Saturday, February 28, 2009

Canadian ecstasy

By Michael J.W. Stickings

"U.S. says Canada the top source for ecstasy," reads the headline at the Toronto Star, picking up a story from The Canadian Press, one that seems to have attracted quite a bit of attention up here.

I must say, though, I'm surprised.

I just don't see this country as "a state of being beyond reason and self-control," if I may quote the dictionary, or as "a state of overwhelming emotion" or "rapturous delight." That's just not very Canadian. If I may generalize, we're a nice, quiet, and polite people. Some might say "boring," but I'd like to think that we're decent, humane, socially and environmentally responsible, and, on the whole, good.

And I just don't know many Canadians who are in "a mystic or prophetic trance."

(Though I suppose the reality-denying delusions of Leafs fans must qualify. When you haven't won the Cup since '67, "overwhelming emotion," however crackpotted, can get the better of you. As a Habs fan, I share none of this, mind you.)

So, really, my American friends, you're just wrong about us. Please let your State Department know the truth!

(Oh Canada! Our home and native land!)

Wait... uh... did I miss something?

Oh.

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Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The BBC:

Rock band U2 have played a surprise gig on top of BBC Broadcasting House, in central London.

A crowd of around 5,000 watched the rooftop show, which capped off a day of promotion for the Irish band's 12th studio album No Line On The Horizon.

**********

Dear Bono, Edge, Adam, and Larry:

You're not The Beatles. Never have been. Never will be. And, with a few minor exceptions, you really haven't done anything worthwhile since Achtung Baby.

So please stop. Or at least keep the monomania in check. (To the extent that you can, what with Bono running the show.)

Regards,

Michael Stickings

P.S. I bet you think you're bigger than Jesus, too.

P.P.S. Yes, those are your lyrics that make up the title of this post. From "The Fly," one of the better songs on Achtung Baby.

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A glimpse into the mind of insanity 3

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The best thing about CPAC, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, is that it allows us to observe a whole bunch of right-wing wackos in one setting. It's a sort of echo chamber insanitarium -- and what makes it all so much fun, both for them and for us, is that these wackos are even crazier when they get together and feed off each other's insanity. It's a classic example of individuals succumbing to groupthink -- with the thinking of the group even crazier than the thinking of the crazy individuals that make it up. I'm sure Elias Canetti could tell us a lot more about this dynamic, but let's not delve into sociology right now. Instead, let's take a look at yet another example of the conservative "mind" at work.

Our two previous examples from this year's CPAC were Cliff Kincaid calling Obama a communist who wasn't born in the U.S. (to wild applause) and John Bolton talking about nuking Chicago (also to wild applause). Well, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who's right at home in the insanitarium, added to the craziness by, in good Rush Limbaugh fashion, declaring that he wants Obama and his policies to fail -- actually, he said "we," meaning that Santorum is hardly alone. I suspect that everyone in attendance at CPAC wants Obama to fail, so partisan are they, so at odds with reality, so in opposition to the American people, so hateful, so spiteful -- and so in line with Dear Leader Rush.

As Think Progress notes, Rush's view is wildly popular at CPAC, having been expressed by the crazy likes of Tom DeLay, among others. There are certainly some conservatives who disagree, notably South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who has said that "[a]nybody who wants [Obama] to fail is an idiot," but there is no doubt that, among the wackos at CPAC, the vast majority is with Rush.

Here's the Santorum clip. (Click on the links above for other CPAC clips.)

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Quote of the Day

By Creature

"In other words, I know these steps won’t sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they’re gearing up for a fight as we speak. My message to them is this: So am I." -- President Barack Obama, gearing up for a much welcomed fight over his audacious, progressive, gaming changing budget.

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M'm! M'm! Good!

By J. Thomas Duffy

WOW!

We thought we hit the top of the curve (or, the bottom, depending on how you look at it), when we posted the detailed view of Spam (the kind you eat), back last November.

Meg Marco, over on The Consumerist posted this yesterday;

The "Worst Food Product Ever" May Have Been Found

Pork Brains In Milk Gravy. Could it be the worst food product ever? It does have 1170% of your daily cholesterol per serving. Mmmm



Can you imagine working on the production line of this place?

But wait, there is a competitor to Armour!

Rose Brand Pork Brains w/ Milk Gravy (5 oz.)



And they all belong (including Spam) in a category that's called "Potted Meat Food Products"

And there is a "Tribute Page" to such!

The Potted Meat Food Product Tribute Page
A Call To Armour

Fairly soon, however, the line was picked up by a representative named Bob. I told him I had some questions about one of their products, specifically, Potted Meat Food Product.

"Go ahead," Bob said. There was no fear or hesitation in his voice; I could tell that he was well-versed in Potted Meat Food Product lore.

"Okay," I said, "One of the ingredients is listed as `partially defatted cooked pork fatty tissue'. What exactly is partially defatted fatty tissue?"

"Well," Bob replied, "There's a certain amount of tissue that holds fat. This tissue has the fat rendered out of it, and it's used for flavoring and seasoning." He further compared it to "cracklins", which I've seen in the supermarket. They frighten me.

"Okay, my next question is, since Partially Defatted Cooked Pork Fatty Tissue is the only one specifically labeled as being cooked, does that mean that the other ingredients aren't cooked?"

"Oh, no," he assured me, "it's all cooked before it goes into the can."


Okay, there you go ... You can run out to the supermarket and get your choice Potted Meat product, because "it's all cooked before it goes into the can."



And there is, not necessarily so suprising, a Wikipedia entry for it;

Cultural consumption

In the Southern United States, canned pork brain in gravy can be purchased for consumption as food. This form of brain is often fried with scrambled eggs to produce the famous "Eggs n' Brains".[1] They are part of the menu in many family owned restaurants throughout the region.

The brain of animals also features in French cuisine, in dishes such as cervelle de veau and tête de veau.

Similar delicacies from around the world include Mexican tacos de sesos made with cattle brain as well as squirrel brain in the US South.[2] The Anyang tribe of Cameroon practiced a tradition in which a new tribal chief would consume the brain of a hunted gorilla while another senior member of the tribe would eat the heart.[3] Indonesian cuisine specialty in Minangkabau cuisine also served beef brain in a gravy coconut milk named gulai otak (beef brain curry). Roasted or fried goat brain is eaten in the south of India and some parts of northern India. In Cuban cuisine, "brain fritters" made by coating pieces of brain with bread crumbs and then frying them.

In India, certain restaurants serve brain as bheja fry, literally brain fry. It's cooked in its own fat along with standard base used in curry.

And, what are the risk of such culinary treats?
Fat and cholesterol

Consuming the brain and other nerve tissue of animals is not without risks. The first problem is that the makeup of the brain is 60% fat due to large quantities of myelin (which itself is 70% fat) insulating the axons of neurons.[4] As an example, a 140 g can of "pork brains in milk gravy", a single serving, contains 3500 milligrams of cholesterol, 1170% of the USRDA.[5]


We'll be waiting, probably coming out in the World Weekly News, of the first "suicide by pork brains in milk gravy".

Or a Reality Show.

Bonus Riffs

Forget About Tuesday, Cash On The Barrelhead Today, Wimpy!

Top Ten Cloves: Ways To Tell Tomatoes Are Safe Again

Top Ten Cloves: Ways Spinach Industry Plans To Overcome E. Coli Setback

Top Ten Cloves: Possible Problems Julia Child Had As An OSS Spy

Clinton Joins Food Pyramid Protest ... Says Won't Deter Child Obesity; Poll Shows Public Prefers The Sphinx

Egypt Protests New U.S. Use of Pyramids ... Says Mocking Historic Culture and Islam; Call for American Food Boycott



(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Suck it up, Jonah

By Mustang Bobby

Jonah Goldberg objects to the stimulus package -- big surprise.

I just don't want to pay for it. It's not that I don't want government to do nice things for deserving people in certain circumstances. It's not necessarily that I'm hostile to this group of beneficiaries or that (though I am in fact hostile to some). It's that I think most of Obama's ideas will not work, will be a waste of money and will hurt the economy. And, flatly, I don't want to pay for it. I don't want to break the law. I don't want pull a Geithner or a Daschle or anything like that. But I don't want to pay for it. I will look for every means within the boundaries of the law to minimize what I pay in taxes and I make no apologies for that whatsoever.

Well, you know what, Jonah; life's rough. As a Quaker, I didn't want to pay taxes to support the war in Iraq, and as a gay man, I resent supporting the policy of Don't Ask/Don't Tell in the military with my queer dollars. As a supporter of a woman's right to choose, I didn't want my tax dollars to go to the Bush administration's gag orders about reproductive choice as a qualification for providing health care to women in Africa, nor did I enjoy paying my taxes for any of the other stuff you so heartily endorsed during the Bush years.

But the 1040 form doesn't come with check boxes. And besides, one of the responsibilities we have as citizens is to pay for what we have whether we like it or not. If you don't like it, you vote someone else into office. And listening to you whine like an ill-mannered six year old doesn't make your case for putting your kind of people back into power.

HT to Steve and Boatboy.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Friday, February 27, 2009

The Reaction in review (Feb. 27, 2009)

A week's Reactions that deserve a second look:


Creature Feature -
Sounding out the stats regarding: GDP "6.2%" Obama watchers "52.4 million" Liked speech "68%" Obama job approval "63%"


Friday

By Frankie Sturm (Welcome to our guest writer from the Truman National Security Project): "Containing Iran -- The crybaby approach" -- Frankie's post tackles the tough question about why the Obama administration's emphasis on clear-eyed diplomacy with Iran is the correct choice.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Burris & Son: Partners in corruption, with a load of Blago thrown in for good measure" -- For the clever title alone, this post on the latest element in the Ronald Burris scandal gets an honorable mention.


Thursday

By Libby Spencer: "Towards a sane marijuana policy" -- Libby post applauds the Justice Department's decision to end raids on legal medical marijuana clubs and concludes, ". . . our legislators would do well to listen to public opinion -- a majority of Americans support full legalization -- and consider ending the war on marijuana altogether."

By Edward Copeland: "My Howard Beale moment" -- Edward's good at letting off steam for all of us about the silly rhetoric and greedy behavior associated with bailing out bankers and the rich.

By Carl: "Greed is God" -- Fourth great post this week in a fabulous analytical series on the current economic crisis; see also "On the clock" "Guns v. butter" "A spoonful of sugar"


Wednesday

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Shut up, all ye faithful" -- Michael's link-rich post digests Governor Bobby Jindal's Republican response to President Obama's Tuesday address to the joint session of Congress.


Tuesday

By LindaBeth: "Amy Goodman interviews author Mark Schapiro" -- A very insightful post on some of the points in the author's book, "Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power."

By Carol Gee: "Talk, talk, talk" -- This post is about talking, for both good and ill; all the way from Obama to Twitter, it made lots of news this week.

By J. Thomas Duffy: "Leaving Bush Behind" -- Duffy's clever and very informative post begins,"It will take a few years, maybe longer, to truly root out, shower, and scrub our education system from the abuse it received from the Bush Grindhouse . . remember 'No Child Left Behind.' "


Monday

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "It's the GOP vs.Obama (and the American people)" -- Good little post following up on Creature's poll post, included because of its very lively comment thread.

By Capt. Fogg: "Bigger, more intrusive government" -- The good Captain exposes Senator John Cornyn's proposed bill, 'Internet Stopping Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of Today's Youth Act,' as a ruse to invade Internet privacy in a massive manner.

By Mustang Bobby: "Nothing less" -- Bobby's thoughtful and beautifully written post on gay marriage, gay rights, the religious right and the U.S. Constitution should be recommended for widespread reading.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Craziest Conservative of the Day: George F. Will (or, in support of Russ Feingold's effort t
o amend the 17th Amendment" and "Craziest Republican of the Day: Jim Bunning" -- Michael takes aim at a craziness craze over on the other side.


Special Bonus Series on Canadian politics by Michael J.W. Stickings: "The rise of Michael Ignatieff" (plus interesting comments) and "MJWS on the radio, talking Ignatieff" (6 comments).

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Fast paced governing

Carol Gee

The Obama administration is setting a very rapid pace of governance. At times it is almost too big and too fast to take it all in or to oversee, though a highly regarded Inspector General will give it a good try. Some of the stimulus money is already going to work as states get in line for project money.

In the President's address to Congress this week was a "big wish list" of promises to expand government. And, given the seriousness of the world's financial crisis, the size and terms of the new bank (bailout) stabilization program is breathtaking. Regulatory reform is already in the works, also. ProPublica estimates it could be $750 billion.

Health Care and the Federal Budget -- The idea is to expand health care coverage. President Obama will lay out 8 keys to the plan, according to Politico. To quote:

Ahead of the release of his budget Thursday, Obama has endorsed eight guiding principles for health reform, the White House officials said on the conference call. They stressed that they intend to work with lawmakers and other stakeholders on how to accomplish the goals, but the principles will lay down a marker for any congressional plan.

Other goals include maintaining choice of insurance and doctors, ensuring affordable coverage, protecting Americans financial health, investing in prevention and wellness, improving patient safety and quality of care and is fiscally responsible, sustainable and portable.

A tax hike on wealthy Americans will fund half of the cost of the health care plan. Surprisingly some consensus seems to be emerging as the opposite sides find common ground, CQ Politics reports.

In conclusion, we could have a worse set of problems. Few of us want to go back to the lethargic and ineffectual governance that characterized the previous administration. All we can do is get on board this new train and enjoy the ride.

References:

  1. Obama address to Congress
  2. What he really meant, a translation by Politico.
  3. Budget analysis from Congressional Quarterly Politics.
  4. International Herald Tribune discussion of budget's transparency.

See also Behind the Links, for further info on this subject.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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When in doubt, vote for the porn star

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It looks like David "Family Values" Vitter will not go unchallenged as he seeks re-election to the Senate from Louisiana in 2010.

On his own Republican side, he may face no less a potentially serious threat than Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, a major figure on the theocratic right.

And -- keep your fingers crossed -- he may also face porn star Stormy Daniels:

The Draft Stormy Web site says that "2010 presents the Pelican State with the opportunity to start with a clean slate -- to elect a representative that we can be proud of, who will work tirelessly, and who will challenge the status quo. We at the Draft Stormy campaign feel that Baton Rouge native Stormy Daniels is best suited to fulfill these duties."

*****

Daniels, 29, isn't affiliated with a party but is embracing the idea of a possible candidacy.

She said she's planning a "listening tour" around Louisiana to talk about a range of matters, including the economy -- which along with women in business and protection of children are the three issues listed on her Web site. When told Vitter can be a tough opponent, she said she's "always up for a good fight."

"I think anyone that knows me... is more than aware of that," Daniels said. "Politics can't be any dirtier of a job than the one I am already in."

Great line -- I'm just not sure how true it is.

Still, political inexperience aside, Daniels is far more honourable than Vitter, who, you remember, got caught up in the "D.C. Madam" scandal, his phone number showing up in Deborah Jeane Palfrey's escort service's records -- and all he admitted to was "a very serious sin in my past." Uh-huh. Sure. (I won't judge his morality -- what he does is his business, and his family's -- but I will judge his hypocrisy, which is outrageous even by the outrageous standards of Republicans.

But back to Daniels... She won the 2007 Penthouse Gold G-String Award (adult site). That's good enough for me.

Voters of Louisiana -- show her your support.

(For more on Daniels, see her Wikipedia page, as well as her official website (adult site). And check out Draft Stormy, which includes clips of some of her media appearances.)

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These pretzels are making me thirsty!

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I love Seinfeld, to a degree that is perhaps unhealthy, and for that reason alone I'll always have a soft spot for Jerry Seinfeld himself -- even if I don't find him to be all that funny, outside of the show, even if he hasn't done anything worthy of much note other than the show, other than perhaps the amusing Bee Movie, and even if he often comes across as an arrogant prick.

But this... this is a bad, bad idea:

Jerry Seinfeld is returning to NBC as producer of a comic reality series where celebrities and a referee try to help squabbling couples make peace.

Really? Do we need this? Is this the best the great Jerry Seinfeld can come up with? I don't expect Seinfeld II -- it was a near-perfect show that can't be repeated, with an amazing confluence of factors coming together at one time and for only one time, the right vehicle for all four leads. But maybe something other than yet another stupid reality show that undoubtedly won't be all that funny. (Hey... marital discord. That's hilarious!)

Please, Jerry, you've already been the master of your domain. Don't mess it up.

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The revolution was televised

By Creature

CNN:

Another prominent Republican told the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday that the president’s spending plans are pushing the country to the brink of socialism.

Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, the only member of the senate to earn a perfect rating from the American Conservative Union, called President Obama "the world’s best salesman of socialism" on Friday in describing his prime time speech earlier this week.

DeMint, a fierce opponent of government expansion, told the CPAC crowd that conservatives might have to "take to the streets to stop America’s slide into socialism."

"Take to the streets." Really?

You gotta love this conservative populist movement. Not only is it tone deaf, but they don't seem to realize America already had its populist revolution. Yes, we did. I seem to remember a record shattering 2008 election campaign dominated by a politician who was able to mobilized millions of people. They gave him lots of money and came out in droves to support him at his rallies and at the polls. Conservatives may not like the results of the 2008 populist revolution--they weren't dressed in Brooks Brothers, after all--but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. The people have spoken, Senator DeMint, "socialism" is in. Why don't you suck on that for awhile.

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A glimpse into the mind of insanity 2

By Michael J.W. Stickings

More from the insane asylum known as the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). The Think Progress headline says it all:

John Bolton jokes about nuking Chicago, entire CPAC audience erupts in laughter.

Clearly, Chicago wasn't a "random" pick. It's Obama's city, and Bolton and the CPACers knew what the message was.

Yes, America, these are your conservatives in action -- in all their craziest glory.

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Say it ain't so, Bobby

by Capt. Fogg

We can see that Bobby Jindal likes to talk as though his audience were all preschoolers and wear ties he borrowed from Bozo the Clown, but did Bobby Jindal make up a story? Seems like it.

Tuesday night's speech to congress had the man who would be president calling himself a hero, insisting that boats be allowed to rescue people of New Orleans stranded on rooftops; standing firm when some nasty ol' gummint bureaucrat was telling the sheriff that boats without proof of insurance would have to stay home. Only problem is, says Talking Points Memo -- he wasn't in the sheriff's office -- he may not even have been in New Orleans and the sheriff didn't know about the policy until weeks later.

Seems his only course of action may be to insist, like Sarah Palin, that she really did say "thanks but no thanks" and really did sell the state jet on eBay when she didn't and blame it all on the Liberal Media. Good luck to the both of them.

Cross posted from Human Voices

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Containing Iran -- The crybaby approach

By Frankie Sturm

**********

Starting with this one, The Reaction will now be featuring posts by writers from the Truman National Security Project, a Washington-based think tank that bills itself as "the nation's only organization that recruits, trains, and positions a new generation of progressives across America to lead on national security."

It is a wonderful opportunity for us to be associated with such a worthy organization, and I look forward to what will be thoughtful and provocative contributions. It is essential, I think, that liberals and progressives be loud and clear voices in the area of national security, and the Truman Project is at the forefront of this effort.

Please take the time to get to know the Truman Project by checking out its website. You can start by reading its "Our Values" section. And please welcome Frankie, the author of this post, and his colleagues to The Reaction.

-- MJWS

**********

Frankie Sturm is the Communications Director of the Truman Project.

Iran has been mercifully absent from headlines lately. This changed with the Obama administration’s appointment of Dennis Ross as special advisor for the Gulf and Southwest Asia – thinly veiled reference to Iran. The news prompted Ilan Berman of the American Foreign Policy Council to declare that the U.S. must have no diplomatic relations with Iran until its ceases funding terrorist organizations:

The establishment of a diplomatic outpost in Tehran, with all of the permanence in U.S.-Iranian relations that that will bring -- needs to be conditioned on real changes in direction on the part of Iran's ayatollahs.

Otherwise, Washington’s diplomatic overtures are likely to be seen in Tehran as simply an endorsement of the regime’s rogue behavior so far.

As though Iran’s government is an insecure high school kid, hoping to be asked to the prom. Iran isn’t seeking America’s approval or endorsement. It’s seeking its own best interests. And yes, given the ugly rhetoric and uglier practices of Iran’s ruling elites, that’s a scary proposition.

But that’s no reason to retreat into fantasy. Iran’s support of terrorists is nothing if not morally reprehensible. It’s also a problem worth living with if engagement can persuade Iran to halt its nuclear program. Since
air strikes won’t work against Iran’s nuclear program, and we lack the troops to invade and occupy, we lack a viable military option. Diplomacy and sanctions are the only way forward.

Those who oppose diplomacy with Iran are playing a crybaby role. Instead of recognizing the reality that diplomacy and sanctions represent our best and only bet, they’re throwing a temper tantrum instead. Can we can hedge with missile defense? Sure. Should we promise to react to the launch of an Iranian nuke with devastating force? Absolutely. But they have no reason to pretend that tough talk and empty threats will make one iota’s worth of difference. Iran is a serious problem. It deserves serious solutions.

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Burris & Son: Partners in corruption, with a load of Blago thrown in for good measure

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Oh, Roland, you and Blago made quite the pair, didn't you? But, I must ask, was there ever any room for all of your monomaniacal ambitions and tendencies? I mean, each one of you is bad enough alone. But the two of you together? Awesome.

The Chicago Sun-Times has the latest:

The son of embattled Sen. Roland Burris is a federal tax deadbeat who landed a $75,000-a-year state job under former Gov. Rod Blagojevich five months ago, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Blagojevich's administration hired Roland W. Burris II as a senior counsel for the state's housing authority Sept. 10 -- about six weeks after the Internal Revenue Service slapped a $34,163 tax lien on Burris II and three weeks after a mortgage company filed a foreclosure suit on his South Side house.

Why does it not surprise me that you named your son after you? And why does it not surprise me that there are yet more indications of corruption surrounding your appointment, by Blago, to the Senate?

Are we really to believe that everything was on the up-and-up here?

Yeah, sure. Do you really think we're that stupid?

(For all our Burris coverage, see here. Warning: It's scandalicious.)

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6.2%

By Creature

That's the percentage the gross domestic product dropped in the 4th quarter of last year. It's a contraction that was worse than expected and the biggest drop since 1982. Ugh.

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A glimpse into the mind of insanity

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Just how fucking crazy are conservatives these days (and most days)? At the CPAC conference yesterday -- and what a gathering of the fucking crazy that is, year after year -- Cliff Kincaid, head of the right-wing group Accuracy in Media (one of the world's great misnomers), insinuated that Obama is a communist who was not born in the U.S., repeating one of the many viruses currently coursing through the right-wing insanitarium.

As Think Progress notes, this lie "has been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked, but of course the truth never stops conservatives from spewing their noxious venom with reckless abandon. And, when it comes to Obama, they're just pumping out whatever lies and smears their little minds can make up.

Welcome to insanity. On full display at a conservative echo chamber near you.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Quote of the Day

By Creature

"The irony of all of this is what we are actually seeing is not the meltdown of the Republican party, but something bigger than that. The Grover Norquist troglodyte right is drowning themselves in the bathtub before our very eyes. It is truly a sight to see." -- John Cole, after viewing the ridiculousness on display at the right-wing Conservative Political Action Conference.

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Towards a sane marijuana policy

By Libby Spencer

Signaling an end to one of the most senseless and destructive aspects of US drug policy, AG Holder announced at a recent presser that the "Justice Department will no longer raid medical marijuana clubs that are established legally under state law." Surely a relief to the terminally ill who depend on the plant to ease their pain, not to be forced into the black market to get their medicine. Arresting these people and their providers, who pose no real danger to society, cost us billions in tax dollars that could be better spent elsewhere.

Further, now matter what you think about the use of the plant as a medicine, the pure economics of generating income by allowing the dispensaries to operate instead of draining public coffers to shut them down, makes the strongest argument for the policy. Consider this for instance:

Harborside is charged an 8.75 percent tax. With revenue of around $1 million per month, its annual sales-tax bill comes in at something like $875,000 per year. And that's just one shop. Betty Yee, chairwoman of the State Board of Equalization, which oversees tax collection, told me that there's no way to break out exactly how much money the state is getting from pot clubs because it doesn't require them to state on their tax forms what product they sell. ("Regardless of legal status, anyone can get a seller's permit," she explained.) However, she did release the tax records of some clubs that had been raided by the federal government, noting that because they employed sizable numbers of people, they also paid state and federal income and payroll taxes. The Compassion Center, licensed by Alameda County, paid $3 million before being shuttered in October 2007 by the DEA. Nature's Medicinal, licensed by Kern Country, paid close to $1 million in 2007, which included $203,000 in state and federal income taxes, $365,000 in payroll taxes, and $427,000 in sales taxes. The Compassion Center employed and provided health benefits to fifty people; Nature's Medicinal twenty-five.

Additionally, marijuana legalization advocates estimate, if the plant was made legal for recreational use as well, the tax revenue in California alone would be in the range of $2 billion. At a time when the U.S. economy is tettering on the brink of collapse, our legislators would do well to listen to public opinion -- a majority of Americans support full legalization -- and consider ending the war on marijuana altogether. Our society has survived well with a thriving underground industry. It's about time we allowed the consumers to step out of the shadows and contribute to our economic health in the full light of day.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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Top Ten Cloves: Ways Rush Limbaugh can get woman not to hate him

By J. Thomas Duffy

News Item: Limbaugh To Convene A ‘Female Summit’ To Figure Out Why Women Hate Him

10. Call for an Operation Chaos Riot - against you, in your own radio studio

9. Voluntarily take yourself off Armed Forces Radio

8. Stop defending Corporate America

7. Drop the act and let his innner progressive liberal Democrat come out

6. Go out and actually win a Nobel Peace Prize

5. Start dating a transsexual

4. Call off your dogs and start crticizing Bobby Jindal

3. Recant for playing up "Barack The Magic Negro" -- produce and play "Rush The Ignorant Radio Host"

2. Start sharing his stash of drugs

1. Free the Dittoheads! -- Pull a William Shatner/SNL/Star Trek/Get A Life on them

**********

Bonus Bonehead Rush Riffs

Rush Announces Female Listener Summit to Discuss EIB Gender Gap

Jill on Brilliant at Breakfast: Maybe it's because he's a misogynistic, soulless hatemonger who vacations as a sex tourist

Jill Miller Zimon: Rush Limbaugh Calls A Women’s Summit To Research His Gender Gap

We Wonder If Rush Lobbied For This, The Way He Did For The Nobel?

Jesus, It Sounded Like A Violation of the Rico Act!




(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Eric Cantor: Idiot of the Day

By LindaBeth

NPR's Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep had a brief interview with House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-PA) Wednesday morning.

From my own transcription of one exchange (audio here):

Cantor: "[...] it was an opposition based on an alternative we had put forward that frankly House Democrats refused to incorporate into the actual spending plan that emerged."

[...]

Inskeep: "Would you encourage governors to take the stimulus money even though some Republican governors have said they might not take some?"

Cantor: "Steve, what I think is that this stimulus bill is designed to preserve, protect, and create jobs. If governors are going to access the money, they money should not go into new programs that have nothing to do with jobs [...] What I say is the stimulus should be about preserving, protecting, and creating jobs."

1) The Republicans' proposal was almost entirely tax cuts. The House passed a bill with a significant proportion of tax cuts. So how exactly were Republican ideas not incorporated?

2) Cantor says that the stimulus bill is designed for creating jobs.

2a) And how exactly do individual tax cuts create jobs?

2b) I thought the bill was for stimulus, and creating jobs are a significant part of stimulus when there is no demand, but jobs is not the only part of stimulus. This is why food stamps, unemployment benefits, and certain tax cuts to those who will spend it are indeed part of stimulus.

So no, Cantor, this is not just a jobs bill. It's a stimulus bill. If it were a jobs bill, the individual tax cuts you used as a soap box would have no place in it. But I guess now you have to describe it that way in order to justify the governors who don't want to use the money for unemployment benefits and social services. Even though those are in fact stimulative--what the bill was actually for.

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My Howard Beale moment

By Edward Copeland

I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's work, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. ... We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had 15 homicides and 63 violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be. We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. ... All I know is that first you've got to get mad. You've got to say, 'I'm a HUMAN BEING, Goddamnit! My life has VALUE!' So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!' I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!... You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!'

I'm getting to that point people as I listen to idiot after idiot either report the news or comment on it. I think the valve started to blow this week when it was reported that AIG, the recipient of two previous payment of billions, who has been caught after those payments spending money on lavish junkets for its executives instead of trying to save their company, was about to report a huge loss and go back to the government with their hand out again. Screw em. Let's start practicing a little Darwininism here. If they can't save themselves, let them fail and sell them for spare parts.

Today, the steam shot the valve clean off my head as Obama introduced his budget and all the coddled members of the media started worrying about whether it was a good idea to let Dubya's tax cuts on the highest earners in the country expire in these economic conditions and return to the rate it was under Clinton. Oh dear, they cry, won't this make the big earners less likely to create jobs. Hmmm...exactly how many jobs have they been creating under this current tax rate? Another 600,000 some unemployment filings in the last week alone. (5 million jobless total, an all-time record.) Thousands upon thousands of job cuts announced each week. The fat cats aren't ever considering cutting their wages to save some workers' jobs but Chip Reid is afraid they won't create jobs if they have to pay a little more in taxes. At the same time, they seem to forget the majority of the country actually will be getting more of their money back.

CNBC has been particularly ridiculous as they told the story of the bank that received a billion or so from the TARP but used money to sponsor a golf tournament and send loads of its execs on swanky trips to the event. Larry Kudlow was turning red with anger. THIS WAS MARKETING, he declared. Labeling these banks this way will have a ripple effect. They WILL RUIN GOLF. Say it ain't so, Larry. Here, I thought Rick Santelli was the most irrational one at CNBC for acting as if the Obama Administration was about to ship him off to Gitmo because Robert Gibbs mentioned his name at a press briefing.

It's time for tough love with these assholes. Hank Paulson made a lot of these banks take money to hide which banks were really in trouble. Now everyone knows that it's Citigroup that's in trouble and the stronger banks want to give back the money they got, money they didn't want. Let them. The most infuriating thing I've heard is that the stimulus package had $75 million for FBI investigators to probe this economic meltdown and it was removed by Congress from the final bill. As Dylan Ratigan compared it, this disaster is the economic equivalent of 9/11 except we're only trying to help the victims, no one is going after the terrorists. I WANT YOU TO GET UP OUT OF YOUR CHAIR...

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"Activists and Candidates"

By Carol Gee

It takes both activists and candidates to make our political system work well. Each new era brings in new generations of both citizen categories. Matt Blizek at Democracy for America recently used that phrase in his e-mail to me. It was striking to think that we all could be trained together. That activism was used in the same breath with candidacy, was a pleasing thought. To quote Matt's piece:

When Gov. Howard Dean founded Democracy for America, he insisted that one of our core missions would be training a new generation of activists and candidates in states all across the country.

And that's exactly what we've done.

The DFA Campaign Academy has trained over 10,000 activists and candidates at nearly 100 weekend trainings in 38 different states -- we're not going to stop now.

The election is over, the 111th Congress is working successfully to pass legislation, and Tuesday night our new President spoke to the Congress and to all of us about his plan for next steps. CQ Politics had the story: "Obama pledges an America 'Stronger than Ever." Craig Crawford's blog Trail Mix at CQ Politics adds a nice touch. "Introduction inflation grips Congress." And, like thousands of activist bloggers, a fellow member of the Political Voices of Women Blog Community covered the Presidential Address that night.

President Obama talked about the economic recovery legislation just passed by Congress. And there is much more to come regarding energy, education and health care. President Obama expects a healthy national debate on reforming health care. Democrats.com has a way for citizens to "Tell Congress we want single payer health care" (2/16/09), if that is your preference. Mitch Stewart at Organizing for America, the new iteration of the Obama campaign website, now under the DNC sent an interesting e-mail on Monday that really pertains to those of us who helped get the stimulus bill passed. He said,

"Your representatives need to hear from you when they vote for the change you mandated in November. Doing what's right can be thankless when the culture of Washington tries to make political games out of the issues that matter to everyday Americans.

You're part of a powerful grassroots movement that can change that dynamic.

[regarding calling your legislator] Here are some suggested talking points for your call:

- I'm calling to thank [Congress member's name] for supporting the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
- I'll be watching closely online and in the news how taxpayers' money is spent in the implementation of this Act.
- I encourage [Congress member's name] to continue working with President to lift America out of this economic crisis.

Activists also write in addition to talking to your Senators and Representatives. And we link to each other more than to newspapers, it seems. I recently found this at blogasm: "50% of links on Technorati Top 10 blogs lead to other blogs. Only 4% lead to newspapers" (2/22/09). One of the most successful bloggers, FDL's Christy Smith wrote a piece that I highly recommend, "Bloggers as watchdogs: Liberal blogging in a Democratic administration" (2/21/09).

Activists in my state of Texas usually have our hands full. For example, ACLU of Texas supports the Fifth Circuit suit challenging the Texas legislature's addition of the word "pray" to activities permitted during schools' mandatory moment of silence, because it is already protected in the Constitution. In another case (2/11/09) ACLU of Texas wanted help: Please contact the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Justice and request that it conduct a full investigation of RCDC, the Reeves County Detention Center.

Reference -- ProPublica introduced Change Tracker: Tracking Change in Washington (2/19/09). It "watches pages on whitehouse.gov, recovery.gov, and financialstability.gov so you don’t have to. When the White House adds or deletes anything— say a blog post, or executive order—ChangeTracker will let you know, if you sign up for the alerts.

See also Behind the Links, for further info on this subject.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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"It’s Japan all over again"

By Creature

Here's the thing, while I appreciate the attempts to put some checks on banks and some transparency to the bailout transactions, the administration's new game plan is really a lipstick-on-a-pig scenario. The first half of TARP didn't work. Credit is still basically frozen and those toxic assets still stink up balance sheets. Yes, the first half of TARP may have staved off total collapse, but now the Obama administration plans to spend the next half in almost exactly the same way and request even more money from Congress. In the end they are just buying time and hoping things work out. How very Bush of them.

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Greed is god

By Carl

This week seems to be my week to explore humanity and the emotional states underlying our current national crises of the economy and the political atmosphere.

So let's take this from a different perspective and try to tie them together.

Fortuitously, I was reading an article in National Geographic magazine about the
burgeoning oil sand industry in Canada.

Lest you think that natural resource exploitation and the ravaging of native lands only happens in tropical climes, you need to read that article. However, it's
this quote that caught my eye and got me thinking:

"It's my belief that when government attempts to manipulate the free market, bad things happen," Premier Stelmach told a gathering of oil industry executives that year. "The free-market system will solve this."

But the free market does not consider the effects of the mines on the river or the forest, or on the people who live there, unless it is forced to. Nor, left to itself, will it consider the effects of the oil sands on climate. Jim Boucher has collaborated with the oil sands industry in order to build a new economy for his people, to replace the one they lost, to provide a new future for kids who no longer hunt ptarmigan in the moonlight. But he is aware of the trade-offs. "It's a struggle to balance the needs of today and tomorrow when you look at the environment we're going to live in," he says. In northern Alberta the question of how to strike that balance has been left to the free market, and its answer has been to forget about tomorrow. Tomorrow is not its job. 

Today v. tomorrow. The now v. the then. Hmmmm... sounds familiar...

And this is the struggle that President Obama as well as every other world leader faces today, the juggling of the efficiencies of the free market against the need to protect the environment and the people, to state the general case.

There are no simple answers to be had here, as much as the conservatives would like you to believe. They want you to believe that because in an environment (pun intended) that is bereft of ideas, we cling to the past, to ideas that work sometimes if at all. The simple answer is to let the market sort it out.

I've said before that the power of the market, the real strength of it, is to weed out weakness, to promote a sort of economic evolution.

When it works well, it's extremely good at this. I don't think the market has worked well since the Reagan administration, and I'm not completely sure why.

Certainly, with Reagan, we saw the fledgling crony capitalist markets. The amount of money suddenly available in the junk bond market, the extraction of mythical valuations of "goodwill" and the raping of pension plans for the cash they contained, all combined to create barriers to entry in industries as diverse as banking and retail.

If you're wondering why Wal-Mart is ubiquitous, but you can't find an Alexander's or a Gimbel's (sorry, I'm Noo Yawk oriented), this is why: they were swept up in junk bond mania.

At first, this was an efficiency exercise. Truly there were companies that were wasting resources, paying, you know, salaries and pensions, among other things. The wave of mergers and acquisitions probably, at first, cut a lot of fat out of the marketplace, setting the stage for the enormous growth of the 1990s.

However, all good things become bad in due time, and the wolves howling at the door stopped wanting just fat and wanted the real meat.

The market, rather than be efficient, became cannibalistic.

We've seen this time and time again in America: they call it a "bubble" but in truth, it's the self-feeding cycle of cannibalism, developed through what Greenspan called "irrational exuberance".

Another Reagan-era monstrosity is the flow of corporate money into politics. A nonsensical and absurd ruling (1978 Boston v Bellotti) by the SCOTUS allowed that corporations, which are basically money magnets, have the same free speech rights as persons, and so should be allowed to contribute to politicians and to have a say in the running of the country.

All that money that had been paid out in dividends and re-invested in making the company more efficient and more responsive to their customers now became a cudgel to force legislators to bend the rules of commerce in their favor.

And now we have what we have: a Congress beholden to special interest groups, because the rewards of all that contributed money is more money to spend on advertising, which means the price of campaigning skyrockets, which means the only way a person can afford to run (even Obama) is to suckle at the teat of corporate America.

The Chinese have a saying: all feasts must have an end.

As well, governmental regulation has its good points, and its absurdities. Too much regulation can stifle creativity. Too little regulation, and you get salmonella in your peanut butter. The tendency in this swing of the pendulum is to enforce "just right sized" rules, but eventually, there will be too many and they will be too burdensome.

So which becomes the bigger burden? Too much regulation or too much money floating around?

Neither. Both. And there's the problem.

We'll continue this whipsaw back and forth until someone has the gumption to stand up and say "enough". No more corporate political contributions, get that stupid decision overturned and finally work for the people, the individuals, and not the aggolmerations of capital and political power that have worked to effectively disenfranchise the entire nation.

This is not a Republican issue (altho it tends to affect Republican administrations more than Democratic) or a Democratic issue, but a national issue.

Greed is god in this country, and it's time to tear down the idols and expose the feets of clay.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Let them eat lobster

By Capt. Fogg

I just don't know any more and perhaps soon enough I just won't care. I got cornered by a woman at my club last night who went on and on about her money being wasted in earmarks for tattoo removal. This seems to be the red herring this week and the fishy smell of course is emanating from Fox, with people ( and I use the term loosely) like Michelle Malkin working overtime to make the most of it.

Apparently some money will go to a program to remove gang tattoos in California. Some will go for the Lobster fishing industry in Maine -- I don't need to repeat the litany, just turn on Fox or read any of the Ditto sites that repeat it ad nauseam, but we're hearing far less about billions to companies that use it for executive pay and bonuses; jets and yachts than we are about millions to entities that spend money on the poor and disadvantaged or on industries that employ Americans. All around her, of course are bankrupt businesses, foreclosed houses and homeless people. Perhaps one of them works for a dermatologist who removes tattoos. Perhaps there's someone who works in maintaining the 20,000 or so acres of parkland in this county -- land that attracts more in tourism than we spend making it pretty.

Certainly some of them in this coastal village are commercial fishermen whose boats are being foreclosed on, which is affecting the sales of gasoline and services which is forcing marinas to close and people in boatyards and grocery stores and tackle shops to be laid off. Saving an industry that employs Americans is at least a bridge to somewhere and criticism from people who have represented and supported the greatest orgy of non-productive pork barrel spending is almost as disgusting -- well, as Michelle Malkin.

It's easy to call any budget a series of "earmarks" and it beats me to think about how one allocates funds without allocating funds, unless you follow the Bush/Paulson "don't ask because we won't tell, you liberal bastard" model. One thing is for sure; some Maine fisherman is more likely to be salting cod with whatever comes his way from this package than salting money away in the Caymans or buying German cars or yachts made in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

The whole idea of economic stimulus is to produce liquidity and improve the velocity of money so that maybe fewer people will lose their homes and jobs and businesses. The sudden parsimony of people who said nothing as tens of trillions of debt piled up, as money disappeared into the bowels of offshore corporations like Halliburton, was disbursed in pizza boxes to Iraqi war profiteers and corrupt politicians, should be embarrassing. Being a Republican however, is never to feel embarrassment, guilt or remorse, but to look for the solace of being told it's the doing of the "liberals."

As I said, I'm almost to the point of not caring any more. If we really are a nation of people hypocritically obsessed with the motes in other people's eyes, or stimulus packages, to the point where they would gladly see the end of the United States as a world power, we deserve what we get.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Obstruct and delay

By Mustang Bobby

William Kristol realizes that Barack Obama is in charge and that the Republicans are in deep trouble.

Conservatives can't win politically right now. But they can raise doubts, they can point out other issues that we can't ignore (especially in national security and foreign policy), they can pick other fights -- and they can try in any way possible to break Obama's momentum. Only if this happens will conservatives be able to get a hearing for their (compelling, in my view) arguments against big-government, liberal-nanny-state social engineering -- and for their preferred alternatives.

It's like the conservatives haven't had a chance to be in power for the last twelve years or so, and every time they do get in power, there's some evil invisible force out there that makes the Republicans expand the power and the reach of the government and bring about their own version of nanny-state social engineering like faith-based science and dictating to women at home and abroad just what they can do with their bodies. But, he proclaims, just give us one more chance and we can get it right this time. We promise. Really.

It's revealing that Mr. Kristol makes his case by using combative terms -- "pick other fights" -- and non-responsive tactics -- "obstruct and delay." This is based in the conservative philosophy that the only way to do anything is to do nothing other than hold your ground and resist anything that you didn't think of. And for all his touting of "compelling" arguments, so far neither Mr. Kristol nor his fellow conservatives have offered counter-proposals that haven't already been tried and shown to be several light years beyond the concept of Epic Fail.

To his credit, he seems to grudgingly grasp that:

Still, conservatives and Republicans shouldn't minimize their tasks. Long term, they need fresh thinking in a host of areas of domestic policy, thinking that builds on previous conservative achievements but that deals with the new economic and social realities. In the short term, Republicans need to show a tactical agility and political toughness far greater than their predecessors did in the 1960s and the 1930s. "Else they will fall," to quote the great conservative Edmund Burke, "an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle," reduced to the unpleasant role of bystanders or the unattractive status of complainers, as Barack Obama makes history.

Welcome to the Reality-Based Community, Bill.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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52.4 million

By Creature

That's the number of people who watched the president address Congress Tuesday night. That 12.6 million more people than George W. Bush got for his first address before Congress. People are paying attention. That's good for America and bad for the GOP -- a party whose political strategy depends on people not paying attention.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Shut up, all ye faithful

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Look for the conservative criticism of Bobby "Worst. Rebuttal. Ever." Jindal to stop... now. Why? Because Dear Leader -- that is, Rush Limbaugh -- has given the order.

Jindal's response to Obama's quasi-SOTU has been widely panned across the political spectrum, including by the right-wing likes of David Brooks and, in the blogosphere, Ace of Spades, among others. Jindal still commands the admiration of Michael Gerson, who calls him "the anti-Palin," a compliment if ever there was one. At least Allahpundit had the good sense to defy Limbaugh and declare that Jindal failed miserably.

And, to be fair, there are, and will be, holdouts against Rush, those who refuse to adhere to narrow rightist orthodoxy of the kind that Limbaugh, who backed Palin, pushes through the airwaves from his lofty talk-radio perch. But conservatives, or at least those many who maintain fidelity to the GOP and who don't have Brooks's stature, platform, and independent streak, have a way of doing what they're told like the good little soldiers they are. And, with Limbaugh continuing to hold that Jindal is "brilliant," "the real deal," and the second coming of Ronald Reagan, the heterodoxy, the daring to go against Dear Leader, will soon stop, replaced by the usual ever-so-earnest falling back into line.

Meanwhile, Jindal and his family have gone to Disney World on vacation -- like he just won the Super Bowl or something instead of disrupting his high-flying political ambitions with an embarrassing rebuttal worthy of intense ridicule. Perhaps he can spend some of his time monitoring volcanoes at Epcot Center.

**********

For a solid non-conservaive take on Jindal's rebuttal, similar to my own, read John Amato.

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