Sunday, April 28, 2013

You read it here last

It's handy to have Ta-Nehisi Coates to bust the myth that liberals somehow had to make a "deal" with racists to get the New Deal. That was rubbish, of course, because everyone wanted it, whether they were racist or not. Well, everyone except the royalists and banksters and spivs. But, you know, I don't feel like I have to "own" racists from before I was born. They lived in a different time when there had been no New Deal, and without the New Deal, social progress was just not going to happen with anything like the speed and breadth it has since then. And, of course, it isn't just racism. Note, for example, that while Coates mentions race and gay rights, sexism in general is still so pervasive, so accepted, that it isn't worth the ink. That isn't just Rush Limbaugh and Republican leaders, it's pretty much everyone most of the time. And yet, at the same time, it's pretty clear that Obama's superior poll ratings through the 2012 election season (even before the 47% video went viral), owed a great deal to the GOP's persistent and suicidally stupid sexism in their public performance. We're better than we were because we've had the chance to be better than we were. I don't see much point in talking about the evil psychology of racists as "Fear of the Other" - something liberals supposedly do not suffer from - when it's really pretty universal and sometimes it's not at all bigoted or stupid to fear the Other when, you know, the Other might just be coming to kill you. And much as I know that it's very satisfying to see headlines about a "study" that says something about how conservatives are intellectually or morally inferior to liberals, I can't help feeling that it's juvenile to harp on it and maybe a bit stupid to be suckered by this kind of categorization. The simple fact of the matter is that we are all conservative to the extent that we don't want to see the good stuff around us bulldozed to benefit someone else who doesn't care that they are taking something valuable away from us (forests, jobs, Social Security), and we're all "progressive" when there seems to be a real possibility that we can see of making our lives better. What we need to pay attention to is that there really are powerful people who have an interest in making sure we can't tell the difference between the bulldozer and the good stuff, and one of their best weapons is telling us we are all too different from each other to ever make common cause.

The proposal to expand social insurance is making real inroads, and Elite conventional wisdom is losing on Social Security.

Nothing seems to be able to stop Obama's drive to wreck the economy with his Grand Bargain, and nothing stops people from going on TV and lying about how sucking more money out of the economy will create "growth".
Nice clip of Chris Hayes explaining what Max Baucus leaving elective office means, what his "centrism" means, and what "the center" really is - it's the center of power.
Fun floor speech in favor of gay marriage in the NZ parliament.

"A left-right populist alliance against the big banks? This week, Sens. Sherrod Brown and David Vitter are introducing a bill designed to make failure by the big banks less likely, in order to defend our economic system from another 2008-style meltdown. As the two senators put it, the measure would 'ensure that all banks have proper capital reserves to back up their sometimes risky practices - so that taxpayers don't have to,' while requiring that the largest banks 'have the most equity, as they should.'"

It doesn't matter how many times terrorists tell us they are attacking us because we are bombing the hell out of their homes, there is still this fantasy about how "they hate us for our freedoms" and they have this weird religion where it's okay to bomb the hell out of other people's homes. And Glenn Greenwald talked to Bill Moyers about how we've become used to living in a state of fear.

Dean Baker did a nice job of unpacking that NYT story about Denmark, where they editorialized against it in a "news" story. The only problem is, Denmark does seem to have already started "tweaking" the system, having apparently picked up the same right-wing fever over poor people being too rich. As we have seen in America and Britain, such "reforms" do have the long-term effect of eventually weakening the economy as a whole. (Thanks to Nihil Obstet for the tip in comments below.)

"Bradley Manning is off limits at SF Gay Pride parade, but corporate sleaze is embraced." Sometimes the "gay movement" can be such a bunch of straights.

Guantanamo is back in the news again, and The Talking Dog took the opportunity to do another interview with a Gitmo lawyer, Patricia Bronte, "a civil rights attorney in Chicago, and represents two Guantanamo detainees (Musa'ab al Madhwani and Saad al Qahtani). She is also one of the signatories to a recent letter by dozens of habeas lawyers to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, asking for his intervention concerning the recent events at Guantanamo, including a growing hunger strike among detainees."

Sometimes it's not an accident when a "study" result is conveniently wrong.

Matt Yglesias is sounding like a centrist sociopath.

On The Majority Report:
Robert Greenwald talked to Sam about his new film and The War on Whistleblowers.
Jeremy Scahill discussed his book Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield. Scahill had some interesting analysis of how Obama got sucked into the thinking of the crazies who have been running American foreign policy.

Jeffrey Sachs is breaking with the establishment. Well, he's still in it, he's still part of the elite neo-liberal brain trust - but he's now speaking out on the pathology and condemning the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the pathological greed and corruption of Wall Street. That's a big deal. (Video with transcript.)

The feel-good story of the week starts when a student protests the presence of an anti-sex wingnut as a speaker at her school and her principle, who brought the lying anti-sex creep there to try to terrorize the students, tries to retaliate with threats to the student, asking how she'd like it if he warned the college where she'd been accepted that she was someone of "bad character". By the time I saw the story at Gawker, Wellesley College had tweeted their response: "Katelyn Campbell, #Wellesley is excited to welcome you this fall.," linking to the original story. Gawker also told us, "And things may get worse still for Aulenbacher: Students plan to bring up his actions at a local board of education meeting taking place tonight."

The police aren't there to protect YOU: "Norristown is not alone. Cities and towns across the United States have similar laws, sometimes referred to as "nuisance ordinances" or "crime-free ordinances." We represented a domestic violence victim in Illinois, who after years of experiencing abuse, decided to reach out to the police for the first time. The police charged her husband with domestic battery and resisting arrest. Yet only a few days later, the police department sent her landlord a notice, instructing the landlord to evict the victim under the local ordinance based on the arrest. The message was clear: calling the police leads to homelessness."

"Why I'm stepping down as a GP over NHS 'reforms' [...] I am proud to have been an NHS GP. I believe the way a society delivers its healthcare defines the values and nature of that society. In the US, healthcare is not primarily about looking after the nation's health but a huge multi-company, money-making machine which makes some people extremely rich but neglects millions of its citizens. We are being dragged into that machine and I want no part in it. The politicians responsible for this must live with their consciences, as it is the greatest failure of democracy in my lifetime."

"Terry Pratchett's Discworld Might Be The Highest Form of Literature on the Planet."

Iain Banks returns from honeymoon, posts new message.

This news story is silly, but somehow I couldn't resist.

Couldn't resist this picture, either.

Portraits of Men

The art of Diane Millsap

Mark Evanier has posted video of an interview with Woody Allen from when he came to Britain to promote Bananas.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Double Trouble

Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel) and Dave Johnson of Seeing the Forest talked about how the Boston bomber is being treated (and how people are surprised by how the rights of American citizens are being abrogated), and about how things that would be considered acts of terrorism (or acts of war!) are treated as okay if they are just done to make a profit, and a lot of other things, on Virtually Speaking Sundays. (This was before the accused was finally Mirandized.)

This breathless NPR piece called "How Much Should We Trust Economics?" is okay as far as it goes, but I'm frankly amazed at the number of commentators who gave prominence to how Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff made an error on their Excel spreadsheet. Yes, of course, there are mathematical errors in studies all the time - errors made in good faith. (But it's amazing how often the errors work in the direction of the political biases of the funders of the research.) Okay, the math was bad - and it was looking at the spreadsheet that first alerted Thomas Herndon to problems with the numbers, but on further inspection it also turned out that R&R had cherry-picked their data, and that's not just a matter of numbers. Got a significant nation where debt was above 90% but there was reasonable growth? Oops, that doesn't fit, let's just lower the weight of that country and put greater weight on some other country that did have a big drop-off in growth. To leave that cherry-picking out of the analysis is to whitewash the more egregious errors in the study. But I also get a sense of unreality at listening to the way people make it sound like the Reinhart-Rogoff study was such a big deal in the first place, because it was only released three years ago, well after the austerity policies had been in place and actively promoted. Truthfully, it's been going on for more than 30 years, and certainly Obama was pushing it when he got to Washington - he didn't suddenly start doing it three years ago. The fact is that this study existed to rationalize policies that had been in place for some time, after the fact. It was just like all the other arguments and "facts" that are used to justify policies that demonstrably, empirically, do not work. Unless, that is, your goal is to eliminate democracy and economic stability (economic freedom) for the majority.

Pierce: "It really is remarkable at this point how completely tattered the case for building the pipeline actually is. The jobs claims have been debunked time and again as inflated. The public-safety promises from TransCanada, the corporation seeking to completely the pipeline, have collapsed as badly as that pipeline in Arkansas did. And, in a country that prizes bipartisanship as much as this one allegedly does, the coalition against the pipeline is as diverse as could ever be expected - ranchers and tree-huggers, scientists and Native American activists. On the other side is money and power, and a simple brute desire not to be frustrated by the lines of ranchers, tree-huggers, scientists, and Native American activists. That's the whole fight now. One side wants what it wants because it wants it. Period. The president has to decide where he's lining up."
In all likelihood, Baucus is quitting because he's got better chances with juicy corporate "jobs" than with the electorate after that piece about him in the NYT. Which tells you what you really need to know about why Congress behaves the way it does - it's not the campaign costs, it's the retirement plan.

For certain types of terrorists, terrorism pays off - when it's terrorism against reproductive freedom.

This is heart-breaking - Denmark's economy has been doing better than most because they hadn't caught austerity fever - until now.

"Seven dead, sixty one injured in opposition attacks in Venezuela."

Decent piece by Froomkin, "New Torture Reports Blames Obama and the Media for Not Confronting the Truth."

Robert Johnson on the Oligarchs: "They're All Standing on the Deck of the Titanic Looking in Each Other's Eyes."

"John Prescott: Margaret Thatcher closed the mines out of sheer political spite: The ex-Tory Prime Ministyer buried an industry that was still fit for purpose." The article is pretty straightforward, but copy-editing seems to be a dead art.

Alan Grayson did a Reddit Ask Me Anything. Scandalously, he refused a request to provide a picture of himself with a cat. My kinda guy!

Odd. "Bill for compulsory science fiction in West Virginia schools: "Republican state delegate Ray Canterbury says move would inspire pupils to use practical knowledge and imagination in the real world." I thought Republicans were against that.

I think in the back of my mind I've always believed that this should exist everywhere. (via)

Manufacturing Consent, 25 years later

"I wear the chained CPI I forged in life," replied the Ghost.

"Man sent to jail for watching 'pixie sex': A man has been jailed for watching cartoon videos of elves, pixies and other fantasy creatures having sex. Ronald Clark downloaded the Japanese anime cartoons three years ago, setting in train events that would see him in court in Auckland and jailed for three months for possessing objectionable material, and sparking debate as to what harm is caused by digitally created pornography." (Thanks to Gary Farber for the tip.)

Things Christians say to Atheists

I've just learned that, though the others were just Christopher Robin's stuffed toys, the real Eeyore was actually a live donkey. Fancy that. I wish I could link you to the long and fascinating interview with John Pertwee (who did a lot of things besides being an actor - including riding Eeyore) that this fact came from, but you'd need to get your hands on issues #457 and #458 of Doctor Who Magazine.

This ad gave me a sense of the surreal.

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band

Friday, April 19, 2013

Seven stars, Heaven's eyes

I wonder how much Obamapologists have to struggle to make themselves believe Obama "has to" keep pushing things so far to the right? I mean, his latest game is to make the sequester cuts more attractive to the war hawks by rescinding most of the DOD cuts while leaving all the domestic cuts intact. At the same time, he wants cuts in Medicaid that would directly rescind one of the few good parts of the health insurance bailout now known as Obamacare. Why, it's enough to drive Howard Dean crazy.

Bruce Schneier is in The Atlantic reminding you that the way to beat terrorism is to refuse to be terrified.

The Warren Effect: In a closed meeting last week, the agencies told Warren and Rep. Elijah Cummings that they could not provide documents Warren and Cummings requested about the specific violations by mortgage servicers, or the results of the reviews, because doing so would violate company 'trade secrets' (apparently ripping off your customers and stripping their assets is now a valuable trade secret). Practically any other senator would not get much attention from being denied documents by a federal regulator. But Warren, with a grass-roots army of enthusiastic supporters and a yen to deliver on her early promise, makes headlines crossing the street. And the foreclosure review debacle represented an excellent test case to expose the corrupt dealing between banks and the regulators who are supposed to curb their excesses, and also to pit Wall Street denizens getting rich off these crimes against ordinary victims who lost their homes. You couldn't tee up a better issue for Warren, or a better entryway for traditional media to report it." (via)

"Big Dairy Petitions FDA to Allow Unlabeled Use of Aspartame in Dairy Products: The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) have filed a petition with the FDA1 requesting the agency 'amend the standard of identity' for milk and 17 other dairy products. This was done to provide for the use of any safe and suitable sweetener as an optional ingredient - including non-nutritive sweeteners such as aspartame to deceive you by not having to indicate its use on the label."

Passed unanimously with just two votes: "You know how they say "nothing ever gets done" in the Senate? When it comes to protecting their own asses, that's the furthest truism from the truth on God's green earth. Thursday night Stand With Rand wasn't filibustering and none of the obstructionists were around to protest a unanimous consent decision to considerably scale back financial disclosure requirements that were mandated by the STOCK Act last year. And, holy moley, the exact same bill flew through the House Friday night without so much as a roll call-- just a voice vote to scale back a itsy bitsy teeny weenie piece of ethics legislation holding the gang of criminals in Washington to some standard of ethical behavior. [...] I've been asking Members why they didn't demand a roll call. No one knew what I was talking about. No one knew the vote was coming. No one knew the vote had come up. The House had just finished their last votes and most Members were rushing to the airports to catch planes back to their districts-- or, like Boehner, were off to their favorite bars and whorehouses. No one knew the STOCK Act they had helped pass had been watered down Friday night. As it turns out, when the bill passed in a voice vote-- "unanimously"-- only two of the most corrupt Members of Congress in history, Hoyer and Cantor, were on the floor. It passed by a voice vote of two. Like I said... Democracy!"
"How Congress Quietly Overhauled Its Insider-Trading Law"

One thing was wrong with the model that was being used to justify our current lousy economic policies: The model was broken. Seriously, you don't just happen to leave out all the data that doesn't suit your model just because you feel like it. And that's leaving aside your inability to use your software properly.
"Evil clowns Reinhart and Rogoff based their pro-austerity study on a butchered Excel formula."
"Pete Peterson Linked Economists Caught in Austerity Error." Pete Peterson. Fingerprints, anyone? (via)
The Majority Report, Sam Seder interviewed Mike Konczal, who "explained the Carmen Reinhart Kenneth Rogoff thesis, how influential the Rhienhart Rogoff study was, why their study was riddled with errors, how an excel spread sheet error destroyed the methodology of the study, the perils of wonkery and why there is no accountability for elites."

Also on TMR, Sam talked to John Knefel about the Gitmo hunger strike, and to Jonathan Cohn about day care. (Wait, day care? As in "pre-K"? Isn't that the proposed hostage Obama is offering to sacrifice Social Security for this week? Jonathan Cohn writes for The New Republican.)

"The prohibition of things: Deterrence, Punishment and Rescue: The idea of a government outlawing activities accomplishes only one thing clearly: It tells citizens that government has decided something is Wrong and now outlaws doing it. Sending A Message is the principle act behind the Swedish state's promotion of its law against buying sex, and it is the principle act behind all the other politicians and would-be policymakers who want the law for their countries. Everyone wants to be seen to be Taking a Stand against immoral behaviour. Try bringing evidence into the conversation and you will quickly learn how irrelevant it is; you can find Swedish promoters themselves saying things like We know it doesn't work but we want to be in the forefront of Gender Justice. This is about standing up for how you think society should be and doing it publicly, and trying to save people from their own immoral selves by outlawing bad things that attract them. Any other claim about what prohibitionist laws achieve when they outlaw social activities like sex, drinking and drugs is not supported by evidence. That's because, after the law is passed and the message is sent, individuals deal with prohibition deviously. That is, social pressure is strong to go along with the moral stand taken, but on the private level folks don't intend or aren't able to stop taking their own pleasures. So buyers and sellers of drugs, alcohol and sex become creative, some of them maintaining a disapproving stance in public at the same time."

What is it that Venezuelans liked so much about their late president Hugo Chavez? [...] In the 14 years of the Chavez government, infant mortality went down from 20 to 13 per thousand live births. Venezuela has free health care and free education, through college, for everyone. Poverty dropped from 49.9% in 1999 to 27.8% in 2010, and extreme poverty fell from 21.7% to 10.7 percent in the same period, according to the UN's Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean."

This debate over chained CPI is another fascinating look at the ridiculous arguments being marshalled in its defense - arguments you could have driven a truck through when you were ten years old. Note that they're speaking of Social Security as "a pension system", when in fact it isn't - it's an insurance program.

"IRS Claims It Can Read Your E-mail Without a Warrant."

Among the recorded bits that didn't make the cut to Chris Hayes' show was the news that Batgirl #19 introduced a transgendered character to a mainstream comic.

The hazards of trying to parody racists.

Occam's razor: "is a principle of parsimony, economy, or succinctness used in logic and problem-solving. It states that among competing hypotheses, the one that makes the fewest assumptions should be selected." Often stated as, "The simplest explanation is probably the right one."
Occam's Scalpel" is a short story by Theodore Sturgeon. (You can read most of it here.)

RIP: Allyn Cadogan, long-time fan and co-founder of Corflu. I remember being stunned by seeing a roll of film she'd shot with every single shot a good one. I so envied her eye. She was smart and funny and put out a good fanzine. I first met her in an elevator and couldn't take my eyes off of her. Her fame had preceded her but no one had told me she glowed.

Click this and wait for it.

Joplin, "Half Moon"

Sunday, April 14, 2013

People are talking

This week on Virtually Speaking Sundays, Digby and Gaius Publius review an exciting week of Obama's transformational presidency.
Every episode of Culture of Truth's most ridiculous thing from the Sunday talk shows manages to infuriate me, but they've been particularly steam-inducing lately. I'm so glad CoT watches these things so I don't have to. Last week's, on What the Base Wants, really made me want to punch out some pundits (and the Dem operatives who give them their talking points).
Maira Sutton of EFF and Sierra Club Trade Representative Ilana Solomon talked about trade and globalization on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd.

On The Majority Report, Matt and Michael sat in for an ailing Sam Seder and did a great interview with Feministing Executive Editor and Fast Food Forward organizer, Samhita Mukhopadhyay, who "explained the importance of the living wage movement spearheaded by fast food workers in New York City, the danger of how we frame poverty in America, Michelle Obama's powerful recent speech on guns violence and opportunity and how Anonymous is helping expose rape culture."
Previously, Sam interviewed Mark Blyth about Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea, and "the three big reasons austerity is a problem, the impact of global trade on austerity policies, the history of the idea of austerity, why the United States is in a stuttering recovery and the Europeans have created self created depression by practicing austerity, why growth is the answer to debt and why austerity is such a dangerous and resilient idea."

Waste in government: "Iraq War Could Have Paid For 100% Renewable Power Grid."

"Just comprehend the magnitude of what is being said here. Obama misleads on targeted assassinations. Or "lies", as we say in English.
Lambert thinks this decision is a failure, but I don't think so. More and more policy decisions these days seem to be based on the idea of "saving money" by making it as difficult as possible for people to determine whether they qualify for programs, and how to get into them.

"'The revolution starts in the ATOS smoking area' - on welfare, addiction, and dependency"

No one could have predicted that we might lose our moral authority by becoming torturers.

Mitch McConnel's got a habit of having "revelations" that people have eavesdropped on him suddenly crop up just in time to deflect some attention from his other nefarious activities. This isn't the first time it's happened and it's hard to believe that the group that keeps doing it isn't being paid somewhere up the line by McConnel himself.

Russell Brand as one of Thatcher's children: "Perhaps, though, Thatcher "the monster" didn't die yesterday from a stroke, perhaps that Thatcher died as she sobbed self-pitying tears as she was driven, defeated, from Downing Street, ousted by her own party. By then, 1990, I was 15, adolescent and instinctively anti-establishment enough to regard her disdainfully. I'd unthinkingly imbibed enough doctrine to know that, troubled as I was, there was little point looking elsewhere for support. I was on my own. We are all on our own. Norman Tebbit, one of Thatcher's acolytes and fellow "Munsters evacuee", said when the National Union of Mineworkers eventually succumbed to the military onslaught and starvation over which she presided: "We didn't just break the strike, we broke the spell." The spell he was referring to is the unseen bond that connects us all and prevents us from being subjugated by tyranny. The spell of community." I know people who just see him on Ross' show won't believe me, but Brand is smart, insightful, and as this piece shows, a thoughtful and very fine writer. His facility for unpacking and re-purposing metaphor is downright impressive. "It always struck me as peculiar, too, when the Spice Girls briefly championed Thatcher as an early example of girl power. I don't see that. She is an anomaly; a product of the freak-onomy of her time. Barack Obama, interestingly, said in his statement that she had "broken the glass ceiling for other women". Only in the sense that all the women beneath her were blinded by falling shards. She is an icon of individualism, not of feminism." Thatcher was indeed a queen bee - nothing new about that.

Jay Ackroyd linked this wonderful piece that starts off with a stray kitten and takes us through the meaning of FDR's warning about fear itself and the people who have been hiding under the porch terrified of everything ever since.

It's amazing what you can buy on the internet. And I'm sure that's a much lower price than it usually costs to buy them!

Neat picture of the sun with this week's solar flare.
This picture of a comet and the Milky Way over a snowy field and against the Northern Lights is not a trick.
Unseen reality: The Milky Way over a darkened city in Shanghai.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

And dreams you never dreamt

Digby says to make those phone calls. Do it.

Yep, those ads really do write themselves: "GOP campaign chairman calls chained CPI 'trying to balance the budget on the backs of seniors'"
Even Grover Norquist is right: "Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, leader of the organization, criticized the policy via Twitter on Wednesday. 'Chained CPI is a very large tax hike over time.'" Via Atrios.

I think Josh Marshall is still dreaming, but he's getting closer by acknowledging that Obama really wants to cut Social Security. Meanwhile, now Katrina vanden Heuvel is acknowledging Social Security's needed expansion - in The Washington Post.

"America Is Ruled by Billionaires, and They Are Coming After the Last Shreds of Our Democracy."

"How conservatives still run America, despite losing elections [..] Social security and gun safety are but a couple of the numerous issues on which conservatives in Washington get their way and the minority liberal party loses out. Most recently, every Republican and 33 Democratic conservatives came together to repeal a tax on medical devices, a major source of funding for Obamacare. And on Dec 28, the conservative party - 42 Republicans, 30 Democrats and 1 Independent senator - voted to extend the foreign intelligence law known as FISA, opposed by civil libertarians. We should further expect that the conservative party will keep winning on many fronts, from greatly limiting all new investments in education to unduly slashing social spending." (via)

Max Baucus is their man - and not ours: "No other lawmaker on Capitol Hill has such a sizable constellation of former aides working as tax lobbyists, representing blue-chip clients that include telecommunications businesses, oil companies, retailers and financial firms, according to an analysis by LegiStorm, an online database that tracks Congressional staff members and lobbying. At least 28 aides who have worked for Mr. Baucus, Democrat of Montana, since he became the committee chairman in 2001 have lobbied on tax issues during the Obama administration - more than any other current member of Congress, according to the analysis of lobbying filings performed for The New York Times."

Krugman on "The Intellectual Contradictions of Sado-Monetarism [...] What I realized is that Stockman, and many others, represent the latest incarnation of sado-monetarism, the urge to raise rates even in a deeply depressed economy. It's a long lineage, going back at least to Schumpeter's warning that easy money would leave 'part of the work of depressions undone' and Hayek's inveighing against the 'creation of artificial demand'. Nothing must be done to alleviate the pain!" Krugman also talks about how Obama is going with Chained CPI even though it's terrible policy because he is Desperately Seeking 'Serious' Approval that he won't get, but now that he's come right out and said it, the Republicans have their talking point all neatly tucked in. Yes, Obama wants to cut your Social Security. Dems now definitely have a great chance to lose the Senate.

Meanwhile, Chris Hayes finally spells out that some bad people really are trying to foment an age war in order to help them sell killing Social Security. (But not all of them are Republicans, Chris!)

Tim Shorrock joined Sam Seder to talk about Obama's War on Whistleblowers on The Majority Report.

"Judge Strikes Down Age Limits on Morning-After Pill: A federal judge on Friday ordered that the most common morning-after pill be made available over the counter for all ages, instead of requiring a prescription for girls 16 and younger. But his acidly worded decision raises a broader question about whether a cabinet secretary can decide on a drug's availability for reasons other than its safety and effectiveness."

RIP: Carmine Infantino, 87
More on Infantino

I'm told that "Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead" made it into the Top Ten this week.
Seumas Milne: "A common British establishment view - and the implicit position of The Iron Lady - is that while Thatcher took harsh measures and "went too far", it was necessary medicine to restore the sick economy of the 1970s to healthy growth. It did nothing of the sort. Average growth in the Thatcherite 80s, at 2.4%, was exactly the same as in the sick 70s - and considerably lower than during the corporatist 60s. Her government's savage deflation destroyed a fifth of Britain's industrial base in two years, hollowed out manufacturing, and delivered a "productivity miracle" that never was, and we're living with the consequences today. What she did succeed in doing was to restore class privilege..." (via)
Juan Cole, "Top Ten Ways Margaret Thatcher's Policies Made our World more Unequal"
Pierce does not remember her fondly.
Petition to privatize Thatcher's funeral, thus saving the state a lot of money and honoring her legacy. (Alas, Thatcher's version of privatization usually involved many expensive front-end sweeteners to buyers before giving away the family jewels - so, not so much of a money-saver after all.)
Elvis Costello, "Tramp the Dirt Down"
(Later, I found more songs on the same subject.)

Depression-busting music

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Everybody's in movies

Joan McCarter is up this week on Virtually Speaking Sundays.
On Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd:
Stuart Zechman explained how our Trust Funds are being looted, and
Dave Weigel talked about Republicans.

Sam Seder finished his last day of paternity leave by posting from the archives of The Majority Report's original edition, all those years ago on Air America Radio, featuring interviews with Bill Maher, Dave Chappelle, Atrios, and Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's.
Sam's return had Digby catching him up with the news.
Brook K. Baker joined Sam to discuss trade deals, corporate avarice, and drugs: "The importance of the Indian Supreme Court's decision on generic drugs, why the bar is lower for generic drug production in the United States, why Pharma companies drive inefficiency and threaten global health, why pharma companies are primarily marketing firms , why medicine is a 'Global Public Good' and why 'free trade agreements' are simply a giveaway for corporations."

Some of our favorite economic commentators on TV, too briefly.

Atrios says, "That's all I can stand, I can't stands no more: Obama is the worst person in the world." What brought this on? "Obama Budget to Include Cuts to Programs in Hopes of Deal: President Obama next week will take the political risk of formally proposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare in his annual budget in an effort to demonstrate his willingness to compromise with Republicans and revive prospects for a long-term deficit-reduction deal, administration officials say."

Dean Baker, "President Obama Proposes a Bigger Hit to Seniors Than to the Rich: This cut would be a bigger hit to the typical retiree's income than President Obama's tax increases at the end of 2012 were to the typical person affected. A couple earning $500,000 a year would pay an additional 4.6 percentage points on income above $450,000. This would amount to $2,300 a year (4.6 percent of $50,000). That is less than 0.5 percent of their pre-tax income and around a 0.6 percent reduction in their after-tax income. By comparison, Social Security is about 70 percent of the income of a typical retiree. Since President Obama's proposal would lead to a 3 percent cut in Social Security benefits, it would reduce the income of the typical retiree by more than 2.0 percent, more than three times the size of the hit from the tax increase to the wealthy."

"Liberal groups threaten primaries over Obama budget" - It's about time.

Robert Kuttner in The American Prospect, "Destroying the Economy and the Democrats: Amid disappointing jobs numbers, the president's budget proposal gives away his party's crown jewels: their defense of Social Security and Medicare."

Pierce: "No. Stop. Really. You guys are killing me. The American people are going to look at a Democratic president's selling out the cornerstones of eighty years of Democratic social policy and blame the Republicans because they won't help him do it? I can write the 'Stop Obama's Raid On Social Security' ads for the 2014 midterms in my sleep. In addition, wasn't this also the logic behind the sequester? How's that working out?"

And even in The Atlantic, "Memo to President Obama: Expand Social Security, Don't Cut It"

R.J. Eskow, "Have Wall Street's "Third Way" Democrats Ever Been Right About Anything?" - he's got a little list, and the answer is one big long passel of No.

Rick Perlstein sees Rahm standing in the schoolhouse door like George Wallace: "When the Chicago Public Schools' former CEO Jean-Claude Brizard asked the school board to close Guggenheim Elementary in 2011 he called it one of the system's schools that are "so far gone that you cannot save them." That doesn't seem to have been Jasmine Murphy's experience: educated at Guggenheim since kindergarten, she maxed out on the state's standardized test, and was accepted for next year at a high school with a rigorous International Baccalaureate program. Brizard's claim, in fact, speaks to one of the biggest reasons so many parents here in nation's third largest city so distrust their school system: its shifting rationales for the bewildering, whiplash-inducing destabilizations it insists on visiting upon their children, at some schools literally every other year, in the name of "reform." For today, the explanation (sold to the Chicago public via TV commercials paid for by the Walton Foundation) for the biggest one-time school closing in the history of the United States - fifty-three schools - is the statistically dubious one about "underutilization" of school buildings."

Charles Simic on "Health Care: The New American Sadism [...] This is the new face of American sadism: the unconcealed burst of joy at the thought that pain is going to be inflicted on someone weak and helpless. Its viciousness, I believe, is symptomatic of the way our society is changing. Everything from the healthcare industry, payday loans, and for-profit prisons to the trading in so-called derivatives, privatization of public education, outsourcing of jobs, war profiteering, and hundreds of other ongoing rackets all have that same predatory quality. It's as if this were not their own country, but some place they've invaded in order to loot its wealth and fleece its population without caring what happens to that population tomorrow. The only interest these profit-seekers have in us is as cheap labor, cannon fodder for wars, and suckers to be parted with our money. If we ever have a police state here, I've been thinking, it won't be because we've become fascists overnight, but because rounding up people and locking them up will be seen as just another way to get rich. If the hell that Jonathan Edwards and other Puritan divines described in such gruesome and graphic detail is still up and running, I hope that's where many of them are headed for." Rounding up people and locking them up is not only seen as just another way to get rich, but has already created one of the most powerful industries - and lobby groups - in America.
And it's not just America - the horror is now going full-steam in Britain, against the will of nearly everyone, a theft even grander and uglier than the scheme in which, under Thatcher, Norman Tebbit was allowed to privatize the telephone company and then, in retirement from government, become the man who ran it. So blatantly ugly and hated is the Tory plan that even the Telegraph describes it this way: "NHS reforms: From today the Coalition has put the NHS up for grabs: Under the Coalition's reforms, the NHS's former strengths are being replaced by a fragmented service, bound not by what is best for the patient but by cost."
And from the Independent, "Farewell to the NHS, 1948-2013: a dear and trusted friend finally murdered by Tory ideologues: This week's 'reforms' of a treasured institution - by people who came to power promising not to mess with it - is yet another sickening assault on the poor by the rich."

So how are things in Albany?
"We have a system that only catches morons."

Chomsky: The Cruelty That Keeps Empires Alive

RIP: Longtime science fiction fan Roger Ebert, at 70. As with Paul Williams, it started with fanzines.
He also loved movies.

Naked man braves flooded river and crocodiles to win some bourbon

I hate to mention this for fear it will disappear as soon as I link it, but there's this pilot for a new series you can watch in its entirety on YouTube at the moment. And there's no doubt about his first name, this time.

"Everybody's in Showbiz"

Friday, April 5, 2013


Stuart Zechman provides some insight into what the New Democrat Network (NDN) is all about:

I'd be happy to talk about why Obama (and his kind of Democrat) are obsessed with "modernizing" entitlements, from a policy perspective. This is from "The New Landscape of Globalization" by NDN's Bob Shapiro:
The fact is that the productivity gap between the United States and Europe and Japan has increased steadily for more than a decade, pointing to America's single most important economic advantage at a time for rapid globalization: basic competition is more intense inside the U.S. economy. Japan and Europe's large countries still maintain regulatory walls around much of their retail, wholesale, financial, business and personal service sectors, so they are still dominated by millions of inefficient, small companies with little incentive to change almost anything. America's more bare-knuckled competition at almost every level and aspect of its economy makes workers and companies less secure, especially in a time of galloping globalization and technological progress. It also forces companies and workers to change all the time, by using the latest technologies and business practices to improve something they make or do, or come up with new products, processes and ways of doing business.
You see, according to the policy guys at NDN, whose influence on the '12 Obama campaign caused Michael Scherer to laud their policy work as the "Most Important Chart in American Politics", our "single, most important economic advantage" here in the US is that, "at almost every level and aspect of its economy," America "makes its workers and companies less secure," thus forcing everybody to upgrade to Windows 8.

* * * * *

I sort of lost the will to make this post better when I heard the worst news ever: Iain Banks is dying. I love that man. We all do, but I loved him the minute I saw him climbing up the sides of the bar in the hotel at his first convention And every time I was sitting in a hotel room and he climbed in the window. One time he walked into the hotel lobby in Liverpool and came over and lifted me right up into the air. So exuberant, so full of life. I just can't believe it. When he started writing actual science fiction, I loved that, too, but as an individual, seeing Iain always made me smile, always made me happy, often made me laugh. I just don't know what to say.
A Personal Statement from Iain Banks

William Greider, "Why Was Paul Krugman So Wrong? [...] Like Krugman, governing elites dismissed critics and simply stated that free trade will be good for America because US energies and endless creativity are sure to prevail, as they always have in the past. Opponents like organized labor were typically ridiculed as backward Luddites, promoting what Krugman called 'disguised protectionism.' That label scared off major media. Reporters take their cues from the 'supposed authority' of business leaders and scholarly experts. At the most prestigious newspapers, reporters and editors simply ignored the substantive critiques of free trade orthodoxy as not worthy of their investigation. After thirty years, the case against free trade is still a taboo subject in respectable circles."

And now Brad Plumer is in the WaPo with, "The case for expanding Social Security, not cutting it". I marvel at how something that was unsayable only a few weeks ago is starting to be said. This is almost like if it had become possible in 2009 to talk about single-payer.

Jacob Bacharach (formerly Who Is IOZ?) on the not-very-good mea culpa from Ezra over Iraq, "Heroes in Error," is good - and good enough to actually get cited at The American Conservative. And also right. (Thanks to commenter Jcapan for the tip.)

Meanwhile, have you ever looked at Executive Order 13431?

"A Heartbreaking Drug Sentence of Staggering Idiocy" - and something that wouldn't be happening if our glorious leaders were really concerned with saving wasted money.

Glenn Greenwald's follow-up on various matters includes one on Assange's safety.
Good interview of Kevin Gosztola, on the Bradley Manning prosecutions, by Sam Seder on The Majority Report

"It Can Happen Here: The Confiscation Scheme Planned for US and UK Depositors"
"The Big Banks Are Still Getting A Pass

Ten lies the Tories tell about welfare

Librul Media watch:
April fool? Just your friendly neighborhood KKK.
"All three journalists look at the increasing dependence on these programs and come away puzzled: Why are so many people now getting disability and food stamp payments?"

In Forbes, "Why Veterans' Advocates Don't Like Chained CPI" - because, you know, it's a cut!

Dr. Duncan Black in USA Today, "Chained CPI a gimmick we'll all pay for"

Even more voter suppression bills introduced

"If you can't make the American system as good as Britain's, make Britain's as bad as America. ‘Cause the parasites need feeding no matter what."

I hardly know what to say about this one: "Florida polo tycoon has difficulty adopting his 42-year-old girlfriend in order to keep assets away from bio-kids, ex-wife, family of guy he killed in a hit-and-run." (via)

"NRA gun instructor misses protest because (wait for it) he shot himself in the foot."

Chris Matthews claims he opposed the invasion of Iraq. Who knew?
Where are they now?

You don't sue MAD magazine.

Pervcam the Sistine Chapel (via)

A thing I didn't know: In this video, the guy you see mostly from the back, a lot, lurching in front of the camera enough that you can catch his profile from time to time, is none other than Paul Williams. (Thanks to Farber for the tip.)

Forgive me for linking this picture.

"The Sidebar of Making Light" (Via the sidebar of Making Light.)

Monday, April 1, 2013

No tears, no fears, no ruined years, no clocks

I'm not posting any new news I see posted today until I've seen all the discussions of whether or not it was an April Fool's joke. All of the following is old news:

Panelists this week on Virtually Speaking Sundays: Digby and Stuart Zechman. I live for moments like this. Go listen.

Free Trade and Unrestricted Capital Flow: How Billionaires Get Rich and Destroy the Rest of Us

"So DO Tax Cuts Create Jobs?" Well, of course not. Taxing money that isn't being used to create jobs can't stop jobs from being created.

David Dayen: "Can the Supreme Court hike drug prices? How the industry uses the high court to allow bribery, evade the FDA, and boost medicine prices 5 times their cost"

Bill Maher on Health Redistribution.

Glenn Greenwald: The message is that the US is viewed as the greatest threat and that it is US aggression and violence far more than any other cause that motivates support for al-Qaida and anti-American sentiment. The son of the slain Afghan police commander and his pregnant relatives says that villagers refer to US Special Forces as the "American Taliban" and that he refrained from putting on a suicide belt and attacks US soldiers with it only because of the pleas of his grieving siblings. An influential Southern Yemeni cleric explains that he never heard of al-Qaida sympathizers in his country until that 2009 cruise missile attack and subsequent drone killings, including the one that ended the life of Abdulrahman (a claim supported by all sorts of data). The brutal Somali warlord explains that the Americans are the "masters of war" who taught him everything he knows and who fuel ongoing conflict. Anwar Awlaki's transformation from moderate and peace-preaching American cleric to angry critic of the US is shown to have begun with the US attack on Iraq and then rapidly intensifying with Obama's drone attacks and kill lists. Meanwhile, US military officials and officers interviewed by Scahill exhibit a sociopathic indifference to their victims, while Awlaki's increasingly angry sermons in defense of jihad are juxtaposed with the very similar-sounding justifications of endless war from Obama."

A really fine example of corruption: "Lanny Breuer Cashes in After Not Prosecuting Wall Street Execs, Will Receive Approximate Salary of 4 Million Dollars."
"Lanny Breuer and the Immorality of Our Morality"

Jonathan Turley, "Too Big To Jail? Obama Administration Agrees To Large Penalty In Exchange For Letting Billionaire Escape Insider Training Charge While His Subordinates Plead Guilty: John Cassidy has a remarkable story out in the New Yorker this week about a sweetheart deal cut by the Justice Department with one of the wealthiest men in the world, Steven A. Cohen (who may be pictured here at a standard picnic, or not). Cohen's company would pay $626 million but not have to admit any wrongdoing and Cohen would face no personal sanction. The billionaire appears to be celebrating this month with a buying spree with a Picasso painting and a huge new mansion. What is amazing is that various Cohen subordinates have pleaded guilty and Cohen has been tied directly to an insider trading allegation. Yet, he appears to 'too big to jail' as a continuation of the Obama Administration's bifurcated legal system for the super rich and the rest of us." (Thanks to commenter Romberry for the link.)

Dave Johnson, "Did The Rich Cause The Deficit?"

Who wanted the gay marriage case? "As it turns out, it would seem that the conservative members of the court, making a calculation that their chances of winning would not improve with time, were behind the decision to take up the volatile subject."

The Golden Girls on gay marriage

The bridge to the 21st century takes you from the middle class to homelessness.

Still crazy after all these years: David Stockman, who apparently thinks continual recessions and crises and depressions are better than the economic stability and progress that mean old FDR and all his spending and regulations brought us. (Via Krugman and more Krugman.) Trouble is, if Stockman wasn't distracted by debt mania, he might have written a more intelligent piece, and almost did - about crony capitalism and bank bailouts. And he might have noticed that the crisis we have today is a direct result of undoing all those SEC regulations (and neutralizing the regulators) that FDR put in place. And if Krugman weren't distracted by his own brand of fear, he might have had a better insight into where Stockman went wrong.

Dana Goldstein on "Realistic Expectations for New Teacher Evaluation Systems" - Don't expect much.

Formerly Who is IOZ? muses.

Paul Williams, Crawdaddy Founder, 'Godfather of Rock Criticism' Dead at 64
Celebrating Paul's work
And, of course, from Rolling Stone.
I have several memories of Paul I won't bother to recount (except that the sharpest was the time we argued about Heinlein over dinner). I will say that I had a moment of reverence when Ted White told me, as he was running an issue of my fanzine off on his Gestetner, that he had also run issues of Crawdaddy! off on that very same machine. He wouldn't let me crank it, but he did let me touch it.)

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Peeps

Creepy bunnies

Google celebrated Cesar Chavez's birthday, and the wingers went nuts because they thought it was Hugo.

The Doors, "20th Century Fox"