Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Keep on Turnin'

Bernie Sanders and Harry Reid have sent a letter, co-signed by 27 other US Senators, saying they oppose any cuts in Social Security to future or current beneficiaries in any deficit reduction package. (Don't know what the qualifier is at the end for.) Here's the letter. Look for your Senators' signatures. If they signed it, thank them. If they didn't, let them know you won't be voting for them unless you see their signature there.

"Support the undeserving poor" is a post well worth reading, although it leaves out the fact that giving "the undeserving poor" money also means they will be spending money, which means creating demand and thus creating jobs. I also liked this comment from the ensuing thread:

A point not made often enough is that "finding a job" isn't like "hunting a deer" or "planting a garden."

Finding a job actually consists of persuading an entity (another person or a corporation) to give you money in exchange for some effort on your part. There are things you can do to increase your chances, but in the end it isn't your decision. If the effort you have to offer is of no interest to such an entity, you're out of luck.

In addition, if the only entities who are hiring have decided to offer their employees a wage less than what they need to survive, or (nearly as bad,) a wage less than the lifetime needs of their workers (which is roughly 2x the cost of immediate needs) then to work for them is to effectively sell your "stock", your effort, below cost.

No business which is forced to sell below cost can survive, so why would anyone expect people to do so?

When charities and governments step in to make up the gap, through food banks and other supports, this is a subsidy to business. Not a metaphor, a real subsidy.


(This made me think about that idea of "running government like a business", too: What business would refuse to use it's purchasing power for negotiating prices on an enormous buy like Medicare Part D?)

It's possible that even Kevin Drum is beginning to suspect that we won't get "the other half of 'Simpson-Bowles'", since he's actually asking the question at all. Of course, you know the answer already, but just in case, Atrios spells it out.
And a word from the wise: "As I've said before, I used to be a bit more optimistic about the government giving goodies to older people, as older people vote and the baby boomers are hitting that age. I was worried about privatization, as that's something which could've been successfully marketed long enough to ram it through, but otherwise I thought things would be fine. Dean Baker offers an explanation for why the hell the Democrats aren't running on a plan to double or triple Social Security benefits. Might be true. Still, they'd better consider doing it or the other party might get the idea to do it. Running on a plan to do it doesn't mean actually doing it, of course, but....

Papantonio, "Merck Puts Profits Over Patient Safety: "The pharmaceutical industry has one of the scariest business models of any corporation. Before they release a drug to the American public, they found out how many people could potentially be harmed from that drug, and how much they will have to pay out in lawsuits. And as long as the profits of that company would exceed the losses from lawsuits, they will happily release harmful drugs to consumers. Mike Papantonio talks about a few examples of some of the most dangerous drugs on the market today with Martha Rosenberg, author of the new book Born With a Junk Food Deficiency."

Black Agenda Report
Harold Green: "African Americans have lost a great deal in the last four years: more Black household wealth has vanished than at any time in history, for example. Even more disastrously, Black America may have lost its moral and political moorings. 'With Barack Obama at the helm, we seem not to be concerned about continuing our legacy of resistance and fighting for justice.' We risk becoming complicit in the most heinous crimes against humanity."
Jamel Mims, "Stop-and-Frisk Should be on Trial, Not Us."
Bruce Dixon, "The War Against 'Excessive Pensions' For Govt Workers Is War Against Black Families, Prosecuted by Our Black Elite."
Glen Ford, "Obama and Romney: Brothers of the Same Imperial Lodge"

What I still want to know about these curious documents was why they were found in a meth house.

Empty chairs and missing signs in Ohio.

Good gosh, this looks like it might be a real presidential debate.
You gotta wonder how Romney was ever elected in Massachusetts.

This is just MoveOn being partisan, but it's still lots of fun - A Message from The Greatest Generation - audio is definitely not work-safe. (via)

"The Island Where People Forget to Die" - I read stuff like this and want to live there, even though I know I'd get bored really fast. But it does seem like a lovely way to live.

Bellflower, Part One - celebrating 10 years of the 'Verse. (via)

Ike & Tina Turner, "Proud Mary", 1971

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The sexiest man alive

Obama went Off the record until enough people complained and the transcript was released - in which he bragged about his certainty that he can finally get the Republicans to take Yes for an answer in a Grand Bargain. I'm with Susie: "I don't know about you, but this is only a 'bargain' to millionaire politicians. I'm not interested in sacrificing myself on the altar to the deficit gods. Nope. Particularly when cutting government services during a recession is a surefire way to stall a recovery, just like 1937 when FDR gave into the Republicans on deficit reduction."

Yet another Republican says odious things about rape. I swear, it's as if they are doing damage control for Obama - no sooner does he step in it than they come in swinging to punch themselves in the face.

What's Social Security worth? A lot more than people who "just" want to "adjust" it for people under 55 will ever admit. To generate the same amount of income they would be receiving from Social Security taken at age 70, the individual would have to pay $436,517 today into an immediate annuity, says Mr. Meyer. (via) See? It'll be easy for the under-55s to "plan for the future" when they've killed Social Security for you!

Sam Seder did a particularly interesting interview with Matt Taibbi on The Majority Report, where Matt talked about seeing how Russia became an instant oligarchy and then coming home to watch the same thing happening in America.

It happened on Wall Street, and in the pharmaceutical industry, too, and in the latter case it means that research just doesn't thrive.

There Is Always More To Lose. (But guess what! You are losing it anyway.)

Paying taxes to your boss: "I suppose there's a certain elegance to Republican thinking. Instead of giving your tax dollars back in tax breaks, why not let your boss keep it? Oh, and those services your money was supposed to pay for? Try not to think about it." No, really. From the story: "Republican Governor Tom Corbett is deciding whether or not to sign legislation that would require some workers to pay taxes to their bosses. Yes, you read that right. The bill, which would allow companies that hire at least 250 new workers in the state to keep 95-percent of the workers' withheld income tax, is an effort to recruit Oracle to the state."

Colorado voters may have the impression that the marijuana regulation amendment to the state constitution is legalization - but it isn't. "Regulation of marijuana, by definition, creates more prohibitions on the time, manner and place of marijuana use. Legalization would be the removal of all prohibitions on marijuana, but A64 doesn't even remove one criminal penalty from the books. A64 creates more laws regarding marijuana and empowers the Department of Revenue to create even more unlimited new rules and regulations regarding marijuana. A64 will result in more prohibitions on marijuana, not fewer." Spread the word.

That acceptance speech for the Human Rights Visibility award was kinda awesome.

Ana Popovic

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Think of six impossible things before voting

On this week's Virtually Speaking Sundays, Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel) and Stuart Zechman talked a lot about current foreign policy issues. The hour started with Culture of Truth's Most Ridiculous Thing from the Sunday talk shows, but Stuart thought there was something even more ridiculous when a journalist dropped a bombshell about a leadership policy of trying to get foreign leaders to talk to them so they can say they did everything they could to avoid a war before starting the war they want to start. Then, going back to what David Gregory thought was important, Stuart asked if there were actually legitimate questions about Benghazi. Marcy says there are, but those aren't the ones being asked (and that a really big problem in Benghazi was that there was no fire extinguisher in the safe room). Of course, she also said Obama shouldn't have violated the War Powers Act, that we have become inept at nation-building, that our allies don't trust us because we lie to them about what our intentions are - and before we go into these countries, we should separate dictators from the money they've stolen from their own countries and packed into western banks (money that is never returned to the people who've been looted). Meanwhile, the focus is on all the wrong things because the Republicans have decided to turn Benghazi into a political issue even though none of them are talking about the real issues in any useful way. So, an action-packed hour. (It's clear that Stuart respects Marcy's reporting and analytical capabilities - quite rightly! - so much so that he acted more as an interviewer than a co-panelist, but he's really good at that.) There was also a much more honest examination of the "recovery" than you'll ever hear on the Sunday shows - about the lack of one and the lack of an industrial policy. Among other things. (This encounter between Matt Taibbi and Chrystia Freeland with Bill Moyers may be helpful.)

Bmaz: "There are many symbols emblematic of the battle between the American citizenry and the government of the United States in the war of transparency. One of those involves John Kiriakou. Say what you will about John Kiriakou's entrance into the public conscience on the issue of torture, he made a splash and did what all too few had, or have since, been willing to do. John Kiriakou is the antithesis of the preening torture monger apologist in sullen 'big boy pants', Jose Rodriquez. And, so, people like Kiriakou must be punished. Not by the national security bullies of the Bush/Cheney regime who were castigated and repudiated by an electorate who spoke. No, the hunting is, instead, by the projected agent of 'change', Barack Obama. You expect there to be some difference between a man as candidate and a man governing; the shock comes when the man and message is the diametric opposite of that which he sold. And, in the sling of such politics, lies the life and fate of John Kiriakou."

"Marijuana Legalization More Popular Than Obama or Romney in Colorado." Once again, a policy that Americans increasingly support but that our politicians tell us is "not politically feasible". As with such overwhelmingly popular ideas as universal health care, we are told this can't be done because of "the political climate" - but isn't it long past time people immediately responded to such a claim by saying, "Are you telling me that most people in Congress are opposed to good policy and democracy?" (We know the actual answer to that question, but maybe we should be trying to force them to say it.)

"Coal Miner's Donor [...] The accounts of two sources who have worked in managerial positions at the firm, and a review of letters and memos to Murray employees, suggest that coercion may also explain Murray staffers' financial support for Romney. Murray, it turns out, has for years pressured salaried employees to give to the Murray Energy political action committee (PAC) and to Republican candidates chosen by the company. Internal documents show that company officials track who is and is not giving. The sources say that those who do not give are at risk of being demoted or missing out on bonuses, claims Murray denies." Telling them how to vote is also out there, but I won't be surprised if we start hearing about CEOs leaning over employee's shoulders to watch them fill out their ballots. (via) Of course, where that fails, it always helps if you "invest" in voting machines.

I generally love Charles Pierce, but I have to say I was puzzled and - honestly - somewhat offended - at an essay that blames me and not Obama for Obama's policy choices. I wasn't alone.

"Money & Public Purpose: Government is Not a Household: This second entry in the Money & Public Purpose series features Stephanie Kelton and Randy Wray debunking widely held misperceptions on the relationship of governments to the economy (for instance, that running surpluses is a good idea)."
Neoliberalism kills.
Why It is Essential That Criminal Bankers are Prosecuted

Brad Friedman, "GOP voter registration scandal widens." Gosh, I wonder how a whole bunch of GOP operatives all got the idea to commit election fraud at once.

Digby: "If I could ask a question it would be about the recent revelations that the DEA is operating in Africa, ostensibly because "narco-terrorism" is threatening Europe. I have to wonder if Americans agree that's such an important national priority that their grandmothers must eat cat food (skin in the game!) so that the Europeans pay a little bit more for their cocaine and hash."

Dr. Cornel West, who took part in an extended dialog with BAR executive editor Glen Ford, and a panel discussion featuring Margaret Kimberley, Jemima Pierre, Richard Wolff, P. Sainaith, Anthony Monteiro and Marsha Coleman-Adebayo got together and had a talk.

You know, there's a reason why Atrios keeps calling George Osborne The Worst Person In The World. But then, he's an exemplar of a special kind of person - the kind who thinks forcing poverty on his country is a good idea. And if you think it's safe to run away to Britain, think again.

RIP: George McGovern: "That fall, I continued to volunteer with the McGovern campaign doing some door-to-door canvassing. At the time, I was also a member of the WKU ROTC department, on an ROTC scholarship so that made for some interesting discussions in and out of the classes. Election day that year was a cold, rainy day in Bowling Green and I stood outside a voting location from 7AM until 4PM (polls were open 6AM to 6PM local time). I remember this one young woman campaigning with me who stated that she and her parents were all voting for McGovern because 'Nixon had gone communist' by visiting 'Red' China (as it was commonly known in those days). By 5PM, I was at the McGovern headquarters in Bowling Green and watched the networks call Kentucky for Nixon at 5:01 local (Central Standard) time when we still had an hour of voting. About the only election consolation we had was in the US Senate race, Democrat Dee Huddleston defeated former Governor Louie B. Nunn by nearly the same margin in the state that Nixon had defeated McGovern. Small comfort that as I wound up getting drunk that evening. While George McGovern lost the Presidential race in 1972, his career encompassed so much more. One of the 'pre-obits' I read this past week when his condition was first announced stated that he was one of the last of the 'Prairie Populists.' He was a war hero, having been awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross during WWII, who championed peace. I was and am proud that I cast my first presidential vote for Senator McGovern."

75 Tube Stations in One Picture Quiz. Kinda fun - some are really obvious, some take thinking about, many are real groaners, and there are several I haven't worked out yet. (via) If you ever manage to work them out, I suppose you could play the game. Thanks to Moshe for the tip.

3:15 of kinky sex. Or maybe not.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Through the sacrifice you made

Glenn W. Smith was a guest on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd, talking about Social Security and a lot of other stuff.

So, the only person who asked Obama about HAMP was Jon Stewart, and Obama's answer was to brag about bad loan modifications and the appalling settlement that let the banks off the hook for their criminal activities. Meanwhile, in the debate, no one wanted to talk about the deficit except the candidates.

Gaius Publius, Lame Duck Social Security cuts: Take action now - Find the pressure points to do what we can to head off any meddling with our group insurance.

David Cay Johnston has a new book out, The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use "Plain English" to Rob You Blind.

Daniel Ellsberg tells swing state voters, "Defeat Romney, Without Illusions about Obama." So, he's saying up front that Obama's not our friend.

Richard Kline: Progressively Losing. There's a lot of stuff that's interesting and true in this, but there's also a lot that seems to be a direct buy-in to right-wing memes. Like the idea that the middle-class beneficiaries of the New Deal had nothing to do with pushing the progressive social agenda. Like Hell.

Romney tells your boss to tell you how to vote. This kind of thing can get really serious in a world where it's possible to cast your vote from home - or the office, where the boss can look over your shoulder.

I have to admit to confusion when suddenly everyone starts talking about Golden Dawn. Oh, I see.

Just in case you don't recognize references to Pottersville and Bedford Falls, you may want to read the synopsis for It's a Wonderful Life.

Liz Warren's ad

Taliban vs. 14-yr-old blogger: "On Tuesday, al-Qaida's propaganda arm al-Sahab, issued a three-page communique in Pakistan's tribal areas, laying out a justification for the shooting. It is rare for al-Qaida to feel the need to explain an attack, suggesting that the group feels pressured by the strong backlash against Yousufzai's shooting.'The girl was part of an agenda perpetrated by the (British Broadcasting Corporation) to run an organized campaign against jihad, Islamic Sharia and purdha or veil,' a previously unknown commander, Ustad Ahmad Farooq said in a statement in Pashto. 'Now when she was shot, from Pakistan to the United States, everyone is crying about it.' Yousufzai came to public notice for writing a blog supporting the schooling for girls and women for the BBC. Jihad refers to a religious struggle, which a minority of Muslims interpret as an armed fight against the enemies of Islam." The evils of repressive governments are a matter of degree, but not necessarily a matter of kind.

I won't be wearing this bra, although it claims it could save your life.

I guess most of you will have to find a proxy server to watch Ray Davies - Imaginary Man, but if you live in the UK, you can watch it now and learn a whole bunch of interesting things.

"Goodbye, Eddie, Goodbye"

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The purpose of voting

Something I think I've mentioned before, and that Stuart Zechman and I talk about privately, is that without the New Deal framework, social progress goes down the drain. It was that New Deal framework that made social progress movements possible, and that's why the arch-conservatives and Big Business banded together to destroy it.

And it's working. It is already difficult-to-impossible to obtain local access to abortion in most parts of the United States. It is not only difficult but damn-near illegal to protest in public. And even where you can legally protest, you get diverted, attacked, and arrested anyway. The relationship between your politics and your ability to obtain or keep a job is increasingly so strong that anyone who isn't on board with the arch-conservative program is terrified to make any statement that can be interpreted as economically liberal in the hearing of anyone who might make their employer aware of it.

These things add up, especially in an environment where "equality" means little more than an equal shot at no jobs.

And this is why, above any other issue, I am on board with Stuart when he says:

Restoration of the New Deal framework is my priority policy agenda.

This is because I am convinced that social liberalism's successes, e.g. civil rights, the successes of liberation movements (sexual, women's, etc.), intolerance with respect to security state regimes, etc., follow from the small-d democratic, economic and cultural empowerment of the majority of ordinary citizens. The history of the 20th century is the history of the balance of powers created by such a modern liberal-democratic framework, and the "culture of liberty-entitlement" that such empowerment produces in populations of otherwise reactionary-agricultural or labor-competitive citizens.

Without the New Deal, or a New Deal-oriented governing framework, there is no liberal democracy, only oligarchy. Without liberal democracy, the cultural forces of popular reaction take hold in American populations, and social liberalism's creativity has little value in solving the problems faced by ordinary folks under plutocratic rule. Without liberal democracy, majority literacy itself is at risk.

Bedford Falls' economy's culture produces the broad acceptance and (therefore) legality of privacy rights. Pottersville's economy's culture produces the broad rejection of and (therefore) illegality of natural selection being taught in public schools. One comes before the other. In post-19th century capitalist America, there can be no civil rights, and no dominance of individual liberty without first securing the economic rights and democratic power of the majority against "the old enemies of peace."

Of all of the policy agendas I support, such as limiting executive power, expanding privacy rights, de-industrial militarizing of America, reforming the justice system, inhibiting poverty creation, etc, there is a preference order, with "Restoration of the New Deal Framework" being at the top. My vote will therefore reflect what I believe to be the priority policy agenda for movement liberals.

Yes, because the New Deal framework is fundamental to any other social liberty.

I know that my vote, in Maryland, will have no impact on the election. Barack Obama will win handily. Stuart can reasonably expect the same of his vote in New York.

So what can my vote accomplish? A vote for Romney would be wasted even if I thought it would slow the Grand Bargain train to elect Romney. (And, you know, it might - it might be that since Obama is more competent and less likely to be fought by his own party, he will be best suited for wrecking Social Security, and thus Romney would be the better choice. But I have no say in that matter.) All a vote for Romney says in Maryland is "one more person who wants right-wing government". A vote for Obama would also be meaningless, since it could just be interpreted as support for his odious, anti-democratic, hateful policy of wrecking the New Deal.

To the extent that my vote can have any impact at all, it is that it makes a statement, and the statement I want to make is that I do not support the policies of either of these two chiselers. I want it to be clear that when I don't vote for Obama, it isn't because he was "too liberal". Jill Stein is on the ballot, so I'm voicing my choice for someone who supports the New Deal. I know she won't win, but at least I will have made an "official" public statement that not everyone is happy to let the oligarchy have its way.

A note about Making a Statement: I know the party leadership is not listening to the people, and neither is the establishment media. It doesn't matter what I say to them. But as I have long noted, it's important for ordinary people to talk to each other, to make clear that whatever appears in the headlines does not necessarily reflect what most people think. I noticed a long time ago that people around me simply assumed that everyone agreed with whatever was in the headlines of the Daily Mail, even though there were several issues on which it was clearly difficult to find anyone who agreed with them. If people don't talk to each other, they don't know what their neighbors really think. So I won't be casting that vote to influence the election (it can't) or to speak to my undemocratic leaders or the press, but to talk to my fellows instead, and say I don't support right-wing government.

It might be another matter if I lived in a swing state. Then I might have to ask myself if a Romney win might actually be beneficial. Would Democrats rise up and make noise if Romney tried to wreck Social Security? Would word spread and cause Republican voters to call Congress and demand that they vote against any such plan? I wish I knew. But what I do know right now is that rank-and-file Democrats seem to be sleepwalking their way to the gas ovens behind Obama's leadership, and I don't like it.

The question for voters in a swing state isn't between policies, because the policies are not really different. The question has to be: Which one is more likely to be able to get it done? And then vote against that bastard.

Here's Stuart:

The primary purpose of voting is neither protest nor symbolism.

The primary purpose of voting is to influence the viability of priority policy, either in the long, medium or the short term.

A vote's potential value is maximized when priority policy made the most viable in long, medium and short terms as the result of an election in which that vote's designee carries.

When the priority policy is likely to be immediately and negatively impacted by all candidates' likely future administrations' agendas, one must assess the likely degree of negative impact of potential administrations' successful agenda execution, and vote for the candidate whose administration is least likely to successfully execute, both in political and policy terms.

Therefore, the immediate choice for voters confronted by candidates whose election would likely result in the pursuit of harmful policy agendas is between which particular candidate's future administration is more likely to fail in such pursuit, whether due to incompetence, the political circumstances likely to be created by election results, or a combination of both.

I will be voting for the candidate whose election is most likely to result in the failure of that candidate's agenda with respect to priority policy, which I believe to be the restoration of the New Deal framework, i.e. "good government." The evidence seems to be that both candidates would pursue --in different ways-- further degradation of the New Deal framework.

At this time, neither candidate has yet convinced me that their administration would be more likely not to deliver their intended policy agenda, given the probable circumstances of their successful election.

Now, the idea that Romney will be less competent at destroying the New Deal is just a fantasy. In fact, Romney is very good at getting what he wants. Just read what Greg Palast had to say in The Nation about Mitt Romney's Bailout Bonanza (or listen to him telling Sam Seder about it on The Majority Report).

But if I really believed Romney couldn't pull it off, yeah, I'd be saying vote for Romney, because I know Obama wants to round-file the New Deal, and I think he can do it. And then we're screwed, because the New Deal framework is fundamental to any other social liberty.

* * * * *

Yves Smith says, "It's Time for a Tax to Kill High Frequency Trading: It's frustrating to know that there's a simple solution to a serious problem but no one seems willing to do the obvious." The serious problem is High Frequency Trading, electronic front-running, which happens to be illegal. But the SEC won't stand up to it, and Tom Harkin and Peter DeFazio have introduced legislation to tax it out of existence. They want a .03% tax, although Yves says even .01% would do it, since that's more than such transactions make. It wouldn't hurt real investment, and it would get rid of a highly destructive process. (via)

What are the chances that anyone at the WaPo or the network news programs will be accurate about the Social Security COLA?

Did I mention yet that "tweaks" are slashes? "It has been estimated that for the lowest 20 percent of couples, their wealth is reduced by 18 percent. The highest comparable income group has a reduction of eight percent. Any higher taxes on the rich or battery plants in Michigan will be cold comfort to those in benighted circumstances absorbing a retirement age tweak. [...] Much has been made of Republicans' flagrant disregard of truth. And Lord knows they deserve it. But what of their counterparts? I suggest that if Democrats are honest, they would a) acknowledge their own exaggerations of the program's difficulties, and b) spell out the impact of their purported "tweaks." After all, if Romney ought to spell out how his magical tax proposal reduces rates and recoups all lost revenue, shouldn't Democrats do the same with respect to their Social Security reform nostrums?"

Charlie Pierce on Paul Broun and What the Democrats Cannot Do - It can't be true that Democrats can't put up a candidate against a legislator who even other Republican voters thinks is crazy.

At the Tory conference: "At a moment when the Conservative faithful recognise that their party is on course to lose the next general election to a rabble of leftwing zombies, they see Boris as the fat white hope, Joan of Arc, Francis of Assisi, El Cid, Superman, Indiana Jones."

Lies about "socialized medicine" and Social Security are an old tradition.

The Bill O'Reilly vs. Jon Stewart debate, 2012

Getting the details on the Romney Tax Plan.

It is the Future, Here is Your Jetpack.

Star Wars in Manuscript (via)

Books read: Snuff by Terry Pratchett. He hasn't lost his touch.

Monday, October 15, 2012

You've got to pick up every stitch

I'm feeling better, but still not good. I didn't look very hard for links, but I found some anyway.

This week's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays were Dave Johnson and Jay Ackroyd; (Culture of Truth's Most Ridiculous Thing on the Sunday Talkshows was also presented.) They discussed the interesting way the Chinese have been put in a position to bleed our own economy dry by undercutting our industries, among other things. (I couldn't help thinking of Solyndra. Now that they've killed the project, they can jack the price back up any time they want....) They also talked about the source of all evil, the Powell memo. Whenever anyone tries to tell you it's all just an unhappy accident, remember, this was the plan.

Seems the most important news last week was that Jack Welch tweeted that the administration was making up their "improved" job numbers, which meant that everyone had to explain why Welch was nuts. And I don't just mean Krugman - although of course the establishment media had to explain that Welch was no right-winger, even though Welch is indeed a right-winger. That'd be the same Jack Welch who told Tim Russert to call the 2001 election for George Bush, even though it was unlikely Bush had won. But think about this: The big subject for the media, as a result of this one tweet, was pretty much all about how Obama's "great" job numbers were really great job numbers.

Jay Ackroyd on Self-Regulating: "It's all the rage. The centrists who rule us believe we can rely on powerful private interests to just do the right thing. That's a central theme in Neil Barofsky's Bailout--that bank CEOs had reputations that they would want to protect and so could be trusted not to further abuse the public good."

Just what kind of police work is is this? "St. John said investigators did plenty of homework on the residence before deciding to launch the raid but didn't know children were inside." They also thought there was a meth lab there, but there wasn't. They also thought they knew how to use as flash bomb, but they didn't. Homework? I don't think that word means what they think it means. Via Atrios.

*sigh* I can still remember when we had hopes that Fitzgerald would try to get to the bottom of things. "So Fitzgerald structured this case so as to avoid mentioning - much less admitting - that at its root lies a bunch of men guilty of torture. At its root lies the effort to hide the identity of torturers, and CIA's efforts to punish those who brought that to light. If I'm right, and Tate is in that chain of people who exposed the identity of some torturers, then that's part of what Kiriakou's after: to show that he was simply involved in an effort to expose torturers. A whistleblower."

While it is a good thing that someone at least made this criticism of the debate questions, there are still significant flaws in the article. One is with the phrase, "In a mostly exemplary performance," of a performance that included the question, "Let's talk about Medicare and entitlements. Both Medicare and Social Security are going broke and taking a larger share of the budget in the process. Will benefits for Americans under these programs have to change for the programs to survive? " Of course, anyone who knows the first thing about Social Security knows that it is not going broke. (I've only given a quick scan to the transcript, but I didn't see Biden disputing this lie, either.) Still, I am forced to quibble with this: "He claimed, falsely, that the Obama administration changed the status quo on abortion. ... In fact, there has been no such change." Not explicitly on abortion, no, but there has been a change in the status quo, and it is an assault on religious liberty, although not the way Ryan claims. The assault has been on the religious liberty of everyone whose religion does not oppose reproductive rights. And a perfectly good reason to be appalled at the way the Democrats have "protected" reproductive liberty and religious freedom.

"Don't Buy It - The metaphor-speak on the economy generates reactions - or non-reactions - that harm rather than help. Watch your language.
"Hippie punching for dummies: "The poster says, 'The quotes are real. They came from Obama administration officials, Obama himself, Organizing For America staff, Obama supporters, newspaper columnists, various bloggers, progressive activists, and progressive critics.'"

It's a funny thing about Republicans now complaining about sequestration, given that it was their idea. It's particularly funny to hear Ryan complaining about it, since he wrote and voted for the bill. Democrats split down the middle on it, 95-95, and 95 Republicans voted against it, too. But 174 Republicans voted for it, and, oddly, they seem to be the ones complaining about it now while trying to pretend it's all someone else's fault
Meanwhile, why isn't the DCCC trying to defeat a Republican who wants to poison your air and water?

The Justice League of the Ottoman Empire

Yes, it's that time of year again, so go listen to "Season of the Witch" and then, if you have any, throw a little dosh to Susie for all the great work she does.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Bleary-eyed posting

I have one of those colds where I can barely read because my eyelids are too heavy. This doesn't mean I sleep, it just means I'm bored a lot. I mean, I could go to bed with my Pratchett book, but my eyes just do not want to stay open for anything, even Terry. I don't know how I'll file my ballot papers since I can't read them. So here are some links I started to collect when i could still see:

We do have a presidential candidate who is talking tough on a genuinely difficult issue. She's also the first Jewish presidential candidate.
One of the ground-breaking innovations of Obama's "signature triumph", the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, aka ACA), is reduced nursing home care in Tennessee.
The Curious Case of the Part Time Worker: The BLS Jobs Report Covering September 2012

We all know that Romney's tax proposal can't work - but what is Romney's tax proposal? And why did Obama misstate it?

Find the secret code words for "Social Security Cuts".

The "why Obama lost the debate" genre is of some fascination to me. Here's Doug Henwood's contribution "What do liberals stand for these days? Damned if I know. It's not a philosophy you can express in aphorisms. (Yeah, politics are complex, and slogans are simple, but if you've got a passionately held set of beliefs you can manage that contradiction.) Too many qualifications and contradictions. They can't just say less war and more equality, because they like some wars and want to bore you with just war theory to explain the morality of drone attacks, and worry about optimal tax rates and incentives. Join an empty philosophy to an empty personality and you get a very flat and meandering performance in debate. Romney believes in money. Obama believes in nothing."

CMike has been kind enough to supply the remarks of Presidents Johnson and Truman on the occasion of the signing of Medicare: "Not one of these, our citizens, should ever be abandoned to the indignity of charity. Charity is indignity when you have to have it. But we don't want these people to have anything to do with charity and we don't want them to have any idea of hopeless despair."

Theodore Sturgeon once had a dry spell, and in desperation, wrote to Robert A. Heinlein about his writer's block. The response was as generous as could be. Via Mark Evanier, to whom we send our condolences over the loss of his mother. I'm glad you have such fond memories of her, Mark, and no big regrets about your relationship with her. That's worth more than gold.

Monday, October 8, 2012

I shall be released

Joan McCarter (McJoan) and Digby were this week's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays.

Federal appeals court upholds early voting in Ohio
PA counties misinforming voters about photo ID law

Among the many advantages Europe has in keeping its abortion rates low is that they start giving good sex education very early. The other, of course, is easy access to contraception, which should be a no-brainer, but apparently you need some brains to work this one out. Laws against abortion, of course, do not stop or reduce abortions, but they do kill women. I say people who want to ban abortion should be put on the spot about this: "How can you call yourself 'pro-life' when you won't do anything that reduces abortion but you want to kill women?"

Scott Brown gets photographed in scanties and becomes a US Senator. A woman models underwear when she's 18, and years later gets fired from her job as a high school guidance counselor. Even though she'd already disclosed her prior career when she was hired and everyone knew about it. What causes this? (via)

Scalia would probably have an easier time of it if he'd just read what Jefferson and his pals actually wrote instead of trying to read their minds after death.

Matt Stoller had a number of things to say about the debate and why the media can now get the horse race it wants, and this:

The reason Obama did poorly is simple. He is bad at governing America. He hasn't solved the foreclosure crisis, the jobs crisis, the climate crisis, the energy crisis, the financial crisis, the debt crisis, the health care crisis, or really, anything. He can't point to very much that Americans broadly like, except killing Bin Laden and the auto bailout. His second term agenda is to cut Social Security, Medicare, frack, cut corporate taxes, bust more teachers unions and pass more neoliberal trade agreements. He is proud of this record. So are his people. But he knows he can't run on it because it's unpopular, so instead, he presented himself as a nice likeable guy.

He frequently complimented Romney, agreed with him on most core policy arguments, and just generally avoided pointing out the many times Romney was lying. He didn't bring up social issues like abortion, or really, any weak spots for Romney. He tried to present himself as a fighter for the middle class, but he doesn't actually respect people he perceives have less strength than he does. Obama believes in pity for the middle class, not respect. Nor does Obama like Romney. So Obama came off passive and unpersuasive, making a case he didn't believe in. It's like George W. Bush, who couldn't put two words together fluently unless he was talking death and destruction, and then he was a virtuoso rhetorician. Obama is at his best when he is talking about himself and his family, because that's what he likes and believes in. That's why his 2008 campaign worked, because it was all framed around Obama The Savior. It was mass narcissism (and even then, he only narrowly beat John McCain). If you're wondering why Obama is a bad speaker now, where the old Obama went, just recognize that he's only a great speaker when it's all about him, because that's where his interest is. The talent is there, the character, not.

Mike Lofgren in The American Conservative on the Revolt of the Rich:
Stephen Schwarzman, the hedge fund billionaire CEO of the Blackstone Group who hired Rod Stewart for his $5-million birthday party, believes it is the rabble who are socially irresponsible. Speaking about low-income citizens who pay no income tax, he says: "You have to have skin in the game. I'm not saying how much people should do. But we should all be part of the system."

But millions of Americans who do not pay federal income taxes do pay federal payroll taxes. These taxes are regressive, and the dirty little secret is that over the last several decades they have made up a greater and greater share of federal revenues. In 1950, payroll and other federal retirement contributions constituted 10.9 percent of all federal revenues. By 2007, the last "normal" economic year before federal revenues began falling, they made up 33.9 percent. By contrast, corporate income taxes were 26.4 percent of federal revenues in 1950. By 2007 they had fallen to 14.4 percent. So who has skin in the game?

If you formalize it and do it right up front and in public, it's not called bribery. We do this with large and small things, and pretend that's not what it is.

I really don't find it at all surprising to hear that an Obama campaign official threatened an NAACP employee who was critical of Obama. It's bad form, but not surprising.

RoboRomney Agrees with you! (But I can't understand why Dave says he needs a new category on his blog. He's been running that blog for over a decade, and liars have been a constant feature of the political landscape. He only noticed now?)

LBJ presents first Medicare cards to elderly couple

Landscape Photography by Aly Wight
Glass Sculptures by Robert Mickelson
Landscapes by Patrick Hamilton

I'd forgotten all about this, but it's nice to see the Smothers Brothers do one straight.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The root of all evil

Neil Barofsky was the guest on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd. Some of you will remember that Borofsky was the Special Inspector General for oversight of TARP, and his book, Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street, actually had warring reviews in the NYT (here and here) - which didn't hurt its sales at all, but may tell you a few things about how personal everything is. (Yves had a good take on the NYT hit piece.) [I have to admit to being a bit baffled by the audience reaction (in chat), where no one seemed to remember the crucial role one man played in saving TARP from oblivion. TARP was about to die from lack of interest (it had been widely - and justly - derided when first introduced), when Senator Barack Obama broke off in the middle of his campaign to rush back to Washington and browbeat Democrats into getting it passed. I keep trying to remind people of this - Bush couldn't get it passed, but Obama saved the day for him. However, no one wants to remember.] More background: "Companies that received bailout money giving generously to candidates."

My Twitter feed told me the other night that Romney wants to fire Big Bird and Charlie Rose. I try not to see too much Obamabottery in my feed, but I do link to a couple of people who tend to retweet people who go all-partisan in moments like this, and there was a lot about Romney lying. Someone noted that it was hard to disagree with Romney's position since he took all the positions on every issue. But plenty of people observed that Obama's performance was lackluster at best, and that Romney took the commanding role on stage. The clips I've seen certainly back that up. And, perhaps most tellingly, Obama seemed to have no come-back to anything Romney said, no matter how easy it would have been to drive a truck through it. Robert Reich wondered why Obama didn't go after him on Social Security, but I think Obama answered that question when he said that they mostly don't disagree on those issues. Reich's longer reaction is here. And, of course, Atrios is right. Sam Seder and Ari Berman agreed that Romney won the debate, and wondered where "the aggressive Obama" was. (I dunno, maybe nothing to say if there are no good opportunities for hippie-punching?) Ari was there to talk about voting rights, where the news is better than it was.

From Suburban Guerrilla, "They bring good things to life: Boy, this pisses me off. This is the company of Jeff Immalt, the head of Obama’s jobs council, which is supposed to figure out how to foster job growth - in America. He’s famous for closing plants, laying people off and cutting wages and benefits - and then moving operations to other countries."

"Unmasking the most influential billionaire in U.S. politics: The most influential billionaire in America is Peter G. Peterson, whose misleading campaign to 'reform' traditional social welfare programs has subtly set the terms of the Washington debate." Subtly? Is that a joke? (via)

Chris Floyd, "Pay in Blood: The Bipartisan Terror Machine Stripped Bare: In the category of 'the sky is blue,' 'fire is hot' and 'the sun rises in the east,' the Guardian reports on a new study showing that Washington's murderous drone killing campaign in Pakistan is 'counterproductive.'"

Teresa Nielsen Hayden has a follow-up to her previous post now that a former TSA agent has publicly said, "We steal from travelers all the time." Teresa reminds us: "This is the organization that has obsessively confiscated insufficiently small bottles of shampoo and hand lotion, made travel a nightmare for families whose toddlers' names happen to match names on the ever-expanding no-fly list, and had the expensive new high-tech scanners they developed rejected by potential customers in German airport security because they generate too many false positives. What doesn't the TSA do? Standard investigative work. Standard site security."

No one should ever have to write a post like this, but we live in a world where sometimes these things just have to be said.

Spurious Thomas Jefferson quotations (via)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

This is your leadership on drugs

On The Majority Report, documentary filmmaker Eugene Jarecki (@EugeneJarecki) joined Sammy to talk about his new film, The House I Live In, a history of the failure and abuses of the War on Drugs. This is a good one to listen to if you are at all concerned about the devastation caused by the drug war and the enormous expansion of a prison system that is scooping more and more Americans into its maw. Another gift to you from bipartisanship. You can watch the trailer at the movie's website.

The Greater Evil - Democrats and Republicans conspire together to wreck the New Deal: "First, senators would come to an agreement on a deficit reduction target - likely to be around $4 trillion over 10 years - to be reached through revenue raised by an overhaul of the tax code, savings from changes to social programs like Medicare and Social Security, and cuts to federal programs. Once the framework is approved, lawmakers would vote on expedited instructions to relevant Congressional committees to draft the details over six months to a year. " ("social programs like Medicare and Social Security." Leaving aside the fact that the only real savings from Medicare will come from finally telling the medical and insurance companies that they can't keep treating health care like a gravy train, we're not talking about savings at all, we're talking about theft, here.)

I guess Krugman is trying to sound reasonable, offering excuses for why Bowles-Simpson is such bad policy, but the fact is that the commission never needed to happen in the first place. Congress voted against having their own commission when Obama tried to push them into it, so he put together his own instead - with Pete Peterson. The commission couldn't even agree enough to put together a report. There was no "environment" in which this was necessary, it was just what Obama wanted to do.

Over at Naked Capitalism, Lambert posted a video of L. Randall Wray and Michael Hudson talking about Modern Money And Public Purpose: The Historical Evolution Of Money And Debt: "It's usually considered the start of Western civilization, but what people think is the start of Western Civilization was the falling apart of Near Eastern origins of civilization, of this economy that had been put together in a very well-organized economy, and all of a sudden instead of the public institutions, you had local chieftains occurring, and in Rome, very soon you had the aristocratic families overthrow the kings, and the functions that were in the public sector in the Near East all of a sudden were taken over by private families - let's call them the Mafia, because that's basically what the Roman oligarchy was."

Or, in the modern world, you could say "Privatization was invented by the Nazis." (via)

Dr. Duncan Black says in USA Today that "U.S. needs paid family leave." (Also, what Atrios said.)

"We're All In This Together," By A Republican Standing In Four Feet Of Floodwater [...] "I guess I'm just rethinking my whole philosophy about the relationship between the individual and society as a whole. We don't just create every opportunity for ourselves by hard work and sheer willpower. We exist as part of an interdependent network of people - real human beings whose basic needs should be our concern, if we want to be a part of a society. That's why I truly believe we have to move beyond the selfishness of pure capitalism, and why I think you all should let me on your raft so I don't die." (via)

I know I posted this chart for a few years ago, and it looks a bit different for the OECD in 2010, but one thing hasn't changed: Americans spend a lot more money on healthcare and get a lot less back.

Lady Parts Diagram

Norman Spinrad tries his hand at saying what Lenny Bruce said about those forbidden words, only with some historical context.

World's first colour moving pictures discovered.

This is your artist on drugs. (via)

Tor/Forge E-book Titles to Go DRM-Free.

Thanks to all our friends for helping with the migration, and special thanks to Richard for installing the blogroll.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Change and no change

As promised by JS-Kit, Echo comments have disappeared from The Sideshow, so I guess I'd better start a new post for you here so you can talk. And here it is!

If you listened to me and Stuart and Jay on Virtually Speaking Sundays this week, you heard mention of Conor Friedersdorf's "Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama." The dialog is going on - Freddie at L'Hote is on the same page and reacts directly against partisan arguments for voting for Obama in "You're either with us or against us ," where he says:

The time has come again for the liberals to attack those on their left. Such things are cyclical, like the coming of the cicadas. This is interesting timing because the liberals I know and read are very, very confident that Obama is running away with the election. And this itself is interesting, as the typical justification of the rampant redbaiting and Peter Beinart-style calls for purges of the unfaithful is that we're in a trench war, here, people, and Charlie is everywhere, and so if the Democrats were to nominate Zell Miller your job would be to shut the fuck up and support him as he destroyed everything we believe in, because it's a two party system. But, now, see, because they think that their guy is winning, it's also not the right time because... well. You know. It's never the time. They are, in every sense, kept people, owned by a party and its leader, and they have given away every part of themselves that is capable of critical thought.
Click on the links he supplies and be astonished.

VastLeft has a briefer response to one of those, of course, with American Extremists: "You catch more flies". Or maybe this covers it.