Monday, October 18, 2010

Bring Back Bob Beaver!

Back on December 10, 2009, the editorial board of the Newport Daily News decided to commemorate the 2009 Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen by inviting Robert A. Beaver, an amusingly-named right-wing conspiracy theorist, to pen a guest editorial explaining to their readers that there was no such thing as global warming, and that the whole thing was a hoax cooked up by a bunch of greedy climate scientists.

Well, you can imagine my astonishment when I opened up today's copy of the Daily Snooze to find an AP article titled "Coast Guard pushes to guard U.S. claims in remote Arctic sea" with the following opening graf:

The ice-choked reaches of the northern Arctic Ocean aren't widely perceived as an international shipping route. But global warming is bringing vast change, and Russia, for one, is making an aggressive push to establish top of the world sea lanes.

The gist of the article is that the Russians are taking advantage of receding Arctic sea ice to send cargo ships straight across the Arctic Ocean, and that the U.S. Coast Guard is gearing up to "secure U.S. claims and prepare for increased human activity." But what I want to know is, where is Bob Beaver?

I think that, in their quest for fairness and balance, and their desire to present all points of view, it is incumbent on the editors of the NDN to invite Bob Beaver back to their editorial page to explain to the paper's readers that, no, the Russians aren't really sending shipping across the Arctic Ocean, the Coast Guard isn't asking for more resources to deal with the increased activity, and that this is all just part of the hoax being perpetrated by those greedy scientists.

Bring back Bob Beaver!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Harassment: Life on the Street

I got off work at the hotel at 7:00 AM this morning. Since my house is only a quarter of a mile away, I frequently walk to and from work when the weather permits.

I was walking north on Broadway, and I had just passed Thompson Middle School, when I noticed a young woman with her hair in a ponytail on the other side of the street, walking south. A middle-aged man with a graying beard who was riding a motorcycle in the northbound lane also noticed the woman. He stopped, turning the motorcycle to point at the woman, and called out, "Hey, you want a ride?" I stopped walking and turned to watch.

The young woman said, "No thanks," and kept walking. (Subtext: "No thanks, I don't feel like being kidnapped and raped this morning.")

The guy on the motorcycle didn't feel like taking no for an answer. "Come on, I'll give you a ride."

The young woman said, "No thanks," and kept walking.

The guy on the motorcycle responded with, "Fuck you!" and turned to resume his journey.

I yelled "ASSHOLE!" at the guy on the motorcycle, but he ignored me and rode off.

Friday, May 15, 2009

How I predicted the false torture confessions

Last month, we found out that the real reason the Bush administration tortured prisoners was the same reason that evil people always torture prisoners -- to extract false confessions. In particular, as we learned from Col. Lawrence Wilkerson yesterday, Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney was looking for an excuse to invade Iraq, so he ordered interrogators to torture prisoners until they said that Saddam Hussein was helping Al-Qaeda. Well, who could have predicted such a thing?

Me, that's who.

Way back in the fall of 2006, as Congress was debating the Military Commissions Act, the Providence Journal ran a hideous editorial defending the use of torture. It was such an odious pile of excrement that I felt compelled to issue a line-by-line rebuttal (a fisking, as we bloggers say) on my old blog, Newport 9. The Newport 9 blog no longer exists, but I felt the ProJo's atrocity deserved a wider airing, so I cross-posted my piece to a Daily Kos diary. That diary is still there, so I'd like to take this opportunity to quote a section of it:

While experts disagree on whether torture works,

Major, major weaselness here. Whenever people want to muddy the waters on an issue, they always resort to the old "experts disagree" dodge: "experts disagree" about global warming, "experts disagree" about cigarettes causing cancer, "experts disagree" about evolution, and on and on and on.

Anyone who isn't a moral cripple knows that torture doesn't work. All torture lets you do is make somebody say what you want them to say. Here's how it goes:

INTERROGATOR: Was Saddam Hussein working with bin Laden to attack America?
CAPTIVE: Of course not, they hate each others' guts.

INTERROGATOR: Wrong answer.


INTERROGATOR: Now, I'm going to ask you again. Was Saddam Hussein working with bin Laden to attack America?


INTERROGATOR: Williams, contact the President, tell him we've confirmed the link between Saddam and bin Laden.
There you have it, folks, proof of my awesome powers of predictiveness. (And yes, it's true that my Daily Kos User ID is 2558, making me one of the Secret Masters of the Great Orange Satan. Bow down and worship me, you ignorant masses!)

So, how did I do it? Did I have a time machine that I used to travel to the year 2009 to learn the truth about Bush's torture regime? Sadly, no. I had to rely on that rarest of faculties, simple common sense. I knew that torture didn't work, and that a person being tortured will say whatever his interrogators want him to say. I knew that the Bushies were using the 9/11 attacks as an excuse to invade Iraq. Egro, logic suggested that the Bushies were using torture to gain a false link between 9/11 and Iraq.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

From the Newport Daily News comes, via a great big notice taking up most of page A2, a public hearing on a zoning ordinance amendment dealing with signs. The public hearing will take place on Wednesday, April 8, at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the 2nd floor of City Hall. You can find the codified ordinances of Newport online here, and the section where the changes will be made are in Title 17, ZONING, within which can be found Chapter 17.76, SIGNS. As near as I can make out from the notice, the following changes will be discussed:

1) Add an opening paragraph to the "Intent" section of Chapter 17.76 to include four bullet points explaining why signs need to be regulated.

2) Add the phrase "to promote community aesthetics and public safety" to paragraph D of the "Intent" section.

3) Add definitions in the "Usages" section for A-frame sign, awning, business frontage, banner sign, directory sign, and incidental business sign.

4) Replace the word "license" with the word "permit" throughout Chapter 17.76, and change "director of public works" to "director of planning, zoning, development and inspections" in the "Applications" section.

5) Raise the price of a sign license permit from a graduated fee based on the sign's square footage to a flat $35 per sign fee "plus an additional $25.00 is Historic District review is required."

6) In the section on removing unlawful signs, a paragraph is added noting that signs installed on public property or right-of-way "shall be forfeited to the public and subject to confiscation by the City." Also, the city can charge the sign's owner for the cost of removing and disposing of the signs. This would presumably include political signage as well as signs of the "Newport Personals" variety.

7) Add "no parking, entrance, and loading only" to the list of permitted signs in the "Signs permitted in all areas" section, and add a paragraph on business internet address signs.

8) Streamline paragraph F in the "Signs prohibited in all areas" section, and amend paragraph M to allow businesses in certain zones to put up temporary signs between 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m.

9) In the "Business signs" section, paragraph B is amended so that businesses can put up as many business signs as they want as long as they don't take up too much space.

10) In the "Off-premises advertising" section, a paragraph is added allowing directory signs to be put up in the Waterfront Business zone. Also, the paragraph on billboards is amended to prohibit enlarging billboards or adding flashing lights or LEDs to them.

11) Add a new section on "City Council authorization" that allows the City Council to authorize the placement of signs on public property.

12) Add a new section on "City Manager approval -- signs on public property" allowing the City Manager to approve placement of directional signage to private parking lots on public property.

So, if you've got strong views on the subject of signage regulations, be sure to be at City Hall on April 8 to let your voice be heard.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

More trouble for Coaty

From the January 28, 2009 issue of the Newport Daily News comes word of more trouble for former 75th District Representative Steve Coaty. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court Disciplinary Board filed charges against Coaty alleging that he forged a former client's name on papers filed with the Department of Corrections, and also that he forged a former client's name on a settlement check, endorsing the check and depositing it in his client account.

Another former client, Debra A. Mack, claimed that her civil suit against the City of Newport was dismissed because Coaty failed to show up for a court hearing. The board has charged Coaty with incompetence, failure to "act with reasonable diligence," lack of communication with his client and filing baseless claims against his former client and her new attorney, Richard "Mike" Fisher.

Debra Mack's legal odyssey began in May 2002 when she tripped and fell on a Newport sidewalk. She hired an attorney to sue the city, but he turned the case over to a partner (none other than District 73 Representative J. Russell Jackson), who in turn referred her to Coaty. The board alleges that Coaty failed for several months to produce Mack's medical records, and when the city's attorney filed a motion to dismiss the suit, it was granted on June 2, 2008 when then-Representative Coaty failed to show up for the scheduled hearing. Coaty never informed Mack that the case had been dismissed; Fisher happened to be in the courtroom that day, and since he was a family friend he told her. When Mack contacted Coaty, he promised to get the dismissal overturned and the case brought to court in July, but he never did.

Mack finally got fed up and hired Fisher to represent her. He requested that Coaty turn over his case files on Mack, but he never did. Instead, he sued Mack and Fisher on September 17. Mack then went to the Newport Daily News and told them what had happened, and two weeks before the election the paper ran a story on Mack's troubles with Coaty. On election day, Coaty lost his re-election race to Democratic challenger Peter F. Martin by 2823 votes to 2336.

As the NDN notes, Coaty's victory in the December 2007 special election "quickly became a rallying point for House Republicans, who felt Coaty's victory in a Democratic district signaled a turn of the political tide for Republicans in the state." Their hopes were dashed on November 4, 2008 when Coaty lost his seat, along with fellow Republicans Bruce Long of Middletown, William McManus of Lincoln, and Nicholas Gorham of Coventry. The Republicans also lost control of open seats in Districts 28, 41, 66, and 70.

Did Debra Mack's story cost Coaty his seat? Coaty's own lawyer, Christopher Gontarz, seems to think so. When he heard the NDN was running this story, he contacted them and said, "A Welsh politician, Nye Bevan, once said 'Politics is a blood sport.' It's certainly true in Rhode Island and it's especially true on Aquidneck Island." Is Coaty being targeted by the state's Democrats, or is Gontarz just being a WATB?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

How I Spent My Autumn Vacation

My reader, Nomi Hurwitz, has expressed interest in the tale of my campaign activities in Pennsylvania during the recent election. To satisfy her curiosity, here's how I came to be there.

I was planning all along to do something or other leading up to the election, so I took off work during the first week in November. My final decision was influenced by the McCain campaign's insistance that it was going to make its last throw of the dice in Pennsylvania. I was born and raised in northern Delaware, within thirty miles of Pennsylvania, and several close members of my family still live there. I could travel there during my vacation, get to spend some time with my family, and also sneak across the border to Pennsylvania to do some campaigning there for Obama. So that's what I did.

I spent Sunday driving from Rhode Island to Delaware and settling in with my parents. A quick perusal of found an Obama field office in nearby Chester, Pa., at Bethany Baptist Church. I set out there on Monday morning, and by a quarter past nine I was in the parking lot, greeting two women named Molly and Sara who were with the local campaign team. I spent the next eight hours in Chester, knocking on doors and leaving campaign literature. Most of the people in Chester are black, and somewhere between half and two thirds of the houses there had Obama-Biden lawn signs sitting out front. As is usually the case with door-knocking, most of the time there was nobody home, but on the rare occasions when there was, the people answering the door were usually happy to see me and assured me that they would be voting for Obama. I met several people who had attended a rally with Obama himself the week before.

Tuesday morning found me back at Bethany Baptist, and once more I was out knocking on doors, this time to sort out who had voted from who hadn't. The church basement where the Obama field office was located was a hive of activity, as volunteers arrived in a steady stream and were as quickly given orientation and canvassing packets and sent out again. There were boxes of campaign literature and door hangers, and at one end of the room was a widescreen TV tuned to CNN.

Canvassing is pretty lonely work. There's just you and a list of addresses to visit, and the day is spent going from one house to the next, and there's usually nobody home. When you finish canvassing an area and return to the field office, the constrast is startling. Suddenly, instead of being alone in a strange neighborhood, you're in a large room full of enthusiastic fellow campaigners, loud and bustling. All you want to do is sit down and soak in the energy, and it takes a conscious effort of will to get up, grab another canvassing packet, and head on out to another strange neighborhood to do some more lonely door knocking.

Twelve hours of canvassing finally ended at eight o'clock in the evening, when the polls closed in Pennsylvania. After that, those of us who remained in the field office sat around eating donated food and watching the returns come in on CNN. There was a big cheer when CNN called Pennsylvania for Obama (thereby driving the last nail in the McCain campaign's coffin), and we all started cleaning up. I left for Delaware around 9:30, then spent the next few hours watching the election returns in my parents' living room, grinning like an idiot when the polls closed on the west coast and the election was called for Obama. I stayed up long enough to see Obama's victory speech, then dragged myself off to bed.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Peter Martin for the win!

Yeah, so I'm a little late with the news.* So sue me.

Per the Rhode Island Board of Elections, the final results were:

Peter Martin - 2823 (54.7%)
Steve Coaty - 2336 (45.3%)

And the precinct breakdown was as follows:

2108 - Martin 313, Coaty 256
2109 - Martin 385, Coaty 410
2110 - Martin 422, Coaty 306
2111 - Martin 351, Coaty 317
2112 - Martin 449, Coaty 264
2113 - Martin 421, Coaty 378

As Prince Edmund Plantagenet might aptly say, "At last, a chance for some real power!"

For those of you interested in helping Peter celebrate his victory, you can join him at the Hibernian Hall at 2 Wellington Avenue from 4 to 8 P.M. on Sunday, November 16.

*In my defense, I was busy helping Barack Obama turn back the McCain onslaught in Pennsylvania, and you don't recover quickly from that sort of thing.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Letters for Peter Martin

Like a one-two punch, the Newport Daily News has two letters on successive days supporting Peter Martin. First, on Wednesday, was a letter from James Sullivan of Harrisville that was headlined "Martin's works to make his community a better place". Sullivan cites a letter from Ed Walsh that appeared in the NDN on July 25:

The letter speaks of Martin's honesty and integrity outside of the public arena.

Sullivan goes on to talk about Peter's ties to JFK's New Frontier era in the early '60s, and how Peter has kept that spirit alive over the course of his own life.

Next, on Thursday, was a letter from Edward P. Kane of Cranston, a retired JROTC instructor at Rogers High School. Kane talks about Peter's interest in issues like education, gambling, and the Pell Bridge E-Z Pass situation. He also mentions Peter's volunteer work with various organizations, and in particular his work as secretary of the Scholarship Committee of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and as the webmaster of the Hibernians' website.

How persuasive these letters we be with voters remains to be seen, but I think it's a good sign for Peter that these letters from supporters are showing up so close to election day, and one after another as well. If this is part of a coordinated effort on Peter's part, it shows him to be a savvy campaigner, and I like that in a candidate.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My Friend Hilary

Hilary Stookey, that is. She's a fervent Obama supporter who helped the campaign set up its Newport field office during the primary back in those long-gone days of February and March. Much to my surprise, while I was reading over the election blog, what do I find? A piece featuring Hilary canvassing for Obama in North Carolina! (They spelled her name wrong, btw. It's Hilary with one "L". Such is fame.) It's kind of weird reading about a friend in a high-traffic blog like 538. Rest assured, I won't let her forget this in a hurry.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Daily News Editorial Board Meeting

If you're as gosh-darned excited about the presidential debates as I am (but, honestly, who could possibly be more excited about them than me?), then you'll find yourself wishing you could see a debate between our local candidates, especially between Peter Martin and Steve Coaty here in the Fightin' 75th.

Well, too bad. Ain't gonna happen.

The best we can manage is watching the editorial board of the Newport Daily News meeting with the candidates on Cox Channel 18. Yeah, it's just not the same. Not even close. Still, you go on the air with the candidate forum you have, not the candidate forum you wish you had. They'll be broadcasting their meetings with candidates for the RI House O' Representatives at 7:00 PM on the evening of Wednesday, October 22. There are four competitive local races, so if they go through them by the numbers, the candidates for the 75th ought to be coming on around 9:30 PM.

Judging by the number of yard signs for Peter I've seen around town lately, there is no doubt in my mind he would have kicked my ass on September 9. So, watching this thing on television is probably the closest I'll ever come to being grilled by Sheila Mullowney and company.

Life is just full of disappointments.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sheila Mullowney Punishes Her Readers, Part 5

For those just joining us, this is part 5 in a series of posts in which I respond to Captain Mike Caldwell, local wingnut extraordinaire, who has just published the second half of his screed on the vanishing soul of America in the Newport Daily News. After my first three posts appeared last month in response to the screed's first half, Eileen Spillane of Rhode Island's Twelfth noticed that Cap'n Mike didn't seem to exist in Middletown's public records, even though the NDN said he was a Middletown resident. This led me to speculate that Cap'n Mike might actually be a Colbertesque spoof, a parody wingnut being perpetrated by a fellow liberal. If you are a spoof, Cap'n Mike, please let us know. It doesn't have to be something blatant, just devote a few lines in your next piece to denouncing bears as godless killing machines.

But just in case Cap'n Mike is a real wingnut who really believes the things he publishes in the paper, I'd better carry on with mocking him. If you want to get up to speed, you can find part 4 of the series here.

When we last left Cap'n Mike, he was listing three instances of "notable policy shapers" who were destroying America's political soul by promoting big-government liberalism. The first two big-government liberals Cap'n Mike cited were Barack Obama and John McCain, so you can imagine what the rest of his rant was like. We pick up the thread as Cap'n Mike lists his third and final political-soul-destroying notable policy shaper: Speaker of the House Nancy "San Francisco values" Pelosi:

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stated, regarding the enforcement of a "windfall tax" on individual retirement income: We need to work toward the goal of equilizing income in our country and at the same time limiting the amount the rich can invest. We need to raise the standard of living of our poor, unemployed and minorities. We have an estimated 12 million immigrants in our country who need our help along with millions of unemployed minorities. Stock market windfall profits could go a long way to guarantee these people the standard of living they would like to have as 'Americans'."

When Cap'n Mike is quoting a Democrat, it's always a good idea to try to find the original source of the quotation, since he has, frankly, a poor record of verifying his quotes. A quick spin through the magical Google machine finds, surprise surprise, another page from You will, I am sure, be shocked to find that Cap'n Mike is quoting from another chain e-mail, this one dating all the way back to 2006. As the good people of note, what Pelosi was actually proposing after becoming Speaker in 2006 was to eliminate $33 billion dollars in tax breaks and subsidies going to the oil companies. The quote from Cap'n Mike is not anything Speaker Pelosi actually said. In fact, it's a bit of pre-election satire based on liberal stereotypes that was falsely attributed to two New York Times reporters.

Do I have to point out the level of intelligence being displayed by Cap'n Mike here? No? He has two quotes which he attributes to Democratic politicians, and both of the quotes are bogus, pulled from right-wing chain e-mails. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that, yes, Cap'n Mike is actually a liberal spoof. More evidence is provided by the rest of Cap'n Mike's rant. Take it away, Cap'n Mike:

Folks, the above is but a sampling of pure Marxism-by-the-drink being fed to the American electorate -- and the most disturbing part

Is that I actually believe the quotes I cited above are real.

is that they appear to be swallowing every bit of this socialist bile as quickly as it is poured --

You kind of have to admire the way Cap'n Mike milks (so to speak) this metaphor.

predominantly by liberal Democrats, but nonetheless by both sides of the political aisle, the only difference being in terms of degree and volume.

In other words, Democrats are pouring a greater volume of socialist bile into the American electorate, and their socialist bile is a different temperature from the GOP's socialist bile. At least, I think that's what he meant by "in terms of degree". But does Cap'n Mike think the Democrats' socialist bile is warmer or colder than the Republicans' socialist bile? He really needs to be more specific about this sort of thing.

We appear prepared to give up, one by one, al the individual rights, political freedoms and liberties that have served to make this country, while perhaps not perfect,

Careful there, Cap'n Mike. You know as well as I do that only dirty smelly hippies think America is imperfect. Keep up this sort of talk and they'll take away your Rush Limbaugh Wingnut Decoder Ring.

the one to which people around the world look with longing.

Just as long as looking is all they do. We definitely don't want any more damn foreigners actually trying to come here and enjoy all our liberties.

Just ask the Chinese, or the Georgians of the former Soviet Union.

Cap'n Mike gets a gold star for topicality. Though I was rather under the impression that the Georgians were looking to us for more military aid rather than more liberty. They may have even been looking to us to go to war with Russia on their behalf. Too bad for them our military is bogged down in Iraq.

I suggest a twofold solution of sorts --

Ah, this is the good bit, where Cap'n Mike tells us What We Need To Do to get our country's soul back.

one near-term, the second of a more extended nature.

Ah, a phased implementation of soul-restoring activities. What should we do first, Cap'n Mike?

First, a return to traditional American values embodying the primacy and rights of the individual,

In other words, disenfranchising women and blacks and reinstituting slavery. Because those are the traditional American values that served our country so well during the first four score and seven years of its existence.

recognizing that with those rights also comes personal responsibility, accountability and consequences regarding one's choices and decisions.

Unless you're a famous right-wing radio blowhard, in which case you can become a drug addict and go on a sex holiday in the Dominican Republican without going to jail or losing your nationally syndicated radio show or having any of your devoted followers bat an eyelash.

That, and the exercise of individual freedom to succeed or fail one own's own merit.

Unless you run a big Wall Street investment bank and make a lot of really really bad decisions that cause you to go bankrupt. In that case, the government will be happy to bail you out and stick the taxpayer with the bill, and wingnuts like Cap'n Mike will be cheering all the way.

Reject the Faustian promises of socialist utopia, the "nanny state" providing for your needs -- needs to be determined, of course, by the "state".

Because, let's face it, nobody actually "needs" food, or a place to live, or medical care. That's why we can rely on the wonders of the free market to supply these things (or not, if that's how things work out), without having to bother with the wicked old nanny state.

Second, a return to educating our young people in the fundamentals of civics, American history and American government.

Though there's no need to bother their innocent minds with things like Indian massacres, overthrown governments, or the crushing of political dissent.

We should be demanding the education of our youngsters regarding the positive qualities, factual history and achievements of their country,

So, no need to dwell on the Sedition Act of 1918.

its system of governance and their eventual civic duties and responsibilities as adults.

Such as, when protesting the actions of a political leader, you must not be allowed within visual range of said leader.

Our nation's cultural and political soul can be reclaimed.

All you have to do is remove people who think like Cap'n Mike from power, and prevent them from ever regaining power.

It may require a Herculean effort,

An effort, in fact, reminiscent of Hercules' fifth labor.

but I'm confident the American people are up to the task -- all it takes is determination and guts.

And the permanent defeat of the GOP.

And that's it. So, what have we learned from our punishing five-part survey of the mind of Cap'n Mike? Well, we've learned that Cap'n Mike is a pompous git, that he gets his talking points from right-wing chain e-mails, that he doesn't bother with even the most elementary research, that he looks suspiciously like the late Don S. Davis, that he may be a parody of a wingnut rather than an actual wingnut, and that he can get his dumbass opinions printed in the Newport Daily News every month.

I hope you've enjoyed my mockery of Cap'n Mike as much as I've enjoyed mocking him. And if you find yourself becoming ticked off because there's so much wingnut stupidity afflicting our politics, remember to speak up, blog out, and vote Democratic.

Good luck.

(this post has been cross-posted to Rhode Island's Twelfth)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sheila Mullowney Punishes Her Readers, Part 4

Unless a merciful God has erased it from your memory, you'll recall that last month Newport Daily News Executive Editor Sheila Mullowney chose to punish her paper's readers with the first half of a two-part rant by Cap'n Mike Caldwell, alleged Middletown resident, former Navy pilot, and spewer of right-wing talking points. Cap'n Mike's piece was called "Are we losing our nation's soul?", and it was every bit as grim as you'd expect from such a title. In my capacity as a smartass local liberal blogger, I chose to post a line-by-line rebuttal of Cap'n Mike's tirade, which the interested reader can find here, here, and here (it was necessary to break the rebuttal up into three parts for fear that a full column's worth of Cap'n Mike's wingnuttery might lead to a stupid overload).

Now, some might question the need for such a rebuttal. If the guy is such a tool, why devote so much time and effort to him? There are two reasons. First, it's necessary to document the atrocities. Skeptical future generations will question whether there ever was such a beast as Cap'n Mike Caldwell unless we trap his words in the electronic amber of this blog. Second, full-bore wingnut-bashing snarkiness is a skill that has to be honed occasionally in order to be kept in a state of razor sharpness. Cap'n Mike provides me with a monthly opportunity to keep my brain cells in perfect working order.

Yesterday's edition of the NDN brings us the second heaping helping of Mikeitude, this time under the title "Reclaim freedoms, regain our soul". And lest you think that the freedoms Cap'n Mike wants us to reclaim involve reinstating habeus corpus and ending warrantless wiretapping and officially sanctioned torture, the subtitle makes clear what's really gnawing at the Cap'n's vitals: "Dependence on government is not what founding fathers intended." Hoo boy.

Last month's chunk of Mikery was preceded by an editorial introduction, possibly composed by Mullowney herself. This month, we are given no such buffer. We plunge right in with Cap'n Mike's unique brand of pomposity:

Ladies and gentlemen,

And chiiiildren of -- whoops, already used that one, haven't I? Sorry.

I am genuinely concerned for America's political soul.

But not for any of the reasons that a sane person would be, like the way the Republicans have politicized every department of the executive branch, filling the civil service with incompetent party hacks like Monica Goodling and Michael "heckuva job" Brown.

The Constitution, as originally constructed by the founding fathers, has provided a roadmap for governance in a document unlike any other; the foundation of a governing system embodying not merely the will of the people via the ballot box,

As modified by proprietary voting machine software.

but the consent of the people as well.

Although, if the people won't consent to something the government really, really wants to do, the government will go ahead and do it anyway.

And while America's unique form of government is institutionally sound, it appears recent history has witnessed its morphing

When someone like Cap'n Mike starts using the word "morphing", that's a pretty good sign that "morphing" has outlived its usefulness and needs to be retired to the Old Words' Home.

into something virtually unrecognizable, an entity which would undoubtedly prove anathema to its framers.

Damned if I don't agree with this statement. Something tells me, though, that Cap'n Mike doesn't have the same problems with recent history that I do. Something else tells me that his definition of "recent" is "anything after March 30, 1933".

This system of representative government, which has proven the bedrock of America's prescription for limited government for 227 years, may be in danger of being usurped and overturned by elected officials and appointed judiciary at all levels. Rather than providing a mechanism for restraining the power of government, the Constitution now bears witness to a government increasingly out of control, one which incrementally restricts, regulates or eliminates one individual freedom or liberty after another through policies, mandates, laws or regulations designed to foster not only increased control over every aspect of our daily lives, but also increasing levels of social dependence on a beneficent, centralized bureaucracy.

For those of you keeping track at home, the preceding sentence contained sixty-nine words and seven commas. I'm starting to get the feeling that Cap'n Mike used up most of his material in the first half of his jeremiad, and is now forced to pad things out a bit. (By comparison, btw, my last sentence contained thirty-two words and one comma.)

This is afforded

Yep, padding. A normal person would use a word like "done" here.

through the promise of, among other things, "equality" through redistribution of both national and individual assets.

Because everyone knows that all this talk of "equality" is just a ploy by all those inferior people to bring us superior people down to their level.

Consider but three recent examples from notable policy shapers:

Yeah, Cap'n Mike definitely used up most of his ammo last month. From six soul-destroying America-bashers, we're reduced to three soul-destroying notable policy shapers. It's just not the same. You're letting us down, Cap'n Mike!

Anyway, here's the first soul-destroying notable policy shaper, just in time for this week's Democratic National Convention, it's none other than presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama.

"Globalization and technology all weaken the position of workers . . . " and as such, "a strong government hand is needed to ensure that wealth is distributed more equitably." (Sen. Barack Obama, Wall Street Journal interview).

Say, readers, did you see what I saw in that quote? That's right, elipses! If there's one thing you can be sure of, it's that when a Republican elides part of a quotation by a Democrat, he's trying to pull a fast one. Let's fire up the magical Google machine and see if we can find just where Cap'n Mike got that quote from.


Ah, we've hit the jackpot! Cap'n Mike's quotation from Barack Obama actually turned up in this item from It seems Our Captain is pulling his talking points from chain e-mails. Now that's the Cap'n Mike we've all come to know and love.

As the good people of note, this quote comes from a WSJ article from June 17, based on an interview of Obama conducted by Bob Davis and Amy Chozick (yes, that Amy Chozick). Although the phrase "a strong government hand is needed to ensure that wealth is distributed more equitably" does appear in the article, it is not a quote from the interview. That was Davis and Chozick providing their own interpretation of what Obama said in the interview. Here's what Obama actually had to say on the subject of globalization:

WSJ: What about the role of taxation? ... For the most part, the way I look at your tax policy, seems to me that you look at it and say, tax policy over the past decade, and maybe even before that, has produced an outcome that has benefited people mostly at the top, and your goal is to try to redistribute it in a different fashion.

Sen. Obama: Here's what I would say: I do believe the tax policies over the last eight years have been badly skewed towards the winners of the global economy. And I do think there is a function for tax policy in making sure that everybody benefits from globalization or at least the benefits and burdens are shared a little more easily. If, as some talk about, we've got a winner-take-all economy where the highly skilled, highly educated are reaping huge rewards and the unskilled or even semi-skilled are getting a much smaller share of the economy, then our tax policies can help cushion some of the blow through providing health care. So if people lose their jobs they're not losing their health care as well. That actually makes a more flexible work force that makes workers more mobile and less resistant to change.

If we've got investments in education, that will make us more competitive in the long run. We've got to pay for that like anything else. But it would be a mistake to say I view our tax code only as a distribution question. I also think that our tax code has come to distort a lot of economic decision making so I'd like to see simplification as part of an overall tax agenda. On the corporate side, for example, one of the things I've asked my folks to look at is: Are there ways we can close existing loopholes in tax havens at the same time as we're lowering overall rates? We've got this new problem: The biggest problem with our tax code when it comes to the business side is that we have one of the highest tax rates -- corporate tax rates -- on paper but our effective tax rate is one of the lowest … You know, how much you pay in taxes as a corporation a lot of times is going to depend on how good your lobbyist is, as opposed to any sound economic theories. So those distorting effects I'd like to actually remove and eliminate from our tax system, but obviously that's a complicated and difficult task. The last time we did it was in 1986. We're going to have to, I think, revisit that.

WSJ: You talked about the last eight years and the question of redistribution goes way back …

Sen. Obama: Oh, there's no doubt about it.

That's why I say that the combination of globalization and technology and automation all weaken the position of workers. I would add an anti-union climate to that list. But all weakens the position of workers, particularly blue-collar workers, in the economy, and some of it is just historical. You know after World War II, we were in this unique position where Europe was decimated, Japan was decimated. China was off the grid because of Mao. And so we didn't have a lot of competition out there, and now other countries are rising and automation has supplanted a lot of work that used to be done by middle-class workers.

We have drastically increased productivity since 1995, and there was the theory that if you increase productivity enough some of these problems of living standards would solve themselves. But what we've seen is rising productivity, rising corporate profits but flat-lining or even declining wages and incomes for the average family.

What that says is that it's going to be important for us to pay attention to not only growing the pie, which is always critical, but also some attention to how it is sliced. I do not believe that those two things -- fair distribution and robust economic growth -- are mutually exclusive.

You get to a point, I think, if you have a participatory income tax, for example, where you might be discouraging work because marginal rates are so high. You might undoubtedly get to a point where the capital gain and dividend taxes are so high that they distort investment decisions and you're weaker economically. But you know if you've got a sensible policy that says, we're going to capture some of the nation's economic growth … and reinvest it in things we know have to be done, like science and technology research or fixing our energy policy, and then that is actually going to be a spur to productivity and not an inhibitor.

There you have it, folks. That's Barack Obama saying that "a strong government hand is needed to ensure that wealth is distributed more equitably." Scary, huh?

Of course, some might say Cap'n Mike looks kind of like an idiot claiming that Obama said something he didn't actually say. I disagree. Just because Cap'n Mike got the quote from a chain e-mail and didn't bother to actually check to see whether the quote was accurate or not doesn't mean he's an idiot. It just means he was too lazy to do the thirty seconds' worth of online research that I did that allowed me to discover what the next President of the United States of America actually said.

Mind you, a heads-up from Mullowney might be a good idea. Perhaps she could run a disclaimer along with Cap'n Mike's piece, something along the lines of, "The author of this article has demonstrated a tendency to acquire his talking points from chain e-mails, and has also demonstrated a disinclination to perform basic research in order to verify said talking points. Reader discretion is advised."

So that's political-soul-destroying notable policy shaper number one. Who's our next contestant, Cap'n Mike?

Sen. John McCain's arguable shortcomings on critical domestic issues, and attendant "big government" solutions, as well as an irresponsible pledge to commit "the entire resources of the United States" to combat manmade global warming.

This one is kind of a disappointment. Apart from that one reference to combating global warming (and half an hour with the magical Google machine has failed to turn up a pledge by McCain to commit "the entire resources of the United States" -- I guess hasn't come across that chain e-mail yet), it's all vague generalities. What shortcomings on what critical domestic issues? What "big government" solutions? What's going on here?

It's true that after losing the Republican nomination to George W. Bush in 2000, McCain spent a few years tacking to the middle, and that he spent the summer of 2004 nagging John Kerry to pick him as his running mate. And even though McCain has been moving to the right again as he positions himself for another run at the Republican presidential nomination, diehard conservatives like Cap'n Mike have never trusted him since. What I think is going on here is that Cap'n Mike still suspects McCain of being a closet liberal, which of necessity means that McCain wants "big government" solutions, even though Cap'n Mike can't actually think of any. So we get that one quote of dubious origin along with dark mutterings about some unspecified "shortcomings" on unnamed "critical domestic issues". To be blunt, Cap'n Mike's got nothin'.

And a quick glance up at the stupidometer shows that we've reached critical and will have to scram the control rods before our brains melt down. So join me next time as I continue my critical examination of Cap'n Mike's critical examination of the de-souling of America.

(this post has been cross-posted to Rhode Island's Twelfth)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Metaphor Policy

Bloggers, inevitably, tend to use a lot of metaphorical language. Given that this blog is primarily concerned with politics here in Rhode Island, aka the Ocean State, it will be my policy, when using metaphors, to always choose a nautical metaphor (eg "learn the ropes", "weigh anchor", "in the doldrums") over a non-nautical metaphor of similar meaning (eg "get up to speed", "hit the road", "in a rut"). The same, of course, will apply to similes, where necessary.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

I Take It Back

Yeah, I know I've just spent three days fisking Cap'n Mike Caldwell's latest tirade in the Newport Daily News, but I've changed my mind. Eileen Spillane of Rhode Island's Twelfth has just put up a post pointing out that Cap'n Mike, although allegedly a fifteen-year resident of Middletown, is not on any of the recent tax rolls, is not listed in the phone book, has no voting record, and is not a current pilot listed as residing in M-town. What's going on here?

I think Eileen and I have just made an oopsie. I think we may have just accidentally exposed a bit of subterfuge on the part of the NDN staff. I suspect that Cap'n Mike might have been invented by Executive Editor Sheila Mullowney and the rest of the liberal media types at the NDN as a wingnut spoof.

Every month or so, someone at the NDN (I suspect City Editor Frank Carini, who has exhibited advanced symptoms of Bush Derangement Syndrome) pens a piece by this alleged former Navy pilot for the specific purpose of discrediting conservative ideas. I mean, come on, there's no way an actual flesh-and-blood human being could hold as many odious opinions, expressed in such repugnant language, as "Cap'n Mike", right? It's got to be a put-on, right?

If you want further proof that there is no actual Cap'n Mike, just check out the photo accompanying Tuesday's rant. You know who that is? That's Don S. Davis, a recently-deceased actor who specialized in playing military characters (he played General Hammond in Stargate SG-1 and Major Briggs in Twin Peaks). Someone at the NDN probably downloaded a photo of Davis off the internet and ran it with the piece to give a face to "Cap'n Mike".

Well, I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to the editorial staff of the Daily News for having exposed their well-intentioned (and, I now realize, rather amusing) attempt at covert political satire. Sorry.

(this post is cross-posted to Rhode Island's Twelfth)

Sheila Mullowney Punishes Her Readers, Part 3

For those just tuning in, this is the final part of a 3-part series (the first two parts are here and here) fisking Cap'n Mike Caldwell's plaintive wingnut lament "Are we losing our nation's soul?", as seen in the July 29, 2008 edition of the Newport Daily News. (John McDaid calls it deconstruction, but I prefer the traditional internet term, since I am aware of all internet traditions.) Cap'n Mike has chosen to put his career as a corporate jet pilot on hold and go into business as America's newest and wingnuttiest soul doctor. His diagnosis? America is losing its soul, and it's ALL THE LIBERALS' FAULT! Yeah, it's all the fault of those America-bashing, soul-destroying liberals! And to prove his point, Cap'n Mike has dredged up, from deep within his encyclopedic (or, at any rate, conservapedic) knowledge base, six examples of soul-destroying, America-bashing liberalness. And not just any soul-destroying liberalism, either; Cap'n Mike has chosen to focus on cultural soul-destruction this time. Next month, in the second half of his loopy tirade, he'll regale us with examples of political soul-destructiveness.

We join Cap'n Mike now as he brings us cultural-soul-destroying America-basher #5. Come in, Cap'n Mike!

Increasingly, we bear witness

Or witness bears, as the case may be.

to a generation who may be proficient with their iPods, laptops and Blackberries, know which young celebrity has the latest "baby bump," but couldn't spell "cat" if you spotted them the "c" and the "a," form a cogent sentence or identify in what war the Battle of Gettysburg occurred.

It'd sure help to make Cap'n Mike's case if he could quote some, y'know, facts to support his assertions, but that is not the wingnut way. As Saint Ronald of Santa Barbara reminds us, facts are stupid things. As a matter of, erm, fact, the College Board's last report on national SAT scores, released last August, showed that "the long-term trend for critical reading scores has been essentially flat", while the "long-term trend in mathematics scores is up, rising from 501, 20 years ago to 511, 10 years ago to 515 this year."

I can understand, though, how Cap'n Mike might get the idea that "the kids" can't form a cogent sentence, since he doubtless spends a lot of time listening to our current president and visiting conservative blogs like RedState and Free Republic. Cap'n Mike might have a better opinion of the intellectual capabilities of the Modern Generation if he spent some time visiting places like Hullabaloo and the Daily Kos. Incidentally, it might be interesting to ask Cap'n Mike himself what war the Battle of Gettysburg occurred in, since so many of his fellow right-wingers insist that it took place in something called the War Between the States, which would of course be the wrong answer, since it occurred in the American Civil War.

Anyway, Cap'n Mike's going to tell us what those soul-destroying liberals want to do about his imaginary stupidifying youngsters. The floor is yours, Cap'n Mike.

The liberal government solution: throw money at public schools and the National Education Association.

And the conservative solution? Abolish the public school system, let wealthy parents send their children to private schools, and allow everyone else to remain uneducated. Because conservatives know that the less education someone has, the more likely he is to vote Republican. (And needless to say, it wouldn't be a proper wingnut rant without at least one swipe at organized labor.)

Oh, and make sure the youngsters know how to put condoms on bananas.

Oh, Cap'n Mike, you slay me! You positively SLAY me!

What Cap'n Mike is referring to here is a story from way back in 2003 about a Florida high school teacher who was fired for showing his 9th-grade students how to use condoms. With a banana. This story has become a legend in wingnut circles, and is always trotted out whenever someone like Cap'n Mike wants to show us all How Awful Public Education Is.

And finally,


Cap'n Mike presents cultural-soul-destroying America-basher #6. May I have a drumroll please?

[sfx drumroll]

And our final contestant is . . . future First Lady Michelle Obama!

[sfx cymbal crash]

And here to explain Mrs. Obama's cultural-soul-destruction-related program activities is our own Cap'n Mike Caldwell! Let her have it, Cap'n Mike!

the wife of senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama stated that our nation's history and traditions must be "rewritten" and that America is a "mean country."

What's this? No whitey tape? No terrorist fist-jab? All right, you imposter, who are you, and what have you done with Cap'n Mike?

Aherm, yes. Anyway, regarding Cap'n Mike's actual outrage-items, they come from two different venues. First, during a visit to Puerto Rico on May 14, Mrs. Obama gave a speech in which she said about her husband,

"What motivates him today, and what will motivate him for the rest of his presidency, if he is blessed enough to receive that honor, will be the future, the world that we can build for the next generation. Our children, these beautiful little faces, they come here open and ready and unburdened by all of our hurts and pains from the past; they come fresh to this world, and we owe them the best that we can provide them as a country. And Barack knows that we are going to have to make sacrifices, we are going to have to change our conversation, we’re going to have to change our traditions, our history, we’re going to have to move into a different place as a nation to provide the kind of future that we all want desperately for our children. And he is the man to do it."

So, no, Michelle Obama didn't say that American history and traditions would have to be rewritten. The word "rewritten" is in fact an invention of Cap'n Mike's fevered wingnut paranoia.

Second, The New Yorker ran a piece by Lauren Collins in its March 10 issue which includes the following paragraphs:

The four times I heard her give the speech—in a ballroom at the University of South Carolina, from the pulpit of Pee Dee Union, at an art gallery in Charleston, and in the auditorium of St. Norbert College, in De Pere, Wisconsin—its content was admirably consistent, with few of the politician’s customary tweaks and nods to the demographic predilections, or prejudices, of a particular audience.

Obama begins with a broad assessment of life in America in 2008, and life is not good: we’re a divided country, we’re a country that is “just downright mean,” we are “guided by fear,” we’re a nation of cynics, sloths, and complacents. “We have become a nation of struggling folks who are barely making it every day,” she said, as heads bobbed in the pews. “Folks are just jammed up, and it’s gotten worse over my lifetime. And, doggone it, I’m young. Forty-four!”

Cap'n Mike probably hasn't noticed, since he views the world through his wingnut blinders, but life in America is just downright mean. We're faced every day with mean, petty, nasty people like a certain corporate jet pilot I could name. Of course, if Cap'n Mike were capable of noticing just how downright mean things are in this country, he wouldn't be a wingnut.

You mean the America that saved Eureope and the free world -- twice -- during wars in which literally millions of our countrymen served and hundreds upon hundreds of thousands made the ultimate sacrifice to bring those victorious outcomes about?

No, Cap'n Mike, that's not the America that Michelle Obama means. After all, you and your fellow wingnuts have spent the last forty years trying to kill that America and replace it with one where the government spies on its citizens and launches pointless invasions of other countries and tortures prisoners and drives down wages and eliminates old age pensions. And you've done such a good job that the America that fought fascism has been replaced by an America that is duplicating fascism's worst features.

The Founding Fathers, with divine guidance, provided not just a political roadmap, but a moral compass and cultural soul that has served as the bedrock of American exceptionalism for 232 years.

I think you mean 224 years, Cap'n Mike. After all, your fellow conservatives have spent the last eight years demagnetizing that moral compass so it points in the direction of greed, cruelty, and barbarism, while tarnishing that cultural soul until it's as black as Dick Cheney's heart.

It's long past time we reassert among ourselves as individuals, communities, states and country a return to more fundamentally traditional American social, moral and cultural values.

Well, duh! Of course it is! Why do you think we're working so hard to remove the Republicans from power?

Those values reflect qualities of family, faith, pride in country, rugged individualism, toughness, self-reliance and respect for others -- to mention but a few -- all of which have served America's past generations so well.

Well, duh! Of course they have! That's why it's so disappointing to so many of us that you and your fellow wingnuts have chosen to embrace cheating, lying, slander, theft, corruption, dishonesty, and divisiveness -- to mention but a few -- and have devoted so much misdirected effort to trying to remake this country in your own twisted image.

In that regard, I emphatically reject those who advocate that America needs to be "more like the rest of the world," and in doing so not only sacrifice her essense,

"We must preserve the purity of essense of our precious bodily fluids."

but douse the flame of the last remaining beacon of hope for mankind.

Why, you may wonder, does Cap'n Mike regard America as the last remaining beacon of hope? Aren't there plenty of other freedom-loving nations in the world? Isn't Western Europe packed with 'em?

Sadly, no. Wingnut doctrine holds that Europe will soon be overrun by islamofascist hordes, leaving America as the only remaining Christian nation in the world. Only America is free of the taint of socialized medicine, decriminalized marijuana, and enthusiastic soccer fans. That's what makes America the last shining beacon of true white civilization in a world seething with brown-skinned heathens and infidels.

Don't take my word for it. Just ask Cap'n Mike.

(this post has been cross-posted to Rhode Island's Twelfth)