C Street Investigation?

I guess we’re finally going to get to the bottom of this. CREW is headed by a former federal prosecutor and they don’t like to waste time on cases they can’t win:

WASHINGTON – A government watchdog group says it has filed ethics complaints against lawmakers who have rented rooms in a controversial Capitol Hill townhouse.

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington – CREW for short – cites news reports that say House members and some senators have paid below-market rents to live in a house on C Street SE that is owned by a Christian prayer group known as the Fellowship. CREW wants the House and Senate ethics committees to determine whether the monthly rent, reported to be around $950, is below the market value. If so, CREW says, the discount could amount to an illegal gift.

A spokesman for one resident of the house named in CREW’s complaint, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, said the rent covers a furnished room and shared bathroom. It does not include meals, housekeeping in his room or parking and is therefore in line with market prices.

Democratic Reps. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania and Bart Stupak of Michigan said they no longer live in the house but that while there, the rent was fairly assessed.

Other lawmakers named in the complaint did not respond to calls for comment. They are: Republican Sens. Sam Brownback of Kansas and John Ensign of Nevada, neither of whom currently live in the house. Also named in the complaint were Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. and Reps. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., and Zach Wamp, R-Tenn.

Bliss

Just got my car back, and the brakes work and everything! I’m really going to miss that horrible loud sound it used to make when I parallel-parked, though.

Thanks to all who donated.

Once I Had A Secret Love

I love dishes. I used to have a lot of them, but I had to taper off as I kept moving to smaller places. Now I’m down to two sets (practical tempered glass dishes for everyday and microwave use, a slightly nicer set of casual china), but I still look at them longingly all the time.

I look at dinnerware the way other obsessed people read cookbooks. (Overstock.com is my favorite fix.) I also picture myself entertaining with them, which is pretty silly. No one comes to visit me anymore and when I get together with my friends, it’s always at a restaurant – with someone else’s dishes.

I still remember my first set of stoneware. It was Danish, with brown and orange accents. (Hey, it was the Seventies. Earth tones were everywhere!) Then I got another set of Danish stoneware, but it was deep sky blue with speckles. I remember it had these lovely curved teacups that fit right into my hand. (The ex got them with the divorce. Damn.)

Now my dishes are white, surrounded by a band of primary colors. Because I can’t stand to commit to a single color scheme, you know?

Sometimes I like to dream about having a spacious loft apartment, with those big rolling wire restaurant shelves which of course would be stacked with dishes. When people would come to visit, I’d say casually, “Oh, which dishes should we use?” And they’d say, “It’s so hard to pick, you have so many nice dishes!”

I’d bring out some big handpainted pasta dishes and put a pile of fresh pasta in the middle of the table, family style. I’d have some fabulous hand-blown wine glasses I picked up somewhere “for a song” and we’d all toast.

In that other world, the one where I have all the dishes.

Mountains of Cash

This certainly is enlightening:

One piece of economic data that has caught the attention of Byrnes, and others in his predicament, is a fairly staggering figure that comes out of the Bureau of Economic Analysis: Despite widespread unemployment, the BEA reports that U.S. corporations, reluctant to expand in an uncertain economy, are sitting on $1.6 trillion in cash reserves, a record amount, according to BEA economist Greg Key.

Even looking at the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index of blue chips — and stripping out financials, which are required by regulators to keep large cash reserves in order to cushion against risk — the cash on hand number is still rather monstrous: $1.1 trillion. To put that in perspective, as a percentage of companies’ total market capitalization, that $1.1 trillion is more than double the ratio seen before the crisis.

“Cash is piling up faster than companies can figure out what to do with it,” said David Bianco, head of U.S. equity strategy at Bank of America.

[…] “Companies should absolutely spend some of that money to put people back to work,” Byrnes said by telephone earlier this week, clearly frustrated. “I suppose they need to make shareholders happy, but come on already.”

Actually, according to Bianco, shareholders will soon start to demand that cordoned off cash be put to work, either through some form of growth initiative or at the very least used to pay out a higher dividend. In either case, it’s not expected that the cash being hoarded will at any point translate into rapid hiring.

A Call To Conscience

I’m really sorry that I missed this, because Martin Luther King Jr. is one of a small handful of heroes I have. I hope I get to catch it on a rerun:

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt of Tavis Smiley’s PBS film “Beyond Vietnam” [MLK: A Call to Conscience] that will air on Wednesday night.

Tavis Smiley, joining us now from Burbank, California, welcome to Democracy Now! This is extremely powerful and relevant, as President Obama just made this surprise trip to Afghanistan. You go back to a time when another African American leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, broke ranks not only with the president that he had worked with on civil rights and voting rights, but with many in his own circles, to speak out against the war in Vietnam.

TAVIS SMILEY: Yeah, Amy, first of all, always an honor to be on your program.

The timing of this special, airing on Wednesday night, to your point, could not be more propitious, given that the President has just made this surprise visit to Afghanistan. Of course, we never know these things when we schedule these kinds of specials, what the news will bring us, but the timing, again, couldn’t be any better.

But this speech, “Beyond Vietnam: Breaking the Silence,” is given by Dr. King on April 4, 1967, literally one year to the day later he’s assassinated in Memphis, April 4, 1968. But to your point, it is the speech that caused him the greatest deal of controversy and consternation, quite frankly. Most Americans, I think, know the “I Have a Dream” speech. Some Americans, Amy, know the “Mountaintop” speech given the night before he was assassinated in Memphis. But most Americans do not know this “Beyond Vietnam” speech, which got King, again, in a world of trouble. He comes out very clearly and talks about three things that are causing him consternation: militarism, racism and poverty. And he links all three of those things in this “Beyond Vietnam” speech.

And the speech is so—it so rankles and angers the country that 168 major newspapers the next day—168 the following day—all did editorials denouncing him. The New York Times, the liberal New York Times, called the speech “wasteful” and “self-defeating.” The Washington Post goes on to aver that he has done himself, his country and the world, quite frankly, a disservice, and he would never be respected again—paraphrasing it, but that’s what the Washington Post says the next day. But in most major newspapers he was denounced the next day, because the night before, in the speech, he had referred to the US, Amy, as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

And for saying that, he gets demonized by most major newspapers; he gets disinvited, as you said earlier, by LBJ to the White House; indeed, black leaders—Roy Wilkins, the head of the NAACP, Whitney Young, the head of the Urban League—black leaders turned against him. And finally, over the next year of his life before he’s killed in Memphis, the last poll taken about his popularity, a Harris poll, Amy, found that almost three-quarters of the American people had turned against King. Fifty-five percent of his own people, black folk, had turned against King. The last years of his life were very, very lonely, in part because he was so adamant about the war in Vietnam.

AMY GOODMAN: Tavis, I want to go to that very place in Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech that he gave at Riverside Church, April 4th, 1967.

REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask, and rightly so, “What about Vietnam?” And I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government.

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, that was Dr. King, April 4th, 1967. A year later to the day, he would be assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Time Magazine called the speech “demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi.” But he wouldn’t stop, Tavis Smiley.

TAVIS SMILEY: Yeah, he would not stop. And what’s fascinating, Amy—and I think this will come through Wednesday night, when the special airs on PBS—what will come through is that if you replace the words “Iraq” for “Vietnam,” “Afghanistan” for “Vietnam,” “Pakistan” for “Vietnam,” this speech is so relevant today.

There’s a powerful part of the special. We talk to so many of King’s closest aides, advisers, scholars across the country who are part of this conversation. You played the piece from Clayborne Carson a moment ago who’s in charge of the King papers. And so many in King’s circle, so many of King’s devotees were disappointed when President Obama—himself, of course, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient. So you have King, the youngest ever, then and now, to receive the Peace Prize, of black men from the United States, you have Barack Obama, a young African American man, President of the United States, both now with these Nobel Peace Prizes.

And in President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech, we wrestle with a particular part of that text that nobody in the mainstream media seems to have wrestled with, and that is the part in the speech—King and Obama, of course, already locked together in history, I think, as the two most iconic African Americans now, during the campaign black folk everywhere wearing T-shirts with King and Obama’s face on the T-shirt. So they’re already linked in history. But then Obama steps to the podium in Oslo and starts out with a particular part of his speech where he’s giving Dr. King his just respect. It’s impossible for, again, this second, this black man, Obama—the other black man, of course, to receive the prize, Ralph Bunche—but impossible for President Obama to give this speech, I think, in Oslo without referencing Dr. King. So he talks about King and gives him the requisite respect he deserves.

But then, in that speech, Amy, he makes a turn and talks about the fact—and I’m paraphrasing here—that he can’t be guided by King’s notion of nonviolence in today’s world. And he suggests he couldn’t do that because King didn’t know al-Qaeda. And that really—and he goes deeper than that, but he really starts to rankle some who have been—you know, who worked with and advised Dr. King. Harry Belafonte and others talk in this special about how that really pricked them, and some of them felt insulted by that, as if Dr. King did not know violence in his lifetime and as if he could not intellectually wrestle with the violence, the terrorism that we’re up against today, but most importantly, the notion that nonviolence in today’s world is irrelevant and could not make a difference. So it’s a fascinating conversation about the parallels, and yet, at the same time, the tension, on the issue of war and peace between King and Obama.
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April Fools

Rufus Wainwright with one of my very favorite songs (how many lyricists write about love and smelly fish in the same song?):

Oh what a shame that your pockets did bleed
on st. valentine’s
And you sat in a chair
Thinking “boy i’m such a prince!”
Well, life’s a train that goes from february on
Day by day
But it’s making a stop on april first

And you will believe in love
And all that it’s supposed to be
But just until the fish start to smell
And you’re struck down by a hammer

Sure, you were swift
When the handsome greek boys dropped by with gifts
You are suave
Thanks to ribbons that open sesame
But in the stars and closer to home, in every planet
It ain’t hard for me and dear jo jo to see

That you will believe in love
And all that it’s supposed to be
But just until the fish start to smell
And you’re struck down by a hammer

So let it all go by
Looking at the sky
Wondering if there’s clouds and stuff in hell

And you will believe in love
And all that it’s supposed to be
But just until the fish start to smell
And you’re struck down by a hammer.

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