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Sunday, 30 September 2012

More often than not

This should be the last post here on my own hand-coded pages, and I'll be delighted to wave good-bye to Echo comments. So, it's off to Blogger, with a slight change to the official title and a bit fewer of my personal decorating touches: From now on, look for me at:

Avedon's Sideshow

It appears I will be standing in for Digby on Virtually Speaking Sundays, with Stuart Zechman unless his new baby takes him over. Jay Ackroyd will be on hand in any case, so I won't have to talk to myself.

Thomas Frank joined Sam Seder on The Majority Report to discuss the disappointments of Obama's first term.

I rag on Ezra Klein a lot (because he deserves it), but his "What Mitt Romney Doesn't Get About Responsibility" is actually pretty good.

Sometimes I just can't believe the weak tea I am offered as the reason I must vote for Obama. Cannonfire is telling me that Obama's order against torture might (or might not) be revoked by Romney, so, since absolutely no one is being tortured right now.... "Vote on Tuesday; protest on Wednesday." Yeah, that's worked real well for the last four years.

Amanda Marcotte: "Forget What You've Heard. Abortion Does Not Hurt the Democrats." What hurts Democrats is not dealing with the idea that the only help available from the government goes to the poor, blacks, and "the undeserving". And Democrats do not help with their focus on helping "the poorest" rather than everyone.

It's well worth going over to Newsrack and reading Thomas Nephew's "Outgrowing Booker T. Obama".

Charlie Pierce goes after Rahm Emanuel in style: "Of all the several good reasons for wearing a bag over your head while voting for the incumbent, curious staffing decisions are one of the more overlooked. Handing the financial sector over to some Wall Street lapdogs. Listening to Bob Rubin on anything. Putting the deficit commission in the hands of lobby-slick Erskine Bowles and the Undead Alan Simpson. But as far as I'm concerned, chief among these reasons has to be the current president's putting the spectacularly overrated Rahm Emanuel in charge of the White House staff. Emanuel hasn't breathed a breath of air in public service when he wasn't a self-aggrandizing and nasty bit of work. So it was with some glee that I noted on Thursday evening that a judge in Chicago handed Mayor Rahm his head on a stick as regards the "model" response of the mayor and his police force to the Occupy movement in that city. And he did so with a flourish...." Via Atrios, who said: "It should go without saying (but it doesn't) that hostility to nonviolent public protests is hostility to democracy, hostility to the nobler parts of our history, hostility to our constitution and the right of free association, and basic contempt for the idea that the proles should have any meaningful way to express their grievances."

Gaius Publius reminds us that there are ways to make a point. You never know, it could be fun.

Keep this one handy: "Obama Wouldn't Have Done That (OWHDT). OWHDT is an ironic tag for the countless awful, conservative things Obama will do that - had they been done by Romney - would have been used to shame lefties who didn't vote for The One.

I can't tell from this whether Labour plans to put the NHS back together, but I have a feeling these aren't the people to tell private interests that, no, they can't suck up the gravy train.

Damon Runyon explains the stock market and Jon Corzine

Eric Anderson

17:26 BST

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Stupid economies

I blame Confucius for the Law of Comparative Advantage, which seems to suggest that because one country may be better at producing olives than another, that country should produce all the olives and the other country should have to buy from them. Or something. It also seems to suggest that producing olives more cheaply is more important than getting really good olives. And, presumably, that one country becomes dependent on the other for its olives, since it has ceased to produce its own.

Modern economists appear to worship this Law, and even some people I otherwise respect treat it as gospel. But you can see where it begins to stink.

I blame Confucius (rather than just Ricardo), because he's the guy who proliferated the idea that women shouldn't defend themselves since men are bigger and stronger and can do it for them. You can instantly see the flaw in this if you ask yourself who, exactly, it is that men are supposed to be defending women from - and, as Ali Sheldon reminded us, that's other men.

But somehow the idea caught on, and even martial arts developed by women for the purpose eventually became the province of men, and then the idea that if men failed to protect "their" women, they were dishonored. And the best way to eradicate the dishonor turned out to be some form of eradicating the woman, sometimes just by killing her, sometimes by marrying her off to her rapist, sometimes by disowning her from the family and polite society.

As you can see, Confucius' protection racket didn't really work out that well for women, as the Shoalin nuns who created gong foo might have warned.

The moral of this story is that the real advantage comes to those who grow their own olives and teach their daughters to kick the crap out of anyone who tries to take comparative advantage of them.

* * * * *

On Virtually Speaking A-Z, Jay Ackroyd and Stuart Zechman discussed the sources of our leadership's destructive economic policies, and also whether Romney's is the most mendacious presidential campaign ever. That last is a very popular campaign approach right now among "progressives", along with the attacks on the Romneys as plutocrats - but is it true? Or is it just all the Obama campaign has to run on? Because Obama sure can't run on his record.
On The Z-Files, Stuart asks you to "Imagine, if you will, that the only food that people have to eat comes from McDonald's." But he's really talking about health care. The unexpurgated text is here.

Atrios is in USA Today saying "Why not drop money out of a helicopter? The Federal Reserve should give people free money. People would spend this money, increasing demand for goods and services, causing employers to hire additional workers to meet this increased demand and reducing unemployment in the economy overall."
Back at his own place, Atrios notes a startlingly bald piece of New Gilded Age rubbish in Forbes ("Holy entitled crap, batman") that has the added virtue of being a "We Millennials Suck" article, too. Like the "We Boomers Suck" and "Those Boomers Suck" articles, they are meant to stir resentment between the generations, perhaps allow those aging hippies to point and say that These Kids Today are, y'know, crap. But I don't know anyone, of any age, who sounds like the jerks in this article, and I doubt many people do. Because most people can't afford to think that way. But we know who can, right? And it runs in the family, across generations.

In moocherville, the people who use the most local resources (paid for by state and local taxes) but pay the least for them are the rich. The people who pay the most are the poor.

Isn't it odd that The Washington Post keeps leaving out the central issue in Why the Mideast Exploded, Really. Oh, wait, it's The Washington Post.

Bernie Sanders on the Senate floor telling us that, "poverty is a death sentence," because life expectancy is going down for less educated whites. And that's not even taking account of the fact that suicides have replaced car accidents as the leading cause of injury-related death in the U.S.
And Bernie is worried that it's going down: "'That's exactly what's going to happen,' Sanders said of Social Security being on the proverbial table, 'Unless someone of us stops it -- and a number of us are working very hard on this -- that's exactly what will happen. Everything being equal, unless we stop it, what will happen is there will be a quote-unquote grand bargain after the election in which the White House, some Democrats will sit down with Republicans, they will move to a chained CPI.'"
Clearly, Liz Warren means something different from what the White House means by the phrase "balanced approach."

Gaius Publius says "Obama may cut Social Security benefits during Lame Duck session following election: Not good. After November, Obama will never again face the electorate. He's free to do as he wants. The Lesser Evil is still evil, folks. If you vote for it, it's your job to save us from it. [...] Barring an open Democratic office-holders rebellion, this is starting to look like a done-deal. Even Nancy Pelosi, judging by her words, is on board as well." Too bad we don't have someone like Josh Marshall to do what he did when Bush tried to mess with Social Security - but that guy seems to have been replaced by Democratic partisan who isn't interested in protecting us from evil policies. Remember, folks: When they say "chained CPI," they're saying, "Wreck Social Security."

Jacob Hacker was on The Majority Report talking to Sam about "prosperity economics". (It's worth becoming a member to hear the members-only portion of this show, which cracked me right up.) He also spoke last week to Michael Grunwald (about his article "One Nation on Welfare"), David Dayen about the news, and Kristina Rizga about education reform.

Did you know America is importing thousands of lower-paid health care workers from countries that can't afford to lose them, rather than take control of our own crazy health care education system?

I was over at Making Light and saw Patrick recommending some links, one of which was from UP with Chris, which I watched, and kept watching when they started talking about the right-wing's perception of the racial story of Barack Obama, how blacks and certain whites voted for Obama's symbolism rather than for anything about him that was of substance. And I thought, "Are they wrong?" (But absolutely do not miss the clip of Irish president Michael D. Higgins reaming out a right-wing radio hack on his own show.)
Teresa collects stories of airport theft by and with the connivance of airport "security" and the TSA.

Culture of Truth says this is the most ridiculous thing that happened on the Sunday talk shows this week.

Many people credit Hollywood with moving the culture on gay issues, but the right-wing makes movies, too, and they're pushing the charter school "movement" as if it's something teachers support. What's it all for? Union-busting and segregation.

Even CNN knew that finding the ambassador's journal in Libya was news, but the Obama administration issued a scathing attack on them for doing their job.

The Drugs Don't Work: How the Medical-Industrial Complex Systematically Suppresses Negative Studies.

"And then, THEN, something even more miraculous happened - the original poster apologized."

Among the many fabulous opportunities to win a free iPad I am offered, this one seems legitimate if you live in the UK: Take ThinkBroadband's Big Broadband Survey.

Beautiful picture, Wisconsin.

"Summit Avenue Rag" makes me feel real good.

17:00 BST

Sunday, 23 September 2012

I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know

Tonight's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays are Joan McCarter (McJoan) and Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel).
Glenn Carle, 23-year veteran of the Clandestine Services of the Central Intelligence Agency and author of The Interrogator, an Education, was the guest on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd. The Interrogator is out in paperback in October.

Drone warfare's deadly civilian toll: a very personal view: "I was minutes from ordering a drone strike on a Taliban insurgent - until I realised I was watching an Afghan child at play."

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship: "Like everyone else, we watched the movie of the week - that clandestine video from Mitt Romney's fundraiser in Florida. Thanks to that anonymous cameraperson, we now have a record of what our modern day, wealthy gentry really thinks about the rest of us - and it's not pretty. On the other hand, it's also not news."

Elizabeth Drew on "Voting Wrongs: The Republicans' plan is that if they can't buy the 2012 election they will steal it. [...] Having covered Watergate and the impeachment of Richard Nixon, and more recently written a biography of Nixon, I believe that the wrongdoing we are seeing in this election is more menacing even than what went on then." Via this startling post - well, startling to me, anyway.

Best Care Anywhere: The best quality health care in America is being delivered by a government bureaucracy.
Top 25 countries with the world's best healthcare systems

Ohio: Trustees reject symbolic statement on fracking and home rule - Pruning Shears reports.

Alan Grayson: "Hoover said that he believed in private charity, not government handouts. He predicted that government programs like Social Security would destroy private charity, 'one of the most fundamental of inspirations in the spiritual growth of the family or individual.'"

America's biggest deadbeats: Mitt Romney, Donald Trump.

"A Conservative History of the United States" is amusing in its way, but Jack Hitt must be younger than I thought if he doesn't know that blacks were in the party of Lincoln before they switched to the party of Lyndon. Via Mark Evanier, who is also having Contracting Pains. Oh, and a letter from Groucho to Woody Allen. (And, I already knew that big corporations don't pay taxes - and even get more money back from the government - but I was surprised to see that the person saying so is Bruce Bartlett.)

One advantage of having lost so much readership during the If-You-Don't-Love-Obama-You're-A-Racist primary campaign of 2008 is that I don't have many paid trolls in my comment threads. Yves Smith's timing was better, so she's getting a raft of them and having to institute moderation policies.

Who will Homer Simpson vote for?

Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency: Fredric Wertham Versus William Gaines On Decency Standards - read about it, and you can even hear the audio!

"I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know"

17:05 BST

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Gravity loves you

This interview is called "Greg Palast on How the GOP Is Planning to Steal the 2012 Election ," but ...

Because Democrats are in on it, too, and that's the sick, sad truth. In New Mexico, a solid Democratic state where Latinos are half the citizenry, Bush carried the state and the GOP has the governor's mansion. Why?

Because the Hispanic Democratic elite of that state don't want no poor folk voting - or jackasses like Bill Richardson would never win a primary. When I called the secretary of state, Becky Vigil-Giron, to ask why, in one poor Hispanic precinct, there was not a single vote for president recorded, she told me that, "Those people can't make up their minds."

"Those people." I'm glad to say she's on her way to prison. But she's a Democrat.

So, Republicans and Democrats steal votes from the same people: the poor and voters of color.

But on a strict numerical scale, 90 percent of the victims are Democrats, though they are victimized by both parties.

Neil Barofsky: Another Financial Crisis All But Inevitable.

I don't know what's more remarkable - the fact that the "Public Editor" at the NYT is actually suggesting that the newspaper ought to pay more attention to conveying actual facts to the readership, or that this is an issue at all. Well, a few years ago I guess the latter, but, sadly, these days it is the former.

Mitt Romney says there are a lot of lazy people who don't want to have to "take responsibility" so they will vote for Obama. I expect Catfood Commission freeloader Erskine Bowles may also be voting for Obama, since there are rumors Obama plans to appoint him to something else he can wreck. Dean Baker reports.

So, GOP candidate backs labor, and labor backs GOP candidate. On the Democratic side, we have Rahm Emmanuel. Hm.

Atrios says, "Rich People Don't Need To Work At All: Some rich people work, but the whole point of being rich, or being a 'maker,' is that you don't have to do anything. You have a pile of money. You invest it, or pay other people to invest it for you. You earn income from it. You don't need to labor at all. And these people have convinced themselves that they're the real workers of the economy. They can't go Galt soon enough. "
Also, Big Media Duncan has an election-season gig writing his crazy liberal ideas online for USA Today: "We already have an excellent, if not especially generous, program in place. Workers contribute during their working lives in exchange for a promised benefit level during their retirement years. This program is called Social Security. Instead of considering some exciting new program to try to encourage workers into saving more, another Rube Goldberg incentive contraption designed to nudge individual behavior in the right direction, we should increase the level of retirement benefits in the existing Social Security program." Atrios is really good at making "centrist" ideas sound just as ridiculous as they actually are. You see, there's no nuance needed.
Also via Atrios, Stories Newsweek might as well be publishing. Well, in a way, they are, they're just more subtle about it. So far.

I've posted the full text of Stuart Zechman's Z-Files: Separation (about how Obama and NARAL sold out women in a move that erases even more of the 1st Amendment's protection of religious liberty), at the other blog, for those who'd rather read (or be able to copy-paste). For those who missed it the first time, the video is here.

And yes, Dancin' Dave has been dancing again. You can see Mr. Gregory thinks himself a cool dude.

American Extremists: Attention spam

Back in the days before we admitted that virtually the entire political press corps is bought and paid for, Elton Beard wrote this about Mickey Kaus. Today, I'd say this applies just as well to the Democratic leadership, and I think it's all pretty deliberate. They are a nest of cuckoos.

Chris Hedges: "A public that can no longer distinguish between truth and fiction is left to interpret reality through illusion. Random facts or obscure bits of data and trivia are used either to bolster illusion and give it credibility, or discarded if they interfere with the message. The worse reality becomes -- the more, for example, foreclosures and unemployment sky-rocket -- the more people seek refuge and comfort in illusions. When opinions cannot be distinguished from facts, when there is no universal standard to determine truth in law, in science, in scholarship, or in reporting the events of the day, when the most valued skill is the ability to entertain, the world becomes a place where lies become true, where people can believe what they want to believe."

Sam Seder sat in for Chris Hays this weekend on UP.

KipW is unimpressed with the NYT correction below. "That's no correction! THIS is a correction!"

I've been having a Kelly Hunt fest. She's real fine.

16:05 BST

Sunday, 16 September 2012

People are talking

Tonight's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays will be Avedon Carol and Gaius Publius.

Gaius shares my feeling that the Chicago teacher's strike is an important action and we should all be supporting the teachers - so why are "liberal" pundits backing the bosses?
There's a bit of a duet been going on between Mike Papantonio and Gaius, and Pap liked Gaius' contribution so much that he did an entire segment on it. It's good, but it neglects to mention that one of the institutions the crazy billionaires have taken over is the Democratic Party, which is just as crazy, but in a different way. The policies are the same as the crazy-end GOP's, only with a slightly more benevolent tone. (Let's not forget that "truly needy" used to just be a conservative phrase, hatched to create a contrast with all those supposedly untruly needy who were getting too much help, just as "Social Security Crisis" is a term created by rich anti-New-Dealers, as is the idea that reducing government jobs or "entitlement" benefits - a policy regime Obama is proud of and eager to build on - is good for our econonomy, just as using the term "entitlements" is one of their tools.)

The Chicago teacher's strike is exposing more and more of Corporate Media's War on Public Education.
"A federal judge permanently blocked enforcement of a law signed by Obama late last year that included vague language allowing the military to detain US citizens indefinitely. The judicial response to the NDAA was fast and firm, siding with the plaintiffs in a 112 page ruling holding that the law's vague language needs immediate clarification because it endangers reporters or activists based simply on research, speech or associations that should be protected by the First Amendment."
"7 Groups the FBI and Corporations Have Classified as 'Terrorists' [...] You know who is not on this list? Anti-abortion extremists who have actually murdered people."

Here's Stuart Zechman's Z-Files: Separation - reminding me once again that, far from protecting reproductive freedoms, Obama has actually made right-wing religious extremism part of our law - and that Oboticism on the part of establishment-entrenched NARAL helped him out.

Escape your search engines Filter Bubble. Use this instead.

Good news and bad news: As previously noted, Echo has a notice up at the top of comments saying, "This commenting widget will be discontinued on October 1st, 2012." And I have concluded that the only workable solution is to simply move over to Blogspot. A good thing about that is that Atom comments far surpass Echo in quality. There is also the fact that there are a number of things Blogger does for me that I won't have to do anymore, which means I won't mess them up anymore. The bad thing is that people who click a link to one post will be less likely to see other posts from that same month, since a link to a Blogspot post only takes you to that one post. And, I still haven't figured out how to create the blogroll on the new Blogger thingy that doesn't seem to want to show me the template and just let me patch them in. (And where do I put my statcounters?) I would be very grateful for some help on making up the sidebar.

The New York Times makes a correction.

Illustrations by Nithin Rao Kumblekar
Paintings up close by Dennis Wojtkiewicz and edible art by Den Cretu
Photos by Marina Stenko

17:16 BST

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Ready to grumble

Panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays were David Dayen and Cliff Schecter.
On Virtually Speaking A-Z, Stuart Zechman and Jay Ackroyd discussed whether the Romney campaign is really all that much more mendacious than usual, or whether something else is going on - in the press.
Stuart Zechman explains Third Way in print, and in audio, in The Z-Files.

Digby was Sam Seder's guest on The Majority Report. And on Tuesday's show, Rick Perlstein talked about Chicago teachers struggle against Rahm.

Thanks to commenter ks who recommended this very good interview of labor organizer Jane McAlevey by Laura Flanders.

A whistleblower who told the IRS how UBS was helping US tax cheats was, of course, hit with a barrage of false charges by the Obama administration and sentenced to 40 months before he was awarded $104 million by the IRS for his help, but spending time in prison for doing the right thing makes that award bittersweet, says Marcy Wheeler.

Pierce on the voting mess: "You know when it all went bad? When a bunch of Republicans congressional staffers got on Enron jets and flew to Florida, whereupon they engaged in riotous behavior that intimidated the Dade County election supervisors into stopping a legitimate recount of votes and not one of them was hauled up on charges of violating the Voting Rights Act, even though their identities were so well known that they were all feted at a subsequent Republican victory dinner. Nothing happened to the people who ran that mugging, either."

At Under Cover Waitress, the voice of labor rising. "And yet, what sit-down restaurant can operate without a waitress?"

Voter ID is no problem - if you're a multimillionaire celebrity

"Study: Young people consider news to be garbage and lies" - and useless.

Wells Fargo Even Sorrier After Second Time It Foreclosed on Wrong House. Since these people own the house free and clear, it is amazing that Wells Fargo keeps "accidentally" foreclosing on it and stealing all the contents. And all they have to do is issue an apology, because they have a licence to steal.

A few weeks back I was talking about all those "lazy" unemployed or retired people who are living large on government money - and what I meant, of course, was the imaginary people who could find a job in a minute if they would just get off their posteriors and put their noses to the grindstone, but the wisdom of the day has it that they are just too "entitled", cushioned as they are with "taxpayers' money" they supposedly don't "deserve". Meanwhile, apologists for this deliberately job-poor economy claim the problem is "structural" and just requires everyone to brush up on education and new skills. But the jobs just aren't there, and that led Wendell Dryden to thoughts about what education can achieve.

People allude to slavery a lot, but maybe people need to be reminded of what slavery actually is: "I keep asking people what is the worst denial of freedom you can think of? Slavery. And what is slavery? One human being - a private person, not the government - literally owning another person as a piece of property. The government is not the only entity that can deny your freedom. Other people can too. But I would go one further. It is the role of the government to prevent people from denying other people their basic freedoms. After all, that's what the government does when its police prevent crime, is it not? And yes, the government does that by restricting the freedom of those that would deny it to others. It puts the person who robs you behind bars. That's what government is for." Also: Another part of the medical industry that you probably didn't know you paid for.

So, is Ta-Nehisi Coates saying it wasn't time to elect a black president? (via)

Remember: September 11th, 2001, was an enormous opportunity.

Wow, even jurassicpork got too fed up with Obama to throw more barbs at the GOP.

The Promiscuous Reader drew my attention to this old quote: "WHAT SOME WOULD HAVE PREFERRED: 'Now, I know there are some who would have preferred a protracted political fight, even if it had meant higher taxes for all Americans, even if it had meant an end to unemployment insurance for those who are desperately looking for work.' The assumption here is that he would have lost the fight. It's pretty much always Obama's working assumption that he will lose any fight. And then, funnily enough, he does."

Ten reasons why Barack Obama does not deserve your vote

Congratulations to Roz Kaveney for the great review of her book in the Guardian.

Jack Kerouac's hand-drawn cross-country road trip map from On the Road

Storm of Swords - It Gets Better

17:12 BST

Sunday, 09 September 2012

"All the colors of the rainbow, Stanley"

Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report and Avedon Carol joined Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd to talk about the corrupting influence of Obama on liberal politics and related issues, and the massive incarceration rate in America and how it devastates the black community and America as a whole. Related links:
Glen in BAR, "What Obama Has Wrought [...] These are world-shaking works of Obama-ism. Even Obama's 'lesser' crimes are astounding: his early calls for austerity and entitlement-axing (two weeks before his inauguration) and determined pursuit of a Grand Accommodation with the GOP (a $4 trillion deal that the Republicans rejected, in the summer of 2011) reveal a politician intent on ushering in a smoother, more rational corporate hegemony over a thoroughly pacified civil society. Part and parcel of that pacification is the de-professionalization of teaching - an ambition far beyond de-unionization. Of course, Obama begins with the delegitimization of Black struggle, as in his 2004 Democratic Convention speech ('...there is no Black America...only the United States of America.') To the extent that the nation's most progressive, anti-war constituency can be neutralized, all of Obama's corporate and military goals become more doable. The key to understanding America has always been race. With Obama, the corporate rulers have found the key that fits their needs at a time of (terminal) crisis. He is the more effective evil."
Back when Obama knew he needed the support of black progressives, he distanced himself from the DLC although he was clearly being groomed for it.

I realize it's true that Eisenhower really was to the left of Obama, but what's this thing about being Eisenhower Democrats? (Also: Van Jones apparently exists to siphon off left enthusiasm for the sake of you-know-who.)

Sam Seder said Rahm gave the worst speech of the Democratic convention on Thursday's Majority Report. Jack Hitt and Kevin Baker reported live from the convention. Sam's guest on Wednesday's show was Matt Taibbi, talking about Mitt.

If you make one tiny little mistake with your bank, they charge you far more than that mistake was worth. If they make a mistake that costs you all of your household contents, no big deal.

Kip W in comments adds more to the private-public auto-censorship regime: A friend on Usenet has a very talented son who plays piano in a small classical combo. He put some performances up on YouTube, and they've been blocked by a recording company that claims they're 50-year-old performances by one of their groups. They got it put back up, and the company blocked it again. Can't reason with a dog in the manger, even if it's not his manger.

After Bucking Federal Judge On Early Voting, Ohio Secretary Of State Ordered To Appear In Court

Sandra Fluke made a good convention speech. I wish Obama deserved it.

The Island paradise of the Maldives threw off a dictatorship and elected a man of the people - but when he left the corrupt judges of the previous administration in place, he made it easy for a coup to put the dictator back in power. The Obama administration quickly approved. Meanwhile, a whole island is a rubbish tip.

Even Matt Yglesias knows that We're not out of money.

You know, for a minute during Deval Patrick's speech, I almost forgot what was going on and thought, "Yeah, that sounds like a real liberal!" - and then suddenly he started talking about the "accomplishments" of Barack Obama. This is the same Barack Obama who promised Democrats - Democrats! - that he hopes to shove the recommendations of Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson's letter down America's throat, despite the overwhelming opposition of almost everyone. That president said, "Now, I've cut taxes for those who need it, middle-class families, small businesses. But I don't believe that another round of tax breaks for millionaires will bring good jobs to our shores, or pay down our deficit. I don't believe that firing teachers or kicking students off financial aid will grow the economy, or help us compete with the scientists and engineers coming out of China." But he also said, "You can choose a future where we reduce our deficit without sticking it to the middle class. Independent experts say that my plan would cut our deficits by $4 trillion. And last summer, I worked with Republicans in Congress to cut billion in spending because those of us who believe government can be a force for good should work harder than anyone to reform it, so that it's leaner, and more efficient, and more responsive to the American people. [...] Now, I'm still eager to reach an agreement based on the principles of my bipartisan debt commission." That'd be the Pete Peterson-sponsored party that mostly just wanted to gut Social Security but still couldn't agree to those "principles" because some people recognized that they were evil and wouldn't support them.

"DNC Platform Change Vote Was Predetermined On Teleprompter, Delegate Voting Was Merely For Show: Controversy erupted at the DNC this week when Democratic party leaders forced a party platform change to reinstate language proclaiming Jerusalem as 'Israel's undivided capital,' and to reinstate references to God in the text. The motion had to be voted on by a two-thirds majority of the delegates for passage, and it became clear, after several vote calls by LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a major majority did NOT want the platform changed. Confused on how to proceed, the Mayor looked to a woman who came out and advised him, 'Just keep going, they're going to do what they are going to do.' The mayor then pronounced, 'in the opinion of the chair, two-thirds have voted in the affirmative,' provoking boos from the large crowd. Well, now Fox News is showing footage of the DNC teleprompter the Mayor was reading from. It shows that the two-thirds majority needed for the passage of the motion had been predetermined by party leaders, with complete disregard for how the delegates actually voted. Apparently, they forgot to tell the Mayor in advance that the vote was merely for show; that the only results that mattered were written on the teleprompter." Ah, Democracy.

Boy, Mike Flannigan has really had it with Obama. And, yet, he still can't tell that Obama is not "a moderate Republican", but a pretty far-right Republican.

Paintings by Annick Bouvattier
Spooky 3D Lenticular Images by The Saline Project
Photos of the South Devon area by Kim Aldis
Illustrated photos by Dave Hill

APOD: Wisps Surrounding the Horsehead Nebula
Airglow over Italy
The Pleiades Star Cluster
Halo of the Cat's Eye

The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again": just the bass

12:02 BST

Wednesday, 05 September 2012


A lot of people were pretty happy that there was going to be live coverage of the Hugo Awards ceremony on Ustream, and then you were going to be able to see it later, too. But copyright enforcement robots killed the Hugo Awards just as Neil Gaiman was accepting his award - and, inexplicably, Ustream never fixed it once the error was reported. Their apology was unsatisfactory for those who were eagerly watching and waiting. And I'd still like to see Neil's and Jo's speeches. (Congratulations to both!)

Meanwhile, Scripps News had to walk back a take-down order against NASA (that YouTube complied with!) on footage of NASA scientists celebrating Curiosity's landing. "Congress sought to achieve a balanced process with the DMCA's takedown regime. Some critics charge that regime was already too favorable to copyright holders. But with Content ID, YouTube has allowed major content companies to opt out of even the minimal safeguards of the DMCA. Content ID gives content companies the power to unilaterally remove content. There's no apparent penalty for those who take down content carelessly or recklessly."

Now, I can feel another rant about the public-private Third Way censorship regime bubbling up; however, I'm somehow unable to put it into coherent sentences as yet. But I'd love to ask Declan McCullagh if this is what he was aiming for....

* * * * *

Because of the holiday, there was no Virtually Speaking Sundays this week, but Culture of Truth did write his Most Ridiculous Thing about the Sunday's talk shows, and Jay Ackroyd recorded it here.
The audio of Stuart Zechman's Z-Files: Extremists has also been posted at BTR. The unexpurgated text is here. (And after you check that out, a note on your infinitely cunning Democratic Party.)
Also posted, Stuart's Z-Files on Equivalence - you know, there is false equivalence, but there's also real equivalence? And the full text is here.

David Dayen says the Democratic Party's platform on housing is dishonest nonsense: "The Republican platform on housing at least had the honesty to reject principal reduction. The Democrats pretend it doesn't exist. And they certainly don't appear to show any awareness of the continuing damage caused by the mortgage industry. Republicans mentioned that they don't want to unfairly advantage homeowners vis-a-vis renters, and they re-upped a commitment to low-income housing. There's absolutely nothing of that here. This platform plank borders on the offensive."

Some basics on the economy: "there are fewer jobs, and what new jobs have been created are worse. They pay worse."

"'Drink Less, Work More', Billionaire Tells Non-Rich." Because she worked so hard for her inherited wealth.

There are several interesting things about this editorial of a few weeks ago, one of which is that Mississippi voters firmly rejected an abortion ban - and, of course, legislators ignored them and passed one anyway. A federal court blocked it, but what interested me is that Glenn Greenwald drew the article to my attention as an example of The New York Times publishing something liberal about abortion. It's such weak tea it hardly qualifies as liberal, but at least it isn't foaming at the mouth against abortion, which I guess in these bizarre times is very nearly "liberal".

Now, what would make Barney Frank viciously attack a fellow Democrat over his activity regarding the TARP bill?

"Desmond Tutu: Why I had no choice but to spurn Tony Blair [...] On what grounds do we decide that Robert Mugabe should go the International Criminal Court, Tony Blair should join the international speakers' circuit, bin Laden should be assassinated, but Iraq should be invaded, not because it possesses weapons of mass destruction, as Mr Bush's chief supporter, Mr Blair, confessed last week, but in order to get rid of Saddam Hussein?"

We have a long history of disliking John Solomon, going back to his days as a "reporter" for The Washington Post and AP. It seems he has continued to be fishy.

Educational playing cards: 52 Shades of Greed

The conversation Tim Leary had with John and Yoko at the Montreal Bed-In

Additional WorldCon-related links:
Announcing the 2012 Hugo Award Winners (with photos)
Neil Gaiman's speech suggests he is apparently writing another Doctor Who episode.
See a photo of this year's Hugo design here, with an explanation by the designer.
Promo video for the London 2014 WorldCon

Lily Tomlin as Judy Beasley, with a family problem.

17:12 BST

Sunday, 02 September 2012

Summer had inhaled and held its breath too long

Michael Hudson, posted at Naked Capitalism, makes it clear that sucking the life out of cities is a feature, not a bug:

Wall Street's War Against the Cities: Why Bondholders Can't - and Shouldn't - be Paid

The pace of Wall Street's war against the 99% is quickening in preparation for the kill. Having demonized public employees for being scheduled to receive pensions on their lifetime employment service, bondholders are insisting on getting the money instead. It is the same austerity philosophy that has been forced on Greece and Spain - and the same that is prompting President Obama and Mitt Romney to urge scaling back Social Security and Medicare.

Unlike the U.S. federal government, most states and cities have constitutions that prevent them from running budget deficits. This means that when they cut property taxes, they either must borrow from the wealthy, or cut back employment and public services.

For many years they borrowed, paying tax-exempt interest to wealthy bondholders. But carrying charges on these have mounted to a point where they now look risky as the economy sinks into debt deflation. Cities are defaulting from California to Alabama. They cannot reverse course and restore taxes on property owners without causing more mortgage defaults and abandonments. Something has to give - so cities are scaling back public spending, downsizing their school systems and police forces, and selling off their assets to pay bondholders.

This has become the main cause of America's rising unemployment, helping drive down consumer demand in a Keynesian nightmare. Less obvious are the devastating cuts occurring in health care, job training and other services, while tuition rates for public colleges and "participation fees" at high schools are soaring. School systems are crumbling like our roads as teachers are jettisoned on a scale not seen since the Great Depression.

Yet Wall Street strategists view this state and local budget squeeze as a godsend. As Rahm Emanuel has put matters, a crisis is too good an opportunity to waste - and the fiscal crisis gives creditors financial leverage to push through anti-labor policies and privatization grabs. The ground is being prepared for a neoliberal "cure": cutting back pensions and health care, defaulting on pension promises to labor, and selling off the public sector, letting the new proprietors to put up tollbooths on everything from roads to schools. The new term of the moment is "rent extraction."

Read the rest.

* * * * *

Cenk Uygur's interview with Matt Stoller about how auditing the Fed actually happened - not your usual too-short interview, it actually has background that explains what the Fed is supposed to be doing and the politics involved in getting the audit passed - and why the President of the United States has enormous power to do what he wants, and that's just what he's doing. Highly recommended.

Sam Seder did an interesting interview with Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein on The Majority Report, and since I have already decided that I can not vote for Obama, I'm thinking she made a good case for her program and for not voting for More of the Same, and looking at her web site I see that she's on the ballot in my state, so I can vote for her, unless I decide to vote for Rocky Anderson (who I can write in).

Much thanks to CMike who, I guess questioning whether blacks are "more imprisoned than they've ever been", provided a link to Douglas Blackmon's presentation about his book, Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. I do recommend that you click that first link and listen to the talk if you possibly can; it's not just illuminating, but has some remarkable emotional moments. And this story is one worth bearing in mind given that today we already have cases of judges sending kids to jail so that the prison industry can make more money, and work gangs reappearing as well as many prison programs where prisoners are working for little or nothing for commercial interests, and we're even seeing more and more stories of the "workfare" version all over the country (and Boris even has one going in London). As the crusade to depress wages pushes on, varying versions of slavery are reappearing all over the "civilized" world, it seems, though so far it has usually taken a subtler form - a sort of "kinder, gentler slavery," you might say, with fine phrases to dress it up to seem like something "responsible" or frugal, rather than what it really is.

Why is the "disorganized single-mother" meme skulking around the pages of the NYT? Maybe they've all read Charles Murray's latest propaganda....

I seem to have missed this at the time, but last year Stuart Zechman wrote about the infrastructure bank scam all the "progressives" are telling us we should support.

A nation of men, not laws: "The U.S. government said Thusday that it had closed its investigation into the alleged torture of more than 100 detainees held by the CIA in overseas prisons, and the deaths of two men who died while in CIA custody, without prosecuting anyone. [...] Former CIA director Michael Hayden applauded the decision to close the inquiry."
And, "The U.S. Attorney's Office has closed its long-running abuse-of-power investigation into Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio - without any charges to be filed."

The NYT made a calculator that doesn't include my favorite ways to improve America's fiscal health, such as a national health care system and a transparent and open process for price-setting; raising the standard deduction dramatically (so people have money to spend, thus creating demand, thus creating more jobs and more profits we can tax); lowering the retirement age to 55 (same reason); enormous taxes on enormous wealth (I figure anyone who makes a billion dollars should be paying at least 200% - they should be afraid to make that much money!); and restoring all the government-provided services to their former state of being handled directly by government employees (instead of outsourcing/privatizing or just eliminating them). Still, they do give you some options, and some people handle them better than others.

We won't get what we want just by voting for Obama anymore than women got the right to vote by voting for it.

Taibbi on Mitt's jihad against debt: "But what most voters don't know is the way Mitt Romney actually made his fortune: by borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back. This is the plain, stark reality that has somehow eluded America's top political journalists for two consecutive presidential campaigns: Mitt Romney is one of the greatest and most irresponsible debt creators of all time." (via)

Bad: "Bank of America hasn't modified one mortgage since settlement."
Good: "A federal judge said Wednesday he would permanently remove harsh restrictions on third-party voter registration groups that have handicapped registration efforts in Florida this year. U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle said he would grant a motion to permanently remove the restrictions once he receives confirmation that a federal appeals court has dismissed the case (the state of Florida has agreed to dismiss their appeal)."

What Elizabeth Warren said about Chris Christie's keynote speech. (via)

Texas photo ID law and redistricting map struck down by federal court.

Well, I had no idea about The Forbidden Corner of Middleham. Looks like fun. (Er, you can book here.)

Believe it or not, every year there's a contest to interpret a T-shirt design into a cake. Here's an entry from this year, Bad Bad Walker. And this one is so beautiful it's hard to believe the creator could bring herself to eat it afterwards.

And, finally, congratulations to Stuart Zechman and his Lovely Bride on the birth of a baby woman!

14:10 BST

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, September 2012

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