I am supposed to believe there is such a thing as real competition in this country. I just got off the phone with Comcast, telling them I wanted only the bare minimum of services, reduced from what I currently have.

I keep going through this exercise, and I keep forgetting how Kafkaesque the whole thing is: By cutting off premium and HD channels, I can save (wait for it) $1.89 a month. Wow.

No one ever believes me when I tell them, either. Comcast just threw in a $15 a month credit and free HBO and Showtime if I keep the same service for $2 more. This is some crazy shit.

UPDATE: Hello to all the visitors from Shakesville. I’m really enjoying your comments on this.

Fracking East Alabama

Fracking may be coming to East Alabama in the hills of the Talladega National Forest.

On June 14th the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will sell leases for approximately 43,000 acres in the Talladega National Forest in eastern Alabama for oil and gas extraction after being approached by an unknown drilling company. Interest in the area appears to be on shale gas in the Black Warrior Shale Basin beneath Talladega National Forest. Some of the wells may use fracking as a method to release gas deposits.

There are quite a few citizens and officials that are very concerned about it. There was meeting at the Ritz Theater in Talladega, AL on Monday this week to discuss these concerns. One was the lack of notification by the BLM. U.S. Congressman Mike Rogers (R- Saks AL) has asked the BLM to delay proceeding with the sale so the public may review the proposals. He had stated that the BLM did not properly notify officials in the area of the proposed sales. Francine Hutchinson, a local biology instructor and naturalist, said she keeps up with news on the Talladega National Forest on line and stated she was unaware of the announcement and the comment period that ended April 19th. Calhoun County Commissioner Tim Hodges who represents the area didn’t even know about the proposed leases until near the end of the comment period.

Rep. Randy Wood, R-Saks, said he was opposed to oil and gas drilling in the forest and was caught off-guard recently when he learned that the process was moving forward so swiftly.

“I’m all for drilling,” Wood said. “But there are plenty of places for drilling without drilling in the forest.”

On behalf of environmental groups Wild South and Natural Resources Defense Council, the Southern Environmental Law Center was able to send a letter of protest before the April 19 deadline. The protest states the impact study used for the proposal of the leases from 2004 is outdated and new studies need to include the impact should fracking be used as a method of extraction.

“The Bureau of Land Management is proposing a massive intrusion into Alabama’s national forests without properly analyzing the potential impacts and without providing sufficient information to the public.  Some of the areas they propose leasing for oil and gas development are near some of the most popular destinations in the forests,” said Keith Johnston, managing attorney for the Birmingham office of the Southern Environmental Law Center.

John Stephens, a retired local geologist, at Monday’s meeting in Talladega was concerned about possible outcomes from fracking to the aquifers of the area.

“Fracking is a frightful thing for our communities,” he said. “Holes in (Mt.) Cheaha may come out in Sylacauga, or in Montgomery. Four to six million gallons of water, sand and chemicals will be used in each well, and those chemicals are going to eventually surface somewhere.

There has been no comment from the BLM regarding the sale of the leases and the details of the plan for the leases will not be made public until after the sale.



She is a bitch!

Trent Franks, the Arizona Republican who proposed a 20-week abortion ban in Washington, DC and then barred DC’s pro-choice female delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton from speaking out against the measure has a new problem on his hands: a flood of DC residents who are bringing their municipal complaints directly to the Congressman, who they’re calling “Mayor.” From potholes to rodent problems to public transportation complaints, DC residents have followed Franks’ lead and begun funneling their problems to him rather than the city’s own government. Well played, smartasses. Well fucking played.

The protest was a cooperative effort between Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington DC and a group called DC Vote, which aims to secure representation for DC in Congress. Today, about 50 DC residents eagerly waited outside of Rep. Franks’ door, ready to let “Mayor Franks” know how he could make his newly claimed city better. According to the Huffington Post‘sLaura Bassett, some carried plastic rats, some toted pictures of the potholes they wanted Mayor Franks to fill, and some brought disputed parking tickets.

But not everyone got the chance for face time with Mayor Franks, the Arizonan who just sorta declared himself King of DC’s D&C’s. One put-out resident explained his complaint,

My issue today is metro — full funding for metro. As a constituent here, I use metro all the time, my children use it, and it’s really disgraceful the condition they’ve allowed metro to get to. I have to say I’m very disappointed today. I really wanted to meet my representative, Mr. Franks. He’s supposed to be representing us and I did take some time to come in here today, so I hope he takes these concerns into account.

When confronted on the absurdity of a man from Arizona trying to legislate the rights of women in DC, Franks explained that it wasn’t about Arizona, or DC, or women. It’s about “the pain of the fetus.”

Please, Br’er Fox

Please, Gov. Romney, please pick Chris Christie as your running mate. Sure, there are those who say he’s a nasty, unqualified bully who can’t keep his mouth shut, but they’re saying that because they’re just jealous. (Look how much Cory Booker likes him!) I know how impressed voters of the Northeast corridor will be when you announce his name, so please give this your serious consideration. Every Democrat will thank you:

As New Jersey’s nonpartisan budget analyst testified before Assembly lawmakers about a $1.3 billion revenue shortfall, Republican Governor Chris Christie offered his own analysis of the speaker.

“Why would anyone with a functioning brain believe this guy?” Christie said yesterday, referring to David Rosen, who reported that the governor’s budget overestimates revenue collections through June 2013.

He’s “a joke,” a “handmaiden” for Democrats who control the Senate and the Assembly, Christie said. “The Dr. Kevorkian of the numbers.

The comparison between Rosen, whose work in the Office of Legislative Services is overseen by a bipartisan commission, and a physician who assisted suicides in the 1990s was the latest in a litany of insults from the governor. His targets say that when the facts don’t favor him, Christie resorts to calling critics “jerk,” “idiot,” “numbnuts” and the like.

“This is yet another example of the governor’s reprehensible use of name-calling whenever things don’t break his way,” said Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald.

Rosen, 65, declined to comment on the governor’s remarks. The budget and finance chief, who isn’t answerable to Christie, has a doctorate in political science from Rutgers University and has worked on state spending plans since 1991.

It isn’t freedom

If you have no agency over your own body.

The latest line from the Obama cheerleaders is that the wimmenz should just shut up and sit down, or big bad Romney will make the next SCOTUS appointment. That kind of brilliant strategy has led to the fact that in many states, women can no longer get an abortion. That’s mind-boggling. Soon it will be like the old days, when women ran an underground service that brought women to NYC, which was then the only place in the US where abortion was available.

Yeah, what Liss said. This is bullshit.


Since I know one of the plaintiffs and one of the potential witnesses in this case, I was pretty sure what happened is something you see all the time in business: You present an idea, someone with money and power takes it and oh well! How nice that this will have a happier ending:

Two Democratic consultants who claim they supplied Arianna Huffington and Ken Lerer with the idea for the Huffington Post have filed an amended version of their lawsuit, saying emails and other documents they obtained through discovery show how the defendants appropriated the concept and attempted to cover their tracks.

In the new filing, the plaintiffs, Daou and Boyce, accuse Huffington and Lerer of playing a double game with them in late 2004 and early 2005, as plans for the website were coming together.

“[A]t the same time as Huffington and Lerer were soliciting Boyce’s and Daou’s ideas and plans, telling them that they were building together what would become The Huffington Post, and shaking hands with Boyce and Daou in a manifestation of their business relationship, we now know that Huffington and Lerer were secretly sending Plaintiffs’ ideas to other individuals and developing their own business venture…while excluding them from ownership and control,” reads the complaint.

Those “other individuals” were Roy Sekoff, HuffPost’s founding editor, and Andrew Breitbart, the conservative blogger who worked on the launch in its early stages. (Breitbart died in March 2012.) On Dec. 7, 2004 — three days after Boyce and Daou say Huffington and Lerer agreed to work with them — Huffington emailed a copy of Boyce’s proposed business plan to Sekoff, along with Lerer’s critique of it. Within two weeks, Breitbart had been recruited as well.

The similarities between the Boyce/Daou plan and the HuffPost that eventually emerged without their involvement were documented in the original complaint, filed in November 2010.

In discovery, however, the plaintiffs obtained the minutes of a meeting held March 29, 2005, at which Huffington, Lerer, Sekoff and Breitbart “discussed possible responses to press inquiries on the subject of when and how the idea for the website originated.” According to the minutes, Sekoff and Breitbart suggested that Huffington and Lerer deflect questions about how they came together by saying it “doesn’t matter.”

The plaintiffs say the exchanges detailed in the minutes “reflect the deliberate creation of a false and fraudulent ‘narrative’ to explain the origin of the idea for The Huffington Post.”

This is, as you can guess, an expensive problem for AOL and HuffPo. Karma!

The wild, the innocent and the K Street shuffle

Dave Dayen on “refreshing contacts”:

I always find the revolving door to be an intriguing subject of inquiry. The combination of big money in influencing policy, as well as the transient nature of most political jobs, combines to ensure that members of Congress and their staffs put in their time building relationships on Capitol Hill, only to jump over to K Street to lobby those ex-colleagues. You have to do this a few times, to maintain the relationships with the new cast of characters and prove your worth to the paymasters of the lobbyists. And so that’s what we see.

The Hill takes a look at this today.

Some former lobbyists who left the influence industry last year to work as aides on Capitol Hill are already back on K Street. Others are coming to lobby shops for the first time, some from the offices of freshman members elected in 2010 […]

Among the staffers who have returned to their lobbying careers after a stint on Capitol Hill are Jim Barnette, Sarah Beatty and Anne Steckel.

Barnette served as the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s general counsel. He worked for Steptoe & Johnson before moving to the committee. Barnette has since rejoined the firm and registered to lobby for big-name clients like Facebook and Fluor Corp.

Beatty lobbied for the American College of Cardiology prior to serving Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.) as chief of staff. Now she is registered to lobby for Wal-Mart.

And Steckel left Growth Energy to serve Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) as chief of staff. She now works as a lobbyist for the National Biodiesel Board.

One lobbyist quoted in the article says quite explicitly that the goal of flipping back to Capitol Hill after some time on K Street is to “refresh contacts.” You get to know the new players in Congress, and after a time, you have a blueprint from which to lobby them. So you head back out for a payday.

This is basically legalized bribery. You have lobbyists working off relationships gained from close contacts with Congressional figures. Maybe they aren’t passing money around, but they are passing what amounts to a “legislative subsidy,” in the form of working knowledge. And at the end of the day, the favors are made to friends. And campaign contributions always lurk in the background.

This is why getting rid of incumbents doesn’t matter. There’s a powerful staffer establishment on Capitol Hill, and they’ll still be there no matter who loses.

It’s over

I still remember the first time I heard Alison Krauss sing. It was in 1987, on the old “Sunnyside” program on WXPN, and the purity of her voice just took my breath away:

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