the adventures of ernie bufflo

things magical and mundane


bufflo roams back home

a pic from our trip: a weed near Red Rocks in CO.

a pic from our trip: a weed near Red Rocks in CO.

So, I’m back from a week spent in Colorado with family, and I’m catching up on all the things I’ve missed out on during what was probably a much needed break from the internets and news.  Seriously, my Google Reader had “1000+” items in it when I got on for the first time this morning since Tuesday (besides a little BlackBerry powered browsing while sitting in airports).  And since I’m motoring through it, I figured I’d put a few of the hits right here.  Sorta like a less-timely Bufflo Tips.  I will probably be blogging more about my trip later, but for now, enjoy some linkylinkys.

First up: I love Jenny Lewis’ video for her song See Fernando.  She’s definitely a girl crush of mine.  If someone would PLEASE teach me how to embed non-YouTube videos on WordPress, it would be much appreciated.  In the meantime, you have to watch this 60′s spy-thriller music video here.

Next, check out the trailer for No Impact Man (and Family)’s documentary!  I’ve loved following their journey on the blog and look forward to seeing the film.

  • We have been out of town for a week.  Duh.  We were staying with family who probably had every toiletry that I could possibly need and thus could have preventing me from needing to pack any.  We didn’t check any bags.  We were gone less than a week.  I overpacked.  It’s chronic.  I should have read this post, from one of my fave bloggers, Decorno.
  • Journalism great Walter Cronkite died this week, and Glenn Greenwald points out that most of the journalists marking his passing and running retrospectives are nowhere NEAR the journalist Cronkite was, and are opposed to doing the kind of reporting he did.  Greenwald writes:

    Cronkite’s best moment was when he did exactly that which the modern journalist today insists they must not ever do — directly contradict claims from government and military officials and suggest that such claims should not be believed. These days, our leading media outlets won’t even use words that are disapproved of by the Government.

  • I used to respect John McCain, even if I didn’t always agree with him, until he ran such a despicable campaign for the presidency and chose an idiot to be his running mate.  Now, he’s losing even more points from me because he’s blocking nominees to the Department of the Interior because he wants a copper mine to be allowed in a national forest.
  • Via Jezebel, I never thought Charlie Brown could be creepy.  Turns out he can.
  • Nate Silver notes that Sarah Palin really *isn’t* all that much of a fundraiser.
  • Meanwhile, in my absence, Palin decided to try to string a few coherent sentences together (a huge undertaking from the Queen of Fragments, though I’m guessing this piece was heavily edited by someone with at least a bare-bones knowledge of basic grammar) in opposition to cap and trade in the Washington Post.  Alex Koppelman of Salon’s War Room blog summarized the op ed thusly:

    While the piece is certainly more coherent than her resignation announcement or some of her past interviews, the article makes numerous unsubstantiated claims and reads like a greatest hits list of Republican talking points on the Waxman-Markey energy and climate bill currently working its way through Congress.

    The entire piece refuting Palin’s points is worth a read if you haven’t seen it yet. I like this part: “She does not rely on any scientific evidence to back up any of the bold statements she makes in the piece.” BECUZ SARAH PALIN DON’T NEED UR FANCY BOOK LERNIN’.  ALSO, SY-ENCE IS FUR ATHEEISTS.  Another good reaction to the Palin op ed can be found at The Daily Beast, written by Edward Markey, of Waxman-Markey fame.  I think I’ll trust the chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee over a less-than-one-term governor with a degree in communications that apparently failed to give her a basic grasp of Standard English any day.

  • Ezra Klein says Palin probably didn’t write it.  She signed her name to it.  He’s probably right.  He also writes:

    The term “global warming” is absent. So is “climate change.” It’s a bit like an op-ed that attacks firefighters for pointing pressurized water cannons at everything but never mentions fires, or a column that condemns surgeons for sticking sharp things into people but never mentions illness.

  • Conor Clark at The Daily Dish says “Palin’s op-ed displays an ignorance for the subject so profound it’s almost gutsy. Almost.”
  • Obama nominated a Surgeon General who isn’t Sanjay Gupta and who seems to be an all-around awesome lady.  Apparently some haters think she’s too fat to be Surgeon General, 4rlz.  Frances Kissling of Salon’s Broadsheet addresses those haters.
  • Meanwhile Ezra Klein has a sensical piece about why we as a society should worry about obesity.
  • So, a bunch of “Blue Dogs” are threatening to derail health reform.  Nate Silver points out that this could hurt them in the end, as their districts have higher rates of uninsurance than most.  He writes:

    Mike Ross of the Arkansas 4th, where almost 22 percent of the population is uninsured? This is a bill designed to help districts like his. And the same goes for most of the other Blue Dogs. A lot of the time, these guys are stuck in a tough spot between their party and their constituents. Here, those interests are mostly aligned.

  • Yay for good news when it comes to SAVING THE ANTIBIOTICS.
  • And finally, check out this piece on How Outlet Malls Rip Us Off, and maybe next time you head to the outlets, take a smart phone so you can check reference prices online and find out what retail price REALLY is.


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Focus on “The Family”

C Street Band

In the wake of the Sanford “crying in Argentina” affair and Sen. John Ensign’s ongoing saga of sex with a subordinate and payoffs and other favors to the subordinate’s family, much is being made about the secretive C-Street house/Bible study/organization that Sanford, John Ensign, and Sen. Ted Coburn (a major player in the Ensign scandal) belonged to. C-Street supposedly provides accountability, counseling, and Bible studies to powerful men in politics. Of course their credibility is somewhat in question now that it turns out that so many of their members have had such public moral failings, and as Jon said to me last night, “Maybe they need to re-think their mission.”

But what if it turns out that keeping flawed powerful men in power is exactly their mission? Not to help these men lead moral lives, but to help these men wield power? That’s the distinct impression I got watching last night’s Rachel Maddow show. You can see the clip I’m going to discuss here. All quotes are taken from the transcript.

On her show last night, Maddow interviewed Jeff Sharlet of Harper’s magazine, who has written a book on “The Family,” the “Christian” (you’ll understand those quotes in a second) organization behind C-Street, the house/Bible Study group which connects Sen. Ensign, Sen. Coburn, and Mark Sanford. From what Sharlet said of the organization, I’m terrified AND outraged. Sharlet first hand heard the leader of C-Street describing their goals and objectives:

He said it‘s sort of a totalitarian idea of Christianity and he gave his examples of men who he believed, understood the way power should wielded. He actually gave his examples, Hitler, Pol Pot, Osama bin Laden and Lenin.

Maddow summarized the ideas of The Family thusly:

Its role is promoting American power worldwide, unfettered capitalism, no unions, no programs to help poor people—all with this idea that godly, powerful rich men should get at many resources as possible personally and they should just privately help everyone else. That was the impression that I was left with. Was I close?

SHARLET: That‘s dead on the money.

HOW THESE PEOPLE CAN GET THIS FROM JESUS, I HAVE NO IDEA. THIS IS NOT THE JESUS I KNOW AND LOVE, THAT’S FOR SURE. And this “theology” goes back 70 years to the founder of The Family who

believed God came to him one night in April of 1935 and said, what Christianity should really be about is building more power for the already powerful and that these powerful men who are chosen by God can then—if they want to dispense blessings to the rest of us, through a kind of trickle down fundamentalism.

I know I’m quoting a lot here, but really, this is ghastly stuff and you have to read it. Sharlet says he was living with The Family when

one of the leaders in the Family was explaining why King David was important. And he says, it‘s not because he was good man, it‘s because he‘s a bad man. You know, seduced another man‘s wife. He actually had the husband murdered.

And he wants to explain why this was a model—and he says to one of the men in the group, he says, “Suppose I heard you raped three little girls. What would I think of you?” And this guy, being a human being, says, “You would think I was a monster.” Well, the leader of the Family says, “No, not at all, because you‘re chosen. You‘re chosen by God for leadership, and so the normal rules don‘t apply.”

I’d say this certainly makes clear why it seems only Democrats resign when caught in affairs.  And perhaps even why these men are not ashamed by their hypocrisy: these are “family values” guys.  Guys who flaunt their status as Promise Keepers, who called for the impeachment of Bill Clinton, who think that homosexuals are the moral problem of our society, and yet, when they engage in the very activities they condemn in others, they think they are above the consequences.  They think they don’t have to resign.  Because they think they are “chosen.”

This goes against everything I know and love about the gospel.  The idea that Jesus came to save the least and the lost.  The idea that the first shall be last and the last shall be first.  The idea that we are all equal in the eyes of God, both equally culpable for our sins, and equally bestowed with crazy abounding grace.  The idea that one of the worst things you can possibly be is a Pharisee– one who loudly proclaims his righteousness, without having the heart-condition to back it up.  These men make me SICK, not just because of their actions, but because of the damage their witness does to the real, true gospel.


taking Palin at face value doesn’t help her cause

So, Sarah Palin resigned almost a week ago in a rambling, babbling speech punctuated with the honking of waterfowl in front of a hastily gathered group of mostly local news reporters.  In the week that followed, pundits and bloggers have been going nuts analyzing Palin’s resignation and trying to figure out WHY.  Palin doesn’t understand why anyone would be wondering about underlying reasons or scandals.  Wearing her waders, she told ABC News “You know why they’re confused? I guess they cannot take something nowadays at face value”.

OK.  So, here’s what she said (emphasis mine):

Political operatives descended on Alaska last August, digging for dirt. The ethics law I championed became their weapon of choice. Over the past nine months I’ve been accused of all sorts of frivolous ethics violations….

“The state has wasted thousands of hours of your time and shelled out some two million of your dollars to respond to ‘opposition research’ — that’s money not going to fund teachers or troopers or safer roads…. Todd and I are looking at more than half a million dollars in legal bills in order to set the record straight. And what about the people who offer up these silly accusations? It doesn’t cost them a dime so they’re not going to stop draining public resources — spending other peoples’ money in their game.

“It’s pretty insane — my staff and I spend most of our day dealing with this instead of progressing our state now.”

Let’s take this apart one point at a time, shall we?

  • Palin seems to suggest that most of the ethics complaints are filed against her by “political operatives” and enemies.  I’ll let Salon’s Joan Walsh take this one (emphasis mine):

    All but one of them were filed by her constituents in Alaska. That one exception was a complaint by a DC watchdog group about her $150,000 clothing gift from RNC. It was ultimately dismissed, but it dealt with an unclear area of campaign-finance law…Four of the complaints were filed by a Republican former ally of Palin’s, Andree McLeod, who turned on her because she felt Palin was cutting ethical corners, hiring cronies and using a private email account to conduct public business outside the realm of public records. Many of the complaints predated her vice presidential nomination. And at least one of the complaints was clearly justified; Palin had to pay back about $8,000 in travel expenses for her children. Another is still pending: A seemingly reasonable complaint about Palin charging the state per diem when she’s living in her own house in Wasilla rather than the governor’s mansion.

    If you’d like to read a complete listing of the ethics investigations, the Anchorage Daily News has compiled a list.  As you can see, only one complaint was filed by a political operative, and many were quite serious, the opposite of “frivolous.”  Even in some of the cases in which Palin was found to have done nothing wrong, other actions were taken.  The list mentions one member of her administration who was ordered to undergo ethics training because of “troubling emails.”

  • Now about those hours wasted and dollars spent.  Where does Palin get this “millions of dollars” total?  David Murrow, a Palin spokesperson, acknowledged to a Plum Line reporter

    that this total was arrived at by adding up attorney hours spent on fending off complaints — based on the fixed salaries of lawyers in the governor’s office and the Department of Law. The money would have gone to the lawyers no matter what they were doing.

    Greg Sargeant continued:

    The ethics complaints have apparently not had the real world impact Palin has claimed, and didn’t drain money away from cops, teachers, roads and other things.

    So once again we return to the total cost of the ethics investigation, as tallied by the Anchorage Daily News: $296,000. And where do the bulk of these charges come from? Again from the Anchorage Daily News:

    The bulk of the expenses — $187,797 — appear to stem from Troopergate, the messy case involving Palin’s former brother-in-law, a state trooper, who got on the wrong side with Palin and her family. Palin herself initiated at least a part of the ethics case to counter a legislative investigation into the same matter.

    And when they report that Palin initiated part of the case “to counter a legislative investigation” what they mean is, she tried to have the investigation moved to the jurisdiction of people she had the power to fire if they returned a verdict she wasn’t happy with. Palin, as Talking Points Memo notes, “has the power to fire the personnel board’s members, the independence of its judgments is hardly beyond reproach.”

  • And now for Palin’s argument that the burden of these investigations is so crippling that she and her staff can do little else.  As Talking Points Memo reported, at the time of her announcement, there were only 3 ethics investigations still pending against Palin, hardly an overwhelming number.  And none of those three is as serious as the Troopergate investigation, which she managed to weather while remaining governor AND campaigning for the Vice Presidency.  I just don’t buy that she can’t keep doing her job in the face of the remaining cases.  If they really are as frivolous as she claims, they’ll be dismissed as quickly as the others have been.

So.  Palin is wrong about who is bringing the ethics complaints against her, she is wrong about their level of seriousness, she is wrong about how much they are costing the state, and she is most likely wrong about how crippling they are of her ability to do her job as governor, the job she promised to do for at least one full term.  Moreover, she is using the very ethics reform she champions as one of her crowning achievements as an excuse for being a quitter.  Steve Benen points out that there is more than a little irony in this, and that perhaps instead of quitting, Palin could use her immediate knowledge both of what it takes to pass ethics reform and of the flaws in the current ethics law, to improve the law:

To hear Palin tell it, her opponents are now using her own achievement against her — exploiting the law to waste taxpayer money, bankrupt the state’s governor, and paralyze state government. Doesn’t that suggest there’s something wrong with the new ethics laws? If the measures were written in such a way as to make it easy and cost-free for anyone to cripple the state’s political process, then don’t the reform laws need reforming? Indeed, even putting Palin aside, won’t all future Alaskan governors have to deal with the same problem? It sounds like Palin has firsthand experience in identifying the flaws in her own law. If she weren’t quitting, and letting her own flawed ethics rules force her from office, maybe she could work on improving the system and helping the state.

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