Archive for March 2009Main
Tuesday, 31 March 2009
The long back-alley
Remember when you were much younger and you heard those stories about how terrible things were in Calcutta with the maimed children begging in the streets and living in filth and all that? Remember reading about child prostitution and child slavery in poor countries? Remember being glad you didn't live there? Well, that's how those of us who live in this socialist Hell-hole feel when we read about the high costs, long waits, and fraudulent practices that people living in America have to contend with when dealing with the "healthcare" system there. Even if I did have to wait a bit long for elective surgery, it could not be worse than having to burn up the phone wires for several months just to find out whether I'm going to be allowed to get necessary treatment. The fact is, I will get the treatment, whether elective or necessary, in reasonable time, and I won't have to exhaust myself making phone calls to get it and then sell my home to afford it. Meanwhile, the taxes I pay for this privilege are certainly less than the annual costs of a health insurance policy that cannot even be relied on to deliver if it ever happens to be needed. When a friend or relative in America mentions symptoms that I know indicate, at the very least, a real need for expensive tests, I always get a sick feeling in my belly. I fear for them in ways I don't have to for people who live here. Remember, Sicko wasn't about people who don't have "health insurance", but about Americans who (supposedly) do. And you know what? I don't think we're going to get much help from an administration that really doesn't want to hear from people who want a system that isn't just another hand-out to the insurance companies.
"Banks Starting to Walk Away on Foreclosures" - because after they've kicked people out of them and allowed them to decay, the properties aren't worth anything anymore and are too expensive to maintain. Except that no one will really admit to owning them (and maybe they really can't find the paperwork!), so the people who got kicked out of them end up being fined by the city for failure to maintain them, and then billed for the demolition of houses that are now worthless. So people should probably be refusing to leave anyway, unless the banks can produce that paperwork up front. (via)
The 'Victory' That Never Was: "[T]he reason that Barack Obama will end up being blamed for losing the war in Iraq that George W. Bush's minions were so anxious to start and managed so abysmally can be found in this story. As is usually the case anymore, this McClatchy report runs rings around the typically lame Associated Press effort, laying out in grim detail for anyone who has bothered to pay attention over the last couple decades just exactly how the house of cards that Gee Dub and the neocons slapped together will fall apart. That it is going to happen on somebody else's watch is the good news for the engineers of this looming disaster, because they can safely rely on the general lack of critical analytical skills by the SCLM and its own fawning attention to the dimwitted pronouncements of those same engineers and their enablers regarding all the ways they think the Obama administration is getting it all wrong.
Woody's solution: "I've long maintained that, if there's anything at all to the idea that capital punishment has deterrent effects, we ought to test the premise by executing a couple of the top financial mavens VERY publicly."
Another fannish word creeps into net lingo: Tuckerization. "But then there is Hilzoy who was supposed to keep an appointment with Alex regarding a patent application for Obsidian, "the world's most advanced encryption algorithm, destined to render all other network security software obsolete".
This is from Susie Madrak:Demonstrating the consistent amnesia of our media overlords, I've seen nary a mention of the Orange County CA 1994 bankruptcy that resulted from a hefty investment in derivatives. (You know, like CDOs?) I remember reading a magazine piece (either Harpers or the Atlantic) at the time that illustrated just what time bombs derivative investment could be. It made such an impression on me that a few years later, as a reporter, I lectured some township commissioners who just sat through a presentation by a broker that promised much bigger returns on derivative investments.There's more.
"This is what made Orange County go bankrupt," I said. "I mean, you do what you're gonna do, but you should know that I will cover the whole issue of high-risk investments in depth if you do."
They were actually surprised. You know, people tend to accept "expert" advice uncritically, and these were citizens with no particular expertise in finance. They told me they'd look into it, and for whatever reason, they decided not to consider the broker's proposal - which was good.
For me, red flags go up whenever I hear about derivatives, and that's why I was so concerned about the repeal of Glass-Steagall. I just have to wonder why so-called journalists (those incurious stenographers) did not see this particular train coming down the track.
Glenn and Lambert are both talking about how the media makes us feel isolated in our belief by pretending to represent "pragmatic" positions (i.e., half-measures or doing nothing) as being the only options because "the public" isn't as extreme as we are. This put me in mind of that article I wrote a few years ago, "How you became crazy", and it also reminds me that it's been part of my day to day work since 1989 to let people know that the fact that something is in the Daily Mail doesn't mean it's what most people actually believe. If you are only acting in a "pragmatic" fashion instead of asking for at least what you really want (better to ask for twice as much), you are not gonna get what you want. I want Nye Bevan's healthcare system - you know, "socialized medicine". And maybe if I keep talking about it, at least people will know the difference between single-payer and "socialized medicine". You want single-payer? Maybe if you ask for socialized medicine, they will compromise by giving you single-payer.... Even though they don't really want to.
William K. Wolfrum feels particular sorrow about the outing of Mudflats blogger AKMuckraker, because he used to know and really like Mike Doogan. (For the record, though: If I were blogging under a screen name for the sake of anonymity because I was worried about repercussions close to home, I'd pick a name that sounded like a real name so people wouldn't be wondering who "AKMuckraker" or "Atrios" was. "Katherine Logan" or "Joseph Stephenson" or something really ordinary.)
I need some Electric Flag.
Craig Murray says this is the most important post he's ever made, detailing the foreign & Commonwealth Office's admission that Murray was right all along about the torture "evidence". (I've always known Jack Straw was a creep. I just didn't know in 1997 that he would prove me this right.) (Thanks to NomadUK.)
Charles listened to Frank Partnoy so I wouldn't have to, and told me what he learned in a comment below. Well, we already knew that our "financial industry" was just a giant mafia-style casino and loan-shark operation. And ks supplied a link to the .mp3 of Ian Masters' interview with Michael Hudson. Details of that one and more here.
Lord Saletan is pretending to be The Sensible Middle between the extremes of forced-pregnancy lunatics and pro-choicers. Again. You know, I wonder who Saletan thinks he's arguing with on the pro-choice side. I mean, really, I'd like to hear about it some day. I want you to understand that once upon a time, it was actually a relatively mainstream position to support state-paid abortion. So mainstream that the Republican governor of California signed a bill that provided just that. His name was Ronald Reagan. Today, that same position is considered so extreme that it's not even mentionable. It's one I happen to support - because it makes perfect sense and saves the taxpayers a lot of money - which I guess now makes me "extreme". But, as far as I can tell, there isn't a more extreme position out there, and lately there aren't exactly a lot of prominent pro-choicers who are loudly advocating for what used to be called "free abortion on demand", so who the hell is he talking about?
Diane highlights a really good point about how term limits make legislators particularly vulnerable to the lobbyists and swindlers who have bought our government: "Because of term limits, a lot of legislators don't have the knowledge to navigate state government. Lobbyists (of all people!) are now seen as the repository of institutional memory. Many new members of the assembly get crash courses on how to shepherd a bill through the legislature from their new best friends, thereby giving the lobbyists not only precious face time but also gratitude from the noobs. So, now we know who runs this state government, and it's not the citizens of California or the people they send to Sacramento. The next question is what do we do about it?"
I know all about looking for a piece of music you just can't find anywhere (still no reissue of Serkin's version of Beethoven's violin concerto, dammit), and also about having someone send you something because you mentioned your search on the internet, so I enjoyed this story. And, yeah, from the 34 seconds posted, that really does sound head shoulders better than any version I've heard before (and I am a big fan of Dusty).
Monsters - A plane crashes and a number of children are killed, and Christianist loonies rejoice at this tragedy striking a particular father.
"The Market Mystique" - Krugman explains why Larry Summers is wrong when, "On Monday, Lawrence Summers, the head of the National Economic Council, responded to criticisms of the Obama administration's plan to subsidize private purchases of toxic assets. 'I don't know of any economist,' he declared, 'who doesn't believe that better functioning capital markets in which assets can be traded are a good idea.'" And here's the problem: These people don't seem to know that we used to have a much, much better idea.
Republican "plan" - Olbermann enjoyed the announcement by Republicans that they had produced a "plan" for the an alternative budget. But when it turned out the "plan" had no content - no numbers - they said it was just the "blueprint". (Um, do they actually know what a "blueprint" is? What they provided was more like a photograph of a model of a house, with the promise that somehow they would build it - but they ain't sayin' how.)
"Drugs, Guns and a Reality Check" - Even an op-ed columnist for the conservative Washington Post can figure out that the underlying problem with the illegal drug trade isn't the drugs, but the fact that we've made them illegal.
November 5, 1999: "Today Congress voted to update the rules that have governed financial services since the Great Depression and replace them with a system for the 21st century," Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers said. "This historic legislation will better enable American companies to compete in the new economy."
No comparison - Some people think maybe "Town Hall" arrangements where real people ask Obama questions might be superior to the kind of things "journalists" actually ask at press conferences. (They were right, but unfortunately Obama didn't know that when he was asked the marijuana question. Putz.)
Hilarious Kristof: "Ever wonder how financial experts could lead the world over the economic cliff? One explanation is that so-called experts turn out to be, in many situations, a stunningly poor source of expertise. There's evidence that what matters in making a sound forecast or decision isn't so much knowledge or experience as good judgment - or, to be more precise, the way a person's mind works." This naive fool doesn't seem to understand: No one was willing to hire "experts" who would tell the truth. If they had been, they would have hired the ones who had a track record of being right and fired the ones who got it wrong. They didn't. There has to be a reason for that.
Homesteading in the city: As the economy squeezes more and more people out of their homes, squatting is increasing. It should be a mass movement - it's a great way to get human amounts of "real" property out of the hands of speculators and profiteers and back into the hands of the people.
Bad penny: "If only Newt Gingrich could have been a one-hit wonder. Instead, the former Speaker of the House is stirring the pot with a potential 2012 bid for President, and the formation of a new group - Renewing American Leadership. What is the goal of Renewing American Leadership? To combat gay and secular fascism."
Stop this stalker: "Sadly, Amanda is just one of at least 40 different victims of O'Reilly's Harassment Machine. O'Reilly has hired producers whose job is to track, harass, and intimidate anyone whom O'Reilly perceives as an opponent. That's not 'journalism' - that's a mafia-style operation. And we need to put an end to it."
London plans to meet the G20 on April 1st.
More reasons to be grumpy
Bra of the Week
You may remember that a while back Mexico had an election that had a kind of Bush-Gore feel to the outcome. Well, Mexico's legitimate President wrote a letter to Secretary of State Clinton. It's remarkably easy to read. No wonder they didn't want him in power.
William Greider in The Nation, "Obama's New Monopoly Set: President Obama has invented a new board game for Wall Street money guys to play that promises to be a lot of fun. It's very much like the regular Monopoly game that kids play--only better--because this one uses real money, provided courtesy of the taxpayers. The best thing about Obama's game is nobody loses. Usually, the winner in Monopoly is the one who winds up with the most money. In the Obama version, the losers get any losses back from the government at the end of the game. The president has promised. [...] It's a very complicated game and not everyone can understand it. But the Wall Street titans smell hope. For this Monopoly set has no "Go to Jail" card in the deck." (via)
There are two big stories in Karen Tumulty's post on Max Baucus and the "Public Plan". The first one, enough to make your blood boil, is that the idea of a government-provided option for health insurance is being used solely as a bargaining chip (and they're saying this out loud!) to try to get the insurance companies to make a few other concessions. That's right, they have no intention of fighting even for this half-measure. What they want to do is essentially go back to that moment before health insurance became bigger than health itself, back when we could pay our bills without going into hock. A moment that can, of course, disappear again, just like it did before. Only the public plan can provide a hope of preventing this, but the insurance companies don't like it, so tough luck, voters! The other story is one that probably would have surprised me once, but is now just part of the seamless stupidity that is our news media. And that is that the Tumulty's little scoop is relegated to a blog post because Time didn't feel like it was necessary to publish it.
Have I mentioned lately that I can't stand Evan Bayh? And I can't stand Harry Reid, for giving into these right-wingers in the Democratic Party. Haha, I said, "giving in" - like it wasn't all okay with him anyway. These are bad people to have in government. Harry Reid is a "principled" religious man. I read that in a newspaper. And yet, there he is, shrugging off the idea of giving some relief to homeowners who are facing foreclosure. And speaking of bad people to have in government, what kind of a creep sneers at people who are concerned that the drug laws need to be changed? Yes, it's Mr. Wonderful himself. (How did this putz manage to pick up all that libertoonian economics without at least picking up the rather good libertarian arguments against the drug war? And more on that subject here and here.) God alive, there really isn't much between the Democratic leadership and the Republican scum these days.
Amy Goodman talked to both Bernie Sanders and Matt Taibbi the other day, although not together.
Note to self: CMike says in comments* that there's an alternative view on what the source of our financial disaster is here. I should take a good look at it when I have more time.
Mr. Sideshow went to bed early with what sounds like a bad cold or flu, so this is a note for him to check the archives for the Story of Doctor Who BBC Radio 7 is broadcasting at midnight.
Shut up or we'll tell the goons where you live
It was all bound to go wrong once a local elective official responded to e-mails by pretending that constituents who wrote to him had no legitimate business with him. But when Alaska blogger AKMuckraker of The Mudflats suggested that Mike Doogan's intemperate and ill-mannered response was out of order, Doogan apparently seethed with a lust for vengeance, and has since devoted his time to finding out the identity of this "unaccountable" private citizen. And so in the fullness of time AKMuckraker received the following e-mail:Jeanne:AKM doesn't tell us of a reply to this astonishing message, but mine would have been, "Why? Are you hoping one of them will throw a brick through my window? That I or a member of my family will be fired from a job? That someone will harass my kids at school? What purpose does this serve, and is it what your constituents are paying you to do?"
I am reliably told that you are the anonymous blogger who writes Mudflats. I am planning to reveal this in the enews I send to my constituents tomorrow, and am writing to let you know this and offer the opportunity to comment.
Not that it would have mattered to someone who would behave this way, because it has apparently become all too common these days for legislators to take the position that not only do they not work for us, but rather that we owe them our fealty and campaign support and other than that our silence.
Mike Doogan even seems to think it's his job to violate the privacy of anyone who writes to him. A few citizens write to a Representative and say they'd like to do something about corruption in government and he is not only dismissive, but he collects their e-mail addresses together and puts them all in the open address field of a single e-mail basically telling them to bugger off.
If you haven't heard about this story before, it might surprise you to learn that Doogan is a Democrat.
(Thanks to Charles for the tip.)
Just for one day
I'm in outrage lock or something, I've gone beyond my own vocabulary into Make-Little-Fists-and-Growl territory, and I just couldn't stand to blog about these bastards today, so here is some non-bastard news:
Senator Bernie introduces single-payer.
And we probably need this guy.
I'll try to get back to a normal schedule tomorrow.
The demon seed
I remember when I first started freaking out about it, because I was hearing those radio commercials when I started listening to Air America. Up until then, I don't think I'd realized just how much much they'd torn down, but the loan ads - they made me sick to my stomach whenever I heard them. The good thing about AAR turning increasingly crappy is that I don't much listen anymore, which means I don't hear any of those ads. Thomas Geoghegan spoke to Amy Goodman the other day on what he regards as the original sin in the financial meltdown: the legalization of usury.
The stuff of nightmares
The last thing I looked at last night was the top article at Hullabaloo, Digby's piece on Disaster Capitalist Humor. It isn't funny. It involves Tim Geithner having a good laugh over how, "Of course, we are all fiscal hawks now because of Pete Peterson. (Laughter.) There are no doves left on the fiscal side. (Laughter.)"
As Jonathan Schwarz explains, what they're having a good laugh over is that they seem to have sold all of Washington on the idea of doing to the United States what they've done to all those other little countries they've been screwing up - ripping up the social contract and gutting the economy. It's just what John Perkins described in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man:Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign "aid" organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet's natural resources. Their tools included fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization.They impose all sorts of hideous conditions on poor countries in exchange for "loans" - conditions that eat up whatever economic stability the country had left. (A new wrinkle is "debt-forgivenness" that has similar conditions, just in case there was still something they'd forgotten to destroy.)
Perkins wasn't just directly recruited by big corporations, by the way - he was interviewed by the NSA. But he was employed by a commercial firm, thus giving the government deniability. And it might once have been that people in our government were trying to weaken other countries to prevent them from competing with the United States and to secure their resources for the US - that is, as "national security" - but the commercial entities and super-rich families who've been getting everyone else's money are now the biggest "countries" in the world, even bigger than the United States. The United States, in fact, is now a debt-ridden country with an empty treasury - ripe for "help".
You can bet that that "help" will involve getting rid of Social Security and any remaining protections on workers or trade.
Check out Amy Goodman's interview with Perkins in 2004, here.
The GWOT is over! Let the OCO begin!
Despite the fact that I have indeed seen reverence for Obama (and obnoxious defenses of the less pleasant parts of his policies) that rivals that of the right-wing for Bush, I agree with Glenn that we're just not like that. It's one of the things that worries me about the people who are like that - I don't really want them supposedly playing for my team.
France also made the mistake of electing a conservative, and look what it's done for them. On the bright side, they're reacting to it. At least in this class war, the people are fighting back. Meanwhile, Scapegoating AIG Won't Change the System. So, are we missing a teachable moment?
Every decade or two, Maryland lawmakers get the bright idea to get rid of that gory, anti-Union state song. I remember back in the '80s when Maryland Delegate Howard A. Dennis wanted to do that, inspiring Public Radio's Larry Massett to come up with appropriately wimpy lyrics. I guess he just didn't take the issue seriously.
With the viewers pulling for Sam Seder or Cenk for the new slot planned for MSNBC, naturally, they are negotiating with Ed Schultz for the job.
Amped Status gives us Geithner's Toxic Bailout Basher Roundup, their Top Ten AIG Scandal Coverage, and the National Douchebag Tournament..
In all these years, I never knew Gypsies and Armenians had anything to do with each other. I feel so ill-educated, now.
Note to Paul Krugman: If Larry Summers wasn't a putz, he would still have his old job.
What I don't understand is why anyone thought Barney Frank should have to "defend" calling homophobic crackpot Antonin Scalia a "homophobe". I mean, the guy writes Supreme Court opinions in which he makes clear we should actually enforce "moral opprobrium" against homosexuals. That has to be coming from somewhere. [Video] Meanwhile, the insurance industry is worried that the government might actually force them into competition with something more efficient - that is, government-provided health insurance - so they are trying to sweeten the pot. This might be a good time to call your legislators to tell them you aren't fooled.
Andy Worthington's journalism took the issue of Guantanamo seriously early on, and his articles have appeared everywhere from The Raw Story and The Huffington Post to the Guardian, but now he's put together his own site and wants to reach out to other bloggers. Go check him out - for example, his recent article on Prosecuting the Bush Administration's Torturers.
Why does Ezra Klein refer to people like Evan Bayh, Tom Carper, and Blanche Lincoln as moderates? Ezra, these people are right-wing Democrats. Quit getting your language from Fox News and Fred Hiatt. And why does Tim Fernholz refer to "last week's middle-ground proposal from more progressive businesses" when that proposal still ensured the status quo on card-check? (Good on Scott Lemieux for his piece about the war on students who might have ibuprofen, though. And, on that same subject, IOZ notes the kind of thinking going on here.)
I'm trying to think of a way to explain about the hospital without squicking people out, and I can't, so let's just say it was a combined test and treatment (two mints in one), and it's girl stuff, and if you're really that curious, LETZ.
Blogging while out of it
On the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez disaster, Greg Palast reminds us that the mess is still there. [Update: Apologies, I forgot that some places may not find the Suicide Girls site work-safe. However, you can find the same story at gregpalast.com.]
Yep, the primary seemed to go on forever, and the superdelegate issue freaked people out, so folks want to change the rules. I worry that they'll change the wrong ones.
Ettlin has a few things he thinks we should do about the banksters and other financial and corporate crap we are dealing with, and one of them is audit the bastards. (But, Dave, why should the top marginal rate be as low as 35%? That's leaving the door open to start the whole cycle up again.) And I see Rafe Alvarez (another graduate of The Baltimore Sun newsroom) has a story in the CSM about how things are going in the town where Steinbeck placed The Grapes of Wrath.
Kathy G. finds a revealing quote.
Chris Rodda, who wrote Liars for Jesus, has a little movie project to expose the lies and liars behind the "Christian nation" theme.
Amy Goodman spoke to Paul Krugman on Democracy Now yesterday, and also covered the increasingly frightening story on water. And on that subject, you can watch the trailer for Flow, an earlier DN! episode about about Flow and how the wars of the future will be fought over water, and even a report by Mumia Abu Jamal on Water Wars.
I meant to extend my congratulations to Patrick and Teresa yesterday, but that whole hospital thing really took it out of me. Meanwhile, via TNH's Particles, The Scam of the Decade: Fred Phelps is a con man.
Southern Beale is confused, so let me explain: This is the arsonist's fire sale. Ordinarily, you'd just put the arsonist in jail, but instead we're just paying him to burn down some more buildings. Clear, now?
Dean Baker's Q&A at Firedoglake is really pretty interesting.
We've got trash on the radio.
I see the Republicans are trying to destroy California, again. Can't they recall state legislators, too?
Frank Rich says people are really getting pissed off with the people Obama put in charge of the money.
Trendy, "progressive" companies introduce "third way" to undercut unions.
Bill Moyers investigates the looming communist threat. (via)
They're mad as hell...but they don't know why.
The thing I find ironic is that Joe Kennedy, who knew what they were doing should be illegal but figured he'd get rich off it before anyone figured it out and passed laws against it, was eventually the guy who wrote some very good laws designed to prevent it from happening again - and they did, as long as those regulations were still in place. The only hope with Geithner was that he, like Joe Kennedy, understood that what they were doing should be illegal and was prepared to make it so. But, clearly, he's no Joe Kennedy.
Meanwhile, my commenters have reviewed the situation and convinced me that my original suggestion is a good one: If the alleged holders of the mortgages can't produce the documents necessary for renegotiation or to demonstrate their interest in them, there is no evidence that they really own them - so those houses belong to the people who live in them.
Say goodnight, Gracie
Brad DeLong's explanation here of the thinking behind the Geithner plan would make me feel all optimistic if I didn't know that most of the assumptions underlying it are wrong. People can't afford to buy at the current inflated prices. I'm not just talking about the rates, but the actual prices. Those prices are based on what people paid in an inflated market based on fraudulent assurances from lenders. Other people simply gambled on side-bets using other people's money or money that didn't even exist.Q: What if markets never recover, the assets are not fundamentally undervalued, and even when held to maturity the government doesn't make back its money?The assets are not fundamentally undervalued, and the reason they are called "toxic" is because they are poison - and poison doesn't magically become non-toxic just because you let it ferment for a while. As Atrios has repeatedly reminded us, this is not a liquidity problem, it's an insolvency problem. I recommend that you keep your water in glass bottles. And buy a needle-threader; it's amazing how quickly you lose your ability to thread a needle without one. (You will eventually understand the value of a thimble, too.) More from Krugman and Hilzoy.
A: Then we have worse things to worry about than government losses on TARP-program money--for we are then in a world in which the only things that have value are bottled water, sewing needles, and ammunition.
This Week In Tyranny, Dan has a whole page of good quotes and links that I would have posted myself if I'd seen them first and wasn't unutterably lazy. Definitely go read.
Nancy Kruh explains in The Dallas Morning New why she's not taking a bath in this market: "The only economic expert I follow religiously is New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, and he is the sole reason I did something back in March 2008 that millions of people now wish they had done. I yanked every last penny I had invested out of the stock market."
The appliance of science
I see in the IHT that "Nobel winner is getting an education":As a physicist, Steven Chu has observed atoms suspended in a powerful laser beam and DNA stretched out in a vacuum chamber. But in his new job as U.S. energy secretary, Dr. Chu is observing phenomena he never saw in the science laboratory.You might have expected a Nobel-winning physicist to know that Newton's first law only applies to an ideal (frictionless) system, and, much like everywhere else, Washington doesn't exactly fit that description. I read this and instantly thought of all the libertarians I've heard over the years who think that the market is some kind of ideal state where real-world rules don't apply. There, too, the problem is something called "bureaucracy". But human actors are a part of the market and even a part of the science lab - and that's politics, and politics is friction.
Dr. Chu said he had been frustrated by the glacial pace of his department. He said he was eager to get on with what he sees as his main task: finding and funding the scientific breakthroughs that will end the United States' dependence on carbon-based fuels and solve the climate-change problem.
Borrowing an analogy from the world of physics, he said that in Washington, Newton's first law - a body in motion tends to stay in motion - does not apply. "In a bureaucracy, if you start something in motion, it either stops or gets derailed," he said. "You have to keep applying force."
The Washington Post let Chris Mooney rip George Will's pseudo-science to shreds:A recent controversy over claims about climate science by Post op-ed columnist George F. Will raises a critical question: Can we ever know, on any contentious or politicized topic, how to recognize the real conclusions of science and how to distinguish them from scientific-sounding spin or misinformation?
Congress will soon consider global-warming legislation, and the debate comes as contradictory claims about climate science abound. Partisans of this issue often wield vastly different facts and sometimes seem to even live in different realities.
In this context, finding common ground will be very difficult. Perhaps the only hope involves taking a stand for a breed of journalism and commentary that is not permitted to simply say anything; that is constrained by standards of evidence, rigor and reproducibility that are similar to the canons of modern science itself.
* * * * *
Jamison Foser says Tucker Carlson's continued attacks on Jon Stewart remind him of George Costanza in the Jerk Store episode. But, you know, what can you expect from a right-wing hack?
PINK Talk, 5:00 PM Eastern, tonight: "Women for Peace kicks off their Internet radio talk show with the compelling stories of women in Gaza. We will hear from CODEPINK cofounders Medea Benjamin and Gael Murphy who along with Lt. Colonel Ann Wright recently returned from Gaza where they led a delegation of 60 peace and social justice activists to this war-torn region. Listeners are welcomed and encouraged to call in, join the online chat and/or email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or comments for our guests."
I just saw the devil and he's smilin' at me
Bra of the Week
"Hey Paul Krugman (A song, A plea)"
"Are Business Executives Just More Apt to Be Unethical?"
Libby has a little round-up, and remembers how long it's been.
Let me get this straight: This is the good-guy side?
"13 companies getting bailout money owe back taxes." Who could have predicted....?
I've been meaning to read this for a couple of days now and still haven't found the time, so I'd better post the link before something eats my browser or something: Matt Taibbi on "The Big Takeover - The global economic crisis isn't about money - it's about power. How Wall Street insiders are using the bailout to stage a revolution: The best way to understand the financial crisis is to understand the meltdown at AIG. AIG is what happens when short, bald managers of otherwise boring financial bureaucracies start seeing Brad Pitt in the mirror. This is a company that built a giant fortune across more than a century by betting on safety-conscious policyholders - people who wear seat belts and build houses on high ground - and then blew it all in a year or two by turning their entire balance sheet over to a guy who acted like making huge bets with other people's money would make his dick bigger." Taibbi also says we are screwed, which is pretty much what Krugman is saying and what Atrios is saying and, more succinctly, what John Cole is saying. Well, almost everyone who isn't in the pocket of the financial roulette industry is saying it at this point.
And Dean Baker says the correct headline for the story is, "Treasury Officials Who Missed $8 Trillion Housing Bubble Still Haven't Noticed It." For those who are still catching up, I think Jamie Galbraith makes it pretty clear that the banksters have a bunch of stuff they paid too much for that no one wants to buy, so they are making you buy it at inflated prices. In other words, we are screwed.
I actually don't think anyone should be treated like this, although it may be gratifying to read. Until you consider that the very people who made his actions possible are also responsible for the fact that many people are treated as badly or worse. What this story says to me is not that Bernie Madoff is getting his just deserts, but that he either just made a really convenient scapegoat or somehow managed to piss off far greater Malefactors of great wealth. Or, more likely, both. (Read more on our delightful "justice" system in Chris Floyd's "Lost Liberty Blues: Prisons, Profits, and the Banality of Evil," and from federal prison inmate Michael Santos in "The View From Inside: Why We Need Prison Reform.")
"American 'Criminal' Women: Mary Surratt was the first woman executed in America."
Things that make me curse a lot
Israeli Soldier Says Military Rabbis Framed Gaza Mission as Religious:JERUSALEM, March 20 -- A soldier involved in Israel's recent military offensive in the Gaza Strip said in published reports Friday that the military's rabbinical staff distributed material characterizing the operation as a religious mission to "get rid of the gentiles who disturb us from conquering the holy land."Yep, nothing helps soothe things and bring the opposing sides closer to peace like a bit of holy war. For every crackpot Muslim defender-of-the-faith loony, we have twelve apocalyptic Christian loonies and even a couple of Rabbis to keep the fires burning.
In the second day of published accounts from soldiers critical of the conduct of the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza, the daily Maariv ran excerpts of an interview with a squad commander in Israel's Givati Brigade. He was identified only by his first name, given as Rahm.
"The military rabbinate brought many magazines and articles with a very clear message: 'We are the Jewish people, a miracle brought us to the land of Israel, God returned us to the land, and now we have to struggle so as to get rid of the gentiles who disturb us from conquering the holy land.' All the feeling throughout all this operation of many of the soldiers was of a war of religions," he said. "As a commander, I tried to explain that the war is not a war of Kiddush Hashem [the sanctification of God's name, including through martyrdom] but over the stopping of the launching of the Qassam rockets."
The publication of the soldiers' accounts has elevated a set of issues that Palestinian organizations and human rights groups have raised since early in the Gaza operation. On Thursday, the IDF's chief lawyer opened an investigation following the publication of reports in which soldiers spoke of unnecessary civilian deaths and needless property destruction.
I try not to use too many words that trigger filters because I know a lot of people are reading at work, which sometimes makes it difficult for me to describe with any real accuracy the kind of people who seem to be leading the world these days. Like that unpardonable creep in Rome who has announced that, in contradiction to every known fact, condoms make AIDS worse instead of better:It's hard not to see Pope Benedict's recent attempts to stuff both of his Prada-shod feet in his mouth as anything but soap opera. He would be excellent mental dissection material for a good satirist, except for the fact that what he says and does can kill people. Every word that manages to get out of his mouth past those Pradas becomes a rule for some Catholic person somewhere, a bullet which can kill.You know, the only silver lining in Ratzinger's reign is that for a while it had become fashionable to treat his predecessor as if he was a sweet, loving, sensible guy (even when some of the crap he was coming up with was just more diplomatic and dressed-up ways of dispensing Ratzingerian wisdom), and it's a relief that no one is really trying to do that for this well-known human-hater.
Looking at these articles this morning, I found a little origin story building in my mind: Once upon a time there was a planet much like ours that had the same problems, and a just and loving God. And realizing that the religious loonies were a pox upon the planet, God decided to remove them from what would otherwise be a nice little world. But since God wasn't a meanie, it wouldn't do to just kill them off or send them to a fiery pit, so another planet was created just for them, and they each got their own little enclaves, far apart from each other, where they could try to create what they thought would be a good world. And, in the fullness of time, their descendents went their various ways, often meeting up with each other and with some even becoming far more sensible about religion, and this is the world they made. Unfortunately, we never quite got rid of the religious loony element.
The only question is: Did the other world become a much better place that doesn't have these problems (in which case, the next time the just and loving God decides to improve things, it would be good to just remove the people who aren't religious loonies from Earth and send us to that other planet, leaving the loonies to think that we got to be raptured instead of them), or did the other planet (perhaps thinking their loonies had been raptured) just get stupid again?
Strange days have found us
"Feds were involved in ACORN raid in Nevada, officials say: "Federal agencies were involved in the decision to raid the office of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) in Nevada last October, just weeks before Election Day, the offices of Nevada's Secretary of State and Attorney General say. The allegations raise questions of whether politics played a part in the raid and calls into question assertions by the US Attorney's office that they were uninvolved. Federal guidelines instruct agencies investigating election fraud to avoid action that might impact the elective process."
Mark Danner talks to Amy Goodman about torture.
Please do look back in anger: "What I don't understand is how people are willing to dismiss this as not important, or even worse, that torturing is necessary to fight terrorism. What I don't understand is the number of Americans willing to overlook and excuse the debasement of this country, its Constitution and ideals."
Your Talking Dog finds a relationship between Dr. Doom Roubini's discussion of The United States of Ponzi and a Newsweek article in which Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson says there are no more than a couple dozen actual terrorists at Gitmo and that everyone else should be let go immediately.
As near as I can tell, Ruth Marcus' mission now is to explain why the people who ruined the world should be allowed to keep doing it. (Also: I've always been impressed by the way Democratic presidents have been able to time travel to commit bad presidential acts during a Republican presidency.)
E.J. Dionne: "Beware populism, we are told. Honor those AIG contracts. Forget about any moral reckoning and just fix the economy. This view is wrong on almost every level, especially about populism."
In all the time I was doing reproductive health counseling, I never once had anyone ask me about adoption. It wasn't even a third option to them - it was have the baby and keep it, or have an abortion. And the reason for that seemed quite obvious to me: The idea of carrying a pregnancy for nine months only to put your child in the hands of strangers is horrifying. How could you not, after all, spend the rest of your life worrying about who was taking care of your child, how they were treated, whether they'd come out all right? And how could they ever forgive you for giving them away? I've met kids who were adopted, and some seemed to be happy people who weren't carrying a lot of baggage, and others - owing, I think, to the screwed-up way their adoptive parents have treated them - were a bit of a mess. But I've never met a woman who gave her kid up for adoption who wasn't still wrestling with it, even decades later. Mothers, it seems, have a tendency to worry about their children. And yet, there's a whole network of maniacs out there trying to convince us that it's abortion, and not adoption, that takes the higher emotional toll on mothers. There's no reason to believe it.
An enterprising strategy to beat the slump.
(Thanks to Anna, Julia, Bob, Ruth, and whoever I forgot for the tips.)
Things my girlfriends tipped me off to
Krugman: "This was bad analysis, bad policy, and terrible politics. This administration, elected on the promise of change, has already managed, in an astonishingly short time, to create the impression that it's owned by the wheeler-dealers. And that leaves it with no ability to counter crude populism."
"AIG unit sues Countrywide over loan losses: A unit of embattled insurer American International Group Inc. filed suit against mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp. in California federal court Thursday, alleging Countrywide misrepresented the health of loans that the company insured, resulting in massive losses." It's a gang war!
Lance Mannion on rich people, and bonuses.
Sam Seder and Bobby Kennedy on Ring of Fire, on eight years of dictatorship, and the current crisis. (Part 2 and Part 3.)
The Rude Pundit is impressed to learn that The New York Post has finally had enough.
Jonathan Cohn seems to believe that Obama really does want to fix healthcare. Whatever he means by that.
Spitzer says I told you so. Also, The blind leading the blind.
From Craig Murray, "Justice Secretary Jack Straw to be Accused on Torture in Parliamentary Inquiry: The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights has agreed to hear my evidence on torture on Tuesday 28 April at 1.45pm. Many thanks to everyone who helped lobby for this."
The secret life of Maureen Dowd.
True crime stories
Pruning Shears (a site that loads very quickly), says: "Mark Danner's coverage of the International Committee of the Red Cross report on the CIA's treatment of detainees is maybe the most important addition to our body of knowledge on the Bush administration's torture program since The Dark Side. [...] As for war crimes, the story of the Obama Justice Department is that of the dog that didn't bark. Last month he said Justice would investigate if there were 'clear instances of wrongdoing,' and Danner's report is the latest unambiguous indication of just that. It is hard to take Obama at his word at this point; what would be sufficiently clear? The most obvious explanation for the continued inaction is that he wanted to mouth the right words for public consumption but make no effort to follow through."
Eight go from White House to 'big house': "Do you know how many former Bush administration officials have been sentenced with jail time? The answer is a whopping eight, as MSNBC's Rachel Maddow pointed out Wednesday night."
"Who sent soldiers into an Alabama town last week? Who sent 22 military police and an Army officer into the tiny Alabama town of Samson last week after a gunman went on a rampage that left 11 people dead? That's what the U.S. Army would like to know."
Worst of the Worst's Crimes Continue: "What is at the core of this myth, that the worst financial manipulations in history ought to be financed by the taxpayers they cheated, is the presentation of economics as profoundly beyond the facilities of the ordinary taxpayer - me and you. If we had all run our own affairs into the ground, maybe that might be believable. I didn't, and I know that if you did it was on the advice of financial reporters who are shilling for the mogul horde. We taxpayers are regarded as useful as long as we work hard for a living, and just believe that the financial community - that makes our production into a faraway ground where their fantasy money begins - is essential while we are not. If we just accept and trust in our economic manipulators, everything will be fine. Sadly, nothing is fine, and won't be for a long time to come. [...] While the blowup takes public attention away from the regulatory crisis we have been through, an effort is on to use this crisis to make it permanent. Former Secretary Paulson has been at work for awhile to bring every regulation into one 'independent' agency. The action of the Fed recently - representing itself as responsible and public interested while isolating congress and the executive branch from its work with AIG - should tell you all you need to know about the purpose of this proposal." (And by the way, is there really anyone left who believes that George Walker Bush won the 2004 election?)
Pile-up on the Infobahn
I woke up this morning to find I was on dial-up. Apparently my broadband provider had connectivity problems, but I didn't know that at the time because I couldn't get their pages to load. It's all back, now, but I wasted a lot of the morning rearranging myself for plugging into the wall and waiting forever for stuff to load (and some stuff never did). Man, some of you have really slow sites.
"Eight or nine neoconservatives took over our country" - It's interesting to know that people in the CIA who aren't just right-wing political appointees say that if Sy Hersh says it, it's worth looking into. It would be even more interesting to know whether Dick Cheney's Assassination Squad explains the mysteriously convenient deaths of so many people who seemed to stand in his way politically.
Digby writes again on the need for liberals to explain what they believe in (and the completely opposing philosophy of conservatives). Because the way things are now, we've had the GOP, and only the GOP, explaining "what liberals believe", and that's that "liberals believe in big government." Of course, I've never heard a liberal or anyone else say, "What I believe in is big government," so this makes no sense, but even Bill Clinton ended up using this stupid phrase. (What a jerk.) Also, Barney Frank is carrying some Institutional Memory, and dday says they're Too Big To Be Legitimate.
Tapped has a nice round-up of news in which I learned that Judd Gregg seems to think majority votes in the Senate are "mob rule" and Ross Douthat thinks Ezra Klein is the William F. Buckley of the modern left and leader of a - yes! - vast, left-wing conspiracy. And there's also a post on that Washington library case against blocking internet content regarded as unsuitable for children - including the NRA site. And our fearless leader himself says, "If the Democrats decide passing health reform or averting climate change is more important than respecting rules passed by their elderly colleagues, then they can change the rules." It's about healthcare.
I think it was a nice public service for Attaturk to post a screen capture of the only part of that disgusting WaPo article you need to see. No reason to give Hiatt hits for publishing that crap.
Ettlin goes to the movies and says I Love You, Man is a much better movie than you'd have guessed from the promotions.
You know what we need?
Machines that eat elections: "The Humboldt County Election Transparency Project, using the free and open source software program Ballot Browser, found that Diebold's GEMS system had eliminated all votes from 197 vote-by-mail ballots cast in a single precinct in Eureka, CA during last November's general election [...] Following the discovery of Diebold's dropped votes, and the equally disturbing revelation that Diebold had been aware of the problem for years, CA's Secretary of State Debra Bowen, initiated an investigation which confirmed [PDF] that, under common circumstances, the GEMS software would drop all votes from the first scanned deck of ballots, the so-called "deck zero." [...] "In terms of being able to track down the precise mechanism by which the problem had occurred in [the Humboldt] election, critical information was simply never recorded," in the audit logs, Deputy Sec. of State Lowell Finley said at today's hearing which was made available to the public via one-way audio teleconference. [...] For a decade or more, e-vote system vendors have pointed to the audit logs as a way of ensuring that every operation performed by their software would be available for inspection in post-election examinations. As a result of today's hearing, it has become clear that even the most recent versions of Diebold/Premier's vote counting software do not actually record all system events."
Another good reason for single-payer healthcare.
Fred Clark is already disgusted with Ross Douthat.(He's also outraged about some things.)
George Walker Bush is going to write a book explaining why he committed his crimes: "'I'm going to put people in my place, so when the history of this administration is written at least there's an authoritarian voice saying exactly what happened,' Bush said." Also, I admit that this is a cat video.
Watch Now! - Warner Brothers is officially stupid, because they don't want people to see this on the web. Really, really dumb.
What we need.
Slow-building daily scream
Atrios has a dream. It's a good dream, that the opposition party will actually be a loyal opposition for a change, even if only out of opportunism. Alas, my experience both in America and Britain is that it doesn't really work all that well - you get some populist or libertarian arguments to give you the false impression that the rightward party is the real defender of individual rights or hope for the working man or whatever, and then when it comes to actually doing something about it, habeas corpus still gets weakened or disappeared, the internet censorship bill still passes with a veto-proof majority, and if people are fooled into electing the right-wing party, it just happens faster. (Atrios is certainly right that "This Congress doesn't have a very good record of success with sternly worded letters." However, I do love the idea that every single bonus payment would be recovered in taxes. And I laugh at the argument that this would also void AIG contracts. No, it wouldn't, since AIG can't legally create contracts that promise the government won't raise your taxes.)
Anyway, I guess no one could have predicted that Geithner and Summers would screw the pooch, except for everybody who was horrified that Obama put Geithner and Summers in such sensitive positions. Should've left 'em out in the wilderness where they belonged. And now they're even lying about the position and lying about whose fault it is. Creeps. They should be fired immediately.
Dean Baker has a suggestion: "How about breaking off the financial unit from the rest of AIG and then take away the government life support? The highly valued executives can then try to get their bonuses from a hopelessly indebted company that has debts that exceed its assets by tens of billions of dollars. That should provide good entertainment for us all." (He also explains to Richard Cohen that anyone could see the crisis coming if they just knew arithmetic.)
Eric Alterman says, "It Can Happen Here: While it is undoubtedly true that some liberals on some occasions have underestimated the dangers posed to the United States and its democratic institutions by its adversaries, it is no less true, and perhaps far more significant, that we all--including the most alarmist "Bush haters" among us--underestimated the dangers posed to same by the Bush administration." (Personally, I think that if John Yoo led his client to believe that breaking the Constitution was not illegal, he's guilty of, at the very least, fraud. He should certainly be disbarred, and I'm not clear on why he shouldn't be thrown in jail as an accessory to quite clear and direct violations of law.)
Anyone know how I can watch this episode of Colbert? They won't show it to me here, and I can't find a way to see it as promised on the FXUK site.
Incredibly slow blogging
Wolcott: "Instead of men kneeling in confessionals admitting to lust, maybe they should be encouraged to regard greed...as a more devastating and destructive sin." I want to have dinner with Wolcott, he seems like he'd be fun.
Digby has a nice rant in "Sociopathic Scribes" about how Lisa DePaulo ginned up a murder charge against Gary Condit and screamed for his blood all summer that year and now, although he has been exonerated, she can't even apologize properly. But the story does contain a vignette that's probably the best thing I've ever heard about Jeff Greenfield.
Just how complicated is that thing with the AIG bonuses, anyway? Complicated enough, I guess....
Jamison Foser has at Richard Cohen's attack on Jon Stewart today. Yes, of course, Jon Stewart is the real problem our country is facing. Him and Colbert.
I think it's well past time America joined the civilized world and allowed Americans who love someone of the same sex who is a citizen of another country the same options for a green card that would be given in any heterosexual married couple's case.
Bush No Longer Enjoys Diplomatic Immunity.
One time Michael J. Pollard grinned at me when I looked up and recognized him while signing in at the front desk at the Chelsea Hotel. Oh, and here's more on the PACT rip-off.
The truth is out there
It's perfectly obvious that the administration is lying about how its hands are tied when it comes to telling AIG that they can't use taxpayers' money to pay off all those fancy bonuses because "they have contracts". As Jane Hamsher, Glenn Greenwald, and Brilliant Jill point out, the auto workers had contracts, too, much good did it do them, and there's nothing unusual about companies informing their employees that the luxuries are being cut this year in a belt-tightening move. (Come to think of it, didn't the airlines have contracts to give their employees pensions? Wonder what happened to that....)
Der Spiegel has a story on how the German banks ripped off people they regarded as "old and dumb".
Thanks to Buzzcook for reminding me that Steve Kangas covered the relationship between wealth inequality and poor healthcare a long time ago.
Can this mean the end of the Monroe Doctrine?
Second Life to get red light zones.
I think this video of an artwork is interesting, in a time-wasting sort of way.
The left that didn't bark
Nell in comments:On the health care fight: Just as I've feared, without a strong, loud single-payer option -- with liberals accepting in advance that the health care "reform" will be some version of the insurer's proposal -- the fight is now completely over whether the new plan will have a government component.
And it's not looking good. Without a public pool, there goes the only route by which the Health Care for America Now crowd envisioned we could eventually get to single-payer.
Instead of declaring single-payer politically dead and focusing on their oh-so-clever plan, and trying to get single-payer advocates into their coalition, they needed to encourage the strongest possible single-payer effort so that their wedge becomes the "reasonable alternative".
Now there's a real chance that what we'll end up with is mandatory purchase of crappy, expensive private insurance.
I saw it on the internet
Glenn Greenwald fights the war on the War on Some Drugs: "Particularly in the U.S., there is still widespread support for criminalization approaches and even support for the most extreme and destructive aspects of the "War on Drugs," but, for a variety of reasons, the debate over drug policy has become far more open than ever before. Portugal's success with decriminalization is highly instructive, particularly since the impetus for it was their collective recognition in the 1990s that criminalization was failing to address -- and was almost certainly exacerbating -- their exploding, poverty-driven drug crisis. As a consensus in that country now recognizes, decriminalization is what enabled them to manage drug-related problems far more effectively than ever before, and the nightmare scenarios warned of by decriminalization opponents have, quite plainly, never materialized."
Ezra and Atrios are talking about the future of journalism, and at the HuffPo, there's "The Demise of Investigative Journalism [...] Veteran journalists are being pushed aside for beginning reporters without watchdog experience. What's filling news holes are superficial events coverage and fast "content" production that's farmed out to wire services, usually without reporters' bylines. The Internet, with few exceptions, is not replacing newspapers and magazines in providing paychecks for investigative reporters."
Today: "On this day in 1827, the first newspaper owned and edited by and for African-Americans, Freedom's Journal, was published in New York City. It appeared the same year slavery was abolished in New York state. On this day in 1972, librarian Zoia Horn went to jail, protesting that libraries should not become places for spying and infiltration. And on this day in 2003 a 23-year-old American college student, Rachel Corrie was killed in Gaza as she protested Israeli action there. She was run over by a bulldozer while trying to stop Israeli troops from demolishing a Palestinian home. She was the first nonviolent western protester to die in the occupied territories." (And, apparently, our governor rocks.)
Another reason to prevent the rich from getting too rich (by such measures as, say, really high taxation on the wealthiest), is that the richer they are, the higher the infant mortality rate for the country is.
I guess Erepublik is a sorta Second Life for politics.
Earlier today I was think about Lyndon and wondering what it was that made him go against his (now documented) judgment that escalating in 'Nam was not a good idea. And then I thought, well, maybe Lyndon and Obama went down the same path of deciding to buy political space by being "strong" militarily in order to be able to pass a domestic agenda that the times demanded. But, of course, there's a big price to pay for war, too. (via)
MahaBarb is recommending an article in the latest Harper's by Thomas Geoghegan that says our entire economy has been stripped right down to, y'know, the worthless part. (Also: MoveOn's latest little film, on health insurance.)
Even The Financial Times is saying that the Reaganesque vision of wealth over everything is just plain wrong.
Larisa Alexandrovna on the corporate coup: "A thief breaks into your house, steals everything, and leaves you nearly broke. Law enforcement responds by visiting with the thief and the resellers of the thief's stolen goods in a very friendly setting, perhaps lunch at the Four Seasons. Law enforcement then takes the information to government officials who respond by writing the thief and the resellers a check from what is left of your checking account. They decide this too over lunch, perhaps also at the Four Seasons and on your dime." Via a linky post at Newshoggers, where I also learned that the Obama administration is defending Rumsfeld in a torture lawsuit. Also, you already knew this, but AIG is just using your money to give its criminals big fat bonuses.
Rachel Maddow edged around MSNBC's instruction to have a blackout on the Cramer/Stewart story, but the punchline at the end of her news round-up was that The Washington Post "quietly, quietly," announced it was ceasing publication of its Business section.
Forthcoming books you don't need to read
A most familiar landscape (via)
It's good to have friends
Like it is, from Glennzilla:Today, everyone -- including media stars everywhere -- is going to take Stewart's side and all join in the easy mockery of Cramer and CNBC, as though what Stewart is saying is so self-evidently true and what Cramer/CNBC did is so self-evidently wrong. But there's absolutely nothing about Cramer that is unique when it comes to our press corps. The behavior that Jon Stewart so expertly dissected last night is exactly what our press corps in general does -- and, when compelled to do so, they say so and are proud of it.Yes, indeed. But to me one of the most important things Cramer said in that interview was this:I knew the people who ran it. I thought they were honest. That was my mistake. I really did. I thought they were honest. Did I get taken in because I knew them before? Maybe, to some degree...These people - and I mean most of the press corps and the public faces of power - know each other. They're friends or at least friendly acquaintances and colleagues. The ideally adversarial relationship between the press and power is completely destroyed by this comity, and this belief that because they are friends, the powerful will not lie to them.
And that, in large part, is what makes it so valuable to have people who are far outside of the power centers of Capitol Hill and Manhattan parsing the news and reevaluating it - the very fact that we are not their friends, we don't know them (or think we know them), we don't have to suck up to them to get quotes from them or be guests on their shows or sell our product, but rather we actually want to know what the truth is behind their words and what impact it will have on us - and that's what's most important to us, not as journalists, but as members of the public who are consuming the news.
That's what the ideal of press freedom is about, and why the press is the sole industry that is explicitly protected in the Bill of Rights itself. It's also what has been missing since the news media turned into one great big giant power center of its own that is sucking the lifeblood out of the public debate.
* * * * *
This Week in Tyranny - Oh, hell, why don't I just bang my head against a wall?
Uneasily Bemused reports that the president of the US Chamber of Commerce is Standing up for workers' rights - he's got our backs: "He loves workers so much that rather than see them deprived of the right to a secret ballot, he'll ship their jobs overseas, where workers' right to work without representation is properly respected."
My sensawonder and my paranoia work in perfect harmony when I see stuff like this.
God help and breed you all
Verified Voting - MD: "Maryland passed a law in 2007 that requires the state to adopt a proven, verifiable, and more cost-effective paper ballot voting system by 2010. That victory is now in jeopardy. With the current fiscal climate, there is talk of delaying implementation of the law. There is a great deal of misunderstanding about the costs of keeping the touch screens. We need you to help educate lawmakers TODAY. The Legislature may take steps in the next several days to eliminate funding for paper ballot voting systems." Use this page as a jumping off point toward educating members of the Maryland legislature about the material expense of maintenance of the machines.
The Editors has a good piece on some reasons to tax the rich, but he left out an even more important one: We need to tax the hell out of them so that they don't get so rich that they can buy the government. Really. It's important. (via)
I think it's creepy enough that AP is suing Shepard Fairey for basing his famous Obama image on one of their photographs, but I was astonished to learn while watching Rachel Maddow's interview of Fairey that the police actually arrested him at the launch party for his gallery show, on "graffiti-related charges", apparently because other people have used the image on walls. I think it would be interesting to find out whose idea it was to arrest someone on no basis whatsoever in such a mean-spirited and public way.
"Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable [...] Society doesn't need newspapers. What we need is journalism. For a century, the imperatives to strengthen journalism and to strengthen newspapers have been so tightly wound as to be indistinguishable. That's been a fine accident to have, but when that accident stops, as it is stopping before our eyes, we're going to need lots of other ways to strengthen journalism instead (Articles like this are interesting to me, but I'm not convinced that we can think of the internet as we now know it as a permanent reality. For one thing, the powers that be are at work right now trying to reduce or eliminate its democratizing nature - and they have the power to do that. And even this much assumes that life isn't going to change much for most of us - oh, a little "belt-tightening", perhaps, but soon everything gets reset to 2000, right? Only I don't think that's going to happen. I think anyone who has a Gestetner ought to start hoarding paper and stencils now so that they can be ready. And if you don't have a Gestetner, it's metal letter-sets or gelatin.)
Three W's That Sank the American Economy and Boosted China
Wealth Destruction at an Unprecedented Rate
Good times, bad times
Bra of the Week
Ricky Gervais or a robot violinist? You decide.
Secret message in WSJ chart. (via)
It came from out of the woodwork.
Something to chew on.
Apparently, the prudent thing to do is to just lie, cheat, and steal, because trying to plan prudently for your future is something irresponsible losers do. Those would be the people who bargained for good pensions, or got jobs with good pensions, or bought things with money they already had instead of borrowing endlessly for things they couldn't afford. Apparently, those people were just suckers, because when it's time to deliver, you're suddenly told that, gosh, we don't feel like giving you what you paid for, now. And what happens when people complain? Well, the "responsible" people tell them they want too much. (Not that I buy the idea that banks aren't responsible for selling people mortgages they knew they couldn't pay for. But what this story is about is people who paid in full for something and now are being told they can't have it.)
Good question from Spencer Ackerman: "Why Would the Obama Administration Want to Make Vets Buy Private Insurance for Their Health Care? Because CNN has reported that, "Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki confirmed Tuesday that the Obama administration is considering a controversial plan to make veterans pay for treatment of service-related injuries with private insurance." Patty Murray says that suggestion would be DOA if it came to the House, but what kind of a jackass came up with it? (via)
The Republicans have an advantage in the race for Gillibrand's former Congressional seat in New York, but a funny thing is going on as a Democrat makes a credible run for the seat and the Republican Party is having a lot of intramural tsouris. The Republican, Jim Tedisco, doesn't appear to wish to be seen with the rest of his party anyway (and who can blame him?), and the rest of the party may want to use him as a way to get rid of party leader Michael Steele, who is becoming rather an embarrassment (although we thought he'd already achieved that years ago). Meanwhile, the state of the Coleman-Franken contest may be in the hands of the election judges now, unless they make Coleman show them he can afford it, first. in which case it's all over. And Ron Paul defends earmarks, and says that's Congress' job, and getting rid of earmarks would create an even stronger executive.
Ladeez AND Gennemuns, The Price of (De Facto) Segregation Just Went UP!
A bunch of stuff
"Where's the Obama-Line? That Obama's talk is disturbing is undeniable. [...] As long as the money owns the process, it will own the candidates, and as long as it owns the candidates, it owns the govt. That's not his fault, that's not anybody's fault but ours. Most of that corporate money goes for media buys because we're so lazy we actually decide who we're going to vote for by watching television. That MUST stop or we will deserve the next reaming we get." (We really do have to get rid of that "corporate personhood" thing, you know.)
The first thing you need to know about the secret "anti-counterfeiting" treaty is that it's not really an anti-counterfeiting treaty, because the items in question aren't counterfeits - that is, copies passed off as the real thing - but copies sold honestly as copies. The next thing you need to know about it is that it can send you to jail.
Republicans have been trying to keep Norm Coleman's fight to keep Franken out of the Senate alive by funding it rather than having another Democrat in that seat, but that little problem with having inappropriate data saved on his website and then putting it in unsecured files might mean the money is drying up.
"Was the AIG Bailout a Gift to Goldman Sachs? [...] POGO would argue that it's the government's stubborn refusal to disclose this information that is eroding public confidence. Both Bernanke and Geithner have pledged to Congress that they will make their agencies more transparent, but actions speak louder than words. The secrecy surrounding the AIG bailout has only fueled suspicions of favoritism, and has made the public more distrustful of the government's actions, thereby undermining one of the most important goals of the bailout."
How did black home-buyers end up with so many bad loans? They were steered into them: "The NAACP is accusing Wells Fargo and HSBC of forcing blacks into subprime mortgages while whites with identical qualifications got lower rates." (via)
John Cole isn't impressed when the administration abandons the term "enemy combatant", but not the Bush policy: "I wasn't one of the wild-eye Obama supporters who thought everything was going to be different the moment he took office, and I still think it is far to early to judge the overall policy of Team Obama, but it sure looks like they are dropping the ball on many of these issues. It really is infuriating."
"The Great GOP Steele Strike of 2009 [...] How pathetic is it that the guy in the GOP who's making the most sense these days is Michael Steele, a guy who last week came out and said that abortion is a woman's personal choice and that homosexuality is (gasp!) something that isn't?" And that Limbaugh isn't good for you - and then apologized. Well that's your Republican Party for ya.
Public understanding of science, B-movie science, and the history of life on earth in 60 seconds.
It's really worthwhile watching Rachel explain what the Democrats aren't doing. While there is no question that the GOP is embarked on a mission of being unmitigated scum, the Democrats seem to be embarked on a mission of letting them get away with it. And, in one way at least, it does not surprise me that Harry Reid is acting in such a destructive way. Because, while we are meant to be tolerant of Reid's disgusting "principled" anti-choice position on abortion, it is a virtual guarantee that anyone who holds such a position is neither pro-life nor particularly interested in human rights or civil rights in general. Hell, it's not even fiscally prudent to hold such a position. It's just plain mean. Yet Democrats, apparently concerned more with optics for the media than in real policy goals, allowed this prick to run the Senate, and kept him on long after it became obvious that his actions have been destructive to both the country and the party.
I call these people "Retaliban" for a reason. I occasionally have a dimwit in my comment threads who keeps trying to warn me of the dangers of the US being taken over by the Islamofascist Caliphate - an extremely unlikely scenario - but who apparently is unaware that the people who want to take away my rights as a woman and as an individual - and who have had some success in doing so - have, in fact, been running our government for the entirety of the Bush years.
Duncan (no relation) comments to the previous post:Avedon, I'm definitely on the side of "irritated that they are apparently trying to shotgun White House messages down at us."Don't forget that commercial enterprises that break the law because the administration asked them to should be given immunity from prosecution.
What "messaging" are the Dems wanting to organize -- that Social Security is in crisis? that merit pay for teachers is a good idea? that the Employee Free Choice Act should go on the back burner? that more money should be thrown at the banks, free of conditions or oversight? that Iran has a nuclear program? (See, it doesn't matter whether the President can pronounce "nuclear" to suit the grammar obsessives, if he's lying about the situation.) that Israel must be supported at all costs? that killing Afghan and Pakistani children is a terrible price, but we think the price is worth it?that it's important to build bridges to religious extremists like Rick Warren, but not to extremists like Jeremiah Wright?Thanks for bringing up that particular sore spot, Duncan - I was furious at the way everyone was perfectly happy with the message that it was Jeremiah Wright, and not Rick Warren, who was the dangerous extremist we should be distancing ourselves from. If we must have religious leaders being given a platform of such magnitude, I'd prefer that it be someone who is preaching social and economic equality rather than someone who promotes hating gays and subjugating women.
No amount of PR or organization is going to make these parts of Obama's message into good ideas. And they should be resisted and attacked.
For some reason I just haven't seemed to be able to blog today. Sat in front of this screen for hours and could only think in little fragments. I blame Jon Stewart. I find it somewhat amazing that Cramer actually sat down for an interview with Jon Stewart, but it's really a great public service by both of them.
"When to Take Cover" - When people start telling you that gravity doesn't matter anymore, you should be scared. That's how I felt every time I opened up the IHT in the '90s and saw some idiot talking about how deregulation was okay because there was this magic that meant all the rules had changed. John Kenneth Galbraith explained all this in 1999.
I don't know whether to be glad the Dems are trying to organize their messaging or irritated that they are apparently trying to shotgun White House messages down at us.
Et tu, Herbert? Seriously, women did not rise up en masse and demand the destruction of the unions and of our manufacturing base and of SEC controls. Blaming women for this disaster is just more denial.
I saw this
Gosh, John F. Wasik at Bloomberg saying single-payer is an economically sound idea: "It's time to stop kicking sand in the face of single-payer health care. It may be the strongest solution around to insure every American at a lower cost."
I see at The Minnesota Independent that yet another state Senate has passed a medical marijuana bill. It still needs to get through the finance committee before it becomes a real bill and then can get a real vote, but it's good to see a little progress in this area. In other exciting MN news, someone browsing the web found unlocked files with Coleman's donors' details, and, as usual, they're taking this opportunity to claim it's all some evil hacking by the opposition (Franken team) rather than simply admit it's due to their own failure to properly secure their data. And someone seems to be trying to "stifle public access" to public activities at the Capitol, but no one knows who it is who created the mysterious rules.
"At Obama's Treasury Department, nobody's picking up the phone. Literally." Even the British government can't reach them.
Scott Lemieux provides A Limited Defense of Michael Steele: "In fairness, by Republican standards, I don't really see how Steele flip-flopped. After all, the Republican position on abortion seems to be that abortion should be "left to the states," and this state-centric position is best accomplished by passing a constitutional amendment banning abortion in all 50 states as well as a broad array of other federal abortion regulations. So, by these standards, Steele's position is perfectly consistent! Admittedly, if you use the standards of basic logic his position makes absolutely no sense, just like the Republican one, but any of the nation's prominent male op-ed columnists will tell you, this doesn't change the fact that the abortion criminalization lobby has a commitment to rigorous moral reasoning the rest of us can only envy."
Deacon Blue says, "Roubini says that the stimulus was too small and had useless tax cuts in it (yup), and that the next round needs to deal with the toxicity rampant in the economy from upside-down mortgages. [...] He also cuts to the chase when it comes to the banks: nationalize some of them now, clean them up, and turn 'em loose. It's hard to see an upside in continuing to dump billions into the banks now without going the extra step of temporary nationalization." Meanwhile, I think Mary is suggesting that Alan Greenspan must be blaming the problems he's caused on his evil twin. And Deacon Blue also has a linky post with bits of news that actually didn't make me spiral into a depression.
Glen Ford at Black Agenda Report responds to attacks on people who criticize Obama for being too far right: "Lots of folks on the left, it is now apparent, no longer seek anything more than to bask in the sunshine of Barack Obama's smile. No matter how much national treasure their champion transfers to the bankster class, and despite his exceeding George W. Bush in military spending, so-called progressives for Obama continue to celebrate their imagined emergence as players in the national political saga. Having in practice foresworn resistance to Power, they relish in bashing the non-Obamite Left."
Every little thing
"Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh describes 'executive assassination ring' [...] After 9/11, I haven't written about this yet, but the Central Intelligence Agency was very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state. Without any legal authority for it. They haven't been called on it yet. That does happen." I couldn't help wondering if Hersh is going to be allowed to live to finish his book.
The scary thing about the latest interview at The Talking Dog is that it's just another day at the office for a prison guard at Gitmo.
D. Potter alerts me* that John M. Crisp is saying in The Oakland Tribune, "Let's move a little to the left."
Obama clarifies his ideology: "I am a New Democrat." That's not much different from saying you're from the DLC. Or worse: "President Barack Obama firmly resists ideological labels, but at the end of a private meeting with a group of moderate Democrats Tuesday afternoon he offered a statement of solidarity. 'I am a New Democrat,' he told the New Democrat Coalition, according to two sources at the White House session. The group is comprised of centrist Democratic members of the House, who support free trade and a muscular foreign policy but are more moderate than the conservative Blue Dog coalition." So, he's happy to stake his claim with the right-wing Dems - and not with the rest of us. I'm so thrilled. (via)
The Oracle had an interesting question about that anthrax investigation story: "And if there were 15,000+ FBI terrorist mailing investigations just a couple of months after the initial lethal anthrax terrorist mailings, then what do they total now?"
CMike told me to watch this segment of Democracy Now! in which economist Ha-Joon Chang and Amy Goodman discuss The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism. America succeeded by being a strongly protectionist country, but now we're supposed to pretend "protectionism" is a dirty word, even though the anti-protectionists are still very happy to have regulations that protect their ability to plunder from every direction.
Buzzflash is offering the latest issue of MAD (I think) for one of its premiums. Someday I'll have to ask Alan if this is better than the cover of the Rolling Stone.
More lazy blogging
Support in the comments for a Bernie Sanders T-shirt has been overwhelming. Yes, we can!
I'm sure glad Atrios can make me laugh, because he always finds stuff that scares the hell out of me. Like that one of the things that was going on while the Republicans controlled Congress was that the FDIC didn't collection the insurance premiums from the banks, which is where the funds come from to insure deposits. Meanwhile, those tent cities The Washington Post's columnists have assured us aren't happening are now happening to the extent that the corporate media is starting to notice. And it's only a sign of just how revolting Bill Kristoll is that even Steve Benen seems relieved by his replacement at the NYT with the more pedestrian derangement and stupidity of his replacement, Ross Douthat. (But: Don't mess with Jon Stewart.)
Although the newspapers are trying to make it sound like it's practically a dead heat, Coleman seems to be pretty much doomed to seeing Franken take his Senate seat if you actually read the court documents.
God hates figs and other stories: "The odious members of the equally odious Westboro Baptist Church went to the University of Chicago (my alma mater), apparently to protest the existence of Barack Obama, and found themselves pwned by 100+ students, who among other things created signs that both mocked WBC's own hateful screedings, and were naturally far more clever." From Chicago Maroon: "If you need scanty biblical evidence for anything, we've got it," said fourth-year Carmel Levy as he handed out flyers containing biblical citations that read: "Jesus rebuked the fig as an evil abomination" and "God Promises Terrible Vengeance Upon Any Fig-Loving Nation."
You know what to do and it's up to you
Lance Mannion never seems to fume over these things the way I do, but I gather he's as tired of the war on teachers as I am.
It's funny how people who didn't seem to mind George Walker Bush disappearing on 9/11 and going golfing and having the Most Vacation Days Ever when the FBI and CIA directors had their hair on fire and when we were at war and blah blah blah, even though this was the most important thing EVER, can't stand it that Obama is doing more than one thing at a time.
Glennzilla on another retreat from the howlers - and cave-in to AIPAC: "In the U.S., you can advocate torture, illegal spying, and completely optional though murderous wars and be appointed to the highest positions. But you can't, apparently, criticize Israeli actions too much or question whether America's blind support for Israel should be re-examined."
Mark Adams is worried about America Flirting With The Fascists, but I think it's gone beyond flirtation. Is it possible to reverse the trend, or are we falling over into the abyss?
I was honestly baffled by the lack of screaming when Reagan started getting rid of the SEC regulations that had protected our economy, but by the time Bush2 started doing it I just had the familiar feeling of my heart sinking a little further down again. That stuff keeps happening. But it really is the crime of the century. Well, both of them, actually. Meanwhile, remember, Sicko wasn't about people who had no health insurance, but about people who had it but might as well not have.
(And Obama is crapping out on the Employee Free Choice Act?)
PNH flagged this one on his sidebar as Frank Miller's Peanuts, which is about right.
I just want to say that I'm really sick of getting constant announcements that I can now buy an Obama trinket of some kind, a T-shirt or a coffee mug or god-all-knows-what. I don't support Obama, I support the advancement of policies that will make the United States liveable for all of its inhabitants. I don't actually care who does it, and I don't want to have to see his face on all my cutlery. I'm certainly not going to wear it. (Maybe they'll get the message if they see everyone wearing a Bernie Sanders T-shirt?)
I meant to link last week to Glenn Greenwald's article about the lack of investigation of a major act of terrorism that was committed in the United States after 9/11, the attempted assassination of two members of Congress and the successful murder of others by use of anthrax. Rush Holt wants it thoroughly investigated and doesn't believe the currently "official" story. Given the seriousness of what was intended by the attack - and the disastrous repercussions - how could anyone disagree?
Just think how happy the wingers are going to be when those coastal cities disappear. Boy, I sure hope I'm dead before this happens.
I'm glad to hear the unions are finally going after the Blue Dogs.
I see this and I wonder if Bush/Cheney knew what they were doing would lead to economic riots, or they were just worried about run of the mill political protesters. And if getting Obama elected was just a way to delay people's recognition of what was going on....
I'll never find another you(tube)
Susie flags former evangelical and life-long Republican Frank Schaeffer's CNN appearance, where he says that believing in the right-wing god drives you crazy. And you might want to check out his article last month in the HuffPo in which he explains Why Obama Must Not Work With Republicans: "All you need to know is that the Republican/Sara/Palin base of evangelical support is rooting for war, death and killing as a longed for -- even prayed for -- conclusion to human existence. No kidding! Understand what I'm going to tell you here, and you'll understand what went so wrong with America with W. Bush and why we are the most dangerous country on earth. Shorthand: we have nukes and risk being run by kooks. And, until the election of 2008, an evangelical born-again kook was running our country."
Maryland's governor is pissed off that mortgage lenders won't negotiate, and says the law must change.
Actually, I think we could do worse than to have a guy like Sam Seder, who does his homework and has a pretty good idea of what's going, as President, but I suppose Obama's comments to The New York Times about why he's not a socialist were appropriate to the moment - except that I don't for a minute buy the frame that the drug benefit, passed without a source of funding but also with a restriction against negotiating to keep prices low, was socialist, nor that infusing taxpayers money directly into the veins of rich people and their institutions was socialist. Imagine how dumb you'd have to be to think they were. Possibly even this stupid.
I guess I'm going to have to stop my love affair with YouTube until the Performing Rights Society comes to its senses: "YouTube is today (March 10) beginning to remove all premium music videos from the UK site, with the majority expected to be removed within two days." Speaking of stupid...
Kiss Thailand's Tolerance for Gays Goodbye (Thanks to Bill Dobbs for the tip.)
This is odd - Keith Moon got a blue plaque, not at someplace where he lived, but where he played.
Didn't want to have to blog today
Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman says it looks like the Obama administration is Behind the Curve, and that he was not reassured by Obama's latest interview in the NYT, in which he offered little and "went on to dismiss calls for decisive action as coming from 'blogs' (actually, they're coming from many other places, including at least one president of a Federal Reserve bank), and suggested that critics want to 'nationalize all the banks' (something nobody is proposing)." I believe we predicted earlier that the administration, after saying they were interested in any good ideas that Paul Krugman or anyone else had, would simply fail to recognize that Paul Krugman's ideas are a damn sight better than their own. We did not predict that the administration would then sink to the Rovian straw man defense - but then, I guess form follows function, or something like that.
I remember watching Jeremy Paxman hammer Michael Howard 14 times with the same question over something that was comparatively trivial, and thinking, "Why doesn't this happen when he's lying about his destructive policies?" Similarly, everyone is going a bit nuts over Jacqui Smith not filling out some forms on her house properly, when in fact her policies are a much bigger scandal. Johann Hari says, "Crime is going to rise - unless we get liberal," and he's right, because that's what conservative policies do, and we can expect more robberies and muggings as a result. But Smith has been instituting policies that make things worse instead of better. "The debate should be about your house, not Smith's house." And we should start using the solutions we used to know worked.
Damn, I was going to link it last night before Atrios got to it, but I faded out too soon. Still, too good to miss, DougJ on the bizarre sense of irreplaceability that our elites seem to have - like there aren't millions of people who would be happy to take their roles - and probably do a much better job of it, too. (Also: John Cole has an appropriate suggestion for what to do with Senator Shelby, and also discusses how the liberal media isn't liberal.)
Julia informs me that the guy who doesn't like Obama's birth certificate is now tying him to 9/11 and is forming a PAC - and, because Julia is up on all the real creeps, she also tells me that Rick Santelli thinks Jon Stewart has a gay crush on him, presumably because he spent a long segment of his show laughing at him and at CNBC and then did it again on Letterman. [Full segment Part 1 and Part 2.]
I can't even understand how this happened. (via)
Watchmen as a Saturday morning cartoon. (Also: urban camouflage, a video that explains what a capacitor is and how to make one (you may want to learn this for when we have to re-start civilization), emergency hammer graffiti, unnatural rhythm.)
The Lovin' Spoonful
Watching the clock
"Ex-UN prosecutor: Bush may be next up for International Criminal Court: An ex-UN prosecutor has said that following the issuance of an arrest warrant for the president of Sudan, former US President George W. Bush could -- and should -- be next on the International Criminal Court's list. The former prosecutor's assessment was echoed in some respect by United Nations General Assembly chief Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua, who said America's military occupation of Iraq has caused over a million deaths and should be probed by the United Nations."
Mary asks and answers: "When is a layoff not news? When it is done in small enough increments that no press release is needed."
I dunno, people's willingness to believe in Reagan's philosophy may be dead, but his effect on us is still all too much alive.
Frank Rich wants to get back to Our Town after watching the gluttons feast, and notes, having seen Jon Stewart's take-down of the CNBC geniuses, "What should really terrify the White House is that Cramer last month gave a big thumbs-up to Timothy Geithner's bank-rescue plan."
This Week In Tyranny, lots of people are talking about torture, but: "Last week Dianne Feinestein announced the creation of a panel to investigate torture by the CIA, but the intent is not to punish. A news source I do not recognize also claimed that CIA director Leon Panetta claimed in a memo that no one at the agency would be punished. Once again there is very little on the record but the signs are ominous."
Is There Anything Wrong With Saying Yes?
Kim Stanley Robinson wants to end the real multigenerational Ponzi scheme. (via)
Feel like reading something depressing that someone put in my comments?
There's no puzzle about why Bush had these policies - fear of prosecution is a significant deterrent to raising your voice against oppression even if there's no danger you can ever actually be convicted. If you can keep someone incarcerated without trial for years, it doesn't really matter if any jury would ever have found them guilty. And it's no surprise that a conservative Supreme Court would happily support the position that the issue is "moot" when the administration suddenly drops the charges just before they reach the court, so there's no downside for the administration, which gets to throw people in jail for years for no reason at all. It's the very antithesis of what "a free country" means, and it appears that the current administration has no problem with it. And it shouldn't be necessary to say it's an outrage.
Bernard Chazelle found a nice quote: "I find it baffling that the banks' boards of directors have not resigned yet. In fact, the Treasury Secretary has all but promised Citi's boss, Vikram Pandit, that he would hold on to his job even if the board goes. The big banks have persuaded everyone around them that they need to operate under current management in order for the country to have an economic recovery. That to me is completely at odds with the historical record from crises elsewhere." (Also, John Caruso reminds us: "if you plan on committing war crimes, the last thing you want is an international court that's dedicated to prosecuting them.")
Much as I hate to link to the Cabbage, apparently no less than four members of the Obama administration sat him down to reassure him that they are non-ideological pragmatists who are going to reduce spending on "all the stuff that Democrats love" [.. ] "He is extremely committed to entitlement reform and is plotting politically feasible ways to reduce Social Security as well as health spending. The White House folks didn't say this, but I got the impression they'd be willing to raise taxes on the bottom 95 percent of earners as part of an overall package." Why is he extremely committed to reducing Social Security? Is this just something they say when they are talking to cabbages, or do they really mean to do this destructive, evil thing?
Jane Hamsher on MSNBC discussing the spending bill. (But, hey, I'm happy to spend some bucks on helping gang-members get rid of their tribal tattoos so they can go out and get jobs instead.)
Making unemployment invisible
Learn about London from comics!
Josh Marshall on Consequences:As I noted last night, there is a growing body of evidence that February's Stimulus Bill was too small and an increasing likelihood that a second Stimulus Bill will be needed -- perhaps sooner than we imagine.(Via Memeorandum - with more from Buck Naked Politics, Balloon Juice, and Talk Left) - where I also learned that John Yoo has provided a "defense" of his egregious memos.)
But aside from the math and economics, there's a point of media criticism that needs to be made. While the bill was being debated, the news media -- and particularly television -- focused almost entirely on the question of whether it was too big. The possibility that it was too small -- which now seems likely -- was seldom raised. As Krugman argues, it's a mini-version of the press failure in the lead up to the Iraq War, with depressingly familiar dynamics.
I think the administration deserves a small amount of the blame for this for not starting the debate with a much more aggressive and expansive bill, kicking off the game with the goalposts more advantageously placed, as it were. But fundamentally it goes back to that issue of DC and the national political media remaining wired for the GOP.
Instant defaults - Now that every con artist in the mortgage business has a government-backed guarantee behind them, they're selling fraudulent mortgages up the wazoo to naive buyers who never manage to make more than one payment (if that many). Guess what happens next.
Jerome Doolittle thinks Matt Steinglass could be right when he suggests that Obama just out-gamed everyone on healthcare: "Anyway, Obama is now saying mandates are going to be a part of the health care solution proposed in the upcoming budget bill. Apparently he now thinks he has the political strength to do the whole reform at once, universal care, mandates, and all. Maybe he's wrong, but he hasn't been wrong yet." (Also: Backsliding, and the horror of socialized medicine.)
Save Justice - How Karl Rove used the justice system to prevent the emergence of successful Democratic legislators - by persecuting individuals rather than investigating crimes. Maybe a thousand of them. And the agents and judges who did it are still in place to keep doing it. (Part 2 and Part 3.) (And here's emptywheel, Open left, and Scott Horton on the verdict in the Siegelman appeal (via Memeorandum, which has even more links to responses).
Bra of the Week
Jamison Foser: "When is a tax cut for 98 percent of taxpayers portrayed as a tax increase? When some of the small handful of people whose taxes will go up happen to control the nation's news media. Last week, President Obama unveiled a budget outline that extends the Bush tax cuts for all but the top two percent of taxpayers and makes permanent a tax credit of up to $800 for low- and middle-income workers that was included in the recent stimulus package, among other tax cuts."
You know all that buzz about how Limbaugh's ratings have nearly doubled since January? Well, Eric Boehlert points out that there's no evidence for it, since there are no publicly available figures on Limbaugh's actual ratings.
Robert Parry, "War Crimes and Double Standards: New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof - like many of his American colleagues - is applauding the International Criminal Court's arrest order against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for his role in the Darfur conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives." But, "While Kristof writes movingly about atrocities that can be blamed on Third World despots like Bashir, he won't hold U.S. officials to the same standards. Most notably, Kristof doesn't call for prosecuting former President George W. Bush for war crimes, despite hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have died as a result of Bush's illegal invasion of their country. Many Iraqi children also don't have hands - or legs or homes or parents."
Paul Street, "Why Did Newsweek Say 'We are All Socialists Now?'" It's a funny thing, government always intervenes in some way to shape the economics of a country, but it's only Bad Old Socialism when there's talk of intervening to help the people who aren't rich. (via)
In other news that won't get much coverage, Larisa Alexandrovna reminds us just how dirty the Siegelman verdict is, with little details like: "Okay, now let's also recall something very important to both this case and that of Paul Minor. In Alabama, the former Attorney General who sealed the ballots during the 2002 election, not allowing Siegelman to get his rightful recount, was William Pryor. Within several months of his sealing the ballots, he was appointed on a recess appointment to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (the same court that just ruled on this case). Although Pryor was not part of the 3 judge panel reviewing this case, his recess appointment into a position of such authority raises questions about other judges. It should also be noted that Pryor was a former client of Karl Rove."
Reading the entrails
FAIR Study: Media Blackout on Single-Payer Healthcare Proponents of popular policy shut out of debate: "Single-payer--a model in which healthcare delivery would remain largely private, but would be paid for by a single federal health insurance fund (much like Medicare provides for seniors, and comparable to Canada's current system)--polls well with the public, who preferred it two-to-one over a privatized system in a recent survey (New York Times/CBS, 1/11-15/09). But a media consumer in the week leading up to the summit was more likely to read about single-payer from the hostile perspective of conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer than see an op-ed by a single-payer advocate in a major U.S. newspaper." It's the 1990s all over again, on just about everything - the Republicans set the news agenda, single-payer is kept out of the healthcare discourse, and we're being told that Obama's presidency is already failed because he hasn't solved all of the problems the conservatives created over the last 30 years.
Bob Herbert: "In the midst of the craziness, conservatives are busy trying to blame this epic economic catastrophe - a conflagration of their own making - on the new president. Forget Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush and George Herbert Hoover Bush and the Heritage Foundation and the Club for Growth and Phil Gramm and Newt Gingrich and all the rest. The right-wingers would have you believe this is Obama's downturn."
New verdict in the Siegelman case: "Bad news for former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld his conviction on all but two counts in a 68 page opinion." Also: False Positives Abound in Drug Field Tests: "While testing the specificity of the KN Reagent test kits with 42 non-marijuana substances, I observed that 70% of these tests rendered a false positive," said Dr. Omar Bagasra, director of the Center for Biotechnology, who conducted the experiments. And it looks like Bernie Maddoff got a deal from prosecutors.
The LiberalOasis Radio Show: Health Care Summit Edition: "Underneath the comity displayed at the White House health care summit, fault lines between progressives and insurance lobbyists were clear, especially on the issue of whether we provide the choice of a public health insurance plan to compete against private plans. That's what health care blogger Richard "R.J." Eskow (Huffington Post and Sentinel Effect) told listeners of The LiberalOasis Radio Show, heard on WHMP in Western MA Saturdays at 10 AM ET." You can get various podcast formats at the link. And I think that every single person who discusses this issue should make a big point of always speaking of this in terms of how it's the insurance companies versus the rest of us.
Hold on tight
In The Village Voice, James Lieber asks, "What Cooked the World's Economy?" and answers, "It wasn't your overdue mortgage."In fact, what we are living through is the worst financial scandal in history. It dwarfs 1929, Ponzi's scheme, Teapot Dome, the South Sea Bubble, tulip bulbs, you name it. Bernie Madoff? He's peanuts.Only we don't seem to have anything like that at the moment. What we have are a bunch of people who are so focused on protecting the banksters that they are pouring our money into them instead of doing our business. I'm not the first person to say that these deals should be treated as crimes and their perpetrators treated like racketeers. In fact, the article quotes someone who helped pull things back together after the savings and loan scandal of the 1980s as saying much the same.
Credit derivatives - those securities that few have ever seen - are one reason why this crisis is so different from 1929.
This was not caused by imprudent mortgage lending, though that was a piece of the puzzle. Yes, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were put on steroids during the '90s, and some people got into mortgages who shouldn't have. But the vast majority of homeowners paid their mortgages. Only about 5 to 10 percent of these loans failed - not enough to cause systemic financial failure. (The dollar amount of defaulted mortgages in the U.S. is about $1.2 trillion, which seems like a princely sum, but it's not nearly enough to drag down the entire civilized world.)
Credit derivatives are breaking and will continue to break the world's financial system and cause an unending crisis of liquidity and gummed-up credit. Warren Buffett branded derivatives the "financial weapons of mass destruction." Felix Rohatyn, the investment banker who organized the bailout of New York a generation ago, called them "financial hydrogen bombs."
The heart of darkness was the AIG Financial Products (AIGFP) office in London, where a large proportion of the derivatives were written. AIG had placed this unit outside American borders, which meant that it would not have to abide by American insurance reserve requirements. In other words, the derivatives clerks in London could sell as many products as they could write - even if it would bankrupt the company.
So what do we do now? In 2000, the 106th Congress as its final effort passed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act (CFMA), and, disgracefully, President Clinton signed it. It opened up the bucket-shop loophole that capsized the world's economic system. With the stroke of a presidential pen, a century of valuable protection was lost.
Will Obama re-criminalize these financial weapons by pushing for repeal of the CFMA? This should be a no-brainer for Obama, who, before becoming a community organizer in Chicago, worked on Wall Street, studied derivatives, and by now undoubtedly knows their destructive power.
Paulson has taken flack for spending little to bring mortgages in line with falling home values. Sheila Bair, the FDIC chief who often scrapped with Paulson, said this would cost a measly $25 billion and that without it, 10 million Americans could lose their homes over the next five years. Paulson thought it would take three times as much and balked. Congress is bristling because the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (EESA) could provide mortgage relief - and some derivatives won't detonate if homeowners don't default. Obama's nominee for Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, could back such relief at his hearings.
The other key appointment is Attorney General. A century ago, when powerful trusts distorted the market system, we had AGs who relentlessly tracked and busted them.The environment from the top of the chain - derivatives gang leaders - to the bottom of the chain - subprime, no-doc loan officers - became "criminogenic," Black says. The only real response? Aggressive prosecution of "elites" at all stages in this twisted mess. Black says sentences should not be the light, six-month slaps that white-collar criminals usually get, or the Madoff-style penthouse arrest.If they keep messing around like this, we really are looking at total global collapse within just a few years. (Thanks to CMike for alerting me to this long but very readable - and scary - article.)
As staggering as the Madoff meltdown was, it had a refreshing side - the funds were frozen. In the bailout, on the other hand, the government often seems to be completing the scam by quietly passing the proceeds to counterparties.
Wow, even The Wall Street Journal is calling for transparency about what the money we gave AIG is being used for, suspecting that it's going to European banks. But Quiddity has a further suspicion: "Here's my thought: The money is going to the European banks. But to a significant degree, the money the European banks were playing with was from the oil-rich Middle East. If that can be proved, can you imagine the furor over giving money to AIG which flows through to European banks in order to make whole a bunch of wealthy Arab potentates." (And a link on the same page tells me I missed it the other day when Joe Klein finally admitted that: "We are at the end of a 30-year period of radical conservatism, a period so right-wing that many of those now considered "liberals"--like, say, Barack Obama--would be seen as moderate pantywaists in the great sweep of modern political history. The past 30 years have been such a violent departure from the norm, such a profound destruction of the basic functions of government, that a major rectification is called for now--in rebalancing the system of taxation toward progressivity, in rebuilding the infrastructure of the country, not just physically, but also socially and intellectually.")
Conservative operative put off by right-wing hate radio. And if you're looking for a job, FedEx Office (formerly FedEx Kinko's) is offering to print your résumé on high quality paper for freeTuesday.
Sarah Palin fails to pander to the right when picking a state Supreme Court justice. Ron Beasley reckons she's not so dumb and can see which way the wind is blowing.
Housing crisis: "So let me see if I've got this straight: Israel is planning to demolish dozens of illegal houses because the people in question had no right whatsoever to build there. Now, I'm getting the unmistakable sense that there's some sort of subtle irony at work here, but I just can't seem to put my finger on it. What a puzzle."
Andrew Malcom won Atrios' coveted Wanker of the Day* award for thinking America's homeless are "rich" because they have cell phones. Note to wingers: Cell phones always catch on fast in poor neighborhoods because people don't have access to landlines. I guess that goes double for homeless people. (Over here, cell phones probably caught on faster in the more downmarket neighborhoods, since you can get a cheap pay-as-you-go phone, pay for it only when you use it, and never have to pay to receive calls.)
Creepy Brazilian Archbishop to excommunicate people who saved child's life: "He said the excommunication would not apply to the child because of her age, but would affect all those who ensured the abortion was carried out. However, doctors at the hospital said they had to take account of the welfare of the girl, and that she was so small that her uterus did not have the ability to contain one child let alone two. While the action of the Church in opposing an abortion for a young rape victim is not unprecedented, it has attracted criticism from women's rights groups in Brazil."
I haven't seen Achy in a long, long time, but her latest novel is out and she's doing her book tour, so I thought I'd send my congratulations.
Goshwow! Nanotube radio!
Time flies when I'm watching videos
A couple of fatuous men who have completely ignored the deliberate miseducation of young people in reproductive health (at the expense of our tax dollars), and the ardent denial of access to good information and contraception to as many people as possible, discuss what women need to do, and Digby says: "Maybe Chris Matthews and Will Saletan think that lecturing women about murder and responsibility will make a big difference, but it won't. All women except the youngest or the mentally disabled understand very well the ramifications of unwanted pregnancy and if there's is one woman who fully understands the consequences of unprotected sex, it's the woman whose period is late. To have a bunch of men piously lecturing them that pregnancy is something they need to take seriously is pretty absurd."
Counter-propaganda is still necessary to assure the American public that the health insurance industry is lying about healthcare, and encourage people to act now to get our voices heard in the debate. (BTW, fans of Mike Lux might want to check out his interview last week on Second Life, archived at blogtalkradio.) (Oh, and don't miss Melissa Etheridge and Joss Stone's little tribute to Janis Joplin.)
Can it really be that the Obama administration doesn't know it has a toxic waste dump on its hands? Maybe we should start simple and explain that a mortgage on a house, once it has been foreclosed, has no income value and is in fact an expense until the moment that house is resold - and if it is overvalued, it will be a lot harder to sell.
Dave Ettlin was looking at his personal archives of his old newspaper, and found one helluva non-prescient headline from the 150th anniversary issue of The Baltimore Sun.
I'm watching the Prime Minister's address to Congress, and clearly even he knows that something has to be done to restore faith in the system or else the whole crap game falls apart, but I distrust his epiphany about the failures of "modernizing" - and his hammering on the pursuit of "terrorists" and "terrorism" rather than those things that really threaten our security does not inspire me. (And I think it's sweet that they arranged the honorary knighthood for Ted Kennedy, but you can't be an American citizen, let alone a federal legislator, and be a servant of the Queen.)
You can't do that
Pruning Shears: "The Obama administration has adopted the positions of the Bush administration in many of its early decisions, but the declassification of the OLC memos is a welcome break. They provide enough evidence of potential lawbreaking to initiate a criminal investigation. That is the process we have always used, and it should be sufficient now. Let the Justice Department start looking into it and let the chips fall where they may. There is no need for Congress to be involved. Given its history and (in this case) its members there is no reason to hope it would produce any kind of satisfactory result."
"Not Gonna Work [...] And why is it not going to work? Very simply: the goals of universal coverage and containing health care costs cannot be achieved without a single-payer system, and these people will not want a single payer."
Our Bush-Built Banking Industry: Vultures, Vampires and Very Dead Zombies: "Or not much of a surprise at all in a country that worships money and honors thieves and con artists as long as they're successful. Hell, we'd sigh longingly at pond scum if it was rich. How are they doing it? The old-fashioned way: picking the bones of the corpse they killed."
Conservafail: "I don't believe these people are in any meaningful sense reachable. It's just possible that Obama will persuade them to try something different but more likely that change will only come after disaster on the national scale. Remember that nothing has dented the conservative coalition in the Senate: not losing a war, not the collapse of the economy, not the dismal failure of response to Katrina. They are convinced that their personal power trumps reality, and their social circle supports them in this belief. I do not think the people in charge of Treasury and the Federal Reserve are so very different. But change is coming."
Quote: "Yup. This bailout is socialism, all right. National Socialism."
You know who - and keep listening to find out what else they played on that rooftop. (Oh, and we mustn't forget Thisbe!)
Odds and ends
The best financial and political reporting on television came, of course, from Jon Stewart, who eviscerated Rick Santelli's pseudo-populism and CNBC's "advice" beautifully last night.
I really wish that people who have an entire (worthy) blog post bubbling up inside them would create a Kos diary or something that I can link to instead of having to link to my own comment threads (which Haloscan has always claimed would only be kept for six months since I have a free account, although this doesn't appear to be quite true). I find it especially annoying when the posts come from a name I don't recognize, as if they've just been wandering around looking for any blog they've never heard of on the subject to attach their comment to. Be that as it may, you might want to check out this comment and the one that follows it on the healthcare battle. Aside from some interesting informational content, there's also the matter of action: "Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), who ruled single-payer off the table before he even started considering healthcare reform, is now pressuring the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to favorably judge his health plan as financially sound--even though it isn't." Baucus needs to hear from a lot of people telling him to put single-payer back on the table. (PS. If you actually have a blog, providing a brief explanation and the link is really much more tasteful than copying the whole post to the comment thread.)
I am pleased to see that, despite threats to throw in the towel, our friend Skimble still has a thing or two to say about what's going on, the latest being a post on Buying the bailout: "While Obama is being blamed by mindless commenters and cable talking heads for the recent market turmoil and the halving of everyone's 401(k) accounts, it might be useful to take a look a bit further back to see where the blame really lies."
Advise and consent is still a good rule, and I have always, always hated the idea of having policy "czars" from the first moment I heard it.
Kyle Moore says that Kathy of Liberty Street and Comments from Feft Field has hit the rocky shores and needs some help. Pitch in if you can.
I thought the trailer for Watchmen looked pretty good, but this clip just seems all wrong.
Things to read
Sirota: "The term "too big to fail" is a euphemism for any institution that is so important to the entire nation's most basic well being, that society cannot let that institution fail. This is why one of the foundational principles of civilized society has always been nationalization - i.e. government control - of the institutions that are "too big to fail": institutions like the military, whose failure would mean a basic loss of national security; law enforcement, whose failure would mean a basic loss of civil order; and infrastructure construction, whose failure would mean the crumbling of commerce. The government, as the most powerful representative of society as a whole, runs these institutions/services because they are too important to be allowed to fail." (Also: Robert Borosage on Obama's Next Gauntlet: Reviving the Middle Class.)
So, the argument is supposed to be that the Swedish model can't work for America because Sweden only had five problem banks, whereas the US has "thousands". So how many banks are we talking about in America? Not thousands. Hmm...(via)
If I hadn't heard of Gordon Brown before, I might actually believe that he has seen the light and really means it when he talks about a global New Deal. On the other hand, I see he still hasn't gotten rid of Jacqui Smith, which any decent human would have done a long time ago.
Just imagine how much money we could save if we got rid of all this wasteful spending.
In which Mr NTodd Goes To Washington (Again), and Patrick Leahy tells him about meeting Heath Ledger.
So I'm reading this post and Ken McLeod's place, and I learn this: "Mutation was illustrated by a picture of Boris Johnson, 'British mutant'. The London Mayor's shock of yellow hair is the result of a mutation which has had a selective advantage in Northwest Europe. Light skin colour maps almost exactly to areas where Vitamin D deficiency, due to lack of sunlight, is a problem. (Point-sticking slide: graph showing significant difference in Vitamin D levels in the blood of European-Americans and African-Americans.) Blue-eyed blondes are a further twist in this tale: Northwest Europe, because of the Gulf Stream, is the only region where grain crops can be grown that far north. Grain crops are not only lacking in Vitamin D - eating their food products actually removes Vitamin D from the blood. This confers an advantage on skin types even more light-sensitive and melanin-deficient than the European norm. Natural blondes, sadly enough, are just people who can live on oats in the rain." Be that as it may, I still miss Saltines.
Show and tell
Craig Murray wants your help: "On Tuesday 10 March the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights will discuss whether or not to hear my evidence on the UK government's policy of using intelligence from torture. They discussed whether to hear my evidence on 3 March but failed to reach a conclusion. The government is lobbying hard for my exclusion. I need everybody to send an email to email@example.com to urge that I should be allowed to give evidence. Just a one-liner would be fine. If you are able to add some comment on the import of my evidence, or indicate that you have heard me speak or read my work, that may help. Please copy your email to firstname.lastname@example.org."
I think Harold Meyerson is getting a little tired of hearing the cut-throat capitalists who want government to assume all their risk "socialists", and he's not particularly impressed by the idea that merely making a few changes to preserve capitalism (save it from itself) are "socialism".
I see Evan Bayh made Wanker of the Day for putting an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal full of conservative talking points to oppose letting Bush's tax cuts for the rich expire. He actually had the nerve to say: "Spending should be held in check before taxes are raised, even on the wealthy. Most people are willing to do their duty by paying taxes, but they want to know that their money is going toward important priorities and won't be wasted." Which translates as, "Rich people think they should be able to avoid paying taxes so that only people who work for a living have to pay them, and only rich people will get the benefit of them." Up yours, Evan, I can't even believe you are related to your father..
H - E - double hockey sticks" - Fred Clark notes that the religious right's Christianity seems to have less to do with loving God and following the teachings of Christ than it does to do with fearing Hell - but not fearing it enough to notice what your soul is supposed to be sent there for.
Good on Marcy Kaptur for correcting Republicans' pronunciation on the House floor.
QrazyQat forced me to link to this video, but it's actually pretty damned good.
Stuff to check out
Ezra Klein and Jonathan Cohn both discuss the fact that former HMO fraudster Richard Scott is launching an attack on healthcare reform with the usual lies about the Canadian and British systems, among other things. (For the record: I don't have to wait an ungodly long time for appointments or treatment. More importantly, I know I will get the treatment, and that no health insurance company is going to tell my doctor to let me die or go blind or whatever because I'm not covered. If I call my doctor's office wanting an appointment because I'm ill now, I almost always get to see him that day, and if it's not an emergency, I will see him within a day or two at most in almost all cases. And I never have to think about the cost.)
In the war on drugs, drug cartels are winning the war against Mexico, and it is not something the US can safely ignore. Of course, they wouldn't have this kind of power if the United States didn't make selling drugs such a profitable enterprise. We could, after all, be growing this stuff in our own backyards and cutting their profit motive down to nothing.
"Anatomy of a Netroots Failure" - Eli Sanders suggests that though liberal bloggers certainly helped Darcy Burner's campaign, there was enough of a downside that for all our support, she still lost.
"I can't help but wonder if there is anything that will stop the administration from trying to sell us the same bad idea over and over again: "Indeed. Every plan we've heard from Treasury amounts to the same thing - an attempt to socialize the losses while privatizing the gains. We're going to buy up all the bad assets at premium prices; no, we're going to offer the banks guarantees against losses; no, we're going to let private investors buy the stuff, but offer them de facto guarantees against losses in the form of non-recourse loans."
The viper at our breast
Scott Horton on George W. Bush's Disposable Constitution:Yesterday the Obama Administration released a series of nine previously secret legal opinions crafted by the Office of Legal Counsel to enhance the presidential powers of George W. Bush. Perhaps the most astonishing of these memos was one crafted by University of California at Berkeley law professor John Yoo. He concluded that in wartime, the President was freed from the constraints of the Bill of Rights with respect to anything he chose to label as a counterterrorism operations inside the United States.Which raises another point I've tried in the past to discuss, which is that it is perfectly possible to be living in a dictatorship and not experience it as such as long as you are either uninvolved in politics or are a genuine supporter of the regime. It's even possible that you could openly oppose the regime but be deemed sufficiently harmless that no one bothers to harass you, or maybe you are just visible enough that they can't openly act against you without overexposing their hand. But in a free country, you don't prevent pacifists from getting on airplanes because you're trying to prevent terrorists from flying, and you don't refuse entry into the country to journalists from friendly nations. Neither do you incarcerate people for lengthy periods without trial, let alone torture them. Saddam was a dictator, but many Iraqis went about their daily business without encountering any trouble with him and his government. Millions of Soviet citizens did the same under the USSR, but that wasn't a free country, either. Pretending that nothing is wrong because you don't personally know any of the people who are being abused this way does not provide evidence that the country you live in is, in fact, free.
John Yoo's Constitution is unlike any other I have ever seen. It seems to consist of one clause: appointing the President as commander-in-chief. The rest of the Constitution was apparently printed in disappearing ink.
We may not have realized it at the time, but in the period from late 2001-January 19, 2009, this country was a dictatorship. The constitutional rights we learned about in high school civics were suspended. That was thanks to secret memos crafted deep inside the Justice Department that effectively trashed the Constitution. What we know now is likely the least of it.
Glenn Greenwald:One of the central facts that we, collectively, have not yet come to terms with is how extremist and radical were the people running the country for the last eight years. That condition, by itself, made it virtually inevitable that the resulting damage would be severe and fundamental, even irreversible in some sense. It's just not possible to have a rotting, bloated, deeply corrupt and completely insular political ruling class -- operating behind impenetrable walls of secrecy -- and avoid the devastation that is now becoming so manifest. It's just a matter of basic cause and effect.Glenn also points out that:The most vital point is that all of the documents released yesterday by the Obama DOJ comprise nothing less than a regime of secret laws under which we were governed. Nothing was redacted when those documents yesterday were released because they don't contain any national security secrets. They're nothing more than legal decrees, written by lawyers. They're just laws that were implemented with no acts of Congress, unilaterally by the Executive branch. Yet even the very laws that governed us were kept secret for eight years.There were no national security secrets. The secret they wanted to conceal was that they were just making up reason for breaking the law.
Dan Froomkin and Jack Balkin also discuss the material, and the "reasoning" that all this was necessary and legitimate "in time of war" - but, again, no one mentions the other big hole in what appears to be everyone's excuse for this illegal madness, which is that people got a bit carried away in the days after September 11th of 2001. See, this doesn't work too well with the revelation that the NSA program of illegal spying on Americans was initiated months earlier. It wasn't power they took in the heat of the moment after being shaken by a terrorist attack, nor was it something they did because it was "necessary" in time of war, but something they had started doing almost immediately upon taking office. It makes their entire argument moot; there was no "wartime" to "justify" the violations they were committing in March, not September, of 2001.
They weren't doing it to protect the country. They were doing it simply because they wanted to, as a way to consolidate their power and show everyone what tough guys they were. It was government by terrorism.
"War Is Over (If You Want It)" - Eric Alterman notes that Obama may be stuck with handing the right-wingers a victory in Iraq if he isn't careful, because they've all along been claiming that Bush has been successful in Iraq, and if things go sour, well, it will be all Obama's fault. The fact that Bush's policies guaranteed failure in Iraq is not something that is going to be talked about where it counts.
"AIG Bailed Out Again, but Endless Fire-Drills Don't Put Out Fires: Pumping more money into the financial giant reflects rampant cluelessness and a misplaced belief that inaction is worse than action." You know, I really don't see how anything can be saved as long as everybody knows that the same people who created the mess are still in charge. Nobody trusts them, and no one wants to do business with them. I believe Atrios is making a similar point.
Demosthenes says Wikileaks has released NATO's Master Narrative for Afghanistan: "I haven't read it yet, more when I do, but I can't decide whether the best part is that there is such a document, or that a file created by the Pentagon was so easily cracked. By the Wiki people, no less."
Why are a bunch of people who know absolutely nothing about how income taxes work and who spend all day commenting at Michelle Malkin's blog claiming they are high-earners who will refuse to earn another penny if Obama's tax plan goes through?
I can't believe I'm linking to this, but I am.
Baby you need schoolin'
Jurassicpork flags Michael Collins' interview with Susan Lindauer, who says the US knew very, very well that an attack on the WTC was coming via airliners, and that it wasn't coming from Saddam or Qadaffi: "After the attack, it became clear that neither country could have been party to the conspiracy. Gadhaffi and bin Laden hated each other. Back in 1995, Libya was the first country in the world to warn Interpol about Osama, and urge an international warrant for his arrest. Saddam's government hated him, too. Baghdad considered Osama's extreme brand of Sunni fundamentalism to pose a serious destabilizing threat to Iraq 's moderate Sunni elite. Osama was a wrecking ball to Arab governments. They all despised him. In fact, we pushed Iraq so hard for intelligence in the months before 9/11 that afterwards Iraqi diplomats aggressively challenged our U.S. claims of ignorance. A couple of diplomats put it to me bluntly: 'Obviously you knew it was coming, because you kept telling us about it. So why didn't you stop it? Why didn't you do something before this, instead of blaming us now. You should be blaming yourselves.'" Although the corporate media in America has kept it quiet, the entire rest of the world knew that Libya was not responsible for Lockerbie - and the jihadis were inspired by the knowledge of who was, and that he was getting away with it because the American government under President George Herbert Walker Bush was letting him. Maybe the fact that the Republican leadership was dining with the bin Ladens and having their pictures taken with the Mujahdin had something to do with it.
At The Poor Man Institute, the GOP looks in vain for hipness and standard bearers when their choices turn out to be raving lefty union-supporters.
SeattleTammy finds more reasons to hate Monsanto. If I believed in the Devil, I'd believe he personally runs this company. (And I'm not just saying that because they ruined my Juicy Fruit gum.)
The Medium Lobster on Life During Self-Defense: "Yes, we may be tempted to mourn the civilian dead, but in killing those civilians, isn't Israel merely protecting itself against future terrorists who would otherwise go on to retaliate against Israel for the deaths of their children? And yes, we may be tempted to mourn the deaths of the children, but in killing those children, isn't Israel simply preemptively taking out future militants who would otherwise grow up to avenge the deaths of their parents? As much as we might all yearn for peace, history has shown that Palestinians understand only violence. Well, violence and Arabic, but Arabic is notoriously difficult to learn, while most of us can become fluent in violence in just under a semester."
Those fires in Australia are still burning, but there's a little more to the story than is being heard.
This looks like wishful thinking to me, since what I see is some of the more progressive blogs moving up, for the most part. (Hard to tell about some of them since if they were not on last month's list, it might mean no one had yet identified the blog as political, which would have kept them off this particular list. It's amazing how your own rating might drop if someone suddenly notices that Hullabaloo and Eschaton belong in the "political" category. Be that as it may, several liberal blogs moved up a notch or three.)
I could have seen it on a bet, I could have seen it on the net
Anne Zook:As we moved from a manufacturing-based economy to a more white-collar economy, "labor unions" became just too blue-collar. Too tainted with the stigma of "lower-class."Spendthrift Republicans: "The Huffington Post reports that the congressional operations budget has been increased to $4.4 billion 'because Senate Republicans wanted to retain previous staff levels' - despite losing 20 percent of their seats last year and railing against government spending recently. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) discussed the issue at a press conference today: 'We had a situation - you should direct that question to Senator McConnell because we had trouble organizing this year. He wanted to maintain a lot of their staffing even though they had lost huge numbers. And the only way we could get it done is to do what we did.' Hey, it's your money. Via an extremely linky post at MTA.
We didn't need no unions. We were all upper-class, white-collar workers! We thought we'd made it.
We thought We were Them.
Guess They showed Us.
Mick Arran asks, "Did the SCOTUS just Turn the Constitution Into a Popularity Contest?" (Also: How to improve The Washington Post. And: I briefly considered posting this strip myself, but couldn't be arsed.)
Remember our friend John Ziegler, who "proved" that Obama's supporters watch bad/biased media because they didn't know the proper right-ring spin points? Well, Max Blumenthal interviewed him at the conservative nut conference, and hilarity ensued.
Gary Farber alerts us that Skynet has a webpage (with a spooky voice) and also to Lego Star Trek: "The Cage". (I definitely recommend watching it as a slideshow and clicking the picture so the captions will come up automatically.) Also: RIP: The Fairness Doctrine.
Google is celebrating Dr. Seuss' birthday.
Long time comin'
Sorry, I decided to take the day off. But Bad Democrats did not, so see if dialing the phone will help. (We really have to get rid of that whole bankruptcy bill they passed, dammit. I don't care if these people know what they're doing or they're just blind to it all, but we have to get rid of them before there are only five people left who own any land in North America.)
American "health insurers" would still hate this, but: "We hear a lot about how Americans' health care appetite for the latest technology and drugs makes us hard to compare to other nations, so let's look at a country that has the highest number of CT scans per capita and more MRIs per capita than we do, not to mention a higher percentage of their health care dollars spent on drugs. Yet for all of this, they've created a universal health care system that provides health outcomes that are the envy of the world - the highest life expectancy for about a third of what the U.S. spends." (Just for the record, I still like Nye Bevan's idea better. The trouble is that no matter what you do, some tory will come along to screw it up.)
Man, I know things are bad when James Baker attacks the Obama administration from the left. Krugman even uses an exclamation point. He also says: "Well, you could say that American bankers, empowered by a quarter-century of deregulatory zeal, led the world in finding sophisticated ways to enrich themselves by hiding risk and fooling investors."
Mick Arran is another person who is unsympathetic toward former big earners who suddenly find themselves having to take "survival jobs" because they can no longer skate along in the financial sector or other highly-rewarded non-productive "work".
Amazingly, Ruth found an article in The Washington Post noting that the experts we hear form are still the people who got it all wrong.
More on the media's embedded class warriors from dday at Hullabaloo.
Here's a good question: "Who's the bigger clown - Jindal or Ben Smith?"
Note to Yonmei: You don't have to use iTunes, you can listen to the Cohen concert the same way I did. (And I thought this video was just fine. In fact, I recommend it.)
You know why I have to disagree with the Rude One on this, don't you?
Lazy Sunday blogging
Atrios says: "This article does a good job of explaining what AIG and its enablers were up to."
The more I hear about him, the more I would really like to see Tom Geoghegan fill Rahm Emanuel's Congressional seat. Having Geoghegan in Congress at all looks like a good deal to me, but it would really be a serious upside to having Rahm working in the White House instead of against us in Congress. You can help.
Meanwhile, Rahm's brother Ezekiel is talking crap about single-payer and still trying to keep the insurance companies in the picture, leading to the obvious question, "So why does Obama cut the middleman out for student loans, but not for health care?"
This Week In Tyranny, Obama still seems unwilling to repudiate Bush's policies of torture, secrecy, and general law-breaking without accountability. This isn't quite what we had in mind, Mr. President.
Watch Sheldon Whitehouse talk about how investigations will uncover facts that will be painful to face.
Ruth and ProfWombat are not impressed by an article that weeps for people who make a lot more money than the rest of us but resent the idea that they will have to tighten their belts to save the economy: "Its thrust is, essentially, that they'll have a harder time getting rich under new tax burdens, that they were entitled to become rich by dint of hard work and productivity and, by implication, possessed of virtues that others who work hard for far less money don't exhibit." And Diane is annoyed when the WaPo frames the announcement that Obama has rescinded a nasty Bush rule allowing professionals to refuse to practice their profession where family planning is concerned as a blow to religious freedom. And she's right. The anti-choicer/forced pregnancy brigade doesn't spend much time associating with people who are genuinely pro-life and therefore choose professions that don't require them to work on behalf of the war machine, for example. If they don't want to dispense needed contraception or perform abortions, let them choose a different profession like the rest of us do when we are facing moral choices.
When James Lovelock first started talking about Gaia, scientists were skeptical, but things changed as the decades went by. Now Lovelock is saying it may be too late to save ourselves from Gaia's reaction to having us around, and many millions are likely to die.
Eric Alterman described Leonard Cohen's Beacon Theater concert as "one of the most wonderful shows of my life; the concert was like being in church but in some imaginary church, (or shul) that actually does what a church or a shul is supposed to do." So I've been listening to it. And here's the NYT profile on Cohen.
The hour is getting late
Bra of the Week
Buy some brains.
Madison Guy on Nuclear Mom.
How Obama's plan to give a bunch of cash for student loans will save the taxpayers money - by getting rid of the middle-man. (Also: "Is There Any Truth In What The Republicans And Their Media Mouthpieces Say About The Employee Free Choice Act?" Well, of course not.)
After 30 years of the rich waging class warfare on the rest of us - and winning -, the media is aghast that there's some fightback threatening: "One reason they're winning is that the news media do not use the loaded phrases "class warfare" and "redistribution of wealth" to describe things like the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, or the home mortgage deduction (which favors those who are wealthy enough to buy homes over those who are not) or countless other policies that benefit wealthier Americans at the expense of those who are less fortunate. Instead, the media pretend this is a one-sided war -- as though the wealthy are being unfairly assaulted by an army of bullying waitresses and janitors and farmers and teachers."
Faking it: "What we discovered is that Santelli's 'rant' was not at all spontaneous as his alleged fans claim, but rather it was a carefully-planned trigger for the anti-Obama campaign. In PR terms, his February 19th call for a 'Chicago Tea Party' was the launch event of a carefully organized and sophisticated PR campaign, one in which Santelli served as a frontman, using the CNBC airwaves for publicity, for the some of the craziest and sleaziest rightwing oligarch clans this country has ever produced. Namely, the Koch family, the multibilllionaire owners of the largest private corporation in America, and funders of scores of rightwing thinktanks and advocacy groups, from the Cato Institute and Reason Magazine to FreedomWorks. The scion of the Koch family, Fred Koch, was a co-founder of the notorious extremist-rightwing John Birch Society.'"
Lean Left: "Somebody at the Department of Labor just re-posted this original report from 1965. It is heart-wrenching in how closely its high-level observations (aside from particulars of detail that have changed in 40 years) remain true, and to what degree the 'savage and brutal effort' of so many parts of society to resist addressing its subject still continue. But it is astounding, and heart-lifting, in two ways also."
The most recent Best of the Left podcast was "Missing: Stable economic system, if found please contact owner."
Bruce Sterling vs. Web 2.0 (via).
So far everything I've heard about Leonard Cohen's recent show has been enthusiastic, so maybe you want to have a listen.
Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, March 2009
Is the media in denial?
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And, no, it's not named after the book or the movie. It's just another sideshow.