Thursday, October 29, 2009

In the center ring

Schwarzenegger apparently tells legislator, ‘fuck you’

 By Raw Story

A Democratic lawmaker who heckled the governor with a "you lie" outburst during an unscripted appearance at a Democratic fundraiser received the following statement from California's colorful Republican governor Tuesday.

 Schwarzenegger apparently tells legislator, fuck you

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger typically attaches a message to bills he signs or vetoes telling lawmakers why he took the action.

A Democratic assemblyman who heckled the governor during a recent event in San Francisco actually received two messages: the veto letter itself and a not-so-subtle rebuke creatively hidden within it.

Like a find-the-word puzzle, the second message was visible by stringing together the first letter of each line down the left-hand margin. It consisted of a common four-letter vulgarity followed by the letters "y-o-u."

"My goodness. What a coincidence," said Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear. "I suppose when you do so many vetoes, something like this is bound to happen."

Mattel Has Lost Their Minds


Yesterday I bitched about the continually baffling assortment of characters in Mattel's DC Universe Classics line. I thought their insanity was limited to just that line, but now I think that someone high up at Mattel has lost all his fucking marbles. Because you see that Ken doll above? That Ken doll is PALM BEACH SUGAR DADDY KEN.

Never mind his silly clothes or enragingly tiny dog. He is called PALM BEACH SUGAR DADDY KEN. BY MATTEL. THIS IS HIS OFFICIAL NAME. Seriously, look at his Entertainment Earth page. This is like one of those joke Barbies art students do in college to criticize gender roles forced on children by their toys, like Hobo Barbie and Pregnant Trailer Trash Barbie. Except this time Mattel made it. It's official. My world is rocked. (Via Geek Girl Diva)

10 amazing truths you already suspected

Go ahead, pretend you didn't know. Pretend it wasn't obvious. (Volume II!)

As with Volume I, we shall start easy.

We'll begin with a truth so forehead-smackingly obvious you might worry that its very presence will cause you some sort of concussion o' blatancy. Which is, ironically, just about right ...

1) Your semi-rhetorical question du jour: What do basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey, lumberjacking and "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" all have in common? That's right, none of them causes nearly as much brain damage as America's most beloved sport-of-thugs: football. It is, without doubt, the most violent and sadistic gladiator game we have ever invented for giant, vaguely homoerotic males who weigh more than 250 pounds. Except for boxing.

Witness Malcolm Gladwell's half-stunning, half-obvious piece in a recent New Yorker, summed up thusly: nearly every football player in America, from high school on up through the NFL -- especially there -- will suffer some level of brain damage and head trauma, from moderate to severe to early-onset dementia, even after just a year or two of play, even if he never turns pro at all. Turns out the human skull simply cannot endure that many blows and concussions and not have the brain ripped, torn, bounced, pounded into a damaged lump of spasm and drooling and memory loss. The game is just that brutal.

2) Gladwell goes on to talk about Michael Vick, and suggests football has a direct parallel with the morally nauseating "sport" of dogfighting. It's a tenuous analogy, I thought, until the end when he talks about the scene at your average dogfight: the bloodthirsty crowd, the intense passion of the dog owners, the wholehearted willingness of the dogs themselves to fight to the death for your entertainment. Good luck making a distinction.

3) Are you aware that many desperate media honchos think the savior of fast-dying newspapers, magazines, even book publishing might just lie in the next must-have gizmo, like the Kindle? Well they do. Then again, until about 2005, most of them thought the Internet was run by tiny astronauts and magic rubber bands. But never mind that now.

Here stumbles Barnes & Noble, not exactly a bastion of tech innovation or cultural relevance, actually releasing a decent eBook device of its very own, called the Nook, to compete directly with Amazon's clunky, hideously ugly Kindle. The amazing thing: They improved upon it. Not difficult, I realize. But still. Barnes & Noble?

Translation: If even B&N can make a decent slab, the bar is set very low indeed. Somewhere, Steve Jobs is smiling. Again.

4) Here's an astonishing fact: China just surpassed the United States as the world's largest automobile market. Are you surprised? What's more, they will easily outsell the U.S. this year in sheer units moved, upwards of 13 million cars (the U.S. will move about 11 million).

But that's not the amazing part. It's this: They say that in a mere five or six years that number will almost double, to about 20 million cars per year, a simply staggering amount the wimpy little U.S., once the car capital of the world, has never, ever matched, and never will. And the Earth went, groan.

5) Wait, it gets better -- and scarier. Behold, the single most stunning China-related stat I've read in ages: "China is expected to build more square feet of real estate in the next 15 years than the United States has built in its entire history, and it has no green building codes or green building experience," says everbleak Foreign Policy mag. Yes, everything we have built in more than 200 years, surpassed by China by the time your newborn hits high school. Amazing. Disorienting. Oddly disturbing.

Health Care Hypocrites

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) has threatened to make health care
reform "Obama's Waterloo." (Photo: gte333f / flickr)

How do you spell "hypocrisy"?

Try this: "H-Y-P-O-C-O-N-G-R-E-S-S." The hypocongress consists of those Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats who have risen up on their hind legs in recent weeks to snarl and howl at any mention of a government role in meeting America's health care needs. "Socialism," they bark -- we won't allow Barack Obama and the liberals to create a Washington-run, big-government intrusion into the hallowed private market. Sen. Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican, even pledged to fight so ferociously that the health care battle would be Obama's "Waterloo."

What a stand-up guy for free enterprise! What an ideologically correct appeal to laissez-faire principle! And, let me add, what a crock!

What these bellicose market-purists hope you don't discover is that they are closet socialists. As members of the congressional elite, they and their families are governmentally blessed with their very own gold-plated, taxpayer-financed, Washington-run health care system. And, they loooove it.

Theirs is such an effective system that not a single member of the hypocongress has been willing to give it up -- even though they surely realize the political peril of being exposed as rank hypocrites for enjoying the very program they so adamantly reject for you.

Actually, they happily take a double dip in the soothing waters of public health care. First, they enroll their entire families in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program -- and you probably would, too, if it were available to you, for it's the Rolls Royce of health plans.

For example, while even the best employer-provided health policies offer only one or two types of coverage, FEHBP is a Chinese menu, offering dozens of coverage choices that allow its lucky members to assemble a plan that meets their unique needs. Members also need not worry about being denied coverage because of some pre-existing condition -- once sworn into office, lawmakers and their families are immediately and fully insured, with total access to a national network of doctors and hospitals.

But here's the sweetest part of their Rolls Royce ride: up to 75 percent of the premiums are paid for by taxpayers, many of whom are lucky if they can afford to buy an old Yugo-level of health coverage in the vaunted private market.

Well, snaps the hypocongress crowd, even if FEHBP is essentially government-paid insurance, at least it's not socialized medicine, with doctors working for the government -- so, technically, we're still pure.

Domestic violence

Maddow: Opt-out is Achilles’ heel of public option


healthcareprotest Maddow: Opt out is Achilles heel of public optionOpt-out clause creates 'incentive' for conservative states to harm public health care, Maddow argues

The opt-out clause now included in the Senate's version of health care reform could cause the entire public option to fail, because it would reduce its ability to keep costs down, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow told viewers Monday night.

Because the version of public health care currently being proposed would cover only the uninsured, and only in places where state legislatures don't opt out of it, the public health insurance plan may not have enough participants to successfully reduce health care costs, Maddow explained.

As Maddow's guest, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, explained, the public option as it is currently proposed would not cover more than 90 percent of Americans. And that fact, Maddow argued, could cause the public system to fail.

"One of the main arguments for the public option is that it would be big, and it would not only have the potential to give people another option at the consumer level, another choice of whom you get your insurance from, it would also -- because it would be big -- have the potential to save the country a lot of money on health care," Maddow said.

"Part of the reason it would save money is that, if it's big enough, it can spread the insurance risk among that many more people. It also needs to be a big enough player in the marketplace to be able to bargain effectively to keep costs down. If they only take up a really small part of the market, they're not going to have much bargaining power with the people who control how high health costs are.

"The smaller the number of people that are allowed to participate in the public option, the more you restrict who can get it based on things like where people live or whether or not they already have insurance, the less effective it's going to be. The bigger it is, the more effective it's going to be at keeping costs down."

"So, politically, what has been created is an incentive in which conservative politicians can say, at the state level, 'The public option won't work.' And if enough of those conservative politicians can persuade their states to opt out of it, then that prediction it won't work could become a self-fulfilling prophecy," Maddow concluded.

Lieberman Shills for the Healthcare Industry

By Scott Horton

When he was seeking reelection in 2006, Joe Lieberman campaigned as a supporter of healthcare reform and expressed his support for "universal healthcare." When the rubber hit the road, however, Lieberman emerged as a frontline warrior for the healthcare industry in its efforts to block reform. Yesterday, he not only noted his opposition to the very modest public option contained in the legislation that Majority Leader Harry Reid put forward, he also stated that he would cross the aisles to support a Republican filibuster. Should we be surprised? No. Lieberman has long been one of the industry's favorite players on the hill, accepting more than $1 million in campaign contributions from the insurance industry and more than $600,000 from pharmaceuticals and related healthcare-products companies. But his ties run deeper than that. His wife Hadassah previously worked for two lobbying firms, Hill & Knowlton and APCO, handling matters for their healthcare and pharmaceuticals clients. Throughout the 2006 campaign, Lieberman pointedly refused to discuss the scope of his wife's engagement for the healthcare industry or even the specific clients for whom she was working. But there seems to have been plenty of opportunity for synergy with Lieberman's work in Congress. Joe Conason noted:

Among Hill & Knowlton's clients when Mrs. Lieberman signed on with the firm last year was GlaxoSmithKline, the huge British-based drug company that makes vaccines along with many other drugs. As I noted in July, Sen. Lieberman introduced a bill in April 2005 (the month after his wife joined Hill & Knowlton) that would award billions of dollars in new "incentives" to companies like GlaxoSmithKline to persuade them to make more new vaccines. Under the legislation, known as Bioshield II, the cost to consumers and governments would be astronomical, but for Lieberman and his Republican cosponsors, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., the results would be worth every penny. Using the war on terror as their ideological backdrop, the pharma-friendly senators sought to win patent extensions on products that have nothing to do with preparations against terrorist attack or natural disaster.

The Amazing Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge Nears Completion

As this immense project nears its completion, take a look at some wonderful photos taken both onsite, around, above and below the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge. It cannot be said that the golden age of engineering is over when we can still produce projects like this.

Image Credit

It was a few months ago that Scienceray took a preliminary look at the momentous construction project going on near the Hoover Dam – you can see it here.  Then we saw how the project began in 2005 and we left it in June of 2009.  At that point the arch was more than fifty percent complete and it was hoped that the two sides would meet in the fall.  That is in the here and now, so let's take a look at how the project has progressed since then.  Have the hopes of the bridge builders come to fruition?

Image Credit

All attention since June has been focused on the arch that will underpin the road that will connect the States of Arizona and Nevada.  Certainly, it seems to be painstaking work and the work literally seems to inch towards completion.  Not to worry, though.  The folks of the two neighboring States are patient people – after all the Dam itself is close to celebrating its seventy fifth birthday.  Those who remember its grand opening back in the Great Depression are now octogenarians.  Still, the near completion of the arch is cause enough to fly the flags, even though there is a painstaking six feet still to go. Look at this great shot from the completion day in August, however.

Image Credit

If you look to the right of the flags – about ten meters or so, you will see a tiny figure with a safety hat and orange coat.  That's one of the construction workers and gives an idea of the sheer scale of the project.  There is no doubt that those working on the project must not be afflicted by bouts of vertigo – however occasional.  Would you want to be up that high?  Just to put it in to context, it is over two hundred and fifty meters down from this height.  As Shaggy might say, yikes.

What's So Scary About Michael Pollan? Why Corporate Agriculture Tried to Censor His University Speech

Health & Wellness

By Martha Rosenberg

Agribusiness is trying to combat Pollan's message of sustainable, healthy eating.

Even if agribusiness could shut Michael Pollan up, the outspoken author of Omnivore's Dilemma and a journalism professor at University of California, Berkeley, it still has the Los Angeles Times to contend with.

Last week, the Times blasted California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo for downgrading a scheduled Pollan lecture because it received pressure from David E. Wood, a university donor who happens to be chairman of the Harris Ranch Beef Co.

"Agribusiness gets plenty of opportunities to preach its point of view at agriculture schools such as Cal Poly, where the likes of Monsanto and Cargill fund research," the Times wrote, calling the 800-acre Harris Ranch, near Coalinga, whose "smell assaults passersby long before the panorama of thousands of cattle packed atop layers of their own manure,"--"Cowschwitz." Ouch.

And agribusiness has the University of Wisconsin-Madison to deal with.

The land grant, ag-based university, in the middle of dairyland, clearly doesn't remember its roots. It gave Pollan's In Defense of Food, another anti-agbiz screed according to industry, free to all incoming freshmen as part of its common book read program where everyone reads the same book, Go Big Read, in August.

"I have not seen the students this excited about something in years," Irwin Goodman, horticulture professor and vice dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences told the Associated Press as the James Beard Award-winning book was discussed in French and political science classes and included in an exhibit on the history of food.

Protesting farmers who came to hear Pollan speak at the university's 17,000-seat Kohl Center in September wearing matching green T-shirts which said "In Defense of Farming: Eat Food. Be Healthy. Thank Farmers" were clearly outnumbered. So were bumper stickers reading No Food; No Farms and Don't Criticize Farmers With Your Mouth Full in the parking lot.

Students get all their facts from writers like Pollan, the farmers, who were bussed in by Madison-based feed company Vita Plus, told the Capital Times. They have never visited a farm for first-hand knowledge of food production and don't know what they're talking about.

But efforts to open farms to the public are not always successful.

This month United Egg Producers' "Opening the Barn Doors" media tour at Morning Fresh Farms in northern Colorado, for example, only confirmed the size of today's egg farm that make humane conditions impossible (36 barns; 23,000 birds each, 23 million dozen eggs a year) and raised further questions about environmental blight by showing the press wearing white HazMat suits to enter the barns. (See: You want us to eat WHAT?)

Last month the American Egg Board rolled out a kid-focused "The Good Egg" campaign which includes sponsorship of Sesame Street, a Cookie Monster product placement and a feel good virtual tour to soften public opinion about egg farms. But nowhere does the campaign address the daily grinding up of newborn males even as they hatch at the hatcheries which supply egg farms to provide the industry with only females--a practice that United Egg Producers confirms is routine. Does the Cookie Monster know about that?

Horrible Headlines and How You can Help

Reefer Madness In these troubled times, what worries you worst? Sends chills climbing your spine?
    With our attention to drug policy, it has to be the headlines here:
  • "Reappointed Attorney General John Ashcroft instructs DEA to shut down all California dispensaries"

  • "Marc Emery to be extradited to Singapore to face death penalty for selling seeds"

  • "Rockefeller drug laws expanded: prison population to increase 10 fold"

  • "Congress funds ONDCP media campaign: $10 billion budgeted for anti-drug ads"

  • "Recession impairs non-profits: reform groups fold"
Jack O Lantern Fortunately, these horrific headlines are just frightening fiction meant to make a poignant point. As eerie, erratic, and irksome as the economy is, we can't let real reform bend backwards. We need your help NOW!

What truly troubles us is what reform risks if non-profits like DrugSense disappear. Who will track DEA destruction in California with archived articles? Who will excoriate Emery's extradition with Focus Alerts? Who will pepper the press with Rockefeller Law LTEs? Who will compete with anti-drug campaigns on a budget of beans? ALL, with splendid success!!
That's why these horrible headlines are fiction, not fact.
Donate Now!
    We hope for your help in two worthy ways.
  1. DONATE. It's quick, easy, and secure. Just visit

  2. VOLUNTEER. It's quick, easy, and fun. Just e-mail Jo-D Harrison,
Turn anti-drug fright into drug policy might. Donate today!
Mark (Gruesome) Greer Executive Director
P.S. Happy Halloween!

Don't forget! You can spread your donation over the course of a year by automatically repeating it every month, quarter, or half year as noted on our donate page at

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Bluegrass version of Dark Side of the Moon



Banks won't change til they have to

A new report says even though new laws are coming soon, credit card companies are nowhere close to complying with the stricter regulations.

In fact, the Pew Charitable Trusts found that 100% of the cards it investigated would be illegal under the new requirements:

"Since passage of the Credit CARD Act, we found that credit card issuers have done little to remove practices deemed unfair or deceptive by the Federal Reserve," said Shelley A. Hearne, managing director of the Pew Health Group, which oversees the project. "In fact, some of the most harmful practices have actually grown more widespread-not one of the bank cards reviewed would meet the legal requirements outlined in the Credit CARD Act, which is bad news for consumers."

Another observation from the report, "Still Waiting":

"Still Waiting" also provides the first comprehensive comparison of bank cards to those issued by credit unions, based on advertised terms and conditions. The analysis showed that credit unions offered much lower APRs, less punitive penalty rates and engaged in far fewer unfair or deceptive practices than their commercial peers.

You can read the entire report here.

Of course, the banks have some time to change their practices. Most of the new rules take effect in late February, and the banks are trying out alternatives. One of them — annual fees for people who pay off their balances regularly. From USA Today:

Starting next year, Bank of America will charge a small number of customers an annual fee, ranging from $29 to $99. The bank has characterized the fee as experimental. But card holders who have never carried a balance or paid late fees could be among those affected.

Citigroup, meanwhile, has started charging annual fees to card holders who don't put more than a specific amount on their cards, typically $2,400 a year. Other banks are charging inactivity fees if customers don't use their credit cards during a specific period of time. You heard that right: You could be spanked for staying out of debt.

I've been meaning to ask you about this. Annual fees on customers with excellent credit; inactivity fees. Fair or unfair?

By the way, if you want to get rid of your credit cards, I'd recommend hiring this guy:

30 reasons why Fox News is not legit

by Eric Hoehlert

"Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information." -- Society of Professional Journalists

Why the Beltway press has invested so much time and energy in recent weeks defending Fox News, with one scribe even claiming that the White House's public critique of the network was "dangerous to press freedom," and why the press refuses to acknowledge what's so obvious about the cable channel's political pursuits, remains baffling.

The facts regarding Fox News' lack of professionalism seem rather obvious (as I detail below 30 different times). And that ought to be plain for Beltway journalists as well. But whether for reasons having to do with external professional, social, or political pressures, many journalists have opted to pretend that Fox News is a serious outlet, that it's just like its cable and network TV news competitors.

They insist that any suggestion that Rupert Murdoch's cable channel isn't legitimate is completely off-base and that the White House is not even allowed to have an opinion on the issue. Indeed, ABC News' Jake Tapper suggested it was not "appropriate" for the administration to tag the channel as illegitimate. (Tapper himself can't tell the difference between the programming that Fox News and ABC News produce.)

The rush to defend Fox News is an odd one, because I don't remember the same type of the circle-the-wagons defense when the previous Republican administration openly waged war on The New York Times and NBC, two news outlets whose standards far outshine the kind of pseudo-reporting Fox News produces on a daily basis. That Beltway media elites have decided to rally around Fox News of all entities remains as puzzling as it is short-sighted.

The truth is, journalism is not difficult to practice, nor is it tough to identify. Journalists aren't licensed, and anyone can try their hand at it, as the Internet has made clear. So there is no higher authority declaring what is and isn't journalism. But the craft, like obscenity, is instantly recognizable in its true form.

For generations in this country, there has been a sort of a gentleman's agreement in terms of what constituted professional behavior among journalists. And there has been a sense of shame when members crossed those lines into unprofessional behavior. Bosses chastened those employees, people were fired, and ethics panels were summarily convened to make certain the transgressions didn't happen again. Fox News, though, has walked away from all of that. And guess what? The rest of the press hasn't said boo.

That's been the sad case for years. (Playing dumb about Fox News' partisan pursuits now qualifies as a Beltway intramural sport.) Indeed, the loophole, or the caveat, to journalism's gentleman's agreement has always been that the guidelines were voluntary and self-policing. There was no governing body, either within journalism or without, that regulated the product. The only collective deterrent from producing bad journalism, aside from rather lax U.S. libel laws, is a collective sense of shame, a shared feeling that making a factual error -- or worse, purposefully pushing false information under the guise of journalism -- was both unprofessional and unacceptable.

But clearly, Fox News does not share that sense of shame, because it's not part of the larger journalism brotherhood. Fox News doesn't feel like rules such as fairness, accuracy, neutrality, and independence apply, which is obvious since Fox News breaks those rules with stunning regularity. In fact, its programming day seems designed to break the traditional rules ad nauseam. That's what it's built to do. And if nothing else, Fox News is ruthlessly efficient.

So, Fox News has altered the game by unchaining itself from the moral groundings of U.S. journalism. And guess what? There is no industry shame being rained down on the outlet. The rest of the press not only doesn't complain, it defends Fox News and even apologizes on its behalf, which is what we've seen unfold for the last two weeks.

If we're actually going to have this is-the-world-really-round "debate" about Fox News, then let's put it in perspective in terms of what constitutes a legitimate news organization.

Here's how the Society of Professional Journalists describes the craft:

Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist's credibility.

The organization's Code of Ethics declares "the Society's principles and standards of practice." In terms of a broad-based definition of what journalism ought to be, the Code of Ethics remains the industry standard. And as you'll see below, Fox News routinely, and blatantly, breaks the code to which ethical journalists are supposed to aspire. Fox News staffers (and not just the opinion show hosts) don't simply fail to live up to the industry's own ethical standards. They produce broadcasts that run directly counter to established values and rules. In other words, they obliterate the Code of Ethics on a regular basis, which to me signals that Fox News is not a legitimate source of journalism.

Below are some cornerstones to journalism's Code of Ethics, followed by clear-cut examples of how Fox News tramples that code:

--Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.

Timeline of a [madrassa] smear

--Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.

After teasing story by saying "Obama makes a little girl cry," Fox News' Kelly acknowledged it was not true

--Never distort the content of news photos or video. Image enhancement for technical clarity is always permissible. Label montages and photo illustrations.

Fox News airs altered photos of NY Times reporters

--Never plagiarize.

Fox passes off GOP press release as its own research -- typo and all

--Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.

Media adopt gender, racial stereotypes in characterizing Sotomayor's temperament, intellect

--Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.

REPORT: "Fair and balanced" Fox News aggressively promotes "tea party" protests

--Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.

Fox News, CBS air clips of peephole video of ESPN's Erin Andrews

--Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone's privacy.

O'Reilly Producer Stalks Amanda Terkel: THE VIDEO

--Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.

Foxy News breaks out the boudoir B-roll to cover "the great breast augmentation scandal"

--Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.

Would a real news organization help GOP PACs raise money?

--Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.

FLASHBACK: When Fox News boasted about its "unprecedented" access to the Bush White House

#1 on the list