Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I have the love of community journalism you’re looking for

Another in my ongoing public audition for The Onion.

Dear managing editor:

I saw your help-wanted advertisement for a night desk copy editor and page designer, and all I can say is, “Look no further, for I have the passion, nay the love, of community journalism you’re looking for!”

I’m sure you have been flooded with responses to your ad, because who among us isn’t excited about a school board debating whether to pay for an impact study to help it decide whether or not to build a new pool at the high school? And who isn’t enthralled at the possibility that township supervisors may not have a quorum on the very evening they’re scheduled to vote on installing parking meters on Main Street?

But for me, it’s more than that. Sure it’s the issues, but it’s also the lifestyle. It’s the rush of an off-year election night (and the accompanying free pizza!), frantically editing stories about voter reax to local results as the clock speeds toward deadline. Wow!

Some people call me an adrenaline junkie, but I just laugh right along with them.

Community journalism has given me so much. For instance, before I began working on copy desks, I had no idea that the word “Dumpster” is properly spelled with a capital “D.” For years I used a lowercase “d” and nobody corrected me, probably snickering behind my back at my ignorance. Well, those days are over!

Where else but in the newsroom of a community newspaper could I spend my evening debating the merits of the serial comma? (I’ll eschew it, but you’ll never convince me the AP is right on that one!) On nights when we have those spirited chats, I can’t microwave my dinner and take it back to my desk fast enough!

After all these years in community journalism, I still get a swell of pride when I walk into the all-night supermarket to fetch next week’s Lean Cuisines and am greeted by the professional-looking, error-free front page I helped produce just the evening before. Sometimes my flair for headline writing is on display right there in the store. I feel like a secret celebrity because nobody knows it was me who wrote the headline they’re enjoying, but I don’t get a swelled head. Sure it’s a glamorous job, but I’m no big shot.

And when I think of all the money I might have wasted on entertainment and who knows what else if I weren’t working on Saturday nights, I just shake my head.

Every night when my cat and I go to bed, I replay the evening’s events, stories, conversations and controversies in my head, sometimes wondering if I actually made a particular correction or meant to and forgot. Usually I did, but not knowing can be stressful, so I’ve learned not to worry about it so much. Still, sometimes you can’t help but wonder, “What if?”

Without such important issues to think about, I would probably just lie in bed and dwell on nonsense like quietly wishing a meteor the size of a Greyhound bus would crash through my roof and land right on top of me.

Wow, how much fun would it be to edit that story?

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

To my family and friends, I'm thankful for each one of you. You are the best.

A new addition adds appeal to a tedious tradition.

The prize in a storied high school football Thanksgiving Day rivalry.

And, true to tradition, the Lions probably will lose, along with the Falcons and Jets.

Take a moment to remember those who are spending today somewhere they'd probably rather not be.

After the turkey, enjoy some of this.

And then some of this.

And, of course, the soundtrack for it all.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lowell signs

Three years, $37.5 million.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Study: Supporting torture does not increase penis size

Yet another installment in my ongoing public audition for The Onion:

A study by researchers at the University of South Carolina has found that defending torture does not actually increase penis size.

The scientists published their controversial findings in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The researchers studied the effect of the subject of torture on wealthy caucasian males. They found that evidence of added torture-based length and girth among this group is largely anecdotal, based almost entirely on the chest puffing and tough-guy preening meant to establish them as the dominant male of their cohort. The researchers account for previously published findings of added penile mass in this group by explaining that talking torture simply made the experimental group slightly sexually excited.

"It gave them a 'chubby,' to use the lay vernacular," writes Dr. Gilbert Shaw, the lead author of the study. "But most members of the study group stopped short of full-on wood." Shaw noted that any growth is temporary and disappears quickly when the subject of universal health care is raised.

The researchers added that gun ownership and Corvettes also have no effect on penis size.

UPDATE: Today's fake headlines. I'm going the extra mile.

Gas prices surge around peak travel season; Analysts dumbfounded
Nation prepares to be lulled to sleep by tryptophan, Detroit Lions
New England Patriots to represent AFC in Pro Bowl
Williams returns to Dolphins 'to be a part of history'

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Fuck the workers

This pretty much speaks for itself.

U.S. mine safety regulators failed to conduct inspections required by federal law at more than one in seven of the country's 731 underground coal mines last year, a year in which the number of worker deaths in mining accidents more than doubled to 47, a government report says.

Budget constraints and a lack of management emphasis on worker safety by the Bush administration are responsible for the lapses, the Labor Department inspector general said in a report released yesterday. The report details the department's failure to meet inspection mandates of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977.

Separately, auditors reviewing 21 completed inspections found that Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) officials failed to document completion of "critical inspection activities" 15 percent of the time.
So I guess when Bush said

"We make this promise to American miners and their families: We'll do everything possible to prevent mine accidents and make sure you're able to return safely to your loved ones."
he must have meant everything possible except conduct safety inspections that are required by law, adequately fund the Mine Safety and Health Administration and not leave the MSHA in the David Dye's incompetent, inexperienced hands for 10 months. Because, after all, nothing matters to George Bush more than the safety and well-being of America's workers.

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Guns don't kill people

People with guns kill people.

The 911 call came from a Pasadena, Tex., resident, who alerted police to two burglary suspects on a neighbor's property. Before he hung up, two men were dead by his hand.

Joe Horn, 61, told the dispatcher what he intended to do: Walk out his front door with a shotgun.

"I've got a shotgun," Horn said, according to a tape of the 911 call. "Do you want me to stop them?"

"Nope, don't do that - ain't no property worth shooting somebody over, OK?" the dispatcher responded.

"Hurry up man, catch these guys, will you? 'Cause I'm ain't gonna let 'em go, I'm gonna be honest with you, I'm not gonna let 'em go. I'm not gonna let 'em get away with this ----."


Dispatcher: "I want you to listen to me carefully, OK?"

Horn: "Yes?"

Dispatcher: "I got ultras coming out there. I don't want you to go outside that house. And I don't want you to have that gun in your hand when those officers are poking around out there."

Horn: "I understand that, OK, but I have a right to protect myself too, sir, and you understand that. And the laws have been changed in this country since September the First and you know it and I know it."

Dispatcher: "I understand."

Horn: "I have a right to protect myself ..."

Dispatcher: "I'm ..."

Horn: "And a shotgun is a legal weapon, it's not an illegal weapon."

Dispatcher: "No, it's not, I'm not saying that, I'm just not wanting you to ..."

Horn: "OK, he's coming out the window right now, I gotta go, buddy. I'm sorry, but he's coming out the window. "

Dispatcher: "No, don't, don't go out the door, Mister Horn. Mister Horn..."

Horn: "They just stole something, I'm going out to look for 'em, I'm sorry, I ain't letting them get away with this ----. They stole something, they got a bag of stuff. I'm doing it!"

Dispatcher: "Mister, do not go outside the house."

Horn: "I'm sorry, this ain't right, buddy."

Dispatcher: "You gonna get yourself shot if you go outside that house with a gun, I don't care what you think."

Horn: "You wanna make a bet?"

Dispatcher: "Stay in the house."

Horn: "There, one of them's getting away!

Dispatcher: "That's alright, property's not something worth killing someone over. OK? Don't go out the house, don't be shooting nobody. I know you're pissed and you're frustrated but don't do it."

Horn: "They got a bag of loot."

Dispatcher: "OK. How big is the bag?" He then talks off, relaying the information.

Dispatcher: "Which way are they going?"

Horn: "I can't ... I'm going outside. I'll find out."

Dispatcher: "I don't want you going outside, Mister..."

Horn: "Well, here it goes buddy, you hear the shotgun clicking and I'm going."

Dispatcher: "Don't go outside."
On the tape of the 911 call, the shotgun can be heard being cocked and Horn can be heard going outside and confronting someone.

"Boom! You're dead!" he shouts. A loud bang is heard, then a shotgun being cocked and fired again, and then again.

Then Horn is back on the phone:
"Get the law over here quick. I've now, get, one of them's in the front yard over there, he's down, he almost run down the street. I had no choice. They came in the front yard with me, man, I had no choice! ... Get somebody over here quick, man."
Of course, they wouldn't have been in the yard with Horn if he had done what the dispatcher told him to do, which was to stay in the house.

So after five minutes of explaining to a police dispatcher his desire to use his shotgun, he had no choice but to step outside his home and do what he wanted to do. His hand was forced. By the people robbing a house other than his, who never attempted to enter his house. The panic in his voice was clear as he faced a clear and immiment threat: "Well, here it goes, buddy. You hear the shotgun clicking and I'm going. ... Boom, you're dead."

Someone who quotes to a police dispatcher the law regarding his gun and when he's entitled to shoot people, and then ignores repeated orders from the dispatcher to stay inside his home wasn't forced to do anything. This is a person who had a gun and wanted to use it. After all, what's the point of having a gun if you can't shoot it? Most people who don't want to shoot people don't own guns. And people who want to shoot people shouldn't own guns.

Two days later, Horn issued a statement through his attorney.

“The events of that day will weigh heavily on me for the rest of my life," it said. "My thoughts go out to the loved ones of the deceased.”
It's tragic that he didn't understand the gravity of the situation when he ignored the orders of a police dispatcher and went outside to play cowboy. "Well, here it goes, buddy. You hear the shotgun clicking and I'm going. ... Boom, you're dead." These are not the words of someone who understands the stakes. It's tragic that two people are dead and that their families' lives are forever altered (Horn's life isn't likely to get better either, by the way) because he didn't understand how fucking serious a responsibility gun ownership is.


Fox News Porn

I don't think this is what's meant by the term "hard news."

But seriously folks, there's a big difference between news and eye candy. And considering that Fox viewers are among the least informed and most likely to have misconceptions about 9/11, Iraq, WMD and the U.S. invasion, which do you think FNC is?

And Lord knows how many Fox viewers think the recent California wildfires were started by al Qaeda.

Fox News exists to trick people into supporting the agenda of its ownership using lies, scare tactics and salacious bullshit. Fox News isn't interested in informing the public. It wants people Distracted, Ignorant and Scared. You could say viewers have been DISsed by Fox.

For more on the wool being pulled over America's eyes, watch the video below, specifically the segment called "Crass warfare."

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Feeling safer yet?

If I had any confidence in the Bush administration, it would be shaken. But as it is, I'm not really surprised by this.
Undercover investigators carried all the bomb components needed to cause "severe damage" to airliners and passengers through U.S. airport screening checkpoints several times this year, despite security measures adopted in August 2006 to stop such explosive devices, according to a new government report.

Agents were able to smuggle aboard a detonator, liquid explosives and liquid incendiary components costing less than $150, even though screening officers in most cases appeared to follow proper procedures and use appropriate screening technology, according to an unclassified version of a report by the Government Accountability Office, Congress's audit arm.
After all, stories of undercover agents, news organizations and even private citizens sneaking banned items past airport screeners abound. So yeah, it’s troubling that six years after 9/11 airport screeners appear to see less than WWE referees. But given the incometence of the Bush administration and the failures of its anti-terror efforts, it’s hardly surprising.

And when it’s revealed that six years after anthrax attacks killed five people and scared the crap out of everyone who receives mail, the government is ill equipped to deal with another such attack, it’s just, sadly, par for the course.
The United States has done too little to prepare for another potential domestic anthrax attack six years after spore-laden mail killed five people, a former CIA director and other experts said on Wednesday.

"I think we're very poorly prepared," James Woolsey, who headed the CIA from 1993 to 1995, said at a news conference to unveil a report by a security consulting firm warning of U.S. vulnerability to another anthrax attack.
Frankly, I’d like to know exactly what the Bush administration is equipped to deal with. Even protecting a major American city destoryed by a hurricane two years ago ... well, you already know where this is headed, don’t you?
Dozens of construction projects launched by the Army Corps of Engineers to protect the New Orleans region from the most catastrophic floods are behind schedule by an average of nearly eight months, an internal audit shows. Local officials are concerned the completion date will have to be pushed back a second time.
The audit reviewed 60 ongoing projects to make southern Louisiana's flood protections far more robust than when Hurricane Katrina destroyed the system in 2005. USA TODAY got a copy of the Army Audit Agency's report under the Freedom of Information Act.

Nearly 85 percent of construction contracts for upgrades to the region's flood-control system are behind schedule by an average of about 230 days, the audit says. About 74 percent of pre-construction design contracts for other improvements also are lagging, by an average of 122 days, or about four months.
So the government has done pretty much nothing to protect us from pretty much anything over the last several years. But at least it isn’t actively poisoning its citizens. Is it?
"It seemed like some mornings it was just criss-crossing the whole sky. It was just like a giant checkerboard," described Bill Nichols. He snapped several photos of the strange clouds from his home in Stamps, in southwest Arkansas. Nichols said these unusual clouds begin as normal contrails from a jet engine. But unlike normal contrails, these do 'not' fade away.

Soon after a recent episode he saw particles in the air. "We'd see it drop to the ground in a haze," added Nichols. He then noticed the material collecting on the ground.

"This is water and stuff that I collected in bowls. I had it sitting out in my backyard in my dad's pick-up truck," said Nichols as he handed us a mason jar in the KSLA News 12 parking lot back in September after driving down from Arkansas.

KSLA News 12 had the sample tested at a lab. The results: A high level of barium, 6.8 parts per million, (ppm). That's more than three times the toxic level set by the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA.
The source of this toxic dusting is unknown, so I can’t say with any certainty that the government is behind it. But if someone else is doing it, the government failed to prevent it.

Is there one thing, one fucking thing, that this administration has done right? The Bush administration’s record of failure on every single score is incredible. And unprecedented, which is why there can be no doubt that George Bush will go down in history as the worst president this country has ever had. And probably ever will have. Imagine what kind of monster a future president would have to be to make this legacy of failure look good by comparison.

It’s going to be a very long 431 days.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

GOP candidates change names to Bauer

Another installment of my ongoing, public audition for The Onion.

Republican presidential candidates, from left, Jack Bauer, Jack Bauer and Jack Bauer.

In an effort to appeal to conservative voters, each of the candidates seeking the Republican nomination for president has changed his name to Jack Bauer.

Jack Bauer is the name of the main character on the Fox television drama “24,” a program that depicts harsh interrogation practices and has been criticized in some circles for normalizing and even glamorizing torture. In other circles, however, the show is incredibly popular for that same reason, and it appears that the GOP presidential candidates are seeking to capitalize on that popularity.

“Jack thought the name change was the best way to distinguish himself from the rest of the pack and demonstrate his strong stance on national security,” said Bauer campaign spokesperson Jack Bauer. “For good measure, Jack insisted that everyone attached to his campaign change their names to Jack Bauer,” Bauer added.

The rash of name changes led to a recent debate in which the GOP hopefuls attempted to one-up each other in touting their anti-terror, pro-torture agenda.

Former New York City Mayor Jack Bauer said his role in restoring order after the 9/11 terror attacks makes him the most qualified candidate to “take on the terrorists.” Bauer said that, if elected, he would visit the Guantanamo Bay detention facility once a week and personally waterboard every prisoner held there, regardless of whether they have been charged with any wrongdoing.

“9/11,” Bauer added.

“I don’t want [terrorists] on our soil,” former Massachusetts Governor Jack Bauer said. “I want them on Guantanamo, where they don’t get the access to lawyers that they get when they’re on our soil. I don’t want them in our prisons. I want them there. Some people have said we ought to close Guantanamo. My view is we ought to double Guantanamo.” Bauer added that he may also double his name, to “Jack Jack Bauer Bauer.”

“Torture is wrong and provides unreliable information. Unless, of course, it’s done by me, Jack Bauer,” said Arizona Senator Jack Bauer. “Nobody on this stage tonight knows more about torture than Jack Bauer.”

“I’m not looking for Jack Bauer, I am Jack Bauer!” Colorado Rep. Jack Bauer said to thunderous applause.

Former Tennessee Senator and “Law and Order” star Jack Bauer said he would “torture everyone I can get my hands on until someone tells me where Saddam is hiding his WMD. And if we ever capture Saddam, I will torture him myself.”

Despite their differences, the candidates appeared to agree that terrorism is bad, 9/11 was tragic and that torture is good when it’s done by Jack Bauer.

Republican voters seemed excited by the name changes, despite the obvious potential for confusion of the candidates and their positions on the issues.

“I don’t give two flaming shits who wins the nomination,” longtime Republican voter George “Jack Bauer” Nichols said. “In the general election, I’m voting for Jack Bauer.”

h/t to Wes at Daily Chicken Scratch for the image.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

More pain at the pump

Forget all that bullshit about not yet passing along increased costs. Want to know why oil prices are so high? Click here. That's right, ExxonMobil earned only $104.6 million a day over the last three months. That compares with $116.6 million per day during the third quarter of 2006. Obviously this company is in trouble.

Let's see you try to make ends meet on just $104.6 million a day.

But don’t worry, the company is only $300 million behind this point in 2006, or just about three days’ pay. Another 20 cents per gallon should easily make up that difference, and then some.

Of course, that raises the problem of how to earn even more next year. I’m no economist, but I think even higher gas prices might be part of that strategy. So take a good long look at the price of gasoline. It will never be this low again. Sure, there will be a dip right before the 2008 election, but by then $3.30 a gallon will look like a fucking bargain.

And I guess it’s just a coincidence that Thanksgiving and the busiest travel days of the year are coming up. Just like the price spike on Memorial Day weekend was a coincidence.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Saving privacy

You want to protect your privacy? Simple. Just change the definition of privacy.
As Congress debates new rules for government eavesdropping, a top intelligence official says it is time that people in the United States changed their definition of privacy.

Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguards people's private communications and financial information.
So “privacy” no longer means that your most secret, intimate words and actions are unknown to others; it means that your benevolent corporate government overseers will hang on to this information about you for safe keeping and promise that all reasonable efforts will be made to ensure that nobody else can use it against you.


Rogues gallery

Playing the part of reporters at FEMA's phony presser, pictured above, were:
From left to right: Nathaniel Fogg, Counselor to the Director and Deputy Director; John "Pat" Philbin, former Director of External Affairs; Michael Widomski, Public Affairs Specialist; Eric Heighberger, Special Assistant, Office of the Administrator; Cindy Taylor (in tan suit), Communications Deputy Director; Dan Shulman (red tie), Director of Legislative Affairs; Debbie Wing (curly blond hair), Media Response Liaison; Aaron Walker (back to camera), National Spokesman.
Highlights from the CBS News story:
At the podium on the left is Vice Admiral Harvey Johnson, the second in command at FEMA.

The former director of public affairs at the agency, John "Pat" Philbin told CBS News last week, "I am not aware that he knew what was happening and all of sudden staff were asking questions."


The agency's deputy administrator, Harvey Johnson, called on FEMA employees by name during the news conference and knew they weren't reporters.
Nice to know that FEMA’s PR team can’t produce a cover story that can withstand a nanosecond of scrutiny. Given this and the news that the FEMA-supplied trailers that Katrina evacuees are living in are too dangerous for FEMA employees to even set foot in, let alone the fact that Katrina evacuees are still living in trailers more than two years after the storm, can anyone tell me what these people at FEMA do well?

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Friday, November 09, 2007

For-profit health care

Where providing treatment is considered a “loss” and denying treatment is rewarded.
One of the state's largest health insurers set goals and paid bonuses based in part on how many individual policyholders were dropped and how much money was saved.

Woodland Hills-based Health Net Inc. avoided paying $35.5 million in medical expenses by rescinding about 1,600 policies between 2000 and 2006. During that period, it paid its senior analyst in charge of cancellations more than $20,000 in bonuses based in part on her meeting or exceeding annual targets for revoking policies, documents disclosed Thursday showed.
The LA Times has a good series of stories on the subject. Click on the link above and check out the articles under the “related stories” head on the left of the screen to learn all about the phrase “Use it and lose it” as it relates to health insurance.

Just more human suffering brought to you by The Free Market. But remember what Rudy Giuliani (you know, Bernie Kerick’s friend) said on the subject: “Free-market principles are the only things that reduce cost and improve quality.” He offered no explanation for the free market’s poor performance thus far in reducing cost and improving quality.

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Not for long.

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Crime pays

I suppose Alberto Gonzales plans to tell the students how little he remembers from the last 2 1/2 years.
The former attorney general, who left office two months ago under a cloud of controversy, will give a speech later this month at the University of Florida.

The student newspaper, the Alligator, reports that Gonzales will be paid $40,000 for the Nov. 19 appearance, which was made possible by ACCENT -- the student-run speakers bureau.
How much would it cost to get Gonzales to stay home and fade quietly into obscurity?

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Guinea pigs

That’s us.
A woman whose toddler son ingested a popular toy that contains a chemical that turns into a powerful "date rape" drug when eaten said Thursday she knew he was ill when he began to stumble, seemed drunk and started vomiting.

The mother, Shelby Esses, said her 20-month-old son Jacob, fell down and was limp after getting into his older sister's Aqua Dots, a Chinese-made toy recalled Wednesday by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Turns out that Aqua Dots contain a toxic chemical, a fact that was discovered when we tested the product. Which we got around to just after children started getting sick.
The toys were supposed to use 1,5-pentanediol, a nontoxic compound found in glue, but instead contained the harmful 1,4-butanediol, which is widely used in cleaners and plastics.

The Food and Drug Administration in 1999 declared the chemical a Class I Health Hazard, meaning it can cause life-threatening harm.

It's not clear why 1,4-butanediol was substituted. However, there is a significant difference in price between the two chemicals. The Chinese online trading platform ChemNet China lists the price of 1,4 butanediol at between about $1,350-$2,800 per metric ton, while the price for 1,5-pentanediol is about $9,700 per metric ton.
Nope, not clear at all.

Why do we have to wait until after these things happen to test children’s toys for dangerous substances? Why can’t this be done, you know, before children get their hands on them? As it is now, it appears that our children are the canaries in the coal mine, and we’re using them, not tests, to figure out which products aren’t safe.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s about motherfucking time the CPSC gets itself more than one full-time toy tester.

But that’s life under Republican rule. “Small government” is really just a euphemism for defunding public-safety programs, less oversight and zero accountability. “Don’t interfere with the market.” Well the market has given us a year full of product recalls and placed millions of children at risk while the watchdogs are in bed with the industries they’re supposed to be overseeing. It’s way past time to start interfering with it.

Make no mistake: When you vote for a Republican, this is exactly what you’re voting for. You may not support such a policy, but you better believe your vote helps make it possible.

And for all you Bush administration apologists who might be inclined to argue that a high number of recalls indicates increased oversight activity, I remind you that it isn’t necessary to recall products that are identified as dangerous before they make it to the marketplace.

What’s it going to take before we start putting our children’s welfare ahead of corporate profits?

UPDATE: Sign the online petition calling for acting CPSC chair Nancy Nord to resign.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

To Kettle, From Pot

What color is the sky in their world?
A breathless set of Fox News Channel commentators couldn't keep quiet about Rosie O'Donnell's possible prime time show on MSNBC and a news report that MSNBC has set out to hire a set of left-leaning commentators. On the Tuesday morning broadcast of Fox & Friends, the show's co-hosts were gunning to discuss the network's apparent liberal bias.

"Call me crazy, I majored in journalism, it's why I got into this business in the first point, and no news organization should have a political bent," said guest Deborah Norville, who at one time hosted a program on MSNBC in the same time slot O'Donnell may soon takeover.

"Sure," co-host Steve Doocy said in agreement.

Norville added, "It should be, 'just the facts ma'am' and let the viewers decide."
Norville invited people to call her crazy, but if she really thinks Faux News isn’t guilty of the exact thing she’s railing against, she passed “crazy” a long time ago and is totally fucking batshit insane.

Maybe FNC was just trying to draw attention away from Dana Perino, this year’s other finalist in this year’s Reality Blind Spot contest, who was nominated after this memorable exchange just two days ago:
Q: Is it ever reasonable to restrict constitutional freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism?

MS. PERINO: In our opinion, no.
Maybe Norville ought to be concerned about why MSNBC is looking to bring more progressive voices on board. Update that resume, Deb. The worm is turning.

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There’s no crying in baseball

There might be some PTSD, however.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

It was just a matter of time

But I’m surprised it took this long.
Meanwhile, Bush reached an unwelcome record. By 64%-31%, Americans disapprove of the job he is doing. For the first time in the history of the Gallup Poll, 50% say they "strongly disapprove" of the president. Richard Nixon had reached the previous high, 48%, just before an impeachment inquiry was launched in 1974.
Wow, less popular than the most disgraced president in American history. And we’re not talking some John Quincy Adams-era flop. Anyone can take on a ghost after the anger over its failures become ancient history, but Bush beat out a guy that many Americans can compare him with based on direct experience.


Not good for the gander

Hey, Pervez, get your own excuse for restricting constitutional freedoms. That's our explanation!

Sorry, but the White House relinquished the right to the moral high ground when it suspended habeas corpus.

Or was it when it began spying on American citizens without warrants?

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Feeling safer yet?

Ah, the lengths they’ll go to in order to avoid embarrassing the nation’s most incompetent administration ever.
The Department of Homeland Security has been investigating for weeks whether airport screeners were tipped off in advance about upcoming security checks. Now NBC News is reporting that those tipoffs may have come from high officials in the department.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, recently revealed an e-mail sent by a senior official at the Transportation Security Administration giving screeners all over the country very specific details about what sorts of suspicious clues the undercover testers would expect them to notice — such as ID's with photos that did not match the people using them and boarding passes with altered dates.

Thompson has sent letters to Assistant Secretary Edmund S. Hawley and Inspector General Richard L. Skinner at the Department of Homeland Security, asking for a complete explanation of the episode. The e-mail is attached to both letters, which can be read at this link.

Security expert David Heyman told NBC that despite the tipoffs the screeners still did poorly, and "that's got to be very discouraging."
It’s one thing to do poorly on a test, but doing poorly even when you’ve been given the questions in advance, that’s either a whole new kind of incompetence or complete indifference to your mission. Either way, it doesn’t reflect well on the “leadership.” But then again, what does?

And I can’t help but note the effort by Mike Restovich of the Office of Security Operations to keep the word “oriental” in use. Mike, the next time you attempt to undermine the integrity of security tests by alerting security personnel in advance, the word is “Asian.” Check your calendar, man.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Conflict of interest? What interest?

Nothing to see here. No reason to suspect this has anything to do with the flood of toxic products into this country. Move along.
The chief of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and her predecessor have taken dozens of trips at the expense of the toy, appliance and children's furniture industries and others they regulate, according to internal records obtained by The Washington Post. Some of the trips were sponsored by lobbying groups and lawyers representing the makers of products linked to consumer hazards.

The records document nearly 30 trips since 2002 by the agency's acting chairman, Nancy Nord, and the previous chairman, Hal Stratton, that were paid for in full or in part by trade associations or manufacturers of products ranging from space heaters to disinfectants. The airfares, hotels and meals totaled nearly $60,000, and the destinations included China, Spain, San Francisco, New Orleans and a golf resort on Hilton Head Island, S.C.


The agency's travel patterns during the Bush administration, detailed in internal agency documents, differ from those of the Clinton era. Ann Brown, who served as chairman from 1994 to 2001, traveled only at the expense of the agency or of media organizations that sponsored appearances where she announced product recalls, according to the documents provided.

"We hated to have an industry pay for our staff for anything," said Pam Gilbert, a lawyer who was executive director of the agency under Brown.
Is whoring out agencies vital to public health and safety part of that “restoring dignity” thing George was told to talk about in 2000?

Note how well this post dovetails with the post below. One has to think that Nancy Nord’s days on the public (and toy manufacturers’) dole are limited, even if, in true Bushie fashion, she demonstrates a complete lack of shame.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Not in my cart

Consumers Union has posted a letter urging Congress to pass legislation requiring higher standards for manufacturers, importers and retailers to stem the flow of dangerous foods and consumer products into this country and, ultimately, into our homes. Sign on and tell your representative that you want higher standards, more inspections and safer products.

UPDATE: Not a moment too soon.
US authorities recalled some 440,000 Chinese-made toys Wednesday because of high levels of lead, just hours before US children were set to use some of them while celebrating Halloween.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalled 380,000 Galaxy Warriors figures, 43,000 sets of plastic disguise teeth, 16,000 sets of military-style Elite Operations action figures distributed by the global Toys R Us chain, and 1,500 Ribbit board games.

The recall of the "ugly teeth," which were found by an independent test team to contain 100 times the permissible level of lead, was the latest in the run-up to Halloween, which has already seen a record number of products recalled by the CPSC for lead violations.

The latest round of recalls came amid calls for the resignation of CPSC chief, Nancy Nord, who has been accused by Democratic lawmakers of doing too little to stem the flow of dangerous toys from China into the United States.

Nord, an appointee of President George W. Bush, has followed the Republican executive's deregulatory line and stood firm against proposed legislation seeking to increase the CPSC's authority and staff.

The safety watchdog has one full-time toy tester, an expert report has said.
UPDATE 2: How we got here. Go read this.

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