Archive for April 2009Main
Thursday, 30 April 2009
Will Bunch has an important word for his colleagues in "Torture is not about 'winning the afternoon,' OK?"
For the most part, we've failed so far. It was more than a little disheartening to learn of the crippling fear inside the newsroom of the New York Times, where editors and reporters were so afraid of offending, so afraid of anyone thinking that the newspaper was taking a side, that the news staffers refused to label globally outlawed practices such as waterboarding as "torture." On the same morning we learned about that wishy-washiness at our most influential newspaper, David Broder of the Washington Post was trying to argue that the torture story isn't about obeying the law, or about our national soul, but "cloaks an unworthy desire for vengeance." I believe what Broder is really saying is that it's impossible for him to believe that someone who lunches across from him at the Palm or the Capitol Grille is capable of what Frank Rich described as "the banality of evil," that someone who wears a nice tie or has a kid in Little League could condone or encourage unlawful, violent and sometimes even lethal acts -- acts which we are now learning were carried out to achieve the dubious political ends of our leaders.Little Matt Taibbi, in "Tom Friedman Strikes Again", examines Tom Friedman's poor word-smithery on the analogy front. But I've always been more interested in Tom Friedman's inability to see the world around him well enough to construct a metaphor in the first place. It may be unclear whether swimming without a bathing suit is necessarily a bad thing, but since Tom Friedman is one of the guys who stole your bathing suit, I'm not listening to him. Maybe he's just trying to sell bathing suits.
Almost every flaw of our craft has been on display in the last week or two -- the pleading for a middle-of-the-road answer to a problem where there is no middle ground, the phony "he said, she said" journalism that gives a 50 percent voice to the advocates of American-bred torture, the use of unnecessary anonymous quotes to defend the indefensible, the need for an elite inside-the-Beltway clique to circle the wagons, to insist that aggressive prosecution is only for the crimes that "regular people" commit.
Ah, another reminder of Arlen Specter's habit of making really nice-sounding noises about how we should do good things instead of bad things, and then going ahead and voting for bad things. I have no doubt in my mind that Arlen Specter will now make lots of nice noises about separations of powers while failing to lift a finger to further that aim. In the same way that John McCain was against torture before he voted for it, Arlen Specter makes the appearance of probity and all-American Constitutional values while being the guy who throws the monkey wrench into the machinery of good government. And now he is "ours"!
Glenn Greenwald counts the ways: "(3) Arlen Specter is one of the worst, most soul-less, most belief-free individuals in politics. The moment most vividly illustrating what Specter is: prior to the vote on the Military Commissions Act of 2006, he went to the floor of the Senate and said what the bill "seeks to do is set back basic rights by some 900 years" and is "patently unconstitutional on its face." He then proceeded to vote YES on the bill's passage."
Please, primary this bastard so hard that it will make Rahm Emanuel's hiney sting.
* * * * *
Ettlin reports on the Baltimore Sun Massacre: "Quarter of newsroom staff fired in a bloodbath by bankrupt Tribune Co. As much as I expected (and in my last blog posting foreshadowed) new layoffs at The Sun, my former home of 40 years, the extent of the slaughter was unimaginable: At least 15 editors, and 40 other staffers. The Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild issued a statement saying Tribune was cutting 27 percent of the already reduced newspaper staff." I was particularly unhappy to see that Ann LoLordo got the ax. Man, this so totally bites. Dave discusses the people, and has direct quotes from fired staffers. Oh, well, at least I moved to London and avoided getting laid off from the paper.
Gosh, I guess these days there's a bra for everything.
I know you probably haven't been wondering if the newest New York Times Conservative is as bad as we all predicted, but you could almost say he earned his money by being so pathetic that Doghouse Riley, reading Ross Douthat so you don't have to, was moved to write about the recipe of hapless attempts to be the hepcat down with spiffy internet stuff like the kids are doing combined with ludicrous two-stepping away from Republican extremism as if it just started yesterday: "But then there's the other part, the use of links to Limbaugh or Hot Air to "prove" some contention about whack-job "conservatism" taking over what's left of the Republican party. Really? Because Limbaugh and assorted internet nutballs are badgering "moderate Republicans", which, while they are perhaps not entirely mythological, still counts as the crazy guy down the block, the one who always wears eight wristwatches, killing bacteria by swinging a bat, they're suddenly taking over? Okay, so at least you'll admit they're "ascendant"--unlike Brooks, who would have, and has, simply invented fourteen Republican sects to throw off the count--how 'bout admitting, for once, that they are the Republican party, have been your entire adult life, while Burkean intellectuals like you and Brooks turn out to have been mere paid mouthpieces for Obscene Profit, Inc.? You find them distasteful, but not distasteful enough to have called them out back when you were winning."
This must make sense to people who only know what's on Faux News: "JOE SCARBOROUGH: Except -- OK, but let's just be fair here. The second waterboarding came in -- the second Dana Priest wrote her article and we had this debate on waterboarding, we were moving towards not using waterboarding again. We don't -- these techniques are worthless now anyway." Yes, forgetting the fact that the whole rest of the world already knew about such techniques the same way we did - because our enemies were already using them. These "techniques" aren't new, Joe, they've been around for a very long time, and the main reason we don't use them goes even beyond our attempts to make ourselves decent, civilized people - because that wouldn't count for a hill of beans with powerful people if they actually worked. But they don't work. They were always worthless. And the world was always going to find out that we were using them, even without Dana Priest's help. Our government was doing things we already had made into crimes because they are so destructive, and thank goodness we had a journalist who was willing to find out and report the truth. But we already knew these "techniques" were counterproductive a long time ago, and the world already knew about those "techniques" because - just aside from history books and movies and even comics about the Inquisition and all that - we, you know, put people on trial and convicted them for war crimes and other felonies when they used them. It's been in the public record for a lot longer than any of us have been alive. The "techniques" were not the secret. The secret was that the White House was infested with criminals who had neither the sense nor the decency not to use them.
You know what's wrong with this idea, don't you?
The Hunt for Gollum actually looks like it might be pretty good.
It's barely news
Actually, the only thing I want to know about Arlen Specter crossing the aisle to be a Democrat is whether we can beat him in the primary. But Rahm Emanuel is pretty good at making sure the People don't get what we want, and I'm pretty sure backing him in the primary was part of the deal. (And before I even had time to post this, I see that I wasn't wrong. Remember, this is about having enough votes to pass Obama's agenda, not ours.)
"Obama's Treasury sends bill to Capitol Hill that was drafted by bankster lobbyists: "It was drafted in large measure by Davis Polk & Wardwell, a law firm that represents many banks and the financial industry's lobbying group. [...] Most significant, the bill does not require that any government rescue of a troubled firm be done at the lowest possible cost, as is required by the F.D.I.C. when it takes over a failed bank"
Krugman, "Money for Nothing: On July 15, 2007, The New York Times published an article with the headline 'The Richest of the Rich, Proud of a New Gilded Age.' The most prominently featured of the 'new titans' was Sanford Weill, the former chairman of Citigroup, who insisted that he and his peers in the financial sector had earned their immense wealth through their contributions to society." And I couldn't believe there was anyone willing to swallow the idea that these guys were contributors to society. I'm glad people are now coming out and saying what was obvious all along: These guys are leeches who suck the benefits out of what other people create. The trouble is, most of the people who acknowledge the parasitic nature of the financial sector don't run things: "There's a palpable sense in the financial press that the storm has passed: stocks are up, the economy's nose-dive may be leveling off, and the Obama administration will probably let the bankers off with nothing more than a few stern speeches. Rightly or wrongly, the bankers seem to believe that a return to business as usual is just around the corner."
Playing online? Looks like the government is planning to spy on your virtual world. I guess they'll be paying a few guys to go dancing with the Cafe Wellstone people to see if they are plotting to... build a giant puppet for the next protest demo.
I've got a little list
Bernie Horn has a little list of Conservative Zombie Ideas Haunting Us Still.
Teddy Partridge has a list of policy differences to criminalize (complete with a video of Bea Arthur singing "What'll I Do?"). No, wait, that's policy difference that, if the DOJ under Obama started investigating and indicting Bush administration officials for, would be criminalizing policy difference - except that "criminalizing policy differences" is how the Villagers are referring to investigating and indicting for actual crimes.
John Cole has a list of Republican solutions to our current problems.
Five Congressmen Arrested At Darfur Protest: MSNBC is reporting that five congressional representatives have been arrested outside the Sudanese Embassy after heading a Darfur protest. Those arrested were: Donna Edwards (D-MD), James McGovern (D-MA), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Keith Ellison (D-MN) and John Lewis (D-GA). They were bound with zip-tie handcuffs and driven away in a large white van.
Jurassicpork just joined the working wounded, posting shortly after getting laid off today. If you can see your way to helping out, I'm sure it would be appreciated.
Look, Newt Gingrich is anti-American, which is why he keeps insisting that wanting to hold our leaders accountable is anti-American. He's a creep. But when Steve Benen says, "Why this clown continues to help speak for the Republican Party in the 21st century is further evidence of a party with a very serious leadership problem," he's missing the point. The deeper problem is that someone keeps allowing him to say these things in public where we have to be subjected to them. Bush's policies on torture (among so many things) endangered America and have made future attacks on us more likely. It wouldn't at all surprise me to know that Clinton's refusal to overreact to the '93 attack on the WTC and other actions against US properties is what made Al Qaeda wait until the White House had a new and less grown-up occupant to goad into doing something stupid. (Of course, it could just as easily be that it takes a long time to set up an operation of that size and get enough people who can be conned into committing suicide together to do it.) I don't believe for a minute that anything BushCheney did worked in any way to protect the US from further attack. Yet the opposite view - that somehow failing to provoke universal contempt and a desperate will to violence shows a willingness to leave the US defenseless - that is the view that has been given prominence in our media for most of the time since 9/11. This crackpot view should be treated as a fringe view, and Gingrich, who was shamed out of government, should not be someone whose opinions anyone should pretend to care about. The Republican Party can make themselves a laughingstock all they want, but we are all in trouble as long as the media persists in treating them as if they are not merely equal to, but more sensible than, the more than two-thirds of the country that knows they're nuts. No one cares what Gingrich says.
And on most days, I would tell you that the only place you really need to go to get your MoDo-watching done is Whiskeyfire, where Molly reads the trash so you don't have to, but Julia really let her have it last night: "So you kind of own the commentary career of William Kristol. You were the precipitating cause of Dana Milbank's decline from a damn good reporter into someone who thinks the readers of his paper tune in to monitor the production of his gall bladder, and the godmother of Ron Fournier's figleaf attempt to disguise naked political partisanship as a fearless determination to remain unspun. You, Red, are a shining symbol of the royal road to success that lies in writing low-content trash which amuses the folks your publisher or your great and good friend the managing editor network with."
Maureen Dowd is a rather enormous landmark in a media landscape where "the news" is meant to appeal to a small segment of "the elite", and makes no effort anymore even to humor its larger readership with the kind of details we bought newspapers for in the first place. The opinion pages are largely, as I said years ago, mostly just reports on what's inside the heads of people who know little of what they are talking about, if they aren't outright partisan hacks who are deliberately misleading the public. In the papers, the product has dwindled to not much more than a voice for a mostly right-wing business elite, with less and less going out to serve the daily concerns of the wider readership. What good reporting still remains - and there is still quite a lot, thankfully - may lure us into buying and sometimes believing the paper as a whole, but it remains buried deep in the pages, treated as a poor stepchild peddling an unnecessary luxury. One would almost get the feeling that, as Ettlin discusses in his recent post on dismantling print editions, it's the deliberate destruction of real news as a going concern. And maybe it is. Or maybe it's another example of guys in early middle-age imagining that they understand what young people really want just because they found out their nephew is on Twitter. But I think the time will come soon when we may just have to reinvent the actual, physical newspaper. Because I don't think it's really dead. I think these are the same people who want to take over the net and keep us from being able to do what we do on it so they can regain their stranglehold on the public discourse, and they would prefer that we forget that it's still possible to disseminate news in some other way.
Your happenin' world
Bra of the Week
Via The Biomes Blog, The Seven Less-Deadly Sins, Typeface in Skin, and a snow-diving fox. Oh, and a lot of people have been nudging me to read Matt Taibbi's "The Class Clowns", but I still haven't gotten around to it yet.
Twitter: a good tool for spreading lies.
Joan Walsh tries to explain to "Serious People" that torture is illegal.
Republicans Less Popular Than Venezuela. (via) (Also, Legalizing Marijuana More Popular Than Republicans.)
Senator Bernie is reading letters about credit cards, on the interwebs, and tells us, "A Vermonter writes, 'I am appalled at the hikes in credit card rates! Everywhere in our small town in Vermont, everyone is talking about the latest surge in interest rates. People who are never late in payments have seen their rates climb overnight. The outrage, which I am sure doesn't surprise you, is building. Doesn't anyone get it?'"
We must not waste our precious bodily fluids - well, the press mustn't waste tears on the fact that they got people by the hundreds of thousands tortured, maimed, or killed by persistently cheerleading barbarity. Who could have predicted that advocating war and torture could possibly lead to tragedy? Except, of course, the millions of people who wrote letters and made phone calls and protested in the streets and, oh yes, blogged incessantly, because it was bloody obvious it was a terrible idea. Certainly not Roger Cohen or bloody "Dean" David Broder. (There is good news, though: An inquiry into impeaching Bybee is on the calendar.)
Ruth was off on a cruise while swine flu was breaking out back home, but she returned to this.
Our correspondent Anna asks:At what point can we start calling what afflicts most career politicians (D *and* R) and the rest of the Villagers a cancerous pathology that has to be eradicated for anything resembling America to survive? And I'm serious, here...criminals are routinely labeled in pathological terms, as are serial liars. And let's don't even talk about the sexually pathologic tendencies, most involving dank public men's rooms, that haunt a lot of our GOP lads.(I guess this is another way to ask the same question....)
I mean, I'm a simple transwoman trying to make a modest, ethical living, but somehow, that's still widely viewed as "pathological".But I don't waterboard, and I don't aim for a career where lying and/or stealing makes me rich beyond my wildest dreams. And *I'm* pathological?
Meanwhile, I believe you could say that this comment thread below is a discussion of the elite pluralism* our country is running with.
Also in comments CMike quotes a post from John Emerson called "Where are the Pitchforks?" in which John says, "As I've said many times, Republican populism is fake, but Democratic elitism is real."
And a reader alerts us to Terry Jones' relief that punishment for crime is now out of fashion. (I think he's banking on a trickle-down approach.) Which reminded me that the Monty Python version of torture ("The Comfy Chair!") actually does work better than the Bush-Cheney kind for acquiring useful intelligence. We may joke about what the Anglican Inquisition would be like, ("Have a nice cuppa?"), but that's what you do when you want to make people feel like talking.
As some of you may recall, when we took POWs/kidnap victims to Guantanamo, they were told that they would never be free again, that this was where they would stay for the rest of their lives, and where they would die. That makes a rather dramatic contrast to the experience of American troops who went through the SERE training and were subjected to the water torture and other painful and humiliating misery, as Jim Macdonald notes:As it happens, many years ago when I worked for Uncle Sam, I underwent that training myself. Two things sustained me during that interesting time: a) The sure knowledge that it would be of limited duration (I knew the exact date the school would end), and b) the fact that I was valuable government property assured me that I wouldn't actually be genuinely hurt.But Susie Bright (whose site may not be entirely work-safe) has a rather chilling personal story of watching someone she loved be transformed by going through that training:He wrote me that after awhile of knowing it was all a training, he couldn't hold the frame anymore and it became nothing but his reality. His sense of time and self evaporated.
"America Was Created To Fight Corporate Power: Americans should all understand the reasons behind the formation of this country. We formed this country because a wealthy elite, called royalty, controlled the economy and set up legal monopoly operations for the benefit of their cronies, called corporations, and then set up the lows and tax structure to benefit those corporations and their owners at the expense of the rest of us."
Krugman: "'This government does not torture people,' declared former President Bush, but it did, and all the world knows it. And the only way we can regain our moral compass, not just for the sake of our position in the world, but for the sake of our own national conscience, is to investigate how that happened, and, if necessary, to prosecute those responsible."
"Did Obama Listen to His Own Holocaust Speech? [...] That would be a good idea, Mr. President. We've been waiting eight years for it -- why don't you give that "do what must be done" thing a try?"
Sidney and the nuns
Watching the defectives
Scott Horton, "Straight to the Top: "The torture trail starts and ends in the White House. That is perhaps the most inescapable conclusion to be drawn from the flurry of documents released in the last week - first the OLC memoranda, then a newly declassified report of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and finally an amazing document that Attorney General Eric Holder released yesterday, which has still gained little attention. The Holder note presents a summary of CIA interaction with the White House in connection with the approval of the torture techniques that John Yoo calls the "Bush Program." Holder's memo refers to the participants by their job titles only, but John Sifton runs it through a decoder and gives us the actual names. There have to be prosecutions.
Glenn Greenwald on what "politicizing justice" really means - that the Villagers may view everything in partisan political terms, even if the rest of us don't: "The inability of so many people (both Republicans and Obama-loyal Democrats) to view the need for prosecutions independent of political considerations is a potent sign of how sick our political culture has become. The need for criminal investigations is motivated by one simple, consummately apolitical fact: serious and brutal crimes were committed at the highest levels of the government, ones that left a trail of many victims."
The Trouble With the Democratic Elite. (And I found it really gratifying to see Al Gore laughing at Marsha Blackburn.)
Kathy G. looks at a class act.
Boy, I sure am glad we have a "constitutional lawyer" in charge
"Obama DOJ Asks Court to Okay Seizure of Cell Phone Location Data Without Probable Cause: "The Obama Justice Department, in briefs filed by Bush holdover U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan (the one who prosecuted Tommy Chong and successfully sought a prison term for his shipping drug paraphernalia through the mail, and the one who prosecuted a 56 year old recluse for writing obscenity, and the one who has said Obama should let her stay on the job after his election) has taken the position that your whereabouts, as determined from your cell phone through records kept by your cell phone provider, is not protected by the Fourth Amendment." Why the hell is that woman still on the job?
"Obama DOJ Seeks to Restrict Defendant's Right to Lawyer During Questioning [...] This isn't the first time the Justice Department, under President Obama, has sought to limit defendants' rights."
"Obama DOJ to Seek Prison in CA Medical Pot Case" - What? Isn't that all in the past? Can't we just move forward instead of prosecuting this guy?
Or maybe we should recognize that there are real criminals to prosecute, hm?
Oh. "Obama craps on truth commission idea: Who can even tell anymore whether Obama's position on investigating Bush "administration" excesses is being reported accurately? I've seen everything ranging from "he's not really in favor of it, but wouldn't try to stop it" to "he's flatly opposed" posited as guesses as to where he really stands on the issue. And Politico, of course, is an outlet that lives and dies by its ability to inflame with link-bait headlines (like mine!) and stories that don't quite live up to the hype, or are just outright bait-and-switch moves. But this one still pretty much jives with where I think Obama's head really is on this." I have been hearing for years that we can't do this or that because we just need to get a Democratic president elected. And now there's all this about how there's this important agenda to carry through. Which, as far as I can tell, is an agenda to continue promoting stupid ideas like privatizing Social Security and derailing healthcare into another Give the Insurance Companies What They Want enterprise with some extra Give Rich Bankers What They Want tossed in. This bites.
But, seriously: Impeach Bybee. Right now. This man should be in jail, not on the bench.
Wouldn't a jar of cashew butter be nice?
This is a nice little ad for Medicare For All that Mike Farrell and Dr. Jess did. We really need to find a way to saturate the airwaves with it. As Lambert says, "So, we could be pragmatic and go with what works, or we could experiment with some cobbled-together Rube Goldberg public-private partnership thing, like the Village consultants and the lobbyists want, so the insurance companies can keep collecting fees for denying us care. Gee, let me take a minute to think..."
Local boy makes good: Yes, even the conservative Washington Post can see the upside of having Ezra Klein around. But if they were really smart, they'd have him replace David Broder.
Depressingly, Scott Lemieux reports the likelihood that the Supremes will decide it was okay to strip-search that kid for ibuprofen, and that one of the supporters of this disgusting position is likely to be "liberal" justice and Clinton appointee Stephen Breyer.
Maureen Dowd interviews Alexander Graham Bell: "ME: I would rather be flayed alive and gradually guillotined than use a telephone. BELL: Operators are standing by."
GOP drafting resolution to rename the Democratic Party. I wasn't aware they were in a position to do so, but the story gets even funnier when you see that the new name they've chosen is "Democrat Socialist Party".
Turns out one of the absentee ballots Tedisco is challenging in the race for New York's 20th is that of Sam Seder. The claim is that Seder doesn't really live in the district since he also maintains a work residence in NYC, but since he was doing jury duty in the district around the time of the election, this doesn't really fly.
You may remember our little friend John Ziegler from earlier episodes of moronity even before his attacks on Nate Silver, and even an appearance here in our own comments, but now you can see how he charms women, and it's almost like actually being on a bad date yourself.
I've already lost track of how many people alerted me to the story of the woman who was saved by her bra from a bullet. I was going to write, "See, there is an upside to underwires," but then I thought, "Oh, wait."
The liar's game
Brad Jacobson at MediaBloodHound notes a media moment that was more than a little unusual in our current climate, when Anderson Cooper not only had Mark Danner on his show, but actually gave him the room to explain why David Gergen's defense of torture was bunk. "First, Cooper deserves credit for not taking a generic phony Devil's advocate stance. He actually set up Danner's response to Gergen's allegations with...facts and context. Refreshing, no? [...] This was not your normal CNN news program segment during which two guests spout differing opinions and the host plays the "fair and balanced" referee."
One of the criticisms of "He said/She said" journalism is that it sets the truth opposite lies and pretends to find "balance" and "the center" at a location "somewhere in the middle".
And that would certainly be bad enough, but for the most part that isn't what's been happening, either; rather, there has been a preponderance of right-wing liars arguing against a smaller number of people who cannot really be said to be particularly left of center, but simply conservative Democrats and the occasional honest military expert arguing with rabidly conservative Republican partisans. We see very little of liberal punditry, and "expert" voices have tended to be those approved by conservatives. People who could make the case against invading Iraq were generally not allowed on the air at all, and when they were, they were people who could easily be dismissed as "Hollywood liberals", like Janeane Gorofalo. Only well after the invasion had taken place and was proving to be a disaster did we see people on the air who were willing to admit to "mistakes" in the initial concept and the way it was carried out.
By that time, however, we were stuck in a different argument, about how, or if, we could get out. Almost everyone who admitted we shouldn't have invaded Iraq has tended to be someone who believes that we must nevertheless stay and stay and stay until we fix what has become an unfixable situation. Few of these are people who recognized the folly of invasion at the time. The other side is composed mostly of people who still think invading was a great idea and even claim that we have made Iraq a better place.
Brad has added updates to the original post as people have pored over the recently-released torture documents and learned that the administration wasn't really trying to find intelligence to protect the United States, but instead trying to torture someone into implicating Saddam Hussein so they could have an excuse to invade Iraq. Of course, everyone knew at the time that there was no connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam - bin Laden and Saddam were enemies, in fact - but that knowledge simply wasn't given its due prominence in the media discourse. Similarly, it was perfectly obvious that Saddam did not have nuclear capability because he had never tested a nuclear device and had no delivery systems, but we didn't hear much about that, either. In fact, the ludicrous assertion that Saddam must have "weapons of mass destruction" in 2003 because Bill Clinton once said he had them in the 1990s (which is why he was trying to destroy them) was actually taken seriously despite the fact that Clinton's efforts to destroy them had probably worked. It was as if there had been no passage of time, no terrain-changing events, despite Clinton's bombings and the years going by.
So now we know that torture didn't work any better for the United States than it ever did for the Russians or anyone else, except in the sense that it could force false confessions. Subject someone to the water torture 83 times, and eventually you can get them to say that Saddam and bin Laden were in cahoots.
But there's one thing worth remembering: The administration began authorizing torture pretty early in the enterprise, because they were frustrated that our standard interrogation methods were not bearing fruit. Not that much time had gone by, but they were in hurry. So they started pushing for more "coercive" methods early in the process, and they still had to water-torture someone eighty-three times before they were finally satisfied with what they had. They apparently had all the time in the world if they got to torture people.
But, as Atrios says, "false confessions were, you know, what they were looking for."
A bunch of links
"Pigs in Space 15: Debt Settlement Co's On the Move, or Bone-Eating Carrion Scarf Down What Little Is Left." I had to share that post title.
Hmm, Bernie Sanders put a hold on Gary Gensler, nominee to lead the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. And, damn, look what they made us do.
"Civil War Raging in Right-Wing Blogosphere" - Weirdly, Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs is the hero of the piece, since he's not as crazy as his (apparently former) friends. But, of course, they all still seem to suffer from the belief that "the left" feels any sympathy with Muslim extremists. (Thanks to PNH for the heads-up.) And "Is the Threat of Homegrown Extremism Real?" makes a nice companion piece.
Atrios pegged the NYT's legal department as Wankers of the Day, and I couldn't help but wonder if they'd ever seen the cover of Rolling Stone.
David Sirota made a fairly good showing, I think, when he appeared on CNN to bust some right-wing myths.
I'm not sure I should quote her by name, but someone I know looked at Obama's remarks to the CIA and said, "That's how we learn? Is this man on crack?"
Michael Tomasky wondered where this particular lie from Newt Gingrich came from: "I Googled around, and sure enough, a search returned thousands of rabid posts from the wing-o-sphere about this judge who thinks Indianans should be allowed to pray to Allah but not to Jesus." (via)
You know, it really is awesome that Jane Harman worked so hard to keep Bush in the White House. (via)
PZ found a really stupid joke, and a really stupid poll.
One of my favorite things about Crazy Browser is that instead of that stupid little Haloscan pop-up window, it opens a whole new tab with a full page.
Theories of why
Sara Robinson on The Truth About Consequences: Conservatives, Progressives, and Accountability Moments:For conservatives, the goal of discipline is to assert the power of external authority. In their worldview, most people aren't capable of self-discipline. They can't be trusted to behave unless there's someone stronger in control who's willing to scare them back into line when they misbehave. Don't question the rules. Don't defy authority. Just do what you're told, and you'll be fine. But cross that line, dammit, and there will be hell to pay.Go read the whole thing.
In this view, the whole point of punishment is for greater beings (richer, whiter, older, male) to impress the extent of their authority upon lesser beings (poorer, darker, younger, female). I'm in control, I make the rules, and I'm the only one of us entitled to use force to get my way. Since emotional and/or physical domination is the goal, the punishments themselves often use some kind of emotional or physical violence to drive home that point. Spanking, humiliation, arrest, jail and torture all fill the bill quite nicely. I'm not interested in what you think. Do as I say, or I will be within my rights to do whatever it takes to make you behave.
Note, too, the hierarchical nature of this system. Those at the top of the heap enjoy the freedom that comes with never being held accountable by anyone. This exemption is implicit in conservative notions of "liberty," and is considered an inalienable (if not divine) right of fathers, bosses, religious leaders, politicians, and anyone else on the right who holds power over others. The privilege of controlling others' liberty, without enduring reciprocal constraints on your own, is at the heart of the true meaning of "freedom."
Let's be clear: Our system of laws was built entirely on the liberal model. The objective of a hearing, investigation, or trial is to dispassionately discover the facts of the matter, and make sure that the consequences are as natural and logical (read: fair) as possible. We're not judging your inherent worth, just your actions. We are forbidden from using force, or punishing you just to prove to you that we can. We have a sacred obligation to ensure that the consequences are more or less proportional to the crime. A good chunk of our Bill of Rights is devoted to making sure the conservative notion of punishment - the arbitrary exercise of power for power's sake - doesn't ever become part of our system of justice.
Given that, we need to be very concerned that the Democrats, as the liberal party, have apparently completely forgotten how any of this is supposed to work.
[...]When you think about it, it's not hard to see how this dangerously uniform bipartisan consensus against creating actual "accountability moments" came about. The bracing revelations of Watergate were followed by the Church investigations and Iran-Contra - all of which were liberal-style open inquiries that sought nothing more than to establish the truth and restore justice, but shook conservatives to the core. What the Democrats saw as doling out logical and natural consequences (break the law, go to jail - what's so hard about this?) the conservatives experienced as being on the receiving end of an authoritarian-style punitive smackdown. They were powerful people, above punishment. This wasn't ever supposed to happen to them. (How dare they challenge our authority?) Being who they were, they couldn't help seeing it as anything other than pure payback, a raw demonstration of power. And the only appropriate response was to show the Democrats how very, very out of line they were - by disciplining them in the conservatives' preferred way, with a show of unrepentant and overweening force.
But Steven D is looking at the accountability conversation (such as it is) this way:Indeed, this was one of the dominant, underlying memes in the conservative media since Obama won the election. In addition to the charge that "torture works" and that releasing information about it would "harm our national security" (claims that most anyone willing to educate themselves about can see are utterly bogus), they also promoted the idea that any further legal action would be "piling on" and partisan vindictiveness, not justice. An easy message to preach since the Republicans themselves had used the Department of Justice as a mechanism to pursue partisan political goals and settle political scores. Why would the Democrats do otherwise when they assumed power over the Executive Branch?
(Thanks to Anna for the help.)
Petition to Attorney General Eric Holder: Appoint a Special Prosecutor.
"How the banksters looted your 401(k): 'It's all about the fees, baby!': [...] 'Now you got a bunch of economic wizards jumping in and taking money out of your retirement plan, and they don't wanna tell you how much, you can't decipher it in simple English, and they're not interested in disclosing it, or having any transparency about it,' Miller told Kroft. [...] Miller's committee has heard testimony that [the fees] can eat up half the income in some 401(k) plans over a 30-year span." (And Lambert found this interesting tool.)
If you can be a "premature anti-fascist", can you be a post-mature DFH? Because even the CEO of JPMorgan has noticed that our little excursion in Iraq has hurt the economy: "There were those who tried to bring up the costs of our Big Iraq Adventure and we were shouted down as traitors, I believe. I wonder if Dimon ever brought it up with his buddies in the various sectors of the ruling classes during those summers on Nantucket. Somehow I doubt it. The only people who dared to suggest that spending the country into oblivion so that insecure Republicans could feel like Real Men might just have some negative ramifications for the economy were the "unhinged left." Everybody else was too busy treating Alan Greenspan like the Oracle of Delphi and George W. Bush like Winston Churchill to hear it. Welcome to the tribe Jamie. Don't bogart the joint." (Also: Dick Cheney thinks he still runs the government [and who knows? - he could be right!], and Florida fights to keep people from voting.)
Atrios never wants to hear about "fiduciary obligations" to shareholders again, since there doesn't seem to be any sense of that to begin with. And he says: "I'm not the first person to bring this up recently, but the point is that it shouldn't be Obama's and Rahm Emmanuel's decision whether to prosecute anybody. If there's suspicion and clear evidence that people broke laws, an inquiry should begin. If the AG feels undue pressure from President Change and his gang then he should appoint a special prosecutor to try to wall off the investigation from political pressure."
So is Obama the last great union-buster? If he really thinks Steve Rattner should handle the reorganization of the auto industry, then, well, maybe so: "But this isn't to say there aren't a few remaining pockets of working-class resistance to the money power that Wall Street and the DLC would like to crush. And right now, Rattner and the Treasury Department task force's biggest target is not the overpaid executive staff at General Motors, but the United Auto Workers union, the country's best and traditionally most honest mass labor organization."
Patrick flags a good quote from Charles Pierce, who thinks Obama is overly worried about whether we are too frail to handle the spectacle of seeing a bunch of high public criminals put on trial. Yes, we can!
Participate in a blog survey. Or not.
Tom Tomorrow on the Right-wingo-verse.
David Pringle's obit for JG Ballard in the Guardian. (I met Ballard once, in a non-sf context. He seemed like a nice man. I wasn't really a fan of his work, but he's pretty highly-regarded in the field.)
A thousand cuts
So Atrios posted this morning on a CQ story saying what we've known all along - that the NSA was spying on all sorts of people they are not supposed to be spying on, such as Congressional Democrats. And they heard Representative Jane Harman arranging a little deal with an Israeli agent and AIPAC (that included a "pledge" by the Israeli agent to lobby Pelosi to appoint Harman chair of the Intelligence Committee). Now, you might say that Jane Harman to be caught, except that she wasn't doing anything the administration didn't want her to do, and by spying on Jane Harman they were pretty much guaranteeing that they could make sure she did what they wanted. Not that she wasn't planning to, anyway, but once they caught her in the act, she was pretty much in their hands whenever they wanted. "And that, contrary to reports that the Harman investigation was dropped for 'lack of evidence,' it was Alberto R. Gonzales, President Bush's top counsel and then attorney general, who intervened to stop the Harman probe. Why? Because, according to three top former national security officials, Gonzales wanted Harman to be able to help defend the administration's warrantless wiretapping program, which was about break in The New York Times and engulf the White House." See how neatly this all ties together?
Yet more evidence that social spending saves money, such as supportive housing for homeless people.
In this installment of Tribulation Force, we learn the proper male and female virtues, and what it means to read the Bible "literally".
"How Countries Die ... there seem to be a lot of people in this country any more who don't understand what, or why, government is. And a lot of them seem to be in government."
"Quality of Life at the End of Life [...] As we look at reforming our healthcare system, it would be good to review what it means to have a life worth living." (Also: "Not Ready to Say Let It Go."
In comments, CMike has another bit that could so easily have gone on his own blog if he had one. From the final para: "This isn't about Republicans and Democrats or about clandestine operations. It's about the prerogatives of Big Money aka, the ruling class. Until a movement gets going with leaders who are explicitly devoted to going at the throat of that ogre, loyal Democratic Progressives will just have to content themselves with the sound and fury coming from their favorite commentators as those mainstream rebels map out politically correct short- and intermediate-term political strategies."
"The Long Lost ERA of the Bush Administration" (or maybe not).
What Would Jesus NOT Do?
Shipwrecked and comatose, drinking fresh mango juice
Thom Hartmann reminds us that The Real Boston Tea Party was Against the Wal-Mart of the 1770s:The real Boston Tea Party was a protest against huge corporate tax cuts for the British East India Company, the largest trans-national corporation then in existence. This corporate tax cut threatened to decimate small Colonial businesses by helping the BEIC pull a Wal-Mart against small entrepreneurial tea shops, and individuals began a revolt that kicked-off a series of events that ended in the creation of The United States of America.Nevertheless, here's Thers.
They covered their faces, massed in the streets, and destroyed the property of a giant global corporation. Declaring an end to global trade run by the East India Company that was destroying local economies, this small, masked minority started a revolution with an act of rebellion later called the Boston Tea Party.
See, not only were we prettier, but we were right.
Gary quite rightly says that nobody should be put in solitary confinement for over 90 days . (Also: Was Saddamn really forced to watch that movie? And, Jeez, I'd been wondering what they did with the US version of Life on Mars, but that is a really annoying ending.)
Join Cory and Charlie on May Day for your digital privacy. (Not that I think we can shoehorn those worms back into the can, but....) And have some video art.
And here's some sheep.
On the Infobahn
Bra of the Week
Elayne tells me that you can now chat with God online, and also that Sarah Haskins didn't like that "mow the lawn" ad, either.
Colbert launches anti-gay marriage ad - A storm is coming and it might get you wet!
Jonathan Turley didn't pull his punches on Rachel's show when discussing Obama's reluctance to prosecute torturers. He even mentions impeaching Bybee, who is now a federal judge, but is better known as a torture memo-writer. It's a good idea.
Jamison Foser is interested to note that no one mentioned what "representation" meant at the Boston Tea Party - nor were they leaping to defend the rights of the American citizens who literally still have taxation without representation. (He didn't mention that what pissed off the colonials was a new law that would ruin local business for the benefit of one great big company.)
Bernie Horn has Cheers for Pelosi's Plan to Investigate Wall Street Failures.
Bloomberg: "Stiglitz Says Ties to Wall Street Doom Bank Rescue: The Obama administration's bank- rescue efforts will probably fail because the programs have been designed to help Wall Street rather than create a viable financial system, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said." (via)
David Swanson at After Downing Street: "Obama Protecting Bush from Spain? The official story is that Spain has decided not to prosecute Bush's torture lawyers. Yet the known facts suggest something else entirely."
How to steal wealth.
Sunny Saturday afternoon linkage
Will Bunch has posted the Colbert video I was just going to post a request for. That is, I was going to post a request for a link that can be viewed immediately by people who click on it whether they are in the US or the UK. (I don't know why people tell me about proxy servers when I mention this problem. It's not just about me seeing it, it's about all my readers who might want to see it. And damn few of them are going to want to have to figure out how to set up a proxy, or even hear about it. And, no, I can't do Hulu, either.) Anyway, while I was still putting this post together, Julia sent me the link via IM out of the blue. So thank you both, Julia and Will! And here's Colbert giving the president some props when Obama Denies Habeas Corpus.
And Julia herself has a treat of a post up about the further attempts of Newt Gingrich to burnish his image, with the help of the Associated Press, which thinks it's news that Gingrich still wants to run the country (and wants to help him by misrepresenting the past that got him out of government in the first place). It's the smell of "New Nixon" - and, laugh while you may, but just remember that it actually worked for Nixon. It is not smart to shrug these people off. Everyone laughed at the idea of an actor as president, too, you know....
"It's overwhelming. I still don't believe it and I've been watching this for years. I still don't believe that they've stolen all this money. I don't think they'll get their way on eliminating taxes for the rich. I don't think they'll kill social security. And yet they have and they will.
Jay Rosen has a long piece about the problem of He Said/She Said journalism, at PressThink.
The right-wing-o-sphere spent quite a lot of energy trying to discredit Scott Beauchamp's published diary-writings about atrocities committed by American soldiers in Iraq. Attaturk posted a coda to that story that shows he wasn't just blowing smoke. Not that that will sway the wingers one bit, and no doubt they will still be holding him up as an example of liberal liars well into the future.
Should They Be Prosecuted?
In the UK, "They've got your number: Every call made, email sent and website visited is now being logged under new regulations. What does that mean for investigative journalists - and their need to protect sources?"
Ettlin at the movies: "Indie film weaves tales of migrants, killers, on compelling journeys."
Susie Bright's site may not be worksafe, but she has a beautiful obit for Marilyn Chambers up.
Under the rocks
"Those Truths Keep Coming Out: To the surprise of absolutely no one with his head on straight, the newly reality-based EPA had made the finding that pollution is bad for us. Someday I expect schoolchildren will study the past maladministration at a shining example of a penultimate aggressive ignorance, and ask their teachers why they weren't impeached for harming the public. On that day, the air should be returning to breathing quality and the seas receding from midtown Manhattan." (But, meanwhile, perhaps we are beginning to see some fresh air in our Cuba policies.)
Froomkin on Human Beings Without Humanity: "These memos gave the CIA the go-ahead to do things to people that you'd be arrested for doing to a dog. And the legalistic, mechanistic analysis shows signs of an almost inconceivable callousness. The memos serve as a vivid illustration of the moral chasm into which the nation fell -- or rather, was pushed -- during the Bush era. [...] But the widely held desire for some sort of process of reckoning and accountability is not just a matter of retribution. In fact, these memos are a vivid reminder that the underlying issues are more important than mere politics. [...] The president understandably doesn't want to get bogged down in what could well be a bitter and partisan process. But if, as he himself insisted yesterday, "the United States is a nation of laws," then he doesn't necessarily get to make that call -- unless he issues a pardon."
The Rude Pundit gives us A Dozen Random Thoughts Upon Reading the Released Torture Memos.
Keith and Janeane discuss Tea-baggers. Well, I don't know whether these people are as motivated by racism specific to Obama as Janeane suggests. Oh, sure, some of them certainly are, and they make no secret of it. But the Republicans have been very successful over the last few decades at shifting the onus from blacks-and-Jews through their codewords ("Northeastern liberals") so that "liberal" and "Democrat" carry the same weight; it doesn't even matter for a lot of them that Obama is black. Clinton, after all, was not black. Al Gore was not black. These people didn't become hate figures for being black, but rather for being associated with an ideology that doesn't automatically accept the idea that there is a class of people, even among American citizens, who don't count. And if you are a rich, successful black guy, the problem isn't that you're black - in fact, it's not a problem if you're black, because you're rich. The overt racism is mostly only directed at poor blacks, because then, so goes the theory, you're having to help "those people" with your tax dollars - and "those people" don't deserve it. And the proof that this is racism comes when you look at the rather large percentage of these anti-government loonies who are themselves not at all economically comfortable and feel absolutely entitled to every penny the government spends on them (without which they would be living on grates), but massively resent the fact that people of African or Spanish descent may be getting exactly the same benefits. Because they believe that while their own poor circumstances are someone else's fault, they are certain that "those people" are poor because they are shiftless and lazy and congenitally criminal in nature. They "don't live right". They're solely responsible for their own problems. Indeed, "those people", and the fact that liberals in government give them the hard-earned tax dollars of decent "real Americans" such as themselves, are the people whose fault it is that their own white-upstanding-American lives are so disadvantaged. Decent White Americans would all be rich if it weren't for that damned liberal Democrat commie FDR.
Elizabeth Warren on The Daily Show.
"Countdown Special Comment: Future of US Depends on Torture Accountability":We "moved forward" with the trusts of the early 1900s. And today, we are at the mercy of corporations too big to fail. We "moved forward" with the Palmer Raids and got McCarthyism. And we "moved forward" with McCarthyism and got Watergate. We "moved forward" with Watergate and junior members of the Ford administration realized how little was ultimately at risk.Meanwhile, "Pat Robertson urges his callers to crash Homeland Security hotline" - Can you imagine what would have happened if anyone on the left had suggested this a year ago while Bush was still in office? They'd have been dragged off to prison along with several of their friends.
They grew up to be Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.
But, Mr. President, when you say we must "come together on behalf of our common future" you are entirely correct. We must focus on getting things right in the future, as opposed to looking at what we got wrong in the past.
That means prosecuting all those involved in the Bush administration's torture of prisoners, even if the results are nominal punishments, or merely new laws. Your only other option is to let this set and fester indefinitely.
Because, Sir, some day there will be another Republican president, or even a Democrat just as blind as Mr. Bush to ethics and this country's moral force. And he will look back to what you did about Mr. Bush. Or what you did not do.
And he will see precedent. Or as Cheney saw, he will see how not to get caught next time.
Prosecute, Mr. President. Even if you get not one conviction, you will still have accomplished good for generations unborn. Merely by acting, you will deny a further wrong - that this construction will enter the history books: Torture was legal. It worked. It saved the country. The end.
This must not be.
"It is our intention," you said today, "to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution."
Mr. President, you are making history's easiest, most often made, most dangerous mistake - you are accepting the defense that somebody was "just following orders."
Digby discusses Professional Courtesy:In reading the Bybee torture memo, you see that he refers constantly to the "professionals" and the medical personnel who oversaw the interrogations. He uses the fact that American military personnel who had undergone SERE training had suffered little lasting damage due to their training in these techniques. (No mention of the logical conclusion that American military personnel knew that the people who were inflicting the torture were only doing it for demonstration purposes and therefore had a completely different psychological reaction.)I'm left gasping for breath, and grasping blindly for words, when trying to express my own reaction to both the grotesque abuses of individuals and the profound harm it has done to our country that we did this things because a stupid little boy who wanted to be "tough" was put in charge of our government.
Names have been redacted and much of the advice Bybee relies upon is not revealed with any specificity. But rely on it he does, through the entire opinion. Indeed, when you read this classic CIA CYA memo, you get the clear feeling that Bybee was trying to cover his own ass by constantly referring to these "experts" who stipulated that Zubaydah was in good health (despite the fact that the man had almost died of gunshot wounds just a few months before), was completely in control (except for being a schizophrenic) and was handling his interrogation with equanimity (by compulsively masturbating.)
One has to assume that at least some of the CIA personnel the Obama administration promised not to prosecute today were among those to whom Bybee refers. So who are they?
Mayer names the two senior psychologists involved in the reverse engineering of the SERE program in her book The Dark Side: James Mitchell and John Bruce Jessen whom she described as "good looking, clean-cut, polite Mormons."
KGB torture techniques are what the Bybee memo legalized --- at the behest of retired CIA "psychologists." And they recommended it over the objections of trained FBI interrogators and behavioral scientists in the CIA itself. Those were the experts he relied upon to assure him that Zubaydah was a seasoned terrorist warrior who could only be "broken" by using torture. He ignored plenty of others who said otherwise.
We know now that the information that was gleaned from Zubaydah under torture was completely useless. That's what that torture program is designed to do, after all -- elicit false confessions.
This can't be allowed to stand. And we really, really need those prosecutions. So make them do it.
From the notebook
So, more details of how the NSA spy program has been full of massive abuses comes out, just as we all predicted, and I guess it's supposed to be a surprise. But, as Glenn Greenwald points out, that's precisely what the whole FISA vote was about. And now there's more kabuki about making it all good again. Without, of course, doing anything that could make a difference. (Meanwhile, the right-wing media has been full the last couple of days of conservatives embracing treason and terrorism in reaction to Democrats controlling the White House.)
Susie posted an interesting quote yesterday from Jerome Armstrong: "Whatever partisan chuckle you might get from re-invented posturing by conservatives, its main holding power is a distraction from noticing the way in which Democrats have taken a hold of the worst of the Bush agenda - corporate bailouts, abuse of executive powers, failed middle-east policy - with insider ownership." (Meanwhile, a guy comes back from Iraq injured, but it's his health insurer who finally makes him feel like he's in Hell. Also: A Conversation With Elizabeth Warren.)
As MahaBarb notes, 250,000 attendees nationwide at demonstrations is not terribly impressive when you have the mass media actively promoting those demos. We did better than that with anti-war rallies that drew enormous crowds even though the media studiously ignored them both before and after the events. The right-wing still has the biggest megaphone and the money to try to convince us that their concerns are more important than our own.
David Sirota says that Mainstreaming the Militia has gone into overdrive.
Mark Kernes did a good obit for Marilyn Chambers, talking to a lot of her friends and colleagues, at Adult Video News. (I often forget that she was 99 and 44/100 percent pure.)
News and stuff
At The Raw Story, "Conservatives outraged at DHS assessment warning of violent 'rightwing extremism': An April 7 report by the Department of Homeland Security is causing waves of indignation among conservatives for labeling 'rightwing extremism' the 'most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.' In its key findings, the 10 page document (PDF link) put forward by the Office of Intelligence and Analysis states that there is 'no specific information that domestic rightwing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence,' but warns law enforcement agencies that the economic recession, coupled with the recent election of the first African-American President of the United States, is driving radical groups' recruitment."
If I thought this administration would actually listen to Rosa Brooks, I'd be thrilled to know she's been given a position as defense policy advisor. On the other hand, does this mean she loses her other two jobs as a law professor and columnist for the LAT? And if so, was this a feature rather than a bug? But Bill O'Reilly is apparently deeply upset about this for other reasons, as The Rude Pundit has discovered: "O'Reilly, after sputtering over the fact that Spain is looking into charging ex-Bush administration officials with crimes against humanity, decides to go for some bizarro moral equivalency by dragging Brooks out of the behind-the-scenes advisory position to make her a new poster child for what he sees as far left extremism. He tosses in a few quotes from Brooks's columns where she says that torture is bad and people should be punished for it, even if they're government officials. And, horror of horrors, O'Reilly says she was a "special counsel to George Soros's Open Society Institute," which, in O'Reillyzania, is akin to being Satan's pitchfork sharpener." The Rude One also didn't seem able to decide whether the Shoot the Messenger parody of the stupid anti-gay marriage ad was funnier than the original ad.
Not content to have murdered someone who happened to be walking through the vicinity of the G20 demonstration, the police show up at his memorial event to smack people around.
Olivier Knox, who has covered Washington politics over the last 15 years for Agence France-Presse (and was in the room when the shoes flew), will be tonight's guest on Virtually Speaking, interviewed by Jay Ackroyd, at 6:00 PM Pacific, audio at this link, or live at Inworld Studios Amphitheater on Second Life.
Geek panties (Thanks to Dominic for the tip.)
E.J. Dionne says that even Joe Scarborough thinks it's time for Coleman to go away and let Franken take his seat.
RIP Marilyn Chambers at 56. I always liked her remark that in American film you can stab a breast but you can't kiss one. Via Onyx Lynx, which also linked to: "Class Wars? Here's the Front Line" on the education gap; Why Marion Anderson's Easter Sunday concert was important, in The New Yorker; Jon Carroll on signing away your rights. Oh, and told me that Fred Pohl has a blog.
At Making Light, Teresa discovers The secret fighting style of ACORN, and Patrick theorizes about Amazon's very bad day.
At The Raw Story, "Former Area 51 scientists break their decades-long silence," and it was just what you thought it would be.
I am informed by Ruth that Susan Boyle's debut is "quite a sensation here," but since I never pay attention to this stuff, I was completely unaware of it. If you haven't seen the video yet, treat yourself - it's worth it.
It's that time again
Periodically I realize I haven't posted the link to Phil Agre's "What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It?" in a while. It's time.
Apparently, the Constitution only exists as filler for a couple of clauses granting rich people the right to make money, and for people to own guns. At least, that's the only explanation I can see for Clarence Thomas' view of rights.
Cost of Iraq war will surpass Vietnam's by year's end: "The amount of U.S. money spent on the Iraq war will surpass the cost of Vietnam by the end of the year, making it the second most expensive military conflict in American history, behind World War II, according to Pentagon figures provided Friday."
GOP Talking Head Admits it Owns FOX? Don't "Misunderestimate" Republicans: "If I had to recommend one single thing that the Republicans should be doing to help articulate the message, it is to acquire another television network so that there is not just FOX, but multiple sources of alternative information that will do a much better job than we did in 2008 to keep things honest." For differing values of "honest".
I dunno, I remember hearing that a lot of people went to the movies during The Great Republican Depression, so Netflix numbers don't mean anything to me. On the other hand, do people know their neighbors the way they used to? Is there still enough pull-together ethic left for people to turn to community in tough times? We're gonna need each other for what's coming, that's for sure.
I read stories like this and I feel terrible for all of the people affected, and slightly horrified by the numbers involved, but I can't shake the feeling that it's not the availability of guns that's the real problem. We always had guns. We didn't always have so many people so eager to shoot each other. Sooner or later we are going to have to ask why that is.
Maybe if we don't call him "Al"? "ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A Minnesota court confirmed Monday that Democrat Al Franken won the most votes in his 2008 Senate race against Republican Norm Coleman. The ruling isn't expected to be the final word because Coleman immediately announced plans to appeal to the state Supreme Court. He has 10 days to do so. That appeal could mean weeks more delay in seating Minnesota's second senator." It's all so deja vu.... (Via Atrios, who makes me wonder if everyone is old enough to remember what the "Al Franken decade" jokes refer to.)
I feel a letter-writing campaign coming on... Atrios: "I get, if don't agree with, reasons why reporters might not feel compelled to inform you that one major political party is, in fact, stark raving mad. But the degree to which the press treats Glenn Beck with kid gloves is pretty infuriating, especially given how "crazy" liberals like Michael Moore and dirty fucking hippie bloggers have been treated. It's almost as if there's a bit of an asymmetry here. Nah, couldn't be..." Just a simple question to journalists in the corporate media - you know, the "objective" ones who can't bother to fact-check Republicans: "Why do you persist in treating Michael Moore as crazy and irresponsible, and treating Glenn Beck like he is a credible voice, when clearly the truth is the other way around?" Another possible phrasing: "Why did the same media that claims Michael Moore's documentaries are full of falsehoods and distortions (even though they can't demonstrate any of them) not point out that Glenn Beck is a hateful, lying, ranting lunatic?"
Amazon.com is hiding lesbian books? Or did someone take advantage of the trust relationship Amazon maintains with its users to launch a Bantown-style attack to hurt that trust?
Simels is amused that the right-wing tax-dodge movement is now calling itself "Tea Baggers", and has some fun remembering where he's heard that one before - but not before dropping the phrase, "the diaphanous Glenn Beck" - not one I would have chosen, but now that you mention it, I can see through him, too. Meanwhile, Paul Krugman warns that, while the Republicans may seem particularly laughable and crazy right now, they've been that way for the last 15 years, and that didn't stop them from taking over the government.
Ratzinger's Vatican says Obama can't send an ambassador who doesn't support forced pregnancy.
Carl Hulse at the NYT uses a light touch to say that Republicans are still lying about the estate tax, and it may still be working - thanks to conservative Democrats.
Charlie Brooker's weekly rant on media was about the American television news clown show this time.
Dyed for you.
For you fashion hounds, particularly with a taste for earlier centuries, I am alerted to the Versailles Collection.
Happy Bunny Day
Since I have a few of these around the house, I thought I'd let you see what those eggs you pay for actually look like. They're egg-sized, but made of wood.
I see The New York Times found a very polite way to say that healthcare is a really vital issue for Congress to deal with, that Congress should use all of the tools at its disposal to get it done, and that bipartisanship, while a nice dream, is not something Republicans have any taste for so if it has to be passed without Republican support, tough beans on Republicans.
Also at the NYT, Frank Rich is after the mogul horde and doesn't trust Larry Summers to take care of the taxpayers when he has such obvious conflicts of interest. He also has a conflict of values, as my favorite paragraph, about Summers' tenure at Harvard, suggests: "That the highly paid leader of arguably America's most esteemed educational institution (disclosure: I went there) would simultaneously freelance as a hedge-fund guy might stand as a symbol for the values of our time. At the start of his stormy and short-lived presidency, Summers picked a fight with Cornel West for allegedly neglecting his professorial duties by taking on such extracurricular tasks as cutting a spoken-word CD. Yet Summers saw no conflict with moonlighting in the money racket while running the entire university. The students didn't even get a CD for his efforts - and Harvard's deflated endowment, now in a daunting liquidity crisis, didn't exactly benefit either." So, why does Obama surround himself with people like this and put them in charge of our economy?
Jonathan Schwarz innocently posted a commemoration of what would have been Rachel Corrie's 30th birthday, and the wingnuts apparently went a little nuts. One of them popped into his comments to say vile things, and I gather they had a party at Red State over it. It's always been kinda weird watching the way they latched onto her as a particularly compelling hate figure, and they won't late go.
Thanks to Thers* for the reminder about Doghouse Riley, who still brings great snark. (No one has to remind me to read Cab Drollery, but Diane, I can't believe it never occurred to you that the US soldiers who were handling all that cash might have pocketed some of it themselves. On the other hand, hell, yeah, these people are creeps.)
He will knock four times
Bra of the Week
It's a dusty galaxy. Probably my fault.
One Day by Amundn.
Unnecessary Knowledge (via).
Remember when I said that if institutions claim they cannot find the documents to renegotiate mortgages, they can't prove their interest in a home they are trying to foreclose on, so they shouldn't have the right to foreclose? Well, Mick Arran has found that there's now a Produce the Note movement to force whoever takes you to court to prove that interest: "In many cases, it's turning out NOT to be the guy who has taken you to court. If they aren't they have no legal standing and can't foreclose on you much less evict. Ergo, you don't have to leave your home until the guy who actually owns the note produces it and proves he has the right. As complicated as these documents are, that could take months or years."
I generally find Larry O'Donnell a putz, but it was gratifying to watch him dance on Pat Buchanan's head over the hypocrisy of Pat Buchanan pretending that Obama's (purported) support for Roe v. Wade should keep him from speaking at Notre Dame when he had no objection to the appearance there of George Walker Bush, who launched an unprovoked war over the Pope's objections and who allowed a record number of executions despite the fact that the Catholic Church opposes the death penalty.
When I first saw this article, I thought, "Oh, I'm sure the DOD discovered that years ago and has been putting in the drinking fountains on Capitol Hill for the last three decades." It would explain a lot. Norman Solomon's reaction was related, but of course a little different.
It's funny, I actually disagree with a number of Big Tent Democrat's positions on issues (you'll never hear me calling myself a "liberal hawk"), but, once again, I find his analysis spot on. Here he dissents from Booman's statement that "we haven't had a president this progressive since Franklin Roosevelt," and says that each one has to be put into the context of their times, anyway. (I would argue that there are areas where Eisenhower and even Nixon were more progressive than Obama, actually. Even in their own time. Can you imagine Obama observing that the only people who don't support Social Security are a few Texas oilmen, "and they're stupid"? I can't.)
A mind is a terrible thing to waste, and Barbara found one pretending that Chinese women can make free reproductive choices. Whew!
I'm really not sure that the Obama administration takes the torture issues seriously.
On paper, in black and white
There's a good bit of conversation going on with Kos and Alec Baldwin, quoted as "contrasting views" by Eric Boehlert, with further comment from Atrios (who dissents from the idea that they are contrasting views), on the ongoing saga of the collapse of the newspaper business model.
It's important to underline the fact that the newspaper model that is collapsing is not the model that kept newspapers healthy for hundreds of years, but the "modern" model that has been destroying more than just the newspaper industry - it's the high-flyer model of newspapers as just another "business" whose sole purpose is to make money.
Making some money is of course a necessity for any business, but there's a pretty huge gulf between the ethos of making enough money to keep the business healthy, on the one hand, and on the other the priority of generating immoral levels of wealth for just a tiny number of people at the very top. It is because that second view of business has consumed American industry that newspapers are really being squeezed.
Newspapers still run at a pretty good profit. They just don't generate the enormous profit margins that they used to. The people who've messed things up would like to blame this on the internet, but Kos and Atrios are right that a constellation of bad decisions at the top are what's really to blame.
But I'm always amused at the idea that people are buying fewer newspapers solely because they can read them for free on the web. How many people ever read newspapers from outside of their city? How many people subscribe to more than three daily papers and maybe a few weekly magazines? How many people got up every day and checked the headlines from papers that were not delivered to their doorstep, or at least left on the seat of the commuter train or bus?
(Oh, maybe you did - by turning on your television. Which, of course, you've been able to do for long before there was an "internet" thingy. But you couldn't actually read the articles that way.)
The fact of the matter is that without the internet, I would be reading exactly the same number of American news pages on paper that I read now, and that would mean those articles from the previous day's New York Times that are published locally in The International Herald Tribune. If I still lived in the DC area, assuming I could still bring myself to give them my money, I might have continued to take The Washington Post on my doorstep, and would have read the local papers. If I was still working at The Baltimore Sun, I would have read the paper in the newsroom, too. But I wouldn't have daily access on paper to most of the material I can now read on the net in any event. I would never be able to see those articles from The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Columbus Dispatch, or the good stuff written by some guy named Gene Lyons at some otherwise right-wing paper in Arkansas. Nor could I afford to subscribe to all of the magazines I now access on the web - I might take The Nation, but I never subscribed to The New Republic, The New Yorker, or Vanity Fair, and that would likely not have changed. I might read a friend's copy of something I don't subscribe to, but I wouldn't be paying for it myself.
But, as I've mentioned before, my dad cancelled his subscription to The Washington Post even though he didn't have a computer or the nerve to try to use one, because it had started to piss him off so much he couldn't bring himself to give them his money any more; from then on he relied entirely on the local papers.
The decline in the quality of the product has a lot to do with why many people no longer are willing to fork over their money for papers. And the decline in the quality of product is a direct result of the fact that the big papers are owned by people who are heavily tied to big corporations that don't actually want to be the purveyors of real news. The Washington Post, for example, is now part of a corporation that makes an awful lot of its money doing things that are somewhat antithetical to having a truly educated and engaged populace. That's why they never just came right out and told you that Bush's "education" initiative was just a giant project to rip taxpayers off, line the pockets of his friends and relatives, and also try to destroy the public school system. Because they're in the "education" business.
One reason it's been so easy for the right-wing to attack the media as "liberal elites" is because the elite part rings so true when the news media spends so much time talking up concerns and goals that are common to no one you know, and tells you so little of what you need to know to prevent it from destroying your world. They're not going to make, "If you have a boss, you need a union," a headline on their front page.
It's not "the newspaper" that's failing, it's the business that's been built around media that used to be newspapers, and it's failing for a number of reasons that have more to do with bad business decisions than anything else. Like Kos says:Newspapers have refused to adapt, or they've pissed away money buying baseball teams, or they've squeezed the value out of their product by demanding 30 percent profit margins, or they've expanded at unsustainable rates, or all of the above.Or they've swung so far to the right that everyone has started to twig that their content is part of the problem.
Meanwhile, I'm pretty sure no printed edition of your newspaper brought you .mp3s of this very morning's edition of Jonathan Ross' radio show, guest-hosted by David Tennant and Catherine Tate, with guests John Barrowman and Paul Merton - with all the non-talk stuff cut out. (Or give you the entire show on the BBC iPlayer every day for the next two weeks.)
I share the famine and the feast
Quote: "I have tried to warn folks that Obama is highly wed to neoliberal orthodoxy. That was apparent from just a cursory perusal of his statements on the campaign trail, and his choice of economic advisors not only on the campaign trail but once installed in the White House. Basically, neoliberals work to exploit economic crisis (in no small part caused by neoliberals) in order to gut social support networks and transfer wealth to the filthy rich. It is crucial that we make note that the regime has never seriously entertained the idea of defaulting on, say, Citigroup's bonds. Those are apparently too 'important.' On the other hand, some pittance of financial support for those retired or disabled - paid for by the way with our tax dollars - is entirely expendable during the current depressed economic conditions. Just as the biggest threat to social security was the Bush regime, it appears that Obama is every bit a threat if not more so. Unlike Bush, Obama is slick enough to keep up the appearance of being 'helpful.'"
That Nobel-winning DFH at The New York Times digs Elizabeth Warren, too. He also says the banking system was safer in the hands of unambitious people.
Stliglitz: "It's going to be bad, very bad. We're experiencing the worst downturn since the Great Depression, and we haven't reached the bottom yet. I'm very pessimistic. Governments are indeed reacting better today than during the global economic crisis. They're lowering interest rates and boosting the economy with economic stimulus plans. This is the right direction, but it's not enough."
Larry Summers Gets Pinked!
It's been an interesting couple of weeks for reading the local papers - the faces of people I know keep showing up in them. Why, even Mr. Sideshow turned up in an East End paper, but Metro informs me that a town has named two streets after streets from Ankh-Morpork, and they also interviewed David Simon (whose face I actually wouldn't have recognized, since it's changed a lot since the newsroom days.)
Even more aggressive use of a bra.
"Beauty and the Beast"
And the play went on for hours
Yesterday Glenn Greenwald observed that the headline at Talking Points Memo was "Obama Mimics Bush on State Secrets." Says Glenn: "Given that Obama is doing exactly what Bush did in this area, Gibbs' claim that Obama "still thinks that the Bush administration abused the state secrets privilege" must be one of the most incoherent and intellectually dishonest claims to come from the White House since the Inauguration -- either that, or Obama believes that Bush abused the privilege and that he, Obama, is also doing so."
Atrios: "Warning should've been when people started referring to 'financial products.' Financial institutions are middlemen, skimmers. They don't produce anything. 'Financial innovation' is almost entirely a ridiculous concept."
And here we see why there's a new law in the UK against photographing the police: so we won't see them committing crimes against members of the public. It would not surprise me in the least if, in the end, the officer who clearly assaults an obviously innocent bystander in this video is completely exonerated, and instead the person who shot the video ends up in jail.
I submit that the word "brown" is one with associations (e.g., "brown-nose") to something still found embarrassing and impolite in most cultures, and therefore people who have this name and are worried about names that cause embarrassment should change their names before offering such advice to others.
What Chris said. In the United States, we're not supposed have to trust our leaders - our entire system is based on the idea that you can't just trust those in power to do the right thing; you have to watch 'em like a hawk and hold 'em accountable. And not for a minute do I trust some guy who's essentially playing, "Trust me
You can listen to last night's Blogtalkradio/Virtually Speaking interview with Juan Cole here.
Most aggressive use of a bra.
So many reasons to drink it dry, now
"A Month of Crucial Decisions on Torture: An inflection point is a place on a curve where the growth rate flips from positive to negative (or vice versa). Once it is hit the curve will continue its trend, but unless another inflection point is reached it will inevitably turn down (or up). We may be approaching something like that with civil liberties and human rights."
"Harvard's masters of the apocalypse: If Robespierre were to ascend from hell and seek out today's guillotine fodder, he might start with a list of those with three incriminating initials beside their names: MBA. The Masters of Business Administration, that swollen class of jargon-spewing, value-destroying financiers and consultants have done more than any other group of people to create the economic misery we find ourselves in." This article is pretty unforgiving, and yet, it doesn't begin to scratch the surface of the evil that elite business schools teach. (via)
I can count on conservatives to do this every time - send troops into unnecessary wars and, always trumpeting their superior patriotism, expose the troops to devastating harm and then deny that they are ill and need help. (Also: Seriously, how psychotic do you have to be to gin-up an image of ACORN that rivals HYDRA? And: Got yer liberal media bias right here.)
Eleanor Obama? Nope.
Eyewitness real-time Italian earthquake blogging, by PNH.
"More Often Than Not", live.
Dean Baker in USA Today:In effect, the cutters are proposing that the government default on the bonds held by the Social Security trust fund: U.S. government bonds that were purchased with money raised through the designated Social Security tax.Jonathan Schwarz at A Tiny Revolution:
It is truly incredible, and unbelievably galling, that anyone in a position of responsibility would suggest defaulting on the government bonds held by the Social Security trust fund at the precise moment that the government is honoring trillions of dollars of bonds issued by private banks.
While the government has no legal or moral obligations to pay off the banks' debts to wealthy investors (who presumably understood the risks they were taking), the Social Security bonds carry the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.In case you've missed it, the Federal Reserve has guaranteed gigantic amounts of bonds issued by banks (see "bank debt" here). Thus, as Baker says, the Social Security cutters don't just want us to default on U.S. government bonds essentially belonging to Social Security recipients. They want us to do that at the same time we're paying off Citigroup's bonds.There's a Social Security crisis all right, and Barack and his friends are part of it.
Not a bastard, but: This cracked me up.
New news and old news
A little first-hand reporting from Jane Hamsher about how, having consolidated all the activist organizations behind him, Obama and his team have silenced them. Fortunately, Firedoglake isn't playing along, and Rachel Maddow interviewed her about the fightback against the Conservadems.
E.J. Dionne: "During an interview at the Capitol shortly after Congress broke for its recess, Pelosi spoke a simple truth too often ignored in the tiresome laments about the loss of bipartisanship in Washington. 'If you can't find common ground, that doesn't mean you're partisan,' she said. 'It just means you believe two different things.'"
You may have noticed that I don't really bother following the news of Sarah Palin and her family that so entertains some segments of the blogosphere. Although some writers can make very funny posts about them, I just think it's a waste of time when there's so much else going on. And though I do think it's important to continue to document how much the media criticisms of Obama are just GOP lying points, I also think it's important to document what the media prefers not to cover about the ways in which Obama is wrong on so many important issues. The media isn't interested in criticisms of Obama that come from the left, because they get their talking points from the right wing.
The policy of hiding the bodies has ended, and Keith Olbermann talked to Eugene Robinson about the first public return of a soldier's coffin in many years.
Harold Myerson discusses the way the union movement is reorganizing into a larger conferderation of unions in order to focus their strengths. It sounds like it could be a good thing.
In the UK's edition of the, "Yeah, 'free country' - right" department, the British powers have apparently been "instrumental" in cramming in a new European Union directive to force ISPs to preserve all e-mail, web-browsing, and VOIP data for a year: "Police and the security services will be able to access the information to combat crime and terrorism. Hundreds of public bodies and quangos, including local councils, will also be able to access the data to investigate flytipping and other less serious crimes." So, basically, if you ever annoy anyone in any part of government, they can prowl through your records for the last year looking for something to get you on. Which is exactly why the US Constitution made this sort of thing illegal. Oh, yeah, I'm sure the Bush administration's Unitardiness had them doing that already, and I don't seem to recall that Obama has put a stop to it.
More sleepy blogging
From "Ten principles for a Black Swan-proof world" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in the Financial Times: "7. Only Ponzi schemes should depend on confidence. Governments should never need to "restore confidence". Cascading rumours are a product of complex systems. Governments cannot stop the rumours. Simply, we need to be in a position to shrug off rumours, be robust in the face of them." (I didn't like everything in this piece, but some are pretty good. And thanks to Dan, who also tipped me to more on Elizabeth Warren at Bloomberg, for the heads-up.)
This amusing paragraph from Atrios remarking that wingnut behavior is so weird that "the equivalent on our side would have been if in 2003 left wing bloggers spent all their time talking about their designs for the giant puppets they were going to bring to the anti-war demonstrations," leads to an entertaining thread at Whiskey Fire.
Glenn Greenwald finds confirmation for his thesis that, unlike the right-wing, liberals are capable of thinking critically about their leaders - when even Keith Olbermann criticizes Obama. And it's no wonder, after this administration even introduced a new legal theory to extend its Bushian policies and powers.
The lawyer who defended Daniel Ellsberg is now going after the RIAA, but not in the usual way. Via Susie, who also told me some Beatles news and says SMG is in negotiations for a BtVS movie.
Every time I put a glass down lately, when I come back there's a little tiny bug floating in it. I also find them hiding between the sheets of the roll of paper towels in the kitchen. I tried Combat and it has no effect. So, tell me, what is sold in Britain that gets rid of the little tiny bugs?
Stuff I saw
Okay, you just do not throw spoilers in my comment threads. (And you shouldn't be reproducing whole posts from your blog there, anyway.)
"Congressman: Metered Broadband Kills Jobs & May Violate 1st Amendment: New York Representative Eric Massa came out against metered billing yesterday, issuing a statement that called out Time Warner for limiting consumers' access to broadband. Massa, who represents an area near Rochester, N.Y., where Time Warner has expanded its metered billing trials, seems to agree with my assessment that the Internet is critical to both individuals and economic advancement for the country. He even throws in the idea that this issue raises First Amendment rights, since the web is such an 'essential communications tool.' Since local municipalities have little direct power in this fight, I'm glad to see some national politicians take the helm. Now if only Massa were on a Committee that oversaw telecommunications." (Also, Glenn Greenwald has More on the success of drug decriminalization in Portugal. And alas, Salon is still publishing Paglia, for which there is no explanation.)
Diplomacy: "A 'very healthy, very energetic' Fidel Castro asked visiting Congressional Black Caucus members what Cuba could do to help President Barack Obama improve bilateral relations during his first meeting with U.S. officials since falling ill in 2006."
Theo Francis from Business Week was scarily calm on Washington Journal.
Some good, sane news, at least: Pentagon cuts in procurement. And the FDA looks willing to rein-in drug advertising claims.
This Week in Tyranny, Pat Leahy admitted that no truth commission or anything like it is probable, paranoid frenzy on the right has increased now that the powers BushCheney took for itself have fallen into Obama's hands, and, "It was not a few rotten apples. It was the Zimbardo experiment writ large."
It seems that my clever plan to get lots of things done early never quite came together, especially after my attention was derailed watching The Uptake to see Franken win in court. Gee, isn't it funny how the same Republican Party that thought it was so urgent to have a decision in the 2000 election before the end of December that they had to stop counting the ballots altogether now thinks it's really important to count the ballots over and over and over when it's already April? I wonder what could possibly have caused such a change of mind. Looks like now they want to push for the US Supreme Court, hoping to reprise (with the same lawyer, no less) the same argument that won the day there last time. We're meant to think that's the "The ballots weren't all counted by the same standard" argument, but of course they really have to be banking on the "My client is a Republican" argument. I liked Franken's lawyer explaining to the press that American citizens are entitled to go to court with cases that have no merit and lose, and that Franken won for the simple reason that more people voted for him.
Somewhere in between watching all that, I was also distracted by the fact that the Vermont legislature passed gay marriage and overrode the governor's veto. Cool. This is the first time it's been done directly via the legislature rather than being a court ruling based on state laws (constitutions) passed by the legislature, so the wingnuts are grudgingly saying they did it "the right way". Of course, the courts are supposed to be there to protect your rights even when the legislature gets it wrong, but hey, logic, it's so...liberal.
I can't say I was really in the mood for any downer news, so I'm happy to post about "Elizabeth Warren: Finally someone with a clue how to handle the financial crisis: Warren's the chief watchdog for the 700 billion TARP fund. Unfortunately, she has no real power, but it's still nice to see a government official say not just some of the right things, but almost all of the right things." Of course she has no real power. - she's one of the ones who've been right.
Paul Krugman is surprised that the G20 was actually better than nothing and even achieved some good things, but also says that "the world slump since early 2008 is as bad or worse than the slump from 1929-30." And the Geithner Plan of the day is still just a bank scam: "If there's a mechanism to police such deals, it isn't clear. And the sense that the administration is just too close to Wall Street continues to grow." (Remember, Obama says Geithner is doing a heckuva job.)
Atrios did a nice job of answering the stupid excuses the banksters make for why it's not their fault. And he's also dead right that, as bad as things might have been for us, the war on kids is one the kids really do seem to have lost. But that's all part of the ever-expanding War On Everyone - everyone, that is, who isn't in one of the families that run the world.
You may recall that in a post below I was suggesting sending a card to your reps saying you wouldn't support a candidate who acted in any way to facilitate reduction of Social Security benefits. We've had to scrap the logo idea for trademark reasons, but Jaundist has made up a card.
And speaking of pledging, it would be good to put pressure on them to Pledge to Break Up the Banks: Tell Obama and Congress: "If it's too big to fail, it's too big to exist. Dismantle the power of the financial elite and make policies that keep a new crop from springing up. We want our economy and politics restored for the public." Do something: sign onto the demand and we'll bring this message to Congress on April 11. If there's a rally near you, we'll tell you. And some all-meat backfin crabcakes would be nice, too.
Blackmail: "A Republican Senate source confirms the strategy. It now appears that Republicans are seeking an Obama commitment to safeguard the Bush administration's darkest secrets in exchange for letting these nominations go forward."
This one is from last week, but I think Lambert and I disagree about the headline of this story."
Definitely not the bra of the week.
Get rid of this wasteful government spending
I still don't think most people understand that, aside from the fact that marijuana is indeed a high-earning cash crop (the highest-earning cash crop in some states), we would be saving enormous amounts of wasted time, lives, and money by ceasing altogether to treat people as criminals because they are users and purveyors of certain psychoactive drugs. It's good to know, however, that I'm not the only person who hates patchouli.
I also get tired of people making the comparison between marijuana and alcohol and cigarettes. The comparison should be with pharmaceuticals - because those drugs are really dangerous. Of course, Holder wants MORE Federal Marijuana Possession Prosecutions: "And with marijuana sales central to the drug trade, Mr. Holder said he was exploring ways to lower the minimum amount required for the federal prosecution of possession cases." It's like John Ashcroft never left.
After what you did, I cant stay on
Juan Cole will be the guest at this week's Virtually Speaking, interviewed at Inworld Studios Amphitheater by Jay Ackroyd ("Jimbo Hoyer"). You can watch in Second Life, or listen live on the web here at 6:PM Pacific (and SL) time Thursday night. (An .mp3 will be posted later at BlogTalk Radio.) Meanwhile, have the video of last December's interview with Glenn Greenwald. (And there are more here.)
"Stealing Commodities" - Bruce Schneier on how those stolen manhole covers and copper pipes are warning you about major societal changes.
Jeremy Scahill says, "Obama's New Mercenary Company in Iraq Will Re-Hire Blackwater Operatives: "President Obama's new mercenary firm of choice, Triple Canopy, will be officially taking over the job of protecting US occupation officials in Iraq from President Bush's favorite hired guns, Blackwater, on May 7. But, as has been clear for some time, Obama may be changing the name, but the bloody game and its players are bound to remain virtually the same. The New York Times is now confirming that 'many if not most of [Blackwater's] private security guards will be back on the job in Iraq. The same individuals will just be wearing new uniforms, working for Triple Canopy.'" (More here.)
Of course, the only way to "revive" Wall Street under the Geithner plan is to allow the financial industry to keep prices inflated by using taxpayer dollars to buy toxic assets from each other at inflated prices. Cute, huh?
A.A. Gill: "The truth is that the French have never really got over being dumped at the altar of the 'special relationship.' It should have been them. It was after all, the French who gave you the Statue of Liberty and the keys to the Bastille and who think Jerry Lewis is funny. What did the English ever give you? Muffins and a burnt White House."
Adams in the Observer: "It is still a taboo to imagine the living dead, but not Thatcher. We are used to calling for the heads of our politicians, but never in so vicious and literal a way as we have called for hers. Everyone of a certain age will recall the weird catharsis of watching Elvis Costello singing live on BBC2's The Late Show in 1988 about hoping he stayed alive long enough "to tramp the dirt down" on her grave; 'She has no soul,' Costello claimed, 'she will burn in hell.'"
Quote from Eschaton comments: "Slavery was a legal fiction that a person could be property. Corporations are the legal fiction that property can be a person."
Yes, but it still isn't good enough.
"I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better"
We apologize for the delay
Bra of the Week (Hey! Figleaves! If you ever want to thank me for all this free advertising, this is the one!) (And no, I don't want any of you to buy it for me, it's too pricey and anyway it's the principle of the thing.)
Tenth state says yes to gay marriage.
If corporations are "persons", how come they never face charges for negligent homicide or murder when they deliberately act in ways that will kill people?
The Last Straw: Obamanista DoJ Seeks Felonies Against Heroic Utah Enviro-Monkeywrencher - Tim DeChristopher saved the American taxpayers from a huge rip-off by rich people, so of course the Obama administration has to punish him. I think I know for sure whose side Mr. Wonderful is on.
Nice call by Matt Yglesias on Evan Bayh's treacherous conservatism and phony fiscal hawkery: "Still not sure about this explanation of Bayh's 'no' vote. After all, someone horrified by the prospect of increased deficits wouldn't be pushing for estate tax cuts. More broadly, someone specifically horrified by deficits would be concerned not only about reducing spending but about increasing revenues. I, for one, am inclined to agree that the long-term deficits envisioned in the Obama administration's budget plan are too high. I would advocate lower spending on the defense side than Obama's envisioning, and more revenue through any of a number of possible mechanisms. Bayh, by contrast, seems to have a rather one-sided aversion to spending on domestic programs." (via) (Not that Obama comes off as any raving liberal by comparison. There's a power struggle here, but it's not on your behalf. This is absolutely Bushian.)
Frank Rich says credit default swaps are a Hummer: "Some of Wall Street's exact failings also capsized G.M.: the hard sell of alluring but junky products, crony capitalism, reckless gambling, unregulated accounting sleights of hand." What Rich doesn't say is that even newspapers' failing fortunes are owing more to bad business decisions (including stupid investments) than to any change in consumer behavior. But he does ask one right question: Why behead GM when the people who really created this mess, at AIG and on Wall Street, have to be protected at all costs? And he flags this song. But he doesn't ask why the union workers in Detroit (or or anywhere else) should be paying for so many other people's sins.
Like Barb, I have pretty strong memories of George Bush offending the hell out of the Queen when he visited. As guests, the Obama's seem to have been well-behaved - and well received. What a pity they aren't just our guests, as well. Maybe they'd actually give us something nice. They're better optics, but Obama still seems to be part of the plot to rob from the rest of us to give it all to the rich.
Unraveling the wingnut assault on Harold Koh
Is MoveOn campaigning for anything, lately?
Make sure they can't say they weren't told
CMike ends one of his shoulda-been-a-blogposts with a paragragh that, with the amendments I've made, I think would make a good little pre-printed postcard you could run off a stack of and pass out to all your neighbors to send to your Congressperson:I will neither vote for, nor support in anyway, any candidate who, from this day forward, advocates for any Social Security benefit reductions. I will repudiate forever any legislator who votes in committee for a bill with a provision for such a reduction, or for cloture during the debate of a bill with such a provision, or for an amendment with such a provision, or for either a stand alone or an omnibus bill with such a provision.And if you're energetic, you could print off two more stacks for your Senators.
(We need a little rubber-stamp logo of a pitchfork crossed with a torch.)
Eat them before they eat you
You really want to watch the last episode of Bill Moyers' Journal:BILL MOYERS: For months now, revelations of the wholesale greed and blatant transgressions of Wall Street have reminded us that "The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One." In fact, the man you're about to meet wrote a book with just that title. It was based upon his experience as a tough regulator during one of the darkest chapters in our financial history: the savings and loan scandal in the late 1980s.One of the interesting points made here is that the Obama administration is breaking the law by continuing the Geithner Plan rather than just, y'know, enforcing the law. (Moyers also spoke to the first recipients of the Izzy Award, Glenn Greenwald and Amy Goodman, on the same show. You can read the full transcript more easily here.)
BILL MOYERS: Bill Black was in New York this week for a conference at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice where scholars and journalists gathered to ask the question, "How do they get away with it?" Well, no one has asked that question more often than Bill Black.
BILL MOYERS: I was taken with your candor at the conference here in New York to hear you say that this crisis we're going through, this economic and financial meltdown is driven by fraud. What's your definition of fraud?
WILLIAM K. BLACK: Fraud is deceit. And the essence of fraud is, "I create trust in you, and then I betray that trust, and get you to give me something of value." And as a result, there's no more effective acid against trust than fraud, especially fraud by top elites, and that's what we have.
BILL MOYERS: In your book, you make it clear that calculated dishonesty by people in charge is at the heart of most large corporate failures and scandals, including, of course, the S&L, but is that true? Is that what you're saying here, that it was in the boardrooms and the CEO offices where this fraud began?
WILLIAM K. BLACK: Absolutely.
Also, Glennzilla was on Washington Journal making the point that the financial industry is controlling the government and forcing them to let them eat the country.
* * * * *
Your Talking Dog interviews George Clarke, who "has represented two Chinese (Uighur) and two Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo Bay, two of whom have been determined to be "not enemy combatants" (or whatever nomenclature will replace that term) and one of whom has been "cleared for transfer or release" (two years ago and is still sitting in Guantanamo)." And, um, Dick Cheney.
Anyone for shuffleboard?
It's official: It was election fraud in Kentucky. (Unofficially, of course, it was election fraud in a lot of other places, too.)
"How Much Waiting Is Too Much?" - because there's a whole lot of Big Stall going on.
I don't know why Atrios only named one of these people as yesterday's Wanker of the Day. Especially when Evan Bayh has such an edge.
Gordon Gekko works for Obama: "Welcome to a real life version of that story, starring corporate raider Steve Rattner, who President Obama appointed to head the White House team now overseeing the auto industry (and don't say you weren't warned). As the Wall Street Journal reports, Rattner's strategy is to use the government's leverage to try to specifically crush auto workers and force them to accept even more contract concessions than they've already agreed to."
Vast Rightwing Mendacity: "The dominance of the media by the right wing has led to the mantra that libruls promoting homeownership by the poor caused the economic crisis, and Rep. Frank pointed out that he had sought more than a few times to ensure that affordable rental property be the emphasis rather than promotion of mortgages that the poor could not afford. He recalled a conversation with Hank Paulson in which Paulson was promoting ending rental subsidies to the poor after five years in order to push them into buying homes. Frank reports his response was to ask if Paulson then would be ensuring that after five years those renters were to get salaries enabling them to purchase those mortgages; as usual, good sense did not end the adopted belief in the wingers' own ideas." (Also: "More PHARMAcology".)
Ian Welsh has a new blog.
What the editor of Adult Video News has to say about adolescent sexuality and the issue of sexting.
Asking for more
I'm not worried about anyone overreacting to the destruction of our economy, I'm just worried about them doing the wrong thing.
And the big wrong things I'm most worried about are, of course, giving money away to Wall Street, mandating commercial health "insurance", and killing Social Security.
I've already lost friends to the American system of Maybe Health Care, Maybe Not, and it really grinds me that some of the most creative contributors to world culture by and large don't have health coverage or any other benefits. Like these people:Paul Williams, the legendary creator of Crawdaddy! Magazine, fell off his bicycle in 1995 and suffered a traumatic brain injury, which has led to early onset Alzheimer's. His family's having difficulties with his care, and so a few of Paul's friend have set up a website both as a tribute to his life and work and in order to make an appeal for help.Paul did all of those things, but he never had a "job", so he has no benefits at all.
Apart from being a true Founding Father of 'rock writing', and Philip K. Dick's literary executor, Paul should be of special interest to Boing Boing readers for his place at the crossroads where the science fiction fanzines of the '50's gave rise to an empowered and self-aware music-fan subculture - and helped create what we now know as 'the '60's'. For anyone with a curiosity about the formation of world-changing subcultures through grassroots media, Paul was there when blogging was a twinkle in a mimeograph eye.
The difficulties Paul's wife, the singer Cindy Lee Berryhill, and his son Alexander, now face due to Paul's need for full-time care are an opportunity for crowd-sourcing at its best. This is a rotten time to be hitting anyone up for contributions for anything, but it is simply the case that if everyone who acknowledged how Paul changed their life by his music-writing and editing - or by his efforts propagating the writings of Phil Dick back into prominence - were to give even five or ten dollars it would transform a very unfortunate situation. (If everyone whose life had been changed by Paul's work but didn't even know his name were to contribute, they'd build his family a castle.)
Yes, Paul is someone I know personally, but we've all got friends, acquaintances, and relatives who work hard and give a lot but end up with empty pockets. Some of us are in that position ourselves In the American system, before the government will help you, you must lose everything - like, for example, royalty rights.
You want single-payer and protection (or even full restoration or expansion) of Social Security. I want a guarantee that everyone will have free access to good health care and that no one will ever be destitute. For now, we just have to do what we can to help each other, but maybe we're just not thinking BIG enough.
Music: Cindy Lee Berryhill, "Indirectly Yours" and "When Did Jesus Become a Republican?"
Jess Fiedorowicz led an online discussion on healthcare solutions at Corrente and made a number of interesting points in answer to Villager talking points, such as that there is a workable plan, and it's HR 676, and that, "Medicare was successfully implemented in 9 months. We have better computer systems, etc. now.' Of course, knowing how these things go, I'd almost rather see it done on paper first, since we all know how certain types of people manage to screw up the computerization of, well, anything. He also supplied a link to an Onion story: "Man Succumbs to 7-Year Battle With Health Insurance" - which has far more truth to it than it should. (Further thought on the advantage of single-payer over your employer-supplied health insurance: If your company is bought by creeps, you can leave without losing your health insurance.)
Here's a good way to save the taxpayers a whole lot of wasteful spending: Say No to Abstinence-Only Programs.
Ettlin tells me a bunch of ex-newspaper staffers have gone on to bloggier things at Baltimore Brew, where he and Bonnie have a story on Ladies Who Crunch: Baltimore's Other Pro Football Team.
Aluminum: "Nevertheless, -um spellings for elements were not unknown at the time, as for example platinum, known to Europeans since the sixteenth century, molybdenum, discovered in 1778, and tantalum, discovered in 1802. The -um suffix on the other hand, has the advantage of being more consistent with the universal spelling alumina for the oxide, as lanthana is the oxide of lanthanum, and magnesia, ceria, and thoria are the oxides of magnesium, cerium, and thorium respectively."
The Magic of politics
I think my favorite datum in the GiftGate saga is Edroso's discovery that a wingnut wasn't sure how bad or good the songbook was as a gift since he'd never heard of Richard Rodgers. I'm sorry, but that's just plain unAmerican.
In other British news, it seems the cops have continued their time-honored method of creating a riot by provoking the crowd and then claiming they had no choice but to retaliate - the problem always being that retaliation is supposed to take place after an attack. The news media happily go along with the fiction by doing cute things like reversing the footage so that the crowd reaction shots precede the police violence shots. (Of course, the police were provoked - Russell Brand was there.) Craig Murray: "The entire torrent of demonisation of protest is part of a process of limiting the area of legitimate debate to the tiny gap that exists between the Labour and Conservative parties, with all other ideas portrayed not just as illegitimate but as disorderly and threatening. That governs the opinions which journalists are allowed to express and the selection of voices heard on the media. It is the intellectual equivalent of playing a game of cricket confined to the square, with the outfield behind the ropes." Sound familiar?
Scott Horton: "Richard B. Cheney is the consummate con man of modern American politics. He was taken as the ultimate Washington power figure, cool and always several calculations ahead of his rivals, a brilliant businessman, a cerebral strategist. But Cheney's reputation was put together with smoke and mirrors - or more to the point - with a combination of silence and bulldozing based on what most people in the room always assumed to be superior knowledge. In the meantime it has become clear that Cheney was a disastrously bad businessman." But is it possible that it's all catching up with him? (Also, an interview with Barry Eisler, author of Fault Line.)
As a trauma surgeon as well as a liberal blogger, Errington Thompson is eager to get the healthcare discussion started. Meanwhile, in his radio show, Bill Scher talked about the political maneuvering around healthcare, and also interviewed Eric Boehlert on how the media hasn't gotten any better.
Sean Paul Kelley has been taking pictures in Istanbul.
Mr. Obama, tear down that Wall Street!
At Media Matters, Eric Boehlert notes that the American media seems to be in a tizzy about the supposed outrage to British sensibilities caused by Michelle Obama touching the Queen. But as commenter DEM2020 notes there, this is all a distraction from the real news in London, which is that previously "modernist" heads of government are now talking the anti-free-market-talk and demanding more regulation while even attacking tax havens. ("The conference will agree sanctions against tax havens that fail to sign up to new anti-secrecy agreements. It's an important moment.") There's also a real feeling in the air that the United States and Britain are being seen as being at the root of the problem - something even the US can't really argue with - and we just don't seem to have the same stature abroad that we did before. Oh, and riots in the street, of course.
"Moody's Warns of Worst Corporate Default Rate since WWII," and "FASB Eases Mark-to-Market Rules" ("The changes approved today to fair-value, also known as mark-to-market, allow companies to use 'significant' judgment in valuing assets to reduce writedowns on certain investments, including mortgage-backed securities. Accounting analysts say the measure, which can be applied to first-quarter results, may boost banks' net income by 20 percent or more. FASB approved the changes during a meeting in Norwalk, Connecticut.")
NYT editorial on The Forgotten Rich: "The Senate budget debate began this week against a backdrop of war and recession, rising unemployment and surging foreclosures, runaway health care costs and diminishing insurance coverage - to name just a few of the nation's big problems. But for Senator Blanche Lincoln, Democrat of Arkansas, and Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, the most pressing issue is clear: America's wealthiest families need help. Now." Yep, they're lying about the estate tax again, because obviously that's the real problem facing America.
Anti-healthcare zealot and profiteer Rick Scott presents his excuse for breaking the law: The other guys were doing it, too.
Republicans embrace bipartisanship to join Orszag in trying to destroy Social Security.
"Republicans don't want ex-AIG chief testifying" is an amusing little story, not least for the fact that the great symbol of rectitude, "Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the top Republican on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter to committee Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) questioning Greenberg's credibility as a witness. The letter says Greenberg is involved in nine lawsuits and a securities fraud investigation." Darrell Issa thinks the former AIG head might lack ethics. No! But who knows, maybe Greenberg is the guy to ask where the bodies are buried.
I was just looking at this thread on Libby's discussion of the War on Some Classes of People Who Use Some Drugs, and I just wanted to point out that heroin is actually a safer drug than many analgesics that you can buy over the counter. It's always worth remembering that there were always two big reasons why these drugs were made illegal: one is that the drugs compete with other drugs which are controlled by commercial vendors (alcohol and pharmaceuticals that are still under patent), and the other is social control - that is, the ability to control certain populations by terrorizing them with the law. That's not the same as controlling criminal conduct - it is a deliberate method of weakening communities that are seen as a threat to those in power even in the absence of any criminality on their part. Making something harmless they do illegal makes it easy to victimize them. We now have a third reason, which is the prison industry - it is such big business now that it takes real courage for a politician to address the problem at all.
There's been a lot of speculation about whether prosecutors deliberately screwed up the Stevens prosecution in order to ensure that the conviction would be overturned. I'm not sure that's necessary - after all, the mentality we have among prosecutors these days of convictions-at-all-costs is not unique to this case - but it's not impossible that this was indeed the intended outcome. And yes, convictions where there was clear prosecutorial misconduct should be overturned (just like the ones where the evidence is the fruit of the poisonous tree). But after watching this administration take up the Bush administration's mission to continue prosecuting people who are obviously being victimized for political reasons, I'm a little startled that our Attorney General suddenly started being interested in justice only for the crackpot Republican from Alaska. Scott Horton thinks it's a good start on a much longer list, but I'll have to see Holder going after them (the Siegelman case would be a good one to follow-up with) before I believe that. A lot of people believe (or want to) that Holder cleverly started with Stevens to make it more politically comfortable to start the process, but I don't know.
Meanwhile, Larisa Alexandrovna reports that in the Paul Minor case, Rove protegee Priscilla Owen has recused herself as a judge in the case after one of Minor's attorneys filed a motion for the recusal on the basis of the obvious conflict of interest involving a prosecution that was obviously another of Karl Rove's concoctions.
Meanwhile in Pottersville...
Pressed rat and warthog
I've been having my own little internet-related problems today that I've been trying to sort out, but here are the few things I've noticed in my short time of actually looking at blogs:
DC Blogger needs some help to keep being able to afford to burn up the phone lines to try to campaign for single-payer. Please help if you can.
CMike provided a little more Partnoy on the subject of Orange County's finances down in comments.
Joseph Stiglitz in the NYT on Obama's Ersatz Capitalism: "THE Obama administration's $500 billion or more proposal to deal with America's ailing banks has been described by some in the financial markets as a win-win-win proposal. Actually, it is a win-win-lose proposal: the banks win, investors win - and taxpayers lose."
Sy Hersh implies that, to a large extent, Richard Bruce Cheney still has his hand on the wheel.
Eric Holder thinks an "unconstitutional" trial verdict should be overturned - not when it's torture, not when it's false testimony, not when there's no evidence, but when it's Ted Stevens.
George R.R. Martin announces that Howard Waldrop will become co-author for the rest of the series of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE. (via)
If you ask about single-payer in a "healthcare forum", does it make a sound?
Shhh!So, Reuters and YouTube agree: Dr. Jess Fiedorowicz was present at the White House Health Care Forum, spoke in favor of single payer, and directed a question to director of the White House Office of Health Reform Nancy-Ann DeParle. And the so-called White House "live" blogger censored him (or, possibly, worse**).
And did Nancy-Ann DeParle answer the question? What do you think? Let's go to the transcript again:[GOVERNOR CULVER:] Thank you. [pause] It's on the table now! [laughter and applause] Which is the purpose of this meeting, to hear from everyone that's willing to try to help us solve this national crisis, this national challenge.
It wasn't April 1st when I found these links
You really shouldn't miss this post from Athenae on the fact that newspapers aren't failing because kids don't wanna read or the internets stole their business or whatever, but because of bad business practices - and Duncan's added value on the subject. (Other links Eschaton got to first that I've been meaning to mention include David Kurtz's on how "the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation decided to shift its holdings from bonds to equities, just about the time the bottom fell out of the stock market," and Dan Froomkin on how torture doesn't work, even for Dick and George and their friends.
Lance Mannion really doesn't like New Deal revisionism.
This Week In Tyranny, the Republicans are still creeps, the banksters are still creeps, and we still have a conservative president.
"I did a study of the early money, and it was perfectly obvious that Obama was the candidate of finance."
There was no "Bradley Effect in New Hampshire.
Tedisco Preps for Loss, Files Motion to Overturn Election Results Before Polls Even Close - Even in a Republican district, they didn't want to vote for the Republican, and he can't stand it.
Diane on Who Really Runs Congress: "Yesterday, I posted on the role lobbyists play in the California state legislature. Today, in a disconcerting bit of synchronicity, the NY Times published an article on the looming legal troubles of lobbyist Paul Magliocchetti (described as a "protege" of Democratic Congressman John P. Murtha). The article suggests that Mr. Magliocchetti just might be another from the Jack Abramoff line of corrupting lobbyists."
Onyx Lynx provides musical accompaniment for Sy Hersh's piece on the Middle East in The New Yorker.
Robert Crumb set to publish 'scandalous' Bible satire.
Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, April 2009
Is the media in denial?
Back to front page
And, no, it's not named after the book or the movie. It's just another sideshow.