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Thursday, 30 September 2010

And the big wheel turn around

Paul Rosenberg suggests that Obama is more like Nixon than JFK, and talks about what's killing the left:

These aren't just dark days for the left, of course. They are dark days for America as a whole, as well as for all sentient life on the planet. Global warming, for one, does not mess around. Just ask any of previous waves of mass extinction that it's been responsible for, either in whole (four of them) or in part (just one).

And the reason for all this boils down to just a few things:

(1) Conservatives have been engaged in hegemonic warfare for nearly 40 years now, and liberals have not.

(2) Anti-liberal, anti-progressive forces on the Democratic side of the aisles have adapted themselves to basic conservative hegemonic framing, and made attacking liberals (not just "the left") a routine part of their standard operating procedure.

(3) The above two factors have been so all-pervasive that even after conservatism had collapsed in a multi-faceted failure of epic proportions, Obama was able to portray himself as a profoundly progressive political figure based on the thinnest of promises, and so much personalized marketing that he was able to walk away from virtually everything he campaigned on--often embracing the exact opposite--and still pretend that he had not changed a bit.

I know that a lot of people are increasingly angry with Obama, and justifiably so. But there's an old street saying that applies in spades here: Don't get mad, get even.
Ian Welsh: "This is your Democratic party. These people are the problem. As long as they are around, the problem can never be solved. If it could be, they would have done so. This means, sorry folks, that the only hope for liberalism and for America to avoid a complete economic meltdown, is for Democrats to be swept out of power and for as many Dems who aren't reliable progressives to lose their seats as possible. Yes, the Republicans will do worse things, but that's going to happen anyway. And in some cases, as with Social Security, it is better to have Republicans in power, because it is easier to fight Republican efforts to gut SS than it is to fight Democratic efforts to do so. I know a lot of people don't like this calculus, but the math is clear. These Democrats cannot or will not deliver. They cannot or will not do what needs to be done. They have to go." Really. Since it's clear that both parties are trying to destroy Social Security, it's better to have the Republicans do it so everyone will know who to hate while we rebuild the party into one that can restore it. If, of course, such a thing can be done.

And if it can't, well, "Fifty-eight percent of Americans believe a third major political party is needed because the Republican and Democratic Parties do a poor job of representing the American people." We already know it's not going to be the Republicans, and it's becoming increasingly doubtful that the Democratic Party is ever going to be interested. If not them, it's gotta be somebody else.

And it certainly isn't going to be the 47 Democrats who voted to extend Bush's tax cuts for the rich, something almost no one in the country supports.

What Crabby Old Lady said (well, with reservations I left down in the comments). Via Hecate, who also wrote a letter to Joe Biden: "Thank you for your letter asking me to donate to elect Democratic candidates. I've given some money to the Democrats over the last two years. I think you should stop whining and get behind what I've already done."

Herbert: "'The people we're seeing never expected things to turn out like this - not at this stage of their lives. Not in the United States. The middle class is quickly slipping into a lower class.' [...] The politicians seem unable to grasp the immensity of the problem, which is why the policy solutions are so woefully inadequate. During my conversations with Ms. Bedore, she dismissed the very thought that the recession might be over. 'Whoever said that was sadly mistaken,' she said. 'We haven't even bottomed-out yet.'"

But we're all getting to where our backs are to the wall.

Your right-wing "liberal" media: The first Teabagger event had about 600 people despite all that free promotion they got from the media, but that's only twice what the first Coffee Party event got despite a virtual media blackout. The amazing thing about right-wing events is that with all the promotion they get, they aren't bigger. But we can get 15,000-20,000 people at an event without the media thinking it worth a mention, before, or after.

I mean, even "the left" seems more interested in the Teabaggers. Like here: Matt Taibbi goes to the Tea Party: "A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can't imagine it." via Suburban Guerrilla. (I think Brit Hume missed something on the hippie-punching front.)

And speaking of things lost in translation, my, that certainly was an unfortunate error.

The Continuing Adventures of Conservative Jones, Boy Detective, by Tom Tomorrow.

Ann Telnaes

14:10 BST

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

What have you done for me lately?

Here's the podcast of Susie Madrak and me on VSS, for those who'd rather listen in transit. It went pretty well, I thought, except that my Skype connection seemed to be underwater. (Although, on reflection, it occurs to me that we already have our own lobbyists in DC, and they've been captured like everyone else.)

I found this in comments at Eschaton somewhere from someone called Doc:

This is an election strategy that's bound to fire up Democratic voters

Hectoring people who inexplicably refuse to sing your praises always makes you look like the better choice.

Obama expresses plenty of disappointment over how Republicans made a tactical decision from the start to oppose him, but also offers some "grudging admiration" for its political effectiveness in keeping the GOP united.

So he's "disappointed" in the people who have stonewalled his agenda and vilified him from before day one, but pissed off at the people who elected him and have tried with increasing desperation to cheer on what he says is his program.

I'm truly bewildered, but not in the gentle, non-pissed-off way.

Yes, and it appears Obama went out of his way to whine about how ungrateful we are. And along comes Joe Biden to tell us to quit whining about no jobs and no health care and no habeas corpus and no getting rid of DADT and no public services and... Yeah, get an honest job, Biden.

People can make all the excuses for the failures of this administration, but aside from their, "You gotta vote for us - we're not insane" campaign strategy, Stuart Zechman points out that there's a certain element of vote for us or you'll be shooting this dog in the story. "Health care reform was never supposed to be about charity, about welfare, about all of us middle-class people putting aside our selfish concerns and donating to the unfortunate, worst-case scenario victims of the system that doesn't work for any of us (except the wealthiest)." This president said he was going to give us better access to health care. Not just a few sad cases, but all of us. Why should we be impressed with a bill that forced everyone to buy crappy health insurance in order to achieve what could just as easily have been had with some slight tinkering around the edges of the existing programs?

I gotta tell ya, I've never been as enamored of Henry Waxman as some people are, probably because he wasted so much time going after cigarettes while ignoring the far greater dangers to us that our government was actually engineering. So, is it a surprise that he's broken his promise to support, and is now trying to kill net neutrality? "Legislative text put forward by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) under the banner of mandating network neutrality would instead prevent the government from requiring broadband providers to treat all Internet traffic equally."

Bless Alan Grayson for highlighting the views of his opponent, Taliban Dan - a strategy that appears to be working.

Kerry doesn't actually appear to have used the phrase "out-of-touch voters" here, so it's largely a story about how the GOP is spinning it, but the fact remains that you don't have to be all that informed about Obama's policies to know whether you're afraid for your livelihood, and people already know what they still don't have.

I suppose I should be in a better mood after my Congressman started talking like a liberal for the first time in ages. Politico actually has him explaining that the rich have not been using their tax cuts to create jobs. Even Culture of Truth seemed to approve of his performance on Press the Meat. Well, some of it.

Susie has a clip of an interview with Joe Bageant in which he says that the Tea Party is a media spectacle managed by billionaires to give working people the illusion of power. Joe wants people to understand what I really wish people would point out more often: that most poor people in America are white. (I disagree with his explanation for why everyone assumes otherwise. This is something the right-wing has actually pushed; we used to know that most poor people were white, until we started to see this connection being made in the media by the GOP. And then it spread....)

Here's something you might want to send to your state's Attorney General: "Mortgage and Foreclosure Wrongdoing: Road Map for Investigating AGs - Part 1."

Wow, the entire archive of The Realist is online.

Trailer for The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.

16:18 BST

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Evening notes

I'm excited that this week's guests on Virtually Speaking Sundays are Avedon Carol and Susia Madrak, and we're presumably going to be talking about her exciting encounter with David Axelrod and how the White House is working hard to demotivate likely Democratic voters. That's tonight at 5:00 PM Pacific, 8:00 PM Eastern.

"Even Shepard Fairey's Losing Hope" - You've seen his famous poster, but he just isn't feeling so inspired these days: "Fairey, who at 40 is no kid himself, said it's easy to see why young voters are down on Obama and the Democrats. He lamented that health care reform was watered down, Tea Party activists have been emboldened, and his man has fallen short on bold campaign promises like closing Guantanamo Bay. 'There's a lot of stuff completely out of Obama's control or any of the Democrats' control,' Fairey allowed. 'But I think there's something a little deeper in terms of the optimism of the younger voter that's happening. They wanted somebody who was going to fight against the status quo, and I don't think that Obama has done that.'"

Dean Baker on The Role of Government and the Foreclosure Crisis: "As we all know, there are two competing views on the proper role of government. On the one hand, we have those who believe that it is the government's responsibility to redistribute as much income as possible upward to the richest people in the country. On the other hand, there are those who believe that government should promote a strong economy that serves the vast majority of the population. Adherents of the former group in both political parties have been firmly in control of government in recent decades. This comes out very clearly in the treatment of the foreclosure crisis."

Thanks to Tata for pointing out another unkind cut - as the new insurance industry bill comes into effect, and despite the fact that the administration could add it to the list of medications that are exempt from co-pays or deductables any time it wants to, "Yes, You Will Keep Paying for Birth Control."

I sure hope our choices aren't this stark, because either way, it can't end well.

Well, who knew there was a National Punctuation Day, let alone that they had a haiku contest? I liked these samples:

Raised by two parens
I've been bracketed since youth.
I'm an inside job.
Dot dot ellipses
The yada yada of print.
So on and so forth.

23:20 BST

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Death of a thousand cuts

Susie Madrak is my hero this week after she put the question to David Axelrod hisself: "I'm a blogger, and I don't know if you know this term, but are you familiar with the term 'hippie-punching'?"

My favorite part was where Axelrod - who is essentially talking to leftish bloggers to beg them for money and support - had the temerity to imply that being criticized on a few lefty blogs was equivalent to a continuous stream of insults and kicks from the White House, via both policy and pigeon-droppings in the pages of the Newspapers of Record. Right, David. Get back to me when you guys can start pumping for something that isn't a GOP policy goal, huh? David Dayen's response to it is more straightforward than Susie's retelling, but hers is funnier.

However, I think Susie was too kind to Axelrod. What I'd be saying is, "You have to give us a reason not to want to see you primaried, and it has to be a better reason than the one you've been giving, which appears to be that the Republicans will be less polite about passing exactly the same policies, and will show even less remorse than you do." (Although calling it "a historic victory" isn't exactly remorse, is it? A historic victory for whom?)

And I see Atrios just found another fine example of motivating the base - by fighting to keep Don't Ask/Don't Tell. Why should we support this administration when they so obviously want to lose?

* * * * *

Thursday, Atrios posted this story: "Man without Mortgage Loses Home in Foreclosure" - or, as Atrios put it, "Banksters are just stealing homes now." And then yesterday he posted a letter from Alan Grayson, Barney Frank, and Corrine Brown to the president of Fannie Mae complaining that: "We are disturbed by the increasing reports of predatory 'foreclosure mills' in Florida working for Fannie Mae servicers. Foreclosure mills are law firms representing lenders that specialize in speeding up the foreclosure process, often without regard to process, substance, or legal propriety. According to the New York Times, four of these mills are both among the busiest of the firms and are under investigation by the Attorney General of Florida for fraud. The firms have been accused of fabricating or backdating documents, as well as lying to conceal the true owner of a note. [...] In other words, Fannie Mae seems to specifically delegate its foreclosure avoidance obligations out to lawyers who specialize in kicking people out of their homes."

At The Black Agenda Report, they're taking on not just the Democratic leadership, but the Black Caucus itself, for being part of the scam to rob Main Street on behalf of Wall Street, and for their "abysmal collective record on Internet neutrality." (The exceptions who can still be counted on to do the people's business in this area: Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters, John Conyers, Donna Edwards, Keith Ellison, and Donald Payne.)

Another bad, bad bill, or Harold and Kumar go to jail: "The Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act of 2010 (H.R. 5231), introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (the only House member to speak against reforming the racist crack/powder disparity), seeks to authorize U.S. criminal prosecution of anyone in the U.S. suspected of conspiring with one or more persons, or aiding or abetting one or more persons, to commit at any place outside the United States an act that would constitute a violation of the U.S. Controlled Substances Act if committed within the United States."

Well, yes, of course it was The wrong way to answer Ms. Velma Hart, because the truth is that Obama doesn't care and isn't going to do a damn thing for her.

Colbert tells the House Judiciary Committee: "This is America! I don't want a tomato picked by a Mexican. I want it picked by an American, then sliced by a Guatemalan and served by a Venezuelan in a spa where a Chilean gives me a Brazilian."

I'm sorry I missed this post from Demosthenes earlier when I was talking about what a scam it is to claim that we need to educate people with 21st century skills. (Well, we do, but what "we" need to educate them for is to accept jobs that are associated with a much, much lower level of education than the ones we trained for. And that's just those of us who find jobs - the rest can learn to scrabble in the dirt for their food.)

Justice skewed: "Teresa Lewis didn't pull the trigger. She confessed, pleaded guilty and cooperated with authorities. She had an IQ of 70, right on the border of mental retardation. She had no prior criminal record, and no prior history of violence. The triggermen in the murder got life without parole. Yet she was executed -- the first female sentenced to death in Virginia since 1912."

I'm glad to see someone takes the Gnome Liberation Front seriously - "When Garden Gnomes Attack".

Propaganda Posters - wow, has it really been 30 years?

The alternate history Charlie didn't write.

Jack Kerouac character reference key (real names of his characters, and who they were).

15:31 BST

Thursday, 23 September 2010

For this was Sodom's sin

In The Baseline Scenario, James Kwak discusses how democracy died:

The Importance of the 1970s

Many people, including Simon and me, have observed that American politics and the American economy reached some kind of turning point around 1980, which conveniently marks the election of Ronald Reagan. (We also pointed to other factors such as the deregulation of stock brokerage commissions in 1975 and the high inflation of the 1970s.) Other analysts have put the turning point back in 1968, when Richard Nixon became President on the back of a wave of white, middle-class resentment against the 1960s. Hacker and Pierson, however, point the finger at the 1970s. As they describe in Chapter 4, the Nixon presidency saw the high-water market of the regulatory state; the demise of traditional liberalism occurred during the Carter administration, despite Democratic control of Washington, when highly organized business interests were able to torpedo the Democratic agenda and begin the era of cutting taxes for the rich that apparently has not yet ended today.

Why then? Not, as popular commentary would have it, because public opinion shifted. Hacker and Pierson cite studies showing that public opinion on issues such as inequality has not shifted over the past thirty years; most people still think society is too unequal and that taxes should be used to reduce inequality. What has shifted is that Congressmen are now much more receptive to the opinions of the rich, and there is actually a negative correlation between their positions and the preferences of their poor constituents (p. 111). Citing Martin Gilens, they write, "When well-off people strongly supported a policy change, it had almost three times the chance of becoming law as when they strongly opposed it. When median-income people strongly supported a policy change, it had hardly any greater chance of becoming law than when they strongly opposed it" (p. 112). In other words, it isn't public opinion, or the median voter, that matters; it's what the rich want.

So, here's Rachel Maddow explaining that the Republicans aren't even trying to hide it anymore, they are right out of the closet about wanting to destroy Social Security, but she seems to have missed the point that it's B. Obama who seems to be trying to engineer that destruction, or at least give the GOP some credibility by giving them a nice little Catfood Commission to try to help them do it. America voted for Obama because they knew we needed liberal programs to undo all this right-wing damage, and thought they were putting a liberal in the White House to make that happen. But it's now clear that Obama is not a liberal and thinks much the same way that the right-wingers who created this mess do. (I'm so tired of hearing that he never claimed to be a supporter of single-payer. People voted for him because he worked hard to give the impression they were going to get single-payer from him.) Since Democrats aren't going to make the necessary counter-offensive against the overt anti-Social Security campaign the GOP is blatantly running, you'd all better think very carefully about what you need to do to live in the coming abyss. You may have to learn how to shoot your own food - and, if you live in the city, that isn't going to be deer or possum, it's going to be rats.

"Munger Says 'Thank God' U.S. Opted for Bailouts Over Handouts" - "Bailouts" in this case meaning handouts to banksters rather than some redress for their victims.

No, really, what we need is for Obama to fire all of them. But he won't, 'cause they're his buddies and he thinks they're right. Remember this? Well, no wonder it all seems so familiar.

Of course, not everyone is as gloomy about our prospects of saving the United States as I am. I'm all for trying to stop the rot, of course, I'm just not terribly optimistic that The Angry Left can pull itself together and make it happen. (The not-angry left is only not angry because it still can't see what's happening, so don't count on them. And the happy "left" isn't anywhere near the left, so know thine enemy.) But if you still think there's hope, you may want a road map.

Jay Ackroyd wonders if the Republicans really are as crazy as they sound, and wanted to talk to Markos about it - which he did on Virtually Speaking the other night. You can listen to the stream at the link, or download the podcast here. Thursday night's guest will be David Brin. (And you might want to check out the last Virtually Speaking Sundays with David Dayen (dday) and Joan McCarter (mcjoan) [podcast].

At Hullabaloo, Chris Matthews locates "the center", tristero proves PZ Myers wrong, Digby performs duets with PNH and MLK [missing link], and something worth marching for. (A lot of the time, I love Jon Stewart, but I have to admit I was a bit queasy when I saw his Big Announcement. Glennzilla, like Patrick, sees the danger, here..) (I guess maybe we could join The Coffee Party....)

It's now official that From start, Bush team focused on war with Iraq, even though they knew it wasn't justified and they'd have to make up a reason.

That Ol' Time Religion Fouls Your Air.

How two people on a plane, from opposite sides of the political spectrum, communicate with each other in the modern age. (I doubt the probability of my fantasy that whoever made the seating arrangement recognized the names of one of the former on-air personalities from the original Air America Radio line-up - back when it was good - and the former head of the Republican party, and thought to themselves, "This could be fun..." before seating them together.)

I love it when APOD does this. Oh, and another spectacular Aurora pic.

Jane Austen's Fight Club

Ezekiel 16:49

14:04 BST

Monday, 20 September 2010

If we still have time, we might still get by

The trip to Wales proved not to be a good time for internet connectivity, so here's some saved-up links:

Jeremy Scahill says it's not just Monsanto that Blackwater works for. (I rather liked this question from emptywheel the other day: "If Blackwater Couldn't Keep Benazir Bhutto Safe, Why Is State Still Contracting with Them?")

Well, of course Obama mocks his supporters who naively fell for his public option "compromise" - even after he let the press know he had no intention of getting it passed. Not much different from Bush at all. Both of them knew they were lying to their own supporters, and both of them sat back smirking at what a bunch of suckers they are.

The minute government started farming out the handling of sensitive private data to private enterprise, the 4th Amendment promise that "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures" would not be violated was over.

Last week Jonathan Schwarz reminded me that it was the anniversary of An Enormous Opportunity, again, and the Hill.

Glennzilla on the sudden, curious reluctance of certain "progressives" to call killers and terrorists "killers" and "terrorists".

Digby on Ben Stein's self-pity party

Here's a good one: "White House accuses GOP of 'corporate power grab'." Well, come on, you have to laugh. "Pot accuses kettle of being a little bit blacker."

Jimmy Carter questions Ted Kennedy's commitment to healthcare.

Something perfectly reasonable that was published in the Mipple-Stipple Strib for Labor Day: "America can't rise without its workers." (And some weird stuff in the comments.)

I see Only Connect has now joined University Challenge as the game show we are most likely to see our friends on.

Also rans: But they didn't make Bra of the Week.

Aurora vista

CMike thinks Krugman was trying to get a Sideshow link with this one. Hey, Paul, rock and roll!

12:10 BST

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Links and all that

Atrios thinks that the appointment of Liz Warren to be "Assistant to the President & Special Adviser to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau" is good news, but Yves says she is just being sidelined: "Will Warren last? Both Brooksley Born and Sheila Bair have been accused of not being team players. With the team being industry cronies, that's a badge of honor. But each also had a clear bureaucratic role, and Born was still pushed out. I'm surprised Warren is accepting such a compromised position. Perhaps she believes she still has a bully pulpit and can embarrass the Administration into doing the right thing. But it will take a very thick skin for her to follow that course of action." Susie sees the bloody Obama fingerprints, as well.

David Dayen (dday) paints the ugly Portrait of HAMP Failure: How HAMP Went from the Bank's Counter Offer to the Whole Enchilada. Well, this is normal for the administration, isn't it? They just make sure that whatever the corporates want, they get.

Gene Lyons, "Let's stop pretending that hard work conquers all." Actually, Gene still doesn't spend much time on one of the most important factors: luck. I'm sorry, but it's ridiculous to think that everyone with talent who works hard gets to be successful, either - right time and place, right resources, and even the right accidents all play a role.

From First Draft, "People Who Make Too Much Money" and "The Internet Can't Kill College Journalism" - and wow, a Buffalo Springfield reunion. Damn, and I'll have to miss it.

Fafnir realizes that mistakes were made (but I'm sure some smart neoliberal will come along to promise trickle-up gravity any day now, she said, stealing from the comments).

Seder chats with Sarah and decides to contribute to the bomb to protect Feingold from BS.

Hm, I wonder why someone would take a bottle of Evian with him if he was planning to kill himself.

I think Roz doesn't like this pope.

Mystical power of crop circles revealed.

Now, think lovely thoughts....

15:14 BST

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Got no special rider here

I hear there were some primaries. I'm in favor of primaries where lousy incumbents get tossed and good incumbents (of which there are fewer and fewer, it seems) skate through. I am sick of primaries where entrenched creeps hang on because they have the support of the establishment and voters are afraid of what happens if, with a less powerful new candidate, the other side has a better chance of beating them. But, meanwhile, I won't resist an opportunity to say that, yes, things like this provide another good reason why we should have paper ballots, hand-counted in public on the night, but they raise other questions, too. Some of the problems in this story had nothing to do with electronic voting machines, and I'd like to know how it was that polling places ended up with so many people who were unprepared to deal with the normal things that happen.

Ian Welsh says America's heading for its fascist moment. OK, but I don't think it's true the right-wing doesn't believe in bailouts. If there's one thing we've seen, it's that spending, like most things, falls under the heading of It's OK If You Are Republican. (And I rather liked the comment from The Raven: "As for our authoritarian moment, I think we are already in it. Reagan was the revolution's Lenin, Bush II/Cheney was Stalin, and I suppose Obama (who has publicly spoken of his admiration for Reagan) stands in the place of Molotov. We await the arrival of Khrushchev, and a Russian spelling dictionary.")

CMike suggests down in comments that Bob Herbert is writing articles that are too liberal for Obama: "Americans are not being honest with themselves about the structural changes in the economy that have bestowed fabulous wealth on a tiny sliver at the top, while undermining the living standards of the middle class and absolutely crushing the poor. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have a viable strategy for reversing this dreadful state of affairs. (There is no evidence the G.O.P. even wants to.) If matters stay the same, with working people perpetually struggling in an environment of ever-increasing economic insecurity and inequality, the very stability of the society will be undermined. The U.S. economy needs to be rebalanced so that the benefits are shared more widely, more equitably. There are many ways to do this, but what is most important right now is to recognize this central fact, to focus on it and to begin seriously considering the most constructive options." Somebody give that man a t-shirt.

Atrios, "Why Big Corporations And The Rich Need To Pay More In Taxes: Because quite often the state expends a lot of resources looking out for their interests." And from that story: "HARRISBURG - Gov. Rendell said Tuesday that he was 'appalled' and 'embarrassed' that his administration's Office of Homeland Security has been tracking and circulating information about legitimate protests by activist groups that do not pose a threat to public safety. Rendell said he did not know that the state Office of Homeland Security had been paying an outside company to track a long list of activists, including groups that oppose drilling in the Marcellus Shale, animal-rights advocates, and peace activists. The office then passed that information on to large groups of people, including law enforcement and members of the private sector. In doing so, Rendell said, the Homeland Security Office had distorted and made a mockery of the state's responsibility to protect 'critical infrastructure,' and collect and share credible plots to harm it. And they can do that because we don't confiscate enough of their money to prevent them from taking over the government for their own purposes in the first place.

Oh, and "Blackwater Served as Monsanto's Intelligence Arm."

On the bright side, Anne Laurie says Charles Pierce is now doing a weekly political series for Esquire's politics blog.

I see Ettlin's been going to the movies again, and exploring what the movies have to say about teen sex. Oh, and Secretariat.

The father of the bride speech.

The Insect Trust

23:25 BST

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

A quick one

Even the conservative New York Times has been told: 'People who need to retire early - and they need to - are folks that start working in their late teens, whereas people who are promoting raising the retirement age are people who were in graduate school or professional school and got into jobs that would logically take them into their late 60s and 70s,' she said. (Via Atrios, who linked to the article in a post called "Good Journalism" - and it is. But it's a point that will nevertheless remain off the radar of the White House and the Washington press corps. I don't think Maureen Dowd will be writing another piece about how hot 60-year-old cops and firemen are. Atrios linked to a stupid article by Ruth Marcus in the same post. Marcus, of course, is never going to admit that there is no such thing as "overtaxing the rich" - the rich aren't working for money, they're working for power. And when they get too rich, they get too powerful for the government and society to cope with. That's why, first and foremost, confiscatory taxes on the rich are in fact a vital component of any solution to our problems.)

Adam Serwer did a nice job on D'Souza's crazy analysis of Obama, and calls it "Birtherism Lite" - but I wish he would get over the obviously false idea that Obama is "center left".

Pruning Shears: "The 4th Amendment erodes a little further. Merits of any individual case aside, it is striking how uniformly the movement has been towards more intrusive government and the chipping away human rights of civil liberties. There doesn't seem to be any sort of '2 forward, 1 back' dynamic - it's all just in one direction." (Dan is also excerpting bits of ECONned as he reads along, and this week provides a useful service highlighting the essential errors of "neoclassical" theory. And also this: "As strange as it may seem now, the reason the US has had the deepest capital markets wasn't simply the size of our economy, but the perception that we had the most open and fairest regime for investors.")

Early Rock Opera

15:50 BST

Monday, 13 September 2010

A little magic that will finally destroy

This is weird on so many levels I am not entirely sure who is being weirder - D'Souza for his analysis of Obama as someone with a "Kenyan, anti-colonial worldview" as if this is something significant, Gingrich for pronouncing it a grand insight that exposes the great threat Obama poses to America, or Steve Benen for going after it without even a word exploring what the hell "anti-colonialist" is supposed to mean in this context. I liked the comment by Yellow Dog, who noted:

Oh, for pity's sake - what kind of history professor doesn't know what anti-colonial means?

The original anti-colonialists are the Founders.

America is a colony that defeated its colonial masters.

To be American is to be anti-colonial.

Or, as Atrios put it, "I suppose we'd better cancel that July 4 holiday."

* * * * *

Good catch by Paul Rosenberg on Mel Goodman's Truthout article on The self-inflicted wounds of 9/11: "The attacks on Washington and New York City nine years ago extracted a terrible price in terms of blood and treasure. Unfortunately, the adverse US reaction to 9/11 has also extracted a terrible price with no end in sight." (Meanwhile, what could make Jefferson Prestonian this angry?)

You might need to remember your right to remain silent. (via)

Frank Rich apparently thinks Obama can save the day by talking like a liberal. Which is probably a good idea, because right now the GOP is grabbing that ground to a certain extent by suggesting that Summers and Geithner be fired, not to mention exploiting the fact that Obama bailed out the banksters. Rich is talking about the election, but of course talking like a liberal is the number one thing liberals have wanted to see Obama do all along, because it would help to fight right-wing crap and remind people of why liberalism is a good idea. Obama knows how to do it when he wants to, it's just that, like all the good advice Obama has received, it's falling on deaf ears because he doesn't want to. (A heads-up for Frank Rich: TARP may have been passed under the Bush administration, but it would not have if leading Democrats like Barack Obama had given it the derision it deserved instead of voting for it.)

Paranoia report: is the "ground zero mosque" a CIA plot?

If you want to grab the podcast of last night's show with Dan Froomkin and Marcy Wheeler, you can get the .mp3 right here. And I highly recommend Jay Ackroyd's discussion with Ian Welsh, .mp3 podcast here.

You know, I had forgotten all about this - which, you know, takes some doing.

16:00 BST

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Trivial pursuits

20th Century portraits

Flat rainbow.

Unusual use for a turntable (probably not work-safe).

This should be cool: Dan Froomkin and Marcy Wheeler on Virtually Speaking Sundays, live at 5:00 PM Pacific (8:00 PM Eastern, 1:00 AM BST) or streamed later.

"Imagine If NYT Columnists Like Thomas Friedman Had to Know About the Great Recession? Then they wouldn't write ridiculous things like: "our generation's leaders never dare utter the word 'sacrifice.' All solutions must be painless." If someone told Friedman about the recession, that nearly 15 million people are unemployed, that nearly 9 million are underemployed, and millions more have given up working all together, then he would not be saying nonsense about how baby boomers are looking for painless solutions. On this planet, the vast majority of baby boomers, who have to work for a living, are already experiencing vast amounts of pain. What planet does Mr. Friedman live on and why on earth is he given space in the NYT to spew utter nonsense?

But you are being groomed to feel the pain and believe you have no one but yourself to blame, as with this article that suggests the reason you'll be eating catfood is that you just refused to sock enough money into your private retirement account. So you're told you will have to work longer, as if you will actually be able to. Just leaving aside the people who are simply too old to do hard physical jobs, there actually aren't a lot of companies left that don't use every excuse they can find to get rid of older workers - and they don't hire new older workers, either. Ice floes are next.

Rick Perlstein drives a truck through media attempts to blame the internet and everyone else for their own sins: "The problem is not the Web. Anti-JFK rallies "revealing" to every school child in Orange County, California that Communists planned to colonize the United States by the year 1970 drew bigger crowds than Tea Parties today, with nary a blogger among them. Most mainstream of media outlets have become comically easy marks for those actively working to push public discourse to extremes." Via Digby, who also posted something alarming about Social Security and asks, "Are You A Parasite Or Gangrene?" (Oh, yeah, and the hero of 9/11.)

It's not really surprising that the prison industry is helping to drive anti-immigrant hysteria for profit. See, you just can't make as much money if you simply pick them up and send them home without a long, gruelling stay in their money-making detention centers.

Rupert Murdoch to stick his oar into British education. Uh oh.

A miraculous moment in which Mark Shields refuses to pretend that conservative "economics" have any basis in fact.

So, has Obama finally lost Oliver Willis?

Is the Brotherhood of Dada on the loose again?

15:37 BST

Friday, 10 September 2010

When summer's gone, where will we be?

At Emptywheel, bmaz tells a five-year-old tale: "This is when things for Zeitoun went from the darkness of Katrina's wake to the black hole that is now, thanks to the cowed and craven political leadership in the United States, the American 'rule of law'. As Zeitoun spoke on the phone to a concerned relative overseas, a group of at least six National Guardsmen and police officers, in full out battle dress and armed with automatic weapons, broke the door down, stormed in and seized Zeitoun and the three other men in the house. Zeitoun tried desperately to show his legal identification and convey that he was the owner of the house, that the others were legitimately there and there was nothing improper going on. This, of course, was all to no avail whatsoever. Zeitoun and the others were handcuffed and shackled at automatic weapon point, thrown like meat into a boat and transported to 'Camp Greyhound'. If you are not familiar with Camp Greyhound, you should be. If there was any doubt as to whether American citizens could be portaged off to a Gitmo like gulag with no due process right here on American soil, Camp Greyhound will disabuse you of such notion. While unable to rescue stranded and dying citizens from their sweltering attics and rooftops, or get food and water to the festering Superdome refugees, the federal government, commissioned through the Louisiana Prison Bureau, amazingly managed to complete the first reconstruction program, the Camp Greyhound detention facility. [...] When a society refuses to inspect its mistakes and wrongs, mete out appropriate accountability and learn from the exercise, it loses its moral authority. When Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress belligerently refused to honor their oaths of office by defending and protecting the Constitution via bringing accountability for the attacks on it by the previous administration, it served to ingrain and ratify the offenses and abuses into our fabric of society and law; it set a new and disturbing norm."

"What the wealthy did with their tax cuts: According to the U.S. census US capital investment in foreign countries has gone from $1.3 trillion in 2000 to $3.2 trillion in 2008 while at the same time the Bush tax cuts which overwhelmingly went to the wealthy cost 1.3 trillion per politifact. So the wealthy essentially took their tax cuts, intended per the Republicans to spur U.S. jobs, and invested them and more in foreign countries,

"Rome is Burning: "Excuse my language, but you have to get that this is a big deal. This is not a big deal like the GOP doesn't appreciate public goods. Or, Democrats don't understand incentives. Or some other such second order debate that could reasonably concern us in different times. This is a failure of our basic institutions of production. The job of the market is to bring together willing buyers with willing sellers in order to produce value. This is not happening and as a result literally trillions of dollars in value are not being produced." Also, what Atrios said.

Also via Atrios, Robin Wells and Paul Krugman in the NYRB on why the slump goes on.

I wonder who wrote Obama's speech. You'd almost think he meant it, too. People told me it was a "barn-burner".

It's a free country: "Seriously, that's one of the worst I've seen and I've seen hundreds of these by now. The police entered his home without a warrant or permission and told him they were forcibly taking him to a hospital (presumably because the paramedics had reported the comment) then shot him repeatedly full of electricity when he failed to comply, even after his wife told them he had a heart condition. He broke no law, appeared fully in control, was sitting on his couch talking to the officers. That's something out of an East German nightmare circa 1954. But I guess you can see why the cops all over the country are saying their privacy rights are being violated by videos of their activities. It really hurts the ball team when stuff like this comes out."

Gerard Quilina, the head of Barclays Wealth Management's private-banking unit, says the monstrously rich are meaner than normal people.

"Our Long National Nightmare Isn't Over, It's Just Beginning [...] Obama and the rest of the cowardly and corrupt members of his party have guaranteed their own destruction, that's for sure, but that is likely the least unkind thing that history will say about them. If we think about where this all goes next, it becomes clear what these shallow punks are trading away for their pathetic self-interest and unwillingness to fight against treasonous criminals."

"Soldiers With Brain Trauma Denied Purple Heart." Grrrr.

"A Concord man was charged with describing how to make explosives, in an effort to bomb an abortion clinic, after FBI agents found instructions on the man's Facebook page and caught him in a sting, officials said Thursday. Justin Carl Moose, 26, is a self-described 'extremist, radical' and the 'Christian counterpart of Osama bin Laden,' according to an affidavit filed by FBI agents. Agents arrested Moose, who lives in a northwest Concord neighborhood, on Tuesday.

"One member of the DLC's executive council is none other than Koch Industries..."

Santa is just Mommy and Daddy, and God is just some liar with a telephone. I love this one.

So, anyway, Tony Blair has this book out in which he basically says he had no idea that war kills people and stuff. But, in the end, he still doesn't regret helping to midwife this mass murder, apparently. Irish people threw stuff at him.

I missed the Buckyball 25th Anniversary Google logo, but at least there's a YouTube of it.

"GOP Control Of Federal Trial Courts Has Increased Since Obama Took Office." We were told, of course, that we had to elect Obama to prevent this.

I don't know, but the Republicans may be doing us a favor by offering an alternative to approved Democratic Party candidates.

Help Stephen Colbert restore Truthiness.

Michael Moore's Labor Day greeting to Rahm Emanuel

"Which Side Are You On?"

Republican negotiation instruction video translated for the deaf.

The Doors at the Matrix, 1967.

15:30 BST

Monday, 06 September 2010

Call 'em what they are

Lots of people are talking about Kos' book American Taliban, which has a nice title that makes a perfectly legitimate connection between two groups promoting extremist, repressive ideology that attempts to represent the "correct" approach to religion in a genuinely destructive and anti-human way. And an amazing number of people would like to pretend that it just isn't accurate or fair to make that connection. Let's see, there's Jamelle Bouie in The American Prospect, for example:

Observant readers (or bookshelf scanners) will notice that American Taliban, the new book by Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas, shares its smiley-face cover art with Liberal Fascism, the controversial 2009 book by conservative writer Jonah Goldberg. Indeed, there is a sense in which American Taliban is the left-wing counterpoint or spiritual successor to Liberal Fascism. But whereas Goldberg sought to make a historical connection between American liberalism and European fascism for the purpose of "clearing the record," Moulitsas seeks to classify right-wing conservatism as a species of fundamentalist extremism, for the purpose of spurring progressive action.
Anyone who believes Jonah Goldberg merely wanted to "clear the record" is not someone who deserves to be taken seriously. And, though I am not Kos' biggest fan, I see no reason to doubt that he believes (as I do) that the parallels between the American right-wing and that of the Taliban are too close to be ignored. That they have not accomplished as much in America (yet) as the Taliban have in Afghanistan is not testament to their internal differences, but rather to the fact that in an America that still tries to cling to its liberal traditions (and isn't yet as chaotic and fully corrupt at ground-level as Afghanistan), they simply haven't reached the point where they can get away with being as viscously destructive and repressive. Never doubt that they would like to. Although Bouie apparently hasn't noticed:
Now, it's true that certain tendencies on the American right have analogues in fundamentalist Islam; for example, and as Moulitsas points out in his chapter on sex, right-wing conservatives share a hatred of pornography with fundamentalist Iranian authorities. Of course the similarities end there; conservatives boycott pornography, Iran punishes it with death.
Repressive authoritarians in any country usually get around to punishing pornography with whatever extremes the law allows, as a matter of fact - it's a death-penalty offense in China, as well, and you can measure the degree to which a country has become repressive and authoritarian by how far the law allows them to go in their attacks on pornography. The law, not the general ideology under which pornography is stigmatized and suppressed. The American right-wing wants suppression of pornography pursued with all the vigor that the law allows, and if they could get the death penalty for it, they'd do that, too. In America, the right-wing does not simply boycott pornography, they try to get people thrown in prison for it, too, knowing full well that the way America treats non-violent prisoners has amounted to a death sentence for quite a few of them. And that's despite the fact that our Constitution is supposed to guarantee freedom of speech.

American Christianists, like Saudi and Afghani and Pakistani Islamists, look for the most repressive ways to interpret their holy books and impose those repressive interpretations on law and the populace. And though Islam, like Christianity and Judaism (all three of which start from the same book, it should be remembered), has much more liberal traditions and adherents and has historically demonstrated a far less repressive character, it has become less tolerant as conservatives have funded the promotion of its most authoritarian and repressive strains. It should also be noted that as countries become more top-down and more corrupt, and as the general populace finds itself feeling increasingly helpless, these trends are exacerbated exponentially. Like what's happening in the United States lately. We're a country that was founded by Unitarians, Deists - but you'd hardly know it to look at us, anymore than you'd look at Iran and see it primarily as the cradle of the Bahá'í faith.

But then, the right wing doesn't always go on TV and explain in clear language what they really want, which is not religious liberty or any other freedom (especially for women). Be that as it may, they do run around quoting Biblical instructions to kill innocuous sinners with alarming frequency, and I don't hear them saying they think the Bible went over the top with that stuff.

But, really, this is someone who goes on to say:

Conservatives haven't actually gained from their willingness to bend and misrepresent the truth. For starters, Republicans are still deeply unpopular; according to a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, only 24 percent of Americans gave the GOP a positive rating, a historic low.
Ignoring the conflation of "conservative" with "Republican" for the moment, this is another entry in the long list of manifestly wrong ideas that are floating around among "sensible" people. Because, despite the fact that some 60-80% of Americans support liberal policies on most matters, the right-wing, by constantly pushing the envelope with crazy lies about how our system and the people in it work or are supposed to work, has managed to take control of the discourse to such an extent that it's actually bloody hard to convince some people that what they believe in are liberal policies, and to support the programs that would achieve those objectives. Moreover, it's not so useful that only 24% of Americans claim to like the Republicans when you probably can't find that many who will admit to being liberals. Add to that the number of good ideas and good words that they've successfully managed to turn into politically incorrect ideas and language and...oh, gods, do I need to go on?

I hear Matt Yglesias is also talking crap about Kos' book, but fortunately Tristero went after that so I don't have to, and I suppose it should not surprise me that Matt, too, believes this nonsense about how the right-wing isn't getting anywhere with their screaming and foaming at the mouth and lies. Really? Really?

Back in the '50s and '60s, liberals called right-wingers lots of names and made fun of them and also were right in your face about their policy goals and what to do to achieve them. There were even a few extremists on TV, along with some interesting clowns, (Abbie Hoffman and T-Grace Atkinson even made appearances, occasionally.) And, in that environment, liberals won the discourse on most issues. The right wing had to work very hard and spend quite a lot of money to reverse the trend of liberalism. And, to a large extent, they did it by stealing the ideas of the left - who used to have the best bumper stickers and some bloody brilliant ad hoc PR put together on a shoe-string. I mean, seriously, we always were better at this than they were. What happened?

Ah, hell, Digby has already said all this and everything else I was going to say, so read that instead.

Meanwhile, nice catch by Stuart and Jay over at Eschaton for picking up on sTiVo's analysis of The Third Way Menace that infests most of the Hill and infuses the White House. Yes, they really do believe in so-called neoliberalism, or right-wing Reagan/Thatcherism as the rest of us know it. It isn't any version of liberalism, of course, but they think it sounds better and perhaps even imagine that it isn't far-right conservatism, but that's what it is. Certainly, Jay is right when he says we are getting these policies not because the Republicans are forcing them on us, but because these are the policies the Democratic leadership actually want. There are lingering questions about the nuances of why they want them, but what they certainly don't want is better policies - they've gone out of their way to avoid them.

Glenn Greenwald is grateful for Alan Simpson's loose tongue: "His recent outbursts have unmasked this Commission and shed light on its true character. Unlike his fellow Commission members, who imperiously dismiss public inquiries into what they're doing as though they're annoying and inappropriate, Simpson -- to his genuine credit -- has been aggressively engaging critics, making it impossible to ignore what the Commission is really up to." (Glenn also did a highly linky post the other day enumerating the ways in which the Democrats seem to be working rather hard to be the right-wing party, and one on how the White House arranged to make NBC/MSNBC the embedded network on the fake end of the invasion and occupation of Iraq - and the fact that AP is refusing to use the White House's propagandistic vocabulary on the subject.)

I see that on the Labor Day weekend array of bobblehead shows, only one union representative was brought on to talk. So I guess we'll have to wait 'til 10.2.10 to see if the rest of us can change the narrative.

14:20 BST

Friday, 03 September 2010

Tales from the crypt

Ian Welsh talked to Jay Ackroyd on Virtually Speaking, and it was downright refreshing to hear someone speaking that frankly about what's going on.

Cenk gets a Republican to say, "It's gone!"

Oddly, Glennzilla does not mention in his list of people who predicted disaster if we invaded Iraq one of the foremost voices who was inexplicably dismissed and derided by the entire press corps, presumably because the man we had elected to be President of the United States is fat.

Digby: "The country is going to hell in a frigging handbasket because of bad decisions piled upon bad decisions, years in the making, and the White House acts like the country's various expressions of its fear and angst are inconvenient side trips that they just have to avoid or barrel through on the way to reelection. There's a very real sense that they just don't get it, which is, in my view, the thing that's making people very, very nervous. One person's cool under pressure is another's cold and indifferent."

Well, at least Alan Simpson can't say he wasn't told that the crap he spews about Social Security is bollocks. (Now, can someone tell Lawrence O’Donnell?) And, "Meanwhile, Simpson should be happy: Carson, whom he told to get back to him once she'd found "honest work!" is leaving her job as head of the Older Women's League (OWL) to be a senior staffer at the Senate Special Committee on Aging. Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming, was previously the chairman of that committee. Carson confirmed her new position to HuffPost but declined to comment." (via)

Krugman: "Why do people like me feel the need to revisit the fateful decision to go for an underpowered stimulus right at the beginning of the Obama administration? It's not about 'I told you so', or at least not mainly. It's about the economic narrative, which will matter long after the current players are off the scene. The way the right wants to tell the story - and, I'm afraid, the way it will play in November - is that the Obama team went all out for Keynesian policies, and they failed. So back to supply-side economics! The point, of course, is that that is not at all what happened."

Who Rules America? Well, you already knew that, but still. (And there is some useful advice, here, but it overlooks the point that social change agents on the right didn't have to devote all their time to social activism, but just hired a lot of people to do it for them, giving those people a huge investment in believing what they were saying.)

Charlie Brooker is contemplating chocolate bars and looking for buzzwords to use about right-wingers. I'm too lazy to send him the word on "cheap labor conservatives", but I don't think that's quite what he's looking for. But I agree that it's no use simply calling people "racists" or "bigots" when there's a whole lot more there to unpack that is most assuredly not being unpacked by the listener.

Once again, it turns out that the right-wing doesn't have a sense of humor, and some famous actor's tweeting is worse than Glen Beck.

I'm told that the NYT front-paged this bra earlier, although perhaps not now. While looking for it, I discovered that the NYT, perhaps trying to hide the fact that it's encroaching on my territory, automatically bumped me from their front page to http://global.nytimes.com. Grrr. Yet more evidence that our "communications" organizations are trying to break rather than enhance our communications.

All your base are belong to them.

Authentic and steampunky.

04:52 BST

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, September 2010

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