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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

People are talking

I think the cold was slightly less horrible today than it was yesterday, but I'm not exactly feeling like a bright spark right now. But the weather is warmer, and I actually felt up to paying attention to the garden, so that can't be bad.

Michael Hudson tells a fascinating story: "2,181 Italians Pack a Sports Arena to Learn Modern Monetary Theory - The Economy Doesn't Need to Suffer Neoliberal Austerity [...] Stephanie Kelton (incoming UMKC Economics Dept. chair and editor of its economic blog, New Economic Perspectives), criminologist and law professor Bill Black, investment banker Marshall Auerback and me (along with a French economist, Alain Parquez) stepped into the basketball auditorium on Friday night. We walked down, and down, and further down the central aisle, past a packed audience reported as over 2,100. It was like entering the Oscars as People called out our first names. Some told us they had read all of our economics blogs. Stephanie joked that now she knew how The Beatles felt. There was prolonged applause - all for an intellectual rather than a physical sporting event."

David Dayen on The Broken Regulatory State: "If anything, the foreclosure fraud settlement has shown a breakdown in the ability of regulatory agencies to deal with the aftermath of fraudulent conduct. They simply have no ability to offer a regulatory response that's commensurate with the behavior." Maybe it should be addressed in criminal law, then.

One reason I dismiss arguments for paying teachers by "merit" is that it's almost impossible to assess actual merit that finely. You occasionally find teachers of manifest brilliance, and you occasionally find teachers whose performance is so bad - or egregious - that you really need to fire them, but by and large you basically just have people trying to convey stuff to a bunch of students and performing as well as can be expected in the circumstances. You can't have a universal standard for them because all classrooms are not equal, all communities are not equal, all schools are not equal. And, in addition, there's always a lot of politics in any workplace, in any district, in any state, that can adversely affect not just individual teachers, but whole schools and even entire educational systems. And that's just one little thing. Of course, this applies to more than just teachers and schools, and it goes well beyond that. What do people mean by "achievement"? What's "productive"? Even the decisions over what is "good performance" and what isn't start with certain assumptions that can be, essentially, political. But people like to believe in meritocracy, as Yves Smith notes: "When it comes to bias, it seems that the desire to believe in a meritocracy is so powerful that until a person has experienced sufficient career-harming bias themselves they simply do not believe it exists." (And, I submit that people who play the lottery can do the math just fine. If you are in no position to get rich by bright ideas and hard work, even if you are bright, able, and very hard-working, as so many people are, the math is simple: Your only chance at getting rich is to play the lottery. End of story.)

Paul Abrams says Wall Street is now supporting tax hikes on the wealthy, with even Jamie Dimon saying, ""I would tax dividends and interest income higher and capital gains. "Have a higher tax rate. If you said there'd be a certain percent rate for people making over a million dollars and a higher percent rate for people making over $10 million, no problem with me. I don't think people should be able to pass unlimited amounts on to their kids." David Waldman @KagroX tweets: "Because the tax rate at the end of a pitchfork is 100%."

Warren Buffett says high corporate taxes are a myth, and that we did fine when we had much higher taxes on corporations. And even though he's no great public speaker, he's able to articulate this simple thing that, y'know, we don't even hear most of the time, even though it's true.

I suppose you could say Ezra Klein is manfully trying to debunk a silly idea that's floating in the NYT, but he's using all the misleading language and bizarro rationales of the blitherati in Washington. Here we find him getting it wrong on Simpson-Bowles, which he forgets many important things about. Like the fact that nobody wanted a "deficit commission" in the first place because it was a stupid idea, and that it never issued a report at all because no one could agree on it, and that Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles wrote their own "report" that didn't propose anything that would genuinely reduce deficits because reducing deficits isn't what they actually care about. They care about convincing the world to kill Social Security, which you'd never do if you really wanted to be fiscally responsible. Jan Schakowsky, a member of the commission who, unlike Bowles, was actually elected, also produced her own report - one that completely disagreed with Simpson and Bowles and was, of course, more to the point. Yet no one in Washington is talking about why Obama has ignored that plan, even though it's Schakowsky, and not Simpson and Bowles, that Obama has actually been rejecting. Oh, yeah, that's the other thing that's entirely wrong with Ezra's piece - it starts with the false assumption that Obama has failed to embrace the non-existent Simpson-Bowles "commission report" that isn't a commission report, and that just isn't true. Obama has been trying to embrace Simpson and Bowles' plan to wreck Social Security since before he was even elected, and that's the very reason he forced this stupid commission on a public and Congress that had already rejected it. Ezra does note that Obama has actually moved to the right of Simpson and Bowles' recommendations, but he still doesn't seem to know that they were not "the commission report" and that this isn't 11-dimensional chess, it's just Obama pursuing right-wing programs. Dean Baker caught the NYT selling the same misleading take, and debunks one of the main lies in the scam: "The piece also misled readers when it asserted that, 'benefits for an aging population soon would increase deficits to unsustainable levels.' In fact, the main problem is rising private sector health care costs that were projected to make Medicare and Medicaid unaffordable. The increased costs due to aging alone are quite gradual and affordable." What's making them unaffordable, as Schakowsky suggested in her report, is that the government refuses to negotiate them down, despite the fact that doing so would save us $270bn. (PS. Why does Ezra hate democracy?)

Jake Tapper actually pressed the White House spokesbeing Jay Carney about the contradiction in the White House's alleged support for tough reporting and it's war on whistleblowers, Glenn Greenwald notes in one of his Various Matters posts, quoting Tapper: "How does that square with the fact that this administration has been so aggressively trying to stop aggressive journalism in the United States by using the Espionage Act to take whistleblowers to court? You're - currently I think that you've invoked it the sixth time, and before the Obama administration, it had only been used three times in history. You're - this is the sixth time - you're suing a CIA officer for allegedly providing information in 2009 about CIA torture. Certainly that's something that's in the public interest of the United States. The administration is taking this person to court. There just seems to be disconnect here. You want aggressive journalism abroad; you just don't want it in the United States."
Also from Glennzilla: "Both Scott Lemieux and Jeralyn Merritt have good commentaries on Elena Kagan's joining with the five right-wing Supreme Court Justices to dilute the protections of Miranda. One thing I found fascinating is to read how many commenters to this Daily Kos post about the ruling are actually defending the Alito/Thomas/Roberts/Scalia rationale (though the majority are criticizing Kagan). How many of them would be defending the Court conservatives this way had Kagan not joined them in their opinion diluting Miranda? My guess - on which I'd place a fair amount of money - is: zero. Had it been only the five right-wing Justices voting this way, I strongly believe that not a single one of those commenters would be uttering a peep of support for it." Glenn's original response to the decision is here, and you can read what Bmaz had to see here. The verdict seems clear: Obama's replacement for Justice Stevens (who was, you recall, a Republican appointee), moves the court further to the right.

"Wikileaks emails indicate Stratfor discovered Israel already destroyed Iran's nuclear facilities." This all has such a ring of familiarity....

03:55 GMT

Monday, 27 February 2012

Here they come

Here's this fairly decent article about ALEC pushing voter-ID laws, but you know things have gone beyond stupid when you see a paragraph like this:

With little proof of cheating many Democrats say it's really all about Presdient Barack Obama. They believe that voter ID rules will probably keep a lot of the young and the poor from voting, both groups were big Obama backers last round. Opponents say that's where this secretive group of powerful conservatives comes in.
It's all about Obama. A project the right-wing has pursued for my entire lifetime is all about Obama. ALEC has been around since 1973 pushing this same agenda and it's all about Obama.

I was sufficiently out of it Tuesday that I forgot to mention that Lambert and I were doing Virtually Speaking Tuesdays, and a bit traumatized by the resulting failure of my communication skills, but you can go ahead and listen to it if you want to. At the very least, listen to Stuart's Z-Files, which is at the top, and certainly and worth your time.

Nice post from Jay Ackroyd about Tort, and making the system work, and Hot Coffee: "The way the civil lawsuit thing is supposed to work is that people hurt by negligent actions get compensated for what it cost them, and then also receive punitive damages--money intended to discourage the defendant from doing the same thing to other people."

Watching Buddy Roemer talking about the corruption in both parties - and, not incidentally, defending unions and pointing out that it's management that's damaging the companies - almost made me want to vote for him.

Officials try to claim that they are meeting the needs of the very poor, but of course, that's a lie: "He said, 'Oh, I'm not eating dinner because it's my brother's turn tonight. Tomorrow is my night."

A losing strategy: "A searing new report says the environmental movement is not winning and lays the blame squarely on the failed policies of environmental funders. The movement hasn't won any 'significant policy changes at the federal level in the United States since the 1980s' because funders have favored top-down elite strategies and have neglected to support a robust grassroots infrastructure. Environmental funders spent a whopping $10 billion between 2000 and 2009 but achieved relatively little because they failed to underwrite grassroots groups that are essential for any large-scale change, the report says." Not just environmental groups, of course.

The top story at the Guardian is more on the phone-hacking scandal, but Rupert Murdoch remains at large.
There's also a lot of back-and-forth on the NHS "reforms", such as "NHS will have to ration further treatments, GPs warn," "NHS chief: reforms are 'confused mess'," and "Nine out of 10 members of Royal College of Physicians oppose NHS bill."

Cultural referents: "There are schools within a bike ride of here that have kids whose lives make yours look like goddamn paradise. There are people lining up at food pantries whose kids you walk by the in hall every day. Our politics is about to criminalize being girls, we're still at war even though we're pretending we're not anymore, and in an hour's drive you can be in a neighborhood that looks like something out of Blade Runner. You want to talk about morality? Let's talk about the morality of having a full metal freakout over kids touching each other to songs about 'booty' while all of THAT is going on. What on earth are we teaching teenagers when we teach them that?"

Gosh, and you wonder why people are losing respect for the law.

Twitter is having a death hoax, but, really, Rowan Atkinson is still alive and being a jerk.

The Johnny Cash Project (via)

Still no jetpacks.

Susie Bright, "What I Didn't Say in My Memoir" - you lost your virginity to whom? (Possibly not work-safe.)

Jan & Dean, original mono mix; longer film version.

17:00 GMT

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Rumors of spring

Item 1: I still have the thing that's going around and makes me feel all limp and full of aches and befogged.
Item 2: It seems that I somehow accidentally saved the archive page differently from how I usually do it. The extra code didn't work, but recreating the page did, so at least that issue is solved.

This week, Virtually Speaking Sundays will feature Marcy Wheeler and David Dayen - at a much earlier time because of the Oscars - so check the post to find your time zone and listen live or later (stream or podcast). These two together should be red-hot and hugely informative.

On Virtually Speaking A-Z, Jay started off with a proposition I still completely disagree with, and Stuart didn't seem to be accepting it, either: That the corporate income tax isn't useful. But the first thing on their references page for the show is this: "U.S. Federal Tax Receipts - Fiscal Year 2011: The increase in taxes needed to support the war effort in the 1940s saw total (corporate and individual) income taxes rise to prominence as a source of Federal receipts, reaching nearly 80 percent of total receipts in 1944. After the war, the total income tax share of receipts fell from a postwar high of 74 percent in 1952 to an average of 64 percent in the late 1960s. The growth in social insurance taxes (such as Social Security and Medicare) more than offset a postwar secular decline in excise and other non-income tax shares. The combination of substantial reductions in income taxes enacted in the early 1980s and the continued growth in social insurance taxes resulted in a continued decline in the total income tax share of receipts. By 1983 the total income tax share had dropped to 54 percent of receipts, and it remained in the 53 to 56 percent range until the mid-1990s. Since 1994, the total income tax share of receipts has increased, reaching 60 percent in 2000, before dropping back to 52 percent by 2003 and then increasing to 58 percent in 2006 and 60 percent in 2007. As a result of the recession and tax reductions enacted as part of the stimulus packages in February 2008 and again in the spring of 2009, the total income tax share dropped to 57 percent in 2008 and dropped even further, to 50 percent in 2009. In 2010 the income tax share of receipts rose slightly to 50.4 percent." (I think Jay hasn't shaken loose from a lot of right-wing politicized "economics" theory. It's not a unique infection; even Krugman suffers from it. But you don't get this idea of untaxed corporations from people who can see how things work and have worked throughout history. Economic models are all "Look at the math!" But math doesn't explain how people really behave. If it did, the people would already have risen up and killed their elite masters in their beds before they sucked us dry.)

Below that, on the same page, Stuart's own hot topic is the fact that Rick Santorum is beating Romney with a message that sounds like it should be coming from someone else: "Ann Romney and her husband grew up here, but Santorum is now tied or leading him in recent polls in the state. Mitt Romney is touting his hometown roots while Santorum is pushing his blue collar background and a populist message." In fact, Republicans are doing well by talking about families and jobs and attacking elites. And the Democratic leadership and their handmaidens all act like they have more important things to talk about. So the right-wingers are winning with the rhetoric of liberalism, and the best the Democrats can do is keep the culture wars up front and offer people like this? Please, please, make it stop!

"Voting Rights Act under siege: An intensifying conservative legal assault on the Voting Rights Act could precipitate what many civil rights advocates regard as the nuclear option: a court ruling striking down one of the core elements of the landmark 1965 law guaranteeing African Americans and other minorities access to the ballot box."

In case you're wondering, Shaun Donovan is the Secretary of HUD who was originally appointed precisely because he opposes the mission of HUD, and as a result he has done a strategically awful job. He should have been replaced a long time ago but no one seems interested in doing it. And David Dayen notes that the story of how he scammed Schneiderman is right there in The New York Times. "Wow. This is on the record, with Miller saying that the release only looks like it was tailored to Schneiderman's specifications. Miller, by the way, was announced today as one of President Obama's re-election campaign co-chairs."

Atrios seems grumpier and grumpier, a feeling I certainly understand as we watch our giant intellects continue on the path to doing everything completely wrong. "Light Some More Money On Fire" (and help re-institute slavery under a modern guise). "Extraction" (when the skimmers reach the peak of laziness). And so on.

Juan Cole, "How the FCC Can Take the Money Out of Politics [...] The Federal Communications Commission should forbid television broadcasters from charging for campaign ads, and we, the public, should peacefully demonstrate outside the FCC offices at 445 12th Street SW, in Washington, D.C., until it does so." That'd be a nice start, but what about the non-stop campaign that is run on behalf of right-wing ideology all over the airwaves in the not-campaign-ads material?

Chomsky, "Anniversaries From 'Unhistory'" - We are not observing the 50th anniversary of a disastrous decision our leaders made, and you have to wonder if we will even celebrate the 900th anniversary of Magna Carta in a few years' time.

Ian Welsh, "Justified Pessimism"

Charles Dickens, court reporter

Harry Turtledove's spoiler

Star Trek: The Lost Milton Berle Episode

The Adventures of Tintin by H.P Lovecraft

One-stop shopping

Amazing elastic gymnastics

RIP: Steve Kordek, who put the flippers on "the pin machine", at 100

04:34 GMT

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

I'm hiding under blankets

One reason I'm so sick of the attempts to drum up the daily Ten Minute Hate against Republicans or self-identified conservatives is that I'm pretty sure that at least half of the Republican electorate is - and, indeed, feels - entirely unrepresented by their party leadership, and not because that leadership is "too liberal". But the other reason is that I'm pretty sure that if we can just get rid of all the damned tribalism, there are plenty of registered Republicans who would get on board with a push to restore the Constitution and the project of promoting the general welfare. The trouble is that for 30 years the GOP leadership and, more importantly, it's rich funders and savvy operatives, have pushed the party membership to see liberals as people who hate them, and liberals have obligingly complied by hating on them non-stop. It's a waste of time. And I can't help thinking back to that little political map Stirling Newberry presented us with a couple of years ago that was actually much more meaningful than the ones everyone else always comes up with.

Meanwhile... I'm pretty sure the entire purpose of the Phelps family is to get people so annoyed that they do something stupid that can end up in a lawsuit that gets your money to them. For the record, I'd consider it a badge of honor to have them show up at my funeral, and I think the thing to do if they show up at your own event is to cheer, take pictures, and just generally behave like you won the lottery. Alas, there is the possibility that they won't show up at your event, but you can use this handy green-screen photo to paste them in! (Of course, if you're high-profile enough, they might do it for you and save you the trouble. Seems having them there is becoming indistinguishable from not having them there.)

Here's that story on Frank VanderSloot that McJoan and Stuart talked about on Virtually Speaking Sundays this week. And here's What Digby Said about tasers.

Breaking: SCOTUS To Hear Major Challenge To Affirmative Action. This is me banging my head against the desk.

At Truth Out:
"Monsanto Found Guilty of Chemical Poisoning in France: In a major victory for public health and what will hopefully lead to other nations taking action, a French court decided today that GMO crops monster Monsanto is guilty of chemically poisoning a French farmer."
"White House Refuses to Release Email From Monsanto-Linked Lobbyist

Alternative sf book titles: One, Two, Three.

The Women of the Surrealist Art Movement

That's what I already had before I started to notice that all of my efforts to avoid anyone who has whatever's going around failed. So, I feel like crap and don't really want to think.

Also, I'm experimentally adding a piece of code to the archive page, but I have no reason to think it will work. For all I know, it could make things worse! Please report soonest.

17:52 GMT

Monday, 20 February 2012

Looking for a plan

This week on Virtually Speaking Sundays, the panelists are Stuart Zechman and Joan McCarter. The rest of the week's VS schedule can be found here, and also contains the video for the Z-files episode quoted in the previous post.

In my continuing series of ways to get other people to write my posts for me, there's this item I found over in comments somewhere at Eschaton (but I seem to have mislaid the correct link) from regular commenter DWD:

Last night I posted this: my own political agenda.

Off the top of my head, ten changes that would make life better for mostly everyone (probably not the richest of the rich but who cares?)

1. Nationalize our communication systems. Telephony, cable TV, and data transmission need to become the people's. If we stopped sending a great deal of our money into the coffers of a few corporations that have so much cash that they continue to expand their control, we would have more money for other things like education. If France can offer the big three communication needs (phone, internet, and television) for a fee roughly 1/3 of what we are paying, we should follow their example.

2. Immediately institute regulations on the amount of interest that can be charged on credit accounts. Make it the prime rate plus 10-20% - enough to make them money but not so much as to continue to fleece the population.

3. Regulate severely or nationalize the use of debit cards and force businesses to discount for cash commensurate with the fees that they are paying for using these electronic transfers.

4. Separate the banks from speculation and traditional banking. By allowing our banks to become addicted to gambling they are no longer serving the public's interest but theirs.

5. Immediately institute a transaction tax of less than 1% on each transaction. The only effect that people would ever see is when they sell a stock and have to pay this fee out of their proceeds. What this would do is stop the manipulation that major players in the market can perform to bleed money out of the system.

6. Immediately cease the speculative trading of commodities. As I have often stated if you want to buy oil or grains then you must have the facilities to actually accept delivery of such commodities. If you cannot then you have no business in this market.

7. Immediately treat all income the same whether from salaries or capital gains: treat everyone the same as far as the taxes in our society are concern. Let them contribute to the social security and medicare systems as well pay their fair share of the burdens we all should share for living in a modern society.

8. Break up the media conglomerates. There is no reason that all of our news should be filtered through corporations like Disney or Rupert Murdoch's Media Empire.

9. Treat our trading partners in exactly the way we are treated. Japan can export as many automobiles as we can sell in Japan. China the same. As is stands now all this type of trade is doing is stealing bread off our tables.

10 Stop the damned revolving door that spins riches to those who worked in government service regulating the same industries that enrich them. Forbid anyone working in a senior position in government from working for a private firm in the same area for a period of time no less than five years and have this same restriction apply to family members.

Do these things and the world could change.


* * * * *

Isn't it puzzling that legislators are supposed to be improved by being paid more money, but teachers aren't?

Forget everything else Santorum said - let's talk about his attack on mainline Protestants. I think it's time they stood up and attacked back, m'self. Santorum and his fringe Prots have been promoting an attack on the teachings of Jesus for decades and someone needs to say so. Meanwhile, Catholic bigshots once again miss the point of that whole Good Samaritan thing. Who is my neighbor?

"What Politico's 'Wisconsin 1848' Union Screw-Up Reveals" - that journalism gets stupider every day.

Workfare: Cheap-labor conservatives making sure there are no real jobs.

I get so tired of these terrorist scams the FBI is running.

Noam Chomsky's speech at the University of Maryland last month, "Crisis and hope: theirs, and ours"

Cenk talks to Sandra Bernhard about the war on women.

Bruce Springsteen: 'What was done to my country was un-American': "At a Paris press conference on Thursday night, Bruce Springsteen was asked whether he was advocating an armed uprising in America. He laughed at the idea, but that the question was even posed at all gives you some idea of the fury of his new album Wrecking Ball."

Trailer for Heist: Who Stole the American Dream?

The angel in marble (Hat tip @VioletCorsica.)


Plergb Bylaws Summary

No, I haven't changed any of my code, but something seems to have changed somewhere, and I don't know how to fix it. I have not updated the page since I originally loaded the last post, and yet in the days between then and now, people who could click the permalinks and see the archive page can no longer see it. But there was at least one person who was having the problem before I uploaded that post, while no one else complained about it. And it's not everyone - some people click the permalink and see the page fine, and some see a bunch of code instead. And some people have reported they had the problem but then it went away. This may have been something to do with an update of Webkit (for Chrome and Safari), but I don't know.

01:00 GMT

Thursday, 16 February 2012

The story so far....

Panelists on Virtually Speaking Tuesdays,Susie Madrak and David Dayen, with Stuart Zechman (who informs me that it was Jay, not him, who did the graphics for the last Z-Files). Stuart has been asking why we needed the Robo-Settlement - or, rather, why the White House wanted it so urgently. It's possible that he has found the answer:

I'm Stuart Zechman, and I've got three questions for you:

First question: What's not to love about the robo-settlement?

You know, the just-announced immunity settlement that grants the five biggest banks in America immunity from prosecution and investigation in 49 states for the mass-forgery they committed in their haste to foreclose on as many American families' homes as possible? The "robo-signing" deal?

If you're a liberal Democrat, aren't you pretty darn happy about the whole thing?

You're not?

Well, I was just reading the Washington Post the other day, and the decidedly Democratic-voting Ezra Klein had this to say about the robo-settlement:

"The agreement won't end our housing troubles and it won't end the banks' legal troubles. But it will help a bit on housing -- it should lead to principal reductions, refinancings, and even checks for millions of homeowners -- and help a lot in protecting banks from lawsuits. Given that many in the market are already turning bullish on housing, this could be the push many need to begin reinvesting in the sector." [Link]

Now when Ezra says "checks for millions of homeowners" in the midst of a catastrophic 8 percent national unemployment rate, and "the push many need to begin reinvesting," this whole deal started to sound like something else...

Hmm..."checks for millions of homeowners," "push many need to begin reinvesting"...sounds kind of like...a tiny economic STIMULUS plan, doesn't it?

Sounds like the Administration basically wants economic stimulus, and they're using the bank settlement to get it.

Now, obviously this would be --at least according to economists that correctly predicted the housing collapse-- a totally inadequate stimulus that also dubiously depends in large part on inspiring "confidence" and reducing "uncertainty" in the beautiful minds of our cash-hoarding corporate giants...but that pretty much sounds like every economic measure proposed by this Administration, right?

So now their awesome recovery program this election year includes the seemingly indefinite, Social Security-ruining payroll tax holiday, AND a check for up to $2,000 cut at some point over the next three years to over 700,000 people out of 4 million families potentially illegally foreclosed upon between 2008 and 2011. Yep, sure sounds like this Administration's idea of "stimulus."

The genius of it is that they don't even have to spend a single cent of that $30 billion dollars of Home Affordable Modification Program money that Treasury still won't make directly available to homeowners --they can use that to pay down the deficit. Isn't it fantastic?

Why, just yesterday, Reuters reported that the cash poor Federal Housing Administration will be likely to receive a billion dollars from the settlement, instead of having to borrow from Treasury. Imagine that! These five giant, money center banks that took 9 trillion dollars in near no-interest, no-recourse loans from the Federal Reserve are now basically giving their money to the FHA, the federal insurer and guarantor of mortgages, so that the Obama Administration can claim some deficit reduction in an election year. (Come to think of it, why not just cut out the middleman, and replace the FHA with some enormous, federally-guaranteed, private insurance corporation, and have them insure the money center banks' mortgages against default, like AIG...oh, wait. Never mind.) [Link]

And how about the news that at least three states, Maine, Wisconsin and Missouri, are already planning on using large portions of their settlement dollars to patch those states' general funds, for budget-balancing. Hey, when the Administration signed off on those automatic cuts from their debt-ceiling deal, they had to plan on something to offset the disastrous effect on the states, right? Why not send down a little cash without doing so in a way in which Republicans and Meet The Press' David Gregory can possibly blame the Administration for spending job-creators' money? [Link]

It's perfect. In an election season following 4 years of an economic policy that has produced 4 million foreclosures, 13 million unemployed people and record profits for money center banks, the Administration can still blame Congress, some people get $2,000 checks to hold up in front of news cameras, JPMorgan's CEO can reconsider contributing to the Obama 2012 campaign, the establishment press will talk about investor confidence...if you want Obama to have a shot at winning in November, what's not to love? [.pdf]

Can you see why the Administration wanted this settlement so badly?

Along with the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits, it's their 2012 "stimulus package."

So, second question:

If this settlement will maybe be the difference between an economic number ticking up or a number ticking down before November, isn't immunity for banks that have stolen people's homes and wrecked the economy a small price to pay to make sure that Obama gets elected to a second term in office?

Which is more important to you: a working system of elite accountability in America, or Obama's reelection?

Because, inevitably, whether I'm right about immunity being traded for minuscule private-sector stimulus or not, this settlement will be described by the Obama campaign to liberal Democrats as something that Obama simply had to do, in order to have the best chance of reelection.

Well, don't you want Obama to do whatever he has to in order to get reelected...whatever it takes?

Or --and here's the final question-- are there some things that are more important than the reelection of a Democratic president, some things without which our country can't be successful, and our people can't have the nation that we deserve after these long years of failure and stupidity and avarice and corruption on the part of our government, banks, giant industries, institutions...our elites?

Are there some things that simply can't be sacrificed on the altar of Barack Obama's reelection campaign?

If things keep going the way they're going, we're going to have to choose one way or the other. Movement liberals are either going to be a movement primarily about accountability for everyone in America, or we're going to remain pawns on an 11-dimensional chess board for the foreseeable future.

If you find that there's not much to love about robo-settlement, then ask yourself 1) what does it say about what's wrong with our country at this moment in our history, 2) what won't you tolerate to see Obama in the White House for another four years, and 3) isn't long-overdue accountability what America needs most right now to put us on the path to a just and sustainable future? Or just ask yourself one thing: What are you willing to lose...to win?

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

* * * * *

Ayn Rand Was an Illegal Immigrant

Herblock (1961)

Plergb. (I had just gotten off of a phone call with Stuart in which we argued, again, about the meaning of "conservatism" when I read this, so it seemed to be particularly, um, apropos.) (And this Irish sf series looks kinda neat.)

How Jack Kirby's Art Helped the CIA Rescue Diplomats in 1979 ... and it all started with Roger Zelazney.

The Kerning Game (via)

16:53 GMT

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

I see a summer's night with a magic moon

I wonder if anyone will be reading this today from the Bed-in in Washington Square. Yep, it's time to Occupy Valentine's Day.

Making you pay: The canard is that "forcing" organizations to provide contraceptive health coverage means forcing them to pay extra for it. Of course, the reverse is true - policies that omit contraceptive coverage cost more than policies that provide it, because pregnancies cost more than contraception. And that means that what the no-contraceptive-coverage crowd really wants is to force people to pay extra for an exception that nobody needs. There's a similar canard related to the whole idea of forbidding funds for abortions for welfare recipients - it's cheaper for the state to fund it than not to fund it, so the rest of us are having to pay the costs of not funding it. This is, of course, a consistent theme with right-wing policy. Fully-funded, WIC programs used to save us $45,000 for every $100 spent, but they kept cutting down until it saved not nearly that much, and yet it still saves us money, though every cut means it saves less again. And so on. (And my thanks to The Raw Story for providing a clip from The Daily Show that I can actually watch.)

Sam Seder did two interviews last week that suggest the re-emergence of Jim Crow, with Ari Berman on the resegregation of the south, and Michelle Alexander on much the same thing.

"5 Right-Wing Governors Gutting Schools to Fund Prisons, Tax Breaks for the Rich...And a Bible Theme Park." Oh, and they're not all Republicans, either.

"30,000 drones in American skies, civil liberties in jeopardy: Washington- A bill passed last week allocating more than $63 billion to the Federal Aviation Administration would increase the existence of drones in civilian airspace across America and is expected to be signed into law by President Barack Obama." (via)

I'm assuming Stuart is responsible for putting the graphics together for the useful video of the Z-Files I quoted below.

"Are you sitting down? It turns out that the class divide in education has gone through the roof! (Who could have guessed?)"

"Where is Kropotkin When We Really Need Him? [...] Kropotkin honored Darwin's insights about natural selection but believed the governing principle of natural selection was cooperation, not competition. The fittest were those who cooperated. [...] He spent the rest of his life promoting that concept and the theory of social structure known as anarchism. To Americans anarchism is synonymous with a lack of order. But to Kropotkin anarchist societies don't lack order but the order emerges from rules designed by those who feel their impact, rules that encourage humanly scaled production systems and maximize individual freedom and social cohesion." (via) (Also, Fred Clark on rewriting the Bible to suit sexist politics.)

"Should Israel be classified as a state sponsor of terrorism?: That question is being debated in the wake of a story that NBC News broke late last week. Citing unnamed US officials, NBC reported that Israel has used an Iranian opposition group to carry out those much-publicized assassinations of Iranian scientists. The group in question is the M.E.K. (Mojahedin-e Khalq, or People's Mujahedin of Iran), which since 1997 has been designated a terrorist group by the United States because of its alleged assassinations of US citizens."

David Swanson says, "27 of 35 Bush Articles of Impeachment Apply to Obama. When Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced 35 articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush on June 9, 2008, the 35 had been selected from drafts of nearly twice that many articles. President Obama has accumulated his own massive list of high crimes and misdemeanors that were unavailable for Bush's list (thing's like openly murdering U.S. citizens, launching massive drone wars, selectively and abusively prosecuting numerous whistleblowers as spies, holding Bradley Manning naked in isolation, attacking Libya without so much as bothering to lie to Congress, etc.). Nonetheless, it is instructive to review the 35 Bush articles in the Obama age. It quickly becomes apparent that Obama has either exactly duplicated or closely paralleled most of the 35."

History is a Weapon, Howard Zinn, "Chapter 15: Self-Help in Hard Times"

It's turkeys all the way down - I don't usually quote science like this because I can't for the life of me figure out how it can be true when liberals keep falling for the same old crap. (Am I the only one who finds it worrying that Chris Hayes has gone all happy talk, by the way? It's even got John Sarbanes rhapsodizing about public-private partnerships, ffs!) Meanwhile, Digby and Corey Robin talked about The Reactionary Mind and all that stuff on Virtually Speaking Sundays.

Baby elephants!

The Searchers and one of my favorite tracks. Happy Valentine's Day, sugar.

16:30 GMT

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Some Rob you with a six-gun, some with a fountain pen

For a moment it seemed like there was good news when I saw this: "Schneiderman's Last-Minute Cancellation Spells Trouble for Foreclosure Fraud Settlement."

But then it seemed it was more like this: "49-State Foreclosure Fraud Settlement Will Be Finalized Thursday." (And Jesus Christ, Ezra, why on earth is it good news that this deal will "help a lot in protecting banks from lawsuits"? These people stole people's homes, and you think a check for a couple of grand is some kind of compensation? If you get caught selling a lid of grass they confiscate every damn thing you have, but if you steal someone's house you just pay pocket change in compensation out of billions you made from cheating people? That's really nice for you - if you're a banker. But, you know, we don't need bankers like that! And we need to put those banksters in jail so they won't do it again - and doing more of it seems to be just what they have in mind, thanks to this deal.)

Stuart Zechman talked about the Robo-settlement on this week's Virtually Speaking A-Z. Here's the outline Stuart made for that:

The Problem: "We will admit no wrong."

The Pattern:

1) Create a hostage population dependent on the outcome of successful negotiations between the government and a giant industry

2) Negotiate with the industry on the basis of a shared agreement that all parties are best served if the issue were to be put behind them

3) Negotiate with external actors to defuse risks to the consensus outcome, by offering prominent, careerist roles inside the Administration

4) Declare victory, sell the outcome to interest groups

The Counter-factual:
Imagine if this pattern had been applied to
  • Trust-busting
  • The Emergency Banking Act of 1933
The Premises:
1) Look forward, not backward

2) The system must be preserved

3) Trust the institutions involved

4) The enemies of progress are partisan and political, not economic and structural

5) We know what we're doing better than you

The Path to Progress:
1) Accountability must become our movement

2) Stop negotiating with hostage-takers

3) Demand the truth, above all

4) Be smarter than them, without the hubris

Synopsis: This latest settlement with the giant money center banks can be viewed by movement liberals as part of a broader malignancy within the government and big-D Democratic national politics, which we might refer to as "Robo-settlement" (a play on the fraudulent practice for which the settlement grants effective immunity) which is the tendency we've seen (in examples like the SEC's proposed settlement with Citigroup) to follow a pattern of political dishonesty and manipulation in pursuit of the reconciliation of structural issues to industry satisfaction.
David Dayen suggests 9 Ways to Improve Housing Policy Around the Foreclosure Fraud Settlement, and the good news is that someone is listening.

* * * * *

"Why Obama should be worried" - Yeah, it's Politico, but Obama's policies sure aren't charming the pants off of the electorate, are they? Maybe that's because he doesn't even seem to know what they are.

Charlie Pierce eats Ross Douthat for lunch.

Alan Moore has an article over at Auntie Beeb's place, "V for Vendetta and the rise of Anonymous" [...] "At the time, we both remarked upon how interesting it was that we should have taken up the image right at the point where it was apparently being purged from the annals of English iconography. It seemed that you couldn't keep a good symbol down. [...] Our present financial ethos no longer even resembles conventional capitalism, which at least implies a brutal Darwinian free-for-all, however one-sided and unfair. Instead, we have a situation where the banks seem to be an untouchable monarchy beyond the reach of governmental restraint, much like the profligate court of Charles I. [...] Today's response to similar oppressions seems to be one that is intelligent, constantly evolving and considerably more humane, and yet our character's borrowed Catholic revolutionary visage and his incongruously Puritan apparel are perhaps a reminder that unjust institutions may always be haunted by volatile 17th century spectres, even if today's uprisings are fuelled more by social networks than by gunpowder. "

I missed it last year when China Miéville proposed two new verbs.

Neil Gaiman SFX Awards 2012 Acceptance speech

Hmmm, mmmmm...

"Pretty Boy Floyd"

16:16 GMT

Wednesday, 08 February 2012

We're the ones with skin in the game

Yesterday's big news was that a "2-1 decision by a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that limited marriage to one man and one woman, violated the U.S. Constitution," but I want to talk about the New Deal, or rather, give you what Stuart Zechman explained about the public insurance programs from the New Deal that are there to protect all of us from high-rolling gamblers who keep trying to destroy our economy. You can hear Stuart talk about this on his Z-Files segment from Virtually Speaking Tuesdays last night (with Spocko and Mike Stark), but here's his full text:

I'm Stuart Zechman, and I'm about to say something about a big 2012 campaign issue-to-come that may sound confusing to some folks.


OK, here goes: Medicare is NOT primarily a "social safety net" program.

Got that?

Here's another one: Social Security is NOT primarily a "social safety net" program.

Now I know what you're saying, you're saying "Hold on just a minute there, Stuart Zechman, I've heard my entire life that these are safety net programs, which is why liberal Democrats have to support them!"

But bear with me, and I'll try to make what I mean clear, OK?


So, when we say "social safety net," we mean a program that acts like a net, that catches people plummeting to their deaths...well, that prevents individuals from falling into total financial ruin, right?

It means that sometimes life doesn't go as planned, or we make the wrong choices, or end up in unexpected --or expected-- financial hardship. Or, we started out in hardship, and just never had the opportunity to get ahead in life to the point where we could live without some kind of net to hold us up at the end of the day.

Have you heard this before?

A "social safety net" means that some people can make mistakes, or be unlucky, or (frankly) make bad choices, and the rest of us will gladly --or not so gladly, depending on who you are-- step right in with our charitable contributions in the form of taxes, to help save these poor unfortunate people from being destitute at the end of their lives. If you didn't manage to put away a nickel your entire life for your old age, we'll help you --there's Social Security for that. If you weren't able to get a job that guaranteed private medical insurance in your retirement, we'll help you --there's Medicare for that. It's about helping those who can't help themselves.

So when we say "social safety net," what we mean is: welfare for people who are poor enough to depend solely on these programs as a last resort, once their meager savings are all gone, if they ever had any savings to begin with.

And --back to the confusing part-- I'm saying that Social Security and Medicare are NOT primarily social safety nets. I'm saying all that stuff I just said involving "helping those who can't help themselves" is NOT what Social Security and Medicare are primarily about.

Somehow, over the course of many decades, the significance of these brilliant, New Deal-era policies got changed in people's --even many liberal Democrats'-- minds, but they're NOT primarily social safety nets, they're something else.

Social Security and Medicare are primarily PUBLIC INSURANCE. Not "safety net," but "public insurance."

Let me explain:

In March, 1933, as FDR took the oath of office, state governors had closed every single bank in the nation; nobody could cash a check or get at their savings.

Now imagine that for a second.

You've worked your whole life, you've diligently saved your whole life, you've done everything as you should have, you were responsible, you put off today's pleasures for tomorrow's security, and you've done the most routine and non-risky things possible with your money: you've put your life savings into a savings account at a bank...but suddenly you can't get to your money.

You can't draw upon your savings, because it's effectively gone: your bank has gambled your money away. It lent its money to the bigger banks, which lent their money to even bigger banks, and the masters of high finance lost big at the casinos one day, so you're out of luck.

Due to no fault of your own, you, like tens upon tens of millions of Americans, are now as broke as the big banks.

Your fortunes rise and fall with their fortunes at the back-room investment tables. You're dependent on the 1% and the success of their schemes in order to get by in your old age.

Unless...you have insurance. But not just any insurance, not private insurance which probably invested all your premiums in the big banks' gambling schemes, no no --you need to have PUBLIC INSURANCE.

And that's what these programs are: public insurance against the geniuses in high finance gambling with your money.

It means independence. It means freedom for ordinary people. It means that, when the guys with top hats and monocles come to your democratically elected federal government for their social safety net in the form of federally guaranteed recapitalization loans, they come to the People's House with their hats--instead of a gun and hostage demands-- in their hands. Social security is a public option; a piece of security and freedom that can't be taken away from us by complex credit card contracts or shady "reverse" mortgages sold by former Senator (and actor) Fred Thompson on FOX News Channel.

When the banks lost all our money (the first time) in the Great Depression, this country learned one of the biggest lessons about advancing freedom since the 13th Amendment: that we the people can't truly be free, unless we use the federal government to establish independence from big, powerful, private interests like money center banks, who tend to hold us and the entire American economy hostage when things go badly for them.

So when you're 65, and you can't pull your money out of your "Health Savings Accounts" insured against default by AIG, and your HMO invested everyone's premiums into Bear Stearns recommended stocks, you've got something that those geniuses can't touch: Medicare. You've got independence from the captains of finance and industry. You've got freedom. You've got pubic insurance.

And it's not just you, it's every ordinary American. Economic crashes don't just happen to poor people, they happen to everybody. And that's why everybody needs Social Security and Medicare, whether we're low income or middle income or even above average income. These programs are NOT primarily safety nets for "the most vulnerable," they're what keep all of us from being vulnerable to the 1%. Instead of depending on them, we can depend on ourselves, knowing our life's savings are safe. Along with the guarantees in the Bill of Rights, New Deal-era public insurance is what keeps we the people free.

So how did we ever, after all of that New Deal success keeping our nation safe, independent, and free for all of these years, end up in a situation where our cherished public insurance options are routinely described on MSNBC as "social safety nets"? How did this happen? Who benefits from wide acceptance of this odd notion that our public pension insurance and public medical insurance are somehow welfare for some of us, and not independence for all of us? Whose idea was this "social safety net" thing, anyway?


I think that movement liberals like us need to ask ourselves these things, especially as we start to hear more and more of the big Parties' plans for "shared sacrifice" and "entitlement reform" this election cycle.

When you hear that Romney's concerned about "the 90-95 percent of us" and not "the very poor" who "have a safety net" he says he's going to fix...what exactly is he talking about?

When you hear the President say that he "will veto any bill that changes benefits for those who rely on Medicare but does not raise serious revenues by asking the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to pay their fair share. We are not going to have a one-sided deal that hurts the folks who are most vulnerable," what exactly is he talking about? He will "only" change Medicare, our successful public insurance program, if...if he also gets taxes restored slightly on millionaires?

What are these guys talking about? It sounds like they're talking about welfare reform, kind of, except...they're talking about all of us, this time. They're talking about "reforming" our independence, our freedom...our public insurance.

So, if you're a movement liberal like me, but you've gotten really used to hearing our New Deal public insurance programs --the ones you've been paying premiums into your whole working life-- as "entitlements" or "social safety nets" by politicians in either party, I think it's time to declare our independence from any candidate who is willing to negotiate away our hard-won freedoms in business-as-usual capital deal-making over budgets. That means Republicans and that means Democrats, and that means making our voices clear on the difference between "safety nets" and our independence --before this election is over, and they're back to lame-duck Grand Bargains on how to pay for the 1%'s "social safety net," once again.

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

* * * * *

Billy Moyers interviewed Jonathan Haidt, and the discussion of moral thinking, demonization, and language, was pretty interesting and a bit scary. Here's some background in Language: A Key Mechanism of Control - Newt Gingrich's 1996 GOPAC memo - but it's about much more than that. Oh, and just who was Saul Alinsky?

"David Graeber's Debt: My First 5,000 Words" - Because Graeber's Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a big book, Aaron Bady wrote a big review. Via PNH, who called it "magesterial". (And Patrick's band also finally put out an album, too.)

Stencil your own Guy Fawkes art/mask.

Buzzcook pointed out to me that the Harrison/Starr interview on Aspell can be found on YouTube, Pt.1, Pt.2, Pt.3.

"The Skin Game"

14:28 GMT

Monday, 06 February 2012

It seems like years since it's been clear

I'm a day late to this (snow always gets me so excited!), but this week we commemorate the Day of Shame, or perhaps that should be Days of Shame, as there have been so many. (And, hell, they haven't even bothered to gin up any good theater about Iran - we just seem to be having the war without the traditional warm-up hate-fest and fake "evidence".)

Finally! For years, I've been griping about the fact that all those rich liberals keep giving their money to things like MoveOn.org and other relatively trivial (yes, relatively trivial) projects instead of putting it where it could do some real good, which would be in broadcast media. Even when Air America was launched, it sounded from the very beginning like it wasn't actually motivated to be a real liberal station. And, as it turned out, it was really run by crooks who just wanted to exploit the clear desire of liberals to have broadcast media of our own - crooks who had no intention of actually making it work, but just of getting in, sucking up some cash, and getting out. In the radio business, this has tended to mean you take an underperforming station, turn it liberal long enough to start picking up some serious listening figures, and then get an offer of a buy from some right-wing money so they can turn it into a Christian station. That's always been part of the plan, you know - buy out media that doesn't echo the right-wing machine so that there is nothing out there that contradicts the right-wing megaphone. They have done this so successfully that even in Washington, DC, there has been nothing but right-wing radio speaking to a public that is largely repelled by it. But now that's changing, right in Washington, DC.

GOP Arrests Gasland Director, 1st Amendment Attacked on the Hill: Interview with Josh Fox by Sam Seder on the heels of an extraordinary event in which a member of Congress had the filmmaker arrested for attempting to film a public hearing. (You can see the video of the arrest here.)

Finally, a high-profile voice takes the liberal stand against austerity - and it's Newt Gingrich.

Ian Welsh on The Blindingly Obvious About Obama, 2013, Europe, Iran and so on: "If Obama wins he will stop pandering to progressives and liberals. Since he never has to be reelected again, he will be even worse than he was 2009-2011. If you want anything from Obama, anything, get it before the election, do not believe promises, do not accept promises, accept cash only. If Romney or Gingrich wins, well, it's not going to be any better. SOPA and PIPA will be back in 2013 in some form, so will the pipeline enviros think they've killed." And more.

"Catholic bishops fight to deny health care to the 98 percent: The 98 percent, that is, of American Catholic women who use contraception. [...] Catholics are not opposed to contraception. Catholics are not morally opposed to contraception. Catholics are not theologically opposed to contraception. Contraception does not trouble the conscience of Catholics. Nor should it. All of which means that it is simply not accurate in any meaningful sense to say that opposition to contraception is a 'Catholic' position." (via)

Mitt Romney is a good example of what inheritance taxes are meant to prevent. I flag this post from Brilliant Jill for David Cay Johnson's explanation of how these people can game the system so that hundreds of millions of dollars can be transferred to children to prevent any semblance of meritocracy in America.

"Anonymous ready to dump 2.6GB of Haditha docs: A group of Anons are about to dump a torrent 2.6GB of email containing "detailed records, transcripts, testimony, trial evidence, and legal defense donation records" about the Haditha massacre, in which 24 unarmed Iraqi men, women and children were killed by the USMC."

Marcy Winograd Leaves The Democratic Party - She's going Green; she's had enough of these creeps.

Mormons not taking over the world.

Ringo on Ferguson was fun, but I actually thought he was funnier with George when they did Aspell's show.

And speaking of George, here's his son hearing the lost guitar solo to "Here Comes the Sun".

Did I miss an announcement that malt has become too rare to waste on Malteasers? And what happened to the malt in Shreddies? And why can't you get a malted at Ed's Easy Diner? I don't get it.

15:45 GMT

Saturday, 04 February 2012

Come on, that means you!

Stuart Zechman flagged a post from a Republican talking about how Mitt Romney's "gaffe" wasn't a gaffe and Democrats only hurt themselves by treating it as one. That was introductory to a point he was making on Virtually Speaking A-Z in which he developed his theme that we need to be smarter about how we react to the political theater we are watching. But that show is most worth listening to for a little story Stuart told about watching wrestling, and I heartily recommend it to you. It tells you something that a lot of people really need to learn.

I had some problems with some of the things Richard Wolff said in his speech, but if you start here, it's a reminder that Americans - yes! even Republicans! - have a lot of agreement with movement liberals on some crucial issues. Instead of railing against Republicans, it's time to learn to talk to our countrymen.

There are so many interesting discussions going on in the comments, and you should read them, but I wanted to pull a bit of one (to the previous post) from BDBlue: "...New Deal was largely ideas being pushed by those hated, useless third parties (in this case the Socialists, Communists, etc.). What a waste it was to support those parties since they never won the presidency! But, yeah, someone who can't seem to recall history that occurred during her lifetime (e.g., MLK did not march for "more and better Democrats"), sure isn't going to "remember" stuff that occurred in late 1800s and early 1900s. She's more than happy to spread the dreaded tale of Nader, however. Oh and if our future depends on winning the trench warfare in the hallowed halls of Congress then we are royally screwed. All you have to do is read that Yves Smith post to know that. And that, of course, assumes there actually is any "warfare" going on other than a concerted effort by Congress against the rest of us and, no, electing Darcy Burner isn't going to change that. Not that electing Darcy Burner is a terrible thing, but it's kind of like cheering on the Lilly Ledbetter law while Obama bails out Wall Street." I do find it worrying that some otherwise smart people tend to operate as if it's still all about Democrats vs. Republicans. It's a losing game. It's not that we shouldn't vote, but we now have a continuous election cycle in which the only thing that changes is that for a few months right before the election, candidates try to sound a little more liberal (yes, liberal!) than they normally do, as if they don't actually plan to keep destroying our country. And it's simply stupid to pretend that "We have to beat the Republicans" is a sufficient strategy. What if we don't? What if a Republican wins the election? If you're only answer is, "It doesn't bear thinking about," or maybe, "That will be a disaster!" - well, I've got news for you, because the disaster is here and now, not later. Unless you can elect a Congress that will impeach at least a couple of Supreme Court justices and any president who fails to serve the people, partisan electoral politics is just one big distraction. Obama should be afraid to do the horrible right-wing things he is doing. What have you done to make him afraid?

"Schneiderman Sues Three Big Banks, MERS for Deceptive Practices, Illegal Foreclosures" - Ah, so maybe he's not letting his new job distract him? This could be good. We'll see.

And, gosh, the NYT actually had a story the other day on how the S.E.C. Is Avoiding Tough Sanctions for Large Banks. (But these stories always cut two ways - is it a story of corruption that needs to be cleaned up, or is it just another element in the "government is bad" arsenal? Who you are may determine how you read that headline. But the SEC used to work. If you remember that, all those "libertarian" arguments just sound like so much gibberish.)

Yes, one bad Apple can spoil the whole bunch, and evil practices - anti-employee control fraud, some might call it - are part of the poison that is killing our country. (It's a relief that lately no one says, "You could have bought a Mac," to me anymore. I think that's partly because none of them can afford a Mac anymore, but, whatever. To me, there is little that could be more uncool than someone trying to convince me that having a Mac is somehow cooler than having a PC. You might as well be arguing over the virtues of the Electrolux versus the Hoover.)

I suppose a counselor could specialize in areas that have nothing to do with sexuality - say, agoraphobia, and maybe even anorexia - but if you can't deal with clients who are gay or don't share your religious beliefs about reproductive rights, maybe you shouldn't have that job.

"Oops: Florida Republican Forgets To Remove ALEC Mission Statement From Boilerplate Anti-Tax Bill."

"Helicopter Money and Stephen Hester" - The infuriating thing is knowing that these guys get there with our government's help.

The end of fashion

Harlan Ellison, going strong.

Apple Scotland: Having a wee bit of trouble (Not work-safe - but amusing.)

"Liberty Walk"

16:26 GMT

Thursday, 02 February 2012

Groundhog's Day

Since I didn't see this dashing picture of dashing Tesla in time for his birthday last month, I thought it'd be better than a picture of a groundhog.

I keep forgetting to mention Virtually Speaking Science, but Alan Boyle is actually pretty good not just on science, but the issues around it, and the politicization of science.
Tonight's Virtually Speaking line-up will feature Stirling Newberry following Stuart and Jay on the week in liberalism.

From Naked Capitalism:
Yves Smith on "Yet More Mortgage Settlement Lies: Release Looks Broad, Not Narrow; Other States Screwed to Bribe California to Join [...] "It is hard to fathom how any responsible attorney general can agree to this deal not knowing what they are getting for their constituents. It is particularly bizarre that Pam Bondi of Florida has been pushing so hard for California to join the deal rather than do her best to secure terms at least as good as those offered to California for Florida homeowners. And the same question can be asked of Schneiderman. Why has he gone from pushing for a better deal or no deal to sitting on the sidelines? This brave talk of investigations is all well and good, but this settlement agreement is being finalized now, and all the PR related to his new Federal role seems to have taken him off his day job responsibilities at a critical time.
Yves again, on how Gingrich created the Pay-to-Play Congress: "Our Polarized and Money-Driven Congress: Created Over 25 Years By Republicans (and Quickly Imitated by Democrats) [...] The extent of corruption may surprise even jaundiced readers. Both houses have price lists for committees and sub-committees. Ferguson delineates some of the many mechanisms for influencing political outcomes; they extend well beyond campaign donations and formal lobbying. Even though many are by nature hard to quantify in any hard or fast way, he does categorize them and has developed some estimates (see The Spectrum of Political Money, starting on p. 23, and see also his summary on p. 42). Finally, Ferguson goes through conventional explanations of why politics has become so polarized (such as changing cultural attitudes) and shows why they don't stand up. (More on Gringrich's crimes against the US government at The Nation.)

In the wake of the tenth birthday of Guantanamo Bay a few weeks back, The Talking Dog has gone back to doing interviews about this continuing outrage with those most familiar with it, this time Kristine Huskey, Director of the Anti-Torture Program of Physicians for Human Rights, and an adjunct faculty member in national security law at the Georgetown University Law Center and counsel to a number of current and former detainees at Gitmo, and Col. Morris Davis (USAF, Ret.), the Chief Prosecutor for the Guantanamo Bay military commissions who resigned from that post in 2007 in protest of political interference in prosecutorial functions.

I have been trying to point out for a long time that the scam about Social Security is based on the fallacious notion that the former largest generation in history, the post-war Baby Boomers, represents a bulge in the population that was followed by a fall-off in the number of offspring available to pay for the retirement of their elders. (We'll leave aside for the moment the fact that this is irrelevant anyway, since the Boomers actually paid not just for their parents' retirement, but for their own, in advance.) This story about how the Boomer generation is too big to pay for is a lie. The Boomers had kids, who had kids (and some of those kids have already had kids). As the Boomers have begun to approach retirement, an even larger generation has already entered the workforce. This isn't even a secret - look, for example, at the first paragraph of this article.

At Eschaton:
Isn't it about time someone admitted that there's a word for what MF Global has been up to? No, I don't just mean theft, I mean a very specific kind. If one guy did this and just put the money in his own pocket, he'd be arrested for embezzlement. Make it company policy and suddenly they want to pretend it's something else, but, you know, it really isn't.
This is what it means when people talk about only using various social safety net programs to help "the truly needy" - pit the poor against the poorest. But the issue should never be whether "the truly needy" should get aid from the government; rather, it means giving everyone the resources to make sure they never have to be poor.

As the fourth year of the Obama presidency begins, Bruce Dixon at Black Agenda Report says, "Black America Paralyzed, Powerless, Irrelevant [...] If the black misleadership class has its way, the only political role for black America is to be the solid black wall around the president, the wall that does not insulate him from Wall Street or the energy companies or the warmongers. They're inside the wall. Our job once again will be to protect Barack Obama from any semblance of accountability to his supposed base. To us. Afraid of weakening him before the Republicans, we weaken ourselves instead."

"City of Oakland's Increasing Hostility Toward the Occupy Movement" - The city is sending the cops out to cause riots so they can tell lies about the violent protesters and call them "domestic terrorists".

What Bill Clinton told Charlie Pierce and Mark Warren: "I had a fascinating meeting with Bob Inglis the other day. Bob Inglis was an extremely conservative Republican congressman from South Carolina. He was a three-term-pledge guy in the nineties.... So he came to me and he said, 'I just want you to know, when you got elected, I hated you. And I asked to be on the Judiciary Committee in 1993, because a bunch of us had already made up our minds that no matter what you did or didn't do, we were going to find some way to impeach you. We hated you. You had no right to be president.'"

The inappropriately named Americans United for Life has pressured a right-wing Congressman to investigate Planned Parenthood, and suddenly the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which contributes funds to PP's mammogram operation, has invented a whole new rule that requires them to withdraw any association with the organization that gives mammograms to millions of women who otherwise couldn't get them. Take off your pink ribbon and give to Planned Parenthood instead. I have to rely on TBogg for useful news on this front, since The Washington Post is in the habit of getting it wrong Meanwhile, Charles Pierce reports on Oklahoma's continuing war on women.

Echidne really went to town on the crap science behind the phony abortion=breast cancer story as well as the latest from Charles Murray, who rears his ugly head every now and then to try to put a new shine on racist science. This time his science is still bad, but he has one thing right: The elites are now so far away from everyone else that they don't have a clue. Marcy Wheeler was on Virtually Speaking Tuesdays talking about that bubble.

Can non-violence work - or is violent reaction necessary and inevitable? Perhaps the conventional wisdom is wrong.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this the first time E.J. Dionne has earned Atrios' Wanker of the Day award? I had no idea he was an idiot on birth control. Hey, E.J., it's not like it's Canon Law or anything, you know...

Oh, good, we're being told to "love it or leave it" again.

Quantum dating.

Flying People in New York City

I never could figure out why it was called "Tiger Bread".

I keep meaning to post a photo of the neat steampunk earrings our alpha geek made me for Christmas. And, along those same lines, look what I have!

21:10 GMT

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, February 2012

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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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