Snark: to annoy or irritate

"Snark" has been in English language dictionaries since at least 1906, and Lewis Carroll used the word to describe a mythological animal in his poem, The Hunting of the Snark (1874). Most recently, the word has come to characterize snappish, sarcastic, or mean-spirited comments or actions directed at those who annoy or irritate us.

At first, this blog was just going be a place to gripe, but because it's more satisfying to take action than it is to merely complain, now most of the posts/reposts suggest ways to get involved in solving problems.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Eric Cantor is Wrong About Social Security

A Message from Democracy for America:

Either House Majority Leader Eric Cantor doesn't understand how Social Security works or he doesn't care.

Just hours after President Obama said that Social Security cuts and privatization are off the table, Cantor said that Social Security had to be cut to balance the budget. But here's the thing: Social Security does not and never has added a single dime to the federal deficit.

Let me try to explain this to Mr. Cantor. Social Security is paid for through the payroll tax. Currently, the payroll tax raises way more money than Social Security pays out and things are projected to keep going this way for another couple of decades.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? They add to the deficit. Tax breaks for billionaires? They add to the deficit. Subsidies for big oil? They add to the deficit. Bailing out Mr. Cantor's friends on Wall Street when they make a bunch of shady deals, cause a financial crisis and almost ruin the world economy? That adds a lot to the deficit.

Simply put, Social Security will run a surplus for decades. The rest of the budget runs a deficit. So, why are we even talking about Social Security?

Here's why: Eric Cantor and his right-wing friends want to destroy the program. That's the only reason we're having this conversation. Join me now and let's send Eric Cantor and other members of Congress a message -- Keep Social Security safe, stable and secure.

Please sign the petition now.

Eric Cantor's comments aren't anything new. Right-wing Republicans have been trying to tear down Social Security for generations. It's the holy grail of the right-wing.

Now Republicans are playing with fire -- they're threatening to shut down the government. They're holding the debt ceiling hostage. They'll do whatever it takes to put cutting Social Security on the table.

But America is a community. We stand up for one another -- including our seniors. That's why DFA has launched it's biggest campaign ever to push back against the right-wing lies and spin and to push a real solution to keep Social Security safe, stable and secure forever.

See, right now people like Mitch McConnell and Sarah Palin don't pay the same percentage of their income into Social Security that most Americans do -- and big surprise -- neither does Eric Cantor. That's because the tax is capped at $106,800, but most Americans don't know it. All we need to do is scrap the cap and make the payroll tax fair and equal for everyone to keep Social Security safe, stable and secure.

Join the movement to beat back the right-wing and keep Social Security safe, stable and secure.

When we stand up for our values of community, security and liberty, America wins.

-Arshad Hasan, Executive Director
Democracy for America

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Filibuster Reform: Thank 3 Senators

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Clicking here will automatically add your name to this petition to Sens. Tom Udall, Tom Harkin and Jeff Merkley:

The end game for Senate rules reform has become clear, and it's not pretty. Despite the best efforts of Senators Merkley, Tom Udall and Harkin, in the near future we're likely to see only a weak, bipartisan gesture towards Senate reform. At most there will be a few minor tweaks to how the Senate is run without any attempt to address its underlying dysfunction. While disappointed, we cannot and will not stop fighting for reform as long as the Senate remains a place where good legislation goes to die. The stakes are simply too high.

And as we recommit to this fight, we should recognize the tremendous effort by Democratic champions for filibuster reform, particularly Sens. Tom Udall, Jeff Merkley and Tom Harkin to put this issue on the table.
By all accounts, the overwhelming majority of Senate Democrats supported the move known as the "Constitutional Option" to fix the filibuster and other Senate rules by majority vote. This would allow Democrats to change the rules with 51 votes.
However, the Constitutional Option was only available on the first "legislative day" of a new session of Congress (a technical term that does not correspond to a calendar day).
When the Senate adjourned on Tuesday night, the first legislative day ended, and the Democrats lost their only opportunity in this session of Congress to pass Senate rules reform with a simple majority vote. Any rules changes in this Congress now face a 2/3rds supermajority requirement to pass, and nothing significant will have the votes to overcome that threshold.
The inability of the Democrats to capitalize on this opportunity is a substantive failure for all of us who wanted to see Senate reform enacted any time soon. But even more than that, it demonstrates a monumental failure of leadership by the top Democrats in the Senate.
Democratic leaders like Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer have time and again blamed Republican filibusters for their inability to move the Democratic legislative agenda through the Senate.
This was a sentiment shared by their colleagues. Just a month ago, Democrats in the Senate were so fed up with the endless abuse of the filibuster by Republicans that every single returning senator in the Democratic caucus signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid about the need for rules reform.
However, a handful of reluctant Democrats (we've been told as few as six or seven) were unwilling to support the Constitutional Option. And Democratic leadership decided it would rather negotiate with Republicans than bring the caucus into line.
Nominally, these holdout Democrats were worried about setting a precedent for the Republicans — under the false notion that not taking action when they had the chance would make Republicans hesitant to change the rules to their own advantage when they eventually regain the majority.
In essence, these weak-kneed Democrats were willing to forfeit any chance at governance in the next two years, including giving up a reasonable chance to address the crisis in the judiciary and end the Republicans hostage-taking approach to judicial appointments. And all in the hopes that when the Republicans take power they will play nice.
The Democratic leadership faced a choice — they could whip the votes for the Constitutional Option and undercut the ability of the Republican minority to abuse the rules, or they could accept the decision by a fraction of their members to give the Republicans what is in effect a veto over the Democratic agenda. I think you know what they chose.
When push came to shove, rather than address the issue of filibuster reform head on, the Democratic leadership forfeited their ability to stop the abuses.
We now face a long-term effort to fix the Senate. Without buy-in from the leadership of the Democratic caucus, we'll continue to need rank and file Democrats like Sens. Udall, Merkley and Harkin to join us in this fight.
And as they continue fighting, they need to know we support them.
Thank you for standing up for real filibuster reform.
Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Clean Air Act: Send EPA Comments Now!

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For decades, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act have played an indispensable role in protecting public health.
Today, their ability to do so is under siege from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress — and in the wake of the State of the Union speech, the President's commitment to defending the EPA is looking none-too-strong.
The EPA is accepting comments until January 31st on their proposed timeline for issuing rules to limit pollution from power plants and petroleum refineries — some of the nation's oldest and dirtiest pollution sources — which account for 40% of all U.S. global warming pollution.
Commenting on a timeline may seem a bit wonky, but in the face of mounting pressure from Congress, it's crucial that we encourage the EPA to issue these rules on time and without delay.
The current threats to the EPA are myriad. Senators like Jay Rockefeller and a sobering number of his fellow Democrats are floating proposals to delay for two years the EPA's authority to regulate global warming pollution.
The new Republican congress, elected by unprecedented campaign contributions from polluters in the oil and coal industries, and led by new Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, have set their sights much higher. They are already working to strip the EPA of its climate authority altogether, and generally hamstring EPA's ability to regulate big polluters. Even, or especially, if it means threatening the EPA's funding. Going even further, Newt Gingrich has called for abolishing the EPA entirely.
President Obama meanwhile is clearly feeling the pressure. His State of the Union address included only a passing reference to protecting our air and water, and glaring omissions of climate change, the EPA or even the BP oil disaster.
It is tragic that in the face of rapid escalation of climate change and the occurrence of extreme weather events, not only will congress take no action to address climate pollution; they are actively working to undermine the agency with the greatest ability to make a difference.
Over the next two years, it will largely be up to us to save the EPA's ability to protect us from dangerous pollution. Let's send a strong message of support right now.
Thanks for standing up for the EPA.
Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager CREDO Action

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Fat-Head's Newest Target

The latest target of Glenn Beck's paranoid conspiracy fantasies has been receiving death threats. Enough is enough. Ask advertisers to Drop Fox now.
sign the petition
A message from People for the American Way:
Drop FoxGlenn Beck's latest conspiracy theory target is a 78-year-old professor who, 45 years ago, published an article with her husband which posited that people overwhelming the welfare rolls could put enough stress on the system that it would force the need for certain reforms to help the poor.

The result? City University of New York professor and longtime advocate for the poor and working class, Frances Fox Piven has been receiving repeated death threats on online message boards and has personally received angry and violent emails.1

Beck has chosen to escalate these attacks even after the sad instance of political violence we recently experienced -- and are still recovering from -- in Arizona. Amidst calls to bring an end to incendiary, violence-causing rhetoric, Beck is doubling down, and if his network and advertisers simply sit back and watch, they must be held accountable for any violence this rhetoric may reap.

This is over the line, even for Beck. Tell advertisers to Drop Fox right now. 
Advertisers' sponsorship of the network that gives Beck his platform is unacceptable. Let these companies know that Americans are watching them and are ready to hold them accountable.

Beck says that the Frances Fox Piven and her now-deceased husband's goal was to "intentionally collapse our economic system," and he traces every paranoid fantasy of liberal plots to destroy America and capitalism (the mythical "voter fraud" by ACORN, health care and financial reform, the Obama presidency itself) directly to what he calls the "Cloward-Piven Strategy" (Cloward being Piven's late husband).

In light of the escalation of violent, rage-filled comments directed at Piven by presumed Beck fans, groups like the Center for Constitutional Rights have been calling on Fox News to make Beck cease his personal attacks. But Fox refuses. According to the New York Times:
Joel Cheatwood, a senior vice president, said Friday that Mr. Beck would not be ordered to stop talking about Ms. Piven on television. He said Mr. Beck had quoted her accurately and had never threatened her.

"'The Glenn Beck Program,' probably above and beyond any on television, has denounced violence repeatedly," Mr. Cheatwood said.
Mr. Cheatwood, that is simply not true. Here's what we know:

Byron Williams, the would-be assassin of staff of the ACLU and the Tides Foundation in San Francisco, who was stopped by police in a shootout in July 2010, cited Glenn Beck as his inspiration, specifically singling out Beck programs from June of that year in which Williams said Beck had "been breaking open some of the most hideous corruption." It was on his Fox News show of June 10 that year that Glenn Beck said, "You're gonna have to shoot them in the head," in reference to Democrats such as then U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who he described as a Marxist "revolutionary" and "communist."

Now this cycle is starting to repeat itself right before our very eyes! 
Enough is enough. It's very important that after you take action, you share this petition with others -- recommending it to your friends on Facebook is one great way.

Thanks for standing up to right-wing bullies and their dangerous attacks.
-- Ben Betz, Online Communications Manager


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Why The Birds Are Dying: One Nut-Job's Answer

A Message from People for the American Way:  

Have you been wondering about those thousands of birds that fell from the sky in Arkansas on New Years Eve? According to "respected prophet" and Religious Right rising star Cindy Jacobs, the event which some have playfully dubbed the "aflockalypse" was the result of ... wait for it ... the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy getting repealed. I wish I was kidding. You really have to see this. 
Cindy Jacobs says the birds are dying because of Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal. 
cindy jacobs
Before shrugging off this self-identified "prophet" as just another crazy, remember that she and others with similarly extreme views are the new face of the Religious Right, a constituency whose influence has grown immensely with the Republican gains of this last election. 
Recently, PFAW's blog discovered footage of Cindy Jacobs' response to the mass bird deaths. Since then the video has been watched on YouTube more than 270,000 times and has been featured on blogs, TV and radio programs around the world.

The "prophet" Cindy Jacobs, the cofounder of an organization called Generals International, has been steadily gaining prominence in the right-wing movement over the past year.

We started tracking Jacobs last year when right-wing leaders Harry Jackson, Jim Garlow, and Janet Porter participated in a conference she organized during which Porter prayed that God would give Christians control over the media and Jacobs carried out a faith healing on audience members. And she is only one example of the Radical Right leaders we track whose influence is growing both within their movement and in our national politics.

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, despite the viciousness of his unabashed anti-gay and anti-Muslim bigotry and his penchant for crossing the lines of decency and rationality, routinely plays host to some of the most powerful Republican members of Congress and potential presidential candidates. Most recently, he had on his radio show supposed "moderate" Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, who said that if he is elected president he will reinstate Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Fischer is profiled in the latest Newsweek, which cites our research.

David Barton, whom we've tracked extensively for years and will be releasing a Right Wing Watch In Focus report on soon, has made a career of peddling concocted falsehoods about our nation's history and its founders. He was instrumental in the recent attempt by the Texas State Board of Education to inject right-wing propaganda into textbooks in place of actual history and he's been a regular guest of Glenn Beck, who calls Barton the "most important man in America today." Barton is now scheduled to bring his brand of right-wing revisionist history and faux scholarship to the halls of Congress by teaching one of Rep. Michele Bachmann's Tea Party "classes" on the Constitution.

You don't need to get these updates on important players in the new right-wing movement from me ... you can go right to the source at is currently ranked by Technorati as one of the top U.S. political blogs and is the leading source for information on the extremism of the Religious Right, the Tea Party and the right-wing movement as a whole.

I urge you to take advantage of this resource and visit regularly.

Michael B. Keegan signature
Michael Keegan, President 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Call Out Mike Simpson's Hypocrisy

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Who would have the audacity to vote for repealing affordable health care for 32 million Americans while gladly accepting generous, federally subsidized insurance for themselves?
Your Idaho representative — Rep. Simpson — along with 236 other congressional health care hypocrites.
Over the past two years, especially during the election season, Republicans and a select few Democrats did everything they could to derail health care reform. They fueled fears and misinformation, throwing around terms like "socialist," "fascist," "government takeover," and of course "death panels."
Now they've fulfilled their campaign promise and voted for a full repeal. But what most of them haven't done is given up the affordable, subsidized care that they voted yesterday to deny so many of us.1
The hypocrisy of the health care repeal effort has known no bounds.
And yesterday the health care hypocrites went all the way, voting to repeal the entire health care bill — without offering alternatives, without dialing back their anti-government rhetoric or changing the bill's outrageous official title ("Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act"), and without repealing the generous federal insurance benefits they receive and have worked so hard to deny to others.
As progressives, we value a system that helps Americans get the care they need. And new polling indicates that the majority of Americans want to keep or strengthen reforms that help provide affordable care.2
If Rep. Simpson doesn't believe the federal government should play a role in that — fine. But rather than voting to deny affordable care to millions of Americans and allowing insurance companies to discriminate against children on the basis of pre-existing conditions, he should practice what he preaches and start by canceling his own federal care — care that you and I pay for.
Repeal proponents have long argued the wisdom and availability of private insurance. So these representatives should have no trouble getting great private health coverage from the insurance companies they've been representing so well.
Thanks for taking a stand against health care hypocrisy,
Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager CREDO Action

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Preserve Women's Health Care

Preserve Women's Health Care!
One of the first acts of the new Congress will be a vote on the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law enacted last year. To repeal this law, however, is to harm women and their families, and to once again allow insurance companies to treat being a woman as a pre-existing condition.
Many parts of the health care reform bill constituted a step forward for women's health in a number of ways. Repeal would again allow insurance companies to deny women coverage if they've had a Cesarean section, breast or cervical cancer, or received medical treatment for domestic or sexual violence. Repeal will eliminate the extension of dependent coverage to children up to age 26 and allow insurers to deny children coverage for pre-existing conditions and to require women to get a referral to see their ob/gyn. Repealing this law means returning to the old, broken system in which women paid a steep price in their health care just for being women.
Take Action!
Urge your Representative to vote NO on H.R. 2 and H.Res. 9, the bills which would repeal the health care reform law. To send a message, simply click on the "Take Action" link in the upper right corner. Then follow the instructions to compose and send your message.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Peace Train, take this country....

"For out on the edge of darkness,
there runs the Peace Train.
Peace Train, take this country...."
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the USA. Dr. King was born on January 15th, but the holiday honoring his life and accomplishments is celebrated on the third Monday of the month every year. The holiday was signed into law by President Reagan in 1983, but it was another 14 years before the holiday would be celebrated by all 50 states (in 2000). To hear Dr, King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech, go to  
When I turned on the radio this morning, I heard a song that took me back to the 1970s, when Dr. King's vision of a better America actually seemed possible. The US was still waging war in Viet Nam, but many musicians and other public figures were actively promoting messages of peace and understanding. The song was "Peace Train" by Cat Stevens (see lyrics, below).  As I sang along, for a moment I once again felt hopeful that my nation would end its greed and war-mongering and take the lead in promoting a better world for everyone. Now, 40-some years later, I can no longer summon that kind of hopefulness, except suddenly, briefly, and accidentally, as I did this morning.
Cat Stevens, who changed his name to Yusuf Islam after converting to Islam is an English musician. 
Here is a little information about him from Wikipedia:
His early 1970s record albums Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat were both certified as Triple Platinum by the RIAA in the United States. He has also earned two ASCAP songwriting awards in consecutive years for "The First Cut Is the Deepest", which has been a hit single for four different artists. Stevens converted to Islam at the height of his fame, in December 1977, and adopted his Muslim name, Yusuf Islam, the following year. In 1979, he auctioned all his guitars away for charity and left his music career to devote himself to educational and philanthropic causes in the Muslim community. He has been given several awards for his work in promoting peace in the world, including 2003's World Award, the 2004 Man for Peace Award, and the 2007 Mediterranean Prize for Peace. In 2006, he returned to pop music with his first album of new songs in 28 years, An Other Cup.

Peace Train
Now I've been happy lately
Thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be
Something good has begun

I've been smiling lately
Dreaming about the world as one
And I believe it could be
Something good's bound to come

For out on the edge of darkness
There runs the peace train
Peace train take this country
Come take me home again

Peace train sounding louder
Ride on the peace train
Come on the peace train
Peace train's a holy roller
Everyone jump upon the peace train
This is the peace train

Get your bags together
Come bring your good friends too
Because it's getting nearer
Soon it will be with you
Come and join the living
It's not so far from you
And it's getting nearer
Soon it will all be true

Peace train sounding louder
Ride on the peace train
Come on the peace train

I've been crying lately
Thinking about the world as it is
Why must we go on hating?
Why can't we live in bliss?

For out on the edge of darkness
There rides the peace train
Peace train take this country
Come take me home again

Peace train sounding louder
Ride on the peace train
Come on the peace train

Come on, come on, come on the peace train...


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Palin Invokes "Blood Libel"

Clueless as ever!

A message from CREDO Action:  
Sarah Palin is getting the message. An astonishing 250,000 of us asked Palin to renounce the use of crosshairs and other gun imagery and do her part to tone down the violent political rhetoric in this country.
Her reply? She released a video in which, carefully reading from a teleprompter, she lashed out at all of us who dared to question her use of violent imagery, calling us "reprehensible." Rather than signaling a willingness to change her language going forward, Palin controversially labeled our calls to renounce violent eliminationist rhetoric as "blood libel" — a term which itself invokes a long and violent history of anti-semitism.1
In the face of a tragedy that has rocked our nation, Palin — who put the crosshairs on Rep. Giffords for her vote in support of healthcare — is calling herself the victim.
Palin's eagerness to invoke this type of rhetoric is precisely why her crosshairs image has become symbolic of the violent language used far too often by rightwing politicians and media outlets — language that is starting to be seriously questioned by many media figures and political leaders of both parties.
The media is finally picking up on the connection between the kind of extreme rhetoric validated by Palin and the toxic environment which provokes political violence. Please help build our call and help make this tragedy a watershed moment for changing the poisonous political climate in this country.
— Michael and Becky
1 "Blood Libel: Sarah Palin's Claim Recalls Anti-Semitic Legacy," The Huffington Post, January 12, 2010

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Support for Arizona Sheriff Dupnik

A message from People for the American Way: 

The bipartisan calls for a return to civility in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy in Arizona this past weekend lasted barely a day.

Americans have rightly begun to examine the recent escalation of vitriolic and incendiary rhetoric in our political discourse. While some initial speculation was too quick to point the finger of blame at specific instances of fear-mongering and violent rhetoric without knowing what actually influenced the gunman, when oft-verbally attacked elected officials are targeted for assassination, it's a matter of basic common sense to call for a toning down of the hateful accusations and hyperbolic hyping of false threats. By simply acknowledging the toxicity of this recent rhetoric, primarily by the Right Wing, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik and many others have come under relentless attack.

Unfortunately, politicians and pundits on the Right are now responding the same way they always respond to criticism: deflection and denial. They are angry that they would be held accountable and are showing bitter defensiveness by going on the 
offense against anyone who raises uncomfortable truths like Sheriff Dupnik and some in the media. And they've childishly resorted to their own irrational finger pointing. Newt GingrichMike HuckabeeTea Party leaders and others on the Right are now claiming that the Tucson shooter Jared Loughner is a liberal because he listed Marx's Communist Manifestoamong his favorite books (a ridiculous stretch since he also listed Mein Kampf and an Ayn Rand book).Rush Limbaugh said that the gunman has the "full support" of the Democratic Party. And Republicans from Lamar Alexander to Sarah Palin are pushing the message that merely discussing examples of the violent rhetoric which has come to define our political discourse is tantamount to contributing to the ongoing rancor. 

In an especially twisted, yet familiar, example of right-wing logic, Arizona State Rep. Jack Harper is actually blaming Saturday's massacre on gun laws he sees as too restrictive and Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik for apparently supporting those laws -- this, despite the fact that Arizona's laws were lenient enough for the clearly disturbed Loughner to obtain the 31-round-per-clip semi-automatic weapon he used in his attack. 
And media stars like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin have been quick to use their podiums to try to make this latest debate all about them. Although she holds no official office or leadership position, Palin addressed the country in a web video yesterday in which she decried any scrutiny of recent political rhetoric and even tried to make herself out as the real victim, going so far as to compare herself to Jewish victims of 
"blood libels."  

Attempting to draw a line between what she sees as perfectly acceptable "free speech" and incitement, she said, "when we 'take up our arms,' we're talking about our vote." But isn't that exactly the point?  Using incendiary language, such as "taking up arms," can have consequences when there are individuals out there who might not grasp the metaphors, especially when it is accompanied by talk of
"Second Amendment remedies" to an election not going the way one would like ... or campaign events at gun ranges ... or grave warnings about "death panels," a "tyrannical government," "Dangerous Liberals" and political opponents being "domestic enemies of the Constitution."

Meanwhile, as we reflect on this awful tragedy, and debate the nature of, well, our debate, the Right continues 
its pile-on of Sheriff Dupnik, smearing him for the supposed crime of calling it like he sees it while happening to be a registered Democrat.

The Sheriff's standing tall against the right-wing smear machine, but 
we encourage you to show your solidarity with him by signing on to a brief letter of support.

Thank you for your support and for all that you to defend our core values and the American Way ... it's never been needed more.

Michael B. Keegan signature
Michael Keegan, President