Blogs

Population Declines in Rural America

| Tue Sep. 18, 2007 4:08 PM EDT

Rural blog The Daily Yonder says the American countryside is in trouble. Because of both natural population decrease and outmigration, rural counties are shrinking fast.

A cool map, created by USDA demographer Calvin Beale, shows the trend.

The reasons for the population decline are complicated, but one thing is clear: The new farm bill isn't helping.

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DC Representation Fails in Senate, Mitch McConnell Explains Himself to Space Aliens

| Tue Sep. 18, 2007 4:04 PM EDT

A cloture vote in the Senate just moments ago on whether or not D.C. residents will get congressional representation ended up with 57 Ayes and 42 Nos, meaning Democrats and moderate Republicans weren't able to find the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster organized by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The citizens of DC will go without representation in Congress for another year, possibly two. For background, see my piece that published yesterday.

Here's my rendition of Mitch McConnell explaining this situation to a space alien.

McConnell: Wow, an alien.
Space alien: Mitch, we have abducted you because you are the most powerful man in the most powerful legislative body of the most robust democracy on Planet Earth.
McConnell: Oh, news must travel slow through outer space. You want Harry Reid.
Space alien: What?
McConnell: Forget it. Can I help you with something?
Space alien: Yes. We want an explanation of how your government works. Does everyone get representation in your national body?
McConnell: Um, no.
Space alien: Ah, only land-owning males of the dominant tribe or race are allowed to vote for their representatives.
McConnell: No.
Space alien: Any male of the dominant tribe or race, regardless of property ownership?
McConnell: No.
Space alien: Any male, regardless of tribe?
McConnell: No.
Space alien: Any male or female?
McConnell: No.
Space alien: Quite admirable, Mitch. Everyone of legal age can have a representative in your Congress?
McConnell: Everyone except the citizens of one city.
Space alien: Which city?
McConnell: Our capital city.
Space alien: Heavens to murgatroid! Surely they don't pay taxes in this arrangement.
McConnell: They do.
Space alien: Surely they do not fight in your wars.
McConnell: They do.
Space alien: And how do you justify this?
McConnell: ...
Space alien: Mitch?
McConnell: ...
Space alien: Surely you are doing something to end this unjust and obviously undemocratic arrangement.
McConnell: Actually, I just filibustered to maintain the status quo.
Space alien: ...

Updates: Here's your roll call. Republicans who voted with the Dems: Hatch (UT), Bennett (UT), Collins (ME), Snowe (ME), Coleman (MN), Lugar (IN), and Specter (PA). Democrat Max Baucus of Montana voted with the Republicans.

Update Update: The Plank slaps Baucus around for his incredibly stupid rational for voting against.

Bearish About Global Warming

| Tue Sep. 18, 2007 3:12 PM EDT

Reuters reports that a group of investors, state officials, and environmental advocates have filed a petition urging the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to force publicly-traded companies to disclose the "risks and benefits" they face as a result of global warming (of course, all prefer the more expansive and friendly-sounding phrase "climate change").

"Companies' financial condition increasingly depends upon their ability to avoid climate risk," reads the petition, signed by 22 officials and groups, representing $1.5 trillion in assets. The upshot is that in covering their assets, investors may force the corporate world generally to be more forthright about the coming "endless summer."

Survey Reveals Mixed Feelings about Brown v. Board of Ed

| Tue Sep. 18, 2007 2:40 PM EDT

It's been 50 years since Pulaski County, Arkansas's Central High integrated, and believe it or not, some people still aren't so sure it was a good idea.

Researchers at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock called 1,666 people in Pulaski County and asked them about race relations in the community since the Central High crisis.

The majority of respondents (69 percent) said integration was a change for the better, but the demographic breakdown was pretty interesting: While 77 percent of African Americans surveyed said the crisis had a positive effect on the community, just 61 percent of whites did.

And some of the negative comments were real gems:

The black culture is different in a negative way and I don't want this influencing the white culture. - White female, 79 years old

Sometimes black teachers give special treatment to the black students, that affects the quality of education the white students receive. - White female, 55 years old

Oy.

CREW Releases Dossiers on 22 Most Corrupt Members of Congress

| Tue Sep. 18, 2007 2:27 PM EDT

Our buddies at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) are doing what they do best: exposing and explaining the misdeeds, corruption, and ethical lapses of those in power. Their latest effort is their third annual "Most Corrupt Members of Congress" report. If you want in-depth info on 22 evildoers and two dishonorable mentions, click the link.

Eighteen of the twenty-two (and both dishonorable mentions) are Republicans, one of whom is actually running for president. The Senate Minority Leader (currently busy slapping democracy in the face) made the list, as did all three members of Alaska's delegation. Perhaps Alaska should consider electing a Democrat once in a while.

Tuesday: Doozy of a Music News Day

| Tue Sep. 18, 2007 2:03 PM EDT

God Save the Queen

  • Reunion mania continues: John Lydon tells NME that the Sex Pistols will come together for a one-off concert at Brixton Academy November 8th, their first show since... oh, just since 2002. Yawn. NME tries to drum up excitement by spearheading a campaign to send "God Save the Queen" to #1 on the charts for its 30th anniversary, a position it was supposedly denied in 1977 by, you know, chart freemasons or whatever, desperate to preserve the Queen's dignity in her jubilee year.
  • With Kanye West on track to outsell 50 Cent by at least 100,000 records this week, Fiddy cancelled his U.K. promo appearances after selling less than Mr. West there as well; he had threatened to retire from solo albums if West won the sales race.
  • The venerable management company The Firm has dropped Britney Spears as a client, after only one month. The Firm was to spearhead Brit's comeback, but released a statement saying "current circumstances have prevented us from properly doing our job." Ouch.
  • Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, frustrated by high CD prices and distribution problems in Australia and China, respectively, is telling concert-goers to steal his music. A YouTube clip shows him telling a Sydney audience, "Steal it, steal away, give it to your friends." He also told a Beijing audience that because Western music is difficult to find via legal channels in China, that "downloading from the Internet is a more acceptable options than buying pirated CDs."
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    HillaryCare, Version 2.0, Gets Positive Reviews

    | Tue Sep. 18, 2007 1:02 PM EDT

    Hillary Clinton's plan for universal health care was just released (you can find an in-depth summary here), and it looks like it gets an A+ from health care expert Jonathan Cohn. The Sick author also likes Obama's and Edwards's plans. Have a look at Cohn's thoughts at TNR.

    Ezra Klein is also a fan.

    Another Big Democratic Funder Headed to the Big House

    | Tue Sep. 18, 2007 12:19 PM EDT

    Looks like the Democratic presidential candidate, whomever it is, will be running without the deep pockets of famed plaintiff lawyer Bill Lerach. Lerach is a California securities class action lawyer whose name has struck fear in the hearts of corporate executives for years thanks to his success winning some enormous cases, including a $7 billion settlement from companies that helped Enron hide its wrongdoing.

    His crusades against corporate wrongdoing have made Lerach something of a folk hero in certain quarters, and he's won friends in high places for plowing his winnings into Democratic politics. Just in 2004, Lerach's law firm donated more than $1.5 million to 527 groups like the AFL-CIO's Coalition to Defend the American Dream that worked to defeat President Bush. Before the ban on soft money, Lerach and his partner, Melvyn Weiss, donated millions of dollars to Democratic Party entities.

    That reliable spigot of campaign funding is likely to dry up now that Lerach has agreed to plead guilty to a criminal conspiracy charge stemming from a seven-year federal investigation. Prosecutors charge that Lerach and his firm paid more than $11 million to people to be plaintiffs in their shareholder lawsuits. Lerach could spend up to two years in prison as a result of his plea. Even if he gets to hang on to most of his money, it's unlikely that many candidates are going to want to take it...

    Ernie Chambers, Nebraska's Leading Hellraiser, Sues God

    | Tue Sep. 18, 2007 12:17 PM EDT

     ernie_265x270.jpg

    In early 2006, Mother Jones profiled Nebraska state lawmaker Ernie Chambers, the sole black member of Nebraska's unicameral legislature and one heck of a cool dude. Sara Catania wrote at the time:

    He wears sweatshirts and jeans amid a forest of suits and ties; his gray beard contrasts with the clean chins of most of his brethren. He's been described as "left of San Francisco" in a state that for decades has been tightly tucked under the blanket of conservative Republicanism....
    Because of Chambers, the Legislature routinely backs bills its members wouldn't otherwise have dreamed of supporting. He cajoled his colleagues into abolishing corporal punishment in schools, correcting the state pension system so that women would be treated equally with men, and backing a switch from at-large municipal elections to district-based voting so that nonwhites would have a chance to serve. Under his sway, Nebraska led the nation in the 1980s in divesting in companies that did business with apartheid-era South Africa.

    I can't do Ernie Chambers justice in block quote form — read Sara's article in full for a better picture of the man.

    Here's why I bring him up: he's suing God. For real.

    Chambers lawsuit, which was filed on Friday in Douglas County Court, seeks a permanent injunction ordering God to cease certain harmful activities and the making of terroristic threats.
    The lawsuit admits God goes by all sorts of alias, names, titles and designations and it also recognizes the fact that the defendant is omnipresent.
    In the lawsuit, Chambers said he's tried to contact God numerous times...
    [The lawsuit] says God has caused "fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes, pestilential plagues, ferocious famines, devastating droughts, genocidal wars, birth defects and the like."
    The suit also says God has caused "calamitous catastrophes resulting in the wide-spread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth's inhabitants including innocent babes, infants, children, the aged and infirm without mercy or distinction."
    Chambers also says God "has manifested neither compassion nor remorse, proclaiming that defendant will laugh" when calamity comes.

    Chambers is reportedly making a point about frivolous lawsuits, but I think he's making a point about being awesome.

    Update: Looks like Ernie Chambers reeeally chose the wrong situation to make his point, whatever it is. Read below to see the comments of Lundy, TheSoyMilkConspiracy, and elm.

    Gonzales Could be Investigated in Texas, Disbarred

    | Tue Sep. 18, 2007 11:11 AM EDT

    From Michael Roston at Huffington Post:

    The woman who literally wrote the book on legal ethics in Texas says it's likely that the Texas State Bar is probing the professional conduct of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
    "Given the publicity regarding the allegations concerning Mr. Gonzales, I would be surprised if the [Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel of the Texas State Bar] is not currently investigating a complaint," said Lillian Hardwick, co-author of the Handbook of Texas Lawyer and Judicial Ethics.

    The Disciplinary Counsel wouldn't confirm if an investigation is under way. Frankly I find it unlikely that a local office in Texas would take it upon itself to finally resolve the questions of Gonzales' culpability in scandals that such august bodies as the Senate Judiciary Committee are investigating, and have been investigating for many months. Seems a little above their pay grade, so to speak.