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Saturday, 28 February 2009

Strange days

Pat Garofalo at The Wonk Room: "Geithner's alternative [to nationalization] has the government receiving stock in the banks 'just like anybody else,' so there will be a return on the investments. But that doesn't change the fact that the government would be sinking a lot of money into these banks without gaining authority and accountability over the use of taxpayer funds. The banks could simply work to maximize short-term gains - or throw lavish parties - and there would be very little Treasury could do about it." Via Matt Yglesias.

I really enjoyed reading the comments to Steve's post about Jonah's dilemma, where people offered suggestions on how Mr. Pantload could avoid paying taxes. (Note: If Jonah moves to a friendly country and makes less than $80K a year, he won't have to pay any taxes to the US government. Based on his skill set, that shouldn't be hard to accomplish. Only if the right-wing gravy train pays him more than that would he owe the USG anything, unless he renounces his citizenship.) (via)

Only Rush Limbaugh has the guts to tell you every Republican's dirty little secret. Digby: "He is not saying that he doesn't think liberalism can succeed. He's worried that it will. So is Kristol when he writes that Obama can't be allowed to succeed the way Roosevelt and Johnson did. After all, Roosevelt succeeded in leading the country though two of the worst events of the 20th century. Johnson finally ended American apartheid. These are the successes that Obama must not be allowed to emulate." Digby leaves out Lyndon's War on Poverty, which, although the propaganda would have you believe otherwise, cut poverty in the US by 50%, thus making everyone that bit more secure. Unfortunately, the Republicans were able to reverse much of that one. (Plus: More revolting generals.)

To me the oddest thing about the Salon interview with Alexandra Pelosi is not that she sympathizes with McCain-supporters about feeling unrepresented in the media, it's that she seems oblivious to the fact that (a) most of the rest of us feel exactly the same way, and (b) we have more justification for feeling that way. It's hardly as if progressive voices were equally represented in the larger mass media outlets. Via Joe Vecchio, who feels a lot less sympathy than Ms. Pelosi does. (Meanwhile, it looks like our friend PSoTD is twittering off into the distance. Farewell, comrade.)

Looks like Britain is hopping on another Bush bandwagon, to try to keep creative people from coming to Britain. Well, at least they haven't banned reporters outright.

Megan McArdle Wins Prize.

God's eye (complete with mote). (Thanks to Dominic.)

09:24 GMT

Friday, 27 February 2009

Please don't spoil my day, I'm miles away

Michael Kinsley, in between praising Obama and laughing at Jindal, recalls a little history: "Wilson's book illustrates that some things never change. He attends the testimony of the president of National City Bank (yup, now Citicorp), one 'Sunshine Charley' Mitchell, who 'sold [Americans] the stock of motor-car companies that were presently to dissolve into water; . . . he sold them the stock of his own bank, which dropped . . . from $572 to $220, and which was recently worth $20.' This sort of experience led to the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, forbidding banks to sell stocks, that was repealed in 1999."

At Firedoglake: Ian Welsh is explaining the things that a workable "universal" health insurance plan must have. (I say it still sounds like there's too much administration and too much, well, insurance industry, in the plan. Let's call for an NHS!) Marcy Wheeler says the guy who refused to illegally wiretap had his conviction reinstated after the 10th Circuit decided to buy the Bush administration's reasoning that Nacchio knew before everyone else did that the Bush administration was going to unexpectedly cancel his government contracts because he was honest. Tula Connell talks about the GOP lies about the Employee Free Choice Act, and TBogg explains the difference between conservatives and libertarians.

Apparently, we're meant to believe that a worst case scenario for the banks will be that house prices will continue to be significantly overvalued. (Also: As Ali G often says: "I would.")

Bruce Schneier says our privacy is pretty much disappeared, and no one seems to be doing anything about.

"I'm Only Sleeping" [Update: Acoustic take.]

20:36 GMT

Snakes and ladders

You may remember that Glenn Greenwald and others have been plotting to get everyone together to do something about the shameful bunch of Democrats who have been spitting in the eye of their own constituents in order to drag the party to the right. Now they've announced a PAC to present primary challenges to Dems who've been asking for it. Atrios recommends reading both the "balanced" NYT article that announces, "Bloggers and Unions Join Forces to Push Democrats to Left," and the more accurate Sam Stein article in the HuffPo that says, "Some of the most prominent names in progressive politics launched a major new organization on Thursday dedicated to pinpointing and aiding primary challenges against incumbent Democrats who are viewed as acting against their constituents' interests."

At Pruning Shears, Dan is for Pushing Back on the Executive Branch. (And, just for the record, I'm with those who say we need real prosecutions rather than a "truth commission". I was interested to see that Pelosi says she's not in favor of giving a load of criminals immunity just to get them to talk to Congress. We all know where that can lead.)

The Cunning Realist says Ben Bernanke must go: "I keep wondering what one has to do these days to be deemed unfit to run monetary policy. Presiding over a potential depression and one of the worst bubbles and collapses in world history isn't enough, I guess."

The wingers really are freaking out about this whole Lincoln thing.

There are times when one almost gets the feeling that Maureen Dowd is starting to figure out what's going on. But I'm sure she'll write another column suggesting otherwise very soon now.

The Coen Brothers provide a dose of reality about "clean" coal.

I confess to being amused to learn that Jack Straw's office still hasn't figured out how to practice good e-mail prophylaxis, so he got Nigerian spoofed.

01:16 GMT

Thursday, 26 February 2009

It has been called to my attention...

Steve Soto: "Well, I'll say one thing for Obama: he's making it easy for someone in the party to run at him from his left in 2012. Eric Holder and Leon Panetta are doing little if anything to show any change in direction from Bush on domestic surveillance and executive privilege, nor does the administration show any interest in holding people accountable for past illegalities. And now in office, they sanction telecom immunity. [...] Based on how the Obama administration seems to be walking the same path as the Bush administration on these issues, we may be looking down the road this fall to a confrontation, not between Democrats and Republicans, but between congressional Democrats and Imperial Democrats."

I admit it, I had no idea that Rosa Brooks is Barbara Ehrenreich's daughter. I did know just how ludicrous were the grounds upon which we have kept certain people in "detainment" and how equally risible the "national security" excuse for refusing to try people publicly when the only "secret" is just how inexcusably unjustifiable the bases for these detentions are. But then, I guess we're all terrorists since we all read Barbara Ehrenreich's articles and books. (Also: Froomkin speaks.)

Bruce Krasting: "James B. Lockhart was appointed as the Director of OFHEO in June of 2006. He was the chief regulator, the top cop, and the buck stops here guy for both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He is currently the Director of FHFA; he therefore continues to be the 'go to guy', when it comes to America's mortgage crisis. Talk about Change." The market doesn't trust him, so that whole business about restoring trust is not exactly getting started on a sure footing.

At C&L, it's really kind of gratifying to watch Norah O'Donnell hammering a Republican hack for his stupid talking points. (Too bad she didn't catch him on the fake "twice the jobs at half the cost" claim for the Republican "plan".) Meanwhile, Barry Lynn is not alone in a renewed fight-back against faith-based programs in government, (And this is funny, despite it's "these kids today" quality. And I still hate having zeros in my phone number, because it makes it harder to remember the number when you have to, which sometimes still happens. My old phone number had the best mnemonic....)

Listen to Julie Fowlis do some pretty acoustic music, (via).

15:06 GMT

State of play

I probably shouldn't laugh when I see this, but I can't help it: "Post Co. Quarterly Earnings Fall 77% [...] The Post Co.'s newspaper division -- including The Post newspaper, Slate, washingtonpost.com, Express and other properties -- continued to suffer declining circulation and advertising spending, as the ongoing recession added to the declines in print advertising and readers fleeing to the Internet." Yeah, because if people want to pay for a right-wing newspaper, they can pick up The Washington Times. Only most people don't want to pay for a right-wing newspaper, so they don't want to buy the Post, either.

Last week, UBS agreed to open its records to US federal authorities to help them find 250 suspected tax cheats. This week, wealthy Americans are suing UBS in a Swiss federal court to prevent the US Justice Department from finding out they are cheating.

Jane Hamsher says it's about time people recognized that "the Dow" is not what is fundamental to the economy, and maybe it's not so smart to refuse to tell the truth in order to protect it.

Paul Craig Roberts says, "The American economy has gone away. It is not coming back until free trade myths are buried six feet under - and that the media helped: "The 'free market' economists, who provided the propaganda and disinformation to hide the act of destroying the US economy, were well paid. And as Business Week noted, 'outsourcing’s inner circle has deep roots in GE (General Electric) and McKinsey,' a consulting firm. Indeed, one of McKinsey’s main apologists for offshoring of US jobs, Diana Farrell, is now a member of Obama’s White House National Economic Council." And: "As a former Treasury official, I am amazed that the US government, in the midst of the worst financial crises ever, is content for short-selling to drive down the asset prices that the government is trying to support. No bailout or stimulus plan has any hope until the uptick rule is reinstated." He has a plan, but he says we can really save the world with one addition: making short-selling any national currency an offense "punishable by instant death," [Update: No, I'm not actually endorsing shooting George Soros.]

12:20 GMT

Short takes

I'm telling you, it pisses me off more and more that anyone still refers to these people as "pro-life". No excuses. Really. It's like Bush saying he liberated the Iraqis. It's a lie. Don't do it.

The Warwick prize comes with a £50,000 award. And the winner is: Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: "Chair of judges and author of 'weird fiction' China Miéville praised The Shock Doctrine as a 'brilliant, provocative, outstandingly written investigation into some of the great outrages of our time' which has 'started many debates, and will start many more'."

Watch this space for coming chapters in the "Why No More 9/11s?" series from Timothy Noah. I thought it was obvious - Bush gave Osama everything he wanted.

C&L has the media review of Jindal's speech from the supposedly-liberal MSNBC and the definitely right-wing Fox, and my favorite part is where Krauthammer (a man who writes for a living) says that Obama "is in a league of his own - he's in the Reaganesque league." Also, Even Republicans liked Obama's speech, and Barbara Boxer told Mika Brzezinski that she was being "ideological". (And, I learn from Mike's Blog Roundup that Pam Spaulding is in The Washington Post.)

Bunning Has Only 48 Hours To Solve His Own Murder!

Will California save itself by finally legalizing its biggest cash crop?

RIP: Phil Farmer, 91 - along with the Riverworld stories and many other things, he also wrote under the name of one of Kurt Vonnegut's fictional characters, Kilgore Trout.

Who Pacs the Pacmen?

02:01 GMT

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Now and then

Glennzilla radio talks to ACLU lawyers about Obama, Bagram and secrecy: "...they are individuals abducted by the U.S. in other countries far away from Afghanistan and nowhere near a battlefield -- many snatched from their homes, work places or on the street, and then brought by the U.S. to Afghanistan to be imprisoned at Bagram. Basically, then, Bagram is just another Guantanamo (though with worse conditions) -- and, indeed, as Hafetz explains, once the Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that Guantanamo detainees could not constitutionally be denied habeas review, the Bush administration began sending detainees to Bagram instead of Guantanamo to ensure they could be detained indefinitely with no judicial review. For the Obama administration to defend that system and the theory underlying it is quite disturbing." (Also: I don't think it's a myth that Americans want an end to the "partisan bickering" of the last couple of decades, I just think they mean something other than what the Villagers mean. Most people are pretty sick of the way Republicans have put partisanship first over just about everything else.)

SeattleTammy wasn't happy to learn that a local racist whacko is being honored along with people from the state who had real accomplishments.

Frank Rich says everyone's in denial.

The War on Some People Who Take Some Drugs kills a lot of innocent people, but it also encourages corruption. (The War of Terror has the same result. Except that at least the dirty cops in Atlanta had to cry in front of a jury. I don't recall hearing of anything like that after stupid policies allowed the cops to murder Jean Charles de Menezes.)

I can't remember whether I linked when it came out to "Outside Agitator: Naomi Klein and the new new left" by Larissa MacFarquhar in The New Yorker, so I'm linking to it now. (via)

10:20 GMT

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

What they said

Among the more entertaining lies conservatives have been telling us over the last couple of decades is the one where the GOP and conservatism are just hipper and cooler and neater and sexier than out-of-touch liberals and their outmoded liberalism. Apparently, we were even supposed to believe that bow-ties were cooler than black sweaters. I have no idea how many people fell for this, although I always had the feeling they were just people who never had to fend for themselves. They're still trying to pretend that they have sexy young up-and-comers waiting in the wings when by now everyone can see that the Republican Party and its hangers on are mostly loonies, thugs, and shriekers. At this point, in fact, the Republicans only have to keep saying something before people start to think it might not be true. Eventually, there really do seem to be consequences to being habitual liars or at least consistently wrong for long enough, even if the Villagers take no notice. Your Right Hand Thief talks about the performance of his local Currently Sexy Up-and-Coming GOP Darling, Bobby Jindal, and the conservative talking point that repetition may manage to kill: "Holy moly! George W. Bush's economic record is so weak, it makes Jimmy Carter look like a titan of job creation. But Jindal won't dare mention Carter, and he sure as hell won't mention Bill Clinton's 23 million net jobs number. No. Jindal, like Vitter, has placed the "Bush Boom" in the pantheon of growing economies. It's a bizarre thing to do, unless you're a conservative hack. But Jindal is playing the game, and the game is this: history must be re-interpreted to show that tax cuts always work."

Fred Clark has started on the second Left Behind book, with a chapter he calls, "Inaction Heroes: [...] Even Jerry Jenkins seems to realize that prayer, compulsive abstention and lots of sitting around and waiting would make a lousy plot for a series of novels. I'm not sure he appreciates that it also makes a lousy plot for anyone's life story. As such, it also makes a lousy basis for evangelism. "Want to join us?" "Join you doing what?" "Um, well, not much of anything, actually." Not a compelling invitation. Contrast that again with St. Paul and his idea of the life of faith as an epic race or as a battle "against powers and principalities." That may not be your cup of tea, but at least it sounds potentially interesting."

Eugene Robinson says it's the End of the Magic Show: "It's reaching the point where desperate measures -- brutal honesty and complete transparency -- may be the only way to bring the economy out of its kamikaze dive. If so, this won't be pretty [...] What's missing from the whole system is trust, and trust can't be reestablished until we know how bad things really are. It's understandable that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and the rest of Obama's economic team would be wary of full disclosure, but at this point I don't think they have much choice. If they don't give us a full, unbowdlerized report on what they find in their stress tests -- computer runs of how the banks would hold up under various economic scenarios -- suspicions will remain."

Bad Science Reporting at the AP: The Comet Lulin Edition

Thanks to Charles for alerting me to this Fortean headline.

12:33 GMT

Someday we gotta get organized

"Senate Chairman says he'd investigate Democrats who backed Bush policies: In a little noticed one-line remark on Sunday, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) endorsed the investigation of Democrats who approved of President George W. Bush's policies as president that he aims to review as part of a 'truth commission.'"

BTD thinks Rham is out of line in saying that Krugman and the rest of us don't understand what it takes to pass a big bill, because he hadn't done it before, either - and he's already admitted that they screwed up just the way we said they did.

Presumably you know where it's going when we start sending in advisors to Afghanistan. Sound familiar?

Down in comments, nihil obstet recommends movies about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and other union-related material.

In his continuing discussion of methods of citizen participation in the political process, NTodd's method of the day is Student strikes.

I remember those horrible weeks of knowing but not saying that Steve Gilliard was not going to get better. And I remember going through the entire primary season last year wishing he'd made it and that I could see what he had to say about it. And lately, seeing Blackwell and Steele elevated, I remember how much fun Steve had bouncing these jerks on their heads, and wish he was still around to do it again. Two years on, desmoinesdem remembers, and also shares an experience that made it clear that we need the kind of universal healthcare we can all rely on. Via The Group News Blog.

Beneath Ettlin's tribute to Dick Irwin's Police Blotter column is the news that The Baltimore Sun is actually shrinking it's page size.

I am mostly oblivious to the Oscars, but if you must, Simels - and the term "manual catharsis roundelays" sounds like a really elegant way to describe Sunday morning talk shows, if you ask me.

Science is on the case of the quick-drying bra. (Thanks to Dominic for the tip.)

01:30 GMT

Monday, 23 February 2009

Inside the box

"Indications are that Americans are now paying a steep price for our shocking national disdain for labor unions," and Goldman Sachs, the owner of Burger King - a company that's been charged with paying workers below minimum wage and other crimes - is one of them. You know those bonuses they gave themselves with your money? Well, those bonuses would have paid every Burger King worker more than their average annual salary if that money had been distributed among them, instead. And they still have plenty for their union-suppressing activities. Progressives have launched action against them (don't miss Brave New Films' "Who's Keeping Burger King Workers Below the Poverty Line?"), and their response has been that they have nothing against unions and they are neutral on political issues. Open Left:

Neutral on political issues, eh? If that's the case, why did Burger King spend $319,648 between 2006 and 2008 lobbying against pro-labor laws like the Employee Free Choice Act? Why did Goldman Sachs spend $15,849,000 in 2008 alone lobbying against the Employee Free Choice? And why, as SEIU's Michael Whitney noted, has Burger King fought this legislation through their involvement with the National Retail Federation, which stands firmly behind an anti-union group called the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace?
I think KeninNy has a great idea for a project to reverse the bad name the right-wing has given unions:
I've got a bad feeling that none of this history is taught to today's students. For Americans who have no idea that, for example, the mines were once operated as something close to slave-labor camps, with the tacit acquiescence and even active support of the U.S. government, maybe we need to schedule nationwide screenings of Martin Ritt and Walter Bernstein's shattering 1970 film The Molly Maguires (with huge performances by Sean Connery, Richard Harris, and Frank Finlay)? (Anyone is welcome to borrow my Laserdisk copy.) And slide-show presentations tracing the origins of the ILGWU, including the still-almost-unimaginable horror of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911?
Right now, it's a good idea to keep reminding people that the anti-union attitudes of American conservatives are, as Harold Meyerson said last week, shared by China.

* * * * *

BTD found a good question in a New York Times editorial: "If Chrysler is really on track for a turnaround and all it needs is some financing to get over a bad patch in sales and debt markets, why doesn't Cerberus Capital Management, which owns 80 percent of the company, put up the money itself? Why should taxpayers have to take the risk? That's what private equity funds like Cerberus are supposed to do. . . . It seems the secretive private-equity fund is willing to gamble on Chrysler's survival with the taxpayer's dime, but not its own."

But dday has what could be good news - if we believe rumors and leaks when we can't see it graven in stone - that the administration has leaked it's plans, and they are really good. A part of me says, "too good to be true" - it all sounds like just what we need (well, for a start), but are they just (a) telling us what we want to hear or (b) putting it out there to give conservatives plenty of time to scream bloody murder and knock it down? Or is it that the administration has learned to begin the haggling process with the full wish-list rather than with what they think they'll end up with? In which case, they should have proposed a totally socialized healthcare program like the NHS, a 90% tax on all earnings over two million dollars, elimination of the Social Security cap, and complete restoration of original SS benefits followed with expanding the benefits.

17:37 GMT

News, comment, and entertainment

Personally, I want DC to have two Senators, too, but in the meantime, the League of Women Voters is saying today is the day to call your Senators and tell them to vote for representation for DC - support S. 160, the DC House Voting Rights Act of 2009. (This is for cloture, so there can be a full vote on the bill.)

This is right, except for one thing: Baby-Boomers didn't just pay for their parents' retirement during their working lives, but also for their own, thanks to Ronald Reagan giving us the biggest tax hike in American history - on payroll taxes. [Yeah, yeah, x-post.]

You live in a time when Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristoll and David "Only Right-Wing Republicans Are the Moderate Center" Broder are "the liberal media", and people claim MSNBC is "the liberal network" with a straight face despite the fact that they start the day with former Republican Congressman and right-wing hack (and what about that dead girl in your office?) Joe Scarborough.

Gotta say Jane Hamsher looked great on MSNBC talking about how the press corps lives on a different planet from the rest of us.

Listen to this week's This is Hell (.mp3), with guests Dean Baker, Emma Rothschild, Steven Greenhouse, Reese Erlich, and Jim Schultz.

This actually made me wonder for a minute why I never got involved with this sort of thing when I was in highschool. (Then I remembered: Oh, yeah, it was highschool.)

15:36 GMT

Cheese and chocolate

In comments, ron says: "The money center banks have trillions of dollars in liabilities, why saddle the taxpayers via FDIC with all their debts..let them go BK and have the courts over the years settle it. Let the FDIC take over depositor accounts and spread those around to regional banks. The bank preferred bond holders would rather that they be nationalized since they control the political process." Hmmm....

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington resists white house’s push for email lawsuit dismissal: "Today, CREW filed its opposition to the White House's motion to dismiss CREW’s lawsuit challenging the failure of the White House to recover millions of missing emails and install an effective electronic archiving system. The White House is arguing that because it has re-examined the problem and restored a limited number of emails, CREW's claims should be dismissed. As CREW explained in its opposition, the latest White House analysis does not answer the fundamental questions of how many emails are missing, what caused the problem and whether it has been fixed."

Via Atrios, who also has some wise words on the subject, Hilzoy explains some facts of life: "If we base decisions about who qualifies for the loan modification program on relatively simple criteria -- income, size of loan, other debts and assets -- then we can carry it out relatively simply. But if we insist on figuring out whether each and every applicant spent too much on their vacation in the recent past, or renovated their bathroom without a government-approved reason, or violated the Guidelines on Acceptable Countertop Materials that the Department of Housing would need to draw up, or sent their kids to private schools, we should be willing to pay for the army of bureaucrats who will need to pore over people's financial histories in order to make that kind of determination." And it's really not worth the cost.

Jesse didn't like that Will Saletan article, either, and stomps all over it. (And don't miss that first, short, to-the-point comment from Michael Bérubé.)

I keep wondering what's happening to that teacher who is on indefinite suspension for being "too liberal".

Anna thinks James Wolcott doesn't know about the internet tradition of spoiler alerts, but reading to the end of his Dollhouse episode review, I think maybe he does.

I wish I believed these were all made up. (Thanks to Dominic.)

01:51 GMT

Sunday, 22 February 2009

On the Infobahn

Billmon on Chocolate Covered Cotton: "To understand the dilemma facing Mr. Geithner and the Obama Administration, you could do a lot worse than read Catch-22 (something I have also found to be true of life in general). Because unfortunately, Heller's chocolate-covered cotton metaphor rather precisely describes the estimated $2 or $3 trillion in "legacy" assets - to use the administration's preferred euphemism - clogging the arteries of the global financial system." Another way of looking at it is that real estate agents and mortgage lenders conspired to create an inflated housing market by jacking up prices beyond what the market could really bear - and it was "what the market will bear" only so long as no one actually had to pay the price.

Mary is really too kind to William Saletan. I understand why teenagers don't really understand all that well about contraception. I understand why many people misjudge why some people don't use birth control. But William Saletan is in no position to talk about other people's irresponsibility when he keeps writing these stupid articles* blaming "the left" for the fact that right-wingers have been doing their best to promote ignorance and create a forced-pregnancy environment - not because they value life, but because they really hate the idea of women's freedom. Someone really should tell Saletan about Planned Parenthood, the organization that tries to educate women about contraception and which the right-wing hates passionately and would like to destroy. The right-wing is not trying to stop abortion, they're trying to stop legal abortion, which means they are just trying to kill more women.

What is it with the zombies? Also: Citibank falls for Nigerian scam.

Light pillars

Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds Barbie and many other interesting things, via the irreplaceable Biomes Blog.

12:27 GMT

Just a drop of Frangelico in the night

Freya - Arabella underwired plunge braBra of the Week

Happy blogiversary* to Cab Drollery, where I learned that Richard Lugar has called for normalizing relations with Cuba. (Remember when he used to be one of the wingnuttiest members of Congress? Those were the days, eh?)

Blogger Interrupted has a few words of advice for Rick Santelli.

The mayor of Lansing is shrill - and the Fox news actor smugly lies in response.

Darrel Vandeveld had revenge in his heart when he went down to throw the book at the "detainees" at Gitmo, but he became the seventh attorney to resign as a prosecutor for the military commissions. The Talking Dog interviews him. (Mr. Dog reckons this may be his best interview ever.)

William Greider knows the plan is Looting Social Security: "The Social Security fight could become a defining test for "new politics" in the Obama era. Will Americans at large step up and make themselves heard, not to attack Obama but to protect his presidency from the political forces aligned with Wall Street interests? This fight can be won if people everywhere raise a mighty din--hands off our Social Security money!--and do it now, before the deal gains momentum. Popular outrage can overwhelm the insiders and put members of Congress on notice: a vote to gut Social Security will kill your career. By organizing and agitating, people blocked Bush's attempt to privatize Social Security. Imagine if he had succeeded--their retirement money would have disappeared in the collapsing stock market." (via) Also, some Breaking news.

I liked the story of the DEA agent searching the farm.

The Green Lantern movie trailer.

01:03 GMT

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Media bits

Digby got wind of a big fat campaign to lie about Social Security, even calling it "unfunded". It's not unfunded, dammit - you already paid for it.

I have to say it does seem promising that this White House is showing a pattern of tying stupid ideas to stupid people who promote them and wrapping it in a blanket of derision. Now, if only they would do that with the lies about Social Security (instead appearing to support them).

Jamison Foser writes In support of shunning: "Basically, George Will routinely makes false claims large and small, holds politicians to disparate standards, and engages in ethically dubious conduct on behalf of his preferred candidates. The Washington Post can hide behind multi-layer processes all it wants, but as long as it publishes Will, it will continue to misinform its readers. The Post doesn't need to give Will a better fact-checker; it -- along with the rest of the media elite -- should instead give him a good, thorough shunning." He also notes that the continued presence of a known prevaricator on its op-ed pages creates a credibility problem for the entire paper, including some of its very good news staff. Conversely, the presence of those very good people who still appear in the paper despite their high quality gives the paper that publishes conservative hackery a credibility their op-ed pages do not deserve. (Also: US News & World Report goes for the gold in the sexist sweepstakes.)

Target Women: Skin Care - Sarah Haskins on those "scientific" sales pitches for women's "products".

17:55 GMT

Late again

Physicians in Massachusetts say the mandated insurance plan has failed, and it's single-payer or bust: "The PNHP doctors' report says health plans people are forced to buy are not affordable and often skimp, making the mandate that individuals buy them regressive. And moreover, it says, peoples' experiences have shown that insurance does not guarantee access to care. The Boston Globe chronicled the long wait for primary care last September."

Tapped tells me that "Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood suggests a mileage tax instead of a gas tax to fund infrastructure investment, although the administration appears to be ruling it out." Atrios gives a succinct explanation of why, if you're going to impose some sort of driving-related tax in order to compensate for "insufficient funding for roadways", a straight gas tax makes a lot more sense than mileage tax, since it more heavily taxes those who put more wear and tear on the roads per vehicle and who drive gas-guzzlers. But that's just why the conservatives don't like it - because they regard it as "unfair" that they should have to pay more for using more of what taxpayers are paying for.

Deacon Blues has his own way of redefining bipartisanship, but I say if Bernie Sanders votes for something, it's automatically bipartisan, since he's not a Democrat.

What the shoe-thrower said in court.

Conservatives have been sounding the alarm about the Fairness Doctrine so loudly that people are actually starting to talk about reinstating it. Even some people in Congress. Via The Impolitic, David Neiwert with Some straight talk about the Fairness Doctrine.

What they're saying about drugs and decriminalization - and a little fun: "Like the press, Kellogg's may have also misjudged the public mood. Irate at the company's decision to drop Phelps, pot smokers by the thousands have inundated the Kellogg's consumer hotline with phone calls, angrily demanding to know when that pizza they ordered is going to arrive. Meanwhile, representatives from groups such as the Marijuana Policy Project and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws have gone on record indicating that they plan to organize a boycott of Kellogg's products, 'just as soon as we finish watching this 'Gilligan's Island' marathon on Nick at Nite.'"

Bloomfield and Kooper, "Stop".

01:28 GMT

Friday, 20 February 2009

It's a brand new day

"Bailed out banks scamming fees from unemployment benefits: For hundreds of thousands of workers losing their jobs during the recession, there's a new twist to their financial pain: Even as they're collecting unemployment benefits, they're paying bank fees just to get access to their money. Thirty states have struck such deals with banks that include Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp., JP Morgan Chase and US Bancorp, an Associated Press review of the agreements found. All the programs carry fees, and in several states the unemployed have no choice but to use the debit cards."

I've been assuming everyone already knows about this, but just in case you don't, it looks like the Republicans may be successful in their efforts to destroy California.

Jane Mayer and Glenn Greenwald on Democracy Now! today. (Permalink will presumably be this.) Glenn should have done this in another room.

"Vacuous Media: A Case Study: Following on an item from yesterday, the Washington Times ran a fairly long article about President Obama making public appearances in front of American flags." The newsflash that a president made speeches in front of a flag was such a big deal that The Politico was all agog. There was a reason I kicked them off my sidebar. For once, I think Kevin Drum is smarter than Ezra about this stuff.

It's true, the wingers are really losing it over Obama being president - and Eric Holder running Justice. I mean, seriously deranged.

Wait, are people really talking about defaulting on US debts? Whoa. (I was thinking we could go on international law and say that debts Bush ran up aren't legitimate because his wasn't a legitimate government....)

Obama still has 51 of Bush's US Attorneys on the payroll - every one of whom passed Karl Rove's loyalty tests. Why are they still there - and why haven't they been replaced with people who don't have the Bush stink on them?

PZ Meyers says, "I wish I were a Republican, so I could just make stuff up."

Creating the Watchmen movie.

18:50 GMT

The occasional sex post

I was just over at RH Realty Check and saw "Anti-Contraception Crew Still at Work at HHS", telling me that, "A perplexing story popped up in my Google alerts the other day. It was from The Hoya, Georgetown University's college newspaper, and the headline read: 'Med Center Receives Research Grant for Natural Family Planning.' Georgetown is a Catholic university which aroused my suspicions; after all, in the 21st century, the Catholic Church still bans contraception for its adherents." Nasty. People who actually want to have sex without getting pregnant should be using, y'know, real contraception. So-called "natural family planning" is obviously a religious ritual rather than proper birth control - which means the government shouldn't be spending a penny on it. It doesn't even make any sense - if you believe that you shouldn't use contraception on account of God wants you to make babies, then why are you deliberately trying to have sex only during periods when you think you can't get pregnant? (Kinda like Jews who "obey" the stricture to stay home on the Sabbath by designating half the town as being part of their "home" so they can still leave home on the Sabbath.)

I also found this article by Amanda Marcotte about why women supposedly have less interest in sex than men do, but I'm still not so sure that this assumption is even true. Do we really have less interest in sex, or do we just get lazy when the term "sex" is being used? Because if you're talking about stuff that turns you on and gets you off, I've never seen any evidence that women have less interest in that - just that we have more trouble finding it. The minute you wrap your definition of "sex" around an act that requires only male arousal but can be performed with relative ease even if the woman is dry, asleep, or dead, you have a problem. But introduce something that actually turns a woman on into the equation, and women are just as mindlessly crazy and obsessive about it as any man is about "sex".

Eros Blog may not be work-safe, but The Internet REALLY IS For Porn (and Steve Landsburg sounds like a great dad).

And speaking of sex, vote here and here for Sam Seder.

01:22 GMT

Thursday, 19 February 2009

What, me worry?

Atrios says he's not too worried about rumors that Obama is planning to cut Social Security, and links to this article by an unworried Steve Benen. I love both of these guys, but seriously, this doesn't worry you?

Orszag's long-running project -- something that has made the Left's favorite Cabinet member -- has been replacing talk of an "entitlement crisis" with his argument that Social Security requires only modest tax hikes and benefit cuts, while Medicare and Medicaid have much more dramatic fiscal woes.
Yes, Medicare is where the problem lies, but exactly why would any reasonable person be talking about benefit cuts for Social Security?

Social Security requires absolutely no benefit cuts. In fact, Social Security needs to have its original full benefits restored and possibly be expanded. (And any tax hike had better mean raising or eliminating the cap, and not a higher percentage of the same capped amount being taxed away.)

Again: If you actually believe that Social Security benefits need to be cut at all, you do not understand what's going on - or you have evil intentions. Period.

23:59 GMT

Leftover links

Great Moments in Pocket-Lining: The Cantor Family Bailout: "Minority Whip Eric Cantor, one of the current crop of fresh young faces of the Republican party, whipped his caucus to keep them from supporting the stimulus package. The whole government bailout thing just... bothers him." So he found a way to get on the gravy train.

Diane and Rosa Brooks are disgusted with the rest of us over bailouts for rich people, and Ruth seconds the condemnation of the War on Some Drugs.

Things to watch out for: "Suicide attacks are an extreme form of "parochial altruism" - they combine a parochial act (the attacker killing members from other groups) with altruism (the attacker sacrificing themselves for the group). While the relationship between religion and popular support for suicide attacks is a topic of frequent conjecture, scientific study of the relationship is rare. The researchers found that the relationship between religion and support suicide attacks is real but is unrelated to devotion to particular religious beliefs or religious belief in general. Instead, collective religious ritual appears to facilitate parochial altruism in general and support for suicide attacks in particular."

Outlawed: Extraordinary Rendition, Torture and Disappearances in the 'War on Terror' - Clearly, they knew they were breaking the law, and they knew which laws they were breaking.

Chris Floyd's Radio Burlesque

Joss Whedon answers some questions.

"Albert's Shuffle"

13:55 GMT

Must be the season

More justice denied for the Uighurs: "A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that 17 Turkic Muslims cleared for release from Guantanamo Bay must stay at the prison camp, raising the stakes for an Obama administration that has pledged to quickly close the facility and free those who have not been charged."

Whoa, there's actually an article in the WSJ with the headline, "Latin American Panel Calls U.S. Drug War a Failure." Everybody knows this, but our legislators just won't end this disastrous policy.

The Rude one says it's Time to Punish Republicans: "This idea of punishment is not a simple thing. Remember: the election in November was not the revenge. It was a vote to set up the comeuppance. Truly, if it were a different era and we were a different people, the Bush administration would have been hanged in toto sometime in 2006 or 2007. We're not that far removed from that savagery. At the end of the day, there's gotta be consequences for people's actions or there's gonna be chaos."

Scott Horton on The Enemy Combatant Canard: "Thomas Jefferson and James Madison shared one definition of the term 'tyrant' - a ruler who deprived a person of his freedom without operation of law and without accountability before a court. Which perhaps explains why American historians are consistently ranking George W. Bush at the very bottom of the list of all American presidents; the man, ultimately, is guilty of tyranny." (With video Rachel talking to Jane Mayer.)

Why can't our legislators give us universal healthcare? They're being paid not to.

Nova M is apparently turning into On Second Thought Radio Network. Speculation is that this may have something to do with the fact that Randi Rhodes is suing Nova M, and they are declaring bankruptcy. Apparently, Sheldon Drobney, one of the founders, has been hospitalized after a suicide attempt.

Stills, Kooper, Bloomfield

01:13 GMT

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

There ain't nothing you can hide from me

It shows you just how focused I've been on the United States that I had to be trawling through the Boing Boing archives for the last few weeks to learn that in Britain they are planning to pass a law making it a crime to photograph police (claiming it's to prevent terrorism and to protect the safety of members of the force, but it's obviously aimed at ordinary protesters and others who catch the police committing crimes by violating civil liberties), and that there was even a protest rally for it a couple of days ago. Nor had I noticed that there's a chilling amendment to the Data Protect Act being sneaked through which allows "'Information Sharing Orders', that can alter any Act of Parliament and cancel all rules of confidentiality in order to use information obtained for one purpose to be used for another." Meanwhile back in the States, the NYPD has been enforcing a non-existent law against taking photos in the subway, thus costing the city lots of money in the resulting lawsuits. Also: Disagree with a flight attendant? You're a terrorist and how the media helped create the financial meltdown. And what is the look on Bush's face about?

(Also: I don't think I'll be eating here, but your kink is your kink. Speaking of which, Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman's Creator, Joe Shuster.)

Atrios says Krugman says Greenspan actually admitted that nationalizing the banks might just be necessary.

Historically, the filibuster has favored conservatives who use it to prevent progressive legislation, presenting us with tyranny by the minority. What a pity the Democrats didn't call their bluff when Republicans threatened "the nuclear option" so we would be rid of it once and for all.


Complete original theme from Minder.

22:45 GMT

Things I didn't post earlier

Don't look now - but they really do sound like they are going to do the insane thing. Go read everything Digby says about the administration's threats to Social Security, and then call your Senators and Congresscreature and tell them you do not want our country to commit economic suicide. Then write to the media and explain that Social Security is funded, and it's just about the only thing left that is. (PS. The Baby-Boom generation had children, too - there is no giant baby-bust to justify the canard that there aren't enough workers to support Social Security. There are enough workers. But there won't be enough jobs if our legislators keep cutting our legs out from under us - and screwing up Social Security with conservative "reforms" would certainly do that.) Oh, yeah, mention this to every person you encounter who is over the age of 50, no matter who they are. It's amazing how many people hate everything about liberalism except Social Security (although they think SS has nothing to do with liberalism or the government).

Ceci n'est pas une pipe - but it is a stimulus bill.

From the files [...] "I have with me a hard copy of a collection of Republican quotes predicting doom and disaster in the wake of the 1993 Clinton economic stimulus plan, and much of the rhetoric is eerily similar to today's. Of course, that should come as no surprise, since the point of the compilation was in fact to point out that the 1993 rhetoric -- particularly on health care, which was still a live proposition at that time -- was itself eerily similar to Republican doom and disaster rhetoric during the debate on the original Social Security and Medicare legislation. I figure this is what I've been saving this crazy thing for, after all these years. So I'm just going to type them all up here for your enjoyment. And I sincerely hope that they retain their entertainment value forever, and in particular that we all get to laugh -- not nervous tittering, but really have a carefree laugh -- at this exercise very, very soon." God, that would be nice. And no doubt it will work just as well as having Social Security work did for laughing at conservatives who swore that Social Security would not work.

Tell DFA what you would do as president.

Rachel interviews Spikey about his piece in Newspeak saying the OPR's report on how Yoo and Bybee behaved unethically "could spell big trouble" for them.

19:00 GMT

Feel a whole lot better

Digby: "Am I the only one who finds it interesting that partisanship is back in fashion now that the Republicans are acting like political kamikazees? After overdosing for months on the cotton candy dreams of post-partisan comity, gasbags everywhere are suddenly hailing ruthless obstructionism as completely natural and a sign of a healthy, principled democracy."

I read a creepy article in the WaPo this morning by a couple of right-wing hacks about why the Bush administration ought to be allowed to get away with murder, treason, etc, and I didn't post about it, but Glenn Greenwald rips them up convincingly. What Glenn doesn't talk about is a point Ruth made below in comments: "I really think the weight of international law will be brought to bear on the U.S. if it won't enforce its own laws. After all, it is this nonenforcement that has caused the financial conflagration as well. Depending on U.S. law is the very basis for the 'confidence' we are missing to return to economic health. It would be nice if we were rejecting the previous 8 years because of its offenses against humanity instead of its financial implications, but that's the way it is." One reason the US was such a popular trading partner was that it was a trusted partner. It isn't anymore, in any dimension. Our contracts (both at home and abroad) are no good, our word is no good, and our money may soon be no good. But I don't know that the rest of the world will use the law to put us in our place. I think they've already slowly been trying to disentangle themselves from us economically in ways that aren't quite noticeable yet, but may be, soon enough. I think they started doing it after Bush appeared to have won the 2004 election, and while I think they are waiting to see Obama reverse course, they won't wait forever.

Woody wonders if Obama is running interference for Karl Rove after reading from McClatchy: "The Obama administration is asking for two more weeks to weigh in on whether former Bush White House officials must testify before Congress about the firings of nine US attorneys. The request comes after an attorney for former Bush political adviser Karl Rove asked the White House to referee his clash with the House of Representatives over Bush's claim of executive privilege in the matter."

With California* and Kansas already on the brink, Ahistoricality offers us some color-coding so we can be warned when the next state is going down.

Zogby now has a blog, where you can presumably tell them what you think of their questions.

The Artful Bras Project is entertaining, but I don't think I'll be wearing any of them - they just wouldn't look right under a T-shirt.

Sometimes you just need to listen to a really smashing track.

01:36 GMT

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Things I saw

Yglesias: "I've noticed an odd tendency in some quarters to, whenever Obama makes a move to the right and therefore attracts some criticism from the left, turn around and criticize those critics on the left for failing to recognize the brilliance of Obama's secret left-wing plan. From where I sit, whether or not such a plan exists, its execution actually depends on moves to the right attracting criticism from the left. So rather than speculate as to whether or not this is 'really' what the administration is planning to do, I'll just say I think that would be the right thing to do."

Nate Silver thinks it's pretty significant that the Republican governor of Utah is publicly supporting civil unions for gays.

Let's just hope the rumors that Harold Ford is being considered for Commerce Secretary are not true. In the meantime, you can let Obama know what you think about this stupid idea, just in case. (Remember: Be brief, to the point, and polite.) (I am also delighted with the acronym I hadn't thought of for the So-Called Unbiased Media.)

I haven't had a chance to look at the other changes Hugo Chávez plans to go along with his newly-won right to run for another term, but I wish people would stop referring to it as "making himself president for life." There are terms, and the terms themselves are limits. People get to go to the polls and decide whether to throw him out. He's not in power just because he's powerful, but because he does things like this: "Through 10 tumultuous years in office, Chávez has used Venezuela's oil wealth to launch myriad social programs -- from literacy classes and primary health-care programs to subsidized food markets -- that have helped millions. Indeed, government figures show that poverty has been cut in half -- and many poor Venezuelans praise Chávez for changing their lives." We'll see whether he figures out how to shore up the industrial base in the country, but these are the kinds of things countries need in order to get on a stronger footing, and they're also the kinds of things that people vote politicians into office to do. That's why the Republicans wanted term limits for American presidents - because a liberal might keep getting voted in over and over, but conservatives can't run the country for eight years without buggering up the country so much that people can't wait to see them leave. But throughout America's history up to that point (she said, repeating herself), we had no term limits, and no one complained that whoever was in office was "president for life". Term limits are essentially anti-democratic in that they prevent the people from choosing to keep a leader they are satisfied with.

President Bill: "I find it amazing that the Republicans who doubled the debt of the country in eight years and produced no new jobs doing it, gave us an economic record that was totally bereft of any productive result are now criticizing him for spending money."

15:24 GMT

Monday, 16 February 2009

Crime watch

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in Geneva just issued a report saying that the United States and the United Kingdom have "actively undermined" international law with their "anti-terror" policies, using them as an excuse to deprive the citizenry of their civil liberties. Ruth says we've been Found Guilty, but I wish I shared her optimism that the conviction would lead to justice.

The head of the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility has concluded that the legal "advice" John Yoo and others gave the Bush administration on torture was tainted by political influence. And I sure would like to know what this refers to: "One part of the OPR report criticized Yoo's use of an obscure 2000 health benefits statute to narrow the definition of torture in a way that permitted waterboarding and other acts that have historically been regarded as torture under U.S. law, the sources said."

23:25 GMT

The spirit is movin' all over this land

I keep thinking about the fact that people keep using the word "pork" to mean, basically, "fat". Which isn't true in pigmeat, and didn't used to be true in politics, either. See, for example, the evolving meanings of "pork" to be found at Dictionary.com:

1. the flesh of hogs used as food.
2. Informal. appropriations, appointments, etc., made by the government for political reasons rather than for public benefit, as for public buildings or river improvements.
The assumption being that public buildings or river improvements wouldn't be for public benefit? Or a recognition that they may be doing the right thing for less than noble reasons, perhaps. Another set of definitions:
The flesh of a pig or hog used as food.
Government funds, appointments, or benefits dispensed or legislated by politicians to gain favor with their constituents: "However much [the voters] may distrust Congress and dislike pork, the advantages of being represented by an incumbent with seniority are hard to deny" (Richard Lacayo).
The public likes representatives who bring home the bacon, so some politicians actually do that in order to curry the public's favor - by creating jobs (and thus improving conditions for their constituents) in their districts. This only becomes fat when the money coming in doesn't actually create enough jobs to justify the expenditure, or costs more than it's worth - a category most Pentagon spending can easily fit into, along with abstinence-only sex miseducation, school vouchers, and insurance subsidies. From the sound of things, the money that went to the banks in the bailout has turned out to be pure fat. But the stimulus bill? Aside from the obvious uselessness of the tax breaks, what are they talking about?

Joe Conason seems to have become infected with Villagers' Syndrome, even arguing against holding the torturers accountable. I can only join Jane Hamsher in saying this just doesn't work, and anyway - Joe, WTF? You know this is about more than revenge or partisanship. And: "The political discourse has become increasingly polarized over the last eight years, but that's not -- as "bipartisan" fetishists found out during the stimulus debate -- because all sides are equal and everyone is arguing in good faith, just waiting for a grand unifier to raise them up from their bickering. It's because the nation was being run like an organized crime syndicate by crooks, and the appropriate response was outrage. [...] We have 5% of the world's population, but we incarcerate 25% of its prison population. How can someone seriously argue that we should exempt our political elites from the laws we so ruthlessly enforce on the poor, expressly because they've been so successful in polarizing the political climate as part of their criminal enterprise?"

I'll always be glad Kos decided to get his own polling done - which is why we have this instant evidence that the Capitol Hill Gasbags were living in a different universe from everyone else this past week. As usual.

For those of us who can't see the Hulu version that Atrios linked to, here's the YouTube of the SNL skit with Dan Ackroyd as John Boehner and the deeply-in-denial GOP roundtable. I agree with Atrios that it wasn't as funny as it could have been - especially if you know that, regardless of what these weasels may say to the public, their leaders aren't opposing spending on stimulus merely because they think it will fail, but because they think it will succeed.

Every now and then I am reminded that few people are more certain of their own rightness than a drunk who is about to start a fight.

I did wonder how Marvel found out that Dr. Plokta is a supervillain....

"Well, Well, Well"

19:46 GMT

Grim tidings

Digby and Scott Horton discuss the fact that the torture regime of the Bush administration was pretty much as bad as it gets short of - as far as we know - deliberate murder of prisoners of war and other kidnap victims. And that, now, it seems, we are prepared to sweep it all under the rug. The simple fact is that George Walker Bush, Richard Bruce Cheney, and Donald Henry Rumsfeld deliberately conspired to commit the most heinous of crimes in our names. And we're okay with that? (Also: You do not negotiate with people whose goal is to destroy Social Security.)

Krugman is waxing pessimistic today, saying that a lot is needed but, "Since nothing like that is on the table, or seems likely to get on the table any time soon, it will take years for families and firms to work off the debt they ran up so blithely. The odds are that the legacy of our time of illusion - our decade at Bernie's - will be a long, painful slump." And I think "slump" is too tender a term. We're in for a world of hurt, and until there are real general strikes and riots, I don't think anyone is likely to do anything about it - and then I worry about what they will try to do.

Glenn Greenwald on Obama and liberals: a counter-productive relationship: "As Judis points out, Obama, on some issues, might move to the Right because he wants to. In other cases, he will do so because he perceives that he has to, because the combination of the GOP/Blue-Dog-following-caucus/Beltway-media-mob might force him to. Regardless of Obama's motives, the lack of a meaningful, potent movement on the Left to oppose that behavior ensures that it will continue without any resistance. The lack of any independent political pressure from the Left ensures that Obama will be either content to ignore their views or will be forced to do so even when he doesn't want to." Most people weren't in a position to notice, as I did, Tony Blair's people making overtures toward groups on the left prior to his election that tied them to him and weakened them as effective voices for their respective causes. And thus we ended up with a "Labour" government that was every bit as right-wing as Thatcher's had been, although that was what everyone thought they were voting against. It wouldn't surprise me to know that this was exactly what Blair intended. There are some people who still question whether Obama was doing the same thing for the same reasons, but it seems to me you don't do this unless that's exactly your intention. Whatever his reasons were, the result really has been that whatever Obama does is seen as being the farthest left position, and since his positions are largely right-of-center, that's a very damaging situation for our country.

An interview with Paul Krassner, who seems to think America may be leaning toward fascism.

13:04 GMT

Last night's links

Ruth isn't impressed when she reads an article that blames working women and "consumerism" for the fact that wages have gone down while prices have gone up. I'm even less impressed than she is, because I know it's sheer bollocks that every man used to be able to support his family all by himself. This has never been true. It used to be that a farmer's wife was a farmer, a shopkeeper's wife was a shopkeeper, and the stable-hand's wife took in laundry (and their children were earning their keep by the age of six). In Carnegie's mill towns, households took in boarders - the single men (or new immigrants who'd come over singly) who worked in the mills - and the wives worked full-time washing blackened sheets and cooking and serving meals for men who slept in the same beds in alternating shifts. Throughout my lifetime, married women have worked in factories or in offices or at counters and cash registers in bakeries, dry-cleaners', garden shops, Woolworth's and Safeway and Harrod's and Sears - they've worked because the money was needed to put food on the table, pay the rent, and buy clothing. Women have always worked - but when prices go up while wages stay flat or are even depressed as jobs disappear, something has to give.

Norm Coleman is doing his best to keep Al Franken's victory in the courts to keep Franken from being able to vote in the Senate. The current state of play has the court telling Coleman that, no, you can't suddenly change your mind now about ballots you previously insisted on disallowing. (Plus! The GOP Problem Solver!)

The Rude Pundit presents: "The National Review's List of 'The Best Conservative Movies of the Last 25 Years' Vs. the National Review's Film Reviews:".

"The Indie Rock Fag's" Top 17 Homo Love Songs (via)

11:21 GMT

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Big things, little things

Radley Balko writes what Michael Phelps really should have said: "Tell you what. I'll make you a deal. I'll apologize for smoking pot when every politician who ever did drugs and then voted to uphold or strengthen the drug laws marches his ass off to the nearest federal prison to serve out the sentence he wants to impose on everyone else for committing the same crimes he committed. I'll apologize when the sons, daughters, and nephews of powerful politicians who get caught possessing or dealing drugs in the frat house or prep school get the same treatment as the no-name, probably black kid caught on the corner or the front stoop doing the same thing. Until then, I for one will have none of it. I smoked pot. I liked it. I'll probably do it again. I refuse to apologize for it, because by apologizing I help perpetuate this stupid lie, this idea that what someone puts into his own body on his own time is any of the government's damned business. Or any of yours. I'm not going to bend over and allow myself to be propaganda for this wasteful, ridiculous, immoral war." Go read the whole thing.

Johann Hari says, "Obama Must End the War on Drugs - or Mexico and Afghanistan Will Collapse."

Diane doesn't like the fact that citizenship is now being offered to immigrants to con them into enlisting in the Army.

Anne Zook isn't just peevish, she's Innasnit over being bumped up against the reality of the "productivity" trap.

In which Charles Platt plunges all of blogdom into war!

22:15 GMT

Late lunch news

Liberal Oasis has the numbers on whether Americans want to see investigations of the Bush administration's crimes, and what do you know - we do!

This article doesn't clearly spell it out for the uninitiated, but what it says is that DiFi snuck an attack on net neutrality and net privacy (what was left of it) into the stimulus package, under the guise of being able to fight copyright infringement and child porn. The article, written before the vote, also says that, "Word from Public Knowledge is that Congressman Henry Waxman will back Feinstein's amendment when it turns up in conference committee. Representing a district near Hollywood, Waxman has long backed the MPAA and the Recording Ass. of America in their efforts to crack down on P2P file sharing." Via Mark Adams.

Mary says, "Greed Corrupts Juvenile Judges: This story is just horrible. It is a story of greed in a country which glories in its tough-on-crime stance and where mercy and tolerance are eschewed. If as a nation we had a sensible policy on crime, I cannot see how this type of injustice could have been tolerated for so long. These judges deserve a lot more than 87 months in jail for their black-hearted scheme to send juveniles to detention for their own enrichment. How many children and how many families were deeply hurt and damaged by the Kafka-esque sentences of the judges? Something is deeply wrong when a state and a country treats minor infractions as deadly crimes."

Why Has Gary Farber's Account Been Disabled? Please Explain And Reverse! is a new Facebook group.

14:47 GMT

Sunday service

Spikey Isikoff says: "An internal Justice Department report on the conduct of senior lawyers who approved waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics is causing anxiety among former Bush administration officials. H. Marshall Jarrett, chief of the department's ethics watchdog unit, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), confirmed last year he was investigating whether the legal advice in crucial interrogation memos 'was consistent with the professional standards that apply to Department of Justice attorneys.'" It's good that Spikey is covering this, even though, as usual, he gets important stuff wrong.

Representative Peter DeFazio's Open Letter on the Economic Stimulus Package: "When the House passed the stimulus package two weeks ago, I cast a reluctant yes but only after an amendment to add $3 billion for transit was accepted. That was progress. But I said at the time the bill needed changes in the Senate and conference committee before I would support final passage. [...] One of the first things eliminated by the Republican troika was the $3 billion for transit - but that was just for starters."

At "Comment is free", Nick Cohen says banksters are "A club that refuses to accept its failures," and Will Hutton says, "Obama has picked the wrong hero for our times."

Frank Rich thinks Obama faked out the GOP, but Toles doesn't seem so sure.

Fred Clark does some interesting historical background on the genisis of the Left Behind phenomenon, and also provides us with these words: "I actually somewhat agree with those post-theological theologians who say that God died in the trenches of World War I. "Inasmuch as ye have mustard gassed the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me," God says. It wasn't the first time we'd killed him and it sure as Hell wouldn't be the last. But that's never the end of the story."

Abstinence-only rape culture (via)

12:48 GMT

Shapes of things

Fiore plunge bra from LepelBra of the Week

Technically, Valentine's Day is over, but hey, it's Saturday night. And here's Louis.

Sierpinski's Valentine, and a bunch of HDR photographs by various people who are not (as far as I know) amundn, via The Biomes Blog.

If this is anything like what it looks like, Obama's clever plan would be to completely destroy what's left of the economy by looting Social Security on behalf of the financial industry. "It's your money!"

Kevin is upset that Bill Clinton started talking about the Fairness Doctrine, thus giving the right-wing ammo in their fantasy that there is a big move to restore it. Personally, I think it's great. The way things are going, just knowing the right-wing is against it may become reason enough for people to start saying, "Well, what's wrong with having a Fairness Doctrine?" I mean, who's against fairness, anyway?

You know, we proved a long time ago that you save money by spending on social programs. At this late date, we shouldn't have to be running tiny pilot programs to prove what we've known for decades. And this story doesn't even get into all the other costs to society that are saved when we put our money where it will do the most good.

Jonathan Singer observes that even at Politico they've started to notice that the public disagrees with the Villagers about who is doing right in Washington (and the public is smarter about this, too). Atrios gets even closer to the point that, unbeknownst (apparently) to the Villagers, people are really sick of Republican antics and their failed conservative policies.

Steve M. is waiting to hear from the "sensible center". Or maybe not. Which I suppose is just as well, given that, as Jamison Foser notes, the media only approves of "centrists" who agree with right-wing Republicans.

"Want a glimpse at the truly perverse moral universe of our wise and progressive leaders?

David Neiwert has advice for Bizarro, and Blackwater changes its name to Xe so we won't notice it's still them.

Cosanostradamus awaits Joss Whedon's latest. Hey, we're all for seeing Eliza working with Joss again.

01:17 GMT

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Oligarchy on the march

I see our friend CMike is doing* in my comments what he should be doing on his own blog if he had one, so I'll just bring it up here:

Dean Baker says:
Simon Johnson is the former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund. I don't know him personally, but from his writings and his past positions, I would guess him to be very much a centrist economist. He presented a very clear and carefully thought account of the nation's financial crisis on Bill Moyers' Journal last night.
Baker then puts up the wrong link. Go here. As the interview progresses Johnson and Moyers get down to some specifics. Early on they exchange these comments:
BILL MOYERS: Oligarchy is an un-American term, as you know. It means a government by a small number of people. We don't like to think of ourselves that way.

SIMON JOHNSON: It's a way of governing. As you said. It comes from, you know, a system they tried out in Greece and Athens from time to time. And it was actually an antithesis to democracy in that context.

But, exactly what you said, it's a small group with a lot of power. A lot of wealth. They don't necessarily - they're not necessarily always the names, the household names that spring to mind, in this kind of context. But they are the people who could pull the strings. Who have the influence. Who call the shots.

BILL MOYERS: Are you saying that the banking industry trumps the president, the Congress and the American government when it comes to this issue so crucial to the survival of American democracy?

SIMON JOHNSON: I don't know. I hope they don't trump it. But the signs that I see this week, the body language, the words, the op-eds, the testimony, the way they're treated by certain Congressional committees, it makes me feel very worried.

I have this feeling in my stomach that I felt in other countries, much poorer countries, countries that were headed into really difficult economic situation. When there's a small group of people who got you into a disaster, and who were still powerful. Disaster even made them more powerful. And you know you need to come in and break that power. And you can't. You're stuck.

My take away is that even members of the Establishment are becoming nervous about the antics of some of their fellow goodfellas.
I have that feeling, too.

23:08 GMT

A few things

If I read this right, John Conyers seems to be worried that the administration may not know what it's doing. Funnily enough, there are many reasons to feel that way. (But thanks to the WaPo for warning us after it's too late that centrists were undercutting the stimulus bill.)

I was somehow asleep when Alterman's blog moved from Media Matters to The Nation, but seems to have changed style as well, which I think is a shame. But he does link to a recent articles on what's been going on at the FCC that's worth a look.

From County Fair, "In an article about bipartisanship, the WashPost only quotes Republicans", and Keith Olbermann's segment on where the healthcare IT smear came from.

I know I linked Brad Hicks' article already, but if you missed it the first time, I really do think y'all should read his piece about just how good the WPA was, "Yes We Can Put Americans Back to Work. We Probably Won't, Though."

Dave Ettlin watches our old newspaper succumbing to the deadly Tribune Disease.

Star Trek Corset (Thanks to Dominic.)

02:02 GMT

Friday, 13 February 2009

Just you wait and see

Julia saved me the trouble of Googling by supplying a link to Marcy Wheeler's post on the not-gonna-be Commerce Secretary: "Anyone Wondering Whether Gregg Just Didn't Want Scrutiny of His Office's Favors for Abramoff? I wonder whether Gregg simply got to the point in the vetting process where he realized that he didn't want his life to be investigated in detail by his colleagues and the press? I mean, it was just hours after Gregg was nominated that it became clear that Gregg's Legislative Director from 2002 to 2004, Kevin Koonce, had been trading sports and music tickets and booze for legislative favors. As the latest details on the Abramoff make clear, Abramoff and his cronies were asking for $3.5 million earmarks and the defeat of a defense appropriations bill that would have hurt Abramoff's Native American gaming clients. Koonce's language, "[Gregg's office] had the proposed amendment 'flagged,'" "I got something for you too," "Let me know if I can return the favor," and Abramoff's language (describing a request from a potential Abramoff client), "Koonce practically lives in our various suites. We are shady," suggest Abramoff's $10,000 investment in sports tickets did not go to waste. Koonce was delivering on Abramoff's requests." Plus, he was also for it before he was against it. (Also: Wal-Mart: Recession Profiteer.)

If you notice people referring to the bank welfare plan as "BARF", this is why. And then there's the stimulus plan that talks like a pirate.

"Sweden May Not Be A Model" - because we don't have the same conditions. We especially don't have the condition that anyone trusts anyone to do it right.

I'm glad I'm not the only person talking torches and pitchforks. Really, they need it.

Karl Frisch at Media Matters on how the media is Right-Washing the New Deal.

OK, if Reid really did decide to make Republicans actually filibuster instead of just threaten to filibuster, I might start to believe that there's a positive strategy in the works.

Did anyone get a feeling of nostalgia at hearing that students in Glasgow were staging a campus occupation in protest of the conditions in Gaza?

RIP: Estelle Bennet of the Ronettes.

"Be My Baby"

18:57 GMT

Friday on my mind

Oh, how embarrassing - Obama worked so hard to bring an odious Republican scumbag into his administration as Secretary of Commerce, but for some reason, it seems, Judd Gregg just couldn't bring himself to play nice, so he won't get the job after all. It's fun watching everyone decide whether this was just reversion to type on Gregg's part and naivety on Obama's, or another Clever Obama Maneuver to make the Republican's show their hands once again in front of God and everyone (because we somehow missed the last eight years), or... But, wait! Gregg also says he won't be running for re-election. Hm, it's probably time to use the Google and find out what he's being investigated for.... (Meanwhile, Kos has a really good idea.)

From The Raw Story, "Unredacted documents reveal prisoners tortured to death: The American Civil Liberties Union has released previously classified excerpts of a government report on harsh interrogation techniques used in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. These previously unreported pages detail repeated use of "abusive" behavior, even to the point of prisoner deaths."

Robert Borosage says we Can't Get There From Here: "The Obama administration has made its first serious misstep. No, it wasn't the wooing of ingrate Republicans, or the dining with clueless reactionary pundits. It is much more significant. Faced with the failure of Paulson - Bernanke banking bailout, the Obama administration has decided to double down. The new plan, described in broad outline by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner on Tuesday, antes up another $1.5 trillion or more to keep the banks afloat. But it won't convince many that they are seaworthy. The plan isn't likely to get the administration where it needs to go for two simple reasons. It is wrong about where we are starting from. And it is wrong about where we're going to. If you don't know where you are and don't know where you are going, it is very hard to get there." Oh, I dunno, it's pretty easy to step in a pothole and end up sprawled on the road even though you didn't know you were going to end up there. And that's what worries me.

I'd like to feel good about the appointment of Sherrod Brown as head of the Senate Banking Committee's Subcommittee on Economic Policy, what with his rep as a good progressive, but for some reason I just find it difficult to trust anyone who is in with the Democratic Establishment, lately.

Everybody knows that drug prohibition is screwing up the country and the world, but no one has the guts to stop it. (Besides, crime and prisons are the right-wing's bread and butter, so it's a hard hill to climb.)

Steve Bates was thinking about Darwin.

Did Andy and Opie win North Carolina for Obama?

The EasyBeats

11:01 GMT

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Oh, dear, Miss Morse

Now that the banksters have admitted didn't need a bailout, do you think we could have our money back and put it somewhere it might do some good?

Will Marshall earned yesterday's Wanker of the Day award from Atrios for his moronic attack on Krugman, but even if you don't read the article, read the comments, which are ten times smarter than Marshall is.

Another thing the Malefactors of Great Wealth are doing is trying to block people from collecting unemployment benefits.

Galbraith was on Democracy Now! Tuesday saying that bailed-out banks should be declared insolvent.

At Fact-esque, eRobin is thoroughly disappointed at Obama's bass-ackwards approach to legislation, and Mick just says Dump the Dems. I gotta say, this would not be happening if the Democratic Party wasn't packed with conservatives, we need an all-out effort to get rid of them. It's really amazing to me that the number of independents in Congress at this point is so small.

Some people still think maybe Blago was railroaded. All things considered, this could be true, but how would we know?

"I voted for him. He's still charming, well-educated, and eloquent -- but..."

Hey, there's a Facebook group supporting Sam Seder for the MSNBC spot.

Paranoia. Okay, these things are always kind of hard to swallow, but who knows, maybe they're depending on that, and you gotta wonder why they are always so convenient for the right-wingers....

Pearls Before Swine

23:57 GMT

They're talking about you....

I realize Josh Marshall has been busy telling us how Susan Collins got a key whistleblower protection stripped from the stimulus bill, and noting that Obama is either dumb or disingenuous on bank nationalization, but isn't it funny that he hasn't said anything about Obama's continual hints that he plans to cut the Social Security benefits you have already paid for?

It's all very well for Matt Yglesias to say he would object, and for Atrios to say:


I believe this is what we in the professional blogging biz call "trolling," but I'll bite. The Left, including yours truly, will create an epic 360 degree shitstorm if Obama and the Dems decide that cutting Social Security benefits is a good idea.

But I don't think that's who Ben Smith at Drudgico Politico is talking about when he says:
Strikingly, however, Obama appears to be getting unusual room to maneuver on entitlements by most of his liberal allies. On the subject of entitlement reform, in fact, Obama's honeymoon continues - at least in the unlikely precincts of the Democratic left, a counterintuitive development that has buoyed the spirits of reformers who would like to see drastic changes in the way Social Security works.
Anyone who wants to see "drastic changes in the way Social Security works" is a conservative who wants to impoverish our country and its people and they should most emphatically not be part of the debate at all. But the person who really led the call on Social Security was Josh Marshall, and we have been wondering why he's been so quiet about this. Maybe Somerby is right that someone kidnapped him.

And I don't think Lambert is expecting any help higher up.

15:13 GMT

Let the sun shine

Diane is worried: "Now that a stimulus package of some kind (weakened by the "moderates" before whom Democratic leadership caved miserably) looks to be passed, I fear the next proposal to be considered is "fixing Social Security." Even President Obama seems to think that the program is in trouble, when it fact, Social Security is one of the few economic programs which is successful and operating at the current time with a rather sizable surplus." We actually need to restore Social Security to what it was before conservatives started getting to hack cuts into it. And the cap should be removed. And the program should be expanded. (And Diane's blog-partner Ruth, whose computer is busted, got to the library long enough yesterday to IM me and say she is worried about Diane's own economic situation, so we'd be grateful if you'd hit the tip jar at Cab Drollery while you're over there.)

I wonder if anyone in the media will remark on how weird and right-wing crackpot it is that we actually have people who refer to the Civil War as "the War of Northern Aggression" right on the House floor: "The [Missouri] Capitol is abuzz about Rep. Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, who said this morning on the House floor the federal Freedom of Choice Act is the most egregious federal power grab since the 'War of Northern Aggression.'" That's the war where the Confederacy fired the first shots in reaction to the Union refusing to force southern laws (treating blacks as property) on northern states (whose laws said blacks were people).

Dan reckons Glenn Greenwald went too easy on the administration's position on state secrets. There's not much evidence that "protecting state secrets" ever gets invoked for any purpose other than to prevent embarrassment to officials who have behaved incompetently, irresponsibly, or illegally, but it's a dead cert that it's a source of injustice and erodes freedom. So I reckon Dan is right.

The Oracle provided another little essay in comments on the mystery of dictated treatment as something that is bad if it's a decision made by medical professionals being paid through a government insurance program to deliver you healthcare, but it's good if it's something commercial insurance companies are forcing on your doctor in order to prevent the delivery of healthcare.

Have you been to Senator Bernie's site, lately? He says lots of stuff.

I think I may have neglected to mention that The Bat Segundo Show did another interview with Alison Bechdel a while back.


A panoramic view of the Ford Rouge assembly plant in Dearborn, Michigan.

13:29 GMT

Wednesday, 11 February 2009


I don't think it's too early to impeach Geithner, is it? He's obviously corrupt and doesn't have the best interests of the country at heart. In fact, he may actually be insane. Why would anyone want to invest in a financial system that absolutely no one trusts? Those banks aren't insolvent just because the government didn't give them enough money, it was because they can't be trusted with money in the first place. They should be allowed to go bankrupt and be strictly managed by the government until they can be resold into a new, restructured and highly-regulated environment. This, on the other hand, is an idea so transparently stupid and dishonest that Geithner should be arrested for fraud, corruption, and grand theft if he does it.

Mind you, Monkeyfister has a really great suggesting, too: @1. Ditch the re-named Paulson TARP. 2. Hire Nuriel Roubini and Joseph Stiglitz immediately as Co-Secretaries of Treasury, or Primary Treasury Advisers, or whatever works Constitutionally. 3. Follow their advice to the letter. He also has what looks to be a quite useful secondary role for them. It could work!

Meanwhile, Anna informs me that Michael Moore wants to talk to Wall-Streeters for his next movie: "Based on those who have already contacted me, I believe there are a number of you who know 'the real deal' about the abuses that have been happening. You have information that the American people need to hear. I am humbly asking you for a moment of courage, to be a hero and help me expose the biggest swindle in American history."

Bill Moyers had a talk with Glenn Greenwald and Jay Rosen: "JAY ROSEN: Well, what doesn't get considered, Bill, is that there could be anything radically wrong with Washington. That the entire institution could be broken. That there are new rules necessary. That idea, that the institutions of Washington have failed and need to be changed, doesn't really occur to the press, because as Glenn said, they're one of those institutions. And they're one of the ones that failed."

"Bailout banks hired FOREIGN workers with taxpayer cash: Major U.S. banks sought government permission to bring thousands of foreign workers into the country for high-paying jobs even as the system was melting down last year and Americans were getting laid off, according to an Associated Press review of visa applications." Via this extremely linky post at Make Them Accountable, where I also see that polls show Limbaugh is less popular than Reverend Wright and Bill Ayers, the biggest voter-fraud rate is caused by Ann Coulter, and that David Broder has been floating the lie that Social Security is bankrupt. Social Security is not bankrupt even a little. It's everything else that is.

16:09 GMT

Turn and face the strange

So it turns out that some poor guy they've been holding at Guantanamo and torturing is a terrorist suspect because he read a satirical article: "Written by Barbara Ehrenreich, the publication's food editor, Rolling Stone journalist Peter Biskind and scientist Michio Kaku, it claims that a nuclear weapon can be made 'using a bicycle pump' and with liquid uranium 'poured into a bucket and swung round'." This is the state secret the Obama administration wants hidden.

Here's that short Stiglitz interview from TPM. (Also: Time to stop believing in President Ninja.)

Impossible? No, it's not really impossible to do the right thing.

Glenn Greenwald on The 180-degree reversal of Obama's State Secrets position (following up from here), and on the hilariously delusional idea that Brazil is a great conservative film.

Patrick Leahy says there will be a truth commission whether Obama wants one or not.

Jane Hamsher says the Depression Dog Heath Shuler who has been busy blasting Reid and Pelosi for failing to be conservative enough is just a puppet of Rahm Emanuel.

How can someone who doesn't know about haggling get to be President of the United States?


01:22 GMT

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

You'd think it would be easy

JMM says they interviewed Stiglitz and will be "bringing you the Stiglitz interview soon," but I haven't found it yet so that's still to look forward to. The teaser is that Stiglitz says what you already know - that eating poison isn't going to end well for us. But Geithner wants us to eat the poison, and apparently he gets to overrule everyone with any sense.

Also, a majority of Americans support the stimulus package and disapprove primarily of the Republicans' behavior, but you'd hardly know it from the way the media is behaving. Josh says this is must-see for a classic example of the media being drunk - still wanting stock tips while Dr, Doom and the Black Swan are saying we have to completely change the finance structure. (I like the giggly gosh-wow-you're-superstars bit, too. Hey, you jerks, Rome is burning, dammit!)

The thing that kills me is that I still don't hear enough people saying that spending is stimulus and tax cuts are not. Tax cuts remove money that's needed to create stimulus (and eventually pay down the debt).

We have to spend money to have stimulus. We get that money from taxes. So we need more, not less, money collected in taxes. This is simple arithmetic that even a grade-schooler can understand, and yet our Very Serious People are all running around acting like you can make money by throwing money away and eating poison, but not by actually making money that can be invested in our country.

12:59 GMT

Monday, 09 February 2009

Take it to court

Although it's certainly a good thing that DNA analysis is now available to help exonerate the innocent (often after their lives have already been ruined with years or even decades in prison), but even without DNA evidence it's obvious that many innocent people are still in jail and the system has been set up to make it harder for those people to find justice. Tuli asks, "Is the Prison Industry really that powerful?" Actually, it is, but this goes back deeper, to a segment of the population that is so focused on revenge that it doesn't care what happens to the innocent along the way.

It would very helpful if the Rockefeller laws were repealed, and also the Adam Walsh Act. Also, apparently, Gitmo Conditions Have Worsened Since Inauguration, and someone actually won an acquittal with the evil twin defense.

When the Supreme Court struck down local gun bans, it opened the door to a whole raft of big Constitutional questions.

23:58 GMT

It's raining, it's pouring

All day I've been thinking about how libertoonians think you get more freedom with less government, because government is ultimately backed with force - and yet one of the reasons governments happen in the first place is that eventually people get tired of being at the mercy of competing bands of armed thugs vying for power. Still, at some point it's the people who have the greatest control of resources - including organized force - who get to run things. It might start with the big family that has the most productive crops being able to lord it over his neighbors and make them beg for food or work, but that guy also has the most money and gets to hire the biggest private army. When he finally takes over everything, he gets to call himself a king. And then the people rise up and put his head on a pike and if they are unlucky they get just another strongman, or if they are very smart and very lucky they get Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin and George Washington. And then the stupid greedy people come along and invent reasons why they shouldn't be stopped from becoming powerful armed thugs who can take your freedoms away.

Steve Benen says "It ain't fearmongering if it's true" - and it's true that reducing aid to the states won't just put a whole lot of people out of work, but it will also hurt private business that depends on those people's salaries to make their own income. As an added bonus, high unemployment destabilizes communities and increases crime, police jobs will also be cut at the same time. Via Eschaton, where I also learned that since Obama is black, it's not a "stimulus" bill but a reparations bill.

As Southern Beale notes* in comments, Democrats really should learn to understand that Republicans like to be dominated. (Can you fix that rubbish code on your pages, Lambert?) By the way, at her own blog, SB has a nice response to some garbage: "Look, let me make it simple. They say crafting legislation is like making sausage. But if you're a Democrat and you're helping the Republicans put rancid sausage onto people's plates, then don't be shocked when they come back and tell you they don't like sausage.".

Like I say, I'm really hoping that unemployment doesn't have to reach 36% before people start to really do something. This is a nice start, though.

Melvin I. Urofsky is talking about Louis Brandeis and Other People's Money.

18:06 GMT

Sunday, 08 February 2009

Diary of a mad country

Krugman says in his column that we're on the brink: "The American economy is on the edge of catastrophe, and much of the Republican Party is trying to push it over that edge." On his blog, he tells us What the centrists have wrought: "The short answer: to appease the centrists, a plan that was already too small and too focused on ineffective tax cuts has been made significantly smaller, and even more focused on tax cuts. [...] Now the centrists have shaved off $86 billion in spending - much of it among the most effective and most needed parts of the plan. In particular, aid to state governments, which are in desperate straits, is both fast - because it prevents spending cuts rather than having to start up new projects - and effective, because it would in fact be spent; plus state and local governments are cutting back on essentials, so the social value of this spending would be high. But in the name of mighty centrism, $40 billion of that aid has been cut out." And, "There isn't much room for bipartisanship when 87.8% of the other party is totally irresponsible." Well, there's the other kind of bipartisanship, where half of "our" party is happy to join them in being irresponsible....

Via Atrios, I learn that Claire McCaskill and her staff are doing a really bad job of trying to walk-back their sneering at the good stimulus proposals she was proud to help kill, and Obama's Secretary of the Treasury just wants to give your money to rich people. (Okay, I already knew that.)

And Obama seems quite happy with a bill that is dangerously weakened, after having undermined the Democrats who were fighting for "his bill". (Also: Prosecutors in McLean County ,IL, got around to dropping charges against someone they had prosecuted even though they had evidence of his innocence, and more states than you'd think are trying to get rid of the death penalty, but the press keeps conveniently screwing up the story.)

Reed Hastings, chief executive of Netflix, thinks it would be better for the country if rich people like him had to pay 50% of their "huge earnings" in taxes, instead of "the current one-third". I'd say that would be a nice baby-step.

Tristero's question: "On some New York Times server, Tobin Harshaw wastes valuable hard drive space rounding up, and lightly discussing, the opinions of some of the people who were dead wrong about everything in the past eight years. And it left me with the question in my title: What on earth is the appeal of conservatism?"

23:46 GMT

Smoke 'em if you got 'em

Naomi Klein says All of Them Must Go:

Watching the crowds in Iceland banging pots and pans until their government fell reminded me of a chant popular in anti-capitalist circles in 2002: "You are Enron. We are Argentina."

Its message was simple enough. You--politicians and CEOs huddled at some trade summit--are like the reckless scamming execs at Enron (of course, we didn't know the half of it). We--the rabble outside--are like the people of Argentina, who, in the midst of an economic crisis eerily similar to our own, took to the street banging pots and pans. They shouted, "¡Que se vayan todos!" ("All of them must go!") and forced out a procession of four presidents in less than three weeks. What made Argentina's 2001-02 uprising unique was that it wasn't directed at a particular political party or even at corruption in the abstract. The target was the dominant economic model--this was the first national revolt against contemporary deregulated capitalism.

It's taken a while, but from Iceland to Latvia, South Korea to Greece, the rest of the world is finally having its ¡Que se vayan todos! moment.

The stoic Icelandic matriarchs beating their pots flat even as their kids ransack the fridge for projectiles (eggs, sure, but yogurt?) echo the tactics made famous in Buenos Aires. So does the collective rage at elites who trashed a once thriving country and thought they could get away with it. As Gudrun Jonsdottir, a 36-year-old Icelandic office worker, put it: "I've just had enough of this whole thing. I don't trust the government, I don't trust the banks, I don't trust the political parties and I don't trust the IMF. We had a good country, and they ruined it."

In other countries, then, people aren't accepting the destruction with resignation, but making it clear out in the streets that they refuse to be victimized any longer. I realize Americans are fearful, but I am more afraid of what will happen if we don't do the same.

(Via Onyx Lynx, where I also learned that Margaret and Helen are doing chapter-by-chapter on Ann Coulter's latest, and it's just as dumb as you expected.)

* * *

Looks like the GOP is not bothering to hide their relationship to right-wing radio - but really, how many people didn't already know?

Nicholas Lezard reviews a book that he says has justly been reviewed as making The God Delusion "look like a parish newsletter," although it's by a believer - Shalom Auslander's Foreskin's Lament.


12:23 GMT

Saturday, 07 February 2009

Bread and circuses

Arabella underwired plunge bra from FreyaBra of the Week

Mr. Sideshow was amused by the cover of this month's ScotsGay. (Warning: .pdf.)

Atrios finds out what "the silly stuff" is, and learns the meaning of the word "moderate".

I'm informed that this week on Spectacle, Elvis Costello had a fascinating interview with Smokey. Some of us can still catch that on the C4 website for a while.

Lambert says Pelosi did good when she said calls for bipartisanship are "extraneous to passing a stimulus bill - and warned Senate Democrats against slashing proposed increases to education spending." And William Butler is saying in the FT that "The parasites are eating the host," in our banana republic with nukes. Oh, and Obama's recent language about improving healthcare didn't seem to include much about universal coverage, or even actual healthcare, come to that.

In comments, CMike tells me* that the French are blogging by other means, and Charles alerts me* that Pilger calls bollocks.

23:47 GMT

Where's that silhouette I'm trying to trace?

RIP: Dewey Martin, drummer for the groundbreaking but notoriously feuding and short-lived rock pioneers Buffalo Springfield, was found dead February 1 in Van Nuys, Calif. He was 68." I can't say I'm surprised that the best YouTube generated for me on "Good Time Boy" was this, but it's kind of sad - I mean, gods know it was a lot better than plenty of other things you'll find numerous instances of on YouTube, even if it is hardly of the caliber of most of Buffalo Springfield's offering. As far as I know, it's the only Springalo track he sang lead on, what with mostly being the drummer and all. Oh, well, here's "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing" as performed (oddly, without Neil but with David Crosby and Doug Hastings) at Monterey - not a song that shows Martin off to best effect, but I just happen to love it, and a lot of you wouldn't have heard this version. Sean ONeal said " Dewey Martin was one of those versatile musicians you never hear about anymore, the kind of guy who could play drums for Carl Perkins, The Everly Brothers, and Roy Orbison, drop into a garage group like The Standells for a few months, then do session work for The Monkees without breaking a sweat. In 1966 he got his biggest break playing with a nascent group melding country, folk, psychedelic rock, and a burgeoning late-'60s paranoia into a sound that would prove short-lived but incredibly influential: Buffalo Springfield. Martin performed with the band - led by Neil Young and Stephen Stills - on all of its most famous songs, including 'For What It's Worth,' which later became the de facto soundtrack for any film even tangentially related to the Vietnam War.

John Perr notes that the Senate has confirmed what he calls Krugman's Law and agreed on a "compromise" stimpack that "balances" anything useful with tax cuts that will seriously undercut its effectiveness. "And as I've previously suggested, there is also Krugman's Corollary. Fearful of a Democratic majority for years to come, Republicans are afraid not that Barack Obama's economic recovery package will fail, but that it might succeed." And conservative Democrats are helping them.

And here's our situation. You have to understand that the conservatives aren't just trying to "undo the New Deal" - though of course they are - but ultimately to undo the recovery from the First Great Republican Depression by first preventing a recovery from their new one. And it looks like, with the help of Mr. Post-partisanship and his buddy Rahm, they will succeed. Because God forbid that the President of the United States and the Democratic leadership should go out and tell the public the truth about how regressive taxation (which is what we now have) sucks the life out the economy. God forbid they should make the case that stimulus is spending, that paying for useful government projects like research on migration patterns and new energy proposals doesn't just create jobs in the public sector, but in the private sector as well. And because transportation is how people get to work. And because health care is not some luxury, but a natural expense in the efficient running of an economy - and a country. We spent eight years watching the Democrats help the Republicans pass crappy bills, and now, apparently, we're all prepared to spend more time watching them do much the same.

You know how Atrios is always talking about how the Washington elite are really quite stupid? Well, they really are.

Will Petreas Stage A Mutiny? "What a horrible state of affairs that President Obama's first major military challenge would come from within the ranks of our own troops."

" Did you know that the Soviet Union built a string of unmanned nuclear-powered polar light houses that are now abandoned?" Me, neither. Jeez.

Oh, look, it's standard practice at Bank of America to try to defraud people into paying other peoples' debts that they have nothing to do with. Like, for example, your dead mother. Via PNH, where I also found "Don't Work for Assholes." Also: If you find all the stuff you're reading here too grim, just click Cornify and it will cheer things right up! Works best if you move it to the very top line of your screen, and keep clicking until you can't do it anymore. Get yours here.

Help wanted at Publishers Weekly - for genre fiction reviews. Also: Wrath of Khan - The Opera, but apparently I'm not allowed to watch it from here. Ah, YouTube to the rescue! (via)

15:07 GMT

Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear

What John Cole said (and the rest of us nodded and agreed with): "I really don't understand how bipartisanship is ever going to work when one of the parties is insane. Imagine trying to negotiate an agreement on dinner plans with your date, and you suggest Italian and she states her preference would be a meal of tire rims and anthrax. If you can figure out a way to split the difference there and find a meal you will both enjoy, you can probably figure out how bipartisanship is going to work the next few years." Yes, and this should be obvious even to a box of rocks: You are being asked to give in to people whose every requirement is anathema to you. It's like "compromising" on whether or not to kill you by agreeing solely on how ugly the method for killing you should be.

Murray Waas on the US Attorney firing scandal: "A federal grand jury probe of the firings of nine U.S. attorneys during the Bush administration is focusing on the role played by recently retired Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and former senior Bush White House aides in the 2006 dismissal of David Iglesias as U.S. attorney for New Mexico, according to legal sources familiar with the inquiry."

Digby says Obama seems to have realized he has to stop kissing GOP butt. Good. Except, why is he still planning to continue Bush's faith-based bull? Bad. Oh, wait, Digby changed her mind, it looks like, thanks to President Ben Nelson Susan Collins.

If McCain is such a moderate, how come he introduced an amendment to the stimpack so extreme and nuts and anti-American that he couldn't even get more than nine Republicans to vote for it? (And help from Dean Baker.)

A message to Ken Starr to break your heart: "Fidelity: Don't Divorce."

01:43 GMT

Friday, 06 February 2009

Reading the entrails

I don't think Howie is expecting Obama to start listening to Bernie Sanders instead of Depression Dogs, and I really hope he's wrong, but I doubt it. Maybe it has something to do with his chief of staff: " Emanuel should have found Daschle's problems, Bill Richardson's problems, Geithner's problems, Nancy Killefer's problems, Hilda Solis' problem, Judd Gregg's problems... Instead he was busy telling his pals in the media how he cracks his knuckles in Obama's ears and planting stories about how he'll be reclaiming "his" House seat if Obama fires him. He weakened the president in front of dedicated enemies, who prefer to see America fail than Obama succeed, and weakened his ability to enact his agenda and fight off the desperate and all pervasive media spin." And it is likely Rahm Emanuel who is blocking the obvious choice to lead the healthcare effort - the man who was once known as "Mr. Healthcare" - Howard Dean.

"Republican strategy: That's right, the House Republicans - whose speaker in 2004 said they would only pass bills that had the support of 'the majority of the majority' - can't get their way because of the tyranny of, you know, losing elections and having far fewer votes in a deliberative body. So, according to one of their leaders, they should model themselves after the secretive and tyrannical religious zealots who terrorize Afghans and provided a safe haven to Osama bin Laden."

Mike Dukakis wants the stimulus bill to restore and improve our infrastructure, and says the only guy on TV who is challenging the Republicans' lies about it is Anderson Cooper.

Meteor Blades on David Cay Johnston's "Fiscal Therapy" article, and David Cay Johnston on Democracy Now! earlier this week.

So, are they planning a military coup or something if Obama doesn't make enough war for them?

Dave Ettlin had a personal interest in the "Compelling PBS documentary on Parkinson's ."

Bill Gates takes the first step toward becoming a supervillian: "In what is probably the coolest conference-talk attention grab I've ever heard of, Bill Gates apparently just released a swarm of mosquitoes into the crowd at TED, the geniuses-only mind meld. 'Not only poor people should experience this, the Tweetosphere has Gates saying as he released the swarm into the audience. Malaria is a cause that Bill and Melinda have been hitting hard with their philanthropy, and this is certainly a way to drive that point home." [Video] Thanks to Dominic for the tip.

Note: I've noticed the comment window hanging before it opens quite a bit the last couple-few days, so if you're having trouble getting them to work, it's not that you're banned, it's that you need to try again or reload or be patient. (If they still won't open, it's probably time to reload your whole browser.)

15:17 GMT

Thursday, 05 February 2009

I know it don't thrill you, I hope it don't kill you

If the owners of newspapers were liberal, they wouldn't be having this conversation. But they also wouldn't be having it if they were honest. Newspapers still make money, they just aren't making the kind of money they were making before. That's a problem for them today because the people who own them didn't buy them to publish newspapers, they bought them because newspapers were high-earners with profit margins way above what you can expect in most industries. They also don't particularly want you to have much news, so they consider it a plus to "save money" by reducing the actual product (reporting). And, please, no retorts that people want newspapers to "give their product away for free". The television networks made huge amounts of money by giving their product away for free. Anyone remember how they did that? Newspapers really operate on the same basis. (And anyway, that's not the complaint the article is making.)

Dan at Pruning Shears is not really interested in fine distinctions between one kind of rendition and another - he has a different take.

Some guy named Barack Obama was in The Washington Post this morning saying that certain criticisms of his bill are wrong: "I reject these theories, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change. They know that we have tried it those ways for too long. And because we have, our health-care costs still rise faster than inflation. Our dependence on foreign oil still threatens our economy and our security. Our children still study in schools that put them at a disadvantage. We've seen the tragic consequences when our bridges crumble and our levees fail." But then blames "partisan gridlock" without saying that the people who are being explicitly partisan are the goddamn Republicans.

Dday has been looking at a little history: "And so we've done a complete 180 in this country. Instead of recognizing that federal spending isn't always virtuous but is part of the overall economy, and vital in an economic trap when consumers and investors aren't ponying up, we've been beaten down by and consumed with far-right rhetoric about pork. So liberals say 'we can do better' while conservatives say 'we can't do anything.' And since the middle ground is spending too little to matter, the country suffers in the process."

Meteor Blades on the Defense boondoggle. (And remember, kids, social programs create more jobs to the dollar than "defense" spending does.)

Monkeyfister is really unhappy with the way things are going.

Wolverines lead the GOP to bring you the talking point of the day.

Wingers disturbed by executive pay cap.

Torchwood Season Three - First Official Trailer, and David Tennant's video diary.

Elvis Costello

23:03 GMT


Chris Bowers is continuing on his theme asking what Obama wants his supporters to do, if indeed he wants them to do more than sit down and shut up. I think the problem can be found right here:

The mantra of "change from the bottom up" was something that Obama regularly mentioned in his campaign speeches. It is difficult to connect that hopeful vision to Susan Collins and Ben Nelson re-writing the stimulus package against the wishes of the population at large. This is especially the case given that Obama's grassroots network is being asked to politely sit on their hands and ask Tim Kaine a few questions about the bill, rather than to take meaningful action. I really want to help pass the stimulus package at its current size, but I honestly don't know how to do that right now. It is very frustrating when you want to help, but you don't even know if that help is wanted, or exactly how you could help even if it was wanted. If President Obama would let us know which side he was on--the center-right Senate coalition's or the Democratic congressional leadership's--and urged people to take specific actions to help that side, everything would be a lot clearer.
During the campaign, some activists were alarmed to discover that the Obama campaign was consolidating independent activist networks under his own umbrella and making them his own. Strangely, a lot of other activists were not alarmed at the possibility that a popular leader was thus setting up a situation where he was neutralizing his potential critics or opposition from the non-right-wing side.

You don't wait for the President of the United States to lead a grassroots movement. You don't wait for the powerful to tell you to ask them for what they want to give you.

Look, there is a lot to dislike in the stim package and they are the fault of Obama and the Depression Dogs and the idiotic idea that this "bipartisanship" thing is a higher goal than saving the damn country. Those are the things you should be phoning your reps to complain about if you want to "do something" that doesn't involve getting out of your chair.

Or you could start organizing a visible presence on the street - in front of the Capitol and White House, in front of newspaper buildings and broadcast network studios, or at the local offices of your representatives.

Nine days into his presidency, FDR had closed the banks. Obama, by contrast, seems to be letting the right-wing lead with their usual message of "No we can't!"

13:20 GMT

Here comes the night

H.D.S. Greenway says it's Hanging by a thread: "One of the few cassandras who predicted impending doom, Yale economist Robert Shiller, puts the bar a little lower and added a time element. He said that he would begin calling it a depression when unemployment rose to 15 percent and lasted for five years. He added that that is very likely to happen." I think this may be optimistic the way things are going. And 15% is more or less what unemployment went to - from more than twice that - after FDR instituted the New Deal. I'd like to think that we won't have to get to 36% unemployment before people stop dicking around and realize that we have a real problem on our hands. But, as I say, I'm not optimistic. At least not unless we start to see more Democrats do what Representative Gary Ackerman (D-NY8) did when he hammered the worthless jerks at the SEC for being worthless jerks (here and here). That's the kind of fire we need. In public. A lot. From people who know what they're talking about and care that this wreck gets turned around. Preferably from people who enjoy a higher profile than Gary Ackerman.

Jeez, even Newsweak published an article about how Obama is blowing it by letting the Republicans run the table. Digby: "I think the administration thought they could be mediators between the two parties rather than leaders of the Democratic party. That just won't work, particularly when the Democrats aren't very good at battling the Republicans in close combat and the Republicans can make those who stay above the fray seem lightweight and insubstantial, which is what they've managed to do. They've showed they don't respect Obama and are unimpressed with his mandate --- the administration needs to accept that and strategize with that in mind." Is Obama going to start realizing that there can be no bipartisanship on The Hill without complete capitulation to the people who want to destroy our country?

It's amazing what a difference three months can make in the difference between socialism and populism.

The really sad thing about this is that Karen Tumulty is not nearly as bad as most of them.

02:35 GMT

Wednesday, 04 February 2009

Three bean with bacon soup

Here's Scott Horton with what is currently the top story in the UK:

Bush Administration Threatened Britain Over Torture Disclosures

A British court's judgment makes plain that it believes that a British subject held at Guantánamo was tortured, and that the United States had threatened the British Government over disclosure of the details of the torture.

The Guardian reports::

Evidence of how a British resident held in the Guantánamo Bay detention camp was tortured, and what MI5 knew about it, must remain secret because of serious threats the US has made against the UK, the high court ruled today. The judges made clear they were deeply unhappy with their decision, but said they had no alternative as a result of a statement by David Miliband, the foreign secretary, that if the evidence was disclosed the US would stop sharing intelligence with Britain. That would directly threaten the UK's national security, Miliband had told the court.

In essence, Bush Administration officials, led by John Bellinger, the legal adviser to Condoleezza Rice, were threatening the British Government with retaliatory measures if the British Court were to compel the disclosure of the torture. The compelling question is whether the Bush Administration officials were moved by national security concerns (which they will certainly claim), or rather, as is far more likely, by concern that the disclosures would fuel further demands for a U.S. criminal investigation of their own conduct, followed by their possible indictment and trial.

* * *

Other stuff:

Chris Bowers says, "During 2007 and 2008, and Obama campaign sent out around one thousand action alerts. Time and time again, Obama supporters were encouraged to donate, register voters, talk to neighbors, hold house parties, knock on doors, phonebank and vote early. Millions responded, including over four million campaign donors, and even more people taking some sort of action for the campaign. Barack Obama's calls to action were regular, convincing, and clear. Millions answered. Both during the election and afterward, there were regular implications that these same supporters would be called upon to act after the election, as well. In a post-election survey sent out to Obama activists, "pass legislation through grass-roots efforts" was one of the four activities supporters were asked to rank. During the campaign, Obama regularly spoke of change "from the bottom up," and made it clear that such change did not end with the election. Given all of this, I feel compelled to ask: What Does Obama Want Us To Do?" Maybe he wants to use us as foils - a dirty left he can repudiate as he commands the Democratic Party to give the Republicans what they want.

Good: "Obama Justice Department Re-Hires Attorney Fired By Goodling Because Of Lesbian Rumor." (Is that good enough? I thought she was fired illegally.)

I think Anna called "Ask Dr. Rendition!" (explaining a few little things to Michael Ledeen) "Hilzoy's Revenge".

Is America becoming a Falangist country?

20:00 GMT

Overton's shoebox


But two Democratic sources with knowledge of the meeting said the president took a blunt tone with the lawmakers, urging them to drop whatever needs to be cut from the bill to gain bipartisan support and to pass Congress soon.

One source said Obama appeared to be frustrated by the public perception that the recovery bill was becoming laden with partisan pet projects.

Hmmmm, I wonder what could be causing that...
You probably noticed all the GOP talking heads on the weekend chat fests, telling us that tax cuts for lower income Americans and spending for Main Street wouldn't work, while saying with a straight face that Corporate America needed more tax cuts. Did you see any sign of a coordinated counter message from the White House, fighting the GOP on the issues and going after their failed dogma?

Nope, and you won't either. The Obama White House is still delusional in its thinking that by not talking about issues, by not challenging GOP senators, and by continuing to appeal for fuzzy bipartisanship that they'll pull enough GOP senators over to vote for a package that will already be watered down too much with futile and failing gestures to win GOP votes. And it will be a waste of time.

This is the way Obama won the nomination, not on the issues or making a compelling case for a Democratic or progressive counter agenda, but by talking up change, by taking advantage of Clinton's mistakes, and by appealing for "anyone but Hillary." Now that he has to attack on the issues to win, he doesn't know how to, and may not have the skills to do it, because he himself doesn't have the DNA to do it.


Last month Marcy Kaptur got on the floor and said people who were being foreclosed should refuse to leave, and squat in their own homes, and yesterday Amy Goodman had her on for a feature on the economic crisis. (And as far as I'm concerned, banks that pretend they can't find the paperwork for a mortgage when a homeowner asks to talk to them about it should be told that the house now belongs to the occupant since the bank can't prove they have an interest in it.)

From FAIR: "U.S. Media Unoccupy Gaza"; "Anti-Union Flacks 'Effectively Replace' Skeptical Reporting"; "The Crack Baby Myth: Now They Tell Us."

Vile, Offensive, and Stupid.

15 years later...The censored Bill Hicks segment, and Bill's mom, on the Letterman show. (Much thanks to Cell Whitman.)

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the day the music died.

17:02 GMT

Tuesday, 03 February 2009

Who won?

Digby: "The bill is going to pass. The problem is that it is larded up with Republican tax cuts but has been painted as a Democratic "wish list," thus starving the beast while feeding the tax 'n spend, fiscal responsibility shibboleths at the same time. There's nothing we can do about that now. Unfortunately, the big battles to come are going to be much tougher because of it."

Digby also recommends Thom Hartmann's article, "Two Santa Clauses or How The Republican Party Has Conned America for Thirty Years", which provides some interesting history for us all.

23:54 GMT

Lots of politics

On learning that Obama was going to nominate Senate Republicon Judd Gregg for the job, Lambert asks, "Why is Obama putting a Social Security privatizer in charge of the Commerce Department?" And Judd insisted that as a condition of his joining the administration, the Democratic Governor of his state had to appoint a Republicon to replace him. So what are we getting out of this "deal", exactly?

Sadly, though he is justly decrying the undemocratic way that an increasing number of members of Congress are appointees rather than democratically elected representatives of their constituents, Russ Feingold has praised Gregg's appointment.

So, was Daschle really hounded until he had to withdraw from nomination because he was too much a friend to the healthcare industry, or because he wasn't?

Bill Scher has a big fat post up on what the state of play with Republican strategy (and lies) and polls and the stimulus itself and...oh, the whole kettle of fish is. Lots of stuff, lots of links, and of course the phone number for you to call your Senators now.

Bob Herbert says that if we don't put a big investment into infrastructure, we are Risking the Future. (That is, assuming we haven't lost it already.)

Down in comments, Daryl McCullough says: "Actually, the Republicans have worked out an effective strategy for keeping the Democrats to the right. They ask themselves: What would a true left-wing party do about some situation? The answer is some strategy, X. Then they accuse the Democrats of planning to do X. The Democrats react indignantly, saying "We're not crazy leftists, we would never do X". So X is then off the table."

19:17 GMT

Winding down

Chris Hedges (via) says It's Not Going to Be OK:

[Sheldon S.] Wolin, who taught political philosophy at the University of California in Berkeley and at Princeton, in his book 'Democracy Incorporated' uses the phrase inverted totalitarianism to describe our system of power. Inverted totalitarianism, unlike classical totalitarianism, does not revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader. It finds its expression in the anonymity of the corporate state. It purports to cherish democracy, patriotism and the Constitution while cynically manipulating internal levers to subvert and thwart democratic institutions. Political candidates are elected in popular votes by citizens, but they must raise staggering amounts of corporate funds to compete. They are beholden to armies of corporate lobbyists in Washington or state capitals who write the legislation. A corporate media controls nearly everything we read, watch or hear and imposes a bland uniformity of opinion or diverts us with trivia and celebrity gossip. In classical totalitarian regimes, such as Nazi fascism or Soviet communism, economics was subordinate to politics. 'Under inverted totalitarianism the reverse is true,' Wolin writes. 'Economics dominates politics - and with that domination comes different forms of ruthlessness.'
I don't know if they were ever really that far apart to begin with, but I do know that it was necessary to keep wealth from accumulating in such large bunches, and the minute we stopped doing that, we allowed power to accumulate with people who oppose our interests. And now that they have all the power, there is no way to get it back through the systems we now have in place.
He said the widespread political passivity is dangerous. It is often exploited by demagogues who pose as saviors and offer dreams of glory and salvation. He warned that 'the apoliticalness, even anti-politicalness, will be very powerful elements in taking us towards a radically dictatorial direction. It testifies to how thin the commitment to democracy is in the present circumstances. Democracy is not ascendant. It is not dominant. It is beleaguered. The extent to which young people have been drawn away from public concerns and given this extraordinary range of diversions makes it very likely they could then rally to a demagogue.'
Here's another unpleasant clue from Thers, who notes that Petreaus and his friends are acting politically to undermine the President on withdrawal from Iraq, actually whipping up their own propaganda campaign against him. "Well, there's a Democrat in the White House, so, constitutionally, civilian control of the military is suspended, or something."

But don't worry, they're already teaching your kids how to fall in line.

It used to start with rotten fruit, but these days, it starts with shoes.

All of the world's crackpot religious extremists agree. (And I don't even want to know how this happened.)

17:45 GMT

The third rail

Glenn Greenwald notes yet another outright lie coming from the Republicans, from Fox Noise to The Washington Past, claiming that Obama has cut defense spending. This, alas, despite these observations:

In comments, casual_observer notes correctly: "Social Security is not the third rail of politics--Defense Spending is. Our defense spending is simply not sustainable, but its constituents are so powerful and pervasive that any change in the spending trajectory simply cannot be considered."

This is true despite the fact that, every year, more and more Americans believe that we are spending too much on defense, to the point where large pluralities now believe defense spending should be cut. Therefore, this is yet another example where bi-partisan elite consensus, driven by its own self-interest, simply ignores -- outright refuses to acknowledge -- widespread public opinion.

And the hell of it is, liberals will like Obama because they believe he's cutting military spending, because the conservatives are blasting it all over the air that he's doing that, while conservatives will hate him because they believe he's cutting military spending...

* * *

Old Jews Telling Jokes, via Elayne.

Building Lego New York.

14:28 GMT

Even though the years won't be kind

Scott Horton notes that The Los Angeles Times got it completely wrong about extraordinary renditions, apparently because they don't know the difference between (a) kidnapping people in order to bring them to trial in the civilian legal system and (b) kidnapping people and taking them to other countries to be tortured. Neither program should pass the smell test, it's true, but the fact is that the first is something that started in the Reagan era, while the second is the one that George Walker Bush's administration started and Obama has committed to shut down.

The Washington Post isn't fooling me - the only way they'll be satisfied with any bill that comes out of Congress is if it's a bill the conservatives would have written on their own. Then it will be "bipartisan.

Meanwhile, E.J. Dionne asks, "Just how high a price is Obama willing to pay for a handful of Republican votes?"

Fafnir and Giblets at the end of the world.

I'd say that Michael Steele must be the most ignorant and stupid person alive to say that, "Not in the history of mankind has the government ever created a job," except that I know conservatives have to tell this kind of lie to keep people from knowing just how much they are being screwed. (via)

I don't think Howie Klein is expecting much from Obama: "Anyway, maybe Obama just wants a real break with liberals. I think so. Well, good luck to him when they do to him what they did to the last Democrat who played footsy with them."

I can't help the feeling that Robert Reich doesn't have to worry about what will happen when " the economy starts to turn up again, perhaps as early as next year." Take care of these problems now or there's a good chance we won't see another real upturn in our lifetimes.

A funny movie you never saw. And I'd never heard of. Well, Simels says it's funny, anyway.

Tim Buckley

01:05 GMT

Monday, 02 February 2009

Calls to action

From Fact-esque:

It's the Superbowl of Activism and We're Losing Big

Enemies of the stimulus package are outcalling the supporters of economic recovery by enormous numbers. I hope that someone smart does an analysis about what that means regarding the power of talk radio vs. the internet, which is where I think the fault line lies.

In the meantime, call your Senators now - no matter which party they belong to - and tell them to support the stimulus package.

Additionally, John Conyers wants you to make it clear that you don't want Sanjay "Healthcare Industry Shill" Gupta to be Surgeon General.

21:30 GMT


I'm completely distracted to discover that the snow resumed after I went to bed and it's still snowing. There are mounds of white stuff outside my window, even the street looks kinda pretty for a change. I was actually able to take a glass and scoop some pristine snow up and make the famous maple snow (the original slurpie - except I eat it with a spoon). I am agog. I feel like a little kid. Wheee! I realize it's not so nice for some other people, but I've been feeling deep envy while seeing everyone else complaining about their snow, because we never get any. And since I didn't have to go out in it, I couldn't wait to go out in it.

Kip Manly gave us some good quotes before going on to have his say - I quite liked this combination:

It's called Lemon Socialism. Taxpayers support the lemons. Capitalism is reserved for the winners. - Robert Reich.

So one might say that we are seeing not the tender creep of socialist possibilities into the national discourse, but their further erasure. Every time that we agree that the word "socialism" might refer to something other than, at a minimum, worker ownership if not indeed the end of surplus value extraction; every time that we misrecognize state corporatism as something other than a moment in capital's "equilibrium in motion," we "turn the wheel of discursive normativity a click" away from socialism. We forget what that word promises. Perhaps the most optimistic memory, as Jasper reminded us, is that the corporatist regimes have arisen historically in the fact of popular socialist challenges - but that in no way guarantees the motion will summon forth such a movement via some blind mechanism of counterweights. - Jane Dark

And if you thought the party was over, Paul Krugman warns that the Bailouts for Bunglers are still very much a priority:
When I read recent remarks on financial policy by top Obama administration officials, I feel as if I've entered a time warp - as if it's still 2005, Alan Greenspan is still the Maestro, and bankers are still heroes of capitalism.

"We have a financial system that is run by private shareholders, managed by private institutions, and we'd like to do our best to preserve that system," says Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary - as he prepares to put taxpayers on the hook for that system's immense losses.

Meanwhile, a Washington Post report based on administration sources says that Mr. Geithner and Lawrence Summers, President Obama's top economic adviser, "think governments make poor bank managers" - as opposed, presumably, to the private-sector geniuses who managed to lose more than a trillion dollars in the space of a few years.

Somehow the administration just doesn't get what's happened. It's kinda scary. Krugman reminds us:
There's more at stake here than fairness, although that matters too. Saving the economy is going to be very expensive: that $800 billion stimulus plan is probably just a down payment, and rescuing the financial system, even if it's done right, is going to cost hundreds of billions more. We can't afford to squander money giving huge windfalls to banks and their executives, merely to preserve the illusion of private ownership.
Except that it looks like instead we want to reward the people who wrecked our economy.

14:56 GMT

Weather report

I can't believe this is going on outside my back door right now!

Adam Liptak: "In 1983, a young lawyer in the Reagan White House was hard at work on what he called in a memorandum 'the campaign to amend or abolish the exclusionary rule' - the principle that evidence obtained by police misconduct cannot be used against a defendant. And that same lawyer: This month, Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority in Herring v. United States, a 5-to-4 decision, took a big step toward the goal he had discussed a quarter-century before. Taking aim at one of the towering legacies of the Warren Court, its landmark 1961 decision applying the exclusionary rule to the states, the chief justice's majority opinion established for the first time that unlawful police conduct should not require the suppression of evidence if all that was involved was isolated carelessness. That was a significant step in itself. More important yet, it suggested that the exclusionary rule itself might be at risk." The police will have fun breaking into your home to see if they can find some evidence that could be used against you for, oh, almost anything. Expect them to take your computers looking for child porn, dig up your garden and pull your geraniums out of their pots - you know, just the ordinary casual thing you just accidentally do on the search for crime.

Hard to decide what's more annoying, the fact that a lack of Republican votes on the stim package is treated as the story by the press - and apparently signifies some failure on Obama's and the Democrats' part - or the fact that they think getting Republican votes is more important than whether the bill is any good. Or maybe just the whacky way they pretend the Republicans didn't play the same game with Clinton and that none of this has ever happened before.

Of course, the press might have more quotes from the Democrats if the Democrats would answer their calls. Honest to God, what kind of an amateur outfit is this party, anyway?

I liked the cartoon that goes with this article in which Frank Rich says, "What are Americans still buying? Big Macs, Campbell's soup, Hershey's chocolate and Spam - the four food groups of the apocalypse." But even he seems to think the Republicans are supposed to have "ideas". Conservatives have ideas - the same ones they've had for more than two centuries. The problem is that no matter how many times their ideas screw things up, they still think those are good ideas.

The chronology of CNET discovering what happened to Google when they wouldn't take us out on the web.

00:19 GMT

Sunday, 01 February 2009

Assorted links

Vote for Sam Seder to take over the 10:00 PM spot on MSNBC.

Academic freedom: "If Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Law withdraws its employment offer to Colonel Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, because she heads Tsahal's international law division and under Sharvit-Baruch's command, Tsahal's legal experts legitimized strikes involving Gaza civilians, including the bombardment of the Gaza police course closing ceremony, several war crimes planned for, and executed in the first minutes of the Tsahal surprise air ops prior to the ground phase of the Gaza War, then it will lose state funding." (Also: I haven't weighed-in about the flurry of aggro over the BBC refusing to air this appeal, but you can see it for yourself if you like.)

Lambert thinks it's time to follow Atrios' lead* with a Banker of the Day.

Thoreau informs us that "saddleback" has a new definition, thanks again to Dan Savage (who previously defined "santorum").

Well, you really know you've made it when you achieve Red America's highest honor.

How Klein is unconvinced by Bruce Springsteen's admission that the Wal-Mart deal was a bad idea, but admits that sometimes rich people can be okay, though they have to try harder at it. (He has also coined the term "banksters" to refer to the big bad guys. I like that. I also liked an IM Ruth sent me the other day in which she referred to "the mogul horde".)

Ettlin on the demise of the competing Baltimore newspaper.

I keep meaning to say how massively cool it is to see Neil having stuff like this happen. Congrats, sweetie. (Meanwhile...what is it with the zombies?) Plus: Lace.

I looked out my window earlier and saw snowflakes sort of floating around in the air. And then they went away, and if I hadn't been looking out the window for just those minutes, I never would have known, because they left no sign that they had been there at all. Then a little while ago it started snowing again - the small flakes in more rapid, thick fall that might signify a more serious snow, but alas, they disappeared, too. Oh, well.

15:36 GMT

Do you hear what I hear?

Down in comments, Nell says:

Obama made the good noises about labor unions on Friday to lift the spirits of friends of labor while the Solis nomination is bottled up _in committee_ by Democratic leaders, with White House encouragement.

O. does not want to engage the arguments about the Employee Free Choice Act at all until the Senate finishes with the stimulus bill.

1) Labor was among the last cabinet positions filled.

2) Solis didn't give a straightforward expression of support for EFCA at her confirmation hearing, or in written comments since, deferring to Obama.

3) Obama hasn't said a word about the bill, and won't.

4) Claire McCaskill went on the Senate floor Jan. 22 and claimed a "secret hold" was delaying Solis and other women appointees, despite the fact that the delay is actually in scheduling a vote in committee on her confirmation.

5) Editorials and news reports (with the honorable exception of Elana Schor at TPM DC) amplified the "Republicans are holding up Solis" outcry.

6) Daily Kos posts by MeteorBlades and thereisnospoon fired up who knows how many Kossacks over the last three days to make calls to Republican Senators demanding to know if they were the one placing the nonexistent "secret hold".

I understand what the White House is doing and why they're doing it. I don't like it, I don't think it's the right way to win, but I can accept that they do think so. What really chaps my hide is that no one is willing to come out and say that this is what's going on.

Everyone from the AFL-CIO blog to the National Journal to DailyKos is acting as if they genuinely believe Republicans, a 12-10 minority on the committee whose Democratic chair has not scheduled a confirmation vote, are blocking Solis' confirmation.

And further:
You can't have a strong middle class without labor unions. As unionization rates have fallen over the last thirty years, wages have stagnated and life for working families has gotten more and more insecure.

Cheap labor conservatives have helped make this happen by piling up obstacles in the way of workers who want to join unions.

One of those obstacles is forcing workers who want to join unions to go through elections whose timing and campaign climate is determined entirely by the companies they work for.

Workers need a free choice to join unions: they should be able to sign up on their own timetable, and to have bargaining rights once a majority of their co-workers also sign up. Or, if they choose to conduct elections, to do that. The choice should be the workers', and that's what the Employee Free Choice Act is all about.

If workers are given a free choice, more of them will form unions. That's what big business doesn't want, and that's why they're fighting the Employee Free Choice Act.

* * *

Hummer drivers colossal jerks, study shows.

"The Bells" (Thanks to Joel.)

11:56 GMT

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, February 2009

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Is the media in denial?
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And, no, it's not named after the book or the movie. It's just another sideshow.

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