Reigning Sound
Love and Curses
In the Red

After backing Shangri-Las singer Mary Weiss on her 2007 comeback album on Norton Records, Reigning Sound is back with a new album of its own. It's the band's fourth studio album since 2001, and the relaxed, Southernly pace of their output matches the overall air of Love and Curses.

Frontman Greg Cartwright cut his teeth in the stalwart Memphis garage band the Oblivians. Twenty years on, his approach to music has evolved from taking old country, blues, and R&B numbers, blowing them to bits, and burying them in distortion to loving, nurturing them, and letting them breath. This applies to the numerous obscure '60s and '70s covers in the Reigning Sound oeuvre, as well as their own sweet tea-and-slaw songs.

Help Fiji Water Help You

Writer Anna Lenzer has brought it to my attention that the subject of her recent Mother Jones expose, Fiji Water, is looking for social media help. And that's not surprising, considering the thousands of anti-Fiji Water tweets and Facebook comments piled up after the Mother Jones article was published. As Lenzer revealed in the story, Fiji Water is produced in a country ruled by a military junta and despite its green image, its signature bottles uses twice as much plastic as competitors'.

To combat the negative publicity, Fiji Water first tried issuing a statement against the article. Then we posted a rebuttal. The co-owner of the company made libelous comments about the article on Twitter, and Fiji Water's go-to press rep, Rob Six, posted comments on blogs and newspaper sites. Presumably not seeing much payoff, Fiji Water went with a softer tactic: contests with prizes and feel-good stories about the company's charitable works.

The company has another Twitter strategy, though: bribery. According to multiple users, @FijiWater contacts those who have tweeted positively about the company and offered them free water. Or, if they're less lucky, a coupon code or a beach towel. In its desperate bid (or so it seems) to get followers, @FijiWater writes back to just about anybody who tweets nicely about it. Judging by the job listing, even with the swag, it's still not working as well as they'd like.

Paying the Piper

My nerd license is probably going to be revoked for saying this, but I'm bored with the nonstop blogging over the Baucus healthcare bill that was released today.  (That's the "chairman's mark" for those dedicated to terminological exactitude.)  My lack of interest stems from two facts: (a) it's pretty much what we all thought it was going to be, and (b) it's basically just a starting point for negotiations, not an ending point.

Still, I'd like to highlight this comment from James Kwak:

One reason the Baucus bill is “cheaper” than the House bill is that it has lower subsidies. For illustration, let’s assume that the whole $140 billion difference is due to lower subsidies. Relative to the House bill, then, the Baucus bill costs the government $140 billion less; but it costs middle-income people exactly $140 billion more, since they have to buy health insurance. The difference is that in the House bill, the money comes from taxes on the very rich; in the Baucus bill, it comes out of their own pockets. Put another way, the Baucus bill is the House bill, plus a $140 billion tax on people making around $40-80,000 per year. That’s not only stupid policy; it’s stupid politics.

Can't argue with that.  As regular readers know, I'm more concerned with subsidy levels than I am with the public option.  This is why.  The public option is a good thing, but even in the best case it's available to only a small number of people and will likely have only a modest impact on the cost of health insurance.  Subsidy levels, conversely, affect lots of people and have a significant impact on the cost of health insurance.  According to CBPP, for example, a family making $45,000 would have to pay annual premiums of $4,800 under the Baucus plan, compared to $3,600 under the House plan or $2,500 under the Senate HELP plan.  That's a pretty big difference.

So: adopt the the Baucus version of subsidies and when 2013 rolls around you'll have lots of pissed off middle income families desperately trying to scrape up an extra five grand each year.  Adopt the HELP version of subsidies instead and these registered voters families will mostly think they're getting a pretty good deal.  And to fund it, all you have to do is raise taxes on, say, Wall Street bankers.  What's not to like?

Beck Watch: Will the White House Hit Back?

Now that Jackass-gate is dying down, will the administration respond to Glenn Beck, who has been picking staffers off the outskirts of Obama-ville? And if so, how? Insiders tell the Washington Post that the White House is trying to avoid a direct confrontation with "a vocal minority," hoping instead to do the adult thing and take the high road. (Though the president has reportedly been "rolling his eyes in disbelief" at the daily flood of kookiness coming from Beck and his cohorts.) "You don't stomp a story out. You ride the wave and try to steer it to safe water," says an Obama aide about the hands-off approach. We'll see how that plays out.

And now, the latest list of who's still advertising on Beck's program:

  • The National Republican Trust PAC

  • News Corp. (The Wall Street Journal)

  • Merit Financial

  • Superior Gold Group

  • Loan Modification Help Line 800-917-8549

  • Wholesale Direct Metals

  • Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (The Informant)

  • LifeLock

  • Clarity Media Group (The Weekly Standard)

  • Citrix (GoToMeeting)

  • Scarguard

  • Publisher’s Clearing House

  • Imperial Structured Settlements

  • Schiff Nutrition International, Inc. (Move Free Advanced)

  • Eggland’s Best, Inc.

  • Roche Diagnostics (Accu-Chek Aviva)

  • Ad Council

  • IRSTaxAgreements.com

  • Carbonite

  • Rosland Capital

  • National Review

  • Liberty Medical

 

 

 

I have frequently wondered on this blog why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is taking a leading role in opposing the climate bill when many of its 3 million member companies actually support the legislation. Now comes an interesting post from the NRDC's Switchboard blog (via Climate Progress) that begins to answer that question. It turns out that for the past 11 years Chamber President Tom Donohue has also served as a highly-compensated board member of Union Pacific Railroad, which earns some 20 percent of its revenues from carrying coal. Moreover, Union Pacific has given $700,000 to the Chamber since 2004.

Conflict of interest? Sure sounds like it. Maybe it's time for those Chamber members who first questioned its climate approach to raise a stink about this.

Ill over Racism in the Healthcare Debate

Yesterday, my friend Megan admitted she was racist. Today, I'm admitting I am, too. We both took Harvard's implicit association test on racial preferences, and we both got the same result.

IAT: IAT

Interesting and disturbing, isn't it? 

So what's the big deal with race these days, anyway? First Sonia Sotomayor was racist. Then there was the whole Henry Louis Gates ordeal, where Gates was racist, the cop who arrested him was racist and the neighbor who called the cops was racist too. Then Fox News' Glenn Beck lost more than half his advertising dollars after he called Obama a racist.

And now the same insult has resurfaced in the health care debate. Earlier this week Tea Party leader appeared on CNN and called Obama a "racist-in-chief." Jimmy Carter's now calling Joe Wilson's outburst and similar personal attacks on Obama racist, and—check this out—even your baby is racist, according to Newsweek's cover story this week.

John Fund Fears Universal Voter Registration Conspiracy

The right-wingers over at the American Conservative Union conference in DC today must really be frothing after a full day of fiery political speechifying. We wish we could give you better color commentary, but ACU has banned the media (unless we're willing to fork over $400.) But fortunately, ACU is Twittering, so we do know that the Wall Street Journal's John Fund just warned the crowd that if Democrats lose health care, they will "ram universal voter registration through Congress." The horror! God forbid everyone in this country actually registered to vote. Other choice quotes from Fund:

On health care: "I think we have a chance of taking it down from an 800 pound gorilla to a 99 pound weakling."

On the ACORN scandal: "ACORN is the soft under belly of the Liberal Left Machine."

And this doozy: Fund estimates that more than 400,000 people attended Saturday's 9/12 anti-government march in DC. (Most reliable estimates put the number at more like 75,000.)

Fund was preceded by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who said sagely:  "The constant in climate change is that it is changing." He apparently called for more science, less hype on global warming.

And it wouldn't be a conservative conference without South Carolina Rep. Jim DeMint (R), who told attendees: "Our goal is to save freedom in America." Thanks, Jim.

You can follow the bromides here.

Cool Cats

Atrios comments on George Bush's use of language:

While I don't think Bush referring to Obama as "this cat" is really racist, in the sense of suggesting some sort of animosity towards people of color, but I think there's a reasonable chance that race played a part, in the sense that Bush would've been much less likely to refer to a white guy with that term.

But from the same article, here was Bush on another occasion:

The president asked his secretary, Karen, to bring him the Rose Garden remarks he’d just delivered that day....When he finally got them, he put his half-glasses on and looked at them. “See, this was fine today,” he said. “But we got to make this understandable for the average cat.” He proposed an outline for another speech that talked about the situation our economy was in, how we’d gotten here, and how the administration’s plan was a solution.

I think Bush just has an odd attachment to calling people "cats."  Surely some other former White House staffers could enlighten us about this, though.

GOP Shocked by Charges of Racism

GOP leader Michael Steele claims to be shocked, shocked by former President Jimmy Carter's statement that racism may play a role in some of the extreme and personal attacks on President Barack Obama.

Steele thrashed Democrats for "injecting race into the debate over critical issues facing American families..."

You know those Dems. They'll probably find some crazy 'racial' subtext to Rush Limabaugh complaining that "in Obama's America the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, 'Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on.'"

A snag in California's effort to close 100 state parks, mandated under its hard-fought budget deal,  shows why the Golden State has become the State of Unintended Consequences

Neighborhood watch-style groups will have to do the work of rangers to prevent illegal activity in closed state parks unless voters approve a vehicle license fee or some other method is found to save the beleaguered park system, officials and park supporters said Tuesday.

Good luck with that.

As I reported in Mother Jones' July/August issue, a third of California's national parks and all of its national forests have already been colonized by aggressive pot farmers. Where hippies once grew just enough weed to peace out, traffickers now now cultivate more than 100,000 plants at a time on 30-acre terraces irrigated by plastic pipe, laced with illegal pesticides, and guarded by MAC-10s and Uzis.

There's no way that some mace-packing Guardian Angels are going to keep these guys out of shuttered and empty state parks, especially not vast areas like Mount Tam north of San Francisco, and Coe Ranch near San Jose, both of which are on the chopping block. Without rangers and day hikers, they'll be a narcotrafficante's dream.

"We are involved in a process we didn't understand was as complicated as it is," park system spokesman Roy Stearns told the San Francisco Chronicle. Well said, brother. It's what I like to think of as living in California.