16 March 2013

When your head tells you to run

Avedon Carol and Joan McCarter (mcjoan) are this week's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays.
This week's guest on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd was Los Angeles Times Business Columnist Michael Hiltzik, about his book, The New Deal: A Modern History, "and the public understanding of Social Security and Medicare as 'safety net' for US citizens most in need, when they were intended to set citizen funds aside in a safe place where they can't be 'lost' by private sector institutions in 'panics' or 'bank failures' or 'bubbles' or 'depressions.'" (Background for people who like to do a lot of reading: Stock Exchange Practices. Hearings before the Committee on Banking and Currency Pursuant to S.Res. 84 and S.Res. 56 and S.Res. 97.. a.k.a the Pecora Commission hearings, 1932-1934. And for deep background, Horace Greeley Hjalmar Schacht.) I highly recommend that you listen and that you pass it on.

The Republican strategy continues to succeed: "DC's Worst-Kept Budget Secret: Lots Of Democrats Support Entitlement Cuts" That's a headline from Josh Marshall, and everyone's talking about it now.

Sperling spills it: "Just FYI, Gene Sperling said today on his Reddit chat that the president really prefers the Chained-CPI and that it's not just an inducement to get the Republicans on board with the Grand Bargain. This may sound obvious, since it's been clear from before the inauguration that the administration wants to "reform" the so-called entitlements. But Sperling made it clear today that they believe in this on the merits."

Even Nancy Pelosi keeps talking like chained CPI could be reasonable, but the Progressive Caucus is showing signs that they don't want to play ball. They've produced their own budget plan, which so far even people like Yglesias admit is better than all the other proposals. But, as Taylor Marsh says, "Of course, it's dead on arrival, but that doesn't mean it's not a real work of economic progressivism that makes a lot more sense than austerity, which hasn't worked anywhere it's been tried. Beyond the progressive budget is obviously President Obama's much anticipated grand bargain, with Democratic 'leader' Nancy Pelosi now saying 'let's take a look' at chained CPI cuts through Social Security. It's the same Pelosi who allowed the Catholic Bishops to help write ACA, which included codifying the Hyde Amendment into law for the first time in history. The rest is written on the wall."

RJ Eskow on A President Who'll Cut Social Security - And Liberals Who Love Him Too Much: "The spectacle of a supposedly liberal President repeatedly and needlessly trying to cut Social Security is enough to bring a reasonable, economically literate person to the point of existential despair. To see leading liberal lights like Rachel Maddow and Ezra Klein chuckle indulgently at those foolish Republicans in Congress over the subject - Don't they know he's already giving them what they want? - is to risk plunging into the depths of that despair. [...] Silly, silly Republicans. Klein quotes one reporter as saying of the White House, 'They tell us three times a day that they want to do chained CPI!' That's right: The White House has been trying to impose this benefit cut on Social Security's elderly and disabled recipients for years, and Republicans don't even know. Neither do most Democrats, for that matter. They think they voted for a President who will defend those benefits, not work relentlessly to cut them. But Democrats like Maddow, Klein, and Chait know better. They know exactly what Obama's been trying to do. And their only complaint seems to be that he's not doing it effectively enough. We're not hearing much from the ‘left' side of the debate about the profound flaws, biases, and inherent cynicism behind both the President's policy and his rhetoric. [...] If things don't change, we'll remember President Obama for cutting Social Security - and his party will pay the price. Disabled and elderly Americans will pay an even higher price. And the Republicans will be laughing all the ways to the polls in 2014."

Alan Grayson is right: Just cancel the sequester.

Bill Black: "Let me attempt again to make the basic facts clear. Third Way is not a "liberal think tank." It does not take "a centrist approach." It is not run by "fellow progressives." It is not concerned with "protecting entitlements." It is not even a "think tank." Third Way is a creature of Wall Street."

It's not news that a rich jerk is in the NYT pretending to care about our children's future and advocating that we steal even more from them than rich jerks already have stolen. But the comment thread below his post is heartening, at least as of five in the morning GMT on Friday. No one is falling for it. But then, I guess they've been reading Dean Baker.

Elizabeth Warren has some more good questions - this time about why a minority in Congress is holding up an appointment to her agency after Congress passed the law to create it. "And what I want to know is why there are agencies all over Washington who's rules are final, subject to the ordinary reviews and oversight, while the CFPB is the only agency in government, subject to a veto by other agencies. But unlike the CFPB, no one in the U.S. Senate holds up confirmation of their directors, demanding that those agencies be redesigned."
Matt Taibbi live-blogged the hearings.

This would be really good news if I didn't think it would be overturned: "Federal Judge Finds National Security Letters Unconstitutional, Bans Them. Ultra-secret national security letters that come with a gag order on the recipient are an unconstitutional impingement on free speech, a federal judge in California ruled in a decision released Friday."

Sam Seder's minions did a pretty good job covering for him while he took time off for the birth of his son Saul. One of them interviewed Christopher Petrella about the private prison industry, and there was a quick throwaway line during the introduction about how they're ending private prisons... not followed up. I couldn't find anything on the web about this and I can't figure out where that came from. Was it a gag? Because if it isn't, it should have been big news. It certainly didn't sound very likely.

The selection of a new pope from Argentina has caused some people to utter the words "Liberation Theology" again, but I'm not terribly hopeful that this pope will be any more useful than the last one, even though he rides the bus, or at least used to before he became pope.

If I were Scott Prouty, I would never have allowed my name and face to be in the press, after that 47% video went viral. Some of us still remember that Frank Willis, the security guard who noticed the Watergate break-in and was just doing his job, was never really able to find work again in Washington and suffered the consequences of this simple action. My immediate fear was that Prouty would never be able to find another job. It seems, however, that the United Steelworkers didn't want to let that happen.

I've mentioned my friend and sometimes colleague Peter Tatchell before. He's the most famous gay rights activist in Britain, so I've run into him a lot over the years, and we are usually (but not always) on the same side. In this case, though, Peter is giving a talk on what to me is Topic A these days - the anti-democratic push to destroy western economies.

Three Democratic myths used to demean the Paul filibuster

Anti-marijuana New York assemblyman busted for weed possession

Snow pic - Ruth had her camera out early this morning. (As I write, she says it's still coming down.) And she's also been writing about the long rifle.

A while back Swedish fan John-Henri Holmberg wrote an article for Earl Kemp's sf e-fanzine, called, "God, how silly!", about religion, the Enlightenment, and science fiction. A fine example of why Gibson said it's harder work to write for fanzines than to write professionally, because fanzine articles have to be better than that.

Photos of Children From Around the World With Their Most Prized Possessions

Unusual clouds over Scotland

18 obsolete words, which should never have gone out of style and the Grandiloquent Word of the Day

Martha & the Vandellas


  1. Obama: teflon President II: no matter what he does, it doesn't stick.

    "[Obama] does not seem capable of recognizing a policy failure, imagining a policy success, or understanding why policy success might lead to political success. You hominids are so screwed."—me, back in 2010.

  2. Senator Bernie Sanders has a petition up about the budget cuts and chained-CPI.

    Also, "quockerwodger" is a great word.

  3. On Wikipedia, there is a move to delete the page of Scott Prouty, the bartender who made the 47% video—in fact, to make Prouty a footnote to Romney's campaign. Seems to me it's the other way around. People of goodwill who care about the history, and want to know about Prouty, who seems to be a remarkable man, might wander by and put in a word for its preservation.

    Have you watched the interview, by the way? I saw Rachel Maddow's clips from it. Prouty is a remarkable man, and I think we are going to hear more from him.

  4. Sperling spills it: "Just FYI, Gene Sperling said today on his Reddit chat that the president really prefers the Chained-CPI and that it's not just an inducement to get the Republicans on board with the Grand Bargain. This may sound obvious, since it's been clear from before the inauguration that the administration wants to "reform" the so-called entitlements. But Sperling made it clear today that they believe in this on the merits."

    But this can't be true!

    TBogg tells us it's all eleventy-dimensional chess, and jobless hippies should just shut up.

  5. From Matthew Fox, a former Catholic theologian expelled by Benedict under the revived Inquisition:

    Pope Francis is a longtime ally of Communion and Liberation, a fiercely conservative Catholic organization that insists on “total fidelity and communion” with the church leadership and is devoted, among other things, to battling European socialism and Latin American liberation theology. In Italian politics, CL has been closely tied to the party of Silvio Berlusconi, and its founder was an intimate friend of Cardinal Ratzinger before he became Benedict XVI.

    An Italian Opus Dei. I've heard in two different interviews that John Paul made a deal with the Reagan Administration to destroy Liberation Theology in return for financial support for Solidarity. Humble or not, right-wing priests need poor and ignorant populations to survive, which is no doubt why they prefer giving them charity to giving them economic power.

    On another subject, someone named Lee Camp makes TPP criticism fun: http://therealnews.com/t2/component/hwdvideoshare/?task=viewvideo&video_id=75798

    1. It's pretty well documented, ksix. See Bernstein

    2. Thanks for the link, Charles, but Bernstein concentrated solely on Reagan's machinations in Poland. There was nothing about a quid pro quo regarding Liberation Theologists.

    3. Oh, OK.

      I think that it's a little more complicated than a simple quid pro quo, Solidarity for LibTheology, ksix.

      Wojtyla (John Paul II) became Pope in 1978. The violent repression of Liberation Theology began earlier, no later than 1976, and the CIA was active in recruiting a right-wing Catholic network even in the late 1960s. Kyle Barron has a good short article which links the MoJo piece linked previously, and he says:

      The CIA was the primary instrument used to influence the church. A year-long investigation by Mother Jones magazine in 1983 revealed that after World War II the CIA “passed money to a large number of priests and bishops—some of whom became witting agents in CIA covert operations,” even creating a special unit devoted to working with the Vatican. In the 1970s the CIA began supplying information on practitioners of radical religion and sat by as 850 nuns and clergy were tortured, killed, or arrested. Its main strategy was to divide the church between progressive and conservative elements.

      The CIA funded various conservative religious groups throughout Latin America, including Opus Dei members in Chile who subsequently entered into Pinochet’s administration after the 1973 coup, as well as funding the Bolivian Interior Ministry at the time it drew up and disseminated the “Banzer Plan,” which called for the persecution of progressive priests and clergy. The United States saw Liberation Theology as a threat that signaled Latin America’s move toward Marxism. The fight against progressive elements in the church was seen as another battlefront in the Cold War.

      Pope John Paul II’s election signaled a major shift in the church’s doctrine. While initially indicating that he too was sympathetic to the plight of the poor, his conservative leanings soon became apparent. Throughout his papacy he increasingly alienated the more progressive elements in the church. In 1981, John Paul II attempted to quell the progressive Jesuit clergy by appointing a conservative to head the order. Two years later, he appointed Colombian Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, an Opus Dei member staunchly opposed to Liberation Theology, as a Cardinal. That same year during his visit to Nicaragua, the Pope criticized practitioners of Liberation Theology and even silenced a raucous crowd who had come to see him speak.

      His outspoken opposition to Communism garnered the favor of U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who in the first months of being elected called a National Security Council meeting to address the “threat” of Liberation Theology. While John Paul II on one hand criticized leftist factions of the church’s involvement in politics, he undertook a crusade with Reagan to “to hasten the dissolution of the Communist empire.” While this relationship focused primarily on supporting the Solidarity movement in Poland, the National Security Council staff charged with this campaign also utilized this relationship to quell the leftist tendencies in Latin America.

      Sorry for the long excerpt.

      Hope that is more responsive.

  6. Oh, well, we seem to be getting the media dirt-digging on the new Pope. Who to believe? That is always the question. There are think-tanks that are sock-puppets for political extremism. There are great swathes of the media who fall for the quasi-fascist sociopathy, as they fell for WMD myths, and who seem to act as though the only way forwards is to inflict pain.

    It's so like the torture issue. If you want the results you say you want, the information, torture doesn't work. But it is a wonderful tool for scaring opponents into silence. And the powerful inflict more pain.

    Government, and power, has become measured by the pain you can inflict. That's nothing new, but in the past it could be asked, openly or not, whether the results were worth the pain. The pain was a tool, one of several. As Machiavelli outlined, better for a Prince to be loved rather than feared, worse to be hated.

    Is the problem today one of greed, or of sadism?

    1. Typo alert [my paragraphing]:


      ...Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with. Because this is to be asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life, and children, as is said above, when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you.

      And that prince who, relying entirely on their promises, has neglected other precautions, is ruined; because friendships that are obtained by payments, and not by greatness or nobility of mind, may indeed be earned, but they are not secured, and in time of need cannot be relied upon; and men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.

      Nevertheless a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred; because he can endure very well being feared whilst he is not hated, which will always be as long as he abstains from the property of his citizens and subjects and from their women. But when it is necessary for him to proceed against the life of someone, he must do it on proper justification and for manifest cause, but above all things he must keep his hands off the property of others, because men more quickly forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony. Besides, pretexts for taking away the property are never wanting; for he who has once begun to live by robbery will always find pretexts for seizing what belongs to others; but reasons for taking life, on the contrary, are more difficult to find and sooner lapse. But when a prince is with his army, and has under control a multitude of soldiers, then it is quite necessary for him to disregard the reputation of cruelty, for without it he would never hold his army united or disposed to its duties.

      ...Returning to the question of being feared or loved, I come to the conclusion that, men loving according to their own will and fearing according to that of the prince, a wise prince should establish himself on that which is in his own control and not in that of others; he must endeavour only to avoid hatred, as is noted.<<<[End indent]

    2. Not that I didn't read pick that up reading it in the original Italian vernacular...

    3. Truth seeking, not dirt digging. This is about the papacy using it's considerable power to eliminate the ideas of social reformers, if not the social reformers themselves.

  7. That's Trans Pacific Partnership and Jay can read about it at the Electronic Frontier Foundation or Public Citizen. Here's one of it's proposals:

    "Escalate Protections for Digital Locks: It will also compel signatory nations to enact laws banning circumvention of digital locks (technological protection measures or TPMs) [PDF] that mirror the DMCA and treat violation of the TPM provisions as a separate offense, even when no copyright infringement is involved. This would require countries like New Zealand to completely rewrite its innovative 2008 copyright law, as well as override Australia’s carefully-crafted 2007 TPM regime exclusions for region-coding on movies on DVDs, videogames, and players, and for embedded software in devices that restrict access to goods and services for the device—a thoughtful effort by Australian policy makers to avoid the pitfalls experienced with the US digital locks provisions. In the US, business competitors have used the DMCA to try to block printer cartridge refill services, competing garage door openers, and to lock mobile phones to particular network providers."

    1. And it would prohibit regulation of cross-border financial flows.

  8. Bitter Pill: How Medical Bills Are Challenging Pablum Journalism (with a battling back update from the newest baby food manufacturer) [Link] [Link]