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Friday, 29 July 2011

The people say

Wednesday on The Majority Report, Sam Seder talked to David Weigel about the debt deal, and Laura Clawson about the fiasco at the FAA. Thursday he talked to David Roberts of Grist about the Tim Dechristopher sentence and what it means for the environmental movement.

Glennzilla MSNBC's choice of Al Sharpton rather than Cenk: "How can a media outlet such as MSNBC that purports to be presenting political journalism possibly employ someone as a journalist -- even an opinion journalist -- who publicly and categorically pledges never to criticize the President of the United States under any circumstances? That would be like hiring a physician who vows never to treat any diseases, or employing an auto mechanic who pledges never to fix any cars, or retaining a pollster who swears never to make any findings about public opinion. Holding people in political power accountable is the prime function -- the defining feature -- of a journalist, including a pundit; if you expressly and publicly vow never to do that, how can you possibly be credibly presented as being one? And how can the political analysis of someone who takes this pledge possibly be trusted as sincerely held, let alone accurate? Note that this vow was not from three years ago; it was from two months ago."

Krugman says, "The problem with American politics right now is Republican extremism," but he's only half-right. The problem with American politics is that "centrists" are driving the train that's pushing Republicans ever further to the extreme, and there's no air left for the American people to get a word in edgewise. "Centrists" and right-wingers - especially those who we see every day in the "news" media - know perfectly well that the American people are not in favor of their far-right policies. They read the polls. But they don't care about the American people and they're just playing a game to see who can wreck the country the fastest.

Ta-Nehisi Coates on Obama and His Discontents: "Mr. Obama, of course, is not an activist but a politician held accountable by a broad national electorate. He is thus charged with the admittedly difficult task of nudging the country forward, even as he reflects it. That mission necessitates appreciating the art of compromise, but not fetishizing it. Mr. Obama need only look to his hero for an object lesson."

Ezra Klein on The dangers of being wrong on Keynes: "But rather than improving on Keynes, the Republican Party has turned against him and the Democratic Party has stopped trying to defend him, much less continue to implement his recommendations. 'The polarization of fiscal policy is one of the worst legacies to come out of the recession,' Romer says, sighing. 'Before the crisis, there was agreement that what you do when you run out of monetary tools is fiscal stimulus. Suddenly, it's like we're back in the 1930s.'" Krugman gets into the details.

Thank to BTC News for calling my attention to a couple of nice quotes. One is from A Tiny Revolution on how Barack Obama Is Powerless Before the Majesty of the Law: "Of course, as people with a sophisticated understanding of the law know, there's a huge difference between ignoring the debt ceiling and bombing Libya. For instance: Obama wants to bomb Libya." The other is an excellent question from Jack Crow: "The question is, 'Why shouldn't everyone have it easy?' I mean, everyone. If you can ask this question, I kindly submit to you that you are all the way there."

Anyone remember this joint appearance by Ron Paul and Ralph Nader a couple years back?

The Dixie Cups

16:24 BST

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The answer is always the same

It turned out that I joined ChiDy and Jay on Virtually Speaking Sundays, and it was a bit, um, freewheeling, but Jay did mention the FDR 1940 campaign speech in Pittsburgh.

Jay and Stuart were a lot more coherent than us on Thursday, and CMike even congratulated them down in comments to this post, where he added to the discussion of the purpose of Social Security.

So far on debt ceiling week, Sam Seder has talked to Digby and Ryan Grim, among others.

Thom Hartmann Takes On The Myth Of The Wealthy 'Job Creator' - The real job-creators in an economy are the ordinary working people who collect a paycheck and go out and spend. The concentrated accumulation of wealth at the top doesn't create jobs, it stops them from being created. Tax the rich - it's what Americans want.

That little creep on Reliable Sources let Cenk come on to his little CNN perch to talk about his departure from MSNBC and, of course, Cenk told the truth.

Black Agenda Radio for week of July 25, 2011: Torture is Routine in U.S. Prisons, "War on Terror" Worsens Somalia's Plight, Obama "Deal" is no Bargain, Charter Schools: Favorites of the Rich, Obama's Low Regard for Non-White Lives, Democracy, Anyone?

Froomkin says if you want to know who wins on the "free trade" deals, just check out the lobbyists.

He's risking his life for us: "The obstacles only make him more committed, he said. The women who have turned to him for abortions have had severe fetal abnormalities, he said. 'We have helped them.... They'd rather die than have these pregnancies,' he said."

Watch Bernie talk about the budget talks, and Take Bernie's poll.

This power can be used for good.



Torchwood spoiler: In a strange twist of the usual way things have been done, some sexy stuff that was shown in the US when it aired has been clipped from what will be shown in the UK!

Thanks to Charles for alerting me to the news that Gary Groth is gonna publish The Complete ZAP Comix!

MM & Amos

16:20 BST

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Sunday blues

Chicago Dyke and Jay Ackroyd tonight on Virtually Speaking, 9:00 PM Eastern.

On Thursday's Majority Report, Sam talked to Ari Berman about Elizabeth Warren, and Mike Papantonio about News Corp. On Friday, Cenk and Sam talked about working for the Man.

Just how much was the shooting spree in Norway a political crime? "Taking out 80+ of the people committed enough to go to the AUF's Utoya summer retreat? That's like sending a Terminator back in time to take out a future Parliamentary leadership."

David Neiwert isn't saying that Breitbart was an inspiration for the Norway shooter, and yet....

The purpose of Voter ID: "The Wisconsin legislature is finalizing a bill to close ten Department of Motor Vehicle centers located in Democratic districts within the state. The money saved will be used to extend operating hours at DMV centers in Republican districts. These cuts come on the heels of new voter ID laws that require voters to present a state-issued photo identification card at the poll booths."

I don't know what Obama thought he was talking about with this nonsense, but I don't think he's compromising at all, I think he's just getting the Republicans to give him cover for doing what he wants to do anyway because he's a creep who thinks killing lots of Americans by stealing from them is an appropriate balance to letting a bunch of really really rich people keep stealing. And he should just shut up about everyone having "skin in the game" until I see him and his cronies lose some actual skin. Skin? All because these guys can't bear to take a haircut? they're barely in line for a slight trim, and you want to scalp everyone else? I've reached the point where most days I'm just left agape by President Grand Bargain, so I'm glad Digby can still form coherent sentences and paragraphs about it all.

Our great geniuses cannot wait to side-step the Constitution completely (which is no surprise - their long attack on the American form of government is now so blatant that no one believes there is really anyone to vote for), but I really wish I could convince people to stop using terms like "entitlements" and "discretionary spending". These are not the kinds of phrases you use for things that you've paid for and are now owed. And, if you go into a shop and give the cashier money for a product, is their delivery of said product "discretionary spending"? No, it is not - it is a firm obligation. What Obama is talking about is refusing to fulfill obligations. Defaulting on the American people. Just quit using their language, will you?

Yves: "This puts the Treasury's actions beyond the rule of law. This is a financial coup d'etat...."

I'm certainly not supporting any party where I can't nominate Lady Gaga. She couldn't possibly be worse than what Tom Friedman would come up with. (via)

We only need 535 people. (Also: Shorter Obama.)

Of course she was 27: Roy Edroso on the death of Amy Winehouse, Roz Kaveney For Amy, and, of course, Amy on the BBC. (I don't know why the first one is so quiet, but it's worth it to put the headphones on.)

Back in the day, some slang hadn't crossed the Atlantic, but the comics did....

"Young Girl Sunday Blues"

22:43 BST

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Oh, yeah

Down in comments, CMike advises: "Max Keiser provides a minute or so of useless analysis but Stacy Herbert does spotlight a headline about "fair use" here which I found interesting."

Senator Franken vs. Focus on the Family - It's so nice to have a guy in the Senate who actually knows what the opposition is talking about. And tells the truth about it.

More treason - An assassination attempt was made on the two leading members of the Democratic Party a decade ago, and a number of very strange things happened, and keep happening. One is that the FBI seems to have hounded a guy into suicide as the supposed assassin, despite the fact that no one thought he could have done it. (Another is that Bush administration officials were telling their friends to stock up on Cipro before the anthrax attacks had even happened.) Of course, we all know why the Bush administration wasn't terribly interested in having assassination attempts against two US Senators investigated properly, but, now that everyone knows the "suspect" couldn't have been the guy, as Glenn Greenwald points out, Bush's successor seems willing to go up against Congress as well as even many conservative newspapers such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post to prevent important information from seeing the light of day: "But, of course, in the U.S., the nation's most powerful political and financial factions -- especially those who control the National Security State -- are immune from meaningful scrutiny and investigation. As a result, President Obama -- in what I think is one his most indefensible acts -- actually threatened to veto the entire intelligence authorization bill if it included a proposed bipartisan amendment (passed by the House) that would have mandated an independent inquiry into the FBI's anthrax investigation. Democratic Rep. Rush Holt, whose New Jersey district was the site where the letters were allegedly mailed and one of the bill's sponsors, said at the time he was appalled that 'an Administration that has pledged to be transparent and accountable would seek to block any review of the investigation in this matter.'"

Also from Glenn, in the Guardian, "Barack Obama is gutting the core principles of the Democratic party." Defend this president at your peril.

It's little wonder that the public hates both parties. But, now that it's clear Obama is the one really holding things up on the debt ceiling because he wants to kill Social Security and Medicaid so bad, the public is finally blaming the Republicans. Even Republicans are blaming them. The dirty secret is that Obama is leading the charge. Think they'll figure it out by election day?

JP Masser says, "I Know Where All the Democrats Have Gone." The big news for me was that MoveOn seems to have finally noticed that Obama is doing a bad thing.

David Dayen: "Florida AG's Politically Motivated Firings Protect the Foreclosure Fraud Industry. Maybe it's because I've done so much reporting on the foreclosure fraud issue, but I have to admit to some surprise that the firing of two Assistant Attorney Generals down in Florida, the hotbed of the housing crisis, hasn't gotten much attention nationally. In my mind, this is the state-based equivalent of the US Attorney scandal. You have a conservative Attorney General who has fired two investigators who were tasked by a previous Republican regime with finding violations of the law. When they proved too effective for the next regime to stomach, they were canned. And now, the new AG, Pam Bondi, is smearing their reputations."

It is amazing to me that no matter how obvious it is that Muslim terrorists have nothing to do with it, our great purveyors of opinion just can't seem to remember what a terrorist looks like. Seriously, it was never likely to be the case that Al Qaeda - who spent over a decade planning attacks on internationally-recognized, gigantic symbols of western hubris, would waste their time with major attacks on local buildings that no one outside of the area had ever heard of. Everyone knew the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the White House, but some government building in Oklahoma City was meaningless to Al Qaeda even if they knew it was there, and there is nothing in Norway that has that kind of symbolic power in the eyes of the world. A school group? Really? Al Qaeda didn't know it existed. And anyway..

See, the reason we don't want to just help "the truly needy" is because you have to help people before they become "truly needy" so they don't fall that far down that they may not be able to get up again. Everyone, at some point in their lives, makes some sort of mistake or just runs into a bit of bad luck that could have dire consequences for them, depending on what kind of supports they already have in place. These days, there only seem to be second chances for those who either have lots of money or miraculous luck. So you try to keep people form going over the edge before it happens.

The bright side of climate change.

Political poster

25 Things You Should Know About Dialogue

Video of an Australian kid novelty act performing a song by a foreign group most people hadn't heard of.

16:16 BST

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Media stew

Southern Beale on Truth Telling: "Cenk Uygur is out at MSNBC. Love him or hate him, what's truly interesting is his explanation of why. Cenk reveals that he was told to 'tone it down': he was making people 'in Washington' uncomfortable. Even though his ratings were strong, he was too hard on the guests, he was too much of an outsider. MSNBC views themselves as insiders. 'We are the establishment,' they told him."

Sam Seder interviewed Jeremy Scahill about black sites as well as doing heavy coverage of the Murdoch inquiry on Tuesday's Majority Report Sam also made an important point on that show - that our leaders aren't arguing about whether or not to default, they're just arguing about the best way to default on their obligations to the American people. On Wednesday's show, Sam talked to David Dayen about the Murdoch saga and other things. Oh, and, if you feel you must vote for Obama, you can send a message.

"Philadelphia gets Archbishop Rush Limbaugh." Gosh, and the Vatican likes to pretend they are against priests being "political", too. Well, we know what they really mean. (via) And this is probably a good way to save money. It's not like your kid is likely to find a job, anyway. And we can never get enough of this guy.

It looks like Digby has come over to my view: "Until the last few months I have always argued that a Democratic president was always going to be preferable to a Republican because of the Supreme Court --- and the partisan necessity to protect the "entitlements" from the GOP's ongoing assaults. I would have assumed that any Democrat would issue a veto threat on this Gang of Six monstrosity rather than praise it. I would have also assumed that all Democratic voters and liberal commentators would be aghast that the Democratic Party would even contemplate such a plan when so many people are suffering and there's no end in sight. Times have certainly changed." Obama loves the fact that the House is controlled by Republicans. It's what he wanted. It's giving him lots of room to screw us. I don't know how we can get out of this short of replacing everyone in Congress and the White House with Bernie Sanders clones, and I don't see that happening any time soon.

Why Elizabeth Warren should not run for the Senate.

Dan makes the excellent point that it's sexist to focus on how crazy and stupid and ignorant Palin and Bachman are when it's crazy stupid ignorant all the way down.

Atrios says, "Taking The People Out Of Politics: Leaving aside policy disagreements, and for sake of discussion assuming good intentions, I think the group being discussed are basically not fans of democracy. Voters and elections are problems, and the biggest problem for the Democratic party are actual Democrats. They'd prefer that government be run by some sort of committee headed by Robert Rubin. They dreamed of somehow ending politics, of just creating and implementing some sort of "consensus" (not of the people, but of the people who mattered) and then hitting the play button."

Dkos is starting a labor stream on their site, now. I don't know where that will go but if they can avoid thinking "Republicans" when they mean conservatives (both avowedly and "centrist"), they might be all right.

Crazy right-wing black people aren't a surprise to me. Leaving aside well-known clowns like Alan Keyes, I came out of the house in a city that was 90% black and I'm well aware that crazy right-wingery knows no racial boundaries and black people, just like white people, are capable of every kind of meanness of spirit, self-righteousness, stupidity, craziness, avarice, chicanery, sleaze, and even smooth confidence games. So you can have this guy, who, like Keyes, makes you sit up and go, "Who do you think you're foolin'?" or you can have Obama, who gets to be President of the United States and still do crazy, stupid, destructive stuff and doesn't trigger your defenses until it's way, way too late.

Hmmm. For people wondering, "Why now?" there is the fact that certain people always want to make you pay and pay double. The guy had been working as a bricklayer because he could no longer get a job in journalism, but that really isn't enough for some people. But, even if the death is "not suspicious", there is the point that ruining a journalist who made the mistake of exposing the truth, aside from being enough to drive him to the ultimate extreme, is necessary to both the success and the revenge impulses of evil people. Getting someone to the point where they kill themselves is even better than having to send your henchmen to do it.

Pinball Museum

16:30 BST

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Dark, with scattered light

I thought Stuart Zechman and Culture of Truth took an interesting little journey through the bizarre dialog of the Villagers on Thursday's Virtually Speaking.

On Friday's Majority Report, Cliff Schecter and Sam Seder were still a bit shell-shocked from Obama's presser and were forced to conclude that Obama is more right-wing than a lot of Republicans. And on Monday's show, Sammy talked to John Nichols and Julie Underwood about ALEC.

"How The Corporate Court Harms Consumers: Mike Papantonio talks with Arthur Bryant, president of Public Justice, about the recent Supreme Court decision that protects pharmaceutical companies from lawsuits when their pills kill or injure consumers."

Down in comments, Bokononist recommends "Dancing on Liberalism's Grave", Scare's commentary on it, and "How can the Left Win?"

I keep hearing that people on "the left" prefer politicians who compromise but people on the right prefer people who "stick to their guns no matter what", so who are the 71% discussed here?

"The Next American Revolution? What America's current movement against corporate power can learn from that time we overthrew a king."

It was dogged investigative journalism at the Guardian that finally pried the rock off the News of the World scandal - Nick Davis talks about the implications of what they found.

And, of course, the arrest of Rebekah Brookes was added fun, and then the head of the Met resigned, and now so has the top terrorism guy. I'll wait to see how big a clean-up job they do before I really start celebrating, but, still. And Amy Goodman is in the Guardian asking how deep this goes on the American side. And the shareholders are unhappy as the share value falls. There's a whole lot of talk about getting rid of the crazy old man whose agenda seems to be more political than financial - and his family.

Nice catch from Bluegal, who found a bit of Fry & Laurie as Clarence the Angel and Rupert Murdoch in It's a Wonderful Life.

I can't believed I missed this. How does anyone even grow up able to think like this?

Political cartoons from Bagley and Signe Wilkinson

"Did Wall Street Kill Rock and Roll?"

Torchwood in Ten Minutes: "Miracle Day" Episode One (Chock full o' spoilers.)

Somebody sent me one of those annoying Jesus Loves You etc. spams and it claimed to be from the Universal Life Church.

15:13 BST

Friday, 15 July 2011

Let's all sit down and have a nice cup of tea

Well, now Douthat, Krugman, and Taibbi are all saying out loud that, for whatever reason, Obama is pushing things to the right. It may be true that Obama is doing it for what he - and the DLC/Third Way/New Democrat types - believe will be the path to electoral victory, but I doubt it, since there is that little problem of the electorate to contend with. As I said below, the only way this works electorally is if Obama can make a convincing case to the right-wingers who control a substantial proportion of the voting apparatus in America to fix the race for him. If that's his constituency, then yes, it's probably a winning strategy. But if it's addressed to the voters, well, who wants to vote for this creep? Even most Republicans want to preserve Social Security and Medicare. Why, most people even want to preserve Medicaid, strange as that may seem.

So, it occurs to me, maybe there is only one thing left for liberals to do: Join the Tea Party.

No, no, hear me out.

One thing that comes through when you read all those stories about the exciting emergence of the Tea Party that breathlessly report their every move is that people are, by and large, angry about many of the same things we're angry about, but they don't know that. What they see is elite liberals - as the media calls them - rattling on about how we need to screw up Social Security and Medicaid. And Obama gave all our money to the bankers!!!

Next time you hear this stuff, wouldn't it be good to be right there saying, "Yes, I don't understand why Senator Obama voted for TARP when Bush proposed it. It was about to die in Congress and he went out of his way to help the Republicans pass it."

Also, these snooty "liberals" are unconcerned about jobs, fergodssakes! Whenever did you see two parties fight so hard to prove that they didn't give a damn about jobs?

Oops, did I let the phrase "two parties" slip in there? Yes, and that's the point. Being able to say, "They're both doing it!" could be the meme we most need to spread, and I can't think of a better place to spread it. Cheap-labor blue bloods piss everyone off, so why not point out that they lead both parties - and do it where those on the ground will hear it? Hell, if you say it at a Tea Party event, the press might even report it.

Besides, I think it would be amusing to be at a Tea Party event carrying an accurate sign protesting Obama's policies and chatting with fellow Americans who know something is wrong - that is, using the Koch brothers' apparatus to spread left-wing memes. Just don't tell anyone you're a liberal and they will probably never guess.

But here's Krugman again, pointing out that Obama has offered an extremely right-wing, destructive package to the Republicans, and they won't take it - and then saying the Republicans are the ones who are crazy. Are you sure, Paul?

Robert Reich: "Washington insiders will consider the McConnell compromise a win for Obama. But the rest of the country hasn't been paying much attention and won't consider it much of a win for either side. Their attention is riveted to the economy, particularly jobs and wages. If those don't improve, Obama will be a one-term president regardless of how the GOP wants to paint him."

David Waldman says, "Think you know the Koch story? Not if you don't know ALEC.. People (and that includes journalists!) are starting to catch on to the political toxicity of the billionaire Koch brothers. But the crucial next step in opening people's eyes to how these guys work is to show them just how Koch brothers schemes get turned into the bat-$#*@ crazy legislation that just happens to pop up, seemingly out of nowhere, in virtually identical form, in 15 states at once."

All these years later, there is still more to learn about the original October Surprise - and, now, a look Inside the October Surprise Cover-up: "The George H.W. Bush Library in Texas has just released thousands of pages of documents on the October Surprise mystery, revealing how Bush's inner circle handled allegations that the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1980 struck a treacherous deal with Iran. It was a textbook case of controlling the narrative, reports Robert Parry." They had their talking points ready, of course: "Among 'touchstones' cited by Gray were 'No Surprises to the White House, and Maintain Ability to Respond to Leaks in Real Time. This is Partisan.'"

Dan Choi says, "We Must Stand With Bradley Manning [...] The chat logs of his conversations are reminiscent of some of the same feelings that go unvoiced by the vast majority of soldiers: questioning the purpose of our mission when politics has mired us in prisons of moral turpitude. That Bradley voiced his concerns proves he was the least unstable and most moral of all the members of his team."

Getting rid of Jane Harman didn't work out.

Ding dong the witch is dead - Rupert put a newspaper out of business and a couple hundred people out of work to protect her, but now Rebekah Brooks gets thrown under the bus with them.

I haven't said anything about Strauss-Kahn because it just looked like another one of those things where an open secret suddenly became important to "expose" when he was in the way. of important people. That's the funny thing about sex scandals - they are so handy for going after someone, but they aren't even acknowledged, no matter how blatant or egregious, unless you get on the wrong side of the right people. Back in the days when we were still friends with Saddam, people were screaming about the rape rooms and everyone knew about them, but the wrong people were doing the screaming while Saddam was doing what he was told, so they were of no consequence. Then he became the designated enemy, and suddenly we were hearing about rape rooms all the time. The Right People couldn't wait to destroy Anthony Weiner's career, and for some reason he didn't realize he was in the line of fire and did something stupid. Just like Tim Russert's obsession with Clinton's appendage. Why do these things matter? Because they are convenient. (I sometimes wonder if Clinton wasn't the choice for president because they always knew they could get him on his bimbo habit if he misbehaved.) Assange is probably an inconsiderate lover (or maybe not - he could just be a slut and they knew they could find a way to make him behave more irresponsibly than usual with a bit of persuasion), but the intensity with which they went after him is just not usual for even the most brutal rape, let alone what he is accused of. I'm betting a lot of the people who called for Strauss-Kahn's head after his exposure knew all along he was a creep toward women but they just saw that as convenient leverage.

Verbal Kung Fu and another good thing about food.

Generally speaking, I love the London Underground map just the way it is, but I sure could have used one like this (only readable) the day I needed to get to Bayswater and found out too late that it would have been faster to get out at Queensway than to change at Notting Hill Gate.

Why Harry Potter Should Really Be All About Hermione Granger (via)

22:50 BST

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

With friends like these

The thing that interested me about the first four paragraphs of Ross Douthat's column was that they were true. (Well, except for the phrase "bigger spending cuts than he would otherwise support" - actually, he supports those, too.) After that, the article falls apart, because the conservatism of Obama's policies will only do Obama any good at the polls to the extent that the people who own and run the voting machines are willing to cheat for him. Obama's approval numbers aren't terribly good right now. I noticed, clicking on this link (via Atrios, who tells us Mitch McConnell, of all people, looks to be trying to save us from Obama's posturing), that the TPM poll tracker is saying Obama's disapproval numbers look higher than his approval numbers - not a good sign. Again, the public is figuring out that Obama isn't their friend despite the fact that the media won't tell them the truth about anything. Obama could use his position to put an end to the lies we're hearing about evil public servants and seniors sucking the government teat and all that, but he appears to agree with those lies. However, the craziness of the Republicans is probably the only thing Obama has going for him, even though policy-wise there is really no difference between them. Well, maybe there's a difference, but not one that works in Obama's favor with the Democratic base - he seems even more interested in starving the public than the Republicans are these days. As Yves says, the "Change" Obama appears to be in pursuit of is "to a more brutal, grasping, dog eat dog society, all administered by self serving elites." Of course, he must have supporters somewhere....

Meanwhile, Republican voters are showing their own dissatisfaction with the way things are by choosing a union guy over the machine-backed candidate. As with the Dems, the party leadership may be crazy, but maybe the rank and file are not so nuts.

Krugman, "No, We Can't? Or Won't? [...] Our failure to create jobs is a choice, not a necessity - a choice rationalized by an ever-shifting set of excuses."

Atrios has Geithner bragging about wrecking the country: "This is still a very tough economy. For a lot of people, it's going to feel very hard - harder than anything they've experienced in a lifetime now - for some time to come." They know what they're doing. It's what they want to do.

If they really wanted to destroy everything of value in the United States without it much benefiting anyone, they came up with a really great idea. It's not just the ground they're fracturing.

Just for the record, if I call my doc's office in the morning asking for an appointment in the afternoon, I get an appointment in the afternoon. If he's on vacation, there will be arrangements made so that I can see someone else. But I can't even imagine waiting periods like these. (Also: Methane leaks, or why we need good regulation and enforcement, Part 4,866.)

It seems like only days ago that the Murdoch story was just a personal fancy, something I linked because of my long, long, long horror at everything Murdoch has done to us. I noticed it almost as soon as I arrived in Britain and found it stomach-turning when I saw him actually buying law in the US to spread his poison there. When it reached the point where there's an announcement in Parliament that the BSkyB deal is now being referred to the Competition Commission, my eyes went wide. Clearly, Murdoch finally managed to piss off the wrong people, because it's never been a secret that unethical and illegal behavior is rewarded, rather than punished, at News Corps. But now, even Carl Bernstein and John Dean have referred to it as "Murdoch's Watergate".

(This Special Comment from Keith Olbermann on Obama's policies is riddled with flaws, but still brought a tear to my eye, for all that I don't think Obama is betraying what he is, and for all that I know that the impact your life has on other people's lives can keep you remembered for a very long time whether that impact is good or evil. After all, though some of us may remember the good FDR did, we remember Hitler, too.)

On Virtually Speaking Susie, Matt Stoller told Susie Madrak that it's too late to rely on electoral politics. (Although, it seems, Democratic voters on the ground can still do the business.)

I guess you can only get a job if you don't really need one.

Seeing America

Let me know if this ever happens.

A few words from Betty Ford

xkcd brings you a bit of style guide from Strunk & White.

15:07 BST

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The In Crowd

I've asked Lambert Strether of Corrente to join me tonight on Virtually Speaking Sundays to talk about how, basically, they know perfectly well what they're doing to us and that they don't have to do it, but they're doing it anyway and no one is telling the truth. Watch live at 6:00 PM Pacific, 9:00 PM Eastern, 2:00 AM BST, or stream or download the podcast later at the link.

Remember being told how Obama was going to get all those awful Republican operatives out of government so regulators and oversight specialists could do their jobs? It's worse than a joke to watch what the Obama administration policies on that matter are. Because they're not just leaving right-wing operatives in place, they are turning malfeasance into policy. It's well beyond "regulatory capture". (I've never understood the way libertarians point to regulatory capture as a reason to disempower government. They know regulatory capture is bad, and they know it will happen, but their answer is to simply get rid of the regulators entirely and let the people who they know will bribe and corrupt run things without interference. That is, instead of guarding against regulatory capture, you just get rid of the things that can slow it down. How does that make sense?)

People are only just beginning to become aware of a creepy organization called ALEC - the American Legislative Exchange Council - and how it is dedicated to a mission to destroy America from the highest reaches of power. They are in the boardrooms and even in Congress and they are among the most dangerous people in America. You should know who they are and try to stop them, and help your neighbors do the same.

What's missing from this fake straight talk about what's "really" wrong with the economy is that all of the "causes" are uncaused, they just happened without anyone doing anything and there's nothing that can really undo them, we should just dick around with SSI and wring our hands.

Via Suburban Guerrilla I learn that Ron Paul has a solution to debt ceiling madness, and that Dean Baker thinks it's a "surprisingly lucid" plan. "In short, Representative Paul has produced a very creative plan that has two enormously helpful outcomes. The first one is that the destruction of the Fed's $1.6 trillion in bond holdings immediately gives us plenty of borrowing capacity under the current debt ceiling. The second benefit is that it will substantially reduce the government's interest burden over the coming decades. This is a proposal that deserves serious consideration, even from people who may not like its source." Of course, it won't happen, because then they'd lose their fake "reason" for killing Social Security, public education, Medicaid and Medicare, and any other "social" program they can wreck, and that's what this is really all about. Susie thinks she knows the rationale behind Obama's policy of greasing the slide to serfdom: "Rather than do the hard work of bringing other countries up to our standards, he's decided we have to be broken. And he thinks it's what's 'best' for us. He's doing it because he cares. He sees social programs as simply postponing the day when the workers (not the special people, like him and his friends) are living in tin shacks without running water, and he wants to wean us off the safety net." Well, he's certainly driving the economy down. (Also, salt is not bad for your heart.)

Really, though. He's as much as spelled it out. Wrecking the American economy is the policy.

More on that from Digby, on our culture of casual, careless cruelty, the jaw-dropping conservatism of the administration, the shrillness of Kevin Drum in the face of horrible, anti-Democratic policies (that he still doesn't understand are meant to be that way), who they are spreading the pain to, Geithner lying about the need for Kabuki, and more screwing it up when they can't even pretend to know what they're doing. I mean, seriously, these are people who are betting against the United States and then fixing the game.

And, just for grins, another Up Yours from His Excellency.

So, I wonder, what's MoveOn.org gonna do about it?

Emma Goldman went to the Soviet Union to see how Utopia was working out, and declared, "It doesn't work!" She didn't mean so much that communism as a structure didn't, or couldn't, work, but rather that whatever it was the Soviets were doing was not an effective way to do the ordinary business of making basic physical stuff like water and sewers and getting food to people work. Because what she was looking at was a machine that simply didn't work. It's quite understandable that many Americans heard that and thought, "Thank God I live in a capitalist society!" But now it's beginning to dawn that, like what Goldman saw in the early Soviet Union, America's structure, increasingly, doesn't work. And it's going to get worse. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Plot Device (via) is neat.

A bunch of my favorite musicians doing a couple of my favorite songs in a single clip, live.

CMike says that, "any similarity found at the link here to any politician, living or dead, is purely coincidental."

15:40 BST

Friday, 08 July 2011

There is a Social Security Crisis - named Barack Obama

Obama's Political, Economic Advisers Say Jobless Rate Won't Matter in 2012: "With polls telling us that the vast majority of the country disapproves of Mr. Obama's handling of the economy and even larger majorities fear the country is on the wrong track, Mr. Pflouffe believes he can lie about his guy's vision better than Mitt Romney can lie about his. May the gods help us all."

Well, yeah, spinning is what it's all about, isn't it? Down in comments to the post below, Jawbone provides a link to this edition of NewsHour (transcript included) in which Andrew Kohut of Pew Research Center repeatedly states that the Republicans in Congress and Obama are hell-bent on doing what the public opposes - not just "a majority", but a two-to-one majority that includes a pretty big numbers of Republicans, too. And does anyone point out that this means our "leaders" are being anti-democratic? Of course not: "JUDY WOODRUFF: And so I hear you saying some of the public reaction is going to depend on how this is packaged, how it is described to the American people, whatever -- if they come up with an agreement." So the real deal is that the right-wing and the far-right wing are going to get together to strategize on how to sell you this piece of crap. It appears the plan will be to "save" social programs the same way they "got combat troops out of Iraq" - by calling it something else. ("And if you think Democrats are playing dumb because they want a deal, think again. They're some of the biggest supporters of this plan.")

Right-wing Dems want to grab Lynn Woolsey's seat, and Norman Solomon wants to stop them.

Why The Democrat Grassroots Should Withhold Contributions From Obama's Reelection Campaign [...] "In his autobiography, The Audacity of Hope, Obama admits he has a hard time feeling a truly pressing sense of urgency about the great issues of the day." You can't help the feeling that all those people who told you it was all in his books and you should read them had not read them, either.

Susie Madrak's guest on Virtually Speaking Susie was long-time blogger Lance Mannion. On Thursdays Virtually Speaking, Stuart Zechman, Culture of Truth, Stirling Newberry, and Ian Welsh.

I think a lot of people have missed the point that continued failure on the part of Democrats to push back against anti-abortion rhetoric, lies, and legislation has left us in a state where there are already huge areas of the United States where abortion is effectively unavailable - and that's before George W. Bush even took office. Allowing late-term abortion to be demonized and restricted, as well as further restrictions on the availability of abortion without parental consent and numerous other legislative attacks, all but guaranteed that abortion providers could more easily be targetted. I'm not sure about current laws in Texas, but I have no reason to think that low-earning women in the state have any better access to a safe, legal abortion than Norma McCorvey did in 1969. You have to remember that, contrary to the revised history of the right wing, there was no movement against the 1973 decision at the time - it had to be assiduously fostered by big money from the wealthy right and took years to emerge as even a marginal movement. Even before Roe v. Wade was decided, we had an environment in which even Republicans happily signed legislation assuring the availability of abortion on Welfare. Because Democrats continuously gave ground on those rights - abortion on welfare, privacy for minors, late-term abortion, timely access, and so on - we are in this situation today. (Oh, and anyone who thinks Democrats couldn't have stopped those five right-wing loonies from being appointed to the Supremes is out of their minds. Obama himself was part of the effort to get Roberts confirmed.)

First Google, and now The Huffington Post, have decided to block me from seeing their US front pages, preferring to redirect me to an entirely different UK news headline page so I can avoid accidental exposure to what Americans are talking about. Yeah, that's just what I use the internet for, you putzes. (Of course, I use neither for my headline news source anyway, but if they're doing that, I really have no reason to go to their front page at all, do I? I'm sure if they post anything worthwhile, I can get the link from one of my favorite blogs.) And according to HuffPo, almost all of the news is about the announcement that the last issue of News of the World will be published this Sunday, proceeds to go to "charity" (presumably one chosen by Rupert Murdoch, which is an unpleasant prospect). Oh, well, at least Andy Coulson is getting arrested... But everyone knows that throughout News Corps, it has always been the case that if you do things that are dishonest or even illegal and manage to stay out of jail, you usually get promoted, not fired. This fish definitely rotted from the top.

PBTrue forwards a letter from Free Press' CEO about their campaign to prevent further media consolidation that had some good news in it:

Today, in a sweeping victory for communities across the country, a federal appeals court overturned the Federal Communications Commission's attempt to weaken media ownership rules.

Had these rules gone into effect, it would have unleashed a new wave of media consolidation across the country.

In 2007, the FCC ignored letters and calls from millions of Americans and tried to rewrite its media ownership rules to let companies own both newspapers and TV or radio stations in the same town. This change would have opened the floodgates to new media mergers, leading to even more layoffs in newsrooms while thinning out diverse perspectives from local news.

We sued the FCC for ignoring the public outcry. Today, we won. The court tossed out the FCC's flawed rules, but also upheld all other media consolidation restrictions and told the FCC it needed to do better to support and foster diverse voices in the media - all crucial decisions for our fight to build better media.

This isn't just our victory - it's your victory, too.

Strange, I missed that story in The New York Times....

22:06 BST

Thursday, 07 July 2011

This isn't really news, is it?

From The New York Times, "Obama to Push for Wider Deal With G.O.P. on Deficit Cuts [...] The president's renewed efforts follow what knowledgeable officials said was an overture from Mr. Boehner, who met secretly with Mr. Obama last weekend, to consider as much as $1 trillion in unspecified new revenues as part of an overhaul of tax laws in exchange for an agreement that made substantial spending cuts, including in such social programs as Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security - programs that had been off the table."

From The Washington Post, "In debt talks, Obama offers Social Security Cuts [...] As part of his pitch, Obama is proposing significant reductions in Medicare spending and for the first time is offering to tackle the rising cost of Social Security, according to people in both parties with knowledge of the proposal. The move marks a major shift for the White House and could present a direct challenge to Democratic lawmakers who have vowed to protect health and retirement benefits from the assault on government spending."

Even Oliver Willis is losing faith:

No Matter Who Threatens Social Security (Including Obama), It's Filibuster Time

If I'm being charitable, I'll just assume the White House is floating a trial balloon in order to make the eventual Republican rejection look even worse. AKA "we even offered to cut social security!" But if there's any reality to this proposal, I hope that at the very least a senator like Bernie Sanders and the few remaining Senate Dems who aren't spineless or bought off will filibuster.


We've broken enough stones in America on the backs of the middle class and the poor. We bailed out the uber-wealthy and didn't attach any strings as they collapsed the global economy.

No more.

Of course, it's naive of Willis to assume Obama's 11-dimensional chess is being played against Republicans when it's Obama who revived the whole "Social Security crisis" monster in the first place and started pouring on the "something has to be done about entitlements" meme from the moment he entered the White House. Wrecking Social Security is what he wants to do, and this whole monstrous game is about getting it done.

Of course, we have to vote for Democrats because they are protecting our reproductive rights, yeah. I mean, they're doing such a great job! "It's official. Every abortion provider in the state of Kansas has been denied a license to continue operating as of July 1."

Don't you pretend for a minute that the Republicans did this all by themselves.

15:12 BST

Wednesday, 06 July 2011

It's your money

From time to time I like to remind people that the government makes the money and then decides who to give it to. Money has value because it's the only thing the government will accept in payment of taxes, so you have to have some to give back to the government.

I like to remind people of that for a number of reasons, such as the fact that, when the government makes money, it can decide to give it to people like you (through civil service jobs, or government programs that subsidize small businesses that pay you, or welfare or whatever), so that you have money to spend and thus support local businesses and create incentives for people to innovate, to open more businesses, to hire more people, etc. - or, they can just give it to a bunch of rich people who will sit on it and not do much with it except bribe and corrupt the government so that they can create monopolies and prevent competition from small businesses and creators who will innovate and create jobs &etc.

So now you need to ask the next question, which no one ever asks, which is:

If the government makes the money in the first place, why do we have to borrow money to pay for government programs?

Well, in real, structural terms, we don't. But here's the funny thing: When Congress took us off the gold standard, they included a requirement in the law that we have to borrow in order to spend. Yes, that's right - even though we make the money, we can't just spend it - we have to borrow anyway. It's like being told you have to take out a loan to buy your car even though you already have the money, but you're only allowed to use your money to pay off a loan (at high interest) rather than just go out and buy the car.

So it works as a kind of welfare program for the banks.

So next time someone tries to convince you that "private enterprise" operates independently from government meddling and blah blah blah, make sure they know that it really makes its money because the government forces us to give them our money.

By the way, another thing you might like to ask yourself and others is this: If the United States government is effectively not demanding taxes from corporations and rich people, doesn't that mean they don't need US dollars?

* * * * *

Digby unpacked the Big Things Obama said about why we have to wreck our economy on behalf of rich elites: "Keep in mind that even if one agrees that the most important thing you must do at a time of 10% unemployment, a dead housing sector and anemic growth is tackle 'the deficit', there is absolutely nothing anywhere that says it has to be done under a threat to not raise the debt ceiling. That is an artificial deadline, completely made up with absolutely no authority whatsoever. He is fundamentally misleading the American people about this at this point. Raising the debt limit is a pro-forma vote that if passed simply allows the government to keep paying its bills, it's not 'kicking the can down the road." Not that any of this matters, by the way, since they'll do what they want to do and make sure we can't vote them out for it.

Even Media Matters starts to get stories wrong when it corrects them. Eric Boehlert has been all over this story of how the NYT interviewed Breitbart and let him walk away from his false charges against Shirley Sherrod, but so far they have reprinted his variations on his lie while correcting only the part about the audience response. But just to refresh my memory I went back and watched the edited clip Breitbart posted, and even in its original, misleading form, Sherrod never says she didn't help the white farmer. What she says is that she didn't do as much for him as she could have, instead putting his case into the hands of a white lawyer - and that that's when she found out it wasn't about color, but about poverty.

Apparently, the Supreme Court ruled recently that if Johnson & Johnson knowingly kills you by giving you a hip replacement that poisons you, it's just too damned bad for you. But Google wouldn't help me find a story I can link to.

This is the so-called leader of the so-called Labour Party. (I suppose you could say he might as well just repeat the same point since the reporter isn't likely to ask anything meaningful anyway, but still.)

15:34 BST

Tuesday, 05 July 2011

Son, you don't understand

On certain days of the year, the burning questions in my mind are these:
1. Who was the idiot who decided that the best way to do fireworks is to send off so many at once that you can't enjoy any one of them?
2. What moron thought dense smoke that obscures everything else was a brilliant thing to introduce to fireworks displays?.
Honest to god, they're spending literally millions of dollars on fireworks shows that aren't as cool as the ones we used to get in our neighborhood when we were kids. It's just sad. And all that smoke is like being stuck in traffic.

One of the things I love about Dean Baker is that he still manages to convey a sense of outrage when infamous hacks like George Will do their infamous hackery: "It really is incredible to see such a concerted effort to rewrite history in front of our faces. There is not much ambiguity in the story of the housing bubble. The private financial sector went nuts. They made a fortune issuing bad and often fraudulent loans which they could quickly resell in the secondary market. The big actors in the junk market were the private issuers like Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Lehman Brothers. However, George Will and Co. are determined to blame this disaster on government 'compassion' for low-income families."

Frank Rich on Obama's Original Sin: "The president's failure to demand a reckoning from the moneyed interests who brought the economy down has cursed his first term, and could prevent a second." Oh, I dunno, the Republicans are working awfully hard to get him re-elected.

NPR interviewed Fareed Zakaria of the Conservative News Network (CNN) and the conservative magazine Time, and he told the truth about deficits: "America's political system, Zakaria says, becomes mired in debate and cannot deal with the short-term deficit. 'To put it in perspective, if Congress were to do nothing, the Bush tax cuts would expire next year,' he says. 'That by itself would yield $3.9 trillion to the federal government over the next 10 years. We would go to the bottom of the pack in terms of deficit as a percentage of GDP among the rich countries in the world - we would basically solve our fiscal problems for the short term.'" He also pointed out that we're lagging in, well, just about everything.

The Crises of Capitalism - David Harvey on why we need to rethink our structural model. (And, by the way, do you see anywhere on this page - or even the website - telling you what "RSA" stands for? Isn't that going just a bit too far in the "Everyone already knows who we are" mode?)

Dan Froomkin's 4th of July message was a bleak one, on how Obama's refusal too "look backward" at the horrors of Bush/Cheney administration torture policies means we may end up looking forward to even more torture. If only there were, say, a big building somewhere that had the words, "What is past is prologue," written on it in big letters so Obama would see them and perhaps ponder their meaning.

Really, Atrios should get Geithner's job.

"Murdoch Paper Hacked Murdered Girl's Voicemail: News Corps paper News of the World already admitted to illegally hacking the cell phones of 24 celebrities. But that's not all they did! The paper also hacked the phone of murdered teenager Milly Dowler after she'd gone missing - even deleting messages in order to make more room." And giving friends and family the false impression that she must still be alive since she'd cleared her messages. And then interviewing them about their renewed hopes!

When Google does evil.

Hell, maybe it is the most patriotic song. It sure is a good one. (Yeah, I treated yesterday as an official day of mourning.)

12:55 BST

Sunday, 03 July 2011

Good news and bad news

Long-time readers may remember this outrage from the drug war over the last few years, but I need to congratulate someone for not letting this go, because Radley Balko is a hero who helped save a man's life: "MONTICELLO, Miss. -- After 10 years of incarceration, and seven years after a jury sentenced him to die, 30-year-old Cory Maye will soon be going home." Via Digby.

Senator Bernie's Week in Review: "Senate Budget Committee Democrats agreed on a proposal that would cut more than $4 trillion from the deficit. A member of the committee, Sanders had insisted that at least half of any deficit reduction come from closing tax loopholes to increase revenue from the wealthiest Americans and the most profitable corporations. 'He probably got something close to that,' The Hill's Erik Wasson told C-SPAN. Appearing Thursday on C-C-SPAN's 'Washington Journal,' Sanders said it is 'grotesquely unfair' and 'immoral' for Republicans to put all the burden of deficit reduction on the backs of the poor, the elderly and children. Sanders also faulted President Obama. 'He has been much too soft on the Republicans.'"

Welcome to The Chinese Century, engineered by American "leaders".

Bayer payout: "German conglomerate Bayer AG (BYR.L: News ,BAYRY.PK: News ,BAYZF.PK: News ) said Friday it has agreed to a $750 million settlement with U.S. rice farmers who had sued the company after an experimental strain of Bayer's genetically modified rice contaminated their crops."

"Ruptured pipeline sends oil coursing down the Yellowstone River: An ExxonMobil oil pipeline that ruptured beneath the Yellowstone River has fouled more than 150 miles of the waterway between Laurel and Miles City." (Thanks to PBTrue.)

Rachel Maddow: Ohioans Unite Against Union-Stripping Bill.

The NYT regrets the error - but only one error in a rather impressive list of errors in their misreporting of Breitbart and O'Keefe's business of lying and the NYT's business of covering up right-wing malfeasance.

James Fallows says the entire Washington press corps is dickish. Greg Sargent is on the same page.

A little sex education from Spidey. A bit dated, but with only slight editing it's a lot better than what your kids are getting in most schools these days.

David Tennant, vampire hunter

Craig Ferguson fails the test.

17:54 BST

Friday, 01 July 2011

More reasons to be grumpy

Via Atrios, a nice take-down of the stupid idea that you should support laws against things you wouldn't want your daughter to do, even though those laws would make things significantly worse for your daughter if she happened to do them anyway. Well, theoretically, anyway, since the police don't normally raid your whole neighborhood for drugs when you live in comfortably upper-middle-class digs, or even notice high-class hookers unless they sleep with Eliot Spitzer. Just leaving aside the fact that the average father can't stand the idea of his daughter having a sex life at all, even if they have to tolerate it - eventually - in the name of having grandkids.

And Atrios himself with some crazy talk: "Banks are skimmers. In ideal world they do a job by having good underwriting standards, and allocating money to worthy borrowers, and in doing so earn the bit they skim. In actual world they take free money from the government and then bring it to the Great Casino."

Welfare cheats for treason - and their minions: "Chase's chief executive, challenged Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, about the costs and benefits of the Dodd-Frank rules. More attention has been paid to the banker's audacity, but the response of the world's most powerful banking regulator was more troubling. Mr. Bernanke scraped and bowed in apology without mentioning the staggering costs of the crisis the banks led us into." The correct response to Mr. Dimon was, of course, "You've taken down the United States economy. We should be throwing you in jail anyway for treason, but we are being kind. That could change." Obviously, that's not gonna happen. "The federal government, in ways explicit and implicit, profoundly subsidizes and shelters the banking industry. True since the 1930s, it is much more so today. And that makes Mr. Dimon no capitalist colossus astride the Isle of Manhattan, but one of the great welfare queens in America." (via)

Jay Ackroyd: 'I am still trying to understand why the first words out of the mouths of every Democrat in a public setting are not 'I really would like Eric Cantor to explain why he is betting against America.'"

"An imbalanced debate won't lead to a balanced solution" - The debate has shifted so far to the right that even Bernie Sanders isn't asking for much. (Bernie's speech to the president)

Sam Seder did an illuminating interview with Jared Bernstein at Netroots Nation that he aired on yesterday's Majority Report (transcript). He also explained why Ezra is wrong about where the threat to the economy really is.

So, demand that Obama replace Geithner with a good economist.

"John Dean Knows How to Get Rid of Clarence Thomas: As the associate deputy attorney general in President Richard M. Nixon's Department of Justice, I was there when Assistant Attorney General William Rehnquist outlined how to remove a Supreme Court justice who had engaged in conduct not quite as troublesome as that of Thomas. Rehnquist, of course, would later become chief justice of the United States. His memorandum providing the process for the Department of Justice to proceed against then Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas remains solid precedent and the way to deal with Clarence Thomas. But before looking at the solution, I should explain the problem."

I have always been fascinated by the Democrats' ability to time-travel.

Some good news is that states are beginning to restrict the use of credit checks in employment. The bad news is that "companies making fantastic profits selling credit scores have been able to reinvest some of those profits into lobbying for exemptions and loopholes in that state-by-state legislation." (Also: Obama gives the finger to Texas Democrats. And: a Wikileaks commercial.)

At the Dept. of Everything You Know Is Wrong, Jonathan Schwarz learns that when Adolph Ochs declared that The New York Times would operate "Without Fear or Favor," he meant something rather similar to what another big news organ means today when it pretends to be "Fair and Balanced": "Ochs just announced straight up that the New York Times was going to be a standard-issue upper class conservative newspaper. And "history" has not just forgotten it completely, but used the exact same proclamation to congratulate the New York Times for being completely impartial. Thanks, liberal media!"

And Dirty F@#*ing Hippies Were Right!

When Craig Ferguson met Neil Gaiman.

The Rocketeer, The Animated Version.

21:11 BST

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, July 2011

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