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Tuesday, 29 June 2010

A little help from our friends

I had a lot of fun talking to Digby on Virtually Speaking Sundays (podcast). I always have fun, but I had been particularly looking forward to being on with Digby ever since I browbeat Jay into asking her to be part of the show. I was not disappointed.

Of course, I study in advance at The Bobblespeak Translations so I know what's been going on at the fabulous Sunday TV Talkshows, and to my amazement, Barbara Lee - you remember Barbara Lee, the evil vile Democrat who actually didn't support the president and was the only one with the guts to vote against the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF)? - yes, that Barbara Lee was allowed to talk about the war on Press the Meat with Dancin' Dave. But everyone's focus is on CIA Director Leon Panetta's visit to Jake Tapper, in which he explained that we need thousands of troops in Afghanistan to go after a handful of guys who they think might be there, because then they might get a "foothold" in Afghanistan, or something.

Digby talked about that earlier at Hullabaloo, as well as the other subject that we thought was worthy (though Tapper and Gregory did not) - the economy, also known as the austerity and kill the middle-class programs, not forgetting the important Catfood Commission (Part 1, Part II, and more).

And as we chewed on that subject, we were delighted when Susie Madrak of Suburban Guerrilla called in because she'd actually been at the Peterson Catfood PR bash and blogged the good news that, despite a slick sales-pitch from the Catfood Commission (and a bit of cheating to make it sound like people liked their ideas), Americans were not fooled and came down in favor of no benefit cuts - and, by the way, we want single-payer. People just aren't that dumb: "You know what most of them wanted to do? Soak the rich - and cut defense spending. (Are you listening, President Obama?)"

And then we were talking a bit about what we do about the fact that there doesn't seem to be any way to get our elective officials to stop damaging the country, and Digby has been writing about that, too:

People keep asking where "the left" is and why they don't take to the streets in light of these neo-liberal policies wreaking havoc on working people everywhere. Where is the populist uprising from the left and why there isn't more direct confrontation of the corporatist mindset. It's a good question, but you have to wonder why we never cite these regular protests and why we don't bother to comment on the tactics that are used against them. Are we on the American left really not part of this? Do we philosophically disagree with the critique, even now, after everything that's been revealed during this economic crisis? Are these people wrong?
And who should call in but Driftglass of Driftglass.

You might want to listen to Drifty and BlueGal explain what makes a good liberal, and Susie Madrak was on Nicole Sandler's Radio Or Not earlier; I haven't listened to it yet, but I will. (I'm told Nicole got really good once she broke loose from Air America Radio.)

Krugman finally admits it: "It's a Depression: So I don't think this is really about Greece, or indeed about any realistic appreciation of the tradeoffs between deficits and jobs. It is, instead, the victory of an orthodoxy that has little to do with rational analysis, whose main tenet is that imposing suffering on other people is how you show leadership in tough times."

Did McClatchy misquote Chris Dodd? "After great debate we have reduced a strong Wall Street reform bill that will change the way our financial services sector is regulated."

Matt Smith & Orbital - Glastonbury 2010

04:42 BST

Short notice

It's Digby and Avedon Carol guesting on Virtually Speaking Sundays tonight at 5:00 PM Pacific, but if you click the link it will show the time in your own time zone, as far as I can tell. (At least, it does for me.) You can stream it there live or later when it's archived, or download the podcast.

23:59 BST

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Sleepy blogging

Sam Seder calls BS on the idea that Social Security is broke - especially coming from Democrats. (And VastLeft has a cartoon explaining what "crisis" means.)

The conservative Washington Post had libertarian Dave Weigel covering their "conservative" beat (as opposed to the rest of their conservative beat), and he was criticial of someone conservative, so they all screamed and got him fired. Atrios: "Ezra Klein writes for the Post. He's on the liberalish side of things. But if someone released some private emails in which he said mean things about Supreme Commander Markos, Paul Begala, and Rachel Maddow, no one at the Post would have batted an eye. Probably they would have seen it as evidence that he was a great hire for his willingness to Stand Up To Powerful Liberals. [...] But apparently the Post needs its "conservatives" to be conservative hacks, and not hurt Matt Drudge's feefees." Roy Edroso: "The problem with covering conservatives is: There's no way to do it without being offensive -- at least in the bar after work, or its email equivalent. Which is apparently a resignation-accepting offense at the Post. They've run this country for most of the past thirty years. I don't see why we should continue to treat wingnuts like special needs children who have to be shielded from criticism."

"As Americans and Europeans face deficits and drastic government cuts, Canada's economy is recovering from only a mild recession. One reason is more stringent control of banks that meant they never had the housing boom-and-bust, but another reason is that when things got tight, they wrote those stimulus checks.

Face to Face With Polished Wall Street Psychopathy: "The more I pulled on these threads, the more I discovered that much of what I thought I knew was based on things that weren't really true. And by that I don't mean assumptions about housing prices, I mean information people like me had been provided about specific deals by other parties to those transactions. While many of the failings of the structured credit market were due to unsound reliance on historical data, some were not mistakes in judgment but were the result of bad actors, misinformation and wrongdoing."

In which Monkeyfister performs an experiment, and makes an unhappy discovery.

Libby is in trouble - help if you can.

17:23 BST

Thursday, 24 June 2010

They would not listen, they're not listening, still

ACORN Goes To Court Thursday, and, with Rachel Maddow's help, Susie makes a good suggestion: "If you're in New York this Thursday, here's something useful you can do. As you probably already know, ACORN is appealing this cutoff as an unconstitutional Bill of Attainder (the kind of thing the constitution-lovin' Republicans would ordinarily protest, except that they demanded this one). But it's more than the legal issues. Liberals have to stand up for our allies, and few groups have done more to help the party base than ACORN. Show your support, either by attending the hearing, or by making a donation."

I don't understand why Harold Meyerson, who is actually right as well as honest about these things, is still being published by the conservative Washington Post - I mean, haven't they usually fired anyone who's telling the truth? But, anyway, he's there, telling the truth about "centrist" deficit-hawk BS, or as Adam Bink has it, the Underpants Gnomes theory on jobs/deficits. (I actually think that, while he's certainly right on the economics of it, Krugman is wrong on the intellectual difficulty of the issue. It's not difficult. If you starve the economy you depress jobs, and people who don't have jobs don't pay taxes, and then the treasury doesn't get that money. Congress doesn't have trouble spending money, they are just against spending it where it will do any good. The question to address is why they feel that way. Although asking it might just be what gets them kicked off the pages of The Newspapers of Record.) Via Atrios, who agrees that some of these creeps will probably lose their jobs as a result of their deficit-hawkery, and reckons it's the silver lining to their refusal to save the economy.

In the Department of Conservative Personal Responsibility, we have Jeb Bush saying it's "childish" to hold his big brother accountable for the mess he made as president. Of course, that's wrong - but: The ball is in Obama's court, now, and he's refusing to do what needs to be done to fix the mess. It's no longer just the mess Bush made, it's the mess Obama volunteered to clean up and he's just making it worse.

I guess Mike Huckabee is running for president again, since he's making the pilgrimage again. Yeah, yeah, he just love Jews. (The author of the article makes the mistake of believing the lie that the anti-abortion movement was an organic reaction to Roe v Wade, but of course that's not true - like everything else, it was orchestrated by rich right-wingers as part of their ongoing program to polarize society.)

Remember Kwame Kilpatrick, the mayor who bankrupted Detroit? Well, the Feds are even more pissed off at him.

Oh, well, maybe I'll freeze to death in the new mini-ice age and then I won't have to worry about it.

RIP Starchild. And because Parliament Funkadelic was an American band, the tribute concerts won't just be memorial celebrations of his life, but benefits for his medical bills. (Also: Leading Democrats plan to destroy what's left of the Democratic Party. And David Swanson thinks there may be a way to start fixing Congress.)

Huh, look who's writing the intro for Batwoman Elegy.


Talking heads in endless brawls,
Fellating the same old pols,
With eyes that skim the world and could not care less.
This is now our nation's press:
Fields of empty men in Savile Row
While the legacies of Tarbell and Murrow,
Lie crushed and forgotten beneath Fox News.

14:04 BST

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Old dreams wear dusty clothing

Anniversary rosesI've had a couple of days of strange technology events and also, um, our 25th wedding anniversary (omg! - I thought all the gay marriage stuff was supposed to put an end to that sort of thing!), so I haven't been able to blog so much and also I had more links but then my computer went very strange and they are locked up in a dark corner somewhere, but I hope you enjoyed your Solstice while I was enjoying mine.

"Blackwater Snags $120 Million Contract In Afghanistan: The latest: the Obama Administration has awarded Xe, formerly known as Blackwater, with a $120 million contract to provide security for U.S. consulates in Afghanistan. The contract could last as long as 18 months."

I don't think it's actually possible to kill zombie lies, but I do think people should start asking the anti-Social Security people just exactly why they believe baby boomers are going to live forever, which is the presumption of the calculation that all those boomers are about to spend the fund into oblivion. This only make sense if you think people who are in their 50s and 60s now are going to live another 40 or 50 years at minimum, and that none of them had children. (And that's just leaving aside the fact that, of course, the money is already there.)

Nobody really wants to talk about why this judge recused himself from a Gitmo case after the Gitmo hostage's lawyer asked about a suspicious conversation between the judge and the government's lawyer...

Here's a lovely meme for you: "Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, is expected to leave his job later this year after growing tired of the 'idealism' of Barack Obama's inner circle." Yeah, right, 'cause the rest of 'em are a bunch of little lefties. Or, as Susie put it: "The tone, of course, is that Rahm is the "bad" guy and the rest of the inner circle are the "good" guys. I don't think it's that simple. I think Obama's choices reflect his own philosophies, and you simply can't pin everything on Rahm. We have a Democratic president who's trying to gut public education, Social Security and Medicare and who refuses to deal with the national tragedy of long-term unemployment. Are we supposed to believe Rahm tied the president to a chair and hypnotized him? I'm not buying it." Me, neither. I think Rahm is taking his retirement package, which will probably be a really cushy job in the financial sector that, y'know, pays a lot more than government work.

In a short post called "The Great Shirk", Atrios says, "I fear the war on the unemployed is just heating up." He's quoting Rand Paul on the fabulous idea that unemployed Americans should consider taking "less desirable jobs" instead of collecting unemployment (as if no one has been doing this already), but it's actually an idea that Republicans have been kicking out there for a while. I mean, who can forget John McCain's fantasy suggestion that Americans would not do manual labor for $50 an hour? (Also: Um, just where has Matt Yglesias been while the rest of us have been recoiling in horror at the games the World Bank has been playing?)

Fish have hands!

To the Straight Guy at the Party Last Night

Old Gangsters Never Die

10:14 BST

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Words and pictures

Gossard French Fancy plunge braBra of the Week

Your steampunk adventure.

Salt and pepper

Body art. Different body art.


Mike Papantonio had Sam Seder on Ring of Fire to talk about Obama actually saying something true about the Republicans. Also, Sammy calls BS on Obama's cave on border violence and Obama's sell-outs on gay issues.

I thought this post would have been much more useful if it had worked it's way up the chain of other influential sociopaths - right up to that guy who appointed a commission to "save" our economy filled with people whose only interest is in cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. People like this liar. (And what's this crap about?)

Speaking of sociopaths, who is the fount of compassion who had the bright idea to shoot pain waves at people? And how soon can we expect to see it in use in the US (and probably the UK)?

Krugman has That '30s Feeling after trying to get "deficit hawks" to face the real numbers. No one is listening. They are just into pain - for others. Regardless of the facts.

Atrios: "Once upon a time the major media outlets were called 'the establishment media.' After years of strategic badgering by the right, that somehow morphed into 'the liberal media.' It's time to bring back the term 'establishment media.'" And, also via Atrios, the fantasy that the public cares more about the deficit turns out to be a lie. Surprise!

Ed Schultz: "The middle class, where the greatness of this nation is rooted, is under siege by an increasingly unethical system, managed by economic vampires who are sucking the lifeblood out of the American family and ripping the heart out of democracy itself. From mortgage scams to credit card predation to health insurance hustles, greed is killing our country." From reviews of books by Schultz and Bill Press. at Daily Kos.

They've screwed-up everything. So: "Let no point go. Let no lie pass. Let no banker off the sharpened hook. Let no insult go unanswered and no fatuous ass go unmocked. Go. don't let ennui become your normal state. Go forth and be a ferocious, mouthy defender of your and your children's future. Go."

At the other end of the spectrum, an early member of Feminists Against Censorship, Jo Opie, cared a great deal about the least of us. She died recently, and I'm pleased that the Guardian published an obituary from another FAC member. (In other FAC news, I was interviewed at length by the Evening Standard about some local madness, and of course they didn't use a single interesting quote.)

Oh, no, Jurassicpork had a tech catastrophe! Can you help out?

02:22 BST

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Playing for time

The Cunning Realist, "Proxy Fight:

Regular readers know I've written before about the possibility of government intervention in the stock market. I'll explain shortly why this issue just became more urgent. For now, here are some of the reasons this matters. The details of any intervention would determine the degree to which these apply, but conceptually these are the main implications:

1. It would reward the speculator class at the expense of the investor class. The former includes high-frequency traders and algorithmic, program-oriented, and momentum players. The latter prefers to buy stocks at favorable valuation levels, incrementally and over a period of time. This becomes harder when intervention prevents stocks from finding their natural levels.

2. It would constitute a backdoor bailout of Wall Street, which obviously depends in many ways on rising stock prices.

3. It would essentially make the stock market a giant money laundering mechanism for corporate insiders, with public funds used to buy stocks and keep the market inflated while insiders sell.

4. It would affect the perception of risk across the entire asset spectrum (not just stocks) and encourage the same malinvestment and misallocation of capital that contributed to the credit bubble. (As a former trader on one of Wall Street's top sell-side desks, I've seen how belief in the existence of a backstop influences the perception and tolerance of proprietary risk.)

5. It would create the potential for abuse if a Wall Street firm is involved in the scheme. This would include frontrunning the orders before they are executed or tipping off other parties to the activity. If the scheme involves a government promise to backstop the Wall Street firm against losses, insufficient controls would allow the firm to claim losses greater than what it incurred.

6. It would have various political implications, including the ability to boost the stock market before an election, after an important presidential speech, or during or after high-profile testimony by Federal Reserve or other economic officials.

And, curiously, answers from officials about whether a proxy has been operating have been increasingly...evasive.

Jay Rosen has a long and interesting post on the actual ideology of the American press that I think tracks closely with Stuart Zechman's view that the process by which they move to the right is an ideology in itself rather than simply "right-wing". I think that's wrong in that it overlooks the fact that, first and foremost, these ideological twists deprioritize the essential Constitutional obligation to provide liberal government - that is, government by, of and most emphatically for The People. But I think both Stuart and Prof. Rosen have a good grasp of the process and details. The professor notes, for example, that among the press corps, "True Believer" is a term of contempt - thus, believing in, stating, or proposing something for any reason other than that it fits the into the media's real priorities is craziness. (To me, this is just a matter of kids trying to look cool to their peers and therefore trying to look like they don't care too much about anything of substance, much as we often see among teenagers. I believe it was the author of Media Whores Online who noted that this behavior was all in line with trying to become one of the Kool Kidz - or perhaps it was Atrios - but it was a good insight then, and it still is.) The thing is, all of this is happening within a context that is already right-wing, so I'm not sure it's appropriate to try to separate it from the right-wing as a whole. But it is certainly instructive to examine the process. I found that link via Glennzilla, who is talking about The media's understanding of its role, and, not incidentally, quoting Stuart. (Jay Ackroyd, who pointed me to Glenn's article yesterday, posted about it later at Eschaton.)

And Atrios also notes that the White House apparently thinks that they did "research" before giving the go-head to the giant oil geyser - er, I mean offshore drilling. It's interesting that they didn't notice the horrendous oil eruptions that have been happening all along. (Also: "Work Until You're 80.")

Republican apologizes to BP.

Banks to charge you for using your money. They used to pay you for the use of your money, but now.... (Also: More guerilla opera.)

God smites graven image, but not dirty bookstore.

Not Always Right

Medical supply shop pin-up calendar

17:16 BST

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The roses they can't hurt you

In a comment to this post below, CMike disagreed that John Lanchester had "demystified" the credit crunch, and offered to take a crack at it himself:

Washington required taxpayers to rescue American Insurance Group with $160 billion so that claims owed to giant corporations in the financial industry by AIG would be paid-in-full for losses related to US residential real estate mortgages. To put that in perspective, come this July, the population of the United States will be at 310,232,863. If each of us, infants included, chipped in $3.22 that would total $1 billion. Therefore it would take $515.74 from each of us to match that $160 billion amount--again.

Alternatively, the U.S. per capita income was $46,400 in 2009 so, in the year following the meltdown, it took the combined average annual income of 21,552 Americans to add up to $1 billion. The $160 billion that Bush, Obama, Reid, Pelosi, and Paulson agreed to drain from the Treasury equaled the total 2009 average income for 3,448,275 Americans.

If you start around the 50-minute mark, you can watch Norman Solomon on Washington Journal making the case for pushing Obama in a more liberal direction.

It's all very well for Anthony Weiner to say reps from BP are lying - which they are - but what was that business about "British accents"?

It seems like debtors' prisons may be making a come-back after all... "Reader bill clued us in that people who fall behind on debt payments are being incarcerated in six states. While this is generally short-term, it is nevertheless a troubling development, since these are all involve private contracts and look to be an abuse of the court system.

This Week In Tyranny,the ACLU is still trying to find out more about how the FISA Amendments are really being implemented, Marcy Wheeler writes about the US prison colony, more trouble may lie ahead for Goldman Sachs, the oil geyser is Obama's own Operation Ignore, kids say the darnedest things, and more.

Couldn't help but notice that both the NYT and WaPo have room to print rubbish by rich people saying the rest of us want too much, and then saw this: "A Small Note Regarding Our Future: Our elite and their servants are trying to tell the poor that they should not want to be rich. Of course, they should be telling the rich that they should not want to be rich. Whether or not we will undergo economic collapse, we must get away from the financial vampires that are trying to suck us dry for our own physical and mental health."

Matt Yglesias falls in love with another hot new "modernizing" concept: colonialism.

The Jaynettes

12:46 BST

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Ye Olde Cut & paste

Dean Baker, noting some tripe on Social Security: "I often think it's too bad that Social Security isn't a private company. If it were, it could sue Marketplace Radio for libel for this sort of reporting. Does Marketplace's host have any idea what she is talking about when she says: "Social Security is in such a sorry state"? According to the Congressional Budget Office the program can pay all benefits for the next 34 years with no changes whatsoever and even after that can pay more than 75 percent of benefits indefinitely. The program is in much better shape in this respect than it was in the 40s, 50s, 60s, or 70s. So what on earth is this person talking about? Can Marketplace Radio pay all its expenses for the next 34 years?"

Yglesias has a useful post on The Corporate Court: "One thing that's been frustrating progressive lawyers for a few years now, but increasingly so over time, is the belief of the public and the press that the federal judiciary is primarily a venue for tackling 'hot button' issues like abortion and the death penalty. In reality, the bulk of federal litigation has to do with businesses suing each other, workers or consumers suing businesses, or businesses trying to fight off regulators. The Constitutional Accountability Center has a new study out (PDF) that takes a look at this issue through the lens of the US Chamber of Commerce, the premiere group that can be found arguing that corporate executives should be able to get away with doing whatever they want. Here's how often different justices sided with the Chamber's position on cases the Chamber weighed in on [graph showing a fairly sharp divide] We can see that this is a substantial divider between the court's five conservatives and its four non-conservatives. The gap between Kennedy and Souter is much larger than the Kennedy-Alito gap or the Souter-Ginsburg gap. And a look at the close cases decided by 5-4 votes is even more telling...."

IOZ: "The expansion of the surveillance state, the destruction of privacy, the erosion of individual human autonomy, the destruction of the rights of the accused, the essentially superlegal status of police and military forces, and the project to create a population of placid, uninformed instruction-followers via a carefully designed program of national mediocrity are all joint endeavors."

Sue Arnold does the audiobook reviews for the Grauniad, and she has a nice one of John Lanchester's Whoops!: Well-meaning friends with financial savvy have tried explaining what leveraged buy-outs are, and securitisation, or why AIG was basically screwed by CDSs on CDOs and had to be bailed out by the Bush administration for $160bn, but it's no good. I can't get my head round those sorts of numbers. What does a billion dollars actually look like? Would it fit into one of those attaché cases the Lavender Hill mob used to ship their loot? What immediately endeared me to Lanchester's hugely informative and entertaining book about the causes of the global financial meltdown that everyone but Goldman Sachs employees is going through at the moment is his demystification of all that monetary bafflegab. OK, he says, try this. First, how long do you think a million seconds is - just a quick guess, don't work it out - and then a billion seconds. The answer (no, you won't have got it) is just under 12 days and almost 32 years. Now apply that to pounds, dollars and euros, and you start to understand the seriousness of the credit crunch (and to get the size of bankers' bonuses - Lanchester has got it in for bankers - into perspective)."

I've tried to keep an eye out for David Baddiel ever since he became the first male celebrity in Britain to frankly say he liked porn and tall about the subject as if he wasn't a sniggering 12-year-old. Normally, you get intellectuals talking about porn and hinting they they've looked at it in this weird, guilty-jokey way that makes you want to hurl, but David, perhaps because he was a professional comedian, didn't do that - he was just honest and intelligent. I was charmed. Of course, this also meant I ended up doing some TV and radio with him (it wasn't particularly funny, unless you count the anti-porn woman who apparently believed that you could buy hard-core snuff porn in Tesco's and that women were worse off in the late 20th century than they were 100 years earlier when we weren't even allowed to keep our own money), but it was a lot better than the usual crap on TV and radio whenever they talk about porn. Anyway, he's doing a World Cup thing and got the 60 Second Interview Friday:

Any favourite bits of World Cup trivia?

One of my favourite things happened at the last World Cup when Luis Aragonés, the Spanish manager, was accused of racism. He responded by saying: 'No, I have friends from many countries: Africans, Japanese... I even know someone whose job it is to tell the sex of chickens.' I don't understand why he said it but for me that was a great World Cup.

Were you proud of being named the 'world's sixth sexiest Jew'?

Not really because Alan Sugar came fifth. I've never got over being one below Alan Sugar in 'sexy Jew' terms.

Alan Sugar? Well, that's just mad, innit?

16:24 BST

Saturday, 12 June 2010

A whole bunch of stuff

CMike notes in a comment below that Krugman is beginning to question free-traderism (and about time, too!), noting that the things he thought didn't have to be worried about have to be worried about. Alas, he still comes down on, "And a return to protectionism would just have too many negative effects." The thing is, Paul, a lack of protectionism is already having way too many negative effects. (I wonder if he has ever considered the possibility that the same testosterone poisoning that generates austerity gospels could be a culprit in Free-Traderism, too....)

Hall & Oats join Shakira, Tenacious D, Kanye West, Sonic Youth, Carlos Santana, Massive Attack, Rage Against the Machine, Willie Nelson and others in music boycott of Arizona.

Glenn Greenwald says, "Don't forget about Beltway cowardice," and discusses journalistic "balance" at the expense of truth when Marc Ambinder invents * a purported left-wing position to "balance" out a demonstrably wrong right-wing myth. Meanwhile, Chuck Schumer spills the beans about the real goal of the Israeli blockade.

Myra MacPherson, in "Helen Thomas and the (So-called) Correspondents at the White House," says much the same thing I did: "She was an embarrassing trouble maker with her 'out of line' toughness." Yes, she showed them up for the pathetic shills they were when they behaved like guests at a private function though they were ostensibly there to drag public officials and their actions into the light. We know why Helen had to go.

While watching the hyenas eat Helen Thomas alive, Arthur was struck by the stunning parallel between the Israelis and blacks in America. (All the "sensible" people saw them.)

Why Financial Reform Has Been Screwed: "Report: More than 1,400 former lawmakers, Hill staffers are financial lobbyists."

Apparently, the trouble with Social Security is that it replaced debtors' prisons, according to the people who Obama chose to run his Let Them Eat Catfood commission. (via)

There've been some good Virtually Speaking episodes recently that I didn't get around to posting - particularly of note, I think, should be Jay Ackroyd's interview of Juan Cole, who really didn't want to talk about Israel, but agreed to anyway. Last Sunday Culture of Truth and Watertiger did the honors unpacking the Sunday TV babbleshows, and Thursday Jay interviewed Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel). Tomorrow night, Joan McCarter (McJoan) and Stuart Zechman will do our own Sunday talkshow.

A few days earlier, Dan of Pruning Shears noted in my comments that any day now we'd be hearing bleatings about how BP has to be protected because hurting them will hurt the pensions of all those Britons whose pension funds have been invested in BP, and sure enough I saw Boris on my TV bleating about that and bemoaning the fact that Obama kept calling them "British Petroleum" when they haven't used that name in years. It's all a plot against the British, now, apparently. Digby: "I'm surprised it took the damage control experts (the real professionals --- PR, not oil spill) to get to this argument. "By coming down hard on BP you are destroying old people's pensions." It's one of the most important reasons the Big Money Boyz pushed for 401ks and social security privatization --- so they could always argue that what's good for Rapacious Corporations is good for grandma." Digby also made the observation that the love-fest for Obama seems to be over, although, as we have seen, fear of crazy Republicans has made far too many progressives reflexively defend him anyway. Yes, it's true that the right-wingers are saying crazy things about Obama, but right-wingers have always said crazy things about Democrats and yet Democrats still overwhelmingly routed the GOP in the last election cycles, suggesting that if we had actually elected liberals instead of mere Democrats, we'd have had a serious win. The country has had enough of corporatist oligarchy, whatever feathers it wears.

"The Bigger Picture Behind Allegation that the Bush Administration Allowed Illegal Medical Experiments on Prisoners [...] The bigger picture is that torture doesn't work, it reduces our national security, and it is mainly used to extract false confessions and as a form of intimidation to squash dissent.

"Government Collusion with BP to Block Information Flow Means We Need an Independent Commission to Handle Spill Response."

Sam Seder calls BS on border violence.

Something I have long found depressing is that there are actually people who listen to Mankiw. His rubbish is actually taught in economics classes all over the country. (I was just going to write, "Something I have long found depressing is that Gregory Mankiw," but I was afraid people would think that was an incomplete sentence.) Fortunately, if you haven't had the misfortune to read Mankiw (or even if you have), there is "Mankiw's 10 principles of economics, translated for the uninitiated", by Yoram Bauman.

It's a Rent party - and it doesn't seem like we can stop what's happening, so the question is how to create the possibility of the future...somewhere down the road. "The idea of "happiness" is very important. Rent seeking behavior brings happiness to nobody (not even our corrupt and perverse elites). Do you want to keep being unhappy? Why?" (Ideas like this are no longer being treated as left-wing silliness. Even in The Wall Street Journal.)

Fred Clark on what's really in the Bible ("The Bible is not a book about homosexuality and it will not allow itself to be treated as a book about homosexuality. Nor is the Bible a book about sex. But the Bible is, in fact, very much a book about wealth, possessions and the poor. That is not the central theme, but it is a massively important theme that pervades every portion of the book. If you don't agree with that then I don't know what it is that you've been reading, but it surely wasn't a Bible." - oh, and check out the comments!), and The Single Greatest News Lede Of All Time, both (via).

16:27 BST

Wednesday, 09 June 2010

And the big wheel turn around

Maybe Rahm just flushed the union vote down the toilet when the White House fought vociferously against the union-backed candidate and then sneered that, "Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members' money down the toilet on a pointless exercise" in their (nearly successful) attempt to primary out Blanche Lincoln. The administration thinks unions should support Blue Dogs who are trying to keep Americans unemployed - to help out the White House. The AFL-CIO response was right: "If that's their take on this, then they severely misread how the electorate feels and how we're running our political program. When we say we're only going to support elected officials who support our issues, when they say we should have targeted our money among some key house races among Blue Dog Democrats - that ain't happening. Labor isn't an arm of the Democratic Party." And for more than a year it's been looking like labor already wasted their money when they supported Obama.

Even our Founding Fathers warned you against the money-lenders. James Madison, for example, said, "History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and its issuance." What they now have the power to do is nothing less than High Frequency Terrorism: 9/29/08 proved that when you have so much power concentrated in the hands of a few, you can manipulate a computer algorithm and make the market and economy go whichever way you want it to go. So on 5/6/10, just as the power of the big banks was again threatened on the floor of the Senate and a deal on auditing the Federal Reserve was being negotiated, in came a sudden and unprecedented ten-minute 700 point market drop, a precision-guided High Frequency Trading (HFT) attack to show Congress who's boss. [...] Other than the two major operations carried out on 9/29/08 and 5/6/10, we must also recall a smaller attack on January 21st and 22nd of 2010, when Obama had a press conference and came out in favor of the Volcker Rule, which would have limited these HFT and 'proprietary trading' schemes. At that time, the market dropped 430 points. Soon after this attack, all follow-up talk on the Volcker Rule faded away and this reform has not been seriously addressed by Obama since then.

HTML Mencken on driving out Helen Thomas and the kind of people who helped do it (that Yglesias quote is a humdinger); Glenn Greenwald on the double standards ("As for the Helen Thomas condemnation fest and subsequent resignation today, the central issue -- as both my Salon colleague Gabriel Winant and The American Prospect's Adam Serwer adeptly document -- is not the perception that she's guilty of bigotry, but the wrong kind of bigotry."); and Jurassicpork on the same subject.

Blackwater Prop Shops: Where tough guys can strut their stuff. Also, Ms. Palin is apparently a born-again regulator who says, "Unless government appropriately regulates oil developments and holds oil executives accountable, the public will not trust them to drill, baby, drill." And the so-called debt commission is "unlikely" to do anything to fix the deficit, because the conservatives on the commission don't want to.

We're supposed to organize to get Obama to do what he's not doing, we're told - put public pressure on him. Gosh, it would make a nice change from putting pressure on liberals not to put pressure on Obama, even if it still won't work.

David Cameron vows to destroy the British way of life. (via)

"I am here today because of a conversation I had last June when I was voting. A woman ... asked me, "Do you believe in equality for gay and lesbian people?" I was pretty surprised to be asked a question like that. It made no sense to me. Finally I asked her, ' What do you think I fought for at Omaha Beach?'" (via)

22:48 BST

Monday, 07 June 2010

Friends like these

The dentist decided that preserving that wisdom tooth was a lost cause. Oh, well...

Sorry, but Helen Thomas said something not nearly as offensive as the crap the WaPo and NYT and the various other Big Media "news" vehicles spew every day. And as long as these news organizations continue to host the words of people who speak as if people who were born and raised in America, sometimes going back many generations, are not "real" Americans because they don't happen to be Aryan, well, they can put up with Thomas. Except, they can't, because she embarrasses them by being much better at reporting and analyzing the news than they are. So, the people Bob Somerby refers to as "career liberals" joined in with the right-wing chorus (who hated her throughout the Bush years for failing to fall on her knees for their guy) to bring the old lady down. And congratulations, boys, you did the job. I'm restraining myself from typing those two more words.

Digby on Global Neo-Hooverism. And Krugman warns of a Lost Decade.

HTML Mencken learns that swindlers and thieves are not the problem - their victims are. (Via another very linky "This Week in Tyranny".)

Tristero: "Now that the fellow who, allegedly, gave Wikileaks all those combat videos has been arrested, when will they get around to busting the people who leaked Valerie Plame's identity to Novak? Oh, that's right, I forgot. They're Too Big To Jail." (Also, Digby on the George W. and Richard Bruce Mengele.)

Culture of Truth did his usual liveblog of This Week, which actually had both Arianna Huffington and Markos Moulitsas on it at the same time (thus breaking the rule against having more than one suspected liberal in the room.) It was funny enough that I almost wish I'd seen the actual show. Then he and Watertiger talked about it on Virtually Speaking Sundays.

A disgusting person has been fired.

If I read Chris Bowers correctly, he's saying that the liberal blogosphere is dead because we don't need it anymore since some of its biggest stars have turned into pod people. I was so disturbed, I actually left a comment. (via)

Bad Framing

Conrad Black discovers that prison is no fun.

Metro's 60 Second Interview with China Miéville.

21:37 BST

Saturday, 05 June 2010

'Cause there's a monster on the loose

Someone mentioned "Monster" in the comments, and other comments were arguing about whether the Obama administration still has time to turn into the Roosevelt administration, so I was going to write about how documenting the atrocities is all very well (information is important), but the frustration of not being able to come up with a coherent response aside from telling people to organize (think about how vague that sounds: What does "organize" mean?) just made it hard to write. I may be somewhat hampered in my ability to form plans by the fact that I don't expect to be alive long enough to see any such plan come to fruition. My own generation just didn't see the developing threat from the right-wing coming - or rather, those of us who did see it coming were not in a position to do anything about it, no matter how much we kept warning people about media consolidation (which, don't kid yourself, has a paramount place in all this). We should all have been buying radio and TV stations or something, I don't know, but the wingers did it instead, and now here we are. I don't think we can rely on the internet as our sole organizing tool, and I think too many people do. I'm not saying it's not good to make use of the internet, I'm just saying there's not really a good way to focus information to specific audiences who wouldn't otherwise look for it when the net as it currently stands is a melee and there's a very strong chance that our owners are going to stop that by not letting us continue to participate in it with the freedom we have had so far. I still think people should do what I've been saying they should do for the last ten years: When you see something you wish your neighbors understood, make a flyer, print it out, and distribute it on doormats and through mailboxes, at church picnics, or wherever you can place them. It's what our Founding Fathers did, after all....

It was bound to happen. Once the British bobby was immunized against having his criminal abuses of civilians recorded on camera, you could expect American police to demand the same protection against having their obnoxious and criminal behavior exposed. Interestingly, laws meant to protect private citizens against intrusions into their private business are being used - with the connivance of the courts - to hide the activities of public servants performing public business on the public dime.

Apparently, Boehner thinks Paul McCartney owes an apology to "the American people" for suggesting that GWBush is not a great intellectual. In other entertainment news, Miss USA has a way with words.

Thanks to Matilda for alerting me to this odd assortment of prohibited items.

Sam Seder calls BS on the right-wing attack on layers who've defended the (mostly innocent) captives at Gitmo - and on the Democrats who seem to be willing to join the attack by allowing passage of a bill that harasses those lawyers.

I haven't finished reading Matt Taibbi's "Wall Street's War", but: "It's early May in Washington, and something very weird is in the air. As Chris Dodd, Harry Reid and the rest of the compulsive dealmakers in the Senate barrel toward the finish line of the Restoring American Financial Stability Act - the massive, year-in-the-making effort to clean up the Wall Street crime swamp - word starts to spread on Capitol Hill that somebody forgot to kill the important reforms in the bill. As of the first week in May, the legislation still contains aggressive measures that could cost once-indomitable behemoths like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase tens of billions of dollars. Somehow, the bill has escaped the usual Senate-whorehouse orgy of mutual back-scratching, fine-print compromises and freeway-wide loopholes that screw any chance of meaningful change. [...] Then reality set in."

The Medium Lobster on A Few Million Bodies Between Friends.

Noted in the latest issue of Ansible: "Diana Wynne Jones, after much consultation with her husband and specialists, has decided to abandon chemotherapy (which is serving only to make her feel very ill indeed) and resign herself to whatever may follow. Her senior oncologist fears she has 'months rather than years', but we all hope that - as once or twice before - Diana can still surprise the medical profession. May the good luck return." (In less depressing news, kinky libertoonian author J. Neil Schulman is apparently suing the US government for plagiarizing his plots. Um.)

Jo Walton reviews When Gravity Fails.

"Diana Comet Presents...75 Years of Fabulous Writers" (as a periodic table) goes by too fast for me to read, and doesn't appear to include me! (So much for the value of three Hugo nominations....)


15:46 BST

Thursday, 03 June 2010

It hurts to be in love

Joke Line exposes the agenda of career "liberals": "The truth is, the Administration has a mixed record at the moment. It has achieved historic success with its economic responses to the Great Recession, including the stimulus package, and is about to win a big Financial Reform bill. Its health care plan is a step in the right direction that will need some fixing down the road (especially in the areas of tort reform and the need to shrink or eliminate Medicaid by moving recipients into market-oriented health care exchanges)."

That works in tandem with this recommended reading from Dean Baker: "Steven Pearlstein hits a homerun with his column today. He notes the efforts of the Blue Dog Democrats to increase payments to doctors under Medicare. These are the same folks who have gained notoriety in recent days for opposing the extension of jobless benefits and funding to support state Medicaid programs." And the White House just loves to cultivate those Blue Dogs. As Pearlstein notes, "None of this would be particularly outrageous but for the fact that, at the same time the House was scraping together the $22 billion to pay for another "doctor fix" last week, it could not find $7 billion to continue providing subsidies to help those who had been laid off keep up with health insurance premiums under the COBRA program. Without those subsidies, premium payments for a family policy will typically consume 80 percent or more of a worker's unemployment check, according to Families USA, a liberal advocacy group. "

There's one thing that's really changed dramatically since I started this blog, and that's the fact that it is no longer impossible to discuss flaws in Israel's policies without being completely hammered for antisemitism by otherwise rational people. I can remember having huge arguments with friends who did not get that some of the prime movers behind "support" for Israel were right-wing antisemites who actually want to foment a war in the Middle-East that would annihilate Israel; they simply did not see that Israel's increasingly immoderate policies were laying the groundwork for an escalation of hostilities in the region. Most of them no longer stomp on questions about "support" for Israel or criticism of Israel's policies. Now, they, too, want questions answered about why the US continues to encourage Israel's suicidal approach. But, as is so often the case, Americans are way ahead of our "progressives" in Congress.

What does it mean when the only network that invites Scott Horton on to discuss the Guantanamo "suicides" is Fox?

It's interesting to me that China has adopted the exclusionary rule, a necessity of civilization. Of course, the United States doesn't need stuff like that anymore, since "9/11 changed everything" and all that. China is emerging into the mid-20th century. I wish America was.

I'm really pleased to see that my suggestion early last year that if financial organizations claim they can't find the paperwork to a home they are trying to foreclose on, they should not be allowed to foreclose, has become legitimized as an approach - and is even a business for some homeowners' lawyers. (via) (Also, this is cool. More here.)

What amazing luck Goldman Sachs has - they got out of BP just in time.

Really, a federal indictment for writing angry e-mails to a member of Congress? And, really? A clause in the defense appropriations bill directing the DoD's inspector general to harass ACLU lawyers? (via)

I found it very odd that BP's managing director went on television to do the PR last Sunday and did such a pathetic job that he even made Dancin' Dave Gregory and Liberal Fake Jake Tapper look good. (What Dudley doesn't want to say, of course, is that the reason they haven't just capped the spurt yet is that they don't want to - they are still trying to pull oil out and if they cap it, they can't do that.)

As I have long observed, the fundamental message of the GOP's meme on government is that we are Can't-Do America. I'm glad some others are picking up the theme. Of course, we used to just be able to do stuff - sure, not everything, and not perfectly, but we used to at least try and sometimes even succeed. (Why, our Founding Fathers even invented the US Post Office - and it worked!)

I'm not always comfortable with the way people talk about fear as if it is in itself always a bad motivator. The problem isn't fear, it's fear of the wrong things (e.g., scary swarthy foreigners or people who look like them) rather than the right things, such as Malefactors of Great Wealth wrecking our lives.

A frankly insane bit of "emergency preparedness" generated this thought from Digby on our armchair cowboys and their lust for violence in the name of security: "Sadly, I'm beginning to think all this craziness is the natural result of emotionally stunted conservatives having a mid-life crisis. They pretended to be adults their whole lives, but never actually grew up. So now we have a whole bunch of frustrated, middle aged adolescents running things with no sense of morality or limits." (On the other hand, note to Tristero; The Who are a lousy example of how a good band operates. I've worked with good musicians who really can jam beautifully and spontaneously and make it sound tight. It is by no means impossible, my experience tells me, to reach inside and find the true emotions that make a song into magic. The criticisms of Obama may just be classic right-wing talking points, but the fact of the matter is I don't believe Obama cares about what's really going on, anymore than I believed GHW Bush when he said, "Message: I care." He doesn't care.) (And a note to Digby: Filibusters are always bad when Democrats might use them, such as when the Villagers think Republicans may be about to regain control of Congress. But if people really thought Filibustering is bad, they would start by attacking the way Reid has let the GOP "filibuster" by merely expressing a whim to do it. Unless they actually do it, it's not even a filibuster. This meme about changing the filibuster "rules" has nothing to do with the rules - it has to do with cementing the idea that what Reid is doing is following the rules, even though he's just making up "rules" to avoid forcing the GOP to filibuster.)

I read this article by Krugman last week and all I could think was, "Hope springs eternal." I mean, isn't it a bit late in the day to still be talking like Obama might turn into FDR?

When the only one you love turns out to be someone who's not in love with you.

15:35 BST

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, June 2010

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