Saturday, August 31, 2013

One fine day

Just sayin' the weather has been downright spring-like.

Dave Johnson reminds us of Three Words/Phrases That Reinforce Republican Anti-Government Propaganda: "Gridlock", "The Senate Failed To Pass The Bill / Confirm The Nominee," and "The Debt-Ceiling Means The Government Has Maxed Out Its Credit Card." But it's worth remembering that it's no longer only Republicans that use these words and phrases and that they are pretty damned popular with New Democrats, too. Especially when we know that the Senate rules that have made it possible to fake-filibuster a bill or nominee were agreed to by Democrats.

That thing Al Sharpton set up wasn't much of a commemoration of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., but holding a big fast-food strike was right in the spirit.

Your Secretary of State says: "Make no mistake: President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world's most heinous weapons against the world's most vulnerable people" Mr. Kerry, Obama is using the world's most heinous weapons against the world's most vulnerable people. Economic disaster, for starters. And that's just ignoring the bombs.

"The Barbara Lee Letter Asking Obama To Stick To The Constitution-- Who Signed It? And Who Refused? Barbara Lee and 53 other Democrats sent a letter to President Obama Thursday in the hopes of slowing down the rush to war in Syria. It was similar to the message the British Parliament delivered to David Cameron Thursday: "don't be so trigger-happy and let's at least wait and see what the UN inspectors have to say about who used the chemical weapons." Predictably, my "progressive" rep Chris Van Hollen isn't one of the signers. Disappointingly, neither is Tammy Duckworth. (DWT also included part of the transcript for Alan Grayson's interview with Ari Rabin-Havt from Thursday morning in this post.)

@GregMitch: "NYT's public editor says paper's reporters have too often seen Syria claims mainly through eyes of administration."
@ggreenwald: "What happened here? This is so unlike the New York Times"
In his blog post, Mitchell notes "Michael Gordon's return to the top of the home page--remember, he was Judy Miller's co-author on some of her worst Iraq pieces."

"Gaius Publius: Deep State - Is the Upper Echelon of the Intelligence Community Running America?"

Dean Baker on "Pinching Pensions to Keep Wall Street Fat and Happy: The debate over public pensions clearly shows the contempt that the elites have for ordinary workers. While elites routinely preach the sanctity of contract when it works to benefit the rich and powerful, they are happy to treat the contracts that provide workers with pensions as worthless scraps of paper." Via Atrios, who called Rham The Worst Person In The World.
Atrios also says this is probably the only thing on Syria you need to read. He's probably right.

What's the point of collecting loads of intelligence of impending threats if you're not going to use it when there's a real impending threat?

"U.S. spy network's successes, failures and objectives detailed in ‘black budget' summary" - costs a lot, doesn't do us any good.

"UK asked N.Y. Times to destroy Snowden material: (Reuters) - The British government has asked the New York Times to destroy copies of documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden related to the operations of the U.S. spy agency and its British partner, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), people familiar with the matter said."

"Longshore union pulls out of national AFL-CIO, citing attacks at Northwest grain terminals: The West Coast longshore union is pulling out of the national AFL-CIO, citing "attacks" in which the umbrella organization's members blatantly cross picket lines at Northwest grain terminals."

"6 horrifying facts about the rich: It's not just the 1 percent that's wreaking havoc on our economy."

The Unaffordable Care Act - It still means many people will be forced to pay for "coverage" that they can't afford to use. This is not a health insurance plan, for them, it's just extortion. (Thanks to ksix.)

Since our commenter ifthethunderdontgetya seems interested in the subject McJoan and Jay and I discussed Sunday on VSS of whether Obama is a bad negotiator or a bad actor or both, and maybe others are, too, I note that Jay's discussion with Joan of the Grand Bargain earlier this year is here and feels like a bit of a prequel to this week's show.
Homework for Sunday's show includes this article by Joan and a bunch of other stuff, such as:
"Why ‘I Have Nothing to Hide' Is the Wrong Way to Think About Surveillance [...] For instance, did you know that it is a federal crime to be in possession of a lobster under a certain size? It doesn't matter if you bought it at a grocery store, if someone else gave it to you, if it's dead or alive, if you found it after it died of natural causes, or even if you killed it while acting in self defense. You can go to jail because of a lobster. If the federal government had access to every email you've ever written and every phone call you've ever made, it's almost certain that they could find something you've done which violates a provision in the 27,000 pages of federal statues or 10,000 administrative regulations. You probably do have something to hide, you just don't know it yet." But that's not the only reason.
"SOPA: Bad ideas never really die: We beat it once, but once apparently isn't enough. Earlier this month, the Department of Commerce's Internet Policy Task Force released a report in which it recommended resurrecting one of the worst parts of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) which was defeated by massive public and tech industry opposition. The Department of Commerce, however, still wants to make the streaming of copyrighted works a felony. [...] So what does that really mean? It means the Commerce Department thinks you should go to jail if you upload a video of yourself covering your favorite song. Or if you upload a video of something entirely unrelated, but that has music in the background. Or if you upload video of a family birthday party where you're all singing "Happy Birthday." Criminal prosecution. Jail."

UK: "Government 'may sanction chemical incapacitant use on rioters', scientists fear " - or, as Roz Kaveney tweeted, "Meanwhile, at home, this is the plan for 'good' gas warfare."

"Fixing Old Markets With New Markets: the Origins and Practice of Neoliberalism [...] Thus, to write a history of Neoliberalism in the current crisis, Fleck counsels one must connect their various epistemic attitudes to the content of their doctrines. In the case of modern Neoliberalism, this has been made manifest in their shared conviction that The Market knows more than any human being, however wise or well-schooled. Planning is doomed; socialism is a pipe dream. The political project of Neoliberalism is not laissez-faire; rather, it is to use state power to get the populace to prostrate themselves before the only dependable source of Truth and Wisdom in human civilization - viz., something they call 'The Market'. The more discombobulated the average citizen can be rendered, the quicker they will get with the program. [...] Neoliberals neutralize their opponents by mounting a full spectrum response to crises: a short-term easily mobilized response to stymie their opponents; a subsequent medium-term response which involves a strong state in instituting more new-fangled markets; and a long-term science fiction response (also involving the state) to present an upbeat optimistic version of neoliberal doctrine. The shorter-term responses buy time for the thought collective to mobilize their longer-term panaceas. The book describes the dynamic in greater detail, but here, let me just indicate that, in the case of the climate crisis, the short term response is global warming denialism; the medium-term response is to institute trading schemes for carbon emission permits and offsets; and the long term science fiction response is geoengineering, such as schemes to pump particulates into the stratosphere to supposedly block out the sun and mitigate the warming process - but not, significantly, to actually cut back on carbon emissions. What Klein and others get wrong is that neoliberals are not really ‘anti-science' as such; rather, ploys such as denialism simply postpone political attempts by opponents to cut emissions until they can recruit and train a cadre of entrepreneurial neoliberal scientists, whereas meanwhile the situation gets so dire that their preferred ‘market' solutions come to seem the last refuge for a desperate populace. It is significant that each of these ‘ideas' were innovated in neoliberal think tanks." (Thanks to commenter ksix for the tip.)

"NSA: Listening to everyone - except oversight

"How Snowden did it [...] If he wanted, he would even have been able to pose as any other user with access to NSAnet, said the source."

Whistleblower Award 2013 - Ceremony awarding Edward J. Snowden

The parody shirt the NSA doesn't want you to wear

If I were running a newspaper, I'd put lots of readers' letters in it. I'd invite contributions from the local community. Kind of like we used to do fanzines. It seems to be working for this newspaper. Ah, well, you say, those people don't use the Internet. But neither did my father, and he cancelled The Washington Post before there was an Internet because it no longer spoke to him. Newspapers started losing money before there was an internet because they quit speaking to the general public.

We Love This British Actor. We Love Him Even More After He Held Up These Bits Of Paper

Michael Young wrote the book that created the word "meritocracy" back in 1958, and the word took on a sort of positive meaning in public discourse that the author really hadn't intended. Young had an article in the Guardian in 2001 that is worth recalling, called "Down with meritocracy [...] It is good sense to appoint individual people to jobs on their merit. It is the opposite when those who are judged to have merit of a particular kind harden into a new social class without room in it for others."

John Scalzi is what a feminist looks like.

Lego portrature

The Chiffons

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Tell Somebody

Panelists this week on Virtually Speaking Sundays : Avedon Carol and Joan McCarter, who will probably talk about exactly what you'd expect. Also expected, Culture of Truth on the latest howlers from David Gregory's continuing job interview for Fox.

ACLU statement on the Manning case, "The Government Has Made Its Point. When a soldier who shared information with the press and public is punished far more harshly than others who tortured prisoners and killed civilians, something is seriously wrong with our justice system. A legal system that doesn't distinguish between leaks to the press in the public interest and treason against the nation will not only produce unjust results, but will deprive the public of critical information that is necessary for democratic accountability. This is a sad day for Bradley Manning, but it's also a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate."
Me: If Manning had been a multinational corporation and sold that same information to another multinational corporation (or one based in China, Saudi Arabia, or Dubai!), for lots of money, it would have been "business" and therefore this administration would have been bending all the way over in the other direction to protect the Manning Corporation.

The Guardian on "Surveillance and the state: this way the debate goes on: Citizens of free countries are entitled to protect their privacy against the state. The state has a duty to protect free speech as well as security. Fundamental rights, as we say, collide. Journalists have a duty to inform and facilitate a debate and to help test the consent of people about the nature of any trade-offs between civil liberties and security. A democratic government should seek to protect and nourish that debate, not threaten it or stamp it out."

Boeing's union-busting pratfall: "When Boeing left Washington for South Carolina in order to suppress the wages of its workers, it also left behind the quality work that had been provided by a highly skilled, union workforce. Now, that union-busting is backfiring as productivity has dropped immensely and Boeing is unable to meet their 787 Dreamliner production goals."

Everyone's struggling with what to call Chelsea (formerly known as Bradley) Manning, but NPR once again reminds us why we call them Nice Polite Republicans.

Frankly, I don't believe I know a single person who would never spy on your dossier if they were dating you or you'd just dumped them. And I don't believe for a minute that politicians or other powerful people wouldn't want to hoover up everything they could get on you if they felt you threatened them. And that's just leaving aside the voyeurs who would listen to your phone calls just for the porn of it all. Seriously, was this ever in doubt?

50 years later and Seeing "New Jim Crow" Placards Seized by Police & More From the March on Washington

Bill Moyers, "The End Game for Democracy: the parody and satire of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert pay Washington the disrespect it deserves, but in the end it's the city's predatory mercenaries who have the last laugh."

Elizabeth Warren’s secret: The Salon interview

Cops fitted up a teenager, and...: "As the city of Worcester defends itself in a lawsuit over police treatment of a teenager who was jailed for nearly three years, the city is going after the lawyer who won the young woman's freedom. Nga Truong was freed after a judge examined video recordings of her interrogation by Worcester detectives and concluded her confession was the result of police coercion. Truong is now suing for the time she spent behind bars, but the city claims Truong's lawyer should share the blame."

"How Billionaire 'Philanthropy' Is Fueling Inequality and Helping To Destroy the Country"

"I Just Got The Results Of My Self-Diagnosis ."

"Your Ancestors Didn't Sleep Like You."

1,600-year-old art - or nanotech?

A whole bunch of blues

Rickie Lee Jones:
"I wanna read about it in the news
I wanna hear about it on TV, yeah
What happened in the USA?
When they ask you
What happened in the USA?
Tell somebody
They'll wanna know, oh people

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sometimes a great nation

Tonight's guest on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd is Kevin Murphy, speechwriter, ghostwriter, researcher, editor, and advisor to progressive campaigns and political organizations, who will talk about 1920s progressive context, thought and action and how progressives became liberals. Check out Kevin's report, Uphill All the Way: The Fortunes of Progressivism, 1919-1929.

Well, the headline news is from the UK, where the security services made all sorts of threats and oversaw the destruction of the Guardian's hard drives containing leaked material from Snowden. Of course, this was more symbolic - of life in a police state - than any actual impediment to the continuing coverage of the Snowden leaks by the paper, since, what with the interwebs and all, there are copies elsewhere, but gosh, they're not even trying to hide it anymore, are they?

Meanwhile, The Washington Post says, "U.S. had advance notice of Britain's plan to detain reporter Glenn Greenwald's partner" - but they deny orchestrating it. Not that I believe anything that comes out of the White House, of course. Glenn and David appeared on Anderson Cooper's show to respond. And Jeffrey Toobin made an ass of himself in reaction.

There is some interesting and credible speculation that all of this is a prelude to an attempt to indict Glenn Greenwald.

"'They'll Be Laughing in Moscow and Beijing.' A Former British Defence Minister Writes... [...] And what was the response of the UK to the revelation that GCHQ are hoovering up our emails and Skype calls? We arrested Greenwald's boyfriend. Are you serious?"

Well, at least it's all generated some comic relief at the Daily Mash: "Guardian ordered to destroy bourgeois lifestyle articles"

On the other hand, the climate of suppressing free speech starts at home, where Brad Friedman reports: "Scott Walker's War Against Free Speech Escalates: Elected Official, News Editor Arrested in WI."

"Bradley Manning Sentenced to 35 Years After Obama's Broken Promise to Whistleblowers" - Just another example of how much Obama's word to you is worth.
"'The force of days': Manning's 35 very long years [...] 'Every hour, every minute, every second when you're first isolated, you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel,' Stepanian said, stressing that every inmate responds differently to life in a cell. 'It's only when you get out that you can even quantify your time in there,' he told me, audibly shaken by Manning's sentencing. ('When I heard 35 years, I cried,' the former federal inmate and current social justice advocate said, noting Manning's diminutive frame. 'He looked like a 14-year-old.')"
Greg Mitchell reminds us of "What Manning Revealed".

What are SWAT teams good for? Why, to protect us from okra, of course.

"Why the White House is uneasy with picking Janet Yellen as Fed chair" - Atrios called this.

Via Suburban Guerilla, Jim Hightower explains, "The Trans-Pacific Partnership is not a trade agreement, it's corporate coup d'etat - against us!"

If you thought Radley Balko was being alarmist about the militarized mentality of the cops, here's a cop who actually thinks that mentality is the right one - and he trains other cops: "We trainers have spent the past decade trying to ingrain in our students the concept that the American police officer works a battlefield every day he patrols his sector." Not his "neighborhood"; his "sector". And he's just one of many who feel the same way. They don't think they're in American neighborhoods, they think they're in Afghanistan.

14-year-old vs. Monsanto apologist - nicely done.

Alex Pareene, "The rich, summed up: Nepotism, cronyism, narcissism"

Obama the bunny-killer: "The Latest Victim of Sequestration: Bunnies?"
"An America of the puppy, by the puppy and for the puppy" - that about sums it up.

What The Hell Is This Horned Sea Monster That Washed Ashore in Spain?

Neat paintings of scientifictional stuff in everyday settings

Benny Goodman, "If I Had You"

Terry Stafford, "Suspicion"

Monday, August 19, 2013

Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high

Greg Basta, Deputy Director of New York Communities for Change, talked with Jay about the low-wage workers' movement to fight for a better work-life, and why we need a minimum wage of $21 dollars an hour (and laws that prevent fake "part-time" jobs that aren't part-time), on Thursday's Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd.

This week's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays were Dave Johnson of Seeing the Forest and Gaius Publius of Americablog, who talked about the latest NSA revelations (and some useful background on what the Clipper Chip was really about and why we needed it), Egypt and US ties to the Egyptian military, "The state of The State and who runs it," "Lessons from Snowden and whistleblowing as wave of the future," and the following story:
Glenn Greenwald's partner "detained" at Heathrow under terrorism law: "At 6:30 am this morning my time - 5:30 am on the East Coast of the US - I received a telephone call from someone who identified himself as a 'security official at Heathrow airport.' He told me that my partner, David Miranda, had been "detained" at the London airport "under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000."" The official would not give his name and would provide only his alleged ID number when Glenn tried to determine his identity. David was held for nine hours, the maximum allowed time without making an arrest, while he was attempting to change for a plane back home, and all of his tech, including his phone, was taken and had not been returned as of the latest news stories I could find. Lawyers from the Guardian, and Brazilian officials, attempted to find out what was going on and made outraged noises, for hours, without any light being shed. Glenn writes:

According to a document published by the UK government about Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act, "fewer than 3 people in every 10,000 are examined as they pass through UK borders" (David was not entering the UK but only transiting through to Rio). Moreover, "most examinations, over 97%, last under an hour." An appendix to that document states that only .06% of all people detained are kept for more than 6 hours.

The stated purpose of this law, as the name suggests, is to question people about terrorism. The detention power, claims the UK government, is used "to determine whether that person is or has been involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism."

But they obviously had zero suspicion that David was associated with a terrorist organization or involved in any terrorist plot. Instead, they spent their time interrogating him about the NSA reporting which Laura Poitras, the Guardian and I are doing, as well the content of the electronic products he was carrying. They completely abused their own terrorism law for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism: a potent reminder of how often governments lie when they claim that they need powers to stop "the terrorists", and how dangerous it is to vest unchecked power with political officials in its name.

This morning's Guardian reports that the Shadow Home Secretary "has called for an urgent investigation into the use of anti-terror powers to detain David Miranda, the partner of a Guardian journalist who interviewed US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said ministers must find out whether anti-terror laws had been 'misused', after Miranda was held for nine hours by authorities at Heathrow airport under the Terrorism Act." (Am I the only one who gets queasy when officials call for "investigation" when the facts are already on the table? Of course the law was "misused" - the question is about who made it happen, and why.)

* * * * *

OK, I took this trip to Edinburgh (and I hadn't been to King's Cross in quite a while and was shocked by how it's turned into a big modern shopping mall that's even harder to navigate than it used to be), saw some lovely countryside, ate some great food, had a nice time hanging out with some lovely people, and suffered from what I hope was just a stomach virus, with the result that I didn't get a lot of blogging done. What's below is the stuff I should have posted Wednesday but didn't get around to:

"Among the 254 counties where food stamp recipients doubled between 2007 and 2011, Republican Mitt Romney won 213 of them in last year's presidential election, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data compiled by Bloomberg. Kentucky's Owsley County, which backed Romney with 81 percent of its vote, has the largest proportion of food stamp recipients among those that he carried."

Jennifer Hoelzer, Former Wyden Aide, Unleashes On Obama Administration Secrecy [...] Hoelzer then goes on to list example after example of efforts the administration made to make sure that there was never the kind of debate the president now says he welcomes." (via)

Atrios declared Michael Grunwald.The Worst Person In The World after @MikeGrunwald tweeted: "I can't wait to write a defense of the drone strike that takes out Julian Assange." Atrios noted the "objectivity" of the "objective" Time journalist's call for assassination and linked to the HuffPo story on the reaction Grunwald's post generated - and it wasn't just Glenn Greenwald who was appalled, of course. Eventually, that reaction seems to have convinced Grunwald to delete the post and ultimately declare it "dumb", but you have to wonder what sort of company he keeps that he thought anything like that would be acceptable. You shouldn't have to get smacked by Matt Yglesias to get what's wrong with crap like that. (But someone in the ensuing comment thread at HuffPo felt there should be an app for that.)

Bruce Schneier, "The NSA Is Commandeering the Internet: It turns out that the NSA's domestic and world-wide surveillance apparatus is even more extensive than we thought. Bluntly: The government has commandeered the Internet. Most of the largest Internet companies provide information to the NSA, betraying their users. Some, as we've learned, fight and lose. Others cooperate, either out of patriotism or because they believe it's easier that way. I have one message to the executives of those companies: fight."

Adam Curtis, "Bugger: Maybe the real state secret is that spies aren't very good at their jobs and don't know very much about the world." And that title actually appears on the BBC site. Goodness, Auntie!

Sam Seder did a good interview with Radley Balko about the militarization of the police on The Majority Report.

I wish I could believe that Eric Holder is really going to start taking a different tack on drug sentencing, but this is, after all, Eric Holder, and I don't believe anything this administration says when it claims it's going to do something good.

The court has recognized the Obvious Unconstitutionality of Bloomberg's Stop-And-Frisk Program, and Scott Lemieux has highlighted the absolute paucity of a defense that the state was able to provide for doing it, but I was struck by a comment in the ensuing thread that started like this: "Bloomberg has really shocked me recently. I mean, I don't have much love for the guy, but it's always surprising I guess to have someone say that kind of stuff openly. I mean, what is it, 1983?" I actually can't imagine New York taking the official position in 1983 - so publicly and blatantly - that it's okay to violate the rights of law-abiding black citizens going about their ordinary business because blacks commit more crimes. I know a lot of people imagine that the election of Barack Obama has proven something about the decline of racism in America, but few people seem to remember that the mainstream discourse on race has in many respects become considerably worse, not better, than it was even as far back as the 1960s - and even then, you didn't see that kind of position made officially in New York..

Bill de Blasio might just be New York's mayor. Because he's sounding like a real liberal who thinks all New Yorkers should share in the city's prosperity.

For a good time, go back to the previous post, where there's good discussion of the "sexualization" of Betty Boop, not to mention how stupid it is for liberals to assume they're smarter and that everything will get better when that stupid older generation dies off.

This is a very nice live version of Janis doing "Summertime".

Monday, August 12, 2013

Speaking truth to stupid

Highly recommended Virtually Speaking Sundays with David Dayen (dday) and Stuart Zechman talking about "banksters regulators and homeowners; surveillance and 'security'" - and, most explicitly, the incredibly radical program our leaders are foisting on us - and the amazing bipartisanship of the two parties on implementing these disasters.
Background reading:
20 questions
2008, ABC News, "Exclusive: Inside Account of U.S. Eavesdropping on Americans [..] US Soldier's 'Phone Sex' Intercepted, Shared: Faulk says he and others in his section of the NSA facility at Fort Gordon routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted, alerting office mates to certain time codes of "cuts" that were available on each operator's computer."

"Does President Barack Obama think we're stupid?" - That's not the title of this piece that says Snowden is a hero, but it's the first sentence and it speaks pretty well to the senselessness of the line of crap Obama wants us to swallow. Even though it's in Politico.

Digby neatly unpacks Obama's dissembling on Snowden and the NSA scandal. There are a lot of interesting citations and quotations, but my favorite is from NYT economics reporter Binyamin Appelbaum, who tweeted: "Obama is really mad at Edward Snowden for forcing us patriots to have this critically important conversation." Via Atrios, who has again been moved to use more than one sentence.

A question from Yves Smith: "So Why is the Administration Trying to Look a Smidge More Aggressive About Going After Banks?" Well, they've always done their best to try to look good without actually doing good, and I don't figure this is going to be an exception. Whenever you try to point out to Obots that the administration is doing terrible things, they point to things that, on the surface, look like they are supposed to do good. Thing is, those things never turn out to go anywhere good. Donna Edwards can tell you about Cramdown and TARP. Then we had the "jobs bill" that was actually going to do more to decrease American jobs than build them. It's like that.
"Wolf Richter: NSA Pricked The 'Cloud' Bubble For US Tech Companies" - 'cause it's sure not a safe place to secure your data.

From James Ball and Spencer Ackerman in the Guardian, "NSA loophole allows warrantless search for US citizens' emails and phone calls: Exclusive: Spy agency has secret backdoor permission to search databases for individual Americans' communications."

"Details of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program that feeds tips to federal agents and then instructs them to alter the investigative trail were published in a manual used by agents of the Internal Revenue Service for two years."

Why Charles Pierce Wouldn't Vote For Cory Booker - because, among his many other sins, he's tried to defend Malefactors of Great Wealth by comparing criticisms of them with the odious, racist attacks on Jeremiah Wright that even Mr. Obama himself seemed willing to join in with: "I've forgotten, how many houses did Jeremiah Wright steal out from under their owners? How many toxic mortgages did he foist off on unsuspecting customers while getting rich betting against the same investments? How many pensions did he loot? How close did Jeremiah Wright come to wrecking the entire world economy?" Imagine what it takes to be unwilling to see that one of these things is so, so manifestly not like the other.

David Cay Johnston's ruminations on the sale of The Washington Post to Jeff Bezos are certainly worth reading, and not untrue, except that, like almost everyone, he makes the mistake of weighting the paper's declining profits too heavily to the internet and not heavily enough on the Graham's unsound stewardship. People forget that, like The New York Times, the paper started losing money before there was an internet. And that's because the papers lost any interest in who their readers were.

"Wendy Davis's Catch-22" - We need good people to run for these offices rather than just letting the idiots have them.

Americans all over are better than you think: "A Hidden Camera Show Goes To Texas. It Did Not Expect To Find This."

Hilariously, an anonymous nitwit (probably Mathilda) left this comment to the previous post: "Goodbye. This sexualized Betty Boop is just the last straw. While your politics may be liberal I'm done with your attitude towards women and the excuses used to justify it." Just leaving aside that (1) I've been periodically posting Boops all along and (2) Betty Boop has always been "sexualized", I just hope this means I can say good riddance to someone who has spent years in my comments trying to bully me into representing a sexuality I do not have in the name of an imaginary "ideal" of female sexuality that is apparently more important to her than the corporatist economic polices that are having a devastating impact on the lives of women and minorities, not to mention everyone else. Oh, and also: Betty Boops is a cartoon; the people whose lives are being destroyed by these policies are actual real flesh-and-blood humans.

NASA Curiosity Rover's Year On Mars: 5 Breakthroughs

Doctor Who's old rock band

Friday, August 9, 2013

All the running you can do to stay in the same place...or worse

Lynn Stout, author of The Shareholder Value Myth, was Jay's guest this week on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd. Interesting stuff on how our modern CEO culture is about destroying businesses rather than building them.

For those who recall her article "Special Deal" last month, about the way the medical industry practices government-sanctioned price-fixing (and what a sweet deal it is when people get to declare the value of their own work and demand that price, eh? Don't you wish you could do that?), Hayley Sweetland Edwards' longer discussion with Sam Seder this week on The Majority Report fills the story out some more.

Noam Chomsky: "Bradley Manning Should Be Regarded as a Hero" - Actually, an interview by Laura Flanders (video and text) that starts off discussing the Secret Trade Agreement known as TPP and also a recent trip he took: "Mostly I was interested in developments in Bolivia. It's a very exciting place. As you know, it has a complicated history, but in the year 2000 there was an indigenous uprising over water. The international corporations and the international financial institutions were trying to do to Bolivia what they are doing to Europe successfully now . . . They wanted to privatize water as part of the general view that privatization improves efficiency. It's kind of a footnote that people can't afford it. There was an uprising in Cochabamba that succeeded in interesting ways, partly because of international solidarity. Something to think about; they threw out the major multinationals, Bechtel and a French company . . . There had happened to be a demonstration in Washington at the same time against the World Trade Organization (or maybe the World Bank), and they communicated. And the protests in Washington were able to reinforce the public attention to Cochabamba - otherwise it might as well have been crushed. That succeeded, and since then, Bolivia has an indigenous majority. The indigenous population succeeded in taking over the reins of government. They have an indigenous president. They've been carrying out programs that are important both for the Bolivians themselves and for the world."

Teach for America Apostates: a Primer of Alumni Resistance - Teach for America does attract some people who really want to do some good for their country. And after awhile, those people begin to realize that TFA is doing the country no good. In fact, they compound existing disasters like Katrina by shoving kids into charter schools where the teachers are given no incentive to get to know the kids and help them learn and no environment for doing it. The kids who survived Katrina now find themselves in schools where their chances of ending up in jail are probably better than their chances of graduating. All over America, kids have stopped being school students and become just another bit of fodder for the Prison Industrial Complex. And people are beginning to admit it, and fighting back.

Incredibly, Brad DeLong expresses "A Slight Preference for Larry Summers to Be Federal Reserve Chair." It must be semantics. Brad calls it "outside the box" thinking, I call it a proven record of failure. But then, recent history seems to show these are both the same thing. It's the term people use when they are trying to convince you that a proposal that makes no sense is the best thing to do. Via Atrios, who actually said something about it.

"Alarm Bells Are Ringing: Creationists Get Influential Positions in Texas Science Textbook Review" - And these are the people who make the textbooks for most US schools. People really ought to be getting on their local school boards and demanding that textbooks used in their schools come from more reliable sources.

Atrios unpacking for you: "Talking about structural unemployment is a way for Very Serious People to blame the losers and the moochers for their own plight. They don't have the skills, you see, that The Modern Economy requires because they are losers after all. And, well, there's nothing to be done to help these people. They should have gotten a STEM degree even though there are no STEM jobs but whatever just keep saying STEM because it's Very Serious."

Graham family selling The Washington Post to Jeff Bezos! Bezos is a major donor to the Republican Party, but I wonder if he'll take their marching orders as well as the current owners of the Post have taken orders from the corporatist profiteers. For one thing, Bezos is a guy who actually thinks his company should be paying taxes on the money makes on the internet. And since he's buying the Post whole with his own cash (cash!), he will be beholden to no stockholders. In other words, he can treat the paper not as a money-making concern, but as something else, like, maybe, an actual newspaper. Personally, I think there's money to be made by someone who tries that tack. But the thing that really got me about this story is that he bought the paper for 250 million dollars. That's actually not very much money as these things go. And, really, George Soros probably would have been getting more bang for his buck if he'd been thinking in those terms rather than wasting his money on

"Iowa voters: Expand Social Security! [...] Any presidential primary is a war for the soul of the party, and for Democrats in 2016 in Iowa, it's a safe bet that at least one battle in that war will be fought over Social Security. Earlier this year, President Obama shocked liberals by including a measure to trim Social Security benefits in his budget proposal, dividing the party in half, and prompting accusations of betrayal to fundamental Democratic principles. Still, many party leaders supported the change, creating a major fault line in the party that remains unresolved to this day. The White House has since backed off on its desire to switch to the so-called 'chained CPI,' but the push for 'entitlement reform' is not dead and how Democrats, and especially presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton, respond to it will determine the fate of the social insurance program and perhaps the Democratic Party. With all that in mind, a coalition of progressive groups, which has recently gone on offense by launching an effort to expand Social Security, is firing the first shot in this coming war - and they have polling to back them up."

I remember reading all the hyperventilating stuff about crack in the magazines and thinking, "This is just Reefer Madness revisited." But everyone assured me that crack was something special, it had effects like no other drug had. They read it in Time. But then, I'm old enough to remember reading about "the Orange Man" in Time. In fact, it seems like I've been reading bollocks about drugs in Time my whole life. So, y'know, what's in Carl Hart's "Myths About Illicit Drugs Perpetuate Destructive Policy" doesn't come as much of a surprise to me. "To me, by that point in my career, their myth-busting behavior was no longer a surprise - no matter how odd and unlikely it may seem to many Americans raised on Drug Awareness Resistance Education (DARE) antidrug programs and 'This is your brain on drugs' TV commercials. My participants' responses - and those in the dozens of other studies we'd already run, as well as studies by other researchers around the country - had begun to expose important truths. Not just about crack cocaine and about addiction, but about the way the brain works and the way that pleasure affects human behavior. Not just about drugs, but about the way science works and about what we can learn when we apply rigorous scientific methods. This research was beginning to reveal what lies behind choice and decision-making in general and how, even when affected by drugs, it is influenced powerfully by other factors as well." (This article is the prologue to his book, High Price: A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society, which of course is not approving of our drug policies.)

"Details On Upcoming Police Torrent Site Crackdown Revealed: A clearer picture is emerging on how the UK police Intellectual Property Crime Unit will operate when it's launched in September. The unit, which is already targeting torrent sites located both in the UK and overseas, will act on intelligence provided by rightsholders and ensure that copyright cases are allocated greater resources than they have in the past. Information sharing will also allow evidence in criminal cases to be used to recover damages via the civil courts."

"Why ALEC Fabricated Public School Failures (and Why We're Not Surprised): 'ALEC vs. Kids: ALEC's Assault on Public Education'. That's the alarmingly accurate title of a new report that focuses on how the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) education task force has used a state-by-state report card to fabricate failure in state public education systems in order to create sales opportunities for their corporate membership."

Update: Judge who accepted private-prison bribes to send black kids to jail still sentenced to 28 years, because he lost his appeal.

"Snowden's Wikipedia Entry, Changed From ‘Dissident' to ‘Traitor' by US Senator?"

" It was almost extortion by the press: Don't want to be called a fame whore? Then come on TV and make your case!"

Monsanto and friends are rolling out another campaign to mislead the public, because 93% of Americans want GMOs labeled on their food. Agribiz has another PR front out called Alliance to Feed the Future and a website called to try to convince you that you don't need to know what's in your food.

Political Corruption as Duplicitous Exclusion [...] Corruption breaks the link between collective decisionmaking and peoples' power to influence collective decisions through speaking and voting, the very acts that define democracy. Corruption reduces the effective domain of public action, and thus the reach of democracy, by changing public agencies of collective action to instruments of private benefit. Corruption creates inefficiencies in deliveries of public services, not only in the form of a tax on public expenditures, but by shifting public activities toward those sectors in which it is possible for those engaged in corrupt exchanges to benefit. And when public officials put prices on routine government transactions, then the rights and protections citizens should be able to enjoy become favors, to be repaid in kind. Moreover, corruption undermines the culture of democracy. When people lose confidence that public decisions are taken for reasons that are publicly available and justifiable, they often become cynical about public speech and deliberation. People come to expect duplicity in public speech, and the expectation tarnishes all public officials, whether or not they are corrupt. And when people are mistrustful of government, they are also cynical about their own capacities to act on public goods and purposes, and will prefer to attend to narrow domains of self-interest they can control. Corruption in this way diminishes the horizons of collective actions, and in so doing shrinks the domain of democracy." [pdf]

You know all those nice things Larry Summers' friends say about him? Don't believe them.

That stint Mark Evanier had as a pornographer

Peter Capaldi is still well-remembered in the Whovian universe, not just for his role as a character in a Doctor Who episode, but for his role as John Frobisher in the chilling Torchwood story "Children of Earth". In 1965, Frobisher negotiated the handover of human children to aliens for unknown purposes. And now the aliens were back, wanting more. Earth has nothing to fight them with, and Frobisher negotiates again, but he can't live with it. In the end, of course, it's up to Jack; however, much as he wants to follow in the Doctor's footsteps, Jack isn't the Doctor, and the price of his solution is high. But Capaldi's performance is still the one I remember him for, and there's no question in my mind that he will carry off the part. Although possibly not (nsfw) like this. (And I still think the BBC bites for not putting the big reveal in the story itself rather than wasting my time with a stupid half hour of neon.)

The New Humanist has announced and posted the cover story for their next issue of the magazine: a celebration of Iain M. Banks.

I recognized this painter right away (especially her voice, but she still looks like herself in spite of the age and hair), but I wonder how many other people will. Thanks to CMike for the pointer.

Baby elephant!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The here and now

Panelists on this week's Virtually Speaking Sundays are Avedon Carol and David Waldman (KagroX).
Background reading:
Adam Liptak, "Court Rulings Blur the Line Between a Spy and a Leaker," says that until the Ellesberg prosecution, "'The American press was freer before it won its battle with the government,' Alexander Bickel, the Yale law professor who represented The Times in the case, wrote in his classic 1975 book, The Morality of Consent. 'Through the troubles of 1798, through one civil and two world wars and other wars, there had never been an effort by the federal government to censor a newspaper by attempting to impose a prior restraint,' Professor Bickel wrote. 'That spell was broken, and in a sense, freedom was thus diminished.' Worse, from the perspective of the news media, the victory in the Pentagon Papers case was distinctly limited and helped shape the Manning prosecution."
Related: Digby, "Can you see what's wrong with this picture?" and "Orange Alert"

This may win my award for most egregious example of Centrist Bias in Media: "Fed Chairman's Departure Casts a New Light on the Bush Legacy", in which The Voice From Nowhere informs us that an event that hasn't even happened yet forces everyone to look more favorably on the disaster of Bush's (and now Obama's) economic policies, and that we should be glad that the very architects of our economic disaster have been in charge of fixing our economic disaster, which they have fixed (even though they haven't). As a writer of alternative history, trust me, this guy is no Turtledove - more like Mxyzptlk just coming in and magically changing the terrain to something from another dimension. (And that reference to Carter really sticks in my craw - yeah, if the press turns against you, labels the introduction of the most hopeful and forward-looking program in years "the malaise speech", and works very hard to make your demented opponant look like a hero so that you lose the election for your second term, and then spends succeeding decades painting you as a loser, by god you will seem like a loser. But not because of your actual policies.) This ahistorical piece of bad fantasy in The New York Times is labelled: "Political Memo", which in itself makes it a curious addition to the Newspaper of Record. It would take me all day to do a line-by-line dissection of just how many falsehoods and misleading statements John Harwood managed to shoe-horn into this article, but fortunately, Stuart Zechman and Jay Ackroyd sat down and spent about an hour unpacking it in this Virtually Speaking A-Z, which I found a downright gratifying listen. I just wish I knew that Harwood had to listen to it over and over.

Dean Baker: "Larry Summers and Financial Crises: Is He Being Graded on Attendance? [...] In short, if we look at Larry Summers track record in dealing with crises it is pretty abysmal."

Ah, we can dream: "Democrats Introduce Bill that Could Lead to Impeachment for Justices Thomas and Scalia: On Thursday, a group of Democratic lawmakers proposed a law to establish a Code of Conduct for the Supreme Court. It's surely to have Supreme Court Justices Thomas and Scalia quaking in their Tea Party boots because it would mean they would actually have to be independent of political and other influences. They would also have to have the appearance of independence. They would have to stay away from political activity. That part would be really hard. As it stands, this law would help guarantee that Supreme Court Justices are held to the same ethical standards we expect of other judges. Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, joined by Senators Chris Murphy, Richard Blumenthal and Sheldon Whitehouse, introduced the bill. It would make ethics mandatory, rather than an option left to the discretion of Justices like Thomas and Scalia." Nice idea, but fat chance unless someone comes up with a really clever marketing scheme.

If you ever needed to have the phrase "the personal is political explained to you, try being unemployed during a planned disemployment policy regime.

"Are liberals finally ready to oppose neoliberal education reform?"

Bruce Schneier, "NSA secrets kill our trust
James Fallows, Why NSA Surveillance Will Be More Damaging Than You Think

Cenk on Why Bradley Manning Should Go Free (\video)

Here's a fat cat bragging about rigging IL bond ratings to kill pensions
Smokey gives me chills.

Notes on living in their world (these are two different stories!):
"Wheelchair-bound passenger forced to crawl off Delta flight as attendants watched."
"Amputee Vet ‘Humiliated' on Delta Flight"

Roy Edroso, in "R.I.P. DOGHOUSE RILEY, gives us a bite of one of his many fine articles: "I know I may have said this before, but Th' fuck makes these guys go on about this shit interminably? And why are they so quick to chalk it up to the thoughtful generosity of 19th century English mill owners? The major improvement in the quality of life since 1810 is public health. Sewage disposal. Safe drinking water. Vaccinations. Food inspection. Y'know the entire litany of stuff the Brookses in this country oppose, obstruct, and applaud Ronald Reagan for gutting before turning the remnants over to industry groups to regulate for themselves. The sort of thing they spend half their allotted annual column inches trying to convince the lower classes to elect Republicans to prevent. The sort of thing they expect will be provided for themselves, gratis and regardless, of course." I never linked to him often enough because I assumed everyone was already reading him, which was probably pretty stupid on my part, but one of those blind spots you develop if you're, well, me. But he was really good, and had great BS detectors for a long time.

The Wicker Dalek

Hansen has finally added his photos from the trip to his TAFF Report.

Wolverine: A Film By Woody Allen