I have seen three young Silverlake hipsters sitting at Intelligentsia Cafe in the past two weeks sipping coffee reading Ayn Rand. Isn't that the kind of thing you don't want people to see you reading? If I was reading Atlas Shrugged in public I'd hide it inside a copy of Hustler.
There are a lot of criticisms that folks level at Dick Cheney, but that he’s uncalculating or careless (quail hunting notwithstanding) is not one of them. Yesterday on Face the Nation, however, the former Vice President just might’ve made a preemptive gaffe:
"If I had to choose in terms of being a Republican, I'd go with Rush Limbaugh. My take on it was Colin [Powell] had already left the party. I didn't know he was still a Republican."
First, two small points:
1) Democrats are gloating about how this battle for the soul and future of the GOP is its penultimate gasp before its death knell. About a year ago, when the soul and future of the Democratic Party was framed in the epic battle of Obama vs. Hillary, many in the GOP counted down the hours ‘til the Democratic Party would at last implode. Many Democrats seem to have forgotten this and are getting a little cocky for a team that only recently clawed their way out of this seemingly identical situation for a decisive victory.
2) Obama vs. Hillary was made out to be a more meaningful choice than it actually was, practically speaking. They symbolized different approaches and modes of thinking that ultimately arrived at the same policy ends. Limbaugh and Powell are further apart, ideologically speaking, Powell and Limbaugh are not as close as Obama and Clinton, but it’s not like Cheney was asked “Stones vs. The Who, pick your Gods!” It’s more “Zeppelin or Sabbath, if you had to pick one.” And I’m surprised Cheney answered.
There’s an unfortunate pattern that happens in politics, and it’s as good a reason as any not to ever run for office: you align yourself with someone, and then that person goes on to say something that makes you wish you had never given that blurb-worthy quote about their perfect virtue or posed smiling next to them, maybe giving a thumbs up. That's what I mean by preemptive gaffe (and what about the main architect of preemptive war being done in by preemptive gaffe?) Remember Jeremiah Wright at the National Press Club after Obama’s historic speech about race? Well, the former veep might be in for his moment.
GOP figures have had to do the reverse as of late – Michael Steele, Jim Tedisco, and others have had to issue mea culpas for saying that party loyalty didn’t mean loyalty to Limbaugh (and frankly, I don’t think the result would necessarily be any different if a Dem had to walk back a statement about Keith Olbermann) – but something is different this week, and Cheney should’ve waited. Here’s why:
Rush Limbaugh might be about to say something really, um… regrettable. The kind of thing that makes people stop doing those mea culpas. Maybe by the time you read this, he already has.
Wanda Sykes got some serious shots in at El Rushbo at the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday.
Limbaugh is not going to take that lying down. Love him or hate him, he's not brushing that off, and I’d be willing to give odds that he might say something about Sykes, one of the best-known and universally loved openly gay women, that might make a man who was recently the second-most powerful man in America (with a gay daughter, for that matter) wish he hadn’t chosen Limbaugh over the cool-headed, widely admired Powell.
Sure - I'm mostly just concern trolling here, but I for one was surprised to see Cheney not play this one close to the vest. If he does have to backpedal, he’ll be one of the few political veterans to be doing it for the first time after so many years in the ring.
Before I get all serious about the New Hampshire State Senate, I just want to say that I don't understand how my boy Attackerman felt so hemmed in by having to make his blog titles song lyrics when there are such hot options like this one from Helmet's first record. Anyways, on to less exciting things.
Last Wednesday the New Hampshire State Senate made a respectable show of political will and passed a resolution legalizing gay marriage 14-10. The freedom of same-sex couples in New Hampshire to marry is now in the hands of John Lynch, the historically wishy-washy Democratic Governor. If Lynch lets the bill pass, it will make New Hampshire the fifth state to legalize gay marriage. I ask in light of this, if New Hampshire's legislature can be ahead of 45 other states on social issues, how can they be dead last on energy? They are, and the very same Senators who showed the courage to stand up to bigotry and prejudice displayed an inchworm's spine as they let big coal interests run them over, back their big trucks full of coal up, and run them over again.
Here's the story so far:
New Hampshire, like many places, has a gargantuan fossil-fuel burning, greenhouse gas emitting coal plant. Like many coal plants, Merrimack Station in Bow emits ton upon ton of mercury and by law must undergo expensive upgrades to meet new regulations. In 2006, the New Hampshire legislature voted (unanimously) to authorize the installation a mercury "scrubber" which will reduce the plant's mercury emissions. It was a good idea at the time and everyone rightfully patted themselves on the backs for it. The cost was estimated at $250 million.
Last summer, however, Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH), the utility, suddenly they needed $457 million to complete the project, and have staunchly refused to provide an accounting of the new costs -- the kind of accounting-free, oversight-devoid spending that would later enrage America when it found out about the excessive AIG bonuses that were paid for with taxpayer money. They vaguely chalked the increase up to an increase in transportation, steel and labor costs - remember the summer of 2008 when everyone had a job and gas costs four dollars? The price of scrap steel was nearly double what it is now too -- but those times are over, and if that's the reason for the cost increase, the cost that should be over too. Still, PSNH is insisting that it needs $457 million to complete the project.
If that's not enough, studies that take actually take into account the implied costs of the scrubber -- near-future modifications to meet regulations on additional mercury reduction, water pollution and carbon emissions (which the scrubber will do nothing to reduce) estimate that the actual cost of keeping this plant up to code is somewhere between 1 and 3 billion dollars. New Hampshire State Senator Harold Janeway, a guy sensible enough to think "we said yes to $250 million, not $3 billion" introduced a bill that would require a study of the costs to determine if the project is still worthwhile. (If you agreed to take someone on a blind date, then found out dinner would cost $300, you might want to see a picture first, no?) All the bill asked for was a 90-day pause in construction while the new costs were being reviewed. Anyways, the State Senate just voted 22-1 against this cost review, leaving Janeway as the lone Yea and bearer of good sense.
Here's their convergence of political impotence, retrograde policy and straight-up bad math. Merrimack Station employs 1200 people. The installation of the scrubber will add 300 temporary jobs to the plant. That's 1500 jobs, 1200 of them permanent -- or as permanent as a job can be at an institution that is likely to be illegal in six years. If we take the medium estimate of 2 billion dollars that would be required in improvements, that comes out to 1.3 million dollars per employee. I'm as big a champion for handsome compensation for jobs in this sector as anyone, but 1.3 million per employee could be spent on transitioning these workers to clean energy solutions with cash to spare for infrastructure and development. When we talk about green-collar jobs, we're talking about getting out of these situations that are bad for our planet and pocketbooks alike.
Nonetheless, management claimed that even a 90-day pause would lead to immediate job losses - a scare tactic designed to get labor on board together and form this alliance that could best reason and logic in the legislature - and as planned, 13 of the 14 Senators progressive enough to vote to recognize same-sex marriage in New Hampshire voted to turn a blind eye to backward energy and fiscal policy.
There are two lawsuits pending against PSNH on behalf of ratepayers, and the EPA just launched an investigation into PSNH mandating that they reveal many of the expenditures relating to the scrubber - but construction still continues on it.
The time will come when all states recognize gay marriage, and the time will come when carbon-belching plants like Merrimack Station are left behind for solutions that lead to a healthy planet and healthy profits. New Hampshire should reverse course on the scrubber and lead the way on both.
Yet another reason I'm not so psyched to have Arlen Specter on my team.
Jeff Sessions, a raging bigot who was denied a judgeship in Alabama for his being so, is now the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee. This is the committee that prosecutes voter fraud, which is as real as unicorns and Santa and involves a paranoid fantasy of a shadowy conspiracy of African-Americans rigging elections. I'd much rather see a committee of African-Americans forming a committee to investigate voter fraud among Republicans but that's a whole other story.
Anywhoo, Jesse Jackson Jr. has a wonderful enumeration of Sessions's history of wonderful remarks (h/t alpolitics at DK) that put him in league with George Allen and Michael Richards, and will all make you wonder if we really benefit when we have to get a "Good for a Republican" Senator to switch ranks and have to bow to his feet, and then give promotions to some of the worst ones in order to replace him. I say Meh.
I spend a lot more time thinking about pretty blonde 18-year-olds than I do about Mexican men in their fifties, and that's why I'm not fit to be the police department of a major U.S. city. Unfortunately, it seems that LAPD too has a bad case of shiksa fever.
In one of the cleverest stunts I've heard of in recent times, the young crowd at the massive Bamboozle Fest in New Jersey were treated to a surprise set by a band that has surged in popularity among the scene-haircut set: Journey. Or so they thought.
A surprise four-song set turned out to be by an excellent Journey cover band called Evolution -- but the crowd was in no position to know the difference and all thought they were being given a surprise set by the 70s megastars (and in this writer's opinion, the godfathers of corporate rock, the original Creed, and a band not worthy of a 3-decades-later resurgence... but that's just me.)
Despite my crotchety protestations and snobbery, I have to hand it to the producers of Bamboozle for giving the fans such a surprise, which clearly was well received. Hopefully this won't trigger a full-scale Journey reunion once they see what a gang of imitators from the Isle of Long are capable of.
They've both lost key members. It's up to two of Chicago's finest to replace them. Nearly everyone with an opinion and an internet connection has an idea of who the replacement should be. Yes, the Supreme Court and the Smashing Pumpkins have a lot in common right now.
On the heels of Billy Corgan's announcement that longtime Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlain, provider of the steady backbeat to such classics as "Cherub Rock" and "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" was leaving the band, news broke that David Souter, whose steady, centrist hand was the driving force behind early-nineties landmarks like Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Lee v. Weisman would be leaving the Supreme Court. All right, I've taken this joke about as far as I can take it, but both of these events are pretty huge deals if you're into 90's alternative rock or the third branch of government.
I remember when David Souter was nominated to the Supreme Court by Bush 41 in 1990, when I was ten years old. Many on both sides were certain that the quiet patrician from New Hampshire would quietly stick a fork in Roe vs. Wade. My mother, actively pro-choice to say the least, wrote a limerick about Souter to share at an event opposing his nomination, and all I remember is that it rhymed his name with "neuter" - I think that was also the occasion where I learned the meaning of the word. Her concern proved unfounded, as Souter ruled with the majority against any slashing of Roe v. Wade when he joined the majority in Casey, dealing abortion opponents a bitter disappointment similar to the one felt by Smashing Pumpkins fans while hearing their misguided 2000 release Machina/Machines of God for the first time.
Suggestions abound for who should fill each seat. Safe consensus choices like Illinois favorite son Dax Nielsen and Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor? Some say the best move is to please the base: former System of a Down drummer John Dolmayan and Chicago labor lawyer/movement progressive Tom Geoghegan would be "red meat" for hard rock nerds and left-leaning Dems. There's also a rumor of 19 year old Mike Byrne being Chamberlain's replacement, but some worry this may be Corgan's Harriet Miers moment. All we can say with certainty is that the chatter will tap on endlessly until the moment these two seats are filled.