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Sunday, 31 October 2010

Happy Halloween

Tonight's guests on Virtually Speaking Sundays Will be Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel) and Avedon Carol. You can listen live at 5:00 PM Pacific, 8:00 PM Eastern, or anytime later here on the web stream at BlogTalkRadio.

Ghost of the Cepheus Flare

I've always been sorry I'd quit performing before I fell in love with "Please Send Me Someone to Love", But Gladys Knight and B.B. King sure are a pleasure to listen to.

Nekkid art that mostly disappointed me. I rather liked this one, on the other hand.

Ian Welsh notes that the Democratic Party has managed to lose Jerome Armstrong, and, "given Jerome's self-confessed prior hyper-identification with the Democratic party, this is rather remarkable" (We also get Ian on the blogger/Obama meeting, and I guess I can't agree with Sean or anyone else who talks about how easy it is to be intimidated by a President. I can understand if you were caught completely unprepared in the men's room at the party convention or stoned in front of the Washington Monument in the middle of the night and suddenly there's Richard Nixon, but you had no reason to go to the White House unless you were going to do something worth doing. Meeting Obama? What the hell for? Asking him why he and everyone in Washington were entertaining the completely insane idea that Social Security should be cut or "modernized" - that would have been worth doing. Asking why he preferred rewarding criminal banksters with taxpayers' hard-earned money rather than putting those loan sharks in jail where they belong, that might have been worthwhile. Asking why he screwed-up health care and cramdown, that would have been worth it. But if you're not going to do that, don't go.)

The way I look at it, the people who work at this McDonalds are lucky their employer didn't get them all to write for absentee ballots so he could watch them vote. I expect that'll come soon.

From the Grauniad: "... Rupert Murdoch was the second person through the No 10 door after David Cameron was elected..." And: "Assange is 'force-feeding truth to a world that has no stomach for it'."

I am pleased to see that my (not very original) idea about extremely local micro-publishing is getting some interest. (And if you want to put in local content, here's a hint: My father only kept subscribing to the WaPo as long as he did because the Food section let him know which grocery stores had what on sale.) But I did not know this scary thing. I had an OH. MY. GOD. reaction to reading that. They really don't want us to be able to talk to each other, do they?

If you know anything about some old-time Maryland politics, you might be interested to know that Dave Ettlin and Bonnie Schupp engineered a rather remarkable photograph - of Harry Hughes shaking hands with Marvin Mandel. Dave supplies the background for those who aren't so familiar with that history.

Slogan of the week: Punish Obama - Vote Democratic.

12:42 GMT

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Collected links

If you want proof that meeting with Obama is a worse than useless exercise for liberal bloggers, you got it. I am thousands of miles outside the Beltway and have no intention of sitting down with The Spiv just so he can pretend to care. He didn't say anything we haven't heard before - lame excuses for not doing anything that blame nonexistent Republican filibusters, claims that he has accomplished far more for the country than he has, and a lot of condescension. Even people who take good, strong positions on their blogs were so respectful that they asked questions that didn't really demand any substance - they might as well have been David Gregory. As far as input is concerned, this sort of softball, respectful "interview" doesn't offer any opportunity to provide input, and clearly Obama has no intention to listen. When he's prepared to sit still for an on-camera argument from someone who will read him the riot act and force him to come clean about whether he's stupid or evil or both, then meeting up with him might be worth some time, but until then, it's just embarrassing. Atrios describes the answers on the most important issues as "disappointing", but this was entirely predictable. Guys, next time the White House phones for a friendly get-together, just say, "No, we don't want your cooties."

The Institutional Risk Analyst: "Because President Barack Obama and the leaders of both political parties are unwilling to address the housing crisis and the wasting effects on the largest banks, there will be no growth and no net job creation in the U.S. for the next several years. And because the Obama White House is content to ignore the crisis facing millions of American homeowners, who are deep underwater and will eventually default on their loans, the efforts by the Fed to reflate the U.S. economy and particularly consumer spending will be futile." Via David Dayen.

Yes, yes, the right-wing candidates are all very mind-boggling, but Bill Richardson is a Democrat, and Spitzer is, well Spitzer, and yet here they are talking like we just have to find some way to slash the hell out of Social Security. Digby wishes for just one Democrat to respond to such rubbish like this: "I would love to know why people are obsessing about a possible, small shortfall in social security 30 years from now instead of the very real job shortfall we have today. If you're worried about paying the bills, the quickest and best way to deal with it is to get people back to work as soon as possible. More workers means more revenue means less debt --- everybody wins, now and in the future." I doubt she's holding her breath any more than I am, though. That'd be so 1993.

Jack Ackroyd says he doesn't think the Republicans will do as well at the polls as the pundits are saying, but I suppose that all depends on what people who control the voting machines want "the voters" to say. Krugman obviously isn't disputing the conventional wisdom on that score, and believes, "This is going to be terrible. In fact, future historians will probably look back at the 2010 election as a catastrophe for America, one that condemned the nation to years of political chaos and economic weakness."

At the bottom of this post about the kind of wingers who could end up in Congress, Ruth Calvo provided some useful links to pages showing the comparative rankings of countries in education, healthcare, and other areas - in which, unsurprisingly, the US doesn't do all that well.

Even Kevin Drum knows Somerby is right about why "we" think we should look at Finland's schools, but not at Finland's healthcare system.

Seymour Hersh reminds us: "On April 1, 2001, an American EP-3E Aries II reconnaissance plane on an eavesdropping mission collided with a Chinese interceptor jet over the South China Sea, triggering the first international crisis of George W. Bush's Administration. The Chinese jet crashed, and its pilot was killed, but the pilot of the American aircraft, Navy Lieutenant Shane Osborn, managed to make an emergency landing at a Chinese F-8 fighter base on Hainan Island, fifteen miles from the mainland." What does that have to do with Bruce Schneier, Whit Diffie, and Cyberwar? A lot. And it's all because Al Gore was prevented from taking his place in the White House. Via Amygdala.

Note to the management: You may be mistaken about the lack of party discipline. They managed to force the entire progressive caucus to eventually stfu about the paucity of value in the health insurance bill. All along, the Democratic delegation has been doing exactly what Obama wants them to do.

And who should be running for mayor of Chicago but Cynthia Plastercaster. Unfortunately, she doesn't seem to be as smart politically as the porn stars.

15:17 BST

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

And the leaves that are green turn to brown

Dean Baker analyzes a misleading ad:

This is not the first time that opponents of Social Security and Medicare have appealed to xenophobia and racism. The China threat is a common refrain in much of their literature. But this ad does take this despicable tactic to new heights.

Just in case it is not clear to all readers, the amount that United States owes to China and other foreign countries is determined by the trade deficit, not the budget deficit. So, the connection makes no sense at the most basic level. Cutting the budget deficit will not reduce the amount that the United States owes China if the trade deficit remains the same.

The trade deficit in turn is the result of an over-valued dollar. A high dollar ("strong dollar" for those macho types) makes imports cheap. This causes us to buy more imports. A high dollar also makes our exports more expensive, so foreigners will buy less of our exports. High imports and low exports are the causes of a trade deficit.

This means that if anyone is upset about the extent to which China or other foreign countries are buying up US debt and other American assets then they should be yelling about the over-valued dollar. Blaming the budget deficit for this borrowing is just an effort to use xenophobia and racism to advance an argument that cannot stand on its merits.

The merits of the argument implicit in the ad do not pass the laugh test. The borrowing to finance the stimulus creates no debt burden since it has largely come from the Federal Reserve Board. This means that the governments sells bonds to the Fed, which in turns refunds the interest it receives back to the Treasury. Last year, the Fed refunded $77 billion to the Treasury, almost 40 percent of the government's net interest burden.

The point is that we have no short-term deficit problem. If the budget deficit was smaller we would have higher unemployment. How does having their parents lose their jobs help our kids?

Over the longer term, the country is projected to face a deficit problem only because of its broken health care system. If per person health care costs in the United States were comparable to costs in any other wealthy country, the United States would be looking at huge budget surpluses in the distant future, not deficits.

This is why honest people talk about ways to fix the health care system. The rest produce racist ads about exploding deficits.

(And if China actually replaces America as a leading First World nation, the first cause will be that our conservative leaders made it so easy to export American companies and jobs to foreign countries, one of which is China, a major recipient of conservative largess. Of course, the only way China will ever achieve the status the US is losing is if they adopt strict regulatory policies and the "quaint" laws applying to property titles that the US is abandoning. One of the stories few people are telling is how that regulatory structure was a major force in why foreign investors thought it was safe to invest in America. And now they know this is no longer true. If people thought Saddam's desire to switch from the dollar to the euro was a threat, well, it's not a patch on our current leadership's uninterest in enforcing property law.)

I won't bore you with the details of why I hate my e-mail, but I almost missed Jane Smiley's review of Max Blumenthal's Republican Gomorrah, which would have been a real shame: "Apparently there isn't a single person in the present incarnation of the Republican party who does anything. Things happen--God does it. Satan does it. No Republican is an agent of his or her own success or failure, sin or redemption. It just happens. [...] Many of the Evangelicals Blumenthal discusses are Christian Dominionists--that is, they differ from the Taliban only in their choice of doctrine. Their uses of that doctrine (to dehumanize women and other groups, to never share power, to control every aspect of every life within their power, and to create society as a steeply hierarchical structure with them at the top) are those of the Taliban. As I've said many times, the dirty secret of criminology is that people with a strict religious background are those most likely to be violent criminals, especially sex criminals. And now they are the people who are playing a leading role in the destruction of our country.

Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) says that, even though it probably won't work, we should be widely calling for the impeachment of Chief Justice Roberts: "According to DeFazio, Roberts hasn't stood by his own doctrine. He pointed to former Justice John Paul Stevens's dissent in the case, in which he said the Citizens United case was not properly brought before the Supreme Court. 'This procedure is unusual and inadvisable for a court,' Stevens said of the process. 'Our colleagues' suggestion that 'we are asked to reconsider Austin and, in effect, McConnell,' ante, at 1, would be more accurate if rephrased to state that 'we have asked ourselves' to reconsider those cases.' 'Justice Stevens makes the point that Roberts decided a case that wasn't even before the Court, and invited the issue before the Court,' said DeFazio. 'It was the most extraordinary condemnation I've ever read of a perverted majority on the Supreme Court, at least in recent years."

I started reading "The Case for Obama" at Rolling Stone and had a terrible feeling the rest was just going to be about the huge list of Obama's "historic" accomplishments that are touted as wonderful for progressives but are in fact truly historic in the sense that they passed odious Republican policies with barely a whimper from Congressional Dems, and a frightening level of support (not all of it forced). And then I realized I could not make myself read further. Is there someone with a stronger stomach and faster reading speed than mine who can look at it to see if it actually finds anything of real substance that's good about Obama?

"Vive les troublemakers." (Do watch the video of idiot talking heads explaining why austerity is necessary - because, apparently, receiving something you pay for is "a free lunch".)

There are certain controversies I just don't want to wade into, but I will say this: If you are not prioritizing getting rid of the War on (Some) Drugs, your insistence that you are a fighter against racism just sounds like so much gibberish to me.

This Week in Tyranny, the WikiLeaks document dump is "remarkable". Or, as it says at Obsidian Wings, "staggering."

Turns out there's not nearly as much oil going untapped in those Alaskan oil reserves as people thought. Like, ninety percent less.

The 100 most funny and unusual 404 error pages, and create your own soda (via). Oh, hell, check this Republican anger management video out, as well.

Remarkable unicycle riding

And, it's time for one of my favorite seasonal songs.

15:50 BST

Monday, 25 October 2010

A bunch of stuff

Ian Welsh is Praying for the French: "At this point in time, France is the only nation in the first world where there is meaningful resistance to the rush of Austerity (aka. Hooverism) and the attempt by elites to permanently break the power and wealth of the middle and working class. Pray for France. Because if they fall, no one is even trying, and if they fall the elites will know they can take anything away from any first worlds nation's population."

You know I was talking about putting things in a simple flyer and passing it out far and wide? I encourage you to make "Eight False Things The Public 'Knows' Prior To Election Day" into a flyer to pop through your neighbors' mail slots, hand out at church, and generally disseminate right now. (via)

Best press release from a candidate: "Warren Mosler, Connecticut's Independent candidate for U.S. Senate today announced that it is an indisputable fact that U.S. Government spending is not operationally constrained by revenue and will give $100 million of his own money to pay down the Federal deficit if any Congressman or Senator can prove him wrong." (Also: This plant doesn't even look real to me, it's that cool.) Plus: How Chicago Dyke knew what Obama is.

Despite innumerable performances by some of the worst clowns on TV yesterday on Press the Meat (and you'd think the fact that one of the most embarrassing "journalists" on television had Michael Steele, Harold Ford, Rick Santelli, and E.J. Dionne all at once, with Rachel Maddow for "balance", of course - an all-star cast! - would have been enough), it appears that George Will won the award as Best Idiot for his appearance on This Week, where he complained that we need more corruption in government. Later, Digby and Watertiger discussed the debacle on Virtually Speaking, which you can stream at the link, or you can download the podcast.

Dave Ettlin and Bonnie Schupp went to see a bunch of politicians talk to a crowd in Maryland, and even got a decent photo of President Bill.

Two links from Empire Burlesque:

  • Juan Cole: "The world reacts in horror when the Taliban in Afghanistan torch girls' schools. But Israeli squatters just set fire to the store room of a Palestinian girls' school, and the whole school would have gone up in flames if that warehouse had not been near a water main. The Israeli illegals left behind graffiti saying 'regards from the hills.'"
  • Robert Scheer: "Behind the wonderfully engaging smile of this president there is the increasingly disturbing suggestion of a cynical power-grabbing politician whose swift rise in power reflects less the earnestness of his message and far more the skills of a traditional political hack. If there was more of the sincere community organizer in the inner makings of this man, he would not have turned to one of the architects of a housing scam in filling a leadership position in his administration. Why assume that Donilon will now run our foreign policy, wrapped as it is in a secrecy that endangers so many, with any greater sense of moral integrity than he employed when he enriched himself by impoverishing so many ordinary Americans not blessed with his political connections? The more one learns about the political roots of our economic meltdown, the more the Democratic Party stands revealed as an equal partner with the Republicans at the center of corruption. Donilon has worked for most of the party's top dogs, including Walter Mondale, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Joe Biden. Surely the Republican ideologues who want to end all government consumer protections and are quite adroit at lining their own pockets are no better, but that is cold comfort. We are drowning in a bipartisan cesspool of corruption, and the sooner we grasp that fact the better."

Glennzilla was a guest on Citizen Radio last week, talking about war crimes and Obama's Bush-expansion (and how the War on Drugs and the War on Terror have so much in common), and you can grab the .mp3 here.

Recent discussion in the news of Thatcher's condition has given Roz Kaveney the excuse to produce "A poem I have waited thirty-one years to write."

"If you don't like being called Teabaggers..."

Harlan Ellison plays Harlan Ellison on Scooby-Doo.

I love good counterpoint.

14:38 BST

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Hard blogging

Digby has a sharp point to make about the administration's tough love for our country. The administration doesn't appear to think that "accountability" actually includes calling the big criminals to account. As usual, the Conventional Wisdom in the Village is that it wasn't their criminality that was the problem, it was the antique nature of the laws themselves. But, as Robert Waldmann says, "They assert that property titles are 'antiquated.' Lenin thought the same and it didn't work out so well." In a system where two or more different entities believe they own the same property, I think you'll agree with Dan Froomkin that the person to deal with this mess is not just some financial wizard, but a hard-nosed criminologist to deal with what is unquestionably a vast criminal enterprise. (I think all of those links are probably via Eschaton, but I have too many windows open and I'm too lazy to track them back.) In any case, I am so glad we paid off our mortgage (and I hope that was enough to protect us, given that in some cases they are foreclosing on houses that aren't even mortgaged), because Atrios is right when he says that, "We're really at the point where no sane person should get a mortgage given the kind of fraud and theft that's out there."

It would be bad enough if all this money was just sloshing around in the hands of rich Americans who were at least "investing" their money back into the American economy in a few dribs and drabs, but it's not even that - a lot is going to other countries who then buy up pieces of America. Or, as Taibbi puts it, "It's an almost frictionless machine for stripping wealth out of the heart of the country, one that perfectly encapsulates where we are as a nation."

Blogging is getting bogged down because I really don't know how to think strategically about dealing with elections anymore, where the argument can be solved in a way that points to actions that people who don't have a lot of money can take to have any useful, substantive, input into what's going on. I still wish I could get more people to realize how serious I am about actually creating flyers and passing them out to your neighbors - putting them in front of people who aren't news junkies who read blogs - as a sort of local newspaper that unpacks some simple facts and gives them some comprehensible language (breaks through the right-wing memes) is a useful and probably necessary strategy; if we can't get The Media, then we have to be our own media. It's really not good enough to be an on-demand preacher to the converted. Robert Parry has a good point about what happens when the Republicans are allowed to win (more from Digby), and of course he's been trying to put together alternative media all along, but I really don't think what we do on the web matters much unless we have some way to get it out there in the world. What if your neighbors regularly woke up and found a flyer on the mat explaining, briefly and simply, what the real facts in an issue (like, say, the advantages of the NHS or Canadian single-payer over the commercially-centered alternatives) are? What if such flyers were routinely available at church on Sunday? (Maybe what Parry needs to do is post a set of .pdfs of each week's articles together that you are encouraged to print out as a pamphlet to slip through your neighbors' mail slots.)

I do think it will hurt us if we lose real liberals from Congress in this election, and right now, apparently, Russ Feingold, Alan Grayson, and John Hall are all suffering from being targets of right-wing money in their races, so you may want to show them the support you can't bring yourself to give to other Democrats. (On the bright side, most of the Democrats who are in jeopardy are Blue Dogs, and good riddance to them, I say. Darcy Burner talked to Jay Ackroyd Thursday about what we can do to push progressive politics, at Virtually Speaking. You can listen to the stream at the link or download the podcast.)

Also at Consortium News: "One of the first targets of the neoconservatives when they began their rise to power in the 1970s was the CIA's analytical division, which despite some mistakes tried to provide honest assessments of world problems. This assault on the CIA analytical division proved so successful that the neocons could exploit its old reputation when they wanted to propagandize for war in Iraq, and now President Barack Obama doesn't even seek a CIA estimate when he's contemplating an escalation in Afghanistan, as ex-CIA analyst Melvin A. Goodman observes" [...]

Adam Bessie: "The myopic focus on eliminating the Bad Teacher obscures the greater problems in the socio-economic fabric - the fabric torn by the super rich in ways that bear directly on student achievement. [...] The Bad Teacher is an effective myth, a convenient scapegoat for ignoring these greater systemic problems that would require real, substantive reform, reform that would threaten the super rich like Gates and others who are bankrolling the corporatization of public education. This myth, while appealing, stands in the way of real educational reform, by misdirecting the public's attention from the socio-economic conditions that make for a poor learning - and living - environment."

Sam Seder talks to Ratigan about how lousy things are. I note that the mispronunciation of "Seder" is slipping into wider acceptance - he probably doesn't even try to correct them, now, even the people who like him are getting it wrong. (I know how it looks, but it's "see-der", not "say-der".)

I'm glad Kristof is at least good for something. You should be able to get these with a half-decent knowledge of the Bible and even a vague rumor of modern history. This is probably a good one to pass around at your next odious family get-together, if you have the kind of family that gets all acrimonious on Thanksgiving or something.

"The return of the final serial comma's vital necessity" And via the same source, Jonathan Coulton is interviewed on Mandelbrot's death.

Take Back Halloween!

Google celebrated Dizzy Gillespie's birthday, and I can dig that.

15:00 BST

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

What do you do with a problem like Obama?

Ian Welsh puts it in stark terms: It's between repudiating Obama, or repudiating liberalism:

Back in early 2009 I told others in the blogosphere that we had to come out against Obama. And by early, I mean late January. The reason was simple enough: having seen what he did on TARP and then seeing his stimulus bill, I knew for a fact that he wasn't going to fix the economy. His "negotiating" strategy, if it was that, indicated he wasn't going to take Republicans on, and that he was either spineless or essentially a right winger, just not crazy right wing.

Given these facts, it was clear that his policies were going to be seen to fail. Quibble all you want about the stimulus, the bottom line is that it didn't kick the economy out of the recession (in large part due to the bail out the banks policy which TARP symbolized, even if it was not the largest part of that policy.)

If Obama was seen as liberal, and his policies then failed, liberalism would be discredited. It must be made clear, starting as soon as possible, that he was not a liberal and that liberals and progressives repudiated him. A few people doing it in 2010, mostly halfheartedly, when he had already been seen to fail, simply looks like rats deserting a sinking ship, as it did when conservatives in 2007 started saying Bush wasn't actually a conservative.


What is done is done. What needs to be done is this. The liberal wing of the Democratic party must be SEEN to take out Obama. There must be a primary challenge. If there is not, liberalism will be discredited for at least a decade, time America cannot afford, since liberal solutions work and conservative solutions, whether pushed by right wing Dems or Republicans, don't.

Are you a liberal first, or a Democrat? You can't be both.

Further reading:

The ratchet effect: "Here's how it works. In every election year, the Democrats come and tell us that the country has moved to the right, and so the Democratic Party has to move right too in the name of realism and electability. Gotta keep these right-wing madmen out of the White House, no matter what it takes.

DeLong: "In 1983, Ronald Reagan's Washington regarded high unemployment as a national emergency. Today, with unemployment kissing 10 percent, Barack Obama's Washington scarcely seems perturbed. Why?" See, even DeLong is starting to wonder what's going on.

"Psychological Capture [...] It occurs to me that there is no next. Elites played the angle of newer, smarter professions when they off-shored industrial labor, but as some have pointed out, there is no reason why we can't offshore any profession. I work in IT, and we are already seeing this happen. I currently have 3 or 4 Indians doing some of our work and truth be told, my company could probably manage without me, an extra Indian or two, and a consultant who puts in a handful of hours a week gathering requirements and coordinating with them. They may even ask me to train the consultant should they ever get to really counting the beans. I fully expect to be making half of what I do now in 10 years adjusted for inflation, in 20 years I'll be scraping for a living wage and chronically having trouble finding employment. I also think that by that time, our economy will have settled to a level where it is no longer as attractive to hire Philippine or Chinese workers because American labor will be as cheap, or close enough that the transaction costs make off-shoring more expensive. This is already happening, actually, and my forecast is probably an off by a factor of 10 on the forgiving side. [...] Labor projections for the next couple of decades hold that the most readily available jobs, the highest growth, will be low wage, low skill jobs. The people coming of age in this time will no doubt be persuaded by parents and well meaning teachers to get educated so they can better their economic prospects. As tuition increases continue outpacing inflation, many of these people are going to be walking away from college with a luxury car to mortgage sized mountain of debt on their backs, only to be handed a broom and told to start sweeping. Twenty years of schooling and they put you on the day shift."

I found a lot of things at Onyx Lynx that might interest you, including: Miss Daisy's Dead Air, "How did the American Left lose the working classes?- Part one" and "Part Two: How white flight brought down the economy", and the news that Bitch Ph.D. and Real Live Preacher seem to be off to Archive Land.

The Supremes are now pretending not to know how corporations work.

The media didn't want to pay any attention to the fact that the money behind the Chamber of Commerce attack ads is from undisclosed (and possibly foreign) sources, until The Hill pretended to find a Democratic equivalent - but the "scoop" was no scoop: "The PACS are funded entirely by contributions from U.S. employees of subsidiaries of foreign companies. All of the contributions are made public under Federal Elections Commission rules, and the PACs affiliated with the subsidiaries of foreign corporations are governed by the same rules that American firms' PACs or other PACs would face."

Last night's guests on Virtually Speaking Sundays, were nyceve and Stuart Zechman, and it was pretty interesting. You can stream it from that link or download the podcast here.

Jools and Dr. John boogie woogie.

04:07 BST

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Breaking up is hard to do

Control fraud and Chilean miners:

Once the mine shaft collapsed in Chile, the private mining company declared that it not only could not pay to rescue the miners -- it could not even pay their wages. The private company threatened to file for bankruptcy. The rescue was paid for by the State-owned mine (i.e., the Chilean government had to bail out the private mine owner to the tune of an estimated rescue cost of $10 to $20 million in order to rescue the miners). A $25 ladder apparently would have prevented the tragedy, but the private owners' profit motive led them to avoid that expense. The Chilean mine had gold and copper ore. Both of those minerals are selling for record prices. This makes the private mining company's failure to provide another exit and a ladder all the more outrageous. Where did the profits go? Capitalism would have left the miners to die. The government paid to rescue the miners.

Mr. Henninger is right to advise that we should "ask the miners" -- because that is exactly what the private mine and Mr. Henninger failed to do. The private mine ignored the miners' warnings about the inadequate safety of the mine. The government of Chile did not listen to the miners' union on safety issues. And the miners' families sued the private mine owners -- blaming them for the collapse that nearly killed them.

When we prevent a corporation from engaging in fraud or endangering its workers we do not harm capitalism, but rather save honest businesses from being driven from the marketplace. Akerlof demonstrated in 1970 -- forty years ago -- that control frauds can produce a "Gresham's" dynamic in which the markets drive ethical firms and professionals out of the marketplace. When cheaters prosper, markets become perverse. Effective regulators serve as the "cops on the beat" that allow honest firms, workers, lenders, investors, consumers, and taxpayers to prosper.

David Dayen can't stop laughing: "So Ezra stepped out and pretty sharply criticized HAMP. To him I say welcome. But because he has a Beltway audience, the Treasury Department got right angry and dialed him up and pleaded their case. Let's take a look." The question always arises as to whether these people actually know they are talking bollocks or just think we are too dumb to notice. Of course, Obama thinks we're liberals because we were just so stoned in the '60s that we are all burned out, but I often wonder what he and his pals have been smoking. After all, the dirty hippies aren't the ones who think people who ripped off the entire country are (a) too big to fail and (b) the right foxes to put in charge of the henhouse. Out here in the real world, we understand perfectly that people who commit really big crimes just deserve really big jail sentences.

Curiously, when cases of blatant mortgage fraud go to court, it doesn't always help.

More evidence that Americans are liberals. Well, except for Barack Obama and his friends.

Susie flagged a really good piece from Chris Hedges over at Truthdig, "How Democracy Dies: Lessons From a Master," which quotes Aristophanes to great effect (and perhaps poses an important warning to "progressives" who think it's important to attack people like Jane Hamsher and even Dennis Kucinich). It's about how allowing the destruction of democracy and the descent into tyranny to be normalized is the key to destroying us, but I wanted to preserve this paragraph for you: "All ideological, theological and political debates with the representatives of the corporate state, including the feckless and weak Barack Obama, are useless. They cannot be reached. They do not want a dialogue. They care nothing for real reform or participatory democracy. They use the tricks and mirages of public relations to mask a steadily growing assault on our civil liberties, our inability to make a living and the loss of basic services from education to health care. Our gutless liberal class placates the enemies of democracy, hoping desperately to remain part of the ruling elite, rather than resist. And, in many ways, liberals, because they serve as a cover for these corporate extremists, are our greatest traitors." (Susie also has a good point to make about the evils of outsourcing government work and what might be the stupidest thing she's heard Obama say yet.)

So you can get John Boehner in either color.

As predicted, the wealthy right-wing is buying elections, which is just what was intended by the Supreme Court decision on McCain-Feingold and the creation of 501(c)(4)s.

Why isn't the Nobel committee interested in awarding the Peace Prize to people who have tried to stop America from it's stupid adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Over at americascomedy.com, they did an interview with our friend Paul Day about his most well-known character: "Day doesn't give much indication that he is 'joking' on his BBN website or in his BBN YouTube videos. Perhaps this is his joke on all of us - the fact that we cannot tell whether or not he is joking in BBN's extremism and ignorance emphasizes the horrible fact that people like 'Billy Bob Neck' do exist. Otherwise, the joke would be obvious. This gives his satire more punch."

Affronted as I am by the very idea of an American remake of Being Human, I was less interested in those pictures (George really isn't my type, anyway), but the other stuff here is fun.

But I can't bring myself to link to Neil Sedaka, so it's time to listen to my favorite Beatles song again. Or maybe it's my second favorite. No, I think it's my favorite. (Ooh, look, the production acetate!)

16:05 BST

Thursday, 14 October 2010

What the people say

Here's one I've been looking forward to: Sam Seder as the guest on the Thursday edition of Virtually Speaking, 6:00 PM Pacific, 9:00 PM Eastern, 2:00 AM BST.

Atrios spent Tuesday mostly linking to some great articles explaining just how profoundly our entire system of government has been screwed up by the vast financial fraud that has, well, screwed us up. A few favorites:

  • Barry Ritholtz with a thorough (but readable) explanation of Why Foreclosure Fraud Is So Dangerous to Property Rights: "As we noted previously, esteemed economists such as Hernando de Soto have identified that the respect for title, proper documentation, contract law and private property rights are the underlying reason capitalism works in Western nations, but seems to flounder elsewhere. We cannot have free market capitalism without this process. So what does it mean if banks have been systemically, fraudulently and illegally undermining this process?"
  • David Dayen (dday), "Establishment Still Wants to Blame Homeowners for the Sins of the Lenders." It's amazing how many people still insist on overlooking the fact that (a) the financial industry colluded in a process of jacking-up prices beyond people's ability to pay (but people who had to move had no choice but to contract to pay them anyway) and then (b) lied to home-buyers about whether they could afford those mortgages, deliberately making loans to people who they knew would be unable to pay them. This used to be known as "loan-sharking" and was illegal. Many people probably assumed it was still illegal and that their banks couldn't be lying to them. It's not exactly as if there was a big public announcement telling people that they could no longer make that assumption.
  • David Dayen with a Portrait of HAMP Failure: How HAMP Connects to Foreclosure Fraud: "All of these casual violations of accepted standards, state and federal law, and the terms of the HAMP program, mirror exactly the violations of the legal process governing foreclosures. The servicers would rather foreclose at this point, after a period of extending the borrower and squeezing out some more payments, because they extract fees on a successful foreclosure and have every incentive not to help modify the loan. Add to this that no federal regulator has oversight specifically over the servicers (though they do over the parent companies) and what you have is a Wild West Show, where the servicers can put borrowers through hell, trap them using HAMP, and foreclose with impunity."

And Wednesday, Atrios explained that people who don't have an interest in your mortgage can't foreclose on your home. At least, not legally.

Moe Tkacik with "5 Things David Axelrod Must Have Missed About The Foreclosure Thing," (via).

Chris Hedges on a March to Nowhere: "Mass support for anti-democratic movements and public acceptance of open violations of human rights are not caused, in the end, by the skillful dissemination of misinformation or brainwashing. They are caused by the breakdown of a society and the death of a liberal class that once made reform and representative government possible. The timidity of our liberal class was on public display during the march in Washington. Speakers may have called for jobs, but none would call on citizens to abandon the rotting hull of the Democratic Party and our moribund political system or put Wall Street speculators in prison. The speakers at the rally proposed working within the current electoral system, although most Americans are aware that it has been gamed by corporate interests. This is hardly a call, especially given the failures of the Obama administration, that will fire up the unemployed and underemployed."

Chicago Dyke on Why people resist arrest, and on the lack of leaders.

Gore Vidal: "Anybody who tries to hang on to America's coat-tails is going to find himself up to his eyeballs in, well, deceit and corruption. This is the crookedest place on earth - and I never thought I would go that far, having been to many other countries at least south of our borders."

Pat Sajak (yes, the same one) has decided that public employees should not have a right to vote since they may have an interest in the outcome of an election. Seriously. Let's see, who else might have an interest in the outcome of an election? Oh, that's right! Everyone. Let's just abolish democracy! (via)

"British media scrambles to prevent Murdoch takeover of Sky Broadcasting."

I actually hadn't noticed that Bill Burns has been posting all that neat Earl Kemp stuff that includes various remembrances of publication and censorship.

04:33 BST

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Forward into the abyss

There are several reasons to take note of this post by Jane Hamsher on Obama's harmful messaging:

On Wednesday Greenberg and James Carville released a research report summarizing the results of their extensive polling on messaging that is working for Democrats in this election cycle. It won't surprise most people to learn that protecting Social Security, creating American jobs and opposing NAFTA-like free trade agreements are the messages most likely to persuade people to vote for Democrats.

But curiously, they left something out of their summary that set off red flags for a lot of Democratic insiders when they issued it as a Democracy Corps"Alert" on September 20. The Alert said quite emphatically that Democrats needed to change their framework in order to win in November. Greenberg buried the lede, but his polling reached a very clear conclusion: Obama's "go forward, not backward" message actually moves voters over to the GOP:


When listening to people react to this message in focus groups or watching them react to video clips of this message, they respond with a common sense that we should heed. People are intensely dissatisfied with the economy and are looking for solutions - anything less sounds like excuses or some political blame game. Though voters agree the economy was an "inherited" problem, they do not like to hear politicians blaming Bush or looking backwards....
And the message reminds them that things have become worse, not better, since Obama took office. (And that if the Democrats think the Republicans were so bad, why haven't they, y'know, at least been sent to jail for their crimes? Why are they continuing the same policies? Why aren't they doing something else, instead?)

So, says Hamsher:

I do not know why the President continues to embrace a message in advance of the election that pollsters believe turns voters off to Democrats. But the consensus of Greenberg, Carville and others seems pretty clear: if Democrats hope to win in November, everyone should stop.
Well, that seems clear enough - bad messaging should stop. How can you argue with that? Weirdly, BooMan tries, with what must be one of the most ironic statements I've seen on a "progressive blog" yet:
At some point people need to consider the possibility that Hamsher doesn't have the administration's best interests at heart.
See, it's all about Jane, because Heaven forbid that at some point people might consider the possibility that Obama doesn't have the best interests of his party or the country at heart.

Let's make this perfectly clear: If all you've got at heart is "the administration's best interests", your agenda is empty. The country, the real economy, the prospect that ordinary human beings in America can make a decent living and take care of their families, that is what matters, and that, and only that, is what you should have at heart. The best interests of the administration don't even come into it unless and until the administration can show us that they, too, have our interests at heart.

At Emptywheel, bmaz on The (Liz) Warren Commission and Financial Reform: "Therein lies the truth the Obama Administration has carefully obscured. They not only denied Elizabeth Warren the post she deserved and the power the country needed in her hands, they co-opted her as cover for frustrating the very purpose of the CFPA. There is no real power for the CFPA, and the true 'rule writing' cannot occur, until there is a formal head and because of the bait and switch, Obama and Geithner have indefinitely strung out the time when there will be such a formal head of CFPB. Elizabeth Warren is completely marginalized and, whatever little authority she does currently have disappears the second a real head of CFPA is confirmed." And Marcy Wheeler on our helpless administration's inability to do anything: "In other words, cramdown was meant to give homeowners and the government leverage over servicers and lenders to voluntarily modify mortgages. I ask whether you remember cramdown, because it doesn't show up in this WaPo story at all. The WaPo allows some anonymous administration officials to claim they couldn't do anything about the abuses now being exposed in the foreclosure process because they wanted servicers' voluntary help on modification programs (basically, the famously unsuccessful HAMP)."

Paul Rosenberg says, "David Axelrod is clinically insane," after his astonishing speculation that, "I'm hoping that with more seats, the Republicans will feel a greater sense of responsibility to work with us to solve some of these problems." This is the kind of moronic crap that routinely comes out of the White House - the hope, or at least claim, that bipartisanship is a worthy goal that will somehow be met by greater and greater victories for the right-wing. Me, I'm thinking the behavior of the White House makes perfect sense if they are playing for the other team.

"Watch as We Make This Law Disappear: How the Roberts Court disguises its conservatism." - Barry Friedman and Dahlia Lithwick on our right-wing activist Supremes, via another linky This Week in Tyranny post at Pruning Shears.

And speaking of the other team, Alan Greenspan has chipped in again with worry about deficits, but, strangely, only about deficit spending - on "entitlements". In other words, we have rob everyone of the safety net they've paid for their entire working lives in order to protect the immoral wealth of rich people.

Via Atrios I see that Greg Mankiw would be inconvenienced by higher taxes. (Will he go Galt?) And for some reason, this is supposed to bother me. Look, stop writing, Greg, no one will miss you.

Amy Goodman interviews John le Carré on Democracy Now.

Clay Bennet on Trickle Down, and The Abstinence-only textbook.

Damn, I missed Banned Book Week

"Kucinich probes whether FBI informant triggered Kent State massacre: Following the revelation that an FBI informant may have opened fire just before the 1970 massacre of four anti-war students by members of the US National Guard, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has opened a probe into the events, requesting key documents from the FBI in a letter delivered Saturday morning."

Karl Rove assails Democrats for nasty, vicious personal attacks. (via)

How Margaret Cho realized she was not white.

14:02 BST

Saturday, 09 October 2010

And I do appreciate your bein' round

John Lennon was born on the 9th of October, and me and Google are celebrating.*

It's fun to blame fat people for the decline in life expectancy rankings in the US, but it's really a much more obvious culprit: crappy health care. Like Ruth says, we need to take it back from the financial industry.

Digby notes another episode in the continuing drama of the "centrists" Waiting For The Man In The Middle: "Spitzer sort of tried to point out how utterly obscene it is to tout a billionaire for this wonderful Man in the Middle who's going to come and save us, and Sam Seder rightly noted that the idea of someone who is without party getting anything through congress is a joke. But by what measure does anyone believe that the country is 20% too hot, 20% too cold and 60% just right? Why are so many people convinced of that?" But I think I have to take issue with Digby's analysis, because it doesn't recognize that, crazy as the right-wing tribal instinct may be, the fact is that most of the country really is in agreement on what kind of results we want, even though we may disagree on how to get there. An awful lot of people who call themselves "conservatives" or "moderate Republicans" out in the real world probably just want to get back to that 1950s idyll where things were mostly fine for most whites who finished highschool (and even most who hadn't) and they could be comfortable being patronizing at best and utterly ignorant at worst about funny-colored people. Their leaders have to lie to them about the need to sacrifice Social Security because they know perfectly well that these people like Social Security. These rank-and-file Republicans may not recognize Social Security and Medicaid as "government programs", let alone liberal programs, but they are willing to believe the lies because they've been taught to hate the hippies and the (academic and media) elites and lump them together. And that's easy to do, since the representatives of "liberal" thought they see on their TVs are utterly callous and contemptible people who talk a lot of right-wing crap. They just don't realize that liberals are actually disgusted by those creeps on TV, too, and for exactly the same reasons: because they make it clear that they don't give a damn what happens to normal people who are just trying to earn an honest crust and take care of their families. The thing is, neither those people nor the ordinary people to their left - the ones who just can't get all that upset about gay marriage or abortion and don't see why anyone should - is going to support the candidacy of Michael Bloomberg just because he's neither a Democrat nor a crazy person. The kind of people who the "centrists" gathered on and around Capitol Hill think of as The Man In The Middle Who Can Lead Us are exactly the ones everyone hates. They're the ones who think weird abstractions, senseless theories, and bizarre ideology are actually more important than whether Americans can get decent jobs and take care of their families - more important than whether our children get medical care and have food and shelter. More important than what is life and death for the 98%. Which means that most of the country, no matter how they identify themselves, is to the left of the so-called center.

The Teabaggers calling Obama a Nazi doesn't actually bother me, since he's picked up Bush's playbook, which many of us recalled from the original German. Yeah, okay, they should be embarrassed that they only noticed the similarities between some of these policies and Hitler's policies after a Democrat picked up Bush's mantel, but that was expected. (Well, I expected it - didn't you?) What does bother me is that when right-wingers rightly note that these policies that are currently being carried out under the Obama regime look an awful lot like Nazi policies (because they are), the tendency is to dismiss such criticisms as crazy, in exactly the same way that "the left" was crazy to point out those same similarities when Bush put them in place. Making lists of people who don't quite have the same freedoms as others (e.g., the No-Fly list), spying on private citizens who pose no threat of violence or any other threat to their community, punishing people who try to cast light on barbaric and illegal behavior while rewarding the criminals, not to mention torture and incarceration without charges or trial - those aren't things that are supposed to happen in a free society. They are things, in fact, that we have historically recognized as being associated with fascism. So there's really nothing crazy about calling that stuff fascist, no matter who is doing it. What's crazy is pretending that the people who have supported those policies aren't sympathetic to Nazis. Be that as it may, I think I will have to slap the next person who tells me I have no choice but to support this nasty little spiv who doesn't give a damn about 98% of the country and shows open contempt for anyone who thinks We The People even matter. There has to be some other option. Highlighting the craziness of the Republicans is useful only to the extent that it reminds people that that's not an escape hatch, but if both doors lead to Hell, it's time to find that ceiling exit. My preference is to run our own Democratic candidates in the primaries to challenge people who clearly aren't on our side and, at the very least, force them to move to the left in order to keep up. Yes, I know they'll be lying about their own positions, but they will still have to tell fewer lies that support right-wing policy goals. Here, for example, is Rachel Maddow on how Democrats can win by punching like liberals. I don't know if the candidate she highlights is just going to sit back after the election and let Obama push through his cat-food commission policies, but at least during the campaign he is not letting his opponent get away with acting like privatizing Social Security is acceptable, and he's making sure people remember that this is precisely what conservatives want to do. It's up to the rest of us to keep reminding him that people voted for him because he purported to have liberal policies. The thing is, we have to have an agenda that is bigger than just making sure we elect people with a D after their name. We need to make them talk the talk before we can hope to make them walk the walk, in any event. If we keep falling for this jive, it really will make no difference whether we elect Democrats or Republicans. Right now, we are just electing last year's Republicans as Democrats, making it that much easier to elect today's Republicans in November.

Fox News, Republican Hidey-Hole: "That is really quite astonishing. These people are all potential future presidential candidates. But because Roger Ailes gave them a press card and made them sign exclusivity agreements, they cannot go on other news air and submit to questions. The Orwellian beauty part is that such agreements are of course standard for high-profile television personalities - Tom Brokaw could not have appeared on a CBS News show back in his day, for example - so on one level Fox isn't doing anything unusual!" On the other hand, it's just another link in the chain in which our politicians evade any sense of accountability. Not that it matters - I mean, Fox's softballs to Republicans are softer than those from NBC, but it's not as if NBC actually plays hardball with conservatives.

"Foreclosure Fraud: Every Affidavit a Fraud?" All of them?

I thought it might be worthwhile, since John linked to it, to actually watch last Sunday's episode of This Week, and I discovered that this, too, was blocked to viewers outside the United States "Due to international rights agreements". While it's already clear that the whole rights argument is a load of bollocks, it's allegedly there to protect performers from having their work used for free by people who would otherwise pay for it. This raises the question of whether there are many viewers outside the United States who would (or could) pay for it they didn't watch it via the internet. I'm pretty sure ABC television is still available free-to-air in the United States, in fact, which means it's normally not necessary to pay to watch it. I can understand the BBC getting hinky about foreigners watching TV they didn't pay for when what the BBC does actually is paid for directly by the TV licence fee. And I can understand blocking current episodes of The Daily Show (but not the archives) since that's actually been bought for air here. But the BBC is non-commercial television which is literally funded by the viewers. What's ABC's excuse? And why is The Colbert Report blocked when it's not available here? This is news media - it's current stuff, it won't have timeliness a year or two up the road, it's not going to be sold later for airing, so what's the excuse for all this? Oh, and what's the real reason?

Johnny Depp to the rescue. (Found later: video.)

Chuch Harris' first convention, complete with photos from the real White Horse, which was thinly disguised by Arthur C. Clarke in Tales From the White Hart. (And, blimey, Bea Mahaffey was quite the dish in her day, wasn't she?)

Knock yourself out

23:05 BST

Thursday, 07 October 2010


Suburban Guerrilla: "I read several pieces yesterday that amounted to 'look at all the great pieces of legislation we passed, why oh why don't they love us?' Unrequited love. Yeah, that'd some painful stuff. Really. But the fact is, we-re just not that into you. We-re not into you because to you, this is all an academic exercise. You passed something you called a health care reform bill, and yay, I get that it was hard and historic and all that crap. But its not really reform. Its an insurance subsidy that won't do squat for most of us - except saddle us with an expensive mandate and big deductibles we didn't have before. Many people have no intention of complying with it - not because its too liberal, but because its not liberal enough."

Of course, they never planned to give us anything we wanted, so, you know, it's a bit late for them to complain that we don't love them for it.

Well, it's not as if we weren't warned back then, and not just by people like Jim Longworth. Paul Street warned us, too, and no one wanted to know, and he's still writing about it, and there's a very interesting interview with him that VastLeft conducted over at Corrente: "Vastleft: "Not my cup of tea!" is intriguing. What was your first-hand experience with the future president?" Paul Street: Gruff. Arrogant. Widely perceived as distant and know-it-all and arrogant and narcissistic in black Chicago... and that's exactly how he seemed in my early interactions with him. Obama was considered all Hyde Park/U. Chicago and downtown/business/Daley... not especially close to the mid-South Side 'hoods he represented in Springfield. It was only after the Keynote Address that he attained really big popularity in the black community in Chicago."

Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker on "Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted: The evangelists of social media don't understand this distinction; they seem to believe that a Facebook friend is the same as a real friend and that signing up for a donor registry in Silicon Valley today is activism in the same sense as sitting at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro in 1960. 'Social networks are particularly effective at increasing motivation,' Aaker and Smith write. But that's not true. Social networks are effective at increasing participation - by lessening the level of motivation that participation requires."

It's official: corporations are "persons" when it comes to rights, but not when it comes to liabilities.

Emptywheel's bmaz on Military Encroachment On Civilian Authority & Seven Days In May: "But the paradigm goes much deeper than the relative autonomy granted Petraeus in Afghanistan and the lionization of the US military. That is now; the question is where the trend heads in the future, and that is the even more troublesome thought. The concern is not so much one man such as David Petraeus (although I remain convinced he is the strongest and most worrisome politician the political right could coalesce around, not Sarah Palin). To me, the bigger problem is the militarization of the civilian government itself; the merging of military thought with command and control of civilian modalities."

Got speed if they want it. How does a piece of legislation like this reach the president's desk when Democrats control Congress? Because they want it to. Can't wait to see if the little bastard (a) decides not to sign it so he can make a big show of how much he cares for the little people or (b) signs it because he doesn't even care whether we think he cares.

Stuart Zechman answers the question, "Is the healthcare.gov website worth the investment?" (Stuart also says the Bobblespeak translation of Sunday's This Week with Christiane Amanpour debate on Islam "is fantastic, so much better than the actual show.")

15:07 BST

Monday, 04 October 2010

And you swear that you just don't know why

Possibly the weirdest news yesterday was that Face the Nation had the truly bipartisan panel - two Democrats and one independent socialist. I love this fact, because the public - including a lot of people who call themselves "conservative" - tends to love Bernie Sanders when they hear what he has to say. Last night on Virtually Speaking Sundays I tried to make the point that Americans voted for a president who the media told them was "very liberal", a "far-left liberal", an "extreme liberal", and "a socialist", and I think both Culture of Truth and Chris Kendrick missed my point: that no one was representing Obama as "centrist" at the time (except a few liberal bloggers who didn't trust him and were screamed down as "PUMAs" and racists), and Americans, most of whom had no reason to think he was anything other than a liberal (just read most "progressive" blogs of the period if you think his "centrism" was what people believed about him), voted for this guy who was supposed to be unusually far left for a politician. Obama's entire campaign was about his being a sharp break from the kind of right-wing politics Bush represented, and while it was true that McCain's craziness and irresponsibility (especially after he picked Sarah Palin as his runningmate) were what made the real difference on election day, the fact remains that voters were more afraid of having another irresponsible right-winger in the White House than they were of a lefty. While it may be that most people didn't really believe Obama was a socialist, they didn't recognize how far right he was, either. They thought they were electing someone from the left. And remember, most of those voters had planned to vote for Obama long before McCain went over the deep end. The American public did not knowingly choose a "centrist", they chose a lefty.

Glennzilla: During the Bush-era torture debates, I was never able to get past my initial incredulity that we were even having a "debate" over whether the President has the authority to torture people. Andrew Sullivan has responded to some of the questions I posed about his defense of Obama's assassination program, and I realize now that throughout this whole assassination debate, specific legal and factual issues aside, my overarching reaction is quite similar: I actually can't believe that there is even a "debate" over whether an American President -- without a shred of due process or oversight -- has the power to compile hit lists of American citizens whom he orders the CIA to kill far away from any battlefield. The notion that the President has such an unconstrained, unchecked power is such a blatant distortion of everything our political system is supposed to be -- such a pure embodiment of the very definition of tyrannical power -- that, no matter how many times I see it, it's still hard for me to believe there are people willing to expressly defend it. Moreover, it's almost impossible to ignore how similar are the rhetoric and rationale between (a) Bush supporters who justified presidential torture and (b) Obama supporters who now justify presidential due-process-free assassinations. (Note to Daniel Larison: It is more appropriately known as murder, and according to the Constitution, the government does not have the right to do it to anyone, even if they aren't US citizens.)

Meg Whitman's nanny problem isn't the story it should be: How undocumented workers are mistreated by their employers. The problem isn't that the workers are foreigners in the country without the proper papers, it's that their status makes it far too easy for employers to treat employees like dirt.

I gotta admit, there really isn't much point in talking about "a third party" when we still need a second party.

Why isn't serial mass-poisoner Austin J. DeCoster in jail?

Krugman has an article about how the right-wing has taken over the public discourse in America and Britain, but it begins with "A note to Tea Party activists: This is not the movie you think it is. You probably imagine that you're starring in 'The Birth of a Nation,' but you're actually just extras in a remake of 'Citizen Kane.' True, there have been some changes in the plot. In the original, Kane tried to buy high political office for himself. In the new version, he just puts politicians on his payroll. I mean that literally. As Politico recently pointed out, every major contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination who isn't currently holding office and isn't named Mitt Romney is now a paid contributor to Fox News. Now, media moguls have often promoted the careers and campaigns of politicians they believe will serve their interests. But directly cutting checks to political favorites takes it to a whole new level of blatancy."

Journalist on the dark side: "Just one year before the publication of "Obama's Wars," Bob Woodward became a player in his own book-in-progress. He morphed into his true identity: Warrior Bob. Actually, there's an even deeper persona, Agent Woodward--but we're getting ahead of ourselves."

The other week, Michael Kinsley (media fake liberal) produced his own contribution to the anti-Baby Boomer, anti-Social Security canon in The Atlantic, and Gary Corseri rightly took it apart with some vigor. Corseri's article would probably have had to be twice as long if he had addressed not just the twisted logic of Kinsley's piece, but the remarkable dismissal of one simple fact: that there is no one for Boomers to "give back" their Social Security money to, since the money came from the Boomers themselves. Because Boomers already gave back to their elders by paying for their Social Security while also paying for their own. But Corseri does address the central fallacy of Kinsley's assumption that it's all the Boomers' fault. No, it's not; it's the fault of successive generations of greedy people with too much money who have acted to suck the life out of the American - and the world's - economy. Putting their heads on pikes may be too good for them. And Kinsley has thrown his lot in with them. (Via Pruning Shears, where it is also noted that Major Major's father bore a striking resemblance to our modern Teabaggers.)

We already know that the Teabaggers have crazy views (but if you work at Newsweak, none of that matters); however, some of them are also impolite to the media. Imagine.

I'm not really happy with the way this poll is presented, but it looks like if the Democratic leadership was trying to lose their supporters, they're getting better at it.

Interestingly, Blue America is only supporting two incumbents this year: Alan Grayson and Mary Jo Kilroy. The rest have been a rather serious disappointment.

"You Know Times Are Hard When Millionaires Are Collecting Unemployment Checks."

As near as I can tell, the new Labour leader is unlikely to be much improvement on his recent predecessors, especially given that he comes from a family that completely missed the opportunity to name their sons Steve Miliband and Glenn Miliband. And, also, his big speech.

One great, great broad (19 January 1943-4 October 1970)

15:25 BST

Saturday, 02 October 2010


So the other night online I started chatting with a total stranger and I mentioned that I write about politics and we had a conversation that went like this:

Complete Stranger: do tell, repub, demo, libert, or anarchist?

Avedon: Well, technically, I'm a Democrat, but I am so furious at them right now I feel like saying I'm, I don't know, a Bokonanist or something

Complete Stranger: im a republican, and i feel the same, im disenfranchised, i have no idea who we are gonna run for president, tho they say romney, listening to his speeches is like paint drying

Avedon: Obama seems to be a Republican who is nominally a Democrat only because he couldn't have run as a Republican

Complete Stranger: he is a moderate, so was mccain, he was more centrist then repub

Complete Stranger: they were almost the same candidate

Avedon: Romney, the pioneer of "Obamacare" - that should be interesting, pretending it's not the same stupid policy

Complete Stranger: we dont have anyone, i liked crist, but they threw him out, palin, i like but she isnt ready, maybe the govenor of minn, but i dont think he is ready

Avedon: Giving taxpayers' money to banksters was a disastrous policy, probably put the kibosh on any hope of fixing the economy

Complete Stranger: aye, tho they didnt even save everyone, goldman sach they let die, but saved competitors, doesnt make much sense

Avedon: We have two parties who don't care whether the rest of us end up living in boxes

Avedon: They saved their friends.

Complete Stranger: exactly

Avedon: I think it was Dick Durbin who complained that the banks own Washington.

Complete Stranger: we will see what happens, im hoping ron paul runs again, that will at least give me an alternative

Avedon: Obama's policies are so right-wing I can't believe it, he is exactly the same as Bush, only smoother.

Avedon: I think it's hilarious that the right-wing is raving about how left-wing he is. No liberal would have given that money to the banks. No liberal would have passed that stupid health insurance bill.

Complete Stranger: i will disagree with you a little, clintons were pushing for the health care back in the day

Avedon: Those are Republican policies. And while I know TARP was a Bush policy, I do not know how Democrats (including then-Senator Obama) can justify voting for it.

Avedon: Liberals want health care. The Obama bill is not health care.

Complete Stranger: welfare for the insurance companies?

Avedon: Do you know I moved from Montgomery County Maryland, one of the richest counties in the US, to the East End of London, and I pay less *in taxes* for healthcare than I did in America?

Avedon: Yes, that's exactly what it is.

Avedon: Insurance Co. Welfare bill.

Avedon: Forcing Americans to *pay* for lousy insurance

Complete Stranger: understand, i agree with you

Got that? He's a Republican, but he agrees with all this crazy left-wing stuff I'm saying. He just has the names wrong. He thinks it was Goldman Sachs Obama didn't save (oh, yes he did!), he thinks McCain and Obama are "moderates", he thinks the kinds of policies he wants are more likely to come about from Republicans, but he still agrees with my crazy left-wing analysis of the policies. I think you'll find there are a lot of Republicans like that.

And you can understand why they have their doubts about their own party right now. I mean, it's not as if they can put their faith in a party that puts lunatic stalkers in high office.

* * * * *

Pruning Shears: "The past couple of weeks have provided a neat illustration of Marshall's Law - Washington is wired for Republican control. Through lots of breathless reporting we have seen story after story from DC-based outlets that glory in the interpersonal dramas and palace intrigue of the capitol. All of it has centered around the Bush tax cuts, and whether to extend all of them or just the ones for those earning less than $250,000 per year."

Susie calls it a "Libertarian wet dream" - and it's why you want to do these things through taxes instead of by individual payment: "Firefighters watch as home burns to ground." It was only after the property of a neighbor caught fire that the firemen moved to do anything, because the neighbor, unlike the first victim, had paid the fee. But one of the risks of not having taxes cover everyone is that the neighbors would still be at risk even if they had paid. So your safety depends not only on you paying the fee, but on your neighbors paying it as well. How do you force your neighbors to pay that fee? Through taxes.

It used to be that when someone from the KKK ran for office, you heard about it constantly, it was a big deal with a big push against it, even if they were only running for the school board. These days, it's pretty unremarkable - I mean, how do you tell them apart from everyone else?

John linked over at Eschaton to this article, but I can't figure out why. Obama is not a progressive and he is not in any way forwarding progressive policies. So far, the only policy initiatives he has pushed have been GOP policies that Democrats used to be reliable opponents of - and he's even gotten some of them passed. Most importantly, he has half the so-called "progressive" community attacking the ones who still want to fight for liberal policies. It's the White House, more than anyone, who is screwing progressives, so what the hell is David Roberts talking about?

For those of you who often have no idea what new media frenzy our friends in America are talking about on their blogs, James O'Keefe is the guy who slandered ACORN by videoing meetings with ACORN representatives until he found someone who didn't throw him out of their offices, and then later pretended to have gone into their offices dressed as a pimp - a story that was pushed throughout the right-wing media until, astonishingly, Congress defunded ACORN on the strength of this lie. (More recently, he may have tried to portray a black woman as anti-white although she was talking about her experience recognizing that it's not about color; although eventually this was exposed in a more public and effective way than he was with the ACORN libel, he still managed to punk both the White House and the NAACP into reacting as if they were overt partisan right-wing groups. Or that may have been Breitbart himself, no one is sure.) And he got busted for tapping the office of US Senator Mary Landrieu. He finally got caught got on his most recent escapade, in which he tried it on with a CNN reporter, and the friends of O'Keefe have been curiously silent about the matter.

Digby: "As a person who has spent a quarter of a century in and around the entertainment business, which features some of the most superficial, entitled, grasping, materialistic greedheads on the planet, I can tell you that these complaining academics, CEOs and Wall Street Boyz put them to shame for sheer, out of touch, elitism." (Also: More reasons not to give money to the DCCC. Give to individual candidates if you like them. You might want to give Russ Feingold some help, his polling is down and a lot of money is going into funding his opposition. But you also might want to pay attention to local races. I really wish more of you would actually run for office yourselves, dammit.) Plus: A very interesting loophole.

I really think, if you can afford to throw a little money their way, Corrente deserves your support. And even if you can't afford to give money, you should read it and talk it up, because it's got some terrific stuff going there, it presses the important issues hard, it actually creates great activism, and, most importantly, it really irritates the more establishment "progressive" types when people pay attention to what these outrageous lefties have to say.

And speaking of Corrente, I'd like to call your attention to this note on their sidebar: "Only candidates with a certain number of contributors can participate, according to the two-party gatekeepers for the televised candidates' debate. For that purpose, a small donation has the same impact as a large one!"

14:50 BST

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, October 2010

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