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Saturday, 31 January 2009

Bra of the Week review

Eve Light Lace gel braBra of the Week

Bloggers get offered review copies of books and sometimes even movies from time to time, and I've certainly received and even reviewed or otherwise promoted several, but it came as a surprise to be contacted by someone who sells bras and being offered a free gel bra if I'd make it a Bra of the Week. After all this time of being grateful that my regular source, Figleaves, hasn't been stupid enough to complain and has kept all their graphics so it doesn't screw up my old posts, it really hadn't occurred to me that anyone would give me something for this.

Of course, the priority for the Bra of the Week is that it has to be either a really neat bra of the sort I would wear, or at least a good picture, so first of all I had to have a look at the website of their company, Max Cleavage(!), to see whether the type of bra they were offering me had a good picture - yes. So I picked the photo I liked best and said sure, I'll take one of those, even though bras with "enhancement" properties are not generally my thing, for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who's seen me. I also tend to like my bras sheer and soft (as much as underwires ever can be). But you do have to admit it's a pretty bra.

So, the bra:

  • Since I don't wear padded/molded bras normally, I can't compare it with any others, but it looked perfectly presentable under a smooth shirt - that is, the lace is smooth and didn't interrupt the lines, and of course no seams show on the cups. (You can see the patterning better on the silver one.)
  • There's a tendency for the uplift aspects of it to create a slight cup-runneth-over effect, so I tried it with a low-scoop top, but with a bit of shoe-horning it can be put under wraps - I didn't experiment with this enough to be sure how long that would last, though.
  • It was surprisingly comfortable, perhaps owing to the fact that it's a wide band with a triple-hook, which distributes the pull better.
  • The price is definitely not bad - their regular price is low for British prices to begin with, and right now they appear to be on sale.
  • No, you do not get a picture of me in it.

23:27 GMT

I just saw the Devil and he's smilin' at me

Yes, GM is gonna take our money and "invest $1 billion in Brazil to avoid the kind of problems the U.S. automaker is facing in its home market." Every single person who made this possible should be put in the stocks and left to the judgment of the American people. In February, in Detroit.

Froomkin says Obama sounded good for Labor Day: "I do not view the labor movement as part of the problem. To me, it's part of the solution," Obama said, adding: "This isn't a either/or proposition between the interests of workers and the interests of shareholders. That's the old argument. The new argument is that the American economy is not and has never been a zero-sum game. When workers are prospering, they buy products that make businesses prosper. We can be competitive and lean and mean and still create a situation where workers are thriving in this country." (Also: Bush still thinks he has executive privilege beyond the political grave, but he's just wrong.)

"An Economically Created Health Care Disaster" - Everyone knows that getting the insurance industry out of healthcare would give you better healthcare delivery and cost you less, but conservatives oppose the plan because...it will save you money.

Springsteen, interviewed in the NYT about his new album, the half-time show at the Superbowl, and what a mistake the deal with Wal-Mart was.

Just think, there are whole generations of people who don't know what a great track "Poverty Train" is.

21:16 GMT

Things that don't work

Google is telling me that THE ENTIRE INTERWEBS "may harm" my computer and won't give me a clean hotlink to anything. Server problems, O mighty Google?

Siv O'Neall, "The Big Con Game: Milton Friedman's Chicago school [1] of deranged predators who wanted, and nearly managed as well, to completely distort the economic system on a global scale was born out of a creed that everything could be gained by a tiny minority. There has been a total lack of concern for everything but those very few who were the profiteers. What was destroyed in the process didn't bother them in the least. Irreversible damage to the environment was of no consequence. The billions of people on the planet who wanted just to live and be left in peace had no importance whatsoever. They were destined to be cannon fodder and slaves for the gung-ho swindlers who were out to own the world."

Timothy Egan's "The Great Gay Hope" was just an interesting story until he got to the end: "Nobody at age 17 knows what they are doing, which is why they should never be having sex with middle-aged men, especially those in powerful positions." This strikes me as an incredibly stupid thing to say. How about, "Nobody at 17 knows what they are doing, which is why they should never be learning anything from middle-aged people." Sure. People who have no idea what they are doing should get all their learning experiences from people who also have no idea what they're doing, 'cause that makes lots of sense. Teenagers should only have sex with other teenagers - because that will minimize the possibility of being with someone who knows what they are doing and might actually make it good. Ah, I see the logic, now: If you have enough bad sexual experiences when you are young, you'll never do it again! Ah, no, that didn't work for me, either.

It appears that the tech-savvy Obama operation has a press office that doesn't know the basics of using the telephone. David Cay Johnston, who you may recall has been one of the more useful reporters we've been reading over the last few years, tried to talk to the White House and ran into a problem: "After a full week of such calls, a human being answers. But Ben LaBolt immediately bristles when asked to spell his name, refuses to give his job title, and says he is going 'off the record' until I stop him to explain that the reporter grants that privilege, not the other way around - a basic journalistic standard that LaBolt seems unaware of. He soon hangs up without even hearing what I called to ask about. A return call is answered by Priya Singh, who spells her name when asked, but does not know (or will not say) what her job title is [...] My questions to LaBolt and Singh prompted a return phone call the next day from Nick Shapiro, who spelled his name, but had to be prodded several times to give his job title: assistant press secretary. During our brief conversation, Shapiro, like LaBolt (whose name Shapiro did not recognize), started one sentence with 'off the record.' Told that the journalist grants the privilege, and that none would be granted here, Shapiro expressed surprise. His surprise was double-barreled, at both the idea that the reporter issues any privilege and that any reporter would decline to talk 'off the record.'" Via Kevin Drum, several of whose commenters seemed unaware that David Cay Johnston is not just some GOP-mouthpiece fake reporter who ends up at Politico or something.

And I wish I could get through a whole post without screwing up a link.

15:18 GMT

Bipartisan stupid

Greg Palast may like Obama this week, but Stirling Newberry doesn't:

Obama isn't a Democrat giving things up to get Republican votes, he's a conservative mugging liberals for a conservative agenda that includes:

1. War in Afghanistan
2. Paulson's version of TARP where taxpayers buy all bad assets.
3. Slash social security and Medicare
4. Tax Cuts
5. No Comprehensive Health Care, but huge subsidies for Health Insurance companies instead.

Taken as a whole, Obama is offering small concessions to the left, in return for trillions of dollars that are coming directly out of the pockets and veins, of ordinary people. He couldn't even come up with a bit of money to help poor women pay for birth control pills. But he could cave on Pay-Go. Pennies for the people, pounds for the powerful.


That's what Obama is offering: the chance for liberal groups to sell out for 2 billion here, a million there, a minor concession here. In return, Obama gets all the big things. All of them. It isn't the Republicans who are stopping this - their votes are irrelevant. It is the Unity Ponies and the Blue Dogs who are the problem.


Until the left wakes up and realizes that their brand is on the line, and that Obama needs to move well to the left on major issues, both for the pragmatic reason of liberal policies work, and right wing policies don't - and for the political reason that liberals are going to supply his votes, things are not going to get much better, and long term they will be much worse. Because after Obama is finished doing the Unity thing all over your Social Security, and has sucked up all the losses of the elites, they won't have a use for him, and all the Wall Street money will slush back over to the Republicans, who will win an election. And then the real damage starts.

I'm afraid this looks right to me. Obama is not doing the messaging that's necessary to move the program to the real center, and if he doesn't hurry up and remind people that it's the Republicans who are being partisan and refusing to do the things we need - demanding instead policies that not only don't work but do real, serious damage to the country - if he doesn't start getting that message out very, very quickly, there will be no hope of staving off a depression even worse than The Great Republican Depression. And this time, forever after, we will be hearing about how it happened under Democrats (who we'll be told were too liberal). Because Obama and the Depression Dogs went and gave the store away.

Nice little comment from derek below:

What sort of a word is "bipartisan" anyway? It seems to be made of the words for "partisan" and "two". If you're partisan, you're for those in your party and against all those outside your party. If you're bi-partisan, you're for those in your two parties and against all those outside your two parties.

Er, that'll be the rest of us then.

12:34 GMT

Slow glass

This is actually a bit scary - a military judge has essentially given the finger to Obama, ignoring his order to halt the illegal military trials of the kidnap victims at Guantanamo. Military judges, you recall, are not actually a part of the civilian system, but of the military - that is, Obama rally is their commander-in-chief.

Paul Krugman wonders why the administration hasn't yet seemed ready to move on healthcare: "Now, it's possible that those of us who care about this issue are reading too much into the administration's silence. But let me address three arguments that I suspect Mr. Obama is hearing against moving on health care, and explain why they're wrong."

The best story on the intertubes is that they've built a new statue in Tikrit: "A sofa-sized statue of the shoe was unveiled Thursday in Tikrit, the hometown of the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. [...] The statue is inscribed with a poem honoring Muntadhar al-Zeidi, the Iraqi journalist who stunned the world when he whipped off his loafers and hurled them at Bush during a press conference on Dec. 14. It's nice to know that a journalist can still inspire people.

Juan Cole unpacks another outrageous case of a lunatic trying to make George Bush sound like a hero of Democracy (and Obama is already, apparently, the reverse) - and Juan Cole sure knows how to unpack.

Greg Palast likes what he sees: "Obama is a two-faced liar. Aw-RIGHT!" But I guess he must like those tax cuts more than some of us do.

I finally found the actual link I meant to post as the growing geometric threat.

01:01 GMT

Friday, 30 January 2009

Days of future past

Harold Meyerson says some unusual people have suddenly started having some Second Thoughts on Trade:

A few months ago, Robert Cassidy found himself pondering whether trade actually benefited the American economy.

"I couldn't prove it," he says. "Did it benefit U.S. multinational corporations? Yes. But I cannot prove that it benefits the economy." Such doubts would hardly be news if they came from an established critic of free trade. But Robert Cassidy was the chief U.S. negotiator on China's 1999 market access agreement with the United States -- the document that was the basis for Congress's extension of permanent normalized trade relations to China, which in turn enabled China to join the World Trade Organization.

And yet, there are still plenty of people who either don't know or don't care:
A letter opposing "Buy American" provisions in the stimulus has been signed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and several other such groups.

It was bad enough when our banks and corporations decided to take their funds out of American manufacturing to promote low-wage production in China. Now they want to direct the tax dollars behind the stimulus program to the same end.

The only mystery here is why the Chamber and the Roundtable aren't compelled to register as foreign lobbyists. Of all the terms we could use to describe them, "American" certainly does not spring to mind.

* * *
"Pawned: Emilio Gutierrez Soto is an unusual kind of victim in the drug wars. A Mexican journalist, Gutierrez wrote several articles exposing the questionable tactics used by the Mexican military in their drive to put down the drug gangs in Mexico. His exposes upset Mexican authorities enough that they began harassing him. When the harassment turned to overt death threats by the military, Mr. Gutierrez and his fifteen year old son made their way to the border, crossed it, and then turned themselves over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to seek political asylum. That turned out to be a mistake."

The Heretik says, "Irony. Not dead. Just wounded. 'Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner picked a former Goldman Sachs lobbyist as a top aide Tuesday, the same day he announced rules aimed at reducing the role of lobbyists in agency decisions.' The role of former lobbyists will continue. Thank you. Is it just me? Or does looking at the revolving door in DC make your head spin too?"

"2001 Flashback: Dems Vote for $1.35 Trillion Bush Tax Cut Eight years ago, Bush was elevated to the White House along with his promise to slash taxes for the wealthiest Americans, including an end to the estate tax (lovingly rebranded by GOP spinmeisters as the "death tax."). And despite his loss of the popular vote to Al Gore and facing a 50-50 Senate, President Bush and his team made clear there would be no search for common ground with Democrats in pursuit of the 10-year, $1.6 trillion package."

Krugman: "under Bush, financial policy consisted of Wall Street types cutting sweet deals, at taxpayer expense, for Wall Street types. Under Obama, itís precisely the reverse."

Simels on the movie that made Reagan love SDI.

20:33 GMT

In the weeds

Mark Halperin really is a loathsome toad. I know he's a toad because he's the guy who once wrote a memo suggesting that people at his news organization should not treat lies as if they were exactly the same as truth, and got hammered by the Republicons for being "biased" as a result - and then instantly caved in to the entire right-wing approach to news: that the only way to do things is the way the Republicons want them done. The internet is now full of stunning examples of Halperin crawling on his belly for the likes of Hugh Hewitt and other right-wing scum in a pathetic effort to get them not to call him a liberal. His current astonishing claim is that Obama failed to reach out to Republicans or offer them any compromises on the stimulus package, thus forcing them to vote against it. The fact that Obama did, in fact, give them several right-wing concessions even though they significantly weakened the bill's ability to help restore our economy and in some cases meant getting rid of sections of the bill which are highly popular with the public (while infuriating his base, of course) - well, that's not good enough, because the Republicons were still whining that he hadn't produced a Republican bill, which is the only way you can be "centrist" and "bipartisan" enough for them. And being "centrist" and "bipartisan" is much more important than having a bill that actually works.

Now, Chicago Dyke says staffers on The Hill can't really think of ways to undermine the Blue Dogs, although they'd like to, and though she has her ideas, she wants to hear ours. Me, I'm remembering that, way back when, Conceptual Guerilla wrote Defeat the Right in Three Minutes. Pass it on.

"The Spy Factory" - This episode of Nova, scheduled to air on the 3rd of February, may even reveal the great big box outside of San Antonio where the Feds are spying on every single American citizen.

More cool aerial photos of London after dark. (Thanks to Dominic.)

That link below for Democracy Now for the 28th seems to work now.

00:45 GMT

Thursday, 29 January 2009

John Martyn, dead at 60

From the BBC: "The folk, blues and funk artist was widely regarded as one of the most soulful and innovative singer-songwriters of his generation. He was born in Surrey but grew up in Glasgow. He was appointed an OBE in the New Year Honours."

I loved this guy's music, so indulge me for a few minutes and listen to a few old favorites, like "Bless the Weather, "Solid Air", and "May You Never" (and of course there is more here).

* * *

Update from below: Ron Paul eventually reverted to saying stupid things like that the minute government starts getting into the business of redistributing wealth, we're in trouble. Governments always redistribute wealth - they exist to redistribute power and control where that power goes; if they didn't, we just wouldn't have government. The question isn't whether governments will redistribute wealth, but who they give it to. In a free society, you don't want anyone to become so rich and powerful that they can abridge the freedoms of the people, so you make sure no one gets that big.

17:46 GMT

Around the web

I want to link to yesterday's Democracy Now, where Amy Goodman talked to Scott Horton and others about the Karl Rove conspiracies involving US Attorneys, Gov. Siegelman, and so on, and to Bernie Sanders the stimulus package, but they appear to have screwed up their main link to the relevant post, which I think should be this, but it's just going to their front page. However, their individual Watch and Listen links seem to work.

Will Bunch of Attytood says his book, Tear Down This Myth, will be released in a few days, and it starts like this: "It was Ronald Reagan himself who, as the spotlight faded on his presidency in 1988, tried to highlight his eight-year record by reviving a quote from John Adams, that 'facts are stubborn things.' The moment became quite famous because the then-77-year-old president had botched it, and said that 'facts are stupid things.' The tragedy of American politics was that just two decades later, facts were neither stubborn nor even stupid - but largely irrelevant." And he had a piece Sunday in the LAT saying that Obama should use Reagan's tactics to undo the damage Reagan did.

Remember when Down With Tyranny! kept warning us about Heath Shuler and other Blue Dogs in the making? Shuler has turned out to be every bit as bad as DWT predicted.

I enjoyed P.M. Carpenter's rant about Republicans even though he used the word "bipartisan" as if it was necessarily a good thing.

Nate Silver says there ain't a lot of red states left.

I learn via this very linky post at AAR that in its final days, the Bush administration imposed a 300% import tax on Roquefort cheese: "The measure, announced Jan. 13 by U.S. Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab as she headed out the door, was designed as retaliation for a European Union ban on imports of U.S. beef containing hormones. Tit for tat, and all perfectly legal under World Trade Organization rules, U.S. officials explained."

"The License Plate is Just the Beginning" - or, how easy should it be for the police to track your every move?

Bernie Sanders was just on C-Span talking about the stim pack again, and now Ron Paul is on sounding like a liberal. It's so weird.

14:46 GMT

Watching the Span

I'm listening to the C-SPAN stream, where Republicans are pretending they want to create jobs by continuing the policies of the last eight years. The meme they repeat one after another is that Obama's own economic team says the Republicans' substitute plan (no money for you all, more tax cuts for "business" and "everyone who pays income taxes") will create twice as many jobs for half the price. They're even claiming that programs that obviously require hiring lots of people and will feed into other private business to create further jobs won't create jobs. Therefore, the Democrats, unlike the Republicans, are presenting a "partisan" bill. All job-creation schemes, energy-alternative development programs, infrastructure repair and development, educational and health initiatives, are just a partisan "liberal-Democrat wish-list", but the Republican substitute bill is "a solution" - and it's non-partisan because it was created by Republicans! I just heard Earl Blumenauer (D-OR, Ways and Means) say (in more polite language, but emphatically) that the GOP plan is just a scam:

But I'm pleased they have come forward with their alternative. Listen closely to what they say. If we assume what this model applies to the way we'd like our legislation to work, it would be twice the jobs for half the cost. These are the same people that told us the Bush Tax Cuts were going to lead to Nirvana. These are the people that said that the Clinton economic programs would lead to disaster. Look at the results of their models when they've been put into place. Exploding deficits, problems with the economy. I'm glad, however, that they've offered this alternative. Because it puts in clear relief what their priorities are. Take money away from 95% of the American public and invest in the few who need it the least. Take money away from four million students who would have this tax relief. And my favorite is actually continue to game the alternative minimum tax to purposely push more people into it with tax gimmicks rather than work with us in fundamental tax reform that doesn't subject more people and give us this charade.
And then more Republicans got up and pretended that their program will be less onerous and create more jobs. Jobs jobs jobs. Democrats won't create jobs or stimulus, Republicans will. They're lying about all of it. It's what they do.

11:55 GMT

News and stuff

AP's headline is "Iceland to appoint first openly gay woman as PM", but there's something even more interesting that they didn't think deserved top billing: "Sigurdardottir entered politics through the labor movement, serving as a labor organizer when she worked as a flight attendant with Loftleidir Airlines - now Icelandair - in the 1960s and 1970s." It's nice to know that some people can see what's needed, here. (Thanks to Julia for the tip.)

David Sirota thinks There's Something Happening Here when Congressional Democrats press Obama to be more progressive in his stimulus package.

Looks to me like we have a lot of work to do sinking the meme that tax cuts are always better - there are way too many people who believe it, and far too few who get that it's wrong.

Meanwhile, we are still getting Legislation By Drudge Alarm - Yep, Drudge pointed out that contraceptive funding in the stim package, so Obama made the Dems take it out in order to placate the Republicans so he could get their bipartisan support - and then Drudge went after healthcare. But the Republicans have made it plain that they plan to vote against the stim package pretty much regardless of what's in it (and make up lies that the press is happy to repeat without criticism), so presumably Obama's clever plan is to say, "Well, we tried to include them, but they just don't care about whether Americans have jobs and homes, so we're going to ignore them and write the best bill we can come up with to help our nation recover from the mess they made." Right? Oops, too late! Wow, who could have predicted that even though Obama threw contraceptive funding under the bus, the Republicans would vote against the bill anyway? (Also: Joan Walsh not planning to marry Dick Armey.)

Lambert wonders whether the whole bail-out was just the world's biggest money-laundering operation. (You know, a good way to pay off your mob "investors" is to keep drugs illegal. That works not just for marijuana, but for all those opiates that, for some reason, the big shots are refusing to allow European hospitals to buy from the Afghans, despite shortages.)

Jessica Alba puts Bill O'Reilly in his place.

00:46 GMT

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Liberty! Equality! Democracy!

I have previously discussed the fact that it's actually very dangerous to let anyone accumulate too much money, because that money gets used to destroy democracy. Today we have a fine example:

Three days after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, Bank of America Corp. hosted a conference call with conservative activists and business officials to organize opposition to the U.S. labor community's top legislative priority.

Participants on the October 17 call -- including at least one representative from another bailout recipient, AIG -- were urged to persuade their clients to send "large contributions" to groups working against the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), as well as to vulnerable Senate Republicans, who could help block passage of the bill.

Yep, with your money, they are trying to make sure you don't get any more and can be turned into slaves instead. But wait, there's more!
Bernie Marcus, the charismatic co-founder of Home Depot, led the call along with Rick Berman, an aggressive EFCA opponent and founder of the Center for Union Facts. Over the course of an hour, the two framed the legislation as an existential threat to American capitalism, or worse.

"This is the demise of a civilization," said Marcus. "This is how a civilization disappears. I am sitting here as an elder statesman and I'm watching this happen and I don't believe it."

Got that? Union power is the end of civilization - because as we all know, the Barbarian horde is nothing but a bunch of unions. "Civilization" is when you're just slaves - otherwise:
Donations of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars were needed, it was argued, to prevent America from turning "into France."

"If a retailer has not gotten involved in this, if he has not spent money on this election, if he has not sent money to [former Sen.] Norm Coleman and all these other guys, they should be shot. They should be thrown out their goddamn jobs," Marcus declared.

France. Where everyone gets good healthcare. My, that's just absolutely barbaric, isn't it?

I am having trouble not wishing on these bastards the experience that their counterparts in France had so that the French people could have more civilized lives.

17:40 GMT

Seen on the internets

I never wonder why Bob Somerby keeps harping on the way the press treated Clinton and Gore. He keeps harping on it because they are still doing it.

Eugene Robinson: "Is Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about to be impeached on grounds of loopiness, obnoxiousness and a bad haircut? Apparently so. In defense of the Illinois state senators who seem to have already decided the governor's fate, however, the haircut really does border on the criminal."

Glenn Greenwald tears Dick Cohen and his colleagues into little tiny pieces for their conviction that powerful people shouldn't have to be held accountable for terrible crimes.

You know, I really don't think Greg Palast likes the idea of putting Tim Geithner in charge of our Treasury.

Why not just make banks regulated public utilities? - and does Bill Moyers read Corrente?

The political significance of "Wooly Bully"

Corseting Female Sexuality - or What Does Wimmin Want?

Speaking of which, just in time for Valentine's Day, Figleaves is having a 70%-off clearance sale. That means...more new stuff coming in. Yay!

01:08 GMT

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

I probably should water the aloe now

PNH was just telling me that Keith Olbermann deplored the crowd booing Bush and Cheney. I feel like writing to Olbermann and explaining that we aren't usually expected to show respect to criminals who have (a) ripped us off and (b) gotten away with it to live far more luxurious lives than we ever will. It's unsurprising that the media - who own the fact that BushCo. really does seem to have gotten away with it - would want us to pretend not to notice, but it is rather a surprise that Olbermann is in their camp on this. I mean, you wouldn't tell people not to boo Richard Speck, would you? And he didn't kill nearly as many people. These guys wrecked our whole country and got more Americans killed than Al Qaeda did - and they aren't even going to pay a fine.

Bob Herbert: "Whatís up with the Republicans? Have they no sense that their policies have sent the country hurtling down the road to ruin? Are they so divorced from reality that in their delusionary state they honestly believe we need more of their tax cuts for the rich and their other forms of plutocratic irresponsibility, the very things that got us to this deplorable state?" Bob, they don't care.

Stupid all the way down - The Republicans do their outrage thing over money being used to fund contraception (something most Americans seem to support), and the Democrats appear ready to cave at the behest of the Obama administration. Thanks, boys! I see Chris Matthews is back on form, too, claiming that giving contraceptives to people is the same as China's "One Child" policy. Um, no, Chris, having the government control your reproductive choices (as China does, and as the Republicans/Christianists want to do) is the problem, there - once you put that decision in the hands of the government, they can make you do anything they want, whether it's forced pregnancy or forced abortion. You putz.

Diane notes that most of the new money being directed at transport in the stim package is aimed at new rather than existing systems which have become over-burdened as people leave their cars behind, but this is a mistake: "After all, if people can't get to the jobs created by the stimulus package, then that stimulus package just isn't going to work." (And when Ruth mentioned Cohen's latest column to me earlier, I said we should start calling him "Dick Cohen", which she apparently has taken to heart. Really, it won't be an injustice if these people end up with their heads on pikes.)

Froomkin: "But Dionne cites 'an important undercurrent in Republican thinking: that the GOP should place its bets on the prospect that Obama's policies will fail, knowing that if the president succeeds, he and the Democrats are likely to gain ground no matter what Republicans do. This is hardly in keeping with the bipartisan spirit the White House seeks to foster. But it's a lot easier than coming up with new ideas.'" And Limbaugh was saying he wants Obama to fail. Fail to restore the economy of the United States and improve our standing in the world. That's kinda breathtaking. They're not saying his policies are stupid, they're purely putting their own partisan position above any other consideration. And yet liberals were accused of "Wanting us to fail" when we had legitimate criticisms of the way Bush was running things.

18:00 GMT

Sorry I'm late

Conyers sends Karl Rove a message: "Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. issued a subpoena to Karl Rove requiring him to testify regarding his role in the Bush Administration's politicization of the Department of Justice, including the US Attorney firings and the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman." Conyers is saying he really means it, but we'll have to see what happens next.

Given that mortgagers don't gain anything by kicking people out of their homes to leave them standing empty, where they quickly start to rot and take the neighborhood down with them, it strikes me as pretty stupid to refuse to let people declare bankruptcy - especially when it can be done at no cost to the taxpayer. Oh, and the Dems don't appear to be interested in dealing with healthcare this year, either. (Also: Stupid excuses for not doing anything about executive power-grabs.)

Krugman on Bad Faith Economics: "As the debate over President Obama's economic stimulus plan gets under way, one thing is certain: many of the plan's opponents aren't arguing in good faith. Conservatives really, really don't want to see a second New Deal, and they certainly don't want to see government activism vindicated. So they are reaching for any stick they can find with which to beat proposals for increased government spending."

Looks like we finally have a President who scares Al Qaeda.

You know, I'm inclined to think that Glenn Reynolds shouldn't be allowed to teach law, seeing as how he doesn't seem to know or care much about it.

Inauguration speech video cartoon

The growing geometric menace

Wrong Cards (Thanks to Dominic.)

16:12 GMT

Monday, 26 January 2009

Hey, how many sets has it been?

I won't bother to quote my reaction to Frank Rich's latest column, even though it was only two words long. But, buster, we didn't do it. It was your job to warn people about what was going on when their leaders lied and the newspapers - your newspaper - kept carrying ridiculous stories about how the stock market could never ever fall again, greedy people could be relied upon to stay honest and responsible even when they knew no one was looking over their shoulders, and money grows on trees. People aren't borrowing money just to buy toys, they're borrowing money to pay their medical bills, try to keep a roof over their heads, feed their kids. So whose idea was it to jack up housing prices without creating more jobs and bigger paychecks for ordinary working people? Whose idea was it to start telling people who were selling their homes that they were worth five times what anyone likely to buy them makes in a year? Whose idea was it for banks to start giving mortgages to people they knew couldn't pay them? Whose idea was it to just let a bunch of hungry jerks gamble with other people's money? And where's your lazy ass been for the last 30 years?

Oh, yeah, I want George Will to have to spend the rest of his life living in South Central LA with no transportation and having only fast-food joints to eat out of.

Thanks to Bill for alerting me to the new civil liberties section of the Guardian website.

JHB says down in comments that after Monty Python material was made available for free on YouTube, their Amazon.com DVD sales increased by 23,000%. That's a lot of zeroes, but, you know, I did tell you....

I normally don't ask for money, and in fact would still rather that if you feel like being generous, you think first of people who don't have the NHS and could really use your support. But, just for the record, things are tight all over, and one of my most cherished benefactors has been running into his own financial woes, with the result that last year for the first time I actually had to pay for some of the costs of blogging that had been taken care of by others before. It's not a dire emergency, but if you have anything of the giving spirit left after you've taken care of your more needy favorites, I'm just sayin' there's a PayPal button down there on the blogroll somewhere....

"More Often Than Not"

23:05 GMT

Why the Devil smiles

Jerome Doolittle has been reading some "high-level political gossip" in Vanity Fair, where Kenneth Adelman described "how he came to be a former member of Donald Rumsfeldís Defense Policy Board:

So he says, It might be best if you got off the Defense Policy Board. You're very negative. I said, I am negative, Don. You're absolutely right. I'm not negative about our friendship. But I think your decisions have been abysmal when it really counted.

Start out with, you know, when you stood up there and said things - 'Stuff happens.' I said, That's your entry in Bartlett's. The only thing people will remember about you is 'Stuff happens.' I mean, how could you say that? 'This is what free people do.' This is not what free people do. This is what barbarians do. And I said, Do you realize what the looting did to us? It legitimized the idea that liberation comes with chaos rather than with freedom and a better life. And it demystified the potency of American forces. Plus, destroying, what, 30 percent of the infrastructure.

I said, You have 140,000 troops there, and they didn't do jack shit. I said, There was no order to stop the looting. And he says, There was an order. I said, Well, did you give the order? He says, I didn't give the order, but someone around here gave the order. I said, Who gave the order?

So he takes out his yellow pad of paper and he writes down - he says, I'm going to tell you. I'll get back to you and tell you. And I said, I'd like to know who gave the order, and write down the second question on your yellow pad there. Tell me why 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq disobeyed the order. Write that down, too.

And so that was not a successful conversation.

Muted joy in Blogville - Just as we were all set to be jubilant over the words in the NYT at the end of his latest, saying, "This is William Kristol's last column," we learn that he's got a new job - at The Washington Post.

"Guilt by imagination: Larry Swearingen is scheduled to be executed in Texas on Tuesday for a murder that four pathologists say he could not have committed. He was in jail at the time of the murder for which he was convicted" Also: A defense attorney who helped the cops convict his own clients.

Oh, dear, I nearly missed Jon Swift's paean to The Legacy of George W. Bush.

16:20 GMT

Assorted links

I'm not exactly sure what the answer to this problem is, but I sure don't like the idea that my friends and family back home are dependent on nurses who are virtually slaves who might be forced to medically unsound practices by the edicts of their employers - and even prosecuted if they don't.

Cockroaches hiding from light: "With the testimony of Eric Holder insisting that torture is a crime, the wingers are obviously feeling a chill. Living up to his justifiably dreadful reputation, GOP head John Cornyn is putting a hold on the Holder nomination for Attorney General." It doesn't look like the administration or the Democrats are eager to sit still for that kind of thing any longer, but we'll see. The administration has been doing a lot of things lately that Obama supporters wanted to see - and so did the rest of the world. But there's that one little problem in Afghanistan....

Assclowns of the Week Year: Diamond Jubilee Inauguration Edition - what you call a bumper crop.

Ratzinger reinstates Holocaust-denying Bishop who was excommunicated in 1988.

So, the weekend wrap-up at Pruning Shears is no longer called "This Week In Tyranny". I actually think that's a bit premature - not because of any weakness of Obama, but just because most of the apparatus of tyranny is still, as far as we know, in place.

Stephi had Paul Krugman on to try to debate the usual idiots, and he politely tells them they are all wrong. Blue Texan: "It's just like having Alvy Singer trot out Marshall McLuhan every Sunday morning." (Thanks to CMike.)

A well-placed ad. (Thanks to Dominic.)

00:10 GMT

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Media media

I'm trying to remember what it was like back in the days when reporters actually expressed alarm at knowing the government was spying on them. Russell Tice made it absolutely clear that part of the NSA spying program specifically targets reporters and news organizations. You'd think they'd have something to say about that, but maybe they all think that if their communications have been spied on, the NSA may know things about them that they don't want to have to see blasted all over the right-wing blogosphere. Or maybe all that spying helped the administration figure out just who was going to be easy to bribe and what their price would be. Does anyone doubt that this program was specifically directed at being able to control the media - and is very much why there are laws against it in the first place, going right back to our most fundamental laws? Let's hope that Obama's appointment of Marty Lederman is a signal that he expects the necessary investigation to take place. (More from McJoan and Marcy Wheeler.)

Bill Moyers talks to David Sirota and Thomas Frank about what they hope for from the Obama administration.

The media is running with a story the conservatives have cooked up claiming that a report by the Congressional Budget Office shows that Obama's stimulus package won't really work - but that CBO report doesn't actually exist. (via)

A bunch of people offer their recommendations for a list of What Obama Should Read.

We heard a lot over the week about Obama's swearing in on what was supposedly Lincoln's Bible - but, as with Obama, Lincoln's Bible was still in his luggage, and a court clerk had to produce one for the swearing in. That's not the only thing you might have been misled about by the blitherati on this subject, nor the only parallel. (Another thing people might not know much about is Caroline Kennedy in the context of New York politics.)

Jamison Foser notes that the media is once again rebounding from going easy on a Republican to closer scrutiny for the Democrat, and thinks it would be nice if they figured out how to mix scrutiny with common sense. Well, don't we all.

Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher says his new book, Why Obama Won: The Making of a President, is now available online.

13:04 GMT

Saturday, 24 January 2009


Pour Moi? Opulence plunge braBra of the Week

Change I could get used to believing in: "President Obama warned Republicans on Capitol Hill today that they need to quit listening to radio king Rush Limbaugh if they want to get along with Democrats and the new administration. 'You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done,' he told top GOP leaders, whom he had invited to the White House to discuss his nearly $1 trillion stimulus package." (TRex is really enjoying this.)

I can't help the feeling I'm hearing a different tone from the Obama administration than I'd been hearing from the Obama campaign and the Obama transition team. It's subtle, and there's nothing firm, but it's there. Billmon thought he might have been hearing it in the inaugural speech, and it made him think about the kind of leader he'd really like to see again.

People who work for a living are suffering, but some people are just financial terrorists.

"Constance E. Cook, 89, Who Wrote Abortion Law, Is Dead: Constance E. Cook, a former New York State assemblywoman who was co-author of the law that legalized abortion in the state three years before the Supreme Courtís landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, died Tuesday at her home in Ithaca, N.Y. She was 89." That bill, by the way, was co-authored with a Manhattan Democrat, making it bipartisan. Yes, that's right, Constance Cook was a Republican. Those were the days, eh?

The Tarp Song by Bill Zucker - there's something about this that made me think of "Alice's Restaurant".

Mark Evanier says, "Yes, Me Worry: We are dismayed at the news out of New York this morning: MAD Magazine - the most successful humor publication in the history of mankind if you don't count The Washington Post - is downsizing. Its frequency of publication is being slashed from monthly to quarterly and all its ancillary publications, like MAD for Kids and the reprint books - are being axed. There is or will be a corresponding cut in its staff."

Every year I miss seeing the snow.

23:28 GMT

Baby steps

Since I don't see this stuff on my TV, I rely on others to report it, but I just saw a couple of comments that made me wonder if it's really in the air:

In a thread at Eschaton, Ruth said:

Maria Barfarama even had a guest on who said the banks shouldn't get $$, they will just hold onto it. Has the world shifted on its axis when we weren't looking? Reality peeping in.
And back here in comments, Maia said:
I was completely astonished tonight to hear Chris Matthews -- yes, THAT Chris Matthews -- say that to jumpstart the economy, we should put everybody in the country on Medicare and let the people who need medical care get it.
Of course, this doesn't mean that the news media has stopped having utter loonies kaking up the airwaves. For example, back in the Eschaton comment thread:
It's too bad that Obama lost the election and that the republics added to their majority in both the Senate and the House.

It would seem that the above is true given the reports I've seen this morning on the television.

Boner here, Boner there, Boner, Boner everywhere whining about condoms, school snacks, and the like in the stimulus plan.

Chuck Todd is worried that the republics are being ignored and is concerned about the lack of bipartisanship...

Did I miss something?

When Republicans are in power, the media explain their bias and deference toward conservatives by saying they are what's going on, they are in power, and a lot of them have a certain reverence for the office and power. But when Democrats are in power, they explain their hostility to Democrats and continuing preference for conservative guests on their shows and excessive quotations from detractors of the Democrats and liberals as their willingness to stand up to power and hold them accountable. See, it has nothing at all to do with a bias toward conservatives and Republicans.

Knowing how quickly Fox News/Rush Limbaugh stupidity migrates to the broadcast networks, you really gotta thank goodness for Jon Stewart stomping some of their memes early, yeah?

14:33 GMT

It's not all fun and games

We were warned about Dennis Blair, and now he's refusing to acknowledge that the drowning torture is torture.

David Weigel at The Washington Independent says that the GOP strategy is to embrace Obama: "...Republicans are attempting to link themselves to the popular Obama administration while criticizing the work of the Democratic Congress. The goal is to oppose Democratic policy without being seen as opposing or obstructing the president, a posture that, they hope, will put them in better position to win back voters if the Democratsí popularity falters." So they, too, have presented Obama with Ten Ideas - only theirs are for ensuring that there is no hope that America can ever recover. Luckily, Obama had the killer riposte: "I won."

Of course, the Republicans do have their media offensive in order, and the usual idiots are already spouting lies about the costs and purpose of the stimulus plan, treating the rebuilding of our country's infrastructure as nothing more than an overpriced job-creation scheme. Which reminds me: Does anyone know whether George Stephanopoulos' journey from the Clinton administration to the GOP's pants has a back-story more interesting than just a venal little creep who grabbed the main chance?

With all the other outrages, I'd forgotten how furious I was about the way Bush closed off our belongings from us by, among other things, keeping ordinary Americans out of our house. So it's refreshing to see that the family can drop by again. And, of course, in what has become a ritual whenever the White House switches between Republican and Democratic occupancy, Obama reversed the previous administration's position on funds for organizations that provide any abortion information or services. (On Pakistan, though, not so much.)

I was so impressed by the security-conscious American who complained that there were "Arab types" on a Turkish Airlines flight that I almost forgot that the post above it not only announced the winners of the most important awards on the internets, but also supplied some well-deserved criticisms of Harry Reid's "leadership" style.

Terry Jones has decided to go into the arms trade.

So... no more Get Your War On?

Here's your fake trailer of the week, I guess.

11:44 GMT

Friday, 23 January 2009

I think I'll have a little Frangelico

J. Edgar Hoover lives! At The Raw Story a couple of days ago I saw this: "Whistleblower: NSA spied on everyone, targeted journalists" and never got around to posting it, and now I see there's an update: "Sen. Rockefeller believes NSA may have spied on him; Ex-NSA analyst believes program a remnant of 'Total Information Awareness'"

I hope no one was feeling sorry for Bernie Madoff, who is under house arrest (in his $7 million Manhattan apartment), and who a judge apparently believed when he claimed that the millions of dollars worth of gems and jewelry he was sending to his family members to hide was just "a few sentimental personal items". Hightower: "In America, if you steal a little, go to jail; if you steal a lot, go to your penthouse." (via)

Apparently, Obama is terrorizing the Washington press corps with his steely gaze. Or not. (via)

BTD reports that 'Center Right' America Opposes Torture 'No Matter The Circumstances', and says that Forbes claims the third most influential liberal in the media is... Fred Hiatt. No, really. (And: You really do get the impression that civil servants in the State Department just about wept with joy when Hillary Clinton came to replace her predecessor as Secretary of State.)

In "Bipartisanship For Dummies", the Rude Pundit says, "Hereís the Rude Pundit's deal: we'll be bipartisan if you apologize. Not just an eye-rolling 'We're sorry.' Not good enough. We each need to come up with a way for Republicans to apologize. For the Rude Pundit, itís simple. Blow jobs. He wants to get blow jobs from Republicans." I think the Rude One is not thinking, because I wouldn't want any Republicans near any part of my anatomy, and he shouldn't let them get their gobs on him, either. Me, I'd want a real apology - the kind where they get up and admit that they not only did all this illegal, nasty crap and were trying to do more horrible stuff, but they did it because they actually wanted to hurt people, screw people who have to work for a living, wreck the middle-class, kill the poor, and destroy democracy. It's true, you know. (Also: The Rude One's Inauguration Day. Thanks, hon, you actually made me feel it.)

23:17 GMT

On the drum

"Obama shuts network of CIA 'ghost prisons': Barack Obama embarked on the wholesale deconstruction of George Bush's war on terror, shutting down the CIA's secret prison network, banning torture and rendition, and calling for a new set of rules for detainees. The repudiation of Bush's thinking on national security yesterday also saw the appointment of a high-powered envoy to the Middle East."

"Boehner Recycles GOP's 'Club Gitmo' Talking Point: On the very day President Obama signed an executive order calling for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center within one year, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) regurgitated one of the GOP's tried and untrue talking points in its defense. Claiming the facility 'has more comforts than a lot of Americans get,' Boehner is just the latest Republican to present that blight on America's international standing as 'Club Gitmo.'" Well, in a way he's right, since some Americans don't even have a cell to live in, and they're living in colder climes, sleeping on grates, and not fed. Then there are the abysmal conditions that people who are incarcerated in America must try to survive. But sure, let Boehner keep talking about how great the conditions are in Gitmo, and then ask him, "Are you saying Americans are living like prisoners?"

Scott Lemieux blogs for choice and abortion equality, and also says Patterson managed to find a significantly worse choice than Caroline Kennedy.

What Fred Clark at Slacktivist had to say about Inauguration Day's Three Prayers.

Obama lets some light shine: "A sign that always had ominous overtones in the maladministration just past was its cloak of secrecy. As we learned, monstrous activities were indeed concealed under that cover. Yesterday, President Obama removed a major obstacle to public understanding by releasing presidential papers without the interminable delays that the former cretin in chief had instituted." And Science Is Back.

Sheldon Whitehouse on accountability, (via).

Paul Jay at McClatchy's The Real News interviews James Galbraith: "Can Obamanomics solve the crisis?" and "Can Obamanomics solve the crisis? Pt.2" - and he says one thing we need to do for the economy is to fully restore and increase Social Security benefits. He's absolutely right. "The reality is that Social Security is much more important than it's ever been."

17:23 GMT


I've updated the post below to explain my apparently confusing reference to Fiorella La Guardia, who is a bit of a hero of mine (though, like everyone, he was imperfect). I forget sometimes that not everyone has heard of this guy - although you really should have. He was an ardent and effective New Dealer and a prominent opponent of the criminalization of marijuana - and, you may be astonished to know, a Republican.

The National Nurses Organizing Committee/California Nurses Association released a report last week saying that single-payer would be a major stimulus to the economy - and I believe them. Remember that Britain was devastated and loaded with debt after World War II (not to mention full of craters provided courtesy of the Luftwaffe), and they needed to rebuild the country and its economy. One of the ways they did that was due to another hero of mine, Nye Bevan, who created the National Health Service, among other things. Again: If someone tries to tell you that we can't afford to make a radical change like getting single-payer, remind them that we can't afford not to.

00:47 GMT

Thursday, 22 January 2009

A little night blogging

Glenn Greenwald, who is also happy about Obama's appointments to the DOJ and OLC, asks, "How will the David Gregory theory of journalism apply to the Obama administration? Because Gregory's "explanation" for the propaganda function they performed for Bush is that it was just their job to tell the public what the administration said, not to debunk it. But, strangely, none of these people felt that way during the previous administration, where virtually everything the Clintons did, or what anyone who didn't attack them said, was treated as corrupt and picked over for any possibility of falseness - the verdict usually being that even if there was no sign of dishonesty or corruption, by the gods it was there. "During his Colbert interview, Gregory vowed several times that the press would be very aggressive with the Obama administration and will 'hold its feet to the fire,' prompting Colbert to remark: 'Shouldn't the supposed crimes of the Bush administration be paid for by Barack Obama?'"

And why would a reporter who actually broke the story of how the administration was faking evidence against Iraq turn around and claim that the administration believed what it was saying?

Here's a headline I never expected to see in the Financial Times: "Shoot the bankers, nationalise the banks". It has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? "But what most angers those running businesses, and indeed those simply trying to keep their personal finances afloat, is the mix of insouciance and venality that often describes the banks' response to the crisis. We are told it was an act of God; or it was all the fault of the Americans; or we should blame the regulators. As for nationalisation, heaven forfend. Bankers must all be allowed to run their businesses without interference, even as they suck up public money." (via)

Finally! A serious report on the dangers of the internet to children finds that the problem isn't the internet, and one of the authors provides her own account of how she approached the work and how shocked she was at the response it received. (In related news, Supremes strike down Child Online Protection Act, which may be the best news I've heard in a long time.)

Radley Balko, "War on Drugs: The Collateral Damage: Prohibition militarizes police, enriches our enemies, undermines our laws, and condemns our sick to suffering."

Rachel on Gene Robinson's missing invocation.

02:03 GMT

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

In the cold of winter, with rumors of spring

From Scott Horton, "UN Rapporteur: Initiate criminal proceedings against Bush and Rumsfeld now: In an interview on Tuesday evening with the German television program 'Frontal 21,' on channel ZDF, Professor Manfred Nowak, the United Nations Rapporteur responsible for torture, stated that with George W. Bush's head of state immunity now terminated, the new government of Barack Obama was obligated by international law to commence a criminal investigation into Bush's torture practices."

Ruth is elated that the Guantanamo war crimes trial of Canadian Omar Khadr has been suspended at Obama's request. In fact, Obama has directed prosecutors at GTMO to move to stay all prosecutions for 120 days.

At Crooks and Liars, David Neiwert notes that Obama's election ended racism so we don't ever want to hear about it again!, and Susie Madrak finds more abuse of the post-9ll laws when a a mother lost her patience with her two boisterous kids on a plane - and she was charged with terrorism.

HBO for some reason cut the invocation by Gene Robinson, but you can get it from YouTube.

There's no change in Washington when a Republican puts a hold on Obama's nomination of Clinton because of a made-up scandal in which the Clintons have done nothing wrong.

Balkinization's Marty Lederman part of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Obama administration. Cool!

19:54 GMT

American landscape

Gosh, from noon yesterday it was A National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation, and I missed it.

I really appreciate the fact that Thers is willing to read the looniest sites just so he can write about their weird conspiracy theories. (And I liked Aretha's hat.)

I guess the inauguration was really exciting for Tweety because it was apparently all about him and his creepy lifestyle and perceptions. (Huh. I used to see black people all over the place when I was in Washington - oh, didn't we call it "the Chocolate City"? Why, yes, we did. I wonder where Chris Matthews was hanging out - and I'm glad I'm not there.)

Justice Dept. snubs federal judge's ruling: "In a parting shot, the Bush administration's Justice Department shrugged off a San Francisco federal judge's order to make a classified document available to lawyers for an Islamic group challenging the legality of the outgoing president's secret wiretapping program. National security officials, not judges, must decide whether private citizens - even those with security clearances - are entitled to see classified material, Justice Department lawyers said in a filing Monday night. "

Meanwhile, TChris reports that, "Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly issued a decision today rejecting the Justice Department's "constantly shifting arguments" in defense of Dick Cheney's narrow interpretation of the vice president's obligation to comply with the Presidential Records Act."

This looks good, but I can't help think that if equality means an equal shot at no jobs, it's not gonna mean much. And the War on (some people who use some) Drugs isn't going to stop just because we prioritize rehab. Kids who never get arrested for drugs even though they take them are more likely to avoid the rest of the criminal lifestyle, too.

Was Obama alluding to Paine?

Rham at nine years old.

15:59 GMT

Uh oh

Did anyone else notice Bush, at his last press conference, saying this?

"Now, obviously these are very difficult economic times. When people analyze the situation, there will be -- this problem started before my presidency, it obviously took place during my presidency. The question facing a President is not when the problem started, but what did you do about it when you recognized the problem. And I readily concede I chunked aside some of my free market principles when I was told by [my] chief economic advisors that the situation we were facing could be worse than the Great Depression.

"So I've told some of my friends who said -- you know, who have taken an ideological position on this issue -- why did you do what you did? I said, well, if you were sitting there and heard that the depression could be greater than the Great Depression, I hope you would act too, which I did. And we've taken extraordinary measures to deal with the frozen credit markets, which have affected the economy."

The corporate press was interested in their own story, so they didn't seem to notice it, but Tom Engelhardt did, and it didn't make him feel good:
Stop for a minute and consider what Bush actually told us. It's a staggering thought. Who even knows what it might mean? In the United States, for example, the unemployment rate in the decade of the Great Depression never fell below 14%. In cities like Chicago and Detroit in the early 1930s, it approached 50%. So, worse than that? And yet in the privacy of the Oval Office, that was evidently a majority view, unbeknownst to the rest of us.
And that's just one thing. There's more.

(The reason there's no link to the Bush quote is that Tom's link goes to the White House site, which gave me a 404 messages saying, "The page you requested wasn't found at this location. The Obama Administration has created a brand new White House website, and it's possible that the page you were looking for has been moved." So the net-savvy Obama administration has just killed all of our existing links to the official history of the Bush administration. Dammit!)

Via Suburban Guerrilla, where there are also gloomy thoughts. But shorter.

00:35 BST

Monday, 19 January 2009

Oh, happy day

You may be unsurprised to know that it was another tech day, so I haven't really been able to get down to blogging, and then there was this big thing going on in Washington that we all ended up watching on our TV. At least the PC is booting, now.

Earlier I was talking to Mr. Sideshow on the phone while he was at work and he observed that all day he'd been looking at the clock thinking about the inauguration, and it suddenly dawned on him that he wasn't counting forward to the presidency of Barack Obama, he was counting down to the last moment of George Bush's occupation. It's interesting seeing the strains of both sides of that all over the web, too. Eugene Robinson notes that it's not universal euphoria: "Since Obama's election, I've heard more than one friend joke sardonically that the nation has said: Sure, a black man can run the country; go right ahead and take your turn -- now that the economy is in the tubes, the financial system is a wreck, we're mired in two wars, global warming is parboiling the planet, the government has been forced to spend a trillion dollars or more just to stave off utter ruin, and there's precious little money left to finance desperately needed reforms in health care, education, energy, infrastructure..." (I've had a similar thought - that the guys in power have decided that now that they've gutted the country, they don't care about it anymore so sure, let the chicks and funny-colored people run it - it doesn't mean much anymore.) Somewhere I heard another one - that now that the rich white folks had made a mess with their big party, they called in a black guy to clean up after them. (And the alternative was to have a woman clean up the mess the guys had made.)

Chief Justice Roberts screwed-up administering the Presidential Oath, but at least the new president's address didn't last too long. No one said he wasn't smart.

Dear Senator Bernie, I hope you are right about the good news, 'cause you sure are right about that bad news.

Wingnut opinion of godlike Bush declines to a mere B minus.

It's apparently quite OK with network honchos that the Pentagon is illegally using them for propaganda purposes because, "Everyone understands that the Pentagon gives out information that is not harmful to its interests." Um.

Jeff Fecke is not loaded with sympathy when Dirk Benedict's four-year-old whine about being castrated appears at that silly fright-wing anti-Hollywood blog, but he does regard it as a gift. Meanwhile, none other than John Rogers of Kung Fu Monkey explains why the conservative complaint about Hollywood is codswallop, and TBogg just has a laugh at them.

Ettlin remembers Poe (and yet, strangely, doesn't mention the guy who they used to find sleeping on his grave).

Sex doll bandit

21:21 BST

Holding our breath

The big news in Britain is that the Royal Bank of Scotland and some other banks are in big trouble, and also the royal wedding between Barack Obama and the United States of America. They keep showing clips from JFK's inaugural speech, and a bit of FDR, but I was pleased to see interviews with a couple of members of the Little Rock Nine - "every one of whom say they are glad to be alive to see it."

Josh Marshall has been posting a series of letters from readers talking about what this inauguration means to them, under the heading, "Your Take".

But Josh also has this, which suggests that Obama's team is about to be suckered exactly the way the Clinton team was, and, as Atrios says, it's rather disturbing. Hasn't anyone told them how Republicans negotiate?

Rush Limbaugh opts for treason - in his own words.

Bob May, who made famous the words, "Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!" has died at 69.

Lance Mannion lives in a greeting card. I'd love to see that out my window about now.

Victorian microbes and Folding cubes (thanks to Dominic).

23:03 BST

A little bit of soap

It's been a day of terrifying technical problems, but the Alpha Geek assures me he can make it all better. Since he always has in the past, I believe him. My apologies in the meantime for the earlier delay in posting.

We all know it's the real New Year's Eve, but there's something familiar in the air, as Gary Farber notes, quoting an article from a 1933 issue of The Nation:

It was a Grand Old Party - for them - while it lasted. Makers and beneficiaries of our politico-economic system, these are the men whose failure is now written large in the towering empty edifices that scrape the New York sky, in the hundreds of thousands of "For sale" and "To let" signs which adorn our cities, in the closed banks, in the foreclosed farms, in the whole picture of devastation which has come under their rule.

Have these captains and kings departed - not to return? The epoch of their wanton and repulsive leadership is ending. Their incompetence and their betrayal are manifest. But much of the evil they have done lives after them. The coming years will see the struggle to purge America, to reassert the promise of American life, to validate, in consonance with the changed times and conditions, the high aspirations of the founders of the nation. Mr. Roosevelt has the opportunity to be the leader of this renaissance, but he will have to forge as his instrument a wholly different Democratic Party from that which so long has been indistinguishable from the Republican.

But guess what Nancy Pelosi is putting on the table: "Pelosi said everything should be on the table, including benefit cuts. 'The only thing we didn't want to put on the table is eliminating Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,' she said."

I read that about a minute before Mr. Sideshow expressed relief that Bush was almost gone. I was grumbly. He said, "What could be worse?" I said, "A Democratic Congress and a Democratic President continuing the same kinds of policies - that would be worse." Those would be the same people who have so eagerly been voting to help Bush out of paying the price for his crimes, not to mention helping Bush steal taxpayers' money with the bailout of the rich. Krugman on Wall Street Voodoo: "What I suspect is that policy makers - possibly without realizing it - are gearing up to attempt a bait-and-switch: a policy that looks like the cleanup of the savings and loans, but in practice amounts to making huge gifts to bank shareholders at taxpayer expense, disguised as 'fair value' purchases of toxic assets."

21:41 BST


Big Tent Dem noticed an interesting thing the other day:

While the Beltway wants the torture policy of the Bush Administration swept under the rug and forgotten, Bush Administration officials are working at cross purposes with their Media enablers. Outgoing CIA chief Michael Hayden yesterday said:
"These techniques worked," Hayden said of the agency's interrogation program during a farewell session with reporters who cover the CIA. "One needs to be very careful" about eliminating CIA authorities, he said, because "if you create barriers to doing things . . . there's no wink, no nod, no secret handshake. We won't do it."
So that's where we are, with the discourse so corrupted that an agent of government warns that if there is a price to pay for breaking the law, they won't want to break the law.

19:57 GMT

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Signs and portents

He is such a loathsome toad: "In case you haven't heard, one of Bush's final acts in office was to declare today, January 18, 'National Sanctity of Human Life Day.' As Free Thinking reminds us, 'George W. Bush, who entered office pledging to be a 'uniter, not a divider,' is leaving office by issuing an official Proclamation on the most divisive issue in American politics: abortion.'" Annie's right, we need separation of church and state and an end to this disgusting crap. But even the damnable Bible doesn't claim that the unborn are people.

Jane Mayer had an amusing response to seeing herself semi-immortalized on the right-wing action show 24. I particularly liked this bit: "I notice by the way that the ratings for the season opener tanked. The show lost a third of its audience. The zeitgeist has changed. At the moment, fear has migrated to the economic sphere. If they move quickly, maybe they can start waterboarding Hank Paulson." Via Pruning Shears.

Krugman has a piece in Rolling Stone called "What Obama Must Do", saying that Obama is now in FDR's shoes, and he's got to be at least as good: "The lesson from FDR's limited success on the employment front, then, is that you have to be really bold in your job-creation plans. Basically, businesses and consumers are cutting way back on spending, leaving the economy with a huge shortfall in demand, which will lead to a huge fall in employment - unless you stop it. To stop it, however, you have to spend enough to fill the hole left by the private sector's retrenchment."

I feel forced to link directly to this stupid SFC article in order to point out that not only are the wingers convinced that Bush has been a terrific president, but that the media were always against him. Um, not really. The media actually refused to acknowledge that Bush hadn't won the election and said they were glad we had a president in charge who had allowed a successful foreign attack on America. You can't be deeper in someone's butt than that, can you?

Mary finds an encouraging sign: "I was watching Rahm Emanuel on Charlie Rose tonight and he made an interesting analogy that I didn't expect. We've all known that the Pentagon has become an infinite sink hole for American tax dollars. For decades our politics have been driven by a call to increase spending on defense so much so that it truly has been the classic third rail of politics. What Rahm said that surprised me was when he was talking to Charlie Rose about being smarter about how we spend money, his very first example was 'you can't have a $200 billion cost overrun by the Pentagon when other people are being asked to tighten their belt.'"

23:41 GMT

Fitting little colored pieces of plastic together

Ceasefire: "The Palestinian militant group Hamas has announced an immediate ceasefire with Israel, according to Hamas officials in Syria and Gaza. The group said it would hold fire so long as Israel withdrew all its forces from Gaza Strip within one week. The move comes hours after a unilateral Israeli ceasefire came into effect."

I really, really wish Obama would stop using language that suggests that he thinks the Republicons are right about Social Security. Social Security is paid for. Social Security is not the thing that is sucking the life out of our economy. It's the people who keep attacking "entitlements" who are doing that. There are a lot of big, systemic things that need to be addressed if we are really going to restore our economy to something most of us can live with. (And in the meantime, it sure wouldn't hurt to quit wasting money on crap like this.) We need people to be talking about why those big social programs are good for the economy, not reinforcing the Village-Republicon consensus. For dog's sake, people, Britain had just been through the Great Depression and had the hell bombed out of it by the Nazis and was not just broke but in debt and they still managed to create the NHS.

I wonder where Kevin Drum got the idea that having no term limits is the same thing as being "president for life". In the United States, until the Republicans created a two-term limit on the presidency because they were afraid that another FDR would be president forever (because he'd keep doing things that were good for the people, so they'd keep voting for him), we had no term limits on the presidency, either, and we don't hear about how that made us a dictatorship. Strangely, in spite of having no term limits, presidents routinely left office while they were still alive; in fact, it's the ones who didn't - because they were assassinated or became ill too soon after they were sworn in - who are regarded as the exceptions. As long as there is actually such a thing as a "term" and real elections are held, having no term limits cannot in itself be presumed to be antidemocratic - why, some might go so far as to say that preventing the people from re-electing the leaders they want is more appropriately placed in that category. (via)

Can someone remind me why we're supposed to think of Rick Warren as not an extremist, again?

Keith Olbermann delivers The Bush Legacy.

Glenn Greenwald and Jay Rosen discuss how the press limits public debate.

Lego inauguration!

13:15 GMT

Fantasie Olivia underwired balconette bra for larger cup sizesBra of the Week

Separated at Birth?

George Bush hasn't got any particular plans but says he can't see himself just sitting around in a Hawaiian shirt in his retirement - 'cause he's a doer, by gosh! But here's an idea...

This is kinda neat.

Joe Conason suggests that nobody really wants to ask the real questions about the Marc Rich pardon, because nobody really wants to hear the answer: "Still, it would have been a refreshing change from the usual confirmation minuet if instead of humbly apologizing, Holder had tartly instructed the buffoonish Specter, his fellow senators, the press, and the public about the actual circumstances of the Rich affair. He might have started with the fact that continuous lobbying on Rich's behalf from the highest Israeli leaders and their American friends -- among whom Specter no doubt counts himself -- became even more intense in the days before Clinton left office. He could have noted that such pressures coincided with Clinton's efforts to conclude a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. And he could have explained to Specter that Rich's deals in Iran and Iraq were often related to his other role -- as an asset of the Mossad who gathered intelligence and helped to rescue endangered Jews from those regimes."

Dick Durata says Lichtblau was just following orders when he started distorting the news in his reporting. Or something like that.

It is probably unnecessary by now to point out that Peter Beinart is a jerk and that his argument that the surge worked is specious (unless by "worked" he meant "muddied the discourse some more and created more excuses for delay in getting out), but I'm glad Paul Campos did it anyway: "Even more objectionable is Beinart's insistence that President Bush showed great courage by ordering the surge. Do we really need any lectures from conspicuously non-combatant warmongering pundits of military age on the meaning of that word?"

Apparently, two wingnuts are refusing to resign when Obama comes in because they want to keep prosecuting Democrats.

Marc Ambinder said yesterday that the reason Al Franken wasn't already seated in the Senate is because Harry Reid made a scene about Burris.

CMike alerts me in comments that Matt Taibbi was less than impressed with Tom Friedman's call for us to be less consumerist and more green. Tom Friedman lives here.

"Portraits Taken by the Writer as a Young Woman (in Hard Times): In the mid-1930s, as her writing career was just starting to take off, Eudora Welty thought she might become a photographer. As a junior publicity agent for the Works Progress Administration, she had traveled around rural Mississippi taking pictures of people coping with the Depression. In letters and while visiting New York, she lobbied publishers and photographers (including Berenice Abbott) in the hope of gaining exposure for her words and images."

Geoffrey Robertson wrote the Guardian obituary for John Mortimer, and Melvyn Bragg and a number of others made tributes to the beloved rascal.

00:54 GMT

Saturday, 17 January 2009

State of play

More from the war on kids: "Strip searching a student to recover a relatively benign medication on the strength of an uncorroborated accusation is outrageous, and seems like an obvious constitutional violation. When Savana's parents sued, however, school officials claimed they were immune from suit because students have no constitutional right not to be strip searched when they are accused of violating school policy. The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the school's position (which the Ninth Circuit rejected [pdf]) is correct."

It's funny how many of these people who campaigned against giving away money to rich people with no accountability are eager to do it now that they're in Congress.

We're going broke, and major companies get to hide all their money from taxation with tax havens.

Jamison Foser says the media's Coverage of economy repeats Iraq mistakes - all the misleads you could ask for, leading us right down the tubes.

Yglesias: "Thinking back to George W. Bush's farewell address it's striking that the best thing the man can say about his record in office is that only once during his term in office were 3,000 people killed by foreign terrorists. And it's really striking that other people in the conservative movement seem to take this 'accomplishment' very seriously." Yeah, 'cause everyone else had so many more of those attacks on American soil.

Unlike me, MadKane had a chance to enjoy John Mortimer's company, and wrote about him while he was still alive. She has posted the profile she wrote of him for British Heritage Magazine in 1996. (And belated condolences, Maddy - it must be especially tough to lose them both at once, and what a terrible way to bookend a year.)

20:55 GMT

Yesterday's news

Thomas Frank says, "Obama Should Act Like He Won. [...] And centrism's achievements? Well, there's Nafta, which proved Democrats could stand up to labor. There's the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. There's the Iraq war resolution, approved by numerous Democrats in brave defiance of their party's left. Triumphs all. [...] President-elect Obama can learn something from Mr. DeLay's confession: Centrism is a chump's game. Democrats have massive majorities these days not because they waffle hither and yon but because their historic principles have been vindicated by events. This is their moment. Let the other side do the triangulating. Yes. People didn't vote for Obama because they wanted a somewhat less twerpy conservative; they voted for Obama, and for Democrats, because they were sick of what the "centrists" had been doing.

You know how the Pentagon keeps claiming that people who've been released from Gitmo have returned to terrorism (or just become terrorists)? Well, there's no reason to believe it. None of their stories pan out, they have strange definitions of "terrorism" ("They have counted people as 'returning to the fight' for having written an Op-ed piece in the New York Times and for having appeared in a documentary exhibited at the Cannes Film Festival."), and they say themselves that they don't track such things.

That NYT story about how the court decided illegal wiretapping was okay? It's just completely wrong. I guess Eric Lichtblau's transformation from a real reporter to another Village gossip is now complete. This is, you'll recall, one of the guys who broke the original wiretapping story. I was disturbed when, only a few weeks back, I noticed him repeating the canard that the program started "after 9/11" - a claim he surely must know by now is false - but now he seems to have gone the whole hog and is actually writing articles claiming that the court decided something they didn't even consider, just to make it look like his own (genuinely important) scoop about the wiretapping was meaningless. I wonder who threatened his family....

Mary Frances Berry, chairwoman of the Commission on Civil Rights from 1993 to 2004, has an op-ed in the NYT advocating equal rights for gays.

You can now get Dennis Kuckinch's book, The 35 Articles of Impeachment: and the Case for Prosecuting George W. Bush either as a printed, book ($12) or a free downloadable .pdf.

I actually think I already know the answer to both of these question. The only one I don't know the answer to is: If it actually had happened on Al Gore's watch, how many minutes would it have taken for the Republicon Party and the Washington Press corps to start calling for his impeachment?

I see coffee is good for you this week.

Naturally, it was Mr. Sideshow who found an obituary for Harry Turner.

Note to Keith Thompson: Actually, I hate the way those fakey single-quote things (or crummy substitutions for them) look on web pages, so I try to turn them into ordinary typewriter apostrophes routinely. It's not just that they don't render in your browser or even just that they look stupid, it's also that .xml treats them as bad code and can make the entire feed indecipherable in some RSS readers. The trouble arises when I don't notice them (they read OK in both IE and Opera) or forget I'm quoting from the NYT - so feel free to give me a heads-up when you see them.

11:13 GMT

Friday, 16 January 2009

Saying thank you, too late

I've very much enjoyed John Mortimer's stories over the years, but where he really won my heart was not as a writer, but as a barrister, when I learned that he'd defended an "obscene" hippie magazine - the issue of Oz known as "Schoolkids' Oz" - which was put together entirely by minors. He also defended the Sex Pistols and Virgin Records over the word "bollocks" on the title of their album. And he came out of retirement to defend Libertine magazine, a holdover hippie skin mag.

But as a writer, he had Rumpole defend a terrorism suspect against the outrageous anti-terrorism laws we have in this country, a couple of years ago, too.

Not long after that, I was leaving a gig at Broadcasting House and as I approached the elevator Mortimer emerged from it, and I wanted to thank him for those things, but I couldn't think of anything to say that didn't sound stupid, and the moment passed and he was gone. Damn. I'll never have that chance again.

21:17 GMT

All the best people agree

But not with the media dorks who claim to speak for "everyone."

As Establishment Washington unifies against prosecutions, Glennzilla says:

Now added to the pantheon of 'liberal' dogma is the shrill, ideological belief that high government officials must abide by our laws and should be treated like any other citizen when they break them. To believe that now makes you not just a 'liberal,' but worse: a 'liberal score-settler.' Apparently, one can attain the glorious status of being a moderate, a centrist, a high-minded independent only if one believes that high political officials (and our most powerful industries, such as the telecoms) should be able to break numerous laws (i.e.: commit felonies), openly admit that they've done so, and then be immunized from all consequences. That's how our ideological spectrum is now defined.


The political/media establishment isn't desperately and unanimously fighting against the idea of investigations and prosecutions because they believe there was nothing done that was so bad. They're fighting so desperately precisely because they know there was, and they know they bear much of the culpability for it.

Glenn also says in the same post that Holder has been giving encouraging answers in his confirmation hearings.

Hilzoy has some Some Facts For Obama To Consider:

(1) According to Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, the President "shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed".

(2) According to Article VI of the Constitution, "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land".

(3) The United States is a party to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

(4) As Dahlia Lithwick reminds us, the Convention Against Torture not only prohibits torture, it imposes a set of affirmative obligations on its parties.

Krugman doesn't recommend we Forgive and Forget:
Meanwhile, about Mr. Obama: while it's probably in his short-term political interests to forgive and forget, next week he's going to swear to 'preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.' That's not a conditional oath to be honored only when it's convenient.

And to protect and defend the Constitution, a president must do more than obey the Constitution himself; he must hold those who violate the Constitution accountable. So Mr. Obama should reconsider his apparent decision to let the previous administration get away with crime. Consequences aside, that's not a decision he has the right to make.

18:41 GMT

Please note

ProfWombat (in Eschaton comments) provided a little something we should all be ready to repeat any time we hear a winger carrying on about how it was World War II and not the New Deal that ended the (First) Great Republican Depression:

Now, World War II involved total government control of the means of production, civilian rationing, full employment, massive spending and the assumption of huge budget deficits. One can't argue for World War II's economic success without, in point of fact, admitting the possibility that government economic intervention, on a scale far greater than the boldest of New Dealers contemplated, is admissible economic intervention...
Of course, this works a lot better when your war isn't privatized and handed over to Halliburton. But it's also worth noting that war and its toys are still a less efficient means of getting the money into circulation than are social programs, which give you a lot more bang for your buck.

I realize that at this point I am almost morally obliged to note things like this, but it still ain't the Bra of the Week.

15:33 GMT

Thirsty work

Dday says here that another legacy of the Bush regime will be the acceptance of the fruit of the poisoned tree - that is, that illegally obtained evidence is now pretty much usable in court. I don't think we can really pin this entirely on this administration, though - we've really been going down this road for quite a while, now. The stepped-up War On Some People Who Take Some Drugs was already wedging this door open before 2000. But the diversion of resources to the WOSPWTSD and the focus on making everyone guilty until proven innocent (and even after that) certainly took new leaps and bounds over the last eight years. I believe I've explained what it all means. (Meanwhile: Nobody could have predicted that the Republicans wouldn't be bipartisan just to save the country.)

Pruning Shears: "If we can't hold them, can't convict them in our legal system and could only potentially convict them in a kangaroo court designed to let us rationalize inhumane treatment, what is left? The answer is obvious, of course (if politically treacherous). They have to be released back to their home countries. We have to allow them, even ones with untold secrets, unhatched plots and unstinting hatred towards us, the worst of the worst if you will, to go back where they came from. It would let the rest of the world, even those who 'weren't willing to help out,' know that we will not attempt to profit from lawlessness."

It would be really good news if the Justice Department finally did prosecute Bradley Schlozman, one of the scummiest scum of the administration.

It's increasingly difficult to doubt that Bush means every word he says: "I'm telling you there's an enemy that would like to attack America, Americans, again. There just is. That's the reality of the world. And I wish him all the very best." (Plus: Elitism.)

You get what you pay for - and that's why big business and rich people in general should start paying their fair share of taxes.

Israel Bans Arab Parties - Man, is democracy ever on the march!

It's Hypocrisy, But Answer The Question - Cernig says that, yes, Panetta should be asked about renditions under the Clinton administration, but it is almost funny to hear Republicans worrying about that now.

Naomi Wolf chatted with the Guardian bout the end of America and The End of America.

02:02 GMT

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Heard it through the grapevine

The Corruption of Harry Reid: "I've been watching Reid, now, for years, make excuses to Democratic voters, most of whom are far more liberal than Reid. It seemed for a while that he might be a wimp. Only how could a wimp become Senate Majority Leader or retain his seat while consistently opposing his party's own constituency? No, Reid is pursing a conservative agenda and he's doing it with the support of a substantial faction of the Senate Democrats, who chose Reid, by their arcane institutional process (which seems to be secret) to lead them. Which means, not only has Reid sold out his party's rank and file, not only is he corrupt in some well-concealed way, but a substantial faction of the Senate Democrats are, too. We are in a very bad way."

It is apparently now safe for Gail Collins to be openly contemptuous of Bush: "A Gallup poll did find that his approval rating had risen slightly since they began, but this was probably due to enthusiasm for the part about his going away." I'll say - because a lot of people were worried that he wasn't planning to go. As it begins to look more and more likely that Bush will actually get the hell out of the White House, you can feel the relief stealing over people as they start to feel that maybe he wasn't quite as bad as they were thinking.

Over at The Left Coaster, paradox is very unhappy when my disappointment-of-a-Congressman, Chris Van Hollen, talks about "triage" - which is not actually a synonym for "ordering priorities". Van Hollen campaigned as a progressive before it was in vogue. What happened to that, Chris?

Glenn Greenwald notes that Tom Friedman has become an advocate for terrorism.

The inexcusable "extreme porn" law goes into effect in Britain on the 26th, and Spanner has some useful guides to the law and what it does in a box on the sidebar of their front page.

Having disappeared for a while after closing down his previous project, Mike informs me that he's been doing a book with his brother about a guy named Alan who works in a big company, and now Alan is doing a blog - and it's nothing like the one Avery Ant would have written.

A brief history of Motown (via).

12:38 GMT

Dream a little dream

"High Schoolers Accused Of Sending Naked Pictures To Each Other" - Stories like this outrage me more than I can say. There is no way in hell you can justify prosecuting kids for making pictures of themselves as protecting anyone. It's disgusting. It should be stopped immediately. And it probably won't be, because you only have to utter the phrase "child porn" to make even normally sensible people into deranged loons who completely lose sight of the fact that these laws amount to nothing more noble than out and out child abuse.

Terrific piece at Slacktivist by the wonderful Fred Clark on how it's okay to hate Uncle Sam whenever he's trying to protect Americans from the people who are truly our enemies.

Jay Rosen at PressThink on Audience Atomization Overcome: Why the Internet Weakens the Authority of the Press: "Deciding what does and does not legitimately belong within the national debate is - no way around it - a political act. And yet a pervasive belief within the press is that journalists do not engage in such action, for to do so would be against their principles. As Len Downie, former editor of the Washington Post once said about why things make the front page, 'We think it's important informationally. We are not allowing ourselves to think politically.' I think he's right. The press does not permit itself to think politically. But it does engage in political acts. Ergo, it is an unthinking actor, which is not good. When it is criticized for this it will reject the criticism out of hand, which is also not good."

CMike dropped another of his should-be blog posts into my comments to recommend some Dean Baker and Digby on mortgages and other nasty things, which should be good enough for anyone.

And The Oracle also has a little essay in comments that might be titled, "What if the Bush legacy was viewed as a wildly successful campaign to screw America?

I don't think I'll actually thank Anna for giving me the news that Ana Marie Cox has been hired by Air America Radio.

Dominic sent me this link and, I dunno, I just like it.

03:00 GMT

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

They've given you a number, and taken away your name

"The Scam in the High Castle" - Drifty recalls a dystopian novel by Phil Dick which, "strongly resembles the Right's vision of Heaven on Earth, and diverges from actual history at exactly the same point that the Right argues that everything went to Hell: The Roosevelt Administration during the depths of the Great Depression." And the here and now: "But ignorance and bigotry are never gone, so facing humiliating defeats on all fronts, Conservatives right down the line are uniting to fight on by frantically trying to shift the battlespace of their Forever-War-on-Reality away from every engagement they are losing (a list including but not limited to domestic policy, foreign policy, culture, medicine, art, literature, economics, manufacturing, trade policy, the environment, hermeneutics, snark, porn, snarkporn, the Constitution, causality, all science since Aristotle including meteorology, semeiotics, education, epistemology, fashion and arithmetic) ..."

Roy Edroso found this thing Jerry Pournelle wrote and the Ol' Perfessor liked, but huh?

Lance Mannion says we need to save the New Deal that saved us. (He could also use a little bailout.)

"How Porsche hacked the financial system and made a killing" is an interesting story in itself, and also helps you understand a little bit of financial maneuvering you've heard about but haven't been able to rouse yourself to understand more fully. (via)

No link yet, but I've just been told that Harry Turner, who I believe was the only UK sf fan left who was around in the '30s, has died. He was 88. I'll link to obits if I see them.

Patrick McGoohan, who became famous even in the United States after the British TV show Danger Man was aired in America as Secret Agent [clip], and who later starred in the still rather amazing The Prisoner, among many other things, has died at 80.

"Secret Agent Man"

20:01 GMT

Laugh while you're takin' it

Harold Meyerson on The Money-Changers: "Save for devising more ways for Americans to go into debt, Wall Street had basically decoupled itself from the economy in which Americans live and work. While the nattering nitwits of CNBC hailed the stock market increases of the first seven years of George W. Bush's presidency as evidence that the U.S. economy had never done better, every other economic index made clear that the economy was in dismal shape. As Neil Irwin and Dan Eggen documented in Monday's Post, the rate of job creation and GDP growth during Bush's tenure is the lowest of any president of the post-World War II period. Somehow, our financial geniuses managed to miss this and built a vast financial edifice on the backs of consumers who eventually could consume no more."

Another admission from the administration of torturing a prisoner - another one. "On two occasions, the interrogations resulted in Qahtani's hospitalization." Gosh, that sounds serious. Ah, but you know how those college pranks are....

The Talking Dog: "And so it continues... the heroic Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld of the Army Reserve [seventh GTMO prosecutor to resign!] submitted an affidavit in federal court challenging proceedings against GTMO detainee Mohammed Jawad, in which Vandeveld asserts that the evidence against GTMO kangaroo court military commission defendants is in a state of complete chaos. Videotapes of confessions are missing, written confessions for illiterate men are written in languages the men don't speak (let alone read!), and of course, many of the statements were made under coercion, or outright torture, often at the hands of the Afghans or others who turned them over."

"The end of the neocons? With the Bush Administration about to recede into history, a widely asked question is whether the neoconservative philosophy that underpinned its major foreign policy decisions will likewise vanish from the scene. The answer seems likely to be Yes. But the epitaph of neoconservatism has been written before - prematurely, as it turned out, in the 1980s."

Ruth said to me earlier that Russia seems to be a Republican.

Note to self: Watch The Ascent of Money when you get a chance.

17:25 GMT

At her request she asks for nothing, you get nothing in return

Sheldon Whitehouse says, "If Obama doesn't investigate Bush's crimes, I will. I think that there's a lot that remains to look at, and I appreciate that President Obama doesn't want to make it his purpose as a new president, with America in real distress in many directions, to go back and look at all this, but I think we in Congress have an independent responsibility, and I fully intend to discharge that responsibility." (And here's some irony for ya - Condi says it's a sign of success that Iraq has declared Christmas a holiday. Because that means it's really diverse. Like us. 'Cause, you know, we have all these non-Christian national holidays in America. Oh, wait.)

The WSJ reports that Obama and the Dems plan to keep the estate tax: "President-elect Barack Obama and congressional leaders plan to move soon to block the estate tax from disappearing in 2010, suggesting the levy might outlive the "Death Tax Repeal" movement that has tried mightily to kill it." Good. Do that. And then raise the rate.

Dean Baker wants to know, "Does Barney Frank Want to Help Distressed Homeowners or Distressed Banks? The Washington Post tells us that Representative Barney Frank, the head of the House Financial Services Committee, wants at least $40 billion of an any additional TARP funds to "help distressed homeowners." This is how Mr. Frank describes his agenda, but the proposes that he has supported would send checks to banks, not homeowners."

In comments, wmr says, "This has got to be the bitterest political cartoon I've ever seen."

Real actual journalist Dave Ettlin goes shopping.

The trouble with Left Wing Science is that it uses real facts.

"You Set the Scene"

00:51 GMT

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

I intend to come right through them all with you

Digby notes that there has been precious little push-back against the fact that CNN aired an enormous propaganda piece for putting your granny out on ice floes while we are not getting the other - intelligent and factual - side of the debate on Social Security, stimulus, and deficits. Economists pretty much all disagree with this pro-ice floe position, but ... well, maybe you can help them get their message across.

Also from Digby, today seems to be the day to recognize how much we owe to Frances Perkins, who told FDR she wouldn't take the job unless she could do the right thing. I wonder if Obama has someone like that on his team - someone who knows what really needs to be done, who refused to take the job unless Obama promised to back that program, and who he really means to listen to. That would be good.

Apparently, CNN wants you to make a video telling them how you'll look back on Bush's legacy. OMG, the possibilities are endless.

Shrimplate: "Modern warfare is 'asymmetrical.' That means that the side that kills the most people, loses."

Apparently, the White House couldn't lure enough reporters in for Bush's last press conference, and they made interns go in to fill up the seats.

The unmourned death of William Zantzinger: "William Devereux Zantzinger, whose six-month sentence in the fatal caning of a black barmaid named Hattie Carroll at a Baltimore charity ball moved Bob Dylan to write a dramatic, almost journalistic song in 1963 that became a classic of modern American folk music, died on Jan. 3. He was 69." And he was a great guy: "In 1991, The Maryland Independent disclosed that Mr. Zantzinger had been collecting rent from black families living in shanties that he no longer owned; Charles County, Md., had foreclosed on them for unpaid taxes. The shanties lacked running water, toilets or outhouses. Not only had Mr. Zantzinger collected rent for properties he did not own, he also went to court to demand past-due rent, and won."

I guess at Newsweek they think no one is guilty of creating a torture regime in America, either.

Man, I knew things were bad, but Nat Hentoff?


17:52 GMT

You heard it here last

Um, I'm a bit overwhelmed with news. Here's some stuff from Think Progress that probably shouldn't be missed, even though you may have already caught a lot of it:

Let me recommend you listen to Friday's Brunch With Bernie and Taking Our Country Back segments from the Thom Hartmann show.

CMike asks in comments, "Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert just said what out loud?" Ouch.

George W. Bush, the "Nobody Could've Predicted" President

Eli has a different approach to Signorale's little encounter with Ken Blackwell.

Yeah, me, too - in more ways than one.

14:16 GMT

What they're saying

There's a passel of stuff you'll want to check out over at Digby's place, such as Dday on The New Attorney General Rules ("According to Jon Kyl, and I would imagine a substantial portion of the right, you cannot become Attorney General unless you unequivocally support torturing human beings."), Digby on The Final Straw ("That moment was an important turning point in the conservative movement. The entire country watched as far right radicals like that pulled the strings of the entire Republican party and they saw the entire decadent political establishment become enraptured by radical, pro-life kitsch. If the saga of Patty Hearst and the SLA was the moment when the country decided the New Left had turned into a creepy, surreal sideshow, the sight of those girls with duck tape over their mouths while the crimson faced Sean Hannity shook his fist and shouted about the "culture of death" was the moment for the right."), Digby on Goldilocks Politics, and Dday's pointer to Howie Klein's post on some nice bits of legislation that passed - and who voted against them: "We've covered the Lilly Ledbetter fight extensively here at DWT and I'm happy to report that what amounts to a law guaranteeing Equal Pay For Equal Work has passed once again in the House (just a couple hours ago), 247- 171. Five of the worst reactionary fake Democrats-- Allen Boyd (Blue Dog-FL), Bobby Bright (freshman wingnut-AL), Dan Boren (Blue Dog-OK), Parker Griffith (freshman wingnut-AL), Travis Childers (wingnut-MS)-- joined all but 3 Republicans in voting against equal rights for America's working women. The 3 Republicans: Chris Smith (NJ), Ed Whitfield (KY) and Don Young (AK)." Similarly, the Paycheck Fairness Act, with 10 Republicans voting against their party's war on working people, and: "On the other hand, 3 reactionary freshman "Democrats" went the other way and joined the Republicans in voting against this: Bobby Bright (AL), Parker Griffith (AL) and Walt Minnick (ID). Thanks, DCCC for getting these three right-wingers into Congress as Democrats; they could never have done it without you!"

Bill Scher looks at ideas and movement for and by the Obama team, including what may be some movement in the right direction - at least, that's how Barbara Boxer sees it.

The thing about torture, you see, even though it's always gone on, is that we used to recognize it as something so bad you never admitted if you did it. You knew that no decent human being would approve. And you knew that it would be bad for us if we went around bragging about torturing people. I share Atrios' revulsion for the way the debate has changed, as Henley and Yglesias note. (Also via Eschaton, Mike Signorale recalls his little talk with Blackwell, possible future head of the RNC, and Ken Starr is still a dick.)

Look, I've never been able to understand the Eurovision song contest, and I don't understand why this.

00:32 GMT

Monday, 12 January 2009

What's past is prologue

David Cay Johnston recommends some Fiscal Therapy:

For years now, whenever I've been invited to lecture students on how our tax system works, I have asked a simple question: What is the purpose of the United States of America? The most common answer, be it at prestigious universities, elite prep schools, rural community colleges, or crowded urban high schools, is this: To make people rich.

This should come as no great surprise. For anyone born after, say, 1970, the world has been shaped by Ronald Reagan's remaking of government's relationship with private interests - a vision of lower taxes, less regulation, and maximum economic leeway for those at the top. In this view, the pursuit of wealth is the warp and weft of America; everything else will follow.

By contrast, the preamble to the Constitution tells us the nation's reason for being in 52 words that can be reduced to six principles: society, justice, peace, security, commonwealth, and freedom. Individual riches don't make the list. They are a product of American society, not its guiding purpose. Progress, then, must begin with a return to the best of the values that created this Second American Republic - one born, it's worth remembering, from the failure of the Articles of Confederation, whose principles (weak government, unfettered capitalism) found their resurrection in the economic policies of the past three decades.

Man, that's quotable.

(Thanks to CMike for the tip.)

15:42 GMT

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Windows on the world

Glenn Greenwald returns to the subject of the media's meme about Obama's allegedly "new" centrism and his ABC interview today: "The central tenets of the Beltway religion -- particularly when a Democrat is in the White House -- have long been "centrism" and "bipartisanship." The only good Democrats are the ones who scorn their "left-wing" base while embracing Republicans. In Beltway lingo, that's what "pragmatism" and good "post-partisanship" mean: a Democrat whose primary goal is to prove he's not one of those leftists. The Washington Post's David Ignatius today lavishes praise on Barack Obama for his allegiance to these Beltway pieties -- and actually seems to believe that there is something new and innovative about this approach [...] Whatever else one might want to say about this "centrist" approach, the absolute last thing one can say about it is that there's anything "new" or "remarkable" about it. "

They've been having a little forum/liveblog on Single-Payer with Donna Smith of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee at Corrente, today.

This Week In Tyranny, "Dawn Johnsen is taking over the Office of Legal Counsel and she is on record that OLC must be willing to 'say no' to the president. That is good, and her record in this respect is encouraging as well. On the other hand, Alberto Gonzales said in his confirmation hearings that 'I am deeply committed to the rule of law. I have a deep and abiding commitment to the fundamental American principle that we are a nation of laws and not of men.' How did that turn out?"

Christopher Dickey reviews James Bamford's The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America in "The Surveillance-Industrial Complex". (Man, I wish people would stop saying that it all started after 9/11. It started after 1/20, and well before 9/11. Which really does force the question, "If we had all this before 9/11, why didn't it prevent the attacks from succeeding? I guess that's why they don't want to point out that it didn't start "after" 9/11. In any case, as Bamford does say, we already had the ability to stop the attacks even without all this spiffy new high-tech surveillance, and yet nobody bothered to do so.)

Johann Hari says "You are being lied to about pirates: "In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since - and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas. Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died. [...] At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia's seas of their greatest resource: seafood. [...] This is the context in which the "pirates" have emerged. Somalian fishermen took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least levy a "tax" on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia - and ordinary Somalis agree. The independent Somalian news site WardheerNews found 70 per cent 'strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence'."

23:52 GMT

On the landscape

Jamison Foser on the current push to claim that "everyone agrees" that the New Deal failed: "The reason for the conservative media's assault on FDR is clear: With a new president facing economic crisis, conservatives want to prevent him from stimulating the economy via government spending on things like unemployment benefits and infrastructure. Such spending would not only help people who need it most, it would also do more to stimulate the economy than would the tax cuts Republicans prefer. [...] In other words, conservatives don't want to return to Franklin Roosevelt's policies, they want to continue George W. Bush's."

Of course, some wingers just go the whole hog and refuse to admit that Bush has been a miserable failure as a president, and continue to praise his accomplishments, as Fred Barnes did when he provided a bit of fellatio for his rag, which Steve Benen was apparently able to force himself to read. (Thanks to Anna.)

Krugman offers kudos to the Obama team for providing what look like honest estimates of the impact of their stimulus plan on the economy - but says it still looks too weak. That was also my impression. If this is the best they can do, I reckon we're cooked. (Note for clarity: In my earlier Milton Friedman lives post, I sloppily said that Obama's team had hired Summers rather than Krugman, as a short-hand way of saying that they also hadn't hired any of the other people who were right. I already know that Krugman took himself out of the running for the job. What bothers me is knowing that Obama seems to be surrounding himself with people who are likely to give him lousy advice. That's the kind of bad crowd that can lead someone astray even if they know better.)

Oh, cool, I can download The Mark Steel Lectures from his website. Check out the one on The American Civil War for some grins. (Thanks to Dominic.)

I am informed that Blogtor Who is back. I didn't even know it was gone.

Has something gone wrong with my RSS feed? I'm not seeing it on Bloglines, but I can't find anyplace I've screwed up the code.

12:58 GMT

A bunch of stuff

Implicite Tantale underwired braBra of the Week

Like Digby, I was a little disturbed to hear Obama using Bushian language on torture: "Why does he keep saying "the United States does not torture." Why does he use the exact phrase that Bush used, which was clearly calibrated to conform with the notion that "torture" was a matter of definition, which his administration defined as being something other than the practices they approved? It's a strange phrase, which sounds as though he's saying that the United States shouldn't torture, when he's actually saying that it hasn't tortured. And that's just not true."

Rick Perlstein reports that, "For Working People, Every Day Feels Like a Recession," quoting extensively from Tom Geoghegan, who a lot of people think should be sitting high in Obama's cabinet.

Obama says he wants our suggestions so he can pick the top ten changes we can believe in, and Thomas Nephew thinks we should get behind this one: Get FISA Right, repeal the PATRIOT Act. So does Gary Farber. But so far one really popular issue is...appointing a Special Prosecutor to look into the BushCo. criminal conspiracy, and that maybe this whole business of encouraging an online movement won't work out so well for Obama when his movement wants to go in a different direction from his chosen path.

The Daily Howler: "Indeed, this piece struck us as such Vintage Kristof that we decided to fact-check his claims. We're accustomed to columns like this from the scribe - columns in which he self-identifies as a liberal, while typing up claims which seem to come straight from pseudo-conservative spin tanks. But was his basic claim actually true? Are liberals 'stingy' - are they 'tightwads' and 'cheapskates?' Are conservatives really more generous? We had, and still have, no earthly idea - and as we fact-checked, we couldn't help wondering if Kristof knows the answer himself."

100 ways George Walker Bush doesn't know why you hate him.

Neil in Chicago says this is the place to get all your Blago news.

If I read this right, the Act Blue web infrastructure was maliciously hacked recently and they need your help to fix their security.

The Bush Years - Then And Now.

This photograph of the actor who plays Harry Potter may not be work-safe. (But then, you expect that from Eros Blog.)

00:16 GMT

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Media notes

Thanks to Anna for alerting me to the Atheist Thought for the Afternoon today on Radio 4. And no thanks to whoever redesigned the BBC website to the point that it's now too much work to figure out where anything is.

Media BloodHound notes that the AP disappeared a question (from one of their own reporters) from Monday's State Department briefing, probably because it was a good question.

Eric Boehlert on the right-wing blogosphere's war on journalists in Iraq: "Over the years, the warblogging site LGF has led an online jihad against war zone journalists and specifically Middle Eastern stringers working for wire services, claiming they concoct the news--they fabricate violence--in order to spread terrorist propaganda. That local Arab or Muslim journalists are incapable of telling the truth about breaking news and that every dispatch they write, especially if it's for the AP, and every photo they file, especially if its for Reuters, must be dissected and mulled over and questioned by right-wing bloggers, lots of whom have no expertise in journalism." And Jamison Foser notes a WaPo editorial that rebuts itself after making baseless accusations of an "appearance" of a conflict of interest in Bill Clinton's fundraising and Hillary Clinton's Senatorial work.

James Wolcott apparently did not find the new right-wing anti-Hollywood website to be a place of illumination.

This is a neat little excerpt from something or other where Ann Coulter and Al Franken each say who they would like to be in history.

Thanks to CMike for supplying a link even I can see for the Jon Stewart interview with Rachel Maddow.

12:46 GMT

Friday, 09 January 2009

Assorted stuff

Gary Farber found an instructive piece on torture in The New York Review of Books:

So, where does that leave us?
[...] In short, the United States has never taken full responsibility for the crimes its high-level officials committed and authorized. That is unacceptable. In the long run, the best insurance against cruelty and torture becoming US policy again is a formal recognition that what we did after September 11 was wrong - as a normative, moral, and legal matter, not just as a tactical issue. Such an acknowledgment need not take the form of a criminal prosecution; but it must take some official form. We have been willing to admit wrongdoing in the past. In 1988, President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act, officially apologizing for the Japanese internment and paying reparations to the internees and their survivors. That legislation, a formal repudiation of our past acts, provides an important cultural bulwark against something similar happening again. There has been nothing of its kind with respect to torture.
You know, I really, really hope we don't have to wait some forty odd years to make good on our wrongdoing of the past seven years. I really hope that there will be investigations, and prosecutions, of Rumsfeld, Bush, Cheney, and their responsible underlings, including Feith, Yoo, Bybee, and others.
I feel much the same way. (Also: Geeky fanboy stuff that may or may not involve Obama.)

The Illinois House impeached Blagojevich (who now awaits trial in the IL Senate), FDA Scientists Complain to Obama of 'Corruption', and Larry Flynt puts bailouts into perspective. Also: That's gratitude, for ya.

I'm really glad Obama is refusing to put lobbyists in his administration, and torturers, except for the ones he's putting into his administration.

At last! Jon Stewart explains the situation in the Middle East to Mayor Bloomberg. (Oh, yeah, that remind me, the Daily Show site won't let me watch it anymore because I'm in Britain, so I can't tell you if this link gets you to Jon Stewart's interview of Rachel Maddow.)

23:40 GMT

Milton Friedman lives (and other stories)

I apologize. I followed the links that people in my comment threads supplied and I had to go wash my brain out without blogging about any of it.

For example, ks said, "Looks like the next few months are going to give us a succession of confirmed fears." And he provided a link to this story:

Democratic senators are still emerging from their closed-door briefing with Obama economic adviser Larry Summers ... but a senior Democratic senator, Iowa progressive Tom Harkin, just gave me a dire buzzword: trickle-down.

"There's only one thing we've got to do in this stimulus, and that's create jobs," Harkin told me. "I'm a little concerned by the way Mr. Summers and others are going on this ... it still looks a little more to me like trickle-down."

Likening Barack Obama's economic recovery plan to the failed supply-side excesses of the Reagan and Bush years is a bit of a Cassandra moment. But Harkin didn't back down. "What I'm hearing from Mr. Summers is that they've got a different approach -- tax breaks, and this and that," he said. Harkin warned that, much like the outcome of George Bush's $600 stimulus package last year, recipients of quick tax cuts "are going to be salting it away, not spending it."

When I asked if he felt his concerns were heard during the meeting, he looked to the floor and slowly shook his head. It was almost forlorn.

Yes, there are right-wingers who will fight Obama no matter what he does, either because they will never support anything good or because they like to beat up on Democrats, but people who have some sense don't like Obama's stimulus plan, either, because it doesn't make sense. John Kerry, who is not exactly a back-bench lefty, thinks it makes more sense to hire people directly for a public works program to restore our infrastructure. That's a good idea, because we really need to do both of those things. Is Obama able to hear this good idea? Is Obama able to hear advice from John Kerry?

And I'm not sure why I am supposed to be reassured by the idea that Obama is "listening" to Paul Krugman when this is how it's phrased:

If Paul Krugman has a good idea, in terms of how to spend money efficiently and effectively to jump-start the economy, then we're going to do it. If somebody has an idea for a tax cut that is better than a tax cut we've proposed, we will embrace it. So, you know, one of the things that I think I'm trying to communicate in this process is for everybody to get past the habit that sometimes occurs in Washington of whose idea is it, what ideological corner does it come from. Just show me. If you can show me that something is going to work, I will welcome it.
If Paul Krugman has an idea that Obama actually recognizes as a good idea, despite the fact that he seems to be following Reagan polices, then sure, fine, we'll listen to Krugman, I mean, hey, we're not gonna dis him just because he's Krugman - we'll listen to anyone who has an idea we think is good - always bearing in mind that we hired Larry Summers, and not Krugman, because we think Krugman is just another liberal we don't have to listen to. We wouldn't think of hiring and listening to the people who have been right just because they've been right when we can hire people who have been consistently wrong and listen to them because - well, because being wrong is such a good idea!

Oh, and did you notice? If someone has a good idea for a tax break, then, hey, we're gonna listen to it. How about a good idea to create real jobs to do real work that needs doing? How about a good idea to actually help people who need it?

You know, maybe one reason half the Democrats in Congress can't be bothered to support liberal polices is because they know their own president won't support them, either. They have no leader to point them in that direction. Yes, I know the leadership is a bunch of heavily compromised creeps, but the Republican Party turned into a terrifying monster overnight because Newt Gingrich got them together and said words to the effect of, "Let's go get 'em!" - and they did.

And the Democrats have been running ever since.

19:22 GMT

Recursive blogging

I meant to include this link in the post below. (I also want to smack one of the commenters to the post below. Grrr.)

Annie and others made some interesting comments in the Surgeon General/Gupta thread that it would be worth your while to read. (Also, lame comments of the "You Clinton supporters just won't get over it!" type from someone who hasn't figured out that I didn't support Clinton in the primaries. Also: I'm not sure I have much more patience for the suggestion that there is something so terrible about criticizing Obama's appointments, rumored appointments, and weirdly libertoonian rhetoric. Can I remind you again that FDR wasn't facing grumpy bloggers, he was facing general strikes? It's gonna take more than this to make a dent in anyone's consciousness, folks. And I did like Tom the Patriot's comment, too.)

Seems our dear friend John "the mainstream media is biased because it doesn't carry enough of our whack-job right-wing talking points!" Ziegler interviewed Sarah Palin so she could whine about how mean the liberal media was to her. I enjoyed Jason Linkins' Eat the Press takedown of that one. (Thanks, Julia.)

I went to see if Edroso had said anything about Pantload's article about Watchmen, and even though he has an entire article about the website on which it appears, which is a new right-wing website about Hollywood's product, I didn't see him discussing that particular item. I don't understand! (On the other hand, he did write this about another astonishing piece of Dennis Prager's crap: "Even more disturbing than his argument is his sheer doggedness in pursuing it. I can understand begging, pleading, emotionally manipulating, and even dressing up nice, buying dinner, and pretending to be a nice guy to obtain sex, but writing two columns for Town Hall is where I draw the line.")

00:37 GMT

Thursday, 08 January 2009

Let's work up an appetite

My TV told me that Israel is bombing UN schools, even though they have all the information on their locations directly from the UN. No one actually came out and said they were doing it deliberately, but the facts sure seem to indicate that. I think I know what "permanent solution" means. And Scott Horton, noting that even Joe Klein has figured out what's wrong with the neocon lust for war with Iran (as exemplified by Bill Kristol) - says, "There are two weeks left. The Neocons may yet get their cherished war - not this silly skirmish in Gaza, but the real war they've always wanted, the one with Iran." Unfortunately, too many Israelis seem happy to help set the stage.

(We all remember that Dick went over there in March, yeah? Think this was all cooked up at the time? Or during Condi's visit? It sure looks like the White House is happy. Hmm, Finklestein seems to think so, too.)

No, I don't have much appetite for it, either.

Elvis Presley (Don't ask.)

17:35 GMT

Change I really don't want to believe in

Obama re-opens his assault on Social Security - and the New Deal and Great Society. Yes, those are new ideas, all right, that have been with us every day since FDR and LBJ introduced them, because the right wing really hates economic justice.

Yes, I suppose it's possible that his real intention is to "investigate" how to change these things and then make a big deal of how, having looked at them, it was clearly necessary to have Medicare For All and eliminate the cap on Social Security taxes, but I'm not holding my breath. He has never sounded like that was his thinking.

Sorry, folks, but I think Lambert is right about this. Thanks to Atrios, Josh Marshall, and a whole lot of you, we actually had managed to push back against the glibertarian anti-Social Security meme that Bush was promoting, and along comes Obama and tries to make it all sound as if it's really a good idea. Why?

I've always objected to the fact that these are called "entitlement programs" because I know how that word sounds to a lot of people - but, you know, you really are entitled to things you have already paid for, and Social Security and Medicare are things you have paid for your entire working life. None of those rich people paid for their tax breaks. None of those Wall Street CEOs paid for $700bn so that they wouldn't have to tighten their own belts for their own mistakes - but Social Security and Medicare are things you are explicitly docked for every time you get a paycheck, and you are certainly entitled to every penny you were told you'd get back for it. It is not Social Security recipients who are causing our fiscal problems, and it's not going to be "after the Baby-Boomers retire" (if they ever get to), either. It's the Malefactors of Great Wealth who have screwed our economy, spent all our money on their fun wars, and lived like filthy parasites off of our labor without ever putting back anything like what they cost us. But, you know, they think that's their entitlement.

I think CMike is probably right about this, too. And it's what's always scared me about Obama's apparent acceptance of this kind of Reagan-era "wisdom".

PS. Suggesting to me that Obama is being really clever by doing what you yourself imply is essentially a dishonest representation of himself as being something farther to the right than he is, for "pragmatic" reasons, sounds to me like you're saying I should trust him because he's a liar.

15:27 GMT

Tuesday, 06 January 2009

Tech-day underperforming

My laptop screen died, so my Alpha Geek Hero has been here making things all better, including some other things that had to be done eventually. It's kinda put a crimp in my schedule, but I feel much better, now.

Yes, this is the thing that's been worrying me since I heard Reid was talking about not seating Burris: "Playing Poker With Harry Reid: As Jane predicted, AP/NPR are reporting that Burris is going to be seated after all. Good thing we had all that Politico-loving "drama" for, you know, no reason at all. Unlike Josh I was actually losing a little sleep over these shenanigans, as it opens the door for seriously playing politics with the process of seating senators. And once you open those doors, Republicans are good at running through them." Yes, I can easily imagine that, for most of the last eight years, the Republicans would have refused to seat the entire Democratic delegation if they'd thought of this at the time. (Not real thrilled about the on-again off-again nature of the discussion, either. How long can this drag on?)

Meanwhile, I wonder what Bush had in mind when he appointed Michael Mukasey, Michael Chertoff, and Elliot Abrams to be Members of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.

HTML Mencken explains what's wrong with The Washington Monthly mentality, unpacks a little genocidal Debbie Schlussel, and marvels at Jeffery Goldberg.

(No one appears to have gone after Pantload's discussion of Watchmen, which I am certainly not going to link directly to.)

23:33 GMT

Another revolting development

I gotta agree with Krugman about the appointment of Sanjay Gupta as Surgeon General. Anyone who can utter that many conservative lies and talking points about single-payer/"socialized" medicine is, to put it generously, the wrong choice - and looks an awful lot like a signal from Obama that he doesn't give a damn about one of the most vital issues facing us. It's not bad enough that he said before that he doesn't support single-payer, but he clearly hasn't learned anything of value in his long period of running for president. Another "Up yours!" to the people who voted for him thinking he had to be better than this.

And, much as I love Steve Benen, I gotta say that when you've got thousands of doctors to choose from, it's not good enough to be satisfied if a nominee for Surgeon General has real medical qualifications. I realize that eight years of Bush appointees may have made people forget this, but there are actually many, many qualified people out there for these jobs, and it's reasonable to expect that you can find among them someone who is actually really good.

I don't consider Gupta an honest voice in the healthcare discussion, and I don't think anyone should. As a medical journalist, he's not really that good - he's on TV because he says things The Villagers like, which means conservative bull.

This is the thing that always worries me about Obama - he seems very much a part of that subgroup of people in his age group who fell hook, line, and sinker for the "libertarian" excuses to oppose liberalism, because he doesn't know any better. And unlike a lot of other people in that group, he hasn't learned anything from the last eight years. I have a friend who seems convinced that Obama is the Real Deal because he spoke to him back during his Senate race and learned that Obama really doesn't like Bush - but, really, despising Bush is a pretty low threshold. Not many people ever really liked Bush, anyway. What's important is understanding why the policies are bad, and listening to Obama talk about Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran, I get the feeling he doesn't really know what was wrong with Iraq, either. Same with healthcare.

23:27 GMT

Ravages of time

Josh Marshall thinks Panetta is a good choice for CIA, but has suspicions about the negative noises coming off of the Hill. He quotes "a career intel professional" on why Panetta is the better choice. Josh thinks there could be a real fight over this - among Democrats. Atrios notes that DiFi had no problem when Bush picked a buffoon, because by god a president should be able to pick whoever he wants. I wonder what changed her mind.

I'm going to miss Matt Stoller's contributions to the blogosphere, but he's going to work in Congress, now to try to start Solving the Rootsgap.

Maybe you, too, can ride an atheist bus: "Today, thanks to many Cif readers, the overall total raised for the Atheist Bus Campaign stands at a truly overwhelming £135,000, breaking our original target of £5,500 by over 2400%. Given this unexpected amount, I'm very excited to tell you that 800 buses - instead of the 30 we were initially aiming for - are now rolling out across the UK with the slogan, "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life", in locations all over England, Scotland and Wales, including Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, York, Cardiff, Devon, Leeds, Bristol and Aberdeen." Starting today. Maybe I should go out just to ride one.

Republican shill makes weird pitch for Patterson to appoint Caroline Kennedy to fill Hillary's seat.

Minnesota LOLsenator, (via).

Note to readers: No, I do not live and die by the Weblog Awards, which in most years I have mostly ignored. I just didn't want anyone to get the impression that anyone was giving me any money.

16:58 GMT

Find a lesson in the draw

I don't know about you, but I got a chill up my spine when I heard they were talking about a "permanent solution" to the Palestinian issue. I mean. No, I don't want to talk about it, I will go right off the deep end.

Krugman: "The fact is that recent economic numbers have been terrifying, not just in the United States but around the world. Manufacturing, in particular, is plunging everywhere. Banks aren't lending; businesses and consumers aren't spending. Let's not mince words: This looks an awful lot like the beginning of a second Great Depression." And Republicans will fight like hell to make sure it turns into one.

Glenn Greenwald is feeling optimistic about Obama's choice for head of Office of Legal Counsel, and he's making me feel good about it, too. And, on Leon Panetta's pending appointment as head of the CIA: "Spencer Ackerman reports that Sen. Dianne Feinstein is upset with the selection of Panetta, petulantly complaining that she wasn't consulted in advance and that it would be best to have an "intelligence professional" in that position. CQ's Tim Starks reports that Sen. Jay Rockefeller is making very similar noises about this selection. Few things could reflect better on Panetta's selection than the fact that Feinstein and Rockefeller -- two of the most Bush-enabling Senators -- are unhappy with it."

If I thought The Washington Post was anything other than a neocon rag these days, I might be surprised that they publish pointless PR on behalf of the Bush administration.

We used to tax the hell out these guys and we were the land of opportunity, a rich and prosperous nation full of innovators and entrepreneurial spirit and actually making things that people wanted to buy. Let's do that again!

Vote for me, because I may have a job, but I don't get a paycheck for it.

01:21 GMT

Monday, 05 January 2009

The more things don't change

Atrios explains:

One can certainly take issue with the bailout and the subsequent behavior by banks and other entities which are stealing all our money, but too many people seem to miss or gloss over the simple idea that maybe banks aren't lending money because it'd be pretty stupid to lend money right now. What are they supposed to lend it for? Commercial real estate development? Jumbo mortgage loans as home prices fall? Car loans when unemployment is rising? Industrial development when capacity usage is declining?

The bailout was a bad idea because they wrote idiots a $700 billion blank check. I know people always think in crises doing something is better than nothing, and for all I know this was the case here, too, but the people in charge have all along failed to understand what was going wrong.

Yes, the people who needed the money were not the bankers, they were all the ordinary people who were stuck. And those idiots they gave the check to aren't the only idiots.

Meanwhile, who is going to pay for all these hundreds of billions of dollars our high-rollers are spending? Maybe we should get the money from the people who actually have it. Ah, but it's so much more fun to try to squeeze blood from a stone.

Oh, I get it - the Republicans are going to show everyone how modern and unracist they are by having their party headed by a black guy everyone hates for fixing the Ohio election for Bush in '04. Gosh, they didn't even do that for Katherine Harris.

15:07 GMT

Sunday, 04 January 2009

With a little help from his friends

It's funny, Frank Rich wrote a fairly meaty article on what a crummy "president" Bush has been - one that must have been gratifying for him to write and equally fun for many to read - but he was still too nice to him. He refutes White House claims of Bush's accomplishments like this:

This document is the literary correlative to "Mission Accomplished." Bush kept America safe (provided his presidency began Sept. 12, 2001). He gave America record economic growth (provided his presidency ended December 2007). He vanquished all the leading Qaeda terrorists (if you don't count the leaders bin Laden and al-Zawahri). He gave Afghanistan a thriving 'market economy' (if you count its skyrocketing opium trade) and a "democratically elected president" (presiding over one of the world's most corrupt governments). He supported elections in Pakistan (after propping up Pervez Musharraf past the point of no return). He "led the world in providing food aid and natural disaster relief" (if you leave out Brownie and Katrina).
Why accept the Rovian definition of "safe" to mean only that there were no further physical attacks on American soil by foreign agents? Those were never the only dangers facing us, and in truth the policies carried out by this administration have made our daily lives far more perilous than they were before. Bush is not solely responsible for every one of the nasty things we are facing, but he was in a position to either ameliorate them or exacerbate them, and he did the latter on steroids. Our economy was vulnerable, and he made sure the exposure was greater than it had to be. Our friends in the world were many, but under his "leadership" they have been dwindling almost to none.

And Katrina wasn't something outside of our safety - the danger of destruction to an American city is just as real whether it comes from a lethal combination of bad weather, poor planning, neglected infrastructure and corruption or from Al Qaeda. And how safe are we when the National Guard have been pulled out of our cities to have their time and lives wasted in Iraq? Bush's response to 9/11 seems to have been to try to remove all of our first-responders from where they would be needed.

Nor did Bush wait until 9/11 to start endangering America - from the very first, he was wrecking our diplomatic relations, undercutting our economy and our infrastructure, and most of all destroying the true underpinnings of our free country - the United States Constitution. The Iraq war alone has cost us so much money that we may never recover, and that's without the rest of the financial disaster that three decades of deregulation and neglect of oversight are costing us. (And anyway, you can't leave out the opium trade in Afghanistan's economy - without it, there's not much going for them.) And:

He can, however, blame everyone else. Asked (by Charles Gibson) if he feels any responsibility for the economic meltdown, Bush says, "People will realize a lot of the decisions that were made on Wall Street took place over a decade or so, before I arrived." Asked if the 2008 election was a repudiation of his administration, he says "it was a repudiation of Republicans."
Strangely, Bush is almost telling the truth, here, except that Republicans like to pretend that 30 years of conservative attacks on America's economy are all Clinton's fault ("a decade or so"). But it wasn't just Bush who made this mess - he had the enthusiastic support of a virtually lockstep Republican Party, not to mention a little help from eager Blue Dogs, twitchy careerist Dems, cowed liberals, and an abysmal press corp that included Frank Rich, whose own treatment of Al Gore helped make this all possible.

One almost gets the feeling that Bush spent his life surrounded by people who told him crap, and some part of him now realizes that he was poorly advised, but it's just too much for his pickled brain to absorb. Early on I pointed out that, since Bush spent the first 40 years of his life being a drunk, he was emotionally about 15 when he was installed in the White House - and he acted like it. That's the age at which most people have to start unlearning all the lies they've been told, and that usually takes at least another 15 years. Bush is still only starting his path to adulthood. Maybe he'll know what he really did by the time he's 80. But I won't hold my breath.

14:10 GMT

Saturday, 03 January 2009

Old news and new news

Aubade Fleurs de Pomier three-quarter cup braBra of the Week

Yes, he'll be the youngest actor ever to play The Doctor, but these days the scripts call for a lot of physical activity that the first actors to play the role could probably never have managed. I've seen him in other things, and though Matt Smith isn't as dishy as the adorable Mr. Ten-inch, he's a good, versatile actor and I reckon he should make a good Doctor.

You know, even if you leave aside the racism and stupidity involved in this story, it's worth remembering that every single person on that plane was affected, and you wonder why people aren't screaming that they are getting constantly screwed up by this security theater BS. Even if you hate funny-colored people, you gotta hate having your air travel turned into this game of Russian Roulette even worse.

Speaking of racism, I wonder what the hell Harry Reid thinks he's doing with his shotgun approach to trying to force his choices for the Illinois Senate seat on everyone else involved: "This is certainly a stunningly rich development from about every perspective imaginable. Harry Reid has threatened to use the Capitol Police to forcefully haul Roland Burris off the Senate floor should he try to enter because he feels Burris is tainted by Blagojevich's shady machinations of the open Senate seat. Only it turns out that Reid is the one smack in the middle of Blago's machinations, not Burris. And it would appear he is on Pat Fitzgerald's wiretaps doing so."

Replacing road salt with molasses - You know, I never thought of that.

I had never heard of Rachel Marsden, but I'm deeply grateful to World-O-Crap for enlightening me - what a piece of work!

Simon Hoggart: "This labelling business is getting silly. One of my Christmas presents this year was a DVD of the film about Robert McNamara, The Fog of War. It's rated PG, and in the little box it advises: 'Contains mild language.'"

Lambert adamantly wishes to remind us that he was on this story before Josh Marshall, but then I'm pretty sure I linked to it at the time. Marshall being on it is confirmation that it's getting wider play, and that's important, too.

23:46 GMT

It might be news news

At the TPM empire: Josh says, "According to this story in today's Post, some right-wingers think some of Obama's advisors are too liberal. Imagine that ..." Man, talk about news you can lose! To the WaPo, that's a story. To anyone else, it would be a throw-away line, something like: "The substance of criticism from Republicans seems to be that a Democrat really did win the election, and they don't like it." (Also: TMP is trying to find out what the four firms the Fed has brought in are making for handling the toxic mortgage-securities buy-up, and no one's talking - especially not the firm whose chief said he'd do it for free. And Greg Sargent says farewell to TPM as he goes to his new job - blogging for The Washington Post.)

Getting It Right - It's nice to know that at least someone whose business it was noticed what was going on, and put his money where his mouth was. (But, really, Kevin, it's not too smart to dismiss long-term doomsayers as being just "chronic doomsayers" when we've been watching Republicans taking our system apart for 30 years. You don't ignore warnings that loosening the tiles on your roof will cause leaking that could ruin your whole house just because the person who warns you can't give you a precise description of exactly how and on what date these things will occur. The signs that this was going to happen didn't emerge just in the last decade, they've been as plain as the nose on my face since Reagan started hacking away at the roof.)

See, the thing that gets me is that, though I laughed at Obama's bowling score, it had nothing to do with whether I was going to vote for him. I mean, so what? I can bowl better than him, but only the Washington press corps could ever really care about this. Oh, yeah, this guy won the presidency, too.

Oh, look, the Republicans have a bold new plan. I can almost hear Newt's lips flapping.

14:00 GMT

Friday, 02 January 2009

Is your dog getting enough cheese?

"Pillaging as they Depart: The crash and burn nature of its leavetaking may be a large part of the 'legacy' the worst administration ever is amassing. The blows against the environment, the attempts to perpetuate oil companies' gains against this country, and now another slam at workers and salaries, add more dimension to the hostile takeover nature of the occupied White House."

Which kind of dovetails for me with Krugman's discussion of how it all started with how the GOP decided to be the party of racism, because the whole philosophy was about how people needed to understand that good government helps Those People, and we wouldn't want that. So all these white people who resented The Coloreds Getting Everything managed to stiff themselves because they didn't want government to help, or be just and fair to, other people, and it never occurred to them that they could be on the receiving end of the injustice, unfairness, and robbery-by-rich-people. Sure, put your career prospects in the hands of Cheap-Labor Conservatives just because you don't want black people to get anything. My mother called that "cutting off your nose to spite your face".

Akhil Reed Amar and Josh Chafet at Slate say the Senate can refuse to seat Burris, but it means cancelling out Blagojevich's presumption of innocence, first.

The ever-expanding Abramoff scandal: "More shoes are dropping. More details are being exposed. This is why the GOP fears the future, Obama and Eric Holder."

Fear of the Internets, Part 8,772: digital drugs.

Star Trek vs. Doctor Who Mashup - really rather good.

And a happy birthday to PNH, whose "two birthdays" turn up right next to each other.

18:12 GMT

A handful of links

Prison Reform: Sen. Jim Webb's Courageous Stand: "This week, as we turn our eyes to events beyond the borders of the United States, it is important to recall that any credibility we have in passing moral judgment on others is greatly diminished when we have not dealt effectively with the injustices in our own country. One such injustice, long ignored, places the United States at a shameful apex above all other nations: the ruthlessness of our prison system. Now, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), despite the political risks involved, has made an important step toward much needed reform." (And, at the other end of the spectrum, Mark Halperin still makes excuses for Bush.)

Cheney wanted to invade Iraq so much that he even lied to his friends.

"I Don't Recall Remembering" - The Alberto Gonzales Story.

"Guess which private equity groups are going to benefit from the wrecking of the global economy?"

If Israelis want to be in perpetual war with their neighbors, it looks like they have chosen the right strategy. Well, I say "perpetual", but I suspect that continuing this strategy does eventually lead to an ending - just not the one they wish for.

Noam Chomsky: Does Activism Matter?

01:35 GMT

Thursday, 01 January 2009

Nothing will make them stop

George F. Will is still trying to pretend that universal healthcare is too expensive. To do so he marshals a bunch of debatable "facts" and surmises, and simply ignores the fact that out in the civilized world, single-payer systems and even "socialized medicine" have already proven to work, and more cheaply than America's system. (Despite the fact that they smoke more, western Europeans have better healthcare outcomes, live longer, and spend their final years in better shape and more comfort.) This is the Can't-Do Conservatism of Rolls-Royce Republicans in a nation that is "exceptional", better than the rest - the very best! - and yet is unable to do what other countries have already done. (And, sure, George, keep talking about "lifestyle" choices, as if people in poor urban American neighborhoods are personally responsible for the fact that it's pretty hard to find supermarkets in them these days.)

I'm still not really up to speed on Roland Burris' background, but a lot of people seem to be really up in arms about the fact that Blago appointed him to replace Obama. Legally, he is entitled to do so, of course. Most of the buzz I've heard indicates that the guy had a comparatively clean reputation (which could account for the fact that he has never previously found success in the Chicago machine that elects who it wants to). His record makes him more liberal than we could have hoped for. There are suggestions that he is corrupt, of course, but perhaps he just wasn't corrupt enough. I don't know, you almost think the uproar (being spearheaded, as far as I can tell, by Harry Reid), is about Blagojevich deciding to spit in the eye of all the other corrupt people who are calling him out by appointing someone who wasn't part of their corrupt schemes. The fact that Reid is making a stink certainly indicates that something other than ethics is driving the outrage from his quarter, at least. On the other hand, I have no explanation for this: Roland Burris Has Already Constructed His Terrifying Death Chamber.

Dan asks me what I have to say about the UK's new "extreme porn" law, slated to come into effect on 26 January, though I perhaps hallucinated that I have already written about this here. In any case, I participated in the forum on this subject at Durham University back in 2007, and those of us who did so provided papers afterwards reflecting on the event, which can be found here - mine is about halfway down (page 16), and I think spells out my position on it. There are quotes from me in this New Statesman article, as well. Shorter Avedon: This is how a police state finds new ways to harm you and avoid doing anything to help you.

What Zbigniew Brzeszynski said to Joe Scarborough: "You have such a stunningly superficial knowledge of what went on that it's almost embarrassing to listen to you."

15:25 GMT

Happy New Year

Well, you know and I know that it's not so much 2008 we're happy to be seeing the back of as that other thing we have to wait 20 more days for, but hell, eat, drink and be merry, eh?

Jim Kunstler's Forecast 2009: "While the public supposedly voted for "change" this fall, I maintain that they underestimate the changes really at hand. I voted for "change" myself in pulling the lever for Barack Obama. I regard him as a figure of intelligence and sensibility, but I'm far from convinced that he really sees the kind of change we are in for, and I fret about the measures he'll promote to rescue the Status Quo when he moves into the White House a few weeks from now."

"They Lied With Their Boots On: It's hard to be surprised any more when the NYT echoes the Pentagon's G.I. jingo, but the experience of watching the newspaper of record cut and paste phrases like "a page from the successful experiment in Iraq" is aging poorly. From the outset, a key component of the surge strategy was the propaganda piece that would make it sound "successful" regardless of how it went."

I nearly missed the fact that The Sideshow shortlisted for the Best Midsize Blog category in the 2008 Weblog Awards.

"And we'll have a real good time - yessir!"

00:30 GMT

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, January 2009

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