2009 - %3, February

Honeybees!

| Thu Feb. 5, 2009 9:21 PM EST | Scheduled to publish Thu Feb. 5, 2009 2:20 AM EST
HONEYBEES!....I'm back! Not really at a hundred percent or anything, but in good enough shape for blogging. And I have to say that my timing was pretty good: all I really missed was a fantastic amount of teeth gnashing (tooth gnashing?) over Barack Obama supposedly losing control of the stimulus bill. And I admit that my teeth were gnashing too for a while. But I have to say that with the benefit of thinking about this for a few hours rather than a few minutes, it's pretty obvious that people are overreacting. Yes, Republicans are acting like Republicans, and sure, Obama is going to end up making some compromises. But that's what he said he was willing to do all along. So really, what's the big deal? It's going to work out OK within the next few days, and I'll bet the Senate ends up adding about as much stuff as it takes out. So chill. But speaking of Republicans acting like Republicans, Michael Hiltzik has dredged up a good one. Apparently Neil Cavuto has been carrying on for the past week about an item in the stimulus bill he calls "honeybee insurance," and Mitch McConnell and David Vitter have joined in on the Senate floor to mock this disgraceful waste of taxpayer money. It's shocking! Now, you will be unsurprised to learn that the program in question isn't honeybee insurance at all, it's disaster insurance for all livestock producers. But that's not the best part. This is:

The provision simply continues a program enacted by Congress last year, overriding a veto by President Bush. In other words, the Senate voted on it twice in 2008 — once to enact and once to override. Connoisseurs of political comedy will see the punch line coming: McConnell and Vitter voted yea both times. So it turns out that McConnell isn't really against honeybees. He's only using them to pretend that he's got a principled objection to a stimulus plan aimed at pulling the country out of the most severe recession in decades.

Ladies and gentlemen, your Republican Party. Country first, as always.

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Support Transparency in the Stimulus!

| Thu Feb. 5, 2009 4:41 PM EST | Scheduled to publish Thu Feb. 5, 2009 4:41 PM EST
sunlight_stimulus.jpg As we near the passage of the Senate version of the stimulus bill, I want to take a second to make a plea for strong transparency measures. Here at Mother Jones, and certainly elsewhere on the left, we spent tons of time calling for increased public oversight of the Bush Administration's myriad contractors. The nation's business is being privatized, we'd say. We have a right to know whether these fat cat contractors are spending the taxpayers' money well!

Well, the stimulus bill is a contractor's dream. If you work in construction and you have a connection to someone in government — good heavens, get on the blower and start working your connect. The taxpayers, the ones funding the new projects that we all agree are necessary to jump start the economy, have a right to know how their money is being spent and whether jobs are being created as a result. Proper government oversight is a must under both parties.

Spending vs. Tax Cuts: Everything You Need to Know in One Chart

| Thu Feb. 5, 2009 1:49 PM EST | Scheduled to publish Thu Feb. 5, 2009 1:49 PM EST

This is pretty excellent. It's a chart, created by Paul Rosenberg at Open Left, that combines data from Moody's Economy.com and Dean Baker's Center for Economic Policy and Research. It shows the return on investment for different stimulus options.

stimulus_tax_cuts_spending.jpg

Weighing the Climate Impact of the Stimulus Bill

| Thu Feb. 5, 2009 1:16 PM EST | Scheduled to publish Thu Feb. 5, 2009 1:16 PM EST

Today Greenpeace released a report indicating that the House's $819 billion stimulus bill is a net environmental gain by a longshot. The bill's energy efficiency and conservation provisions alone could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 61 million metric tons annually, the equivalent of electricity use in 7.9 million American homes. Meanwhile, the worst-case-scenario for the bill's transportation provisions would reduce the overall carbon benefits by only 5 million tons annually. The report, which was written by the respected energy consulting firm ICF International, apparently didn't examine other provisions in the bill, but given that transportation is by far the biggest environmental white elephant, the overall package looks surprisingly eco-friendly. Ironically, the real downside won't kick in unless the stimulus succeeds in reviving the economy, causing consumption to rise. Yet if the bill starts rebuilding the economic system into something sustainable, we'll be better off than where we started.

Copyright Smackdown: AP Goes After Shepard Fairey

| Thu Feb. 5, 2009 1:07 PM EST
Via the Associated Press, we learn that the Associated Press is coming after Shepard Fairey for using one of its photos as the basis of his (everyone say it with me!) iconic Obama "Hope" poster. A few weeks ago, a diligent photographer finally ID'd the poster's source image as a shot taken in 2006 by an AP freelancer. The AP is now crying copyright infringement and says it has "reached out to Mr. Fairey's attorney." (It's worth noting that when Reuters briefly thought the shot was theirs, they simply asked for credit.) 

I Am Woman, Hear Me Cower

| Thu Feb. 5, 2009 12:40 PM EST | Scheduled to publish Thu Feb. 5, 2009 12:40 PM EST

From Alternet, via Salon's Broadsheet: This just in—women want to be oppressed.

This October, more than 6,000 women gathered in Chicago for the True Woman Conference '08: a stadium-style event to promote what its proponents call “biblical womanhood," "complementarianism," or—most bluntly—"the patriarchy movement."...
The Associated Baptist Press explains the relationship of biblical womanhood to feminism, highlighting an ambitious initiative that arose from the meeting: a signature drive seeking 100,000 women to endorse its “True Woman Manifesto," which, the ABP writes, aims “at sparking a counterrevolution to the feminist movement of the 1960s.”

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Obama Needs To Get Outside the Beltway

| Thu Feb. 5, 2009 12:17 PM EST | Scheduled to publish Thu Feb. 5, 2009 12:17 PM EST

President Barack Obama needs to get outside the Beltway.

Not necessarily by hopping on Air Force One (which he has yet to use), but by reaching out to the millions of Americans who are rooting for him in order to obtain their active support for his economic stimulus plan. In the first fortnight of his presidency, Obama has mainly played an inside game, as he has tried to win congressional approval of an economic recovery package. When the nearly $900 billion measure was being considered in the House, Obama largely deferred to House Democrats, who shoved many long-yearned-for spending initiatives into the bill. Thus, a 647-page creature was born, which included provisions easy for Republicans and conservatives to deride and oppose.

No Census for You, Sen. Gregg

| Thu Feb. 5, 2009 12:16 PM EST | Scheduled to publish Thu Feb. 5, 2009 12:16 PM EST

The 2010 census is a mess. As I reported as part of a larger December 2008 story on the federal bureaucracy's failings, the census is on the Government Accountability Office's "High-Risk List" due to "performance deficiencies and uncertain, escalating costs." Doing the census right is particularly important for Democrats and their constituencies — a badly performed census traditionally does a inadequate job of counting minorities and the poor, who tend to be more transitory than the average American. Undercounting comes back to haunt these groups when the census is used to divvy up federal aid and draw electoral districts.

So it's important to have someone in charge of the census who is sensitive to these matters. Well, where is the Census Bureau located? In the Department of Commerce, soon to be headed by Sen. Judd Gregg, a conservative Republican who once voted to defund the department he will now lead.

Digital Divide: Winners and Losers in the Switch to DTV

| Thu Feb. 5, 2009 9:46 AM EST | Scheduled to publish Thu Feb. 5, 2009 9:46 AM EST

In order to keep some 6.5 million TV screens from going dark two weeks from now, both houses of Congress have voted to postpone the deadline for a changeover from analog to to digital television transmissions, from February 17 to June 12. The president had been pushing for the postponement, and after some stalling from peevish Republicans, he got it. It remains to be seen whether the new deadline will provide enough time to resolve what has by now become a completely failed government program–another parting gift from the Bush administration, which managed to raise federal incompetence to new levels, while always seeming to shaft the nation’s most vulnerable people.

According to a January report from the Congressional Research Service, the changeover will be hardest on “low-income, elderly, disabled, non-English speaking, minority, and rural populations.” The DTV switch has become one of those events that throw into especially sharp contrast the dividing lines between the haves and the have-nots. In this case, the line separates people who can afford to shell out for cable or satellite—or a spiffy new digital TV–and people who can’t, instead depending on over-the-air broadcasts to an older, analog television set. Only the latter group will cease to receive transmissions when digital-only service goes into effect, unless they have a properly installed “converter box.” Many of these same people, of course, also lack the resources to purchase and install the needed equipment, which is far from the effortless process featured in public service ads. But there are winners as well as losers in this dramatic relaunch of America’s favorite pasttime.

Why Are We Obsessed With the Christian Bale Rant?

| Wed Feb. 4, 2009 8:14 PM EST

You take a Monday off, and when you come back, it's like you've emerged into the all-Malkovich world in Being John Malkovich, except it's all Christian Bale, all the time. The Batman actor and apparent douchebag was recorded giving an extended, profanity-filled hard time to the director of photography on his current film project, Terminator Salvation, and the audio was leaked to the media, who immediately whipped themselves into a frenzy like piranhas tossed a bloody steak. But I don't blame the media! Clearly, all humans were suddenly obsessed with this (long) moment of (extremely) inappropriate work behavior. Friends started e-mailing me about it, techno remixes started appearing, Rod Blagojevich referenced Bale in another surreal TV appearance.