKos.

Listen all ya'll it's a sabotage

Superbloggger Steve Benen, writing at Crooks and Liars, links to a post from Sir Charles at Cogitamus which is absolutely perfect (yeah, I'm quoting the whole thing):

Question for the Class

Do you think if Barack Obama had left his seriously ill wife after having had multiple affairs, had been a member of the "Keating Five," had had a relationship with a much younger lobbyist that his staff felt the need to try and block, had intervened on behalf of the client of said young lobbyist with a federal agency, had denounced then embraced Jerry Falwell, had denounced then embraced the Bush tax cuts, had confused Shiite with Sunni, had confused Al Qaeda in Iraq with the Mahdi Army, had actively sought the endorsement and appeared on stage with a man who denounced the Catholic Church as a whore, and stated that he knew next to nothing about economics -- do you think it's possible that Obama would have been treated differently by the media than John McCain has been? Possible?

And -- this is fun to contemplate -- if Michelle Obama had been an adulteress, drug addict thief with a penchant for plagiarism -- do you think that she would be subject to slightly different treatment from the media than Cindypills McCain has been? Anyone?

Yep, pretty much says it all.

I'd call it a conspiracy but the video for sabotage is so much better.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

F'ing ABC News

Just when I resolved to curse less on my blog, ABC decided to host a Democratic Presidential Debate. Oh well. Needless to say, ABC's shameful descent into self-parody was not well received.

But Obama is out with a new video that really puts things into perspective (hat tip to mspicata at Daily Kos) .

Did Obama just borrow a move from Jay Z! Sweet!

Monday, April 14, 2008

F'ing NY Times

I feel like I'm cursing a lot on my blog these days. But the political conversation foisted upon us by the traditional media is so completely insane that cursing seems a mild response by comparison.

For example, the NY Times today ran an editorial by William Kristol that claims Barack Obama is a Marxist. I wish I was kidding. Yes, the same Barack Obama whose economic policies are MORE CONSERVATIVE than Hillary Clinton. The same Barack Obama whose chief economic adviser is from the University of Chicago (where Milton Friedman used to teach and the main training facility for fascist economists who go on advise corporatist regimes around the world). The same Obama who claims that truly universal health care is asking too much and we should just try to cover as many people as we can. The same Obama who idolizes Ronald Reagan and thinks that Democrats have been too partisan for the past 15 years. Is called a Marxist. In the NY Times. Because he DARED to talk about the economic interests of working class people.

Seriously, what's a black man gotta do in order to NOT be called a Marxist in the NY Times? (It's important to note that Martin Luther King Jr. was also regularly called a Marxist by his racist opponents.) Oh wait, I know the answer, launch a pre-emptive war against brown people! Nice work Colin and Condi!!!

By publishing Kristol's piece, the New York Times is sending a very clear message. 1.) To Democrats: if you dare pay attention to working class people, we will take you down. 2.) To Republicans: facts don't matter -- you can say any ridiculous, patently untrue thing you want to say and we'll print it because we are scared of you.

Note to Barack Obama: those bipartisan "friends" who you are always reaching out to have now called you a terrorist, a fag (that's what they mean when they call you elitist), a nigg*r, and a Marxist. How many times you gonna let them punch you in the mouth before you call them what they are: racist thugs who DO NOT DESERVE A SEAT AT THE TABLE.

Note to the tradition media: This is not 2000 or 2004. The Democratic candidate is different. The mood in the country is different. And yet you keep running the same tired script. No wonder no one watches your evening news programs or buys your papers.

Here's the contact info for NY Times Public Editor, Clark Hoyt.

Update #1: F'ing Joe Lieberman said he thought that asking whether Barack Obama was in fact a Marxist was a good question. Hat tip to Nicole at Crooks and Liars. Hey Joe, say goodbye to your chairmanship on January 20, 2009. Kos notes that Obama endorsed and campaigned for Lieberman in the 2006 Democratic primary.

Update #2: Here's Crooks and Liars, DailyKos, Shakesville, and Huffington Post's take on Bill Kristol's article.

Update #3. Brilliant analysis at Kos: absofuckinglutely. That's really what's going on here.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Tax Toxics!

With April 15 fast approaching, I thought I'd do a post on taxes.

As a progressive, I believe that a certain level of taxation is both reasonable and necessary. It's just the investment we all make to live in a democracy. Roads, bridges, schools, national defense, (and national health care!), benefit us all but require that we all chip in our fair share.

At the same time, I accept the argument that "whatever you tax you get less of." It makes sense of course -- the more things cost, the less of it you can buy and taxes raise the cost of things. As a result, beyond a certain base level it does not make a whole lot of sense to tax income, because, we generally want more income and more employment not less.

In the public debate over tax policy, Republicans bang out a constant drum beat of no taxes, no taxes, no taxes. It's childish and irresponsible (which is why they haven't done a good job with governing). But Democrats, it seems to me, too often get run over because they are just standing still on taxes -- defending the status quo or offering a watered down version of the Republican drumbeat.

It's time for Democrats to go on offense on taxes at the federal, state, and local level. If Democrats could go on offense on taxes, I believe they could usher in several decades of electoral dominance. What would it look like for Democrats to go on offense on taxes? In a sentence:


Whatever we tax we get less of right? So tax the hell out of things we don't like -- toxics, any form of pollution, and any non-renewable resource. For every $1 raised by taxing toxics, Democrats could invest in new technologies to destroy old polluting industries. These new investments would create new high paying jobs and put the United States on a course of continuous improvement in our quality of life. It would basically fund an industrial policy in perpetuity -- 1) kill old and dirty industries through taxing their waste stream; 2) replace with new non-toxic technologies; 3) sell to the world.

Lester Brown at the Earth Policy Institute has proposed that we use taxes on toxics and other forms of pollution to lower income taxes. To a point, I think that's a good idea and a wonderful way to build popular support. But I also think it has its limits. We don't want government to become addicted to the revenue it gets from toxic taxes. For example, the U.S. currently has a policy of using revenue from timber sales to fund schools in the northwest. The policy is a disaster -- basically requiring the clear cutting of forests in order to keep schools open. It seems to me wiser to use toxic taxes as a tool to destroy dirty polluting industries rather than as a source of funding for basic services.

Not all toxics are appropriate for taxation. Some toxics like mercury, are so detrimental even in small quantities, that they should just be banned completely. But in other cases, the tax would effectively function as a gradual ban. Lester Brown writes, "we propose a worldwide carbon tax to be phased in at $20 per ton each year between 2008 and 2020, stabilizing at $240 per ton." A typical coal-fired power plant generates 3,700,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year -- and the old coal-fired power plants spew even more. At even $20 a ton, in the absence of pollution controls, the typical coal-fired power plant would be facing $74,000,000 in taxes a year (just on the CO2 -- we could also tax the sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide etc.) and the older plants would quickly be out of business. We could take every dollar of that tax and invest in solar, wind, and geothermal for example -- quickly replacing our old industry infrastructure with new clean technologies.

We could also tax plastics, pesticides, mercury in those funky new lightbulbs, toxics in household products, non-sustainably farmed lumber... the list goes on and on. Presently, pollution puts profits in the hands of corporations while passing huge health care costs onto the public sector. Taxing the heck out of toxics and other forms of pollution would dramatically lower health care costs, reduce government costs, and improve quality of life for all Americans. In fact, it's not even really a tax increase, it's just putting the true costs of pollution back on the companies that create it, rather than sticking you and me (and the public sector) with the bill.

The fact that Democrats haven't already embraced this idea shows just how much power the old polluting industries and their lobbyist dollars have in Washington.

But taxing toxics (and other forms of pollution) is an idea whose time will come.

What I'm listening to these days

Here's some music that I'm loving right now:

Jordin Sparks featuring Chris Brown, No Air. Yeah, I've got a sweet tooth for pop music.

Leona Lewis, Bleeding Love. Leona Lewis was the winner of the UK version of American Idol (called The X-Factor). This is the UK version of the video -- with 41 million views on YouTube!

The White Stripes, Icky Thump. Such a jam.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

In a just world...

This week, there's been a lot of talk about the possibility of Condoleezza Rice joining John McCain as his Vice Presidential candidate. Which is really just a marketing trick -- the Republican media machine floats her name to signal to independents, 'see we're not really a racist party, we even considered putting Condoleezza Rice on the ticket!' Then they will do what they always do, which is to find a conservative white male evangelical to keep the extreme 60% of the party from staying home on election day. It's just like having Chaka Khan sing at the Republican National Convention -- they'll never invite her into their clubs -- but they sure do like having a black woman around for photo ops to reassure independents (and gullible traditional media types who lap it up -- Ohhh Chaka Khan's on stage -- I love her!!!)

In a just world, Barack Obama's response to all this talk about Rice joining McCain's ticket would go something like this:

'Condoleezza Rice is currently free to run for Vice President. But when I'm sworn in as President on January 20, 2009, one of my first orders of business will be to turn Rice, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Powell, and Feith over to the International Criminal Court. I expect they will get a fair trial and be convicted for war crimes. I imagine that Rice will spend the eight years of my presidency and indeed, the rest of her life moldering in a cold dark prison cell. I suppose Rice and Cheney can play on the same prison softball league -- but that's about as close to the Vice Presidency as she's gonna get.' (editor's note: See, it'd even have that trademark Obama humor in there too!)

What pisses me off about having to write that is Obama doesn't have the balls to do that (neither do 99% of other Democrats so it's not like I'm singling him out). Furthermore, I imagine some readers, including some of my closest friends, are gonna think, 'Oooh, saying Condoleezza Rice is a war criminal is really way out there radical stuff.' Really, it's radical to think that those who break the law should be held accountable? Since when? If you believe in the rule of law, read this article, and tell me some of these mutherf*ckers don't belong in jail.

Update #1: Then there's this (the National Lawyers Guild also believes in the rule of law and believes War Crimes have been committed).

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Problem with Mark Penn

The problem with Mark Penn is that he even though he worked for Clinton, he always acted like Clinton worked for him.