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Sunday, 28 November 2010

We were like children posing

In honor of Advent, Canonfire reposts How the Bro Stole the Country. Via Make Them Accountable, where we are reminded of why "Bro" is the right term. (Oh, yeah, here's my favorite seasonal music.)

And in honor of Thanksgiving weekend, Jay Ackroyd and I will be shooting the breeze and taking phone calls at Virtually Speaking Sundays, and you'll find that number at the link.

"The FBI successfully thwarts its own Terrorist plot: The FBI is obviously quite pleased with itself over its arrest of a 19-year-old Somali-American, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who -- with months of encouragement, support and money from the FBI's own undercover agents -- allegedly attempted to detonate a bomb at a crowded Christmas event in Portland, Oregon."

Bruce Schneier has pointed out that the "nude scanners" wouldn't have caught the underwear bomber, but Will "Dumber Than His Own Junk" Saletan thinks we should meekly submit. Via Pruning Shears.

War is Over, if you rename it: "The US military and the Obama administration loudly trumpeted the withdrawal of the "last combat brigade" from Iraq last week, but news reports suggest the move is purely semantic: The combat brigades are still there, but under a different name."

Susie Madrak: "The thing that no one seems to mention is that Wall Street bankers and mortgage companies, confronted with a record number of transactions to go with those record profits, never even considered simply hiring enough people to actually handle the paperwork."

On Washington Joural, an economics "reporter" tries to blame consumers for failing to show confidence in the Tinkle Down Economics school, and Ruth Calvo took issue in email, pointing out that people can't spend money they don't have, and that since the corporations got all the profits that went with those big tax breaks, they can start giving people jobs. The journalist responded by accusing you all of hoarding your savings.

Good interview with Matt Taibbi at AlterNet.

Elizabeth Warren had your back: "Elizabeth Warren was the first senior Obama administration official to recognize the potentially incendiary impact of a bill that would have made it significantly easier for mortgage companies to foreclose on homes, and her subsequent warnings played a crucial role in persuading the President to veto the measure, according to freshly released documents and people familiar with the deliberations." I find it interesting that as soon as liberal blogs started posting warnings about this bill, Obamapoligists were assuring us in comments that the bill was no big deal and might even be good. So, what I wonder is, was Obama hoping to get away with signing the bill rather than giving it a veto?) (via)

Why Charlotte Shane is happy she became a prostitute.

Toles: "There is no 'rest of the trick.'"


19:47 GMT

Friday, 26 November 2010

What a town without pity can do

Let me draw your attention to the sidebar, where we have the new graphic for the 2L4O T-shirts, in both "too left" and "too liberal". Click it now!

So, what the hell is going on at The Nation that they'd publish a hit piece on someone who objected to what the TSA has been doing? There's nothing inherently right-wing about not wanting to have complete strangers manhandling you for no good reason. Greenwald: "And therein lies the most odious premise in this smear piece: anyone who doesn't quietly, meekly and immediately submit to Government orders and invasions -- or anyone who stands up to government power and challenges it -- is inherently suspect. Just as the establishment-worshiping, political-power-defending Ruth Marcus taught us today in The Washington Post, objecting to what the Government is doing here is just immature and ungrateful; mature, psychologically healthy people shut up and submit. That's how you prove that you're a normal, responsible, upstanding good citizen: by not making waves, doing what you're told, declaring yourself a loyal Republican or Democrat and then cheering for your team, and -- most of all -- accepting in the name of Fear that you must suffer indignities, humiliations and always-increasing loss of liberties at the hands of unchallengeable functionaries of the state." (via)

Anglachel, who doesn't care who wins on Dancing With the Stars, makes the interesting observation that the progressive obsession with Palin helped revitalize the Republican base and made her into a far larger political force than she might otherwise have been. (Every now and then I will go over to see what's on one of my favorite blogs and there is post after post of how whacked out the right-wingers are. Well, that's all very well, but we've spent the last two years getting screwed not by Republicans, but by Democrats, and while those Democrats may not say such whacky things, what they are actually doing has been the real show. Watching people I respect waste time elevating the sideshows to center stage has not been a pleasant experience for me.)

David Cay Johnston Asks President Obama to Call the Republicans Bluff on Bush Tax Cuts: "This is a fight that Obama can win, and win handily, if he has the backbone to stand up for the vast majority and sound tax policies, and to take on the antitax billionaires who are piling up huge gains while unemployment, debt, and fear stalk our land." Or if he can be bothered to.

"If you're wondering why we have to have these invasive techniques to supposedly protect us from terrorists, when the Israelis, who haven't had an airline incident in many years... follow the money. Meanwhile, Cenk Uygur is "an optimistic guy," but I'm not, and I say the system is not structured to reward bribery, which is supposed to be illegal. Will be corporations fund candidates who appear to agree with them? Sure. But does that mean politicians who are "good people" should change their votes to get that money? No, that's corruption. But "Who says an individual can't make a difference?"

"Back to School: Cheating U. "One of the ways that jobless workers have kept off the streets while upgrading their potential has been by going back to school for more training. Inevitably, that admirable tactic has attracted those looking for someone to cheat out of their money."

OK, I'm not completely immune to laughing at some of the weird things they say: "The far-right lawmaker believes the Pilgrims were 'a great bunch of Americans,' who 'came here with the idea that, after trying socialism, that it wasn't going to work. They realized that it was unbiblical and it was a form of theft. So they pitched socialism out; they learned that in the early 1620s.'"

"Ours is not an easy age, we're like tigers in a cage."

16:00 GMT

Thursday, 25 November 2010

It must be Thursday

It's just like any other Thursday in the UK, which means we celebrate Thanksgiving on Saturday around here, but all the same I'd like to say thanks to you for continuing to read even though it's all so depressing and frustrating and I'm obviously having a harder time doing it as often, and to the wonderful people who provide me links in comments and mail all year long, and to the people who have popped a few bucks into the tip jar now and then, and to those of you who provide your own insights and reminders, and even to Tom Harrister, who makes me laugh almost as hard as Colbert does, even though he actually means it. And, as always, special thanks to Mr. Sideshow and to Dominic, without whom I doubt I could have managed to keep this blog running for the last nine years. Among other things....

TomDispatch, Steve Clemons, Jonathan Larson and James Fallows say good-bye to Chalmers Johnson, who wrote: "If present trends continue, four sorrows, it seems to me, are certain to be visited on the United States. Their cumulative impact guarantees that the United States will cease to bear any resemblance to the country once outlined in our Constitution. First there will be a state of perpetual war leading to more terrorism against Americans wherever they may be and a growing reliance on weapons of mass destruction as they try to ward off the imperial juggernaut. Second, there will be a loss of democracy and constitutional rights as the presidency fully eclipses Congress and is itself transformed from an 'executive branch' of government into something more like a Pentagonized presidency. Third, an already well-shredded principle of truthfulness will increasingly be replaced by a system of propaganda, disinformation, and glorification of war, power, and the military legions. Lastly, there will be bankruptcy, as we pour our economic resources into ever more grandiose military projects and shortchange the education, health, and safety of our fellow citizens.".

RJ Eskow exchanged some letters with the Peterson Foundation after one of them objected to his own objection to describing foundation's far-right media campaign as "moderate". We all know the foundation, which is running the government's deficit (catfood) commission, wants you to believe that Social Security contributes substantially to the deficit (when it does not do so at all) and will run out of money if there aren't heavy benefit cuts (which it won't). We also know that some of the "remedies" they've been kicking around amount to turning Social Security into little more than a welfare program for people who managed to hold a job for the minimum number of quarters. Eskow addresses a few of the memes they've pushed:

"Reducing benefits for the well-off" sounds reasonable - until you realize that this billionaire's definition of the "well off" includes people who earned an average of $43,000 per year during their work life. A 20-year-old who earned that average through their work life would see a 17% cut in benefits from one Peterson-backed proposal, and would see a 30% cut if they earned an average of $69,000. Under the Simpson-Bowles plan, even workers who made as little as $20,000 average would see benefit cuts starting in 2040.

As for the truly wealthy who receive Social Security benefits, the problem is that there aren't enough of them to make a difference. Remember, retirement benefits only go up to a certain amount. It sounds reasonable to say that billionaires shouldn't receive a Social Security check (although they've paid for the benefit, too). But when you calculate the number of wealthy people that would be excluded under any reasonable plan, there aren't that many of them. When you add in all the time and expense of identifying them and tracking them (How would that be done? Cross-reference IRS returns and check their bank and real estate holdings?), studies have concluded you'd spend more to find them that you would save by cutting their benefits.

Eskow's correspondent actually has the temerity to state that, "Mr. Peterson and the Foundation have also repeatedly stated that we must consider all viable solutions from across the political spectrum if we hope to meaningfully address our fiscal challenges." There are two things wrong with this statement, of course. One is that it is only half right: the far-right edge of the political spectrum that the Peterson Foundation and most members of the Catfood Commission represent has no place in this discussion since they clearly are not aimed toward addressing the nation's real fiscal challenges, but rather toward immiserating the 98% of the populace who don't happen to be filthy rich. The other is that they are completely ignoring the rest of the political spectrum, including most Republicans, who, like virtually all Democrats and independents, believe (quite rightly) that our real solutions involve doing pretty much the opposite of what the foundation and their Obama-appointed commission are recommending.

Dave Johnson has a good primer up in "Social Security Facts vs Fog" that why we are being hit with this barrage of lies in the first place:

One thing that most people do not know is that conservatives have been following an actual plan, a step-by-step strategy to get rid of Social Security, that was laid out a couple of decades a go. A 1983 Cato Institute Journal document, "Achieving a Leninist Strategy" by Stuart Butler of the Cato Institute and Peter Germanis of The Heritage Foundation lays it out for us. The document is still available at Cato, and select quotes are available at Plotting Privatization? from Z Magazine. It is worth reading the entire document (in particular the section "Weakening the Opposition") to understand completely the strategy that has been unfolding in the years since...

Whatever the current attack might be, keep in mind that it is just one more attack. Instead of spending all your time trying to refute each lie while they throw up a dozen more, remember that they hate Social Security and they just lie. Of course, there is a risk that each time Social Security is attacked more of the public will get the idea that something must be wrong with the program, when there isn't. Keeping in mind that there is a corporate/conservative strategy at work to undermine the program helps to fight off the fog.

"Former Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay Convicted Of Money Laundering Charges" - or, as Atrios put it: "Seems ancient history now, but the DeLay thing was one of the early "things only liberal bloggers care about" while being lectured by our betters in the Village that this was all the work of a partisan (read: Democrat) prosecutor trying to criminalize politics." (I love the way Republicans call it "criminalizing politics" to accuse someone of breaking the law when they have broken the law. No, it's the law that criminalizes the activity, and it's the politician who committed crime in the name of politics, you bastards.)

"Florida Woman Dies After Medicaid Program Outsourced To Private Insurers Denies Her Liver Transplant: One of the most destructive practices of private health insurance companies is the practice of denying care to customers for frivolous reasons. [...] t was this practice of frivolous denials that ended up costing Jacksonville, Florida woman Alisa Wilson her life. For months, Wilson, her family, and the surrounding community had been pleading with her HMO to approve coverage for a liver transplant. Although Wilson was enrolled in the state's Medicaid program, she was not guaranteed care because she was 'forced to join a private plan as part of a Gov. Jeb Bush-era experimental overhaul of the program,' meaning she had to deal with a private, for-profit insurance company to get her care, not a government agency accountable to the public."

Digby: "Anyone who is able to inflict that kind of pain to gain compliance from a bedridden old woman is a cruel sadist. There's just no other way to look at it." Also, the difference between Steven Colbert and right-wing attempts to parody liberals is that unlike the wingers, Colbert satirizes actual right-wingers and what they actually say.

This Week in Tyranny, Dan said a lot of interesting things and supplied a lot of interesting links, as usual, including: "Marcy is worried we'll be metaphorically at war forever. I'm worried we actually will be as well" And more evidence that David Kelly's "suicide" was murder.

DHS to monitor "domestic extremists" protesting unconstitutional airport screenings.

Blue Texan flags an interview of Matt Taibbi by Chris Hayes about how the financial industry scammed everyone on the Maddow show.

Stuart Zechman was so impressed by an article from concern troll Pat Caddell in The Washington Past that he introduced it into a comment thread at Swampland, and reposted it for our attention here.

John Nichols: "In a letter to President Obama, members of the group Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength argue that it is time, again, to tax the rich."

I'm saddened to learn of the passing of yet another fannish friend, Asenath Hammond, also known in certain blog comment sections as DominEditrix. (I'm not sure I would have noticed Rick Sternbach in the early days if I hadn't thought of him as Asenath's guy.) Asenath lost the battle with the immune system problems that had long plagued her. According to her husband Will (Howard William Perlis, aka Biohazard), "She fought well but the odds were far too great."

Tech Support

Two minutes and forty-three seconds of Flowing Auroras Over Norway.

16:42 GMT

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Not the Sunday funnies

Tonight's Virtually Speaking Sundays will feature Culture of Truth and Dday (David Dayen), at 5:00 PM Pacific, 8:00 PM Eastern, and one o'clock in the morning GMT.

Michael Moore noticed a bit of a scoop on Democracy Now! "WENDELL POTTER [former executive, CIGNA]: ...We were concerned that the movie [Sicko] would be as successful as Fahrenheit 9/11 had been. And we knew that if it were, it really would change public opinion about our health care system in ways that would be harmful to the profits of health insurers. So, it was very important for this [attack] campaign to succeed. At one point during a strategy meeting, one of the people from [the insurance companies' public relations firm] APCO said that if our efforts, our initial efforts, were not successful, then we'd have to move to an element of the campaign to push Michael Moore off a cliff. And not meaning to do that literally, but to -- "

No power on Earth will convince me that they are willing to go to these lengths just to prosecute a rape. I mean, it's not as if they are normally all that concerned with rape....

"Obama's Failures... and Ours [...] The nation was ready for change, but Obama picked the status quo. And so "much of the public's anger, disappointment and frustration has been turned on a leader who failed to lead." Ganz identified "three crucial choices that undermined the president's transformational mission": "First, he abandoned the bully pulpit of moral argument and public education. Next, he chose to lead with a politics of compromise rather than advocacy. And finally, he chose to demobilize the movement that elected him president. [...] As a result of these choices, Obama not only failed to convince the public that he can turn the economy around - the central axis upon which judgment of the success or failure of his presidency will turn - but also lost the confidence of many of his original supporters. Yet in his refusal to adapt the inspirational rhetoric of his campaign to his presidency, he allowed the forces of right-wing reaction to claim the mantle of the common man. They even managed to make it appear to most people as if the Democrats, rather than the Republicans, were the party in the pocket of Wall Street and the big-spending fat cats." Well, at this point, they both are.

Lawrence Lewis reviews in "Broken: From Watergate to yellowcake", and says, "About halfway through the film, I recalled an earlier film about an earlier national scandal. But All The President's Men had a feeling of exultance about it. Because it had a sort of happy ending. A corrupt administration was forced from office. Criminals went to prison. The system worked. In some ways the current film is haunted by its earlier counterpart, because both films are so well done but only one recounts a story where the reality was well done."

Adam Liptak says the Roberts court is verbose and opaque.

I don't know why Steve Benen thinks Republicans want to sabotage the economy solely because it will make it easier for them to win the next election. Republican "thinkers" have long stated that their goal is to depress the economy so that most Americans are economically insecure. They want to destroy the middle class. That much is ideological. If the Republicans just want to improve their electoral chances, look for them to (a) scream about what a pathetic president Obama is for refusing to put more money into jobs programs and (b) oppose Obama on raising the retirement age or any other cuts in Social Security, That might just destroy the Democratic Party altogether by making the Republicans the party that saved America's jobs and Social Security from evil Democrats.. They won't do that, and Obama won't worry about preventing it by ceasing to promote right-wing programs and start saving the economy. The fact of the matter is that the president and the Republicans are on the same team, but they're pretending that one of them isn't the one doing what they're all doing.

Apple and Apple: "Over in America, meanwhile, Fox News, forthright as ever in the pursuit of factual accuracy, seemed to have unearthed shock new information on the Beatles' geographical origins ('What's up Apple's sleeve?' its website asked. 'Apparently, Manchester's favourite moptops')." Also, Steve Jobs and Rupert Murdoch have teamed up to create the iPad newspaper.

You can watch the full theatrical trailer for the Green Lantern movie and see if you like the look of it. Personally, I found it worrying. And why are the gloves green?

RIP Paul Gamble - I'm sorry to say that I will never again have the privilege of Gamma addressing me as "Dave".

17:16 GMT

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Seasons change with the scenery

50 years ago, children were at the front line of integration. It's hard to imagine a parent making the decision to put their children on that line, but it took many acts of courage to make those inroads against racial inequality.

Among the many things Atrios has written over the past few days about the way our leaders are uninterested in stopping the wreckage of our economy, he said, "At Least Maxine Waters Knows What's Going On. I get the sense that our political culture tends to treat her like the crazy aunt, but she knows the deal with the banksters and the useless regulators." And, yes, why does our political class treat Waters like the crazy aunt? Why is it, in fact, that most of the black caucus is treated as not worthy of our respect. Why is it that people who can't even get elected (like Ford) get more traction? Well, we know the answer to that, don't we? Just like we know why Obama treats them the same way. A generation of derision of people who stood up when it mattered way back when has made it "cool" to laugh at people who are still on our side. And even our so-called "liberals" join in the chuckling. Does it really need saying that America would have been better off electing Jesse Jackson (Sr.) than this "cool" little spiv?

Atrios also notes that Congress has had another "historic" moment in failing to extend unemployment benefits at a time of monumental unemployment crisis, in an unprecedented move.

It is an obvious lie that giving the rich tax cuts encourages them to create more jobs in America, and clearly the private sector is simply not interested. It's all just a lie so we won't notice that the rich caused the deficits. So, really, there's no excuse for the administration's refusal to create more jobs. God knows there are things that need to be done, if we were willing (not able - we are able) to pay for it. And by "we" I don't mean the faceless masses of ordinary people who "journalists" refer to whenever they need someone to blame for how bad things are ("Americans" are spendthrift, unwilling to work, blah blah blah), but people who were elected to solve this problem and can't be bothered to do so. (By the way, Dave's short paragraphs with the two cute little images showing how the money was supposed to flow and how lower taxes on the rich have screwed that up would make a nifty flyer.)

Rachel says a repeal of DADT is "feasible" - maybe - now that three Republicans (and maybe four) say they may vote for it. (Keep watching for alleged evidence of spine in the Democratic leadership. But, hey, it's safe, it's right after the election, and it will make them look good without their having had to do anything. The fact that they didn't make the Republicans own up to their policies before the election when even the GOP might have been afraid to vote against popular items tells me the "spine" is just more kabuki. And the message gets muddied when some Senate Democrats join Republicans to keep the economy depressed.) (Amazing how fast they can pass something when they want to, though, isn't it?)

I've been a bit distracted, so without my wonderful commenters, I might have missed the fact that the liberal member of the Catfood Commission, Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9th), has offered her own deficit reduction proposal that actually reduces the deficit (unlike the official proposal), and does so without some of the more poisonous elements of the Peterson catfood plan. It's got some great content, including the elimination of a pile of tax breaks for the Malefactors of Great Wealth (one of my favorites is the break they get for exporting American jobs overseas - $132.2 billion), and a nice money-saving public option. It's not perfect, but it's got some serious meat to it. Anyway, Paul Rosenberg at Open Left didn't miss it, Lucia Graves wrote about it at The Huffington Post, as did Chris Bowers at DKos, and there's even an article at The Atlantic (although they tried to make it look like the Peterson plan was better). And, somehow, I don't expect this to get much good buzz on the TV.

Yes, there's that chill in the air, and there's this tune in my head.

16:39 GMT

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Castles made of sand

Fred Clark knows how to fix the deficit:

The biggest short-term deficit problem, after all, is unemployment. The obvious solution to joblessness is jobs. Put the unemployed back to work and you make them happier -- you give them something they fervently desire while at the same time solving your short-term deficit problem. No attempt to address America's current federal budget deficit can succeed unless it involves putting the jobless back to work, yet this unavoidable fact is ignored by most of the so-called serious people because putting the jobless back to work makes people happy and doesn't entail suffering and sacrifice and widespread unpleasantness.

For some perverse reason -- I can't fathom why -- the serious people have become convinced that any attempt to address budget shortfalls must necessarily entail suffering and widespread unpleasantness. They thus tend to prefer approaches that produce such suffering and unpleasantness, even though those approaches don't do anything to address the fundamental fact of our current budget deficit -- 9.6 percent unemployment. And the one solution that would be effective -- putting the jobless back to work now to solve our near-term budget woes regardless of the immediate expense -- is rejected out of hand because it would make people's lives better.

This same perverse reasoning shapes longer-term plans for deficit- and debt-reduction, where we see the same penny-wise pound-foolish obsession with never investing in the future and the same cruelly warped insistence that any long-term debt-reduction scheme must entail widespread suffering and austerity. Ideas that might make people's lives better are, by definition, off the table.

So the serious people probably won't like my plan.

Marcy Kaptur knows the rules of Let's Play Wall Street Bailout. I didn't see this when she stood on the floor to say it in September. Most of the sources I regularly check were too busy focusing on loony statements by right-wing hacks, I guess, to highlight something worthwhile that someone said. How does that happen? Why is it that when people like Louise and Marcy get up and talk sense, it never gets the buzz? You can't claim Kaptur is a boring speaker or "too nuanced" or any of that crap. The simple fact is that everyone is still letting the wingers set the agenda. Instead of worrying about whether Sarah Palin or some Teabagger said something stupid, we should have been calling our representatives to demand that they support Kaptur's proposal.

Matt Taibbi learns about Florida's special foreclosure "courts" that sound almost as fake and illegal as the mock courts with fake sheriffs that the debt collectors have been using. Here, retired judges who don't know and don't want to know pay no attention to the details and rubber-stamp foreclosures in much the same way that the industry had fake title transfers and fake notarizations rubber-stamped by people who had never seen the documentation or even had any idea what it meant. "This isn't some rare goof-up by a low-level cubicle slave: Virtually every case of foreclosure in this country involves some form of screwed-up paperwork. 'I would say it's pretty close to 100 percent,' says Kowalski. An attorney for Jacksonville Area Legal Aid tells me that out of the hundreds of cases she has handled, fewer than five involved no phony paperwork. 'The fraud is the norm,' she says. [...] This is the dirty secret of the rocket docket: The whole system is set up to enable lenders to commit fraud over and over again, until they figure out a way to reduce the stink enough so some judge like Soud can sign off on the scam. 'If the court finds for the defendant, the plaintiffs just refile,' says Parker, the local attorney. 'The only way for the caseload to get reduced is to give it to the plaintiff. The entire process is designed with that result in mind.'" (Oh, yeah, and there's a new Jimi Hendrix track out.)

Thanks to Hawiken in comments for reminding me that, while it wasn't on TV, the blogs did explain Lieberman's sudden change of mind on the Medicare buy-in: "In an interview with the New York Times, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) revealed Tuesday that he decided to oppose a Medicare buy-in in part because liberals like Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) liked it too much." And what this demonstrates is that the left blogosphere was as much to blame as Obama for poor negotiation technique: We should have been demanding an NHS-style system all along and decrying anything less as a right-wing sell-out. Then people like Lieberman would have creamed their jeans at the opportunity to pass a Canadian-style single-payer system just to piss off liberals who wanted an NHS.

What "11-Dimensional Chess" really is: "In watching a t.v. montage of the President in East Asia, I saw that in Japan, he attended a genuine kabuki show... one assumes he did so as a matter of professional development, as the kabuki seems to be the only coherent theme of governance he has (that, and capituation, which kind of sounds like kabuki)."

Teresa Nielsen Hayden has more clues to why the new professional class really, really bites, and Avram Grumer with the modern American law-enforcement privilege pyramid.

Soulless liberals, or soulless Brooks? "But that's not what he's really talking about. It's not that liberalism and liberal economists don't have emotions, it's that they have a basis for their emotions. That's what Brooks is railing against."

Show Trials Are Bad and Lead to Bad Results: "When a State announces in advance that, even if a defendant is found not guilty, he will nonetheless be imprisoned for the rest of his life, the trial is transformed from an inquiry into the question of individual guilt or innocence and the related question of whether punishment should be imposed, to an unalloyed exercise in the glorification of State power."

I'd like to take a moment to commend Dick Durata for this sentence: "The Presidential Deficit Commission, a.k.a. The Catfood Commission released some depressing news today for the nation's seniors and seniors to be: there will be less cat food, and you will have to wait longer to get it." Notice that he said "less catfood" rather than "you will have to eat catfood." What a lot of people overlook is that many of today's seniors who have only their Social Security to live on are already eating catfood. For them, we are not talking about catfood, we're talking about starving to death.

Did you hear about all that violence at the student protest in the UK? Every newspaper had a photograph of the very same act of "violence". But there's something funny about that picture - it lacks a certain spontaneity. (via)

Johann Hari, "Cameron's economic policies will kill, not cure: "One minister recently told the Times the rationale behind it off-the-record: 'The undeserving poor,' he said, 'are undeserving.'

Robot Pundits on the Obama excursion

Good for you, Mom: "If you think that me allowing my son to be a female character for Halloween is somehow going to 'make' him gay then you are an idiot. Firstly, what a ridiculous concept. Secondly, if my son is gay, OK. I will love him no less. Thirdly, I am not worried that your son will grow up to be an actual ninja so back off." (via)

I watched this guy's face very carefully.

Ain't nothin' wrong with a little more Hendrix.

05:25 GMT

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The biggest tax-hike ever

You should really give a listen to last Wednesday's Majority Report, in which Sam Seder talks at mostly uninterrupted length about the Catfood Commission, the Blue Dogs, Lawrence O'Donnell, Matt Bai, and other things I have a long-standing dislike of. (And, Larry, The West Wing was not a liberal show, you putz.) Sam and Cenk also broke the idea on TV that Obama isn't on our side. And that's the meme that we should be working to push: Obama is a conservative. Well, actually, I'd prefer, "Obama is right-wing," since people seem fairly confused about what "conservative" means.

What few people are prepared to admit: "And that doesn't begin to touch what Dave Dayen calls the 'killer app' in the proposal - 'Cap revenue at or below 21% of G.D.P.' That would kill progressive government, one that 'promotes the general welfare,' forever. A revolutionary force at work, implacable and relentless." Every time I hear someone saying it will take "a long time" or "years" or "a generation" to undo the mess we're in, I think, "Have you no understanding of history?" It was a miracle the Founders created what they did, and it took unique circumstances and thousands of years to get to that point. You think you're gonna come back from this? Unless something stops this train-wreck now - and I don't see anything like that happening - you can kiss it good-bye. Forever.

Atrios says the only question should be, "Where are the jobs?" He's citing Rotwang, who said: "There should be no doubt that austerity -- tax increases and spending cuts -- would make the current awful employment situation appreciably worse. This is frankly acknowledged by deficit hawks, who are nothing if not cagey. Nevertheless, they would immerse us in discussions of austerity, in the middle of the worst employment crisis of the past thirty years." Yes, that's the plan.

A recent FDL Book Salon on Roger Hodge's The Mendacity of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism, and some further discussion.

Jeez, does it always come down to Joe Lieberman? Diane learns that he was the final nail in the coffin of something better than crumbs in what turned out to be only a health insurance industry welfare bill: "What I find so horrific about the whole episode is that this is the first time I've heard of it, and I followed the healthcare reform process pretty carefully. I also don't consider myself to actually be a 'fucking retard,' although I will cop to being naive. It would have been nice if somebody in the press had weighed in on the threat made by Joe Lieberman. It would have been nicer if Harry Reid or any other senator had let us know why we couldn't have a public option or something vaguely approaching it beyond stating 'the votes aren't there.' Well, the votes weren't there earlier this month, and this is one of the reasons why."

Glennzilla on Democrats and the rule of law, on The "pro-Constitution=pro-terrorist" canard, on Two presidents and their justifications, and Glenn Greenwald vs. Larry O'Donnel, pt. 2.

David Dayen on Re-Foreclosure, Counterfeit Notaries, and Petrified Lawyers: Tales of Foreclosure Fraud.

Like Susie, I wish more people would complain about the TSA.

I need to find time to listen to The Nicole Sandler Show.

This seems like a cartoon parody or something, but apparently it's for real: How Wesley Clark nearly started World War III, and was stopped by a pop singer.

Somehow, the real Green Lantern teaser isn't as much fun as the fakes.

01:40 GMT

Saturday, 13 November 2010

As the stomach turns

Down in comments, The Oracle is saying the Catfood Commission is part of some deal-making early on by Obama to extend the Bush tax-shift (his so-called "tax cuts" that lower costs to the wealthy and shift the costs to everyone else). I guess taking Social Security away from the people who paid for it is their way of "offsetting" the trillions of dollars it will cost to continue the Bush tax-shift. Of course, anyone with any decency, and any Democrat who wants to be re-elected in 2012, is decrying the recommendations of the commission, with the result that Obama (who apparently thinks no one else knows what this stuff is) says, "Before anybody starts shooting down proposals, I think we need to listen, we need to gather up all the facts. ... If people are, in fact, concerned about spending, debt, deficits and the future of our country, then they're going to need to be armed with the information about the kinds of choices that are going to be involved, and we can't just engage in political rhetoric." Of course, we've been gathering up facts since before Social Security was passed in 1935, so if Mr. Obama still needs to gather facts at this late date, he belongs in a remedial reading class, not in the White House. Economist Duncan Black: "Um I Have The Facts. And my political rhetoric is that the catfood commission cuts taxes for rich people and pays for it by getting rid of the EITC."*

But Dr. Atrios and Mike Lux both say that, on looking at the proposals further, they are even worse than they originally seemed, containing many other plans for immiserating the populace and, get this, "You know what is most bizarre: all this pain for the economically stressed working and middle class, and they still don't actually balance the budget until 2037." (Remember, these are the same people who keep harping on the fact that, maybe 40 years from now, Social Security might not be in quite as nice a surplus as it is now.)

We have a president who is in thrall to the "ideas" of conservatives, which are in fact not so much ideas as just a longing to return to those heady days of more than 200 years ago when no one had any rights except the richest and most powerful people in the world, a tiny class of callous, spoiled, nasty rich folk who claimed that God gave them the right to make everyone else miserable while they wallowed in the wealth created by others. But, as again Dr. Black points out, bright ideas like "austerity" aren't even helping stock prices, and some companies are even acknowledging (finally!) that the clever, "modern" idea of outsourcing costs more than it's worth.

None of our "Deficit Hawks", of course, are talking about getting rid of the genuinely wasteful public expenditures that harm rather than help us - an over-inflated war-making machine that squanders billions on destructive policies that actually make the world a more dangerous place for all of us, for example. And a security state that terrorizes ordinary people going about their ordinary lives while, with the help of the odiously destructive War on (Some) Drugs, imprisoning more hapless citizens than any other country in the world does.

The facts are simple common sense: If there is not enough money in the economy because the wealthy are sucking it out of the economy and sitting on it, the way to restore the economy is to take that money back and inject it back into the economy where it will do the most good - at the bottom, where the people who need that money to spend live. Welfare checks, Social Security, food stamps, numerous public programs (like free education) and a host of mid-level public servants are one way we ensure that we have a lot of people who can spend that money in the real economy. "Austerity" means reducing the amount of money that is being put into the economy. It's really that simple.

For quite a while, now, The Sideshow has been trying to remind people that what the conservative ruling class wants is not merely to make money, but to push the rest of us back down into the dirt. The hard-scrabble existence you and your children face is not just an unfortunate by-product of their "grown-up" program, it is the goal.

And, now that I think of it, next week marks nine years of The Sideshow. As always, I remind you that there are other bloggers who need the money much more than I do, but it's that time of year when various internet-related services want money from me and if you have anything to spare, maybe you'd like to help celebrate our anniversary by clicking the ugly orange tip jar link, somewhere down on the sidebar.

* * * * *

Rachel Maddow interviews John Stewart.

Keith Olbermann interviews Michael Moore, who talked about how well the banksters rewarded the Democrats for giving them everything they wanted, and also:

MOORE: And other things I pointed out in the film, in terms of his connection to how the war happened and how he and Halliburton and the others were going to make money from it. I would love it actually if my plea - if (INAUDIBLE) anyone who's watching here at G.E., if they would - if they - I will give them for free "Fahrenheit 9/11" to run on NBC -


MOORE: -- as balance to all the publicity they have been giving President Bush this week and his answers about, you know, the worst thing that happened to him was Kanye West and all this. I hope we never forget what this man did.

Parents, tonight, thousands of them sit at home, their children no longer with them because of a war that was essentially a lie. So, that's my answer to Mr. Bush.

23:05 GMT

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Dark with scattered light

It's been a busy time around here. Just leaving aside that it's been the season for all sorts of regular check-ups and re-tests and tech junk and all that, Whit Diffie came around and forced me to go to the eel & pie shop and try out the product, finally, after all these years. It was pretty anticlimactic, to tell the truth, but at least now I can say I've done it. And the people there were really nice.

David Sirota has gone shrill to the point of Cheneyism at the Democratic leadership, and they deserve every word of it.

And why not? "It's an age old question: Who are 'they' and what do they want from us? Apparently 'they' wanted former US President George W. Bush to endorse Sen. John McCain for president -- but 'I'd have endorsed Obama if they'd asked me,' he reportedly told a group of British diplomats in 2008." And, frankly, it wouldn't surprise me to know that the entire Republican leadership secretly voted for Obama, since he planned to do what they only dreamed of, like reducing corporate taxes and cutting Social Security.

And the Obama administration ran out the clock on the statute of limitations on the torture tapes destruction. (Oddly, there seem to be a whole lot of comparatively minor crimes lately for which the statute of limitations no longer exist - when the "perps" are teenagers who were doing things that, in many cases, were never previously considered crimes.) bmaz tried to get an answer out of the DoJ on this, but they ducked and dived. "Oh, there was one thing; when I asked why there had been no formal response to my letter, I was told perhaps it was a 'little edgy'. Apparently actually phrasing an inquiry with legal specificity and facts makes it too 'edgy' for the United States Department Of Justice. Who knew? Ironically, at the same time this discussion was transpiring today, the very same Obama DOJ was in US Federal Court, in front of Judge John Bates of the DC District, arguing for their unfettered right to extrajudicially execute an American citizen, and do so in secret without explanation. But my letter asking about the dying Durham investigation was edgy. The DOJ's priorities, morals and duties seem to be a bit off kilter when it comes to their assignment of the term 'edgy'."

Weirdly, a newly-elected Republican says he'd have no hesitation to investigate Bush for torture, which puts him one up on Obama.

Mario Savio Memorial presentation, 2010, worth watching in its entirety for a reminder that what the Dream Act is about is people who were raised in America and have known no other home but are not treated as Americans, but around 25 minutes in, Elizabeth Warren gives the Mario Savio Memorial Lecture, which is naturally worth watching.

Did you have to swear on the Bible in order to vote?

Bush lied about torture? Who knew? And what's with his crazy mother's gross-out behavior? (Some people really know how to traumatize their children, don't they?)

Yet another reason to impeach Alito.

Magnetic lingerie

14:19 GMT

Monday, 08 November 2010

But how can they know it's time for them to go?

This Week in Tyranny, Dan brought a commenter's words to the front page:

First of all, they conflate the federal budget with the nation's budget. Second, they are locked into "supply-side economics", which posits that if you cut taxes for the rich then the rich will trickle on you and you'll have more. Third, they don't understand the relationship of federal spending to the number of jobs in the economy. I've actually heard some of them say that the government doesn't create jobs, as if the money government spends vanishes into thin air.

Since the vast majority of people have never learned anything about economics it's hard to get voters to understand how stupid this thinking truly is. But, to the extent that the federal budget is like the home budget, you are entirely right. Taking in less money means a bigger deficit.

We need to change the thinking. Taxes are not too high. Incomes are too low. If you are having problems paying your taxes then you need a raise, not a tax cut. Democrats need to practice this response to anyone talking about tax cuts. The sooner Republicans realize that talking about tax cuts leads people to want and think they deserve a raise, the sooner they will stop talking about them and we can have some sanity in our economic discussions.

Dan also linked to a piece by Marcy Wheeler on Neo-Feudalism and the Housing Crisis (which is probably more accurate than Stiglitz's term, "indentured servitude", although that may be coming, too). Check out the little anecdote about Marcy's encounter with Chuch Schumer a couple years ago, for another reminder of broken promises. Additionally, Dan provides the good news that Playboy has a big article on "the greatest looting of the public purse in history", complete with a quote from Yves, which you can read at Pruning Shears because Dan was worried that your filters might not let you go to the Playboy page.

Atrios expresses frustration: "I've tried but really don't know how to inject fraudclosure in the political press. The rest of the press is covering it, but the political reporters just don't seem to think it's an issue."

This week's guests on Virtually Speaking Sundays were Cliff Schecter and Susie Madrak. You can listen to the stream at the link, or get podcast. (And you really should listen to Jay's discussion with David Dayen, stream or podcast.)

Glenn W. Smith asks, "Why the Fear and Loathing?" It's addressed to thoughtful conservatives. Interestingly, there actually seems to be at least one in the comments.

Jay Ackroyd flagged a rather nice piece at Balloon Juice by Tom Levenson called "How The Founding Fathers Taxed The Country (and/or I Would Seriously Have Ben Franklin's Baby)", about how the revolutionaries managed to beat the British without any "real" money. And not only that, but inventing their own money created instant progressive taxation. Let's do it! (Franklin also invented the Post Office. Which proves things.)

"I know that you have to limit the amount of space given any special subject, but I think the 1957 World Science Fiction Convention in London was so pivotally important that it should have been an exception to the rule. Here was the first Worldcon to be held in Europe. The problems were somewhat different than those in the United States, and there was the unusual aspect that the president of the convention committee, John Wyndham, and the chairman of the committee, John Carnell, were full-time professional writers and editors, something, rare even to the present in the United States when it comes to a world convention." - Sam Moskowitz. So Hansen has uploaded a whole section about it, with photos and memories, including a picture of a young Robert Silverberg looking for all the world like Jimmy Olsen.

Fairport Convention

16:09 GMT

Sunday, 07 November 2010

Another bundle of links

They're not really set up yet, but Sam Seder has decided to simply do his own webcast Majority Report daily at 11:30 AM. He did his first trial episode Thursday, but during Friday's office set up, he provided the first Majority Report ever, originally aired on the first day of Air America Radio, when it was Sam and Janeane.

I think it's pretty clear that 90% of on-air personalities in the news business are giving millions of dollars worth of free advertising to the candidates and party of their choice, so I'm not sure that how much actual money they give candidates is all that meaningful. I don't think there are any NBC/MSNBC news celebrities who haven't tipped their partisan hand, which is almost funny given that both parties currently seem to have pretty much the same policies. But, seriously, when you give a retired Congressman a job - especially when he was always and still is an obvious right-wing shill - and let him open your airtime every day with three hours of his hackwork, it's a bit much to worry about whatever paltry sums Olbermann may have given to Democrats without having mentioned it. I mean, seriously, is there anyone who thinks Olbermann doesn't prefer the Democrats? And let's not forget that NBC is the same network where the boss instructed Tim Russert at a crucial moment on election night to call the election for Bush at a time when Russert clearly knew that Gore was the likely winner - and he did it, thus providing better partisanship than any amount of money could buy.

"After Valerie Plame: Obama Makes "Fair Game" of Today's Whistleblowers: This week, the taut but surprisingly emotional thriller, "Fair Game," hits selected theaters. It's about the Bush administration's retaliation against CIA operative Valerie Plame and former Ambassador Joseph Wilson because he exposed the administration's lies about Iraq buying uranium "yellow cake" from Niger. But although Wilson and his wife recently returned in triumph to the AFI Theater in Silver Spring for its Washington-area premiere, the event served as a reminder that the damage inflicted on Wilson and Plame continues - both in the form of continuing right-wing smears about them and, some critics say, an Obama presidency that is even worse than the Bush administration in punishing whistleblowers"

Dave Ettlin ponders the election results in his district for the local conservaDem, and muses: "In trying to tiptoe through the middle, Kratovil failed to establish a brand for himself -- much as the Obama administration wasted time in its first few months trying to work with Republicans, only to lose its post-election momentum and the potential of its once-overwhelming legislative majority. Kratovil could have embraced being a Democrat. Instead, he hunkered down and pandered as best he could to an unforgiving political right." That didn't work out for him.

Senator Bernie's post-election musings.

Pilger: "Born of the "never again" spirit of 1945, social democracy in Britain has surrendered to an extreme political cult of money worship. This reached its apogee when £1 trillion of public money was handed unconditionally to corrupt banks by a Labour government whose leader, Gordon Brown, had previously described "financiers" as the nation's "great example" and his personal "inspiration." This is not to say Parliamentary politics is meaningless. They have one meaning now: the replacement of democracy by a business plan for every human activity, every dream, every decency, every hope, every child born."

Susie on RIAA: "This is like a bigtime Mafia chieftain complaining that a low-level crook is taking all his money." (And: There are a lot of things Obama could do to improve things that he won't do. Also: Corporations believe they have the right to lie, break the law, and engage in unfair practice without having to worry about being taken to court - and the Supreme Court is likely to agree.)

Boy, if Larry O'Donnell thinks he's a socialist, he's an even bigger concern troll than I thought, and it's nice to see Glenn Greenwald going after him on TV.

Morton Mintz: "Why has Newt Gingrich been the most-booked guest on Meet the Press during the first year of Barack Obama's presidency?" Eric Alterman: "One would think that a private citizen who professes to believe that America requires a set of laws to prevent the imposition of Sharia law on its citizens, and who also claims to detect a danger from 'a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us,' should be carted off to a rubber rather than a green room."

"New Rule: If You're Going to Have a Rally, You May as Well Make it About Something."

I see the Libertarian Alliance (that's the UK bunch) finally managed to find a way to record and post videos of their conferences speeches this year. I haven't listened to them, but I sure wish Chris Tame was around so I could talk to him about the fact that regulatory capture has been equally matched by capture within the private sector to such an extent that neither sector actually works in any useful way. I wonder what that conversation would be like.

Maybe Harry Reid won in Nevada because the machines said so. We'll never know.

Really? People in America pay that much to watch TV? No wonder they're cutting the cable.

An unusual bit of marketing.

The Peanut Comet

If you didn't read the comments to that post from Scipio I linked last week featuring that unusually juicy nude, you might not have noticed that there are a bunch more of these, and that Elle dedicated a whole issue to them. (And, speaking of Scipio's comments, I maybe ought to trawl them a bit more often for links. I mean, I had no idea.)

02:18 GMT

Thursday, 04 November 2010

The people say

Tonight's Virtually Speaking has Jay Ackroyd with David Dayen (dday) on the home mortgage disaster.

Digby did a nice job tying Krugman's observation that, "The markets want money for cocaine and prostitutes. I am deadly serious. Most people don't realize that 'the markets' are in reality 22-27 year old business school graduates, furiously concocting chaotic trading strategies on excel sheets and reporting to bosses perhaps 5 years senior to them. In addition, they generally possess the mentality and probably intelligence of junior cycle secondary school students. Without knowledge of these basic facts, nothing about the markets makes any sense - and with knowledge, everything does" together with Broders disgusting call for making war on Iran in order to "help" our economy. I don't suppose it would do any good to point out the long-known fact that warmaking dollars give you a much smaller return on your investment than building schools and hospitals and even sending out welfare checks. If you want to invest in your economy, social programs are the way to go.

Do You Belive In the Confidence Fairy? (I'm not sure how even-handed an article is that says, "But it was not clear what the impact of shedding 490,000 [jobs] - about 8 percent of the total - would have on unemployment." Well, I would call that a lot of impact, myself.)

Your Talking Dog evaluates the election results: "Having spent the last two years in a desperate quest to convince me that every minute of effort (such as spending the last two federal election cycles in Pennsylvania on Election Day) and every nickel I contributed to Democrats and Democratic causes was not only unappreciated, but a huge mistake, as not only issue after issue I hold dear was thrown back in my face, but the White House itself felt the need to say that any dissent to its corporate program on liberal grounds by dirty hippies was to be derisively dismissed.... let's just say... I'm sold!"

Athenae evaluates the election results: "You had it, and we worked hard to give it to you, and we see you calling things impossible which are just very hard, and we get fucking annoyed, because we don't get to get away with that shit. Not at our jobs and not in our lives."

More on why we need to heavily tax the rich and reward real work.

"Endangering security: With every disclosure from WikiLeaks, we hear squeals from the government and military about how these leaks have endangered informants and other locals cooperating with the U.S. occupation (this despite the fact that there is zero evidence that has happened, and the extensive redacting of names done by Wikileaks). So what do we find in today's news? The name and picture of the man who allegedly tipped off the Saudis to the toner cartridge bomb plot that just went down."

Nothing you didn't know, but there's always been something special about being lectured about the harmfulness of your drug of choice by someone who's drinking alcohol even as they pontificate.

Charlie Stross wonders, "Did somebody just try to buy the British government?"

What George Takei said. (And, in other ST-related news, an unusual citation by the Texas Supreme Court.)

The Dixie Cups, live.

16:30 GMT

Wednesday, 03 November 2010

No news is no news

I've been trawling around for election results, having gone to bed before most races could be decided. Alan Grayson conceded early but I wasn't really that interested in specific in most other races. For me, it was all going to be a vote of no-confidence in Obama, and he did badly, but I had the feeling from the blogs I've looked at so far that a lot of people really don't want to talk about it. Democrats lost the House and held the Senate and, unfortunately, Reid kept his seat while Feingold lost his. If only the opposite had happened, that might have sent a message - or maybe not, since Feingold kept his head down. He paid the price. In any case, they were warned - you can't leave things like this and expect people to love you for it. So, the rest of these links are day before rather than morning after stuff.

Atrios: "There are a lot of reasons for my relative lack of enthusiasm today, a giant one being the catfood commission." The impact of this horrific plan is going to be far more disastrous than most people imagine.

I find myself having to recommend a post by John Aravosis: "A key point missed by this gentleman from the Financial Times is that if so many Democrats are disaffected that their lack of support is harming someone's chances at re-election, the person to blame isn't the voters, it's the politicians who let them down. You earn my vote, you don't own it." Too right. Via Newshoggers.

"Obama Primary Challenge? Nearly Half Of Dems Want 2012 Fight."

Think there might be election fraud?

Here's a good one - a debt collection agency that sent fake sheriff's deputies to "subpoena" people to fake courtrooms. (via)

One way to look at it: "For 300,000 plus people - apparently, for the most part, reasonably smart, moderate-to-liberal folks - to conclude that the most salient political act they could perform three days before a major election was to travel to a comedian's show on the Mall can only be viewed as a stinging rebuke to a Democratic Party that will probably get more of their votes today than any other party will."

Via Pacific Views, I found a little series of animated whiteboard lectures on things like, say, Sir Ken Robinson's "Changing Education Paradigms" (not sure how that's gonna work when all the jobs are waiting on tables, being a maid or butler, or picking tomatoes), and Barbara Ehrenreich's "Smile or Die".

Fred Clark got a very strange phone call from a "Christian".

Sheiks on a plane! (OK, that's misleading, but I couldn't resist.) Also, Tea Party vs. Tea Party.

NASA's Climate Change Evidence site, via almost everyone, starts off with a graph that's hard to ignore the meaning of.

The Reformation in LEGO (via)

The menu at The Belching Dragon Chinese restaurant. (Use zoom. I quite liked the last entry, but quite a few are good.)

16:10 GMT

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, November 2010

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