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Monday, 30 April 2012

Salting the earth

I couldn't seem to bring myself to blog over the weekend. It's the austerity, dammit. It's just an unending litany of ways that western leaders all over the world seem to be obsessed with wrecking their nations' economies and western democracy entire. All of it mercilessly capped with Marcy Wheeler telling Culture of Truth on Virtually Speaking Sundays that it seems clear the oligarchs have decided they don't get any value from labor anymore so they are chucking the whole enterprise.

Just going to Eschaton was enough to make me want to run away screaming:

  • "This Isn't Necessary" - Spain is destroying itself, and Angela Merkel shows no mercy.
  • "And The Beatings Will Continue" - Not so good at home, either.
  • "Even More Beatings - Like Krgthulu I'm not especially optimistic that the powers that be will own up to being wrong or change their policies. They've convinced themselves that the only thing that matters is "low government borrowing costs" because this means that the people who have all the money have "confidence" in them. Of course low government borrowing costs don't just reflect market confidence by the bond vigilantes, they reflect the fact that their economies are crap and there aren't any productive investments anywhere. But, hey, as long as interest rates are low, nothing else matters. I might actually prefer evil. This is mostly just stupid."
  • "In Defense Of Child Labor" - Claire McCaskill exuberantly tweeted, "Great news,our work to stop dumb rule on children working on farms succeeded! Rs & Ds from farm states came together and common sense won." And then the White House decided to forget about those protections against children doing hazardous work "on farms owned by anyone other than their parents." AP claims the rule was "unpopular" - but doesn't say who it was unpopular with.
  • "Deja Vu All Over Again" - The discourse on Austerity is sounding an awful lot like the one on the Iraq War. Someday we will all be known as "premature anti-austerians".
  • "Pretty Evil: Google's joining up with the worst of the worst."
  • "Perhaps They Should Be Restive" - With the news that Spain's population is "restless" while the government proceeds to destroy its economy, Atrios says: "When your unemployment rate is 25%, that is your problem. Nothing else. You should not be thinking about any other problems. There is no mechanism such that "cutting government spending" will lead to an improved fiscal outlook. There is, however, a mechanism such that "more jobs" will lead to an improved fiscal outlook. Fix the recession, fix the economy, fix any fiscal issues. There is no way to fix the fiscal issues in isolation."
  • "You Hope It's Just Elaborate Security Theatre" - Charlie Stross has A Bruce Schneier Moment on the discovery that "The Ministry of Defence is considering placing surface-to-air missiles on residential flats during the Olympics. An east London estate, where 700 people live, has received leaflets saying a 'Higher Velocity Missile system' could be placed on a water tower. But estate resident Brian Whelan said firing the missiles 'would shower debris across the east end of London'." Have I mentioned lately how much I hate it that we're having the Olympics in my backyard?
  • "74" - Apparently the age that George Will thinks we should retire at.
  • "Operation Blame Yurp: Our great and glorious leaders were setting the stage to use that excuse here if there weren't signs of the economy improving, but they're running with it now in the UK." People do know that the downward slope started well before Cameron and Obama, but the public is also beginning to realize that they've both made it clear that they are deliberately accelerating the process and making sure that nothing stops it.
  • "Getting It The Wrong Way Round: Unsurprisingly, Spain is officially in recession. Governments everywhere have decided that austerity and deficit cutting - or at least the appearance of trying to cut the deficit - are ends in themselves. But they never are. Even if you believe it's the most important thing, the way to cut government borrowing is to have more people have jobs so there's more tax revenue being collected. Firing everyone and destroying your economy does not solve your borrowing problem. There's evil here, perceived opportunities to gut the welfare state and labor protections, but there's also a whole lot of stupid."
  • And also via Atrios, E.L. Doctorow with "Unexceptionalism: A Primer: TO achieve unexceptionalism, the political ideal that would render the United States indistinguishable from the impoverished, traditionally undemocratic, brutal or catatonic countries of the world, do the following: [...] With this ruling, the reduction of America to unexceptionalism is complete."

And, yeah, Pelosi is falling in line now with this Grand Bargain crap.

If I ever needed proof that the serious right-wingers know that the Democratic leadership is the party that is fulfilling the right-wing agenda, this might be it. When the guys from AEI and Brookings say the Republicans are the problem, you know they are just abandoning the GOP to the whack-jobs, they don't need them anymore.

High Court rules UK ISPs must block The Pirate Bay. This isn't about protecting creators, it's about control. It's always about control.

The plan to destroy small magazine publishers is working: "The American Prospect Magazine May Close In May"

What is it with Republicans and their voter fraud?

And speaking of voting, even the Obama campaign has figured out that Republicans are deliberately making it harder.

The Forgotten Front In The War On Voting: "Nationwide, the approximately 5.3 million Americans with felonies (and, in several states, those with misdemeanor convictions) are kept away from the polls, according to the American Civil Liberties Unions (ACLU). The organization is sponsoring the Democracy Restoration Act, a bill introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), which would create a federal standard for restoring the voting rights of felons."

I know, it's hard to give up this dream.

Enemy combatants or paranoid fantasy? I don't think we're in Kansas anymore. (And, having read the first few Baum books, I have to say this is a lot less like Oz than Kafka.)

General J.C. Christian gives advice.

Did you know you can make your own ad for Spitfire?

23:34 BST

Friday, 27 April 2012

War and pieces

Stuart Zechman and Jay Ackroyd were talking about "life in wartime" on Virtually Speaking A-Z, and I think it makes a good companion piece to Jay's Glenn Carle interview, as both concern themselves with the essential fact that, by responding to Al Qaeda's attack on the Twin Towers exactly the way Al Qaeda wanted us to, America's leaders are bringing down the United States. Which, apparently, was the "pragmatic" thing to do in the Third Way War.

Speaking of which, I wonder what Obama promised Elizabeth Warren to get her to move off her beat and come out as a war hawk.

A couple of days ago, EFF wrote that the House was debating CISPA, and then yesterday TechDirt posted, "Insanity: CISPA Just Got Way Worse, And Then Passed On Rushed Vote [...] Basically this means CISPA can no longer be called a cybersecurity bill at all. The government would be able to search information it collects under CISPA for the purposes of investigating American citizens with complete immunity from all privacy protections as long as they can claim someone committed a "cybersecurity crime". Basically it says the 4th Amendment does not apply online, at all. Moreover, the government could do whatever it wants with the data as long as it can claim that someone was in danger of bodily harm, or that children were somehow threatened - again, notwithstanding absolutely any other law that would normally limit the government's power. Somehow, incredibly, this was described as limiting CISPA, but it accomplishes the exact opposite. This is very, very bad."

Matt Taibbi reports on the death spiral of America's biggest welfare teat-suckers: the Big Banksters.

Right-Wing Watch has an article up on how the wingers are co-opting MLK, but I think they missed a bet. One of the things the left had that the right was losing during the '60s was morality - especially Christianity.

Why is the DCCC working so hard to protect far-right Republican incumbents?

Digby says that the Confidence Fairies and Bond Vigilantes are dropping like flies - but all around us, western leaders continue to double down on the destruction of their own countries. And yes, when the White House gets rid of civil service jobs and talks about cutting spending and the importance of reducing deficits, they, too, are practicing "austerity".

The Rude One wonders why the Arizona Attorney General went in front of the Supreme Court without any ammunition.

At last, Charles Pierce addresses What's Wrong with the Ross Douthat Creed. I think the jury is in, and Douthat's Bad Religion is both bad history and, well, bad religion.

Charlie Savage and The New York Times are suing the DOJ for failing to respond to a request for memoranda supposedly justifying the president's power to make recess appointments when there are pro forma sessions ongoing. It's funny how a president who couldn't make recess appointments during normal recesses has been making them in other circumstances.

Dean Baker notes that in order to get good economic news, people are just ignoring the impact of weather on economic activity.

Dope and Change

I didn't post about Wales' grand slam in the Rugby, despite jubilation in the Welsh side of the family, because, well, I don't really care. However, that was before I learned that whenever Wales wins the grand slam, a pope dies.

Well, what would The 10 Grumpiest Living Writers be without Harlan Ellison?

17:45 BST

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Round and round and round we go

It looks like kangaroo courts will now be the norm, and Bradley Manning is no exception.

Christians really don't seem to like Douthat's book, which indulges many fantasies about how well the various denominations have gotten along with each other through history, but also seems to be trying to accommodate right-wing economic views into an orthodoxy that has never shared them - even while deploring the "accommodations" of liberal Christians. "This demonstrates the extent to which traditional - orthodox - Catholic social teaching is at odds with that of contemporary American Catholic neo-cons, intent on finding ways to baptize Hayek and von Mises. But as I say, for Douthat not all accommodations are bad." Via Atrios, who knows the '50s were no utopia of Christian agreement.

At at Making Light, I see that Avram and the commenters have also been talking about the meager differences between the two parties, and how to influence them, and Teresa seconds an observation about comment order. Over on the sidebar, I was directed to two links under the title "Libertarianism: Free reign for private tyrannies", complete with interesting quotations within the tags. The first was to "The liberty of local bullies" at Noahpinion: "Not surprisingly, this gigantic loophole has made modern American libertarianism the favorite philosophy of a vast array of local bullies, who want to keep the big bully (government) off their backs so they can bully to their hearts' content. The curtailment of government legitimacy, in the name of "liberty," allows abusive bosses to abuse workers, racists to curtail opportunities for minorities, polluters to pollute without cost, religious groups to make religious minorities feel excluded, etc. In theory, libertarianism is about the freedom of the individual, but in practice it is often about the freedom of local bullies to bully. It's a "don't tattle to the teacher" ideology." The second went to "Biff Shrugged" by Jonathan Chait: "Gillespie concludes his piece by insisting that trying to stamp out the problem somehow makes it worse: 'Our problem isn't a world where bullies are allowed to run rampant; it's a world where kids like Aaron are convinced that they are powerless victims.' The victims should just take care of it themselves. 'Fight your own battles, don't tell the teacher' also happens to be the position of bullies everywhere. The bully is in favor of what he and a libertarian like Gillespie would define as 'liberty.'" Also, two links in "The Freedom, The Freedom", "More century-old color photographs", and "The full version of China Miéville's "London's Overthrow," previously seen in The New York Times Magazine." Oh, yeah, and you know how I feel about having the Olympics in my back yard, complete with "aggressive" security. (After having the Underground largely unavailable on most weekends for over a year in east London, I'm now seeing signs in the local station saying that trains will run differently during the Olympics, and have no idea what that will mean. Bleh. More reasons to stay home.) Oh, and now I understand what Susie Bright was talking about when she mentioned "Shades of Grey" to me. Blimey, I thought everyone already knew that kinky fantasies don't tell you what people "really" want in the outside world.

You know, I can't remember the last time I felt I could believe anything the police said. It's not a new thing.

Anybody want a low-power FM radio station? Wouldn't it be cool if we could get a bunch of these up and running?

I'm going to disagree with both Susie and Krugman on this one. Obama had the power to do a lot of things that would have improved the economy, starting with putting the bankster criminals in jail and using the money Congress gave him to help drowning homeowners. Passing TARP - something Obama can take personal responsibility for ensuring - actually hurt the economy and reduced the likelihood that those banksters would pay for their crimes. Obama's recent deal to let the banksters off the hook for a token "settlement" is only encouraging more of the same. Oh, and since he was right when he talked about how important changing our health insurance system is to the economy, it would have been good if he'd used his manifest powers to get a good health care deal instead of the bad one he committed to early on. And he's still trying to wreck Social Security, which will only make the economy worse. The fact that Republicans like these policies when Republicans do them makes no difference; Obama was elected precisely because people expected him to fight against such policies, not to solidify them. The continuing destruction of the economy is a policy decision that is being made at the top. It really doesn't matter what after-the-fact claims the Republicans make. Some of those claims happen to be true, even if they are coming from people who have precisely the same kinds of policies.
Even Monsanto employees don't want GM foods.
Republican deadbeats

The Insanity Isn't the Deficit Spending; It's Claiming That the Government's Budget Is Like A Household Budget!

Seat Assignment: Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style

Zambia's 1960s space program

Dear Ayn Randers

Get well and write me some more books, Steve!

Oooh, you can unzip Google today!

19:45 BST

Monday, 23 April 2012

Eldritch horrors

Tonight on Virtually Speaking A-Z, Jay and Stuart will continue to examine the state of liberalism and the political discourse in America. For my money, listening to Stuart talk is like seeing the Beatles at The Cavern - the rest of the world doesn't know it, yet, but this is a talent everyone should be listening to.
Virtually Speaking Sundays featured Jay Ackroyd and Cliff Schecter. For those who lost their patience trying to listen through all the tech problems during the Virtually Speaking interview with Glenn Carle, the recording has been mostly cleaned-up and is listenable now - and still worth it for the story of his growing recognition that a small number of people had completely undermined our democracy. (So has the Virtually Speaking Tuesdays episode last week in which VastLeft and I discussed (with help from The Z-Files) whether the Democratic leadership is conservative or something else.)

The Obama administration's war on whistleblowers, journalists, and other ordinary Americans who want to speak up for American freedoms and justice is just what Frank Church warned against. (Don't miss the Democracy Now! segment Glenn includes in the post.)

Atrios on "SocialSecurityAndMedicareAndMyHeroinConsumption: Everybody who actually knows anything about this stuff knows this, so when they lump Social Security and Medicare together you can put them in the 'liar' column."

It would be good news if I really believed the LibDems and back-bench would resist mass surveillance plans, but if they actually believed in democracy or freedom or privacy or any of that fancy stuff, they'd have stopped "austerity" in its tracks a long time ago.

I see Lord Saletan is still proving he deserved to be on Atrios' top wanker list, but it looks like Doug and his Lordship are fighting on that ground that Stuart identifies as "centrist" - not liberal, not conservative, but something else. The fact that Saletan thinks he can identify himself as a "liberal" just because he is a covert rather than overt woman-hater doesn't exactly not make him conservative, though. The fact that Saletan responds to Doug's rejection of Saletan's self-description as a "liberal" by remarking on his "illness" does, however, make Saletan a mighty big wanker.

The return of debtors' prison - the courts work for the collection agencies: "How did breast cancer survivor Lisa Lindsay end up behind bars? She didn't pay a medical bill -- one the Herrin, Ill., teaching assistant was told she didn't owe. 'She got a $280 medical bill in error and was told she didn't have to pay it," The Associated Press reports. "But the bill was turned over to a collection agency, and eventually state troopers showed up at her home and took her to jail in handcuffs.'"

Unsurprising news: "So, Congress finally begins to realize what a staggering problem student loans have become and decides to at least talk about it. It lands in Rep. Foxx's committee and suddenly ... only the sound of crickets. The 'for-profit' colleges moved in quickly and Rep. Foxx was one of the recipients of their largess. And then Ms. Foxx has the audacity to diss those students who have that student debt, many because of the scamming done by those for-profit schools."

I'm not sure joining their group will do any good, but I wish there was a way to force creeps like David Gregory to watch this video every time they went out to a restaurant.

The "Mommygate" Ann Romney dust-up actually inspired Democrats to propose to do something for moms. The Republicans admit they don't want to, but then, the Democrats strangely didn't think of doing this when they actually could have passed some legislation.

ALEC and it's friends: "What's in a name? How about the Progressive Choices PAC? Sounds awesome, right? But when I started digging around and looking for what they did with the money they collected I found thousands and thousands of dollars in contributions to the most horribly anti-Choice, anti-gay, anti-working family, pro-Republican members of the Democratic Caucus."

Teaser for The Newsroom - This looks interesting.... (via)

H.P. Lovecraft Answers Your Relationship Questions

How to cope with the Gmail redesign

Oh, look, Google is celebrating St. George's Day with a ZX Spectrum dragon. Cute.

Louis Jordan - "Caldonia" - 1946

15:24 BST

Saturday, 21 April 2012

A bunch of stuff

On Virtually Speaking, 23-year vet of Clandestine Services of the Central Intelligence Agency Glenn Carle, author of The Interrogator, told Jay Ackroyd his story of a CIA interrogation, and how he learned that he was being told to break US law without any legitimate reason. Stream or podcast at this link. I found this talk scary in a number of ways, but it gives you a good idea of why even Ashcroft balked.

Sam Seder is in Vegas at the Mass Torts conference, and he's been talking on The Majority Report to Ari Berman about the "Federal Judiciary; political leaning of SCOTUS; impact of next Presidential election and Obama indifference toward record Federal Bench vacancies," and also to James Kaufman (from Mike Papantonio's firm) about the JOBS bill.

William Greider thinks the Federal Reserve is (finally) turning left.

BD Blue in comments: "Listening to Jay and Stuart's VS regarding Hilary Rosen - when Jay was talking about how what was happening on CNN was basically what the parties pay for in commercials only more subtle, the phrase that occurred to me was 'product placement'."

Something Stuart said in chat keeps coming back to me: That's why changing the Democratic Party is more important than keeping the Republicans out of office, which we can't stop anyway when New Democrats are in charge (look at 2010)." I've said this before, I know, but Republicans are going to win, eventually, and the plan of voting for any nominal Democrat in opposition is not working to prevent Republican policies from being put in place. Democrats controlled the White House, the Senate, and the House, and what did we get? Even on the "social issues" where the Republicans by and large diverge from the Democratic leadership, the Republicans have been forging ahead. Under Obama's leadership, the Democrats got Bush's TARP passed when the Republicans couldn't, and refused to question the appointment of Roberts to the Supreme Court. There is almost no issue on which the Democratic leadership is prepared to offer more than a token gesture in defense of our rights and our future. Obama actually pushed us backward on contraception. If we keep letting these people give the store away, soon everyone will be asking, "What's the point of voting for Democrats?" And the answer will be, "There isn't one." But that doesn't mean people will vote for a third party. What usually happens is that people don't vote at all. Three quarters of the country didn't vote for Reagan and he won in "a landslide". Yes, GOP levels of misogyny are alarming, but GOP levels of misogyny are becoming and will continue to become the law of the land as long as we don't do anything to fix the Democratic Party.

Home rule goes up against the fracking industry - and the political system." And the news from Occupy Madison.

Did you know Julian Assange has a new television show on RT? I hear that so far he's a better interviewer than anyone on cable. But, of course, that's not saying much. And I bet he's not nearly as funny as Craig Fergusen.

Chomsky explains anarchism.

I get irritated when I see articles and documentaries about bullying that just tell you sad stories but then leave it there without even an acknowledgement that we can do more than throw up our hands. Bonnie Schupp has the same reaction.

Your steampunk home

Sonic Screwdriver invented.

Bayeux Tapestry Animated

The Origin Of The Word Boob

RIP Dick Clark, World's Oldest Teenager. (And here's his interview with the Jefferson Airplane.)

RIP Levon Helm. Garth Hudson's announcement. "The Weight", live.

14:30 BST

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Rumors of Spring

Tonight on Virtually Speaking Tuesdays, I will be speaking with VastLeft, whose cartoon in the post below seems to have inspired a previously unseen "Guest" to start weird arguments in the comment thread. See more of VastLeft's cartoons here.

On Virtually Speaking A-Z, Stuart and Jay discussed the non-stop campaign talking points advertising that the latest gaff-fest (starring the hated Hilary Rosen) generated in the establishment media. (Have a little background reading from - no relation - Jay Rosen.)

Some people do accidentally register in the wrong district or forget they are still registered at an old address and vote in the new one without notifying the old district, and that's where most cases of "voter fraud" come from - but here's a genuine case of intentional voter fraud intended to swing the outcome of an election - to the right wing, of course.

"Put them all in jail" - It cannot be said often enough that this has to happen if we are ever to straighten out the current mess. Instead, well, "The Latest SEC/Goldman Sachs Sweetheart Deal Is the Worst One Yet."

"CIA's Secret Fear: High-Tech Border Checks Will Blow Spies' Cover." Oh, well, I guess that's not a secret, anymore. Via Ian Welsh, who also wonders, "Is the individual mandate really the hill progressives want to die on?"

"Emperor of the Air: Potomac Poobahs Squeeze the Skies - The destruction of privacy and the war on travel continue.

The Florida Family Association's outraged letters about a computer game that offers gamers the option of a bit of personal choice and cooperation sets Charlie Brooker off to some of his musings about games and homophobia.

There do seem to be people for whom there is no distinction between "immigrants" and "illegal immigrants".

Florida's 'stand your ground' law was born of 2004 case, but story has been distorted

2nd Runner Up: Andrew Sullivan - well, it's undeniable that he's a mighty big wanker, but I still think Joe Klein outranks him.
1st Runner Up: Fred Hiatt - Along with his own odious wanking, he is responsible for exposing us to the interminable wanking of some of the worst wankers in our lifetimes.
And, as I had suspected, THE ONE TRUE WANKER OF THE DECADE: Tom Friedman.

00:44 BST

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Back to the salt mines

Tonight's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays will be Digby and McJoan. The rest of the week's VS schedule can be found here. And here's the video for Stuart Zechman on Extremists.

"Taxed by the boss: Across the United States more than 2,700 companies are collecting state income taxes from hundreds of thousands of workers - and are keeping the money with the states' approval, says an eye-opening report published on Thursday."

Matt Taibbi says, "Yes, Virginia, this is Obama's JOBS Act" - because not only did Obama's people shepherd the damn thing through with all its ugliness intact, but they couldn't have done it without the approval of Obama himself. Don't be fooled: The Republicans may have crafted it, but the White House wanted this poison.

During the depression, many localities survived by creating their own currency to keep economic activity moving. In Greece, they are doing it again.

Read the sentencing statement of Tarek Mehanna. His crime was, apparently, a belief in the values that America used to teach.

"MF Global Trustee May Sue People at Brokerage for Breach of Duty" - It'd be nice if the administration didn't rush in to protect the thieves, for a change.

I see the Unions have learned the Obama method of negotiation.

Gee, I sure hope the terrorists are using iPhones: There's a Map for that.

Alyssa Rosenberg's response to Greenwald's piece on government harassment of Laura Poitras has a video of the NYT interview with the filmmaker who our government seems to be stalking.

WANKER OF THE DECADE - Runner Up #4: Mark Halperin - and indeed, he is pretty wanky, but Atrios might have made Runner up #3: Joe Klein his winner without getting an argument from me. Lazy, mendacious, stupid - none of these words are strong enough to convey the sheer destructive negligence and creepiness of his work. Atrios has a lot of painful reminders of just how much sleaze Klein has pumped into the atmosphere in the last decade. What Atrios doesn't say is that Klein is the bastard who fell in love with Bill Clinton early in the primaries and then changed his mind upon discovering that his man wasn't pure and wrote - under pseudonym - a book called Primary Colors in which he conveyed a picture of a couple who were clearly meant to be the Clintons that would have been demonstrably libelous if he had used their names, but he might as well have done so since everybody knew it was supposedly based on them and the terrible things Klein saw during his coverage of the campaign.

I don't understand why Obama's recent poll numbers are supposed to represent a vast improvement.

Christians get mad at the "tissue of non- and half-truth, of historical misconception and ideological prejudice" emitting from Ross Douthat, who seems to have forgotten things that even I can remember.

Many thanks to CMike for transcribing that Spitzer interview with Taibbi that I couldn't see, in comments to the post below.

What the guy next to Leonardo saw

Have you heard of Jacob von Hogflume?

16:40 BST

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

I think you'll understand

Jay and Stuart had a fascinating, scary talk about the seizure of your electronic devices, and about "Intellectual Property" law as weapons with which our oh-so-democratic Democratic leaders are terrorizing us, on Virtually Speaking A-Z. We know what they plan because they told us in the 2011 US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Annual Report on Intellectual Property Enforcement (.pdf) - this thing is a nightmare. It's Obama's policy. They aren't being forced to do it - it's what they want to do. If you think the fight against SOPA and similar monstrosities is over, think again. These Democrats are as crazy as the Bush administration ever was.

Dave Johnson of Seeing the Forest and Joshua Holland of Alternet were guests on Virtually Speaking Tuesdays. They're good on a lot of things, but they are still trapped in partisan world, where we have to be scared of Republicans, but not of Democrats. Yes, there's a crazy right-wing fringe out in the hinterlands who will be voting Republican and who also want to shoot you, but they are a fringe, and it's not ordinary rank-and-file registered Republican voters who are putting Social Security on the table and trying to wreck Medicare (programs that at least half of them whole-heartedly support), it's the Democratic leadership. The same Democratic leadership who, by the way, do not seem to want to treat right-wing gynecologist-murdering terrorists like the terrorists they are.

David Dayen says the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has released a description of the rules they will consider: "With the theme of putting the 'service' back in mortgage servicing, CFPB released a factsheet of the rules they will consider. They fall into two buckets: transparency and accountability." (He also has a news round-up.)

Dean Baker does a nice job of taking down Robert Samuelson's lies about Social Security in the newspaper known as "Fox on 15th Street": "Social Security and Medicare are hugely important for the security of the non-rich population of the United States. For this reason, Robert Samuelson and the Washington Post hate them."

A question at Down With Tyranny!: "Does DC Corrupt Congressman Tim Holden Really Have Any Information About Music Industry Mafia Ties?" Probably not, since he seems to be a bit confused about where those ties were and who benefited from them: "Anyway, I asked mutual acquaintance why Holden went after me in such a personal way in a press release and why he used the term "Hollywood record executive" as though it was supposed to convey I was operating on a level of someone running a brothel, a hedge fund or a lobbying firm (or all three-- like Goldman Sachs)."

"'Koch Brothers Exposed' Part 1: Think tanks attacking Social Security: Filmmaker Robert Greenwald joins Cenk for the first of three segments on 'Koch Brothers Exposed,' a new documentary from the Brave New Foundation. Koch Industries' support of think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute create a layer of support for the echo chamber's right-wing talking points."

I'd like to watch, and be able to recommend, the video of Matt Taibbi talking about the JOBS Act, but "This uploader has not made this video available in your country." :(

Trust MoveOn to try to Co-opt Occupy for the Obama re-election campaign.

Quotes from Atrios:
* "But I Thought They Were Proof Of The Awesomess Of Austerity: I don't know how the Galtian Overlords expect economies to recover when people don't have any money. Our system of producing elites is clearly broken. We are now producing horribly incompetent elites. People of the too incompetent to know they're incompetent variety. There's evil in there too, but I think the real problem is stupidity and incompetence."
* "They Hates It: Our Galtian Overlords really do want to destroy Social Security. They have no interest in "reforming it" or "preserving it" or whatever. Some of them are haunted by the visions of someone else's grandmother not living in utter destitution, and others just want to steal the money or make sure rich people never have to pay any taxes again. Some grand bargain of revenue increases and benefit cuts to put it in actuarial balance until time infinity will not stop them from trying to impoverish old people and steal the money. "
* "Is There Some Basic Biological Growth Process I Missed Out On? Sometimes when reading discussions on the internets I wonder if there's something that happens on the 18th birthday for most people such that all memory of being a teenager is wiped from their brains." (Atrios seems to be one of the few people left who is brave enough to point out that the way we deal with kids these days is crazy - even crazier, I would say, than in the 1950s. It's getting so that you can pretty much assume that when people start talking about doing things and passing laws "for the sake of the children", they are bent on doing serious harm - to the children, and to the adults they might someday become. It's about time we stopped pretending that teenagers are children and stop pretending they are adults. It might just be wise to stop treating them like they are either infants or hardened criminals and can't be anything in between.)
* "Give People Free Money: We give a lot of free money to rich people in this country. Much of the money we give to not rich people in this country we do so because they've paid for the insurance policy (unemployment, social security). Food stamps are a not so terrible substitute to free money, but they aren't quite as good as just giving people the money. That only crazy bloggers are willing to suggest "give money to people who aren't rich" as a pretty good solution both for poverty amelioration and boosting the economy generally tells us that our political system is basically not capable of responding to the country's problems and needs."
* "Isn't Anybody Paying Attention: I'm not sure how anyone expects "the housing market" to "recover" when buying a house now involves handing a bunch of money over to a bank which will then proceed to steal your house from you. This behavior will continue until lots of people go to jail. And that, apparently, is off the table."
Have I mentioned lately how glad I am that Atrios still has the energy to repeat these things over and over? Well, I am. He's a great economist and these things need to be pounded out over and over until somebody can finally hear them.

Two minutes and 27 seconds of a perfect little pop song.

17:15 BST

Monday, 09 April 2012

Gone Fission

I was busy over the weekend so I didn't get around to posting a warning of the impending Easter edition of Virtually Speaking Sundays with Jay Ackroyd and Avedon Carol (with some help from Culture of Truth), who discussed the mad Easter message that came to us from the Sunday talk shows (MTP, TW), the Pope whining about nobody obeying him enough, Rick Warren expressing his Christianity by saying he doesn't agree with Jesus, and the escalating attacks by the United States government on free speech, a free press, your privacy and property rights, and, well, just about everything, particularly as Glenn Greenwald highlights in his article about an especially egregious example to be found in their harassment of award-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras.

I see via Onyx Lynx that Sara Robinson is working my old beat, explaining that, hard as they once fought against them, businesses came to wanting to stick to those old union gains because, ultimately, they were good business. Overworking people results in some very expensive mistakes. "Unions started fighting for the short week in both the UK and US in the early 19th century. By the latter part of the century, it was becoming the norm in an increasing number of industries. And a weird thing happened: over and over -- across many business sectors in many countries -- business owners discovered that when they gave into the union and cut the hours, their businesses became significantly more productive and profitable."

Someone needs to explain why Wells Fargo hasn't been charged under RICO: "Wells Fargo has taken the position that every debtor in the district should be made to challenge, by separate suit, the proofs of claim or motions for relief from the automatic stay it files. It has steadfastly refused to audit its pleadings or proofs of claim for errors and has refused to voluntarily correct any errors that come to light except through threat of litigation. Although its own representatives have admitted that it routinely misapplied payments on loans and improperly charged fees, they have refused to correct past errors. They stubbornly insist on limiting any change in their conduct prospectively, even as they seek to collect on loans in other cases for amounts owed in error." Atrios quite rightly called them thieves.

Atrios' continuing runners-up in his Wanker of the Decade series:
7th Runner-Up: Diane Sawyer, with whom no one should be ready to make nice.
6th Runner-Up: Jonah Goldberg, low-hanging fruit.
5th Runner-Up: Lord Will Saletan, possibly the most nauseating of the Lords of Slate.

"Stephen Colbert, Scientific Pioneer" - Chris Mooney says Colbert was doing something rather important when he came up with the idea of "truthiness".

Down in comments, Hobson expresses such disgust with the Democratic leadership that, he says, "I have pretty much decided not to vote this year." That is, I think, a mistake. I fully understand why someone could not bring themselves to vote for Obama - I don't think I can, either, and I sincerely doubt he will do anything between now and November that would make me change my mind (while, in the meantime, he seems to do something just about every day that makes me even less willing to vote for him.) But if Rocky Anderson or Cynthia McKinney or anyone else who is not a murdering, war-mongering, torturing, economy-wrecking jackass is on the ballot, I will vote for them. (Also in comments, Jcapan says he got his absentee primary ballot and found he had the choice of voting for Obama or "write in", so he wrote in "Stuart Zechman". I liked that.) The thing is, you should vote. You should vote all the way down-ticket and, if you can, vote for someone who doesn't appear to be bent on a campaign of destroying the New Deal and plunging the nation into poverty and expanding wars and torture and the security state. Voting does matter, in numerous ways, and sometimes those down-ticket races are far more important than the presidency. Right now, we don't even have a farm team to fight the right-wing, and we need to find a way to build one. And, you know, if enough people write-in "Stuart Zechman," they may think it's a movement....

The US doesn't torture? Oh, yes it does.

(Does anyone know why addresses at blogspot.com - say, http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/ - have suddenly started redirecting to blogspot.co.uk?)

Google is making horses run today.

Quick: Name the politician to have held highest elective office who has openly stated support for gay marriage.

19:55 BST

Thursday, 05 April 2012

We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing

It probably can't be stressed often enough that without economic security for the masses, other social justice issues can pretty much be written off. You're not going to have reproductive freedom, voting rights, or anything else, if you don't give We The People the economic power to fight back. And it was FDR who bought us that power, with SEC regulations (since unwound by a succession of legislators from both parties), with various programs that gave honest jobs to ordinary people who took paychecks from the government to do the People's real business, and with, very importantly, Social Security and ultimately Medicare. If there is one thing to be angry at liberals for - and I mean real liberals, not the fakes we see running the Democratic Party and appearing on TV and radio playing like the Washington Generals and soft-selling Republican policies, but real liberals - it's that too many of us were distracted by social issues ("culture war") to keep our eye on that particular prize while "our" politicians were selling us out. So, Stuart Zechman asks a question:

Z-Files Episode 12, 04/03/2012 "The Line"

I'm Stuart Zechman, and I've got a serious question for my fellow liberal Democrats out there:

What would it take for you to not vote for the Democratic candidate in an election?

Seriously, what's the threshold?

Where exactly is that line that can't be crossed, otherwise you'll withhold your vote?

Do you know? Have you thought about it at all?

You know, the conservative Republicans have.

The movement conservatives, way back in the 1980s, drew a line in the policy sand, across which no politician of theirs could step, lest ordinary Republicans vote against their own candidates.

And it wasn't a fundamentalists' issue like abortion, or one of their pet industry lobbyist issues, like "tort reform."

It wasn't the bloated war machine budget against which old Dick Cheney argued for downsizing and outsourcing, and it wasn't increasing the size of the federal government --they elected big government conservative George W Bush twice!

No, it was something else: taxes.

The line near which no Republican politician could safely tread was the issue of raising taxes.

And, if you think about it, that's a pretty intelligent choice, as far as thresholds go. A clear majority of Americans, almost 70 percent of them ten years ago, but still in clear majority territory today, have repeatedly told Gallup polling that they consider the amount of federal income tax that they pay --not that the very rich or corporations, mind you, but what they pay-- too high.

If you were going to draw a line on a policy, that would probably be the one you'd choose. It's too bad that national Democrats at the time didn't think of putting "we will not raise middle class people's taxes except in a time of war" in their platform, but, back then, they had something else in their arsenal that we'll get to later. [Link]

So, back to the Republicans: so it was that George W's father, George H. W. Bush ran in 1988 on this solemn pledge "Read my lips: no new taxes!"

As a matter of fact, by this time, a young activist named Grover Norquist had founded an organization called "Americans for Tax Reform," which came up with this interesting new political device called "The Pledge," which meant that candidates were offered a written, public contract to sign, which stated that the politician in question would never raise taxes, ever. And, despite some hesitating and delaying, in 1987, George H. W. signed that pledge, and sealed it with his "read my lips" nomination speech at the Republican convention.

But once he was in office, he faced a Democratic majority who would only support raising taxes as a means to cut the big deficits that Ronald Reagan had left on Bush Senior's doorstep.

So, in 1990, George H.W. Bush did what he thought he had to do: he compromised with centrist Democrats --liberal Democrats actually voted against the Bush Senior budget because they felt it taxed the poor-- and raised taxes on Americans.

And this compromise was fatal to his 1992 re-election chances.

Republicans voted for Pat Buchanan in the New Hampshire primary that year, which he won by an amazing 40 percent.

Buchanan proclaimed "...we Republicans, can no longer say it is all the liberals' fault. It was not some liberal Democrat who said 'Read my lips: no new taxes,' then broke his word to cut a seedy backroom budget deal with the big spenders on Capitol Hill." Wow, that's pretty intense!

Let's just repeat that clearly, so it doesn't get lost: movement conservatives organized around the country to primary a sitting Republican president.

And when that effort ultimately failed, when the national Republican machine eventually crushed the popular conservative insurgency, you know what Republicans did, then?

Huge numbers of them voted for an Independent candidate, Ross Perot.

They withheld their votes, rather than re-elect their own President, because their line had been crossed.

And their guy lost. And they dealt with it...well, if by "deal with," one means "take advantage of the other Party's centrist faction" and (then) "impeach the other Party's duly elected President over a blow job."

The point is that, somehow, ordinary movement conservatives --whose agenda at that pre-Fox News and talk radio time was largely shut out of the centrist national media-- were able to organize themselves, take the long view, to see upcoming elections in terms of a political and media war for hearts and minds to be won over the long run, and, most importantly, to follow through on their promises.

And, whatever else you want to say about the creation scientists, tent-revivalists, costume survivalists, antebellum nostalgists and latter day Know Nothings who make up the Republican base, that was pretty darn smart of them.

In fact, it was the smartest thing that they could have done. And it was the right thing to do. Promises by high elected officials in America should be kept.

And what has the result been for Republican voters, the millions of ordinary people who want to see liberalism gone from America, who want to see centrism gone from America, and who want, above all, their rightist version of reality becoming normalized in American culture and politics?

Are they worse off politically than they were in 1992?

I don't think so. I don't think liberal Democrats would even be having conversations like this one, if that were true.

The thing is, though, that Democrats used to have a line they'd never cross, too.

Remember what that was?

That universally popular policy, that wonderful thing that justified the federal bureaucracy's existence in so many Americans' minds, that program that helped so many, that check --but not at tax refund check-- from the government that everyone knew somebody who got one, the program that couldn't be touched, called "the third rail of electoral politics" because it would kill the politician who went near it?

Remember Social Security? Remember the New Deal?

From what I can gather looking at recent political history, Social Security didn't even need a "Pledge," and Democrats successfully ran on praising it, not messing with it, and certainly not "reforming" one of the best things to ever happen to ordinary people in this country.

What ever happened to that line, after liberal Democrats decided to elect Third Way centrists like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama to office?

Because I remember reading in the Washington Post last year, now listen to this, quote:

In debt talks, Obama offers Social Security cuts

President Obama is pressing congressional leaders to consider a far-reaching debt-reduction plan that would force Democrats to accept major changes to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for Republican support for fresh tax revenue.

At a meeting with top House and Senate leaders set for Thursday morning, Obama plans to argue that a rare consensus has emerged about the size and scope of the nation s budget problems and that policymakers should seize the moment to take dramatic action.

As part of his pitch, Obama is proposing significant reductions in Medicare spending and for the first time is offering to tackle the rising cost of Social Security...

Rather than roughly $2 trillion in savings, the White House is now seeking a plan that would slash more than $4 trillion from annual budget deficits over the next decade... [Link]


Something has changed in the national Democratic Party, for sure.

So, let me ask you again, what would it take for you not to vote for a centrist Democrat?

Is there anything Obama or any Third Way Democrat could propose while in office that would cross that line?

Anything at all?

If you can't think of anything that would prevent you from voting for Obama in November, shouldn't we consider the possibility that we liberal Democrats are part of the thing that has changed?

Maybe there are some things we intelligent, educated, science-based, reality-based movement liberals could learn from movement conservatives.

Maybe one of those things is how to draw a line in front of what really matters to us, and then stand on it.

I'm Stuart Zechman, and this as been the Z-Files.

* * * * *

Kristof discovered that Goldman Sachs and friends were behind a sex trafficking site. Well, a prostitution site of some sort, anyway: "This emporium for girls and women - some under age or forced into prostitution..." Lower in the piece, you learn that it's just supposed to be a regular escort site, but they have trouble screening out those ads that may not have been placed by consenting adults. Ironically, the banksters are rushing to divest from their interest in escorts, but no one has asked the escorts how they feel about having their comparatively honorable profession associated with a pack of liars and thieves in the financial industry.

Cartoon on the Supreme Court's view of freedom. (Actually, this cartoon would carry more weight if Obamacare didn't include commercial health insurers as middlemen. At least you don't get a bill from military contractors and prison industry offices every month in addition to paying for it all first in taxes.)

Tom Tomorrow's Health Care Glossary

It's interesting when you see a guy who runs a private equity firm and who writes columns in the Financial Times about how we should "Stop demonising the wealth creators" suddenly tells us that "Lunatics have taken over the boardroom." Of course, he doesn't really talk about the kind of lunacy that's really going on, and how it's these people, and not the workers they kvetch about, who are really wrecking the companies they run.

I guess if cops already have a licence to murder, it was only a matter of time before the Supremes announced that they have a licence to humiliate every single person they have no reason to suspect of having anything hidden on their persons with a strip search. Oh, and it looks like Rush Limbaugh was right - Obama really does want you to bend over and grab your ankles.

About those teacher evaluations... Not so good. (via)

Atrios reveals the WANKER OF THE DECADE - 9th Runner Up: Megan McArdle, aka Jane Galt and 8th Runner Up: Richard Cohen. Watch this space for more.

Official trailer for The Hunger Games

Well, this just bites. (And, also, she wrote this, not this - although that's a good song, too.)

Robert Silverberg's lost crime novel: Blood on the Mink

"A Treasure Trove of Cosplay from the Swinging 1970s [NSFW]" is actually just some photos from the '77 Worldcon, but - what, no Slaveboys of Gor?

Darth Vader In A Kilt On A Unicycle Playing Bagpipes

Springsteen, "Chimes of Freedom"

15:20 BST

Sunday, 01 April 2012

The general welfare

Pour Moi? Opulence Full Cup Plunge BraBra of the Week

Tonight's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays will be Joan McCarter and Culture of Truth. The last episode of Virtually Speaking Science featured Tom Levinson talking to Scary Disease Girl.

Sam Seder went to Washington to cover the oral arguments at the Supreme Court on Obamacare (or "Obamadon'tcare", as I think of it) for The Majority Report, where he did interviews with people who had been inside. Guests included Amanda Frost (and a separate interview with Richard Eskow on the horrible Jobs Act), Tom Harkin, and Adam Serwer.

I often used to read that serial-killers seemed to be a largely American (as in USAian) phenomenon, much rarer in other parts of the world. I'm not sure how true this was, but I once remarked that people who wanted to run around killing people got to join the police and be in death squads in a lot of other countries, which could make the difference. When I see things like this, I'm not sure even that distinction holds anymore: "On the morning of November 19th, a 68-year-old former marine named Kenneth Chamberlain with a heart condition accidentally pressed the button on his medical alert system while sleeping. Responding to the alert, police officers from the city of White Plains, New York, arrived at Chamberlain's apartment in a public housing complex shortly after 5 a.m. By the time the police left the apartment, Kenneth Chamberlain was dead, shot twice in the chest by a police officer inside his home. Police gained entry to Chamberlain's apartment only after they took his front door off its hinges. Officers first shot him with a taser, then a beanbag shotgun, and then with live ammunition." In the previous post, I said the police should feel an obligation of restraint "especially in situations where they are breaking into the homes of someone who is 'suspected' of committing a non-violent crime," but you'd think "when responding to a medical alert call" would be even higher on the list - and go without saying. Guess not.

"Generation workless: And experts see little hope for near future : I've never seen the world so bad for young people. The only way I can describe it is as a Great Depression,' said Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Boston's Northeastern University, who has studied young-adult unemployment in depth." Via Atrios, who said: "We could give more free money to rich banksters, or maybe figure out how to help the young unemployed. I don't know how they're supposed to pay their student loans, save for a down payment, buy a house, KEEP THIS ECONOMY GOING, when they're, you know, broke. As are their parents."

"Debunking Canadian health care myths" - not a bad article from The Denver Post. Quite a few of the comments that follow are from the idiots who believe those myths and aren't going to stop just because someone gives them some facts. (A fact not mentioned in the article, by the way, is that one of the procedures most notorious for "long waits" is delayed not so much because of costs or lack of facilities, but for medical prudence: hip replacement surgery. There is no good reason to rush the surgery and sometimes waiting means improved health conditions overall for the patient. Cataract surgery is also notorious for long waits - 180 days on the NHS - but cataracts develop very slowly, and in most cases the worst thing that can happen from a delay is that you might have to get new glasses, pretty much in the same time period you would have needed a new prescription even if you didn't have cataracts.)

"We Grew Apart [...] The Gini index tells us we're falling off the rails. For not only does the data suggest that income inequality is growing faster in America than almost anywhere else in the world, but that the gap as it stands now already places us near the bottom of the global community" (via)

In comments, Secondharmonic responds to the malaria defense by musing, "What's weird to me is: Mazar-e-Sharif is the same latitude as Moab Utah, and pretty close in altitude and climate. Kabul about the same as Albuquerque, and Kandahar about the same as Phoenix. Was it because the USians drained a lot of swamps in the desert Southwest in the 19th-20th centuries that we no longer have Anopheles mosquitos? I think not. I think Afghanistan has NEVER been a hotbed of malaria, and someone is messing around here. Afghanistan is not India, and even at its closest, say Kashmir - Kashmir is pretty well known for being malaria free (pretty much) compared with the rest of India. Cooler and dryer dontcha know."

Current TV fires Keith Olbermann. Here's the gossip column from Mr. Kurtz. But The Hollywood Reporter says Olbermann never should have taken the job.

So, Rupert Murdoch is a pirate. It's really rich watching him complain on Twitter about libel, untrustworthy media, and "old toffs and right wingers who still want last century's status quo with their monoplies." Well, yes, they are - but so is he.

LarryE observes that Dahlia Lithwick's musings about the Supreme Court's version of "freedom" tie in with a rant he did a year ago on this same subject, when he said, "What we are seeing every day is sometimes done consciously and sometimes unconsciously (in the sense of being useful idiots), but still what we are seeing is a conspiracy against every notion of equality under the law. Against every notion of community responsibility. Against every notion of justice. Against every notion of decency and fairness. What we are seeing, that is, is an unfolding pattern of betrayal of - no, that's not strong enough - we are seeing an unfolding pattern of treason against every decent part of our heritage as Americans."

Orbit Books to Release Limited Edition 'Remix Novel,' Rule 35 by Arthur C. Clarke Award Finalist Charles Stross (via)

Real pink elephants!

13:35 BST

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, April 2012

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