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Thursday, 31 May 2012

All the pretty little horses

RIP Leo Dillon, sf illustrator. He was 79. Leo and Diane Dillon's works will be instantly recognizable from the covers of our favorite books (click those links and you'll see what I mean).

RIP Doc Watson. Have a little "Deep River Blues".

Jay Ackroyd interviewed Karen Tumulty (formerly of Swampland, now of The Washington Post) and commenter Teresa Kopec on Virtually Speaking Tuesdays. Tumulty has always been one of the better members of the press corps, and Kopec is not an idiot - but it was illuminating to hear even these people fail to question some of the more idiotic assumptions of The Village and have no comment about blatant lies. More useful, I think, was when Stuart Zechman and Jay discussed the Overton Window and the misunderstanding people have about what it is, and whether it has any relationship to what is meant by "Centrism". Think "14 or Fight" vs. "15 and Ready." (Interestingly, I think this is another thing the right-wing got right and the left refused to acknowledge, thus ceding large swathes of important rhetorical ground. Which is why I think, if they're calling us "the left" anyway, we should stop talking about single-payer and start talking about how what our country needs is a National Health Service just like Nye Bevan gave Britain where the doctors are on a government salary. [Note that I'm not talking about the weaker version that has been created and continues to be devolved under the Thatcher, Blair, and Cameron governments.] I want enough people demanding an NHS that soon single-payer sounds like the "reasonable compromise".)

Some interesting stuff recently on The Majority Report:
Interviews discussing Social Security, and the nuke industry campaign to oust a regulator
Charles Ferguson, author of Predator Nation, on the hijacking of America
NSA whistle-blower Thomas Drake and Jesselyn Radack, DOJ whistle-blower, on the government's intimidation and personal destruction of whistle-blowers
Nick Hanauer on his banned TED talk
Sam on Obama's secret kill list (see this)

Barney Frank inadvertently reveals that Obama refused to use his ability to write down mortgages. "The mortgage crisis was worsened this past time because critical decisions were made during the transition between Bush and Obama. We voted the TARP out. The TARP was basically being administered by Hank Paulson as the last man home in a lame duck, and I was disappointed. I tried to get them to use the TARP to put some leverage on the banks to do more about mortgages, and Paulson at first resisted that, he just wanted to get the money out. And after he got the first chunk of money out, he would have had to ask for a second chunk, he said, all right, I'll tell you what, I'll ask for that second chunk and I'll use some of that as leverage on mortgages, but I'm not going to do that unless Obama asks for it. This is now December, so we tried to get the Obama people to ask him and they wouldn't do it."

If there is one person who really should be talking to Congress about derivatives, it's Bill Black, the man who handled the S&L crisis. But somehow, he's been disinvited. "What is really going on is that things are so toxic in Congress now, and the largest banks are so sensitive to any criticism, that the progressives fear that any criticism of bank practices that will cause the next financial crisis will be considered 'bank bashing' and will cause Republicans to be unwilling to participate. The fact that I have a 30 year record of non-partisan service to the nation on banking matters, including service as a banker with the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, does not count in such a world. We must not speak uncomfortable truths to power. You will see that it is his staff that informed me that the concerns that prevented me from joining the panel were maintaining a 'consensus' about the panel's 'balance' and avoiding 'bank bashing.'."

Two years ago, some poor guy expressed his frustration with a tweet that no one who saw it thought of as anything to worry about, until the Crown Prosecution Service decided it was a good excuse for bringing charges. Astonishingly, he was convicted, and has been trying to appeal. and now "The two-judge Divisional Court of the High Court has not been able to come to an agreed decision," so they've ordered a new hearing.

Matt Stoller: "Drug Warrior and Pro-Drone Democratic Congressman Silvestres Reyes Goes Down Hard: Yesterday, we hit a turning point in the war on drugs. Pro-legalization Democratic Congressional candidate Beta O'Rourke defeated eight term Democratic incumbent Silvestre Reyes in a bitterly fought and exceptionally vicious primary yesterday in a Texas border district, where the war on drugs was a central issue."

I just can't help the feeling that Obama and the Dem leadership have been courting electoral disaster. I realize the Republicans sound crazy, but they always really have, and it didn't stop Nixon or Reagan from winning elections. And, of course, there is no Plan B for what to do when that happens. Somehow, there never is. (Via a post with many, many more links at Naked Capitalism.)

So, we are left with Rules for reformists. Or, we can do what the Republicans did and be prepared to lose rather than keep electing people who don't represent our principles. Obama is as dirty as the Republicans and should be treated like one.

Via Making Light:
The Official Protesters of the London 2012 Olympic Games offer you 10 Reasons why the Olympics is something worth protesting against.
The Happy Life Of A Young Individualist
Is this feminist?

Take a free course in Game Theory.

Terry Pratchett to have a pig named in his honour.

Some of us know Earl Kemp as a cool old science fiction fan, but he was also targeted by Nixon for publishing an illustrated version of The Presidential Report of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography. Here's video of Earl talking about it.

In case you've been wondering what the Whitechapel Bell Foundry has been up to lately, here's a little video of them rehearsing.


16:16 BST

Monday, 28 May 2012

Build me up, Buttercup

The prezzie that was ordered for my birthday last December finally arrived, but it was worth waiting for. I couldn't find a photo of that particular watch online, but there are a bunch of them with different fronts and metal coloring, and they all have the same clockfaces and backs, and those look like this.

Panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays are Marcy Wheeler and Jay Ackroyd. Tuesday's panelists were Dave Johnson and Sara Robinson on emerging fascism and its future in America. (Sara's connection wasn't very good, but it's worth listening to despite the frustrations.)

Periodically, people remind me that representatives are highly dependent on the staffers who brief them. And the staffers who brief them are on the revolving door program.

DC residents demand to see their new unelected mayor: "Trent Franks, the Arizona Republican who proposed a 20-week abortion ban in Washington, DC and then barred DC's pro-choice female delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton from speaking out against the measure has a new problem on his hands: a flood of DC residents who are bringing their municipal complaints directly to the Congressman, who they're calling ;Mayor.' From potholes to rodent problems to public transportation complaints, DC residents have followed Franks' lead and begun funneling their problems to him rather than the city's own government. Well played, smartasses."

"Felony Interference with a Business Model [...] The problem isn't that these loopy arguments are going to win in this particular case. The problem is that the entertainment conglomerates have the resources to keep doing this kind of thing nearly forever, endlessly wearing away at the legal system and at our notions of what's just and unjust." Also via ML, "TIME TO ADMIT IT: Independent Central Banking Has Been A Failure," and "Everyone Hates Inflation Because They Don't Understand What It Is. Now a fancy-pants economics blogger can tell you that the most important price in the economy is the price of labor and the price of labor is equal to workers' incomes, so a general increase in the nominal price level is necessarily a general increase in nominal incomes. But nobody seems to believe that. Instead people are convinced that gasoline and milk are the main prices in the economy, and that a general increase in the nominal price level is necessarily a general decline in real incomes. Worse, oodles of media coverage have gotten people confused between the monetary concept of a general price level and the lifestyle concept of a "cost of living." The cost of living is massively impacted by real scarcities. A bad harvest in Australia, a war in Libya, a draconian zoning code in Silicon Valley, or a fad for strained yogurt increase the price of wheat, oil, houses, and yogurt respectively but none of those things are inflationary monetary policy and none of them can be reversed by tight money. The issue is that there's genuinely less "stuff" to go around. People - rightly! - dislike it when the cost of living goes up, so insofar as they think that loose money is a cause of high costs of living they will naturally rebel. Those of us who write about these issues need to try to explain them more clearly, since I think the language that's conventionally adopted is genuinely confusing."

HP's stock jumped when they announced they'd fire a lot of people. Brilliant Jill looks at the Job Creators: "27,000 people. 8% of Hewlett-Packard's workforce. That's just less than one in every twelve employees who will be offered an early retirement "package", which will boot probably yet more over-50's out of the workforce and into permanent poverty, or will be let go entirely. According to PRI's Marketplace program this evening, most of these cuts will be in the US. And we're supposed to believe that NOT ONE of these 27,000 people can possibly be trained to do the jobs in the areas of strategic focus? Seriously? Note what happened today: HP beat Wall Street's expectations, and are STILL jettisoning 27,000 jobs. HP is supposed to be one of the "job creators", isn't it? Don't "Rich People Create Jobs"? Let's look at some of the "rich people" who have run HP, shall we? " (Also: Our soldiers did not die to protect sham elections, and some music for the occasion.)

The headline of this story is "Trans-Pacific Partnership: Key Senate Democrat Joins Bipartisan Trade Revolt Against Obama ", but the real story is how Obama is so anti-democratic that he's freezing out a key committee chair rather than let Congress get in his way to, you know, represent the people: "Wyden said that his office was locked out of information about a trade pact in the works known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The deal, which involves eight other Pacific nations, includes broad details on government contracting terms that would ban "Buy American" preferences for U.S. manufacturers, and intellectual property standards that would increase prescription drug prices abroad. Those positions have drawn criticism from American labor unions, domestic manufacturers and international public health advocates."

Glenn Greenwald @ggreenwald "Terrorist bakery destroyed: http://is.gd/hxztIq"
David Dayen @ddayen "@ggreenwald I want to know where I'm going to get my "Death to Americrullers" now"

Even Cliff Schecter is using the word "plutocracy", now. (But I still think that talking about advertising dollars is just too small a focus. When you've structured the entire campaign culture as one where campaigning is astronomically expensive, of course big money is going to run the show. The news media isn't going to talk about this because those political ads make them big money.)

In comments, CMike quotes the Ninth Amendment ("The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people") and says, "If "choice" in the matter of reproduction is not one, perhaps some conservative Strict Constructionists might be asked to give their own examples of these rights that are retained by the people but are not enumerated."

Over at the Guardian, Roz Kaveney detects the cult of transphobia in our midst.

Some words of wisdom from Robert Downey, Sr.

If you ever wondered how "Michelle" would sound with Nat Cole's voice and a bit of jazz-funk, check out his little brother. Yeah, I know, it never occurred to me to wonder, either, but I'm glad somebody did.

And some wedding proposals are just right.

Dave Johnson has a song stuck in his head, but can't figure out why. Seemed obvious to me - Democrats, Lucy, football. The Republicans are your red herring. Why do you build me up, Buttercup, baby, just to let me down, and mess me around?

15:15 BST

Friday, 25 May 2012

I watched the falling rain and listened to the sweet birds sing

Over at Auntie Beeb's place, Michael Wood says it's deja vu all over again:

The news from Europe is getting worse by the day. Economic gloom across the continent and multiple crises in the currency zone.

With rising unemployment and inflation there are riots in the streets with forecasts of anarchy in some parts of western Europe.

And along with the simmering discontent there is a worrying rise of radical groups and populist right wing movements. In the fringes, secessionists are pushing for independence, indeed for the break up of the whole European order under which we have all lived secure and comfortable for so long.

At home in Britain there are worrying signs in every town - cuts in public services have led to closures of public baths and libraries, the failure of road maintenance, breakdowns in the food supply and civic order.

While political commentators and church leaders talk about a "general decline in morality" and "public apathy", the rich retreat to their mansions and country estates and hoard their cash.

It all sounds eerily familiar doesn't it? But this is not Angela Merkel's eurozone - it is Roman Britannia towards the year 400, the period of the fall of the Roman Empire.


First was the widening gulf between the social classes, rich and poor. When rich and poor start to live completely different lives this leads (then as now) to the poor opting out of the state. All studies today show that society is happier when the gap between rich and poor is reduced.

Widen it and you affect the group ethos of society, and also the ability to get things done through tax.

What I got out of last night's Virtually Speaking is exactly what Jay says here: "Make no mistake. There is a Beltway consensus to cut Social Security benefits--that they're gonna raise the retirement age, and also reduce the COLA. They just have to find a way to do it that will leave nobody accountable." But of course, you knew that.

Anything I have to say about how well Democrats defend our freedoms - especially where reproductive freedom is concerned - is just too bitter, so I'll let this item from Gallup do the talking. It's not like they can't when they want to. (I see (via) that Mike Signorale noticed, too.)

Credit card fraud for Scott Walker - We know he gets big money from some very rich people, but he also seems to be getting some suspicious small donations: "When MaryAnn Nellis tried to pay for groceries on April 14, her credit card was declined. Later, she said, she found out why: Her credit card company, Capital One, had flagged an earlier purchase as potentially fraudulent. The problem? A $5 donation to Friends of Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor's campaign committee, Nellis said. Nellis told a Capital One representative she had not made the donation to Walker, who is fighting an effort to recall him as governor in a closely watched, expensive election set for June 5. 'Over my dead body,' said Nellis, a potter and retired teacher in upstate New York who describes herself as 'adamantly angry and upset' at Republicans such as Walker. Nellis disputed the charge and she was issued a new card.."

Dems Start Negotiating Against Themselves on Bush Tax Cuts

How American Corporations Transformed from Producers to Predators

Marijuana may be a wonder drug after all.

Trailer for Iron Sky - Nazis from the moon.

Big Ball of fire - Sunset over the Hudson.

Dan Ireland on Putney Swope, or why Robert Downey, Sr. is a hero to many.

"I Can't See Nobody"

18:12 BST

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

From the radical muddle

Stuart Zechman and Jay Ackroyd had an interesting discussion on Virtually Speaking A-Z about that strange Krugman post that Yves was talking about. One thing they highlight is the distinction between calling for "infrastructure investment" and "public infrastructure investment". Another they bring into the spotlight is the bizarre basis on which these neoliberals think they are entitled to call themselves "centrists".

Stuart kinda blew my mind the first time he pointed this one out to me. He'd noticed Nate Silver referring to Evan Bayh as a "liberal" and wondered to himself how Nate Silver could believe this obviously false thing. And eventually he found the basis for Silver's terminology in the laughable models of Keith T. Poole and Howard Rosenthal. Over at Amazon.com, I see the blurb for their Ideology and Congress saying:

...despite a wide array of issues facing legislators, over 81 percent of their voting decisions can be attributed to a consistent ideological position ranging from ultraconservatism to ultraliberalism.
Really? Ultraliberalism? When did that happen? And what does it mean?

As near as I can tell, they don't mean anything to do with liberal or conservative ideology, but partisanship - the consistency with which an individual member of Congress votes with the rest of their party - and to the extent that they don't, they are "centrist" or "moderate". By this measure, you get to define the political spectrum purely on a two-dimensional basis of ideological liberalism and conservatism, with absolutely no deviation on principles of, say, authoritarianism vs. individual liberty, or family-oriented policy versus corporation-oriented policy or jobs vs. CEO pay, and no reference to the bribery and corruption that has now completely overwhelmed our political system. Nor can we take into account Lieberman's spite-voting, Kucinich's forced vote against his own principles after being assaulted by his own party leadership and their operatives, or any other factor. We have to ignore the fact that the Democratic Party has shifted its actual policy goals away from democracy and labor to corporations and the fanciful idea that good legislation is by definition legislation that both Democrats and Republicans will vote for regardless of policy outcomes. So the entire political axis is actually stripped of all ideology except this:

Ultraliberal (D)--------- Centrist/Moderate -----(R) Ultraconservative
Votes Dem most --------- Not as much ------------ Votes GOP most
And as long as Bayh votes even a little bit more often with the Democrats than some other Dems do, that makes him "liberal".

(Note also that this is based entirely on roll call votes, not on all the other procedural mechanisms and back-room dealings that prevent roll call votes or forces them to the floor.)

So we're told that:

Using a simple geometric model of voting, Congress demonstrated that roll call voting has a very simple structure and that, for most of American history, roll call voting patterns have maintained a core stability based on two great issues: the extent of government regulation of, and intervention in, the economy; and race.
And, by that definition, the Democratic Party gets to be "the liberal party", even though it was once the illiberal party on race and now simply doesn't seem to care, and even though both parties very clearly want a great deal of government intervention on the economy - but the modern GOP gets to define the terms, and by those terms, it's only the Democrats that want government regulation of, and intervention in, the economy, and therefore they are liberal.

Add to this some more fanciful theorizing about how elective officials are carrying out the will of "the median voter", and you have an entire political theory - an ideology of its own, in fact - that is manifestly false and yet powers a great deal of the thinking of our "progressive" intelligentsia.

So, if you've ever wondered - as I often have - how it can be that even some fairly intelligent (and, indeed, liberal) people can brush away the disconnect between what the American people clearly want and the completely contraindicated policy decisions at the top, it's because they think they have a mathematical model of voting that reflects reality because they are not capable of telling the difference between partisan Republican rhetoric and the simple facts on the ground.

So, when Obama keeps trying to get Republicans to accept his Grand Bargain to destroy Social Security, the great liberal centerpiece of the Democratic Party's ability to hold voters - a policy that Republicans have historically opposed and abhorred for both ideological and partisan reasons, obviously - when Republicans are refusing to be lured into voting for their own right-wing policy, that's "right-wing extremism". Obama is trying to drive a stake through the heart of the middle-class, through America's real productive wealth, and through the Democratic Party's ability to win votes - yes, that's why it's The Third Rail - and the Republicans are stopping him, not because they are extremely right-wing (and certainly not because they oppose destroying SSI), but because they are extremely partisan. And that means that their refusal to agree to a right-wing deal is "right-wing extremism".

(The funniest part of all this is that the Republicans themselves don't believe in any of it and just don't care - this is purely a "centrist" devotion that they've managed to get a lot of "progressives" to internalize.)

Of course, we have a problem, because the "Centrists" are using the word "centrist", which normal people understand to mean some sort of middle-ground, mainstream political views. A lot of people think of themselves as "centrist" without realizing that it has nothing to do with the "Centrism" they hear referred to on their TV screens and in the newspapers. Which, I think, means we've got a job to do on getting people to unpack that word themselves. Next time someone tells you they're a "centrist", you might want to ask them, if they are Democrats, if by that they mean "neoliberal" - something most people recognize as a much nastier brand.

* * * * *

Jeffrey Toobin at The New Yorker: "Money Unlimited: How Chief Justice John Roberts orchestrated the Citizens United decision [...] In a different way, though, Citizens United is a distinctive product of the Roberts Court. The decision followed a lengthy and bitter behind-the-scenes struggle among the Justices that produced both secret unpublished opinions and a rare reargument of a case. The case, too, reflects the aggressive conservative judicial activism of the Roberts Court. It was once liberals who were associated with using the courts to overturn the work of the democratically elected branches of government, but the current Court has matched contempt for Congress with a disdain for many of the Court's own precedents." As you know, I'm not as focused on this as a lot of people are because I don't really see the difference between acknowledged advertising for which an outside group pays directly and the non-stop advertising we see in the media generally, and news programming in particular, that funnels viewers into a narrow point of view. Still, this Supreme Court is working hard to roll back progress.

Dan at Pruning Shears has some good local reporting on an attempt by a town to fight fracking in the area.

Red Squares, and why Arcade Fire is wearing them. And Always check their boots: "Toronto is right now in the midst of a massive government / media propaganda fraud. As events unfold, it is becoming increasingly clear that the 'Black Bloc' are undercover police operatives engaged in purposeful provocations to eclipse and invalidate legitimate G20 citizen protest by starting a riot. Government agents have been caught doing this before in Canada." Meanwhile, Obama has high praise for police brutality in Chicago, which he seems to think is the free expression NATO "protects". All this and more at Lambert's extremely linky post at Naked Capitalism.

On the Majority Report, Jeff Smith provided a more up-close-and-personal picture of what happened in Chicago.

Encountering Rocky Anderson

From the Sidelights at Making Light:
"Arise, you prisoners of starvation" - When I played the first one, Mr. Sideshow came rushing into the room, saying, "Is that "The Internationale" done as lounge music?"
"How to get white guys to talk about class"
"TED: Ideas Worth Spreading." Unless they're about income inequality"
And on the front page, big congratulations to a few of our friends.

7-year-old writes threatening letter.

Gosh, there's a whole show of The Flying Karamazov Brothers (in eight parts) looking much the same way they did when I ran into them way back when.

How did Craig Fergusen open a week of his show from Scotland? Like this.

Mysterious Italy by Giuseppe Desideri
Pretty photos by Iwona Drozda-Sibeijn
Landscape photos by Martin Turner
Renaissance Portraits by Christian Tagliavini

17:00 BST

Saturday, 19 May 2012

You just have to come to your own conclusion

Panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays will be Cliff Schecter and David Dayen.


A federal district judge today, the newly-appointed Katherine Forrest of the Southern District of New York, issued an amazing ruling: one which preliminarily enjoins enforcement of the highly controversial indefinite provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act, enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last December. This afternoon's ruling came as part of a lawsuit brought by seven dissident plaintiffs - including Chris Hedges, Dan Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, and Birgitta Jonsdottir - alleging that the NDAA violates "both their free speech and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment as well as due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution."

The ruling was a sweeping victory for the plaintiffs, as it rejected each of the Obama DOJ's three arguments: (1) because none of the plaintiffs has yet been indefinitely detained, they lack "standing" to challenge the statute; (2) even if they have standing, the lack of imminent enforcement against them renders injunctive relief unnecessary; and (3) the NDAA creates no new detention powers beyond what the 2001 AUMF already provides.

Chicago police raided an apartment housing anti-NATO protesters late on May 16. Interestingly, The Chicago Tribune didn't try to soft-soap the story, making it clear that the police ran around breaking into people's homes in the early morning hours without even offering a pretext. "According to law enforcement sources and police reports obtained by the Tribune, the arrests were the result of a monthlong investigation into a group suspected of making Molotov cocktails - crude bombs usually created by filling glass bottles with gasoline. But the National Lawyers Guild criticized the police raid, saying the nine NATO protesters only had beer-making equipment in their possession." Most people have the ingredients in their homes for making various sorts of bombs, so it's a claim that can be made about almost anyone. A bag of flour is also useful for making a bomb. Every kitchen is a potential arms manufacturing plant. You don't need "equipment" to make a Molotov cocktail - presumably you already have a bottle and a rag, and you can siphon some gasoline out of a car. A bit of motor oil, a dash of kerosene - you can see that pretty much every suburban home is terrorist bomb factory. This is what "probable cause" is all about - if the cops don't have to show a specific reason for coming after you, they can break down any door in the middle of the night on the grounds that you had "the equipment" for making a bomb. And that's just what they're doing now, and they're not doing it to anyone who is genuinely suspected of terrorism, but to people who are known not to be terrorists of any kind. I'm sure these cops didn't all just decide after a few drinks to go out and terrorize some protesters, and I'm just as sure there will be no consequences to the people who decided to use the cops as a weapon to terrorize some protesters. But the law is meaningless without consequences to violators, so it's pretty clear we are on notice that our 1st and 4th Amendment rights are gone. "Witnesses described police officers dressed all in black armed with battering rams and guns drawn swarming into the building, conducting warrantless searches and refusing to tell them what was going on."

David Dayen notes that polls show most Americans think the President Has Failed on Housing, Wall Street Accountability.

Personally, I think of people like Pete Peterson as terrorists bent on war against American freedoms. Obama is one of them, but so is the establishment Republican delegation.

If you have no prospect of going to college, getting a job, having any kind of a future, what difference does it make to be a teen mother?

I agree with Dean Baker most of the time, but I think the real problem with the false equivalence issue is that it's always a claim that each side has gone over to its own "extremes" when in fact the real problem is that both parties' delegations and operatives have gone over to the same extreme - the extreme right - with one slightly more extreme and vociferous than the other. The so-called "centrists" have deliberately confused the issue by using terms like "centrist" and "moderate" that aren't used to mean what most people think they mean, since most people in the real political mainstream do not support "centrist" policies. The definition of "extreme" that the punditry is using has nothing to do with ideology at all, it's about partisanship - that is, how often a particular elective official votes with their party. They've designated the Republicans as "the right" and the Democrats as "the left" (largely based on racial divisions), and therefore any position taken principally by one party, but not the other, becomes "left" or "right" based on which party is supporting it, rather than what it actually is. If the Democrats propose tomorrow to ban all birth control and the Republicans uniformly vote against it, the Republicans would still be guilty of "right-wing extremism." If the Republicans propose card-check and their party votes in lock-step for it while Democrats are splintered but generally in opposition, those Democrats who joined the Republicans in their pro-union vote would be the 'centrists" while those who voted anti-union would be left-wing extremists. In reality, what happens is that the Democrats say they want something that's right-wing and the Republicans counter with something that's even more right-wing, and then Obama compromises by proposing something that is more right-wing than even what the Republicans were asking for, after which Obama's position becomes the Democratic ("left") position and the Republicans vote against it because it's Democratic. Those Democrats who vote against the Obama bill, even though they are voting against a right-wing bill, can be counted as "centrist" or "moderate" on the proposal because they didn't vote with the Democratic leadership. In this way, you can calculate that some pretty right-wing Democrats are actually more left-wing than Dennis Kucinich, because they have fewer instances of voting against right-wing Democratic bills. The capital-C Centrists are no more centrist than the capital-L Libertarians are libertarian, but Centrist language is being used by our punditry to the exclusion of the language and understanding of those who are actually in the real political center. The Centrists themselves are committed to extreme policies that pretty much overturn the Constitution.

How did James Hansen's 1981 global warming predictions work out? The charts scare you to death. This quick post sums it up nicely, but for more, Check out what Gaius Publius said about the background thinking on Virtually Speaking.

Also at Americablog:
"Elizabeth Warren comes out swinging on financial accountability"
"What happened to Canada? (Ans: Corporate power is global)"
"You are being royally ripped off by your cell phone carrier" (Hey, I'm still croggled by the idea of paying to receive phone calls.)
And, in a surprising move, the Justice Department supports your right to film police.

Yves wonders, "Why is Paul Krugman Misrepresenting the Demise of a Wall Street Funded, Right Wing, Entitlement-Bashing Front Group?"

"It's a little easier to be the Best Big Banker in America when you're regulating yourself."

Anne-Laurie notices the hint of a suspicion of the fading away of the Gargoyle Feminist image.

BDBlue called our attention in comments below to an old comment to a post Glenn Greenwald did last year that addresses just how unreal the fake filibusters in the Senate have become. She also found that the permalink to that comment is broken, so I copied it to Avedon's Other Weblog for those who might like to be able to go straight to it, as "Pow Wow's comment, one year on."

One of the things that bears repeating is that neither charity nor programs aimed at "the truly needy" will buy justice for any of us. We all need insurance against having the oligarchs running off to the casino with our pensions. We pay a high price for letting anyone get away with dividing us with these memes. Big offenders: The New Benevolent Democrats. If you want to help the poor, you have to help everyone else, too.

I can't wait 'til Obama asks us for our ideas for solving the deficit. You know how that works.

Bobby Seale sells Black Panther Party's birthplace. Well, it's his family home, he's entitled, and everyone needs money.

Granddad's cool photos of 1950s street scenes

Thanks to Charles for directing me to this neat photo that doesn't look real.

Rachele Gilmore's 100 MPH Fastball


17:57 BST

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

A bunch of stuff

On Virtually Speaking Tuesdays, Vast Left and Avedon Carol with, among other things, VL's chance encounter with Elizabeth Warren.

Sam Seder did a good interview with Matt Taibbi on The Majority Report.

Yves Smith pulls no punches in calling him Barack Obama, the Great Deceiver: "His pattern of grand promises producing at-best-in-name only and at worst outright bait and switch was well established by his 2008 campaign. Some close observers pointed out his past legerdemain, for instance, his misleading account of his years in New York, his record of fronting for finance and real estate interests in Chicago, his promise to bring a state-wide health care program to Illinois, which in the end was walked back to a mere study. And there were more decisive tells in 2008: the high level of Wall Street funding for his campaign, the inclusion of neoliberal 'Chicago boys' in his economics team, his reversal on FISA after promising to filibuster it, which gave retroactive immunity to telecoms for aiding and abetting illegal wiretapping, and his whipping for TARP. Obama didn't make compromises necessary to lead effectively. He entered office with majorities in both houses and a country eager for a new direction. He has repudiated or retraded every pledge he made. He promised transformational leadership, and instead emulated Wall Street, devising complex programs that to sell average Americans short and reap his funders handsome rewards in the process. Rather than elevate his fellow citizens, Obama's transactional focus and neoliberal philosophy have kicked the struggling middle class down the road greased by the right. [...] Similarly, many of Obama's betrayals go underreported. Obama promised to back labor and reneged. He vowed to support a card check bill that would facilitate the formation of unions at specific workplaces. After failing to act on it before the Democrats lost their filibuster-proof Senate majority, Obama simply declared it too difficult to pass, meaning not worthy of his time or political capital. He also pledged to the give 40,000 TSA employees the same bargaining rights as other Federal workers. Instead, after considerable delay, they were granted improved rights, but still less than those of other government employees." (via)

Did the White House coordinate the police crackdown on Occupy? It seems pretty likely, doesn't it?

Who's terrorist now? Glenn Greenwald notes that the very behavior that can get you locked up forever (or assassinated) by our government is not just okay but lucrative when the money drops on the right people.

It's all very well to talk about what Obama must do, but first Obama must want to, and he doesn't. None of these good things are going to happen until we get rid of bad Democrats, even if it means having fewer (but better) Democrats.

It seems even the banksters hint - when they get caught - that their trades had reached the point that even they didn't understand them. It's bad enough that there will be no accountability, but the worst part is that no one in the White House is going to say, "Hey, maybe these people aren't the guys who understand the problem well enough to solve it."

I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for the Supremes to either decline this case or decide the cops don't have the right to tase just everyone. They already think the cops have the right to do anything they want to you.

What Lance Mannion said. None of these oligarchs are the people who create real wealth. Or jobs. (But, by all means, if they are going to quit their positions in a huff because they are annoyed at having to actually pay taxes on that wealth, really, we won't miss them.) (via)

Tom Tomorrow: Invasion of the Austerions

RIP: Jay Kay Klein - He took one of my favorite pictures of me, and was always friendly and pleasant.

23:55 BST

Words and pictures

Give this a listen: "Stuart Zechman and Jay Ackroyd on the apparent problem of transition to oligarchy in the United States, and how movement liberals hurt our cause and our country when we replace vigilance against the tyranny of elites with easily manipulated, partisan driven fear of the popular right-wing," on Virtually Speaking A-Z.

I'm sure "progressives" can be relied upon to tell you how great it is to have to spend $220,000 out of pocket on health care under Obamacare, as opposed to spending $240,000 or so with it. Because, you know, I'm sure everyone has $220,000 to spare. But what I know is that Obama could have saved everyone over $220,000 - if he'd wanted to.

Krugman and some "Some of us" predict the endgame in the European banking crisis.

What Atrios said.

On Democracy Now!, Noam Chomsky on WikiLeaks, Obama's Targeted Assassinations and Latin America's Break From the U.S.: "If the Bush administration didn't like somebody, they'd kidnap them and send them to torture chambers. If the Obama administration decides they don't like somebody, they murder them. " Glenn Greenwald says that isn't precisely accurate, though.

"North Dakota's Economic 'Miracle' - It's Not Oil."

David Dayen, "Brown Proposes Clever Raid of Foreclosure Fraud Settlement Funds." So, just like all the rest.

Am I the only one who found this guy kinda dumb and scary? I mean, I'm all for teaching kids to grow tomatoes and all that, but I don't think you can get rid of the problems of a corrupted food industry by sitting around waiting for "this old generation" to die off. Just leaving aside the fact that those are the people who already know how to grow their own tomatoes.... (And now I see another Age Warrior has shown up in my very own comment thread to the post below who seems to imagine that expecting the government to serve the public and meet its obligations to American citizens is some sort of Baby-Boomer Plot to Eat the Young.)

Robert Kuttner on Fiscal Futility: "On Tuesday, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation will hold its third annual fiscal summit. We need this event like we need a mass outbreak of sado-masochism." Actually, I think a mass outbreak of actual sado-masochism would probably be much more beneficial than having an organization with deep pockets make another plea for killing Social Security.

Here's a predictable piece of centrist media bias lamenting the loss of the "moderate" Richard Lugar - but see the comments below it (by some of our favorite commenters) pointing out that Lugar is no moderate at all. His real problem was that he was caught between competing corporate interests and had to pick one - and the side that didn't get his vote went after him.

How ALEC told its members what to do when asked tough questions

Cenk gives CNN some advice they will not take.

I never found the Black Panthers themselves particularly scary or problematic. I didn't like Eldridge Cleaver then any more than I like him now - to me, he was a creepy rapist. But the Panthers themselves were doing good things, teaching good things, and standing up for their communities. And ours: "During the past few years strong movements have developed among women and among homosexuals seeking their liberation. There has been some uncertainty about how to relate to these movements. Whatever your personal opinions and your insecurities about homosexuality and the various liberation movements among homosexuals and women (and I speak of the homosexuals and women as oppressed groups), we should try to unite with them in a revolutionary fashion." - Huey Newton, 1970 (via)

More and more, I think President Bill is an idiot, but I think Rachel is wrong on this, too. There is still very little room on MSNBC for a an honest appraisal of what's really going on. We're not just talking about a network that starts its day with three hours of Republican hack Joe Scarborough, but the network that has Lawrence O'Donnell claiming to be a socialist. Seriously.

The Baltimore Sun celebrated it's 175th anniversary with retrospective pieces by and about some of it's own reporters - including David Simon's piece on Dave Ettlin. (Also: How come he looks the same in a picture that was taken this month as he does in pictures I took of him in the '70s?) Even Romenesko covered the story of The Man Who Taught David Simon How To Be A Reporter.

Why Bill Bixby is still the best Hulk. (via)

Photos by Rebeca Cygnus
Fashion Photography by Sarah Louise Johnson
Michael Poliza's tribute to life in the polar regions
Fairytale Fantasy 2012 Calendar art
Landscapes by Alexandre Deschaumes

04:10 BST

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Go to school on this

Apparently, I'm on Virtually Speaking Sundays tonight with Jay Ackroyd, assuming there are no more last-minute schedule changes. Listen live or later at the link.

"Why Isn't Closing 40 Philadelphia Public Schools National News? In what should be the biggest story of the week, the city of Philadelphia's school system announced Tuesday that it expects to close 40 public schools next year and 64 by 2017. The school district expects to lose 40% of current enrollment to charter schools, the streets or wherever, and put thousands of experienced, well qualified teachers, often grounded in the communities where they teach, on the street. Ominously, the shredding of Philadelphia's public schools isn't even news outside Philly. This correspondent would never have known about it save for a friend's Facebook posting early this week. Corporate media in other cities don't mention massive school closings, whether in Chicago, Atlanta, NYC, or in this case Philadelphia, perhaps so people won't have given the issue much deep thought before the same crisis is manufactured in their town. Even inside Philadelphia the voices of actual parents, communities, students and teachers are shut out of most newspaper and broadcast accounts. The black political class is utterly silent and deeply complicit." Apparently, today's black and civil rights "leadership" gets too much funding from charter school advocates to ask questions about the damage being done to black education in America.

Yves Smith says, "Student loan debt slavery is even worse than you probably thought." After reviewing the numbers, "One of the distressing threads in the article was elected officials and even students arguing that it was completely reasonable to expect students to carry most of the freight of their education. I wonder if any of the ones over, say, 35 giving that view would be anywhere near as comfortable as they are now if that had been required of them. You can see the open, casual rendering of one of the obligations of society, that of educating the young. I've never understood when (once in a while) someone (clearly young) shows up in comments and rails against Social Security and Medicare because of the burden it imposes on him. Now I get it. The student debt issue is deepening social fractures. If young people are asked to stand on their own, and given only unpalatable choices (forego a college degree, the entrance ticket to middle class life, or accept debt slavery at a tender age), no wonder they adopt a 'devil take the hindmost' attitude. I hope some of these people who so cavalierly argue for loading up the next generation with debt realize that the young may not want to take care of them either, and they are far more at risk. The outcome of cutting social safety nets to the elderly ultimately means that old people will die faster." But not before being a tremendous burden to their children and grandchildren, who will have to carry the weight individually that was once covered by Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid.

I'm still shocked that anyone ever came up with the bright idea to tax Social Security, but it appears now that if you make the mistake of getting a student loan, they will garnishee your SSI check, now, too. And the usury on them is stunning. And it doesn't really save "us" any money. "Congress cannot agree on $6 billion to save the students, yet they managed to agree in a matter of days in September 2008 to come up with $700 billion to save the banks; and the Federal Reserve found many trillions more. Estimates are that tuition could be provided free to students for a mere $30 billion annually. The government has the power to find $30 billion -- or $300 billion or $3 trillion -- in the same place the Federal Reserve found it: it can simply issue the money."

Yes, some nitwit in Congress actually proposed an amendment to the spending bill this week to eliminate all funding for enforcement of Title V of the 1965 Civil Rights Act. John Lewis took the floor.

Well, of course Colin Powell was lying in his speech to the UN. People who had been born the day before might not have known he was lying, but if you knew who Colin Powell actually was, you knew he would say what his masters wanted, and anyway, the stuff he said didn't make sense. The entire presentation to the UN was laughable to anyone who knows anything about what it takes to make nukes and what Iraq obviously had not done in that direction, and the idea of huge stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons that were not well past their shelf life was another obvious whopper. I mean, seriously, Richard Cohen may have believed him, but then he'd been kind of silly in the head for a long time. Powell can whine about bloggers all he wants to, but what burns his ass is the fact that we saw right through him. Meanwhile, Jose Rodriguez's excuses and whining aren't terribly impressive either. A guy who tortures people really has no business crying about how annoying it is to have someone looking over his shoulder about the unconstitutionality of his conduct.

We were told this week that austerity is working, even though it isn't. Unless they mean "working to make most people's lives worse." In that case, working real good.

Edinburgh Eye says Obama will win a second term because he finally evolved on gay marriage.

"Thomas Friedman Is An Enormous Mustache." I was amused enough by this to want to pass it on, and I'm all in favor of throwing ridicule on pompous oafs, but I wish I could be this amusing about the deep, deep error of Thomas Friedman, who, like so many of his colleagues and associates, thinks THE INTERNET means driving wages down to subsistence is the only path possible - and that's a good thing. This is a fundamental lie of Centrist thinking. They just don't believe a truly free country can "compete", whatever that means.

Two productions for the 21st Century - but has one been re-purposed to serve the 1%?

I think something weird happened to my email account filters at Cix, so for reasons too complicated to explain, I never got around to thanking Madeleine, Robert, and Mark for the prezzies last winter. I prefer to do this by personal contact but until I figure out how to deal with the issue, I want them to know I'm grateful and very sorry I didn't get back to them at the time.

13:35 BST

Friday, 11 May 2012

In my room

Here's your exclusive Z-Files:

Centrist Media Bias

I'm Stuart Zechman, and I've been appalled by the amount of blatant, outright bias demonstrated by the establishment media recently.

Now, of course I don't mean liberal bias...we actual, movement liberals, the liberals that live in the real world, and not merely in the fevered fantasies of the right-wing, are poorly represented in mainstream journalism, usually by establishment liberal hacks like the fatuous Frank Rich, or the psychotic Maureen Dowd, or Dana "Mad Bitch Beer" Milbank.

When conservatives yell about the liberal media, we know that they're either ignorant, as in "Obama is a socialist" ignorant, or they're lying.

So when I talk about media bias, I obviously don't mean liberal bias. We all know that's a rightist myth.

But it's not conservative media bias, either.

We're reality based enough to know that there's a difference between partisan Republican outlets, like Fox News or the Wall Street Journal, movement conservative talk radio, or rightist tabloid rags like Murdoch's NY Post, and the NY Times, or National Public Radio, or NBC's Meet The Press.

There's a difference between conservative media, the "fair and balanced" kind, and the political-economic outlook that Fox News markets itself as compensating for, to "balance," the editorial management at David Broder's Washington Post, or Joe Klein's TIME Magazine.

And yet, there is bias. It's there, we can see it every day! We know this establishment doesn't speak for ordinary people out here in the country, they don't speak for us, and they're obviously not speaking for movement conservatives, either.

So there's obviously a consensus editorial position taken by our establishment media, but it's not liberal bias, and it's not conservative bias...it's centrist bias.

Let me say that again, so it's real clear: centrist media bias.

For example, centrist media bias is what we witnessed when "economist" Diane Swonk was placed on Meet The Press last Sunday to discuss America's greatest problems.

Here's what the Meet The Press economist said:

"You know, adding to that on an economic perspective, is people feel that exact issue is that we do know that problems and gridlock in Washington have contributed to our economic woes. And we can blame it on whoever we want to. But the reality is it's here. Like I said, I'm an equal opportunity offender, because I'm offended equally.

But on the other side of it, if we've got an opportunity here, the world is not inevitably going to be bad. If we took an opportunity where you look at most American public, is they're willing to deal with, over a long term, 10 year period of time, reducing the deficit. And I think most Republicans and most Democrats, if you sit them down in a room and don't let them talk to any press in an election year, they'll come to agreement on how to do that. And most economist agree on how to do it. And most Americans understand that it's mostly spending, and a little taxes, and we've got a complicated tax code that needs to be reformed. So all these things can be solved."

Do you see how our economist just made rather political arguments? Did you recognize any economics in there, apart from the mention that "most economists" agree that the deficit is the biggest problem facing America, and that mostly cutting spending and "reforming" taxes, and maybe raising them a little, is how do get America back to work? And do you understand that the consensus solution is to get a bipartisan group of the Wise Men of Washington into a smoke-filled back room, so that the policy they decide on can't be reported or known by voters in an election year before they vote?

That's the editorial position of the Washington Post, basically. That's centrist media bias.

And this Diane Swonk, the "economist," well...

Starting way back in the 1980's, according to the Chicago Tribune, Diane Swonk has worked as an economics adviser for First Chicago Bank. Which became First Chicago Corp. Which became Bank One Corp in 1998, and, by the time it was the 6th largest bank in America, was merged with JPMorgan Chase, and was run by Jamie Dimon, who I'm all sure you recognize as a key executive at Citigroup, and as closely associated with the Obama Administration, the Associated Press having reported that he and two other financial kingpins had liberal access to the Obama Treasury Department during TARP II.

That's the expertise represented by our "equal opportunity offender," Diane Swonk, who came on Meet The Press to talk up austerity. She was an economist at the same banking monopoly for the past 20 years.

And the economics she offers is to make people take their medicine, to force the American people, liberal and conservative, to pay for the economic misdeeds of banks like Bank One Corp, by getting bipartisan elites to cut a Grand Bargain in secret.

That's ideological centrism, folks. That's the heart of it, and that's what we get day in and day out on the pages of our establishment newspapers, and every Sunday morning on our political round tables.

So when people you know, right-wing or left-wing or no-wing talk to you about media bias, you tell them "Yes, centrist media bias is ruining this country and our future," and see what kind of conversation happens next.

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

* * * * *

Just for the record, I'm tired of hearing about how "reasonable" Lugar was. I can still remember when he was one of the most terrifyingly right-wing maniacs in Congress. The fact that the current Democratic leadership can get along with him does not mean he was reasonable. It just means the Democratic leadership has become more unreasonable.

Jay Ackroyd did good interviews with Andrew Gumble and Allison Kilkenny on Virtually Speaking. Gumble's book, Oklahoma City: What the Investigation Missed--and Why It Still Matters, is discussed here as well (much as I hate to give that link). Kilkenny, meanwhile, had some eyewitness reporting on what happened at Occupy this week.

Is David Atkins the Tweety of blogdom? I believe Glenn Greenwald has detected the thrill up Atkins' leg. Among other things. (And though I agree that Obama's grand gesture is important irrespective of partisan issues, I have to admit I had a lot of this feeling.)

Dean Baker on David Brooks' Parallel Universe, where straw men make the only opposing arguments to policies that Brooks hasn't noticed have failed, and failed for reasons he doesn't appear to be aware of. (Baker doesn't mention that one reason doctors make too much money is that the number of doctors available to practice in America is also limited by how difficult we make it to become one.)

All sorts of things are being said about the European elections, but here's David Ehrenstein's report from the ground at The French Revolution. Meanwhile, will the Greeks finally say No! to a bad deal?

"China buying oil from Iran with yuan" - Ah, no wonder the war drums are beating....

Wisconsin man tries to stop wife from voting, lands in hospital. Apparently, she didn't share his love for Scott Walker. "'These crazy liberal nuts are always pulling this crap,' said Radle's brother, Mike Radle, describing himself and his brother as firm supporters of Walker, the subject of the recall."

Something from Art Too Cute for Words

14 Photographs That Shatter Your Image of Famous People ("That's right, ladies. The next time you're at a party and you see a guy who looks like a rugged, more handsome Keanu Reeves with Johnny Depp hair, playing a guitar and staring at you with his big, soulful eyes, keep in mind that in 40 years he could very easily turn into this guy ...") (via)

John Peel's record collection!

The Beach Boys

23:55 BST

Tuesday, 08 May 2012

They say that all good things must end, someday

I heartily recommend last night's Virtually Speaking A-Z, in which Stuart and Jay talked about the differences between conservatives and centrists and movement liberals and movement conservatives and what we need to do to take our country back (and Culture of Truth on the absurdity of watching a bunch of blitherati on the Sunday talk shows expressing their disgust with democracy). But first, consider this:

In what kind of discourse do you get a paragraph like this?

To many on the left, President Obama is a disappointment. To many on the right, President Obama is a socialist threat to American freedoms. As a psychoanalyst, I see that both of these reactions are based on projections -- the unconscious fantasies of each group projected onto the president. Obama lives between these two extremes, walking a presidential tightrope entirely focused on bringing people together. I called this posturing "obsessive bipartisan disorder."
So, being disappointed with Obama is an "extreme"? Really? People who thought they were electing a Democrat to protect and advance Democratic policies and found instead that he is contemptuous of Democratic programs that have the support of eighty percent of the country are "extreme"?

But don't get tricked into seeing this as a "false equivalence", either. Calling Obama a "socialist" may be ignorant and/or stupid, but is the right-wing really wrong in perceiving Obama as a threat to American freedoms? He is simultaneously trying to take away our few economic protections while systematically eliminating our ability to speak out against the corruption of an increasingly abusive oligarchy that works in tandem with the state - with Obama's whole-hearted support. American poverty increases, our control of our lives decreases, the prison industry is one of our most powerful employers as we lock more and more people up - more than any other country does. And then there's the war on whistleblowers.

Back in the days when reporters were threatened with jail time for not revealing their sources, they used to push back a little more on government attempts to go after whistleblowers. But now they don't get those threats, because, "We're not going to subpoena reporters in the future. We don't need to. We know who you're talking to." Because they are spying on the reporters and everyone else already. And the press doesn't really seem to care. Early last year, Glenn Greenwald told Digby on Virtually Speaking Sundays that the silence from the press about the administration's war on whistleblowers was itself an outrage. It still is. No wonder Glenn and Fareed Zakaria can finally agree, today, that the US is looking like a nation of "scared, fearful, losers".

Our discourse, then, is entirely corrupted by a team sport between two "opposing" sides that are just doing the same things to keep us all from talking to each other and finding the real common ground. "Centrists" aren't there to find the "sane" middle ground, they're there to keep the tribal drums beating to divide the rest of us so they can conquer us. And the only people who are actually doing anything effective to try to take back democracy and make government representative are on the far right. Until liberals are prepared to lose elections to win back their party, the far right is going to keep winning. Now go listen to Stuart and Jay.

* * * * *

Robert Reich debunks 7 economic lies. I had no idea he could draw.

KeninNY at DWT on Paul Krugman on "the depression we're in": "We could end it both more easily and more quickly than anyone imagines". (On the other hand, this interview reveals the disappointing news that Krugman would rather watch a video of a Peter Gabriel concert than read a book. Sugar, you're missing out on a lot of great stuff.) Krugman himself is interesting on The Incredulity Problem of trying to get across to people that a nation's finance are not the same as those of a household.

The Republican delegation was being intransigent before the Tea Partiers made their emergence, but for some reason it's all being blamed on them.

In 2008, Robert Fitch made a speech in which he looked at Obama's past to predict his performance as president. It's a pity we didn't see it then. What is past is prologue. (But one of the weirdest things about this story is seeing how many people and groups who were once fairly progressive or even - dare I say it? - militant radical leftists - have climbed aboard the corporatist bandwagon. Speaking of which, our privatized prison industry has some pretty disappointing names on its door.)

The ruling class likes to pretend it arrived where it is because of hard work, cleverness, and character, until someone shines a light on how they really do it: "The Leveson inquiry has provided one such moment. It was set up last year to look into the specific claims about phone hacking at the News of the World, alleged police corruption and the general culture and ethics of the British media. But every time it probes harder into the Murdoch empire it draws blood from the heart of our body politic, telling us a great deal about how Britain's political class in particular and ruling class in general collude, connive and corrupt both systemically and systematically."

Freeway Blogger has gone eco. I thought the Bush stuff was more fun, though.

How can strippers get fair treatment?

Well, yes, I have actually had that moment, but it was really about something else. (via)


The Mae West episode of Mr. Ed

Here's a fun little game to practice your typing, Letter Bubbles.

The sun is out, which is about as good as it usually gets around here, so have "A Summer Song".

15:15 BST

Saturday, 05 May 2012

Another country heard from

For my money, Going Postal - which, among other things, illustrates the virtues of making sure you still have a Post Office - is the better of the two books, and you ought to read it first anyway, but I'm pleased to see that, on the business pages of the Evening Standard, there is an admission that Terry Pratchett had it right in Making Money:

When the tyrant Lord Vetinari appoints the head of the post office to run the Royal Bank of Ankh Morpork, objections fly.

Doesn't he realise that banks should be run by people who understand banks? Vetinari responds: "People who understand banks got it into the position it is in now. And I did not become ruler of Ankh-Morpork by understanding the city. Like banking, the city is depressingly easy to understand. I have remained ruler by getting the city to understand me."

This storyline finds a parallel in the FSA's handling of the sale of 632 branches of Lloyds to the Co-op, a deal that now seems unlikely to happen. The difference being that unlike Vetinari, the FSA insists that only people who have previously mucked up banks can run them in future (I exaggerate, a little).


So now Lloyds is reportedly in talks with an organisation called NBNK, a bank that doesn't really exist yet, beyond having a board stuffed with the great and the good of the banking industry (Lord Levene, Sir David Walker, definitely no plasterers).

NBNK will need capital from Middle Eastern investors to proceed, it seems, but maybe it would do a decent job of improving competition for borrowers and savers.

Still, it is rather a pity that competition couldn't come from a larger mutual, such as the blameless, rather likeable Co-op.

Unlike the FSA, Vetinari would have had no problem with this.

(The Mob hasn't (yet?) made a version of Making Money, but here's the trailer for Going Postal, and here's Terry talking about it.)

All month long I was hearing that we were having a drought, there were hosepipe bans and all the usual advice to conserve water, but then I wake up and learn that we just had the wettest April in recorded history. So why the drought warnings? Well, it seems that our privatized Thames Water defied regulators and sold off a bunch of our reservoirs! I think these people belong in jail - at least. What are the chances?

Following up on his recent appearance on Virtually Speaking, Glenn Carle returned for further discussion with Jay Ackroyd on the torturers. His recent article is here.

"How the Obama Administration Plans to Convince Progressives That it Ended the War on Drugs [..] Let me repeat that: The Obama administration is unwilling to talk publicly about the central plank of its drug policy platform."

I'm pleased to see that my junior Senator has backed off sponsoring the latest attack on the internet. Stop them.

It has always been the case that some people are allowed to kill in self-defense (or alleged self-defense), and some aren't. Cece McDonald is alive because she did the only thing she could, and now she's headed for jail. "There was no media coverage, discussing how she bravely stood her ground. There are no political discussion TV shows with experts and lawyers explaining the law of self-defense. There are no New York Times or Los Angeles op-eds decrying the violence by the state against CeCe McDonald. I am outraged." The criminal justice system is now just a force for teaching people to be helpless.

Criminal injustice for the young: "The Walnut Grove story is a cautionary tale that raises alarming questions about the treatment of youthful, mostly nonviolent offenders in Mississippi and elsewhere. And it calls into question the wisdom of turning over the care of these youths, some as young as 13, to private companies that exist solely to turn a profit - companies that have no incentive to rehabilitate youths, that thrive on recidivism, and that increase their profits by cutting corners and reaping ever more troubled souls into their walls." (via)

I've been taken to task for quoting without comment in the post below an article in Slate (I should know better) purporting to show that the Founders would have been perfectly happy with the PPCA's individual mandate. The cases in question aren't really as relevant as the author suggests, and Stuart pointed out to me this morning that, while they don't do the intended job, they do make a great case for Medicare (.pdf).

And while Stuart was kicking my ass about reading with my BS-detectors turned off, he called my attention to a guest post by Jay Ackroyd at Digby's place in which he quoted Joe Nocera approvingly without catching the little bit of hocus pocus about how we need Social Security because individuals invest stupidly. While it's true that individuals aren't that great at making clever investments (even if they are clever), this is all pretty much beside the point: By and large, even the smartest individuals have almost no chance of investing so cleverly that they won't wake up one morning and discover that the banksters have gambled everything away and left us all empty-handed. Social Security isn't merely there to protect us from our own bad decisions and personal failures, but to protect us from the high-rolling gamblers who just pocket everything and claim it couldn't be helped that the money has mysteriously disappeared, or that they were wrong about how they invested our money - oh, and, by the way, our taxes need to be commandeered to bail them out. Be that as it may, Jay's post is worth reading for his discussion of why employers thought getting you invested in a 401(k) was so much better than giving you a pension plan.

Susie tells me that the 9th Circuit says that John Yoo has immunity, and that Jay Bybee, who signed the torture memo, is now on the 9th Circuit court.

And this is why I prefer the simple formula of Perry Mason (innocent until proven guilty - because the accused actually might not be guilty) to the indefensible Law & Order (guilty, guilty, guilty, because it just feels like it and we have a convenient suspect). (via)

"The DOJ's jihad on medical marijuana: The world's most ridiculously named law enforcement organization - the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms - is only one of many federal agencies participating in the crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries and growers, something that many Barack Obama supporters couldn't have imagined happening when they elected him."

The most popular murders ever committed in the United States: "They heard someone shout "prepare to fire" and then give an order. Two seconds later, the gunshots begin." After decades of denial, the truth comes out. Does anyone still care?

The pattern I see is that whenever Obama's polling numbers get really bad, the GOP leaps in to rescue him with something creepy enough to make more and more people afraid to let them win. As many people have observed, the right-wing is good at taking marching orders, and I don't think the timing of these things is an accident. The guys at the top know that Republicans could never be as successful as Obama has been at passing the long-time right-wing agenda. Always while pretending he is helpless to stop it. I suppose David Atkins is his herald. Frankly, I'm just not interested in the excuses about campaign finance - Obama himself had a huge campaign war chest even without all his corporate backing, because "the little people" also gave him piles of money. The real reason Obama doesn't "welcome their hatred" when he talks to the banks is that he actually wants to protect them from the pitchforks at the expense of the rest of us. (And just after I typed that, I'm listening to the Alterman interview I missed Thursday on The Majority Report, and it seems Sam and Eric are talking about the same things. Alterman is always interesting and usually says some true things, but I still want to smack him sometimes for the way he says them. But I do believe he's right that the economic issues have to come first - both because we can get more agreement among We The People on those issues and, importantly, because the social justice issues go nowhere without the economic equality.) I think Sam said more about this on Friday's show, as well.

Ted Rall on troop withdrawals: The Forever War. (via)

Austerity Farm

Man in penguin suit gets more votes than LibDem candidate.

15:32 BST

Tuesday, 01 May 2012

May Day

Since Stuart Zechman has been ill this week, Virtually Speaking A-Z was organized a little differently last night, opening with a replay of Stuart's discussion of how Centrism differs from both Conservatism and Liberalism, followed by new material from Jay expanding the point, and ending with a repeat of Stuart's Z-Files on Negotiation. But, I couldn't help but get the feeling that what I was really being told was that the difference between "centrists" and "conservatives" is purely about the sexual issues that have become a rallying cry (but not the central policy focus) of "movement conservatism". To me, this is like saying that "the southern strategy" was the meaning, rather than the strategy, of conservatism. What you might call "the sexual strategy" was an add-on that was created for the extreme right to rally around, but it was not always thus. As I keep trying to remind people, there was no mass outrage against the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. This was ginned up, it wasn't a core element in conservatism and it was created as one not by the grassroots, but by operatives looking for a way to get a politically disengaged segment of the population to climb on board with party politics. When Jay describes and explains "centrist" ideology, he's describing exactly what elite conservatives have always believed - a bit of charity for the "truly needy" and subsistence for everyone else, except of course themselves, the deserving rich (however that wealth was acquired), because they are the smart and good and experienced people who should make all the important decisions. Centrists don't speak differently about why they need to mislead We The People - in fact, they use the very same excuses for their policies that plantation owners used to defend keeping blacks in slavery. (It was good for them! It was the place God intended for them!) The only distinction between Centrists and Conservatives appears to be that Centrists believe there is no other choice but to dismantle democracy and the New Deal - but often their own words give the lie to that. Stuart himself has noted* that "A Senior Democrat" described the New Deal era as an aberration and claimed that the New Rules required a return to the natural order. It may be true that some of them are lying to themselves about their motives, but when it gets down to cases, they sound just like the conservatives that Phil Agree warned us about. Understand that what we call "corruption" is exactly what both conservatives (Tories) and Centrists have always treated as "the natural order" - government of, by, and most especially for, the aristocracy.

And then there's the war thing. I had heard people talk about how disgusting the chest-thumping is getting, but when I saw this ad, I felt unprepared.

Glenn Greenwald talked to Sam Seder on The Majority Report about the complete corruption of the White House's behavior regarding torture and the prosecution (or lack thereof) of members of the aristocracy.

One Hell Of A Slippery Slope: It's not an entirely simple issue, but once governments start telling ISPs to block sites, they probably won't stop at the most obvious things. Stuff We Don't Like will be next, and Bonsai Kitten won't be far behind. You can see what the internet would have been like if smart people hadn't sneaked it out there before anyone noticed when you look at facebook (or compuserve and AOL back in the day). It isn't a place where any idiot can throw up a blog without worrying that someone will pull it if they don't like it."

Given that you pretty much lose your ability to make a living once you've been convicted of a felony, is the private prison system, which actually increases the likelihood that people will become convicted felons for ordinary behavior, really that different from the slave trade?

Yes, Atrios, I think most people do know that we had it a lot better than These Kids Today, and we wanted to pass that on to them, too.

What did the founders intend?
"* In 1790, a Congress including 20 Founders passed a law requiring that ship owners buy medical insurance for their seamen. Washington signed it into law.
* In 1792, another law signed by Washington required that all able-bodied men buy a firearm. (So much for the argument that Congress can't force us to participate in commerce.)* And in 1798, a Congress with five framers passed a law requiring that all seamen buy hospital insurance for themselves. Adams signed this legislation.

"Cutting red tape and taxes will not revive Britain The coalition's core business strategy is wrong. If there's money to be made investors won't worry about regulation." (via)

I am reliably informed that, somewhere on the internets, TBogg said, "Romney wouldn't have killed bin Laden. He would have bought al-Qaeda with borrowed money, laid him off, and then declared bankruptcy. Profit!"

19:33 BST

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, May 2012

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