Sunday, November 23, 2014

I look for the light through the pouring rain

Digby and David Dayen (dday) panelists last week on Virtually Speaking Sundays, discussing the "Supreme Court decision to revisit the constitutionality (!) of the PPACA exchanges; speculated on a GOP with control of the legislature, but no chance of overriding a veto; and celebrated (!) the hopeful news on net neutrality. Plus the Most Ridiculous Moment from satirist Culture of Truth."

David Dayen at Salon: "Grossest midterms winner not GOP! Why K Street is readying an 'orgy of lobbying': The saddest people in Washington during the past two years of unrelenting legislative gridlock ply their trade on K Street. When there's no hope of passing laws, there's no reason to hire expensive lobbyists to push for them. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, lobbyist spending fell 12.5 percent in 2013, and is on target to decrease even more this year. Some have speculated that lobbying has just gone underground into less-regulated spheres, funneled through nonprofits and 'astroturf' organizations. But if that were the case, K Street firms, mired in a three-year slump, wouldn't be so enthralled by the imminent transfer of Senate power to the GOP. 'We're very excited,' said one Republican lobbyist. 'There's going to be more activity ... Corporations and trade associations affected by Washington power will be looking to invest in those policy decisions.'"

David Dayen at The Fiscal Times: "The So-So Society: Democrats Have Forgotten What Made Them Great [...] Whether or not these points have merit, they are limited by the narrow range of mainstream party ideology. This is not the Democratic Party of your great-grandfather's New Deal or your grandfather's Great Society. The takeover of the party by more business-friendly interests - which ironically (or perhaps not) dates back to right around 1973, when wages decoupled from productivity - necessarily impoverishes the imagination around issues of economic security and prosperity."

Matt Taibbi, back at Rolling Stone, on "The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JPMorgan Chase's Worst Nightmare - she was there and she saw the disaster unfolding as Jamie Dimon's fraud machine went into action. But then she watched as Eric Holder made sure no one was held to account: "Fleischmann winced. Fully fluent in Holder's three-faced rhetoric after years of waiting for him to act, she felt that he was patting himself on the back for having helped companies survive crimes that otherwise might have triggered crippling regulatory penalties. As she watched in mounting outrage, Holder wrapped up his address with a less-than-reassuring pronouncement: 'I am resolved to seeing [the investigations] through.' Doing so, he added, would "reaffirm" his principles. Or, as Fleischmann translates it: 'I will personally stay on to make sure that no one can undo the cover-up that I've accomplished.'" Sam Seder interviewed Taibbi about the article on The Majority Report.

Matt Stoller at Naked Capitalism: "Why the Democratic Party Acts The Way It Does [...] Everything is put on the table, except the main course - policy. Did the Democrats run the government well? Are the lives of voters better? Are you as a political party credible when you say you'll do something? This question is never asked, because Democratic elites - ensconced in the law firms, foundations, banks, and media executive suites where the real decisions are made - basically agree with each other about organizing governance around the needs of high technology and high finance. The only time the question even comes up now is in an inverted corroded form, when a liberal activist gnashes his or her teeth and wonders - why can't Democrats run elections around populist themes and policies? This is still the wrong question, because it assumes the wrong causality. Parties don't poll for good ideas, run races on them, and then govern. They have ideas, poll to find out how to sell those ideas, and run races and recruit candidates based on the polling. It's ideas first, then the sales pitch. If the sales pitch is bad, it's often the best of what can be made of an unpopular stew of ideas. Still, you'd think that someone, somewhere would have populist ideas. And a few - like Zephyr Teachout and Elizabeth Warren - do. But why does every other candidate not? I don't actually know, but a book just came out that might answer this question. The theory in this book is simple. The current generation of Democratic policymakers were organized and put in power by people that don't think that a renewed populist agenda centered on antagonism towards centralized economic power is a good idea. The book, however, is not written by a populist liberal reformer. It's written by one of the guys who put the current system in place. And it's a really good and important story. The New Democrats and the Return to Power is the book, and Al From is the man who wrote it. From was one of the key organizers of this anti-populist movement, and he lays out his in detail his multi-decade organizing strategy and his reasons for what he did."
- John Emerson, "- Anti-populism one more time"
"Open Letter to Democrats From a Disillusioned Young Voter"
- Mike Flannigan on how "centrist" Democrats and their lies are a gift that keeps on giving - to the farthest right Republicans.
- Down With Tyranny!: "The Class of Rahm -- Why Not Move Beyond That Kind Of Disastrous Politics" (Related: "Rahm Took Campaign Cash From Companies Doing Business With Chicago" - He's a criminal. We need to get rid of this creep.)

"Local Officials Encourage Police To Seize Cars, Flatscreen TVs, And Computers From Civilians: Cops have the authority to seize items they suspect are linked to a crime, most individuals can't afford a lawyer to fight the forfeiture. And once the property is taken, it's extremely rare that they ever get it back." The perfect robbery - steal people's property and dare them to try to get it back. With a great presentation from John Oliver on Civil Forfeiture.

Uncle Sam's Databases of Suspicion

Fight to expand Social Security

Banksters ignoring the courts some more - collecting on debts you no longer owe.

For the First Time Ever, a Prosecutor Will Go to Jail for Wrongfully Convicting an Innocent Man

Yves Smith updates us on the AIG bailout and tells us ISPs are removing customers' email encryption.

"Extreme Wealth Is Bad for Everyone - Especially the Wealthy" (Actually, I still don't buy "especially the wealthy" - it doesn't actually kill them.)

Man, I used to see McPherson in the WaPo for years, it's kinda scary and depressing to see him writing about what it's like to be poor - this was a guy who was the epitome of success for journalists, a Pulitzer winner and all. But it's a good piece.

Mrs Tara Plumbing: "Why I don't think Julien Blanc should be banned and I won't sign the petition" - I do wonder about people who even have time to get so exercised about such garden-variety sexism when the whole country is being taken apart from the top.

Benedict Cumberbatch on what Sherlock would be like on a date.

Two minutes of baby elephants.

Steve Winwood performing "Georgia on My Mind" with The Spencer Davis Group, 1967.

Dobie Gray, "Drift Away"

Monday, November 10, 2014

You just have to come to your own conclusion

This week on Virtually Speaking Sundays David Waldman (KagroX) and Dave Johnson did the election post-mortem.

Elsewhere, everybody's talkin' like the Democratic Party and "the left" took a beating in the election Tuesday, but by my lights the public did us all a favor by refusing to vote for Democrats whose only selling-point was that at least they weren't Republicans. Oh, yes, Begich lost, too, but no one really expects Alaska to turn blue, and he came a lot closer than people expected - although I expect he could have done better if he had gone stronger. And, unfortunately, the Democratic Party leadership was deliberately sabotaging anyone with a progressive message or record, so no surprises there. I mean, how can you lose when you have this great record to run on? Happily, however, we got rid of some of the worst Dems in the party, and no doubt those who don't get cushy jobs as lobbyists will all have to become talking heads on Fox and Press the Meat for a while. Harold Ford, move over!

Oh, but the carrying on! I can't believe that even on Alternet, there is nonsense about how the party might purge progressives in the future because the strong progressive message failed to bring Dems past the post. Y'what? Did Mark Pryor campaign on a strong progressive message? Did the national party project a progressive message? They did not. And the reason they did not is that they have already purged or whipped most of the progressives (such as they are) in the party and talk about crap like Social Security benefit cuts and hang out with people like Pete Peterson.

Progressives did badly? Oh? Remember what a nail-biter it was waiting for Franken to win Minnesota back in 2008? Well, that wasn't a problem this time around. The incumbent Democrats who got hammered in this election - lost, or came painfully close to losing - were Blue Dogs and DLC/Third Way/New Democrat types. No one really wanted to come out for them and so their "easy wins" never materialized. As Cliff Schecter pointed out on Friday's edition of The Majority Report, Third Way lost a bunch of its elite in this one. Not that it's stopped them from pretending the party needs to move to their "center", but that might just be a hard sell.

And where the voters had the chance to vote on issues, the left won handily. Ballot initiatives for legalizing weed, raising the minimum wage, and curtailing corporations did very well, even in states where Democrats lost. The details on who and what lost or won tell you a great deal. The so-called "left" - which these days seems to mean anyone who is not in the centers of power in DC and on Wall Street - seems to have won where they ran; it was right-wingers with a D after their names who took a bath. Which could be great news for the rest of us if only some real liberals decide to capitalize on it and jump into the ring.

No, it wasn't "the left" who lost the election, it was Obama's right-wing economic policies. Let Howie Klein and Ian Welsh tell you that story, with the help of a couple of pretty scary charts.

As our feathered friend says: "But I'd like to look back at something else. A while back, I wrote, 'To win the next election you have to deliver. Obama didn't deliver on jobs, housing, and banking, and it's pretty hard to message that away,' and also 'Faced with an election that is the crystallized result of essence of policy failure, Obama decides that he...sent the wrong message.' No, you idiots. You didn't send the wrong message. You bailed out the bankers and not the public. You let people be thrown out of their homes through rampant fraud. Six years after the crash, people are still out of work and you bargained away the unemployment insurance extension. Salaries have gone down. Most of us have gone through our savings and you have done nothing to help." That's a record to crash and burn on. See, it's still the economy, stupid.

Meanwhile, on the avowed anti-Obama right, there's just a little bit of dismay over the fact that Republicans now want to give Obama more power for the dreaded fast-track. (We can argue with whether people voted for Republicans rather than simply refusing to turn out for bad Dems, but it's hard to argue that The People voted for fast-track.) "This would be a Republican ratification of the policies of Bush I and II that produced $10 trillion in trade deficits, hollowed out our manufacturing base, and sent abroad the jobs of millions of Reagan Democrats. Globalization carpet-bombed Middle America and killed the Nixon-Reagan coalition that used to give the GOP 49-state landslides. Why would Republicans return to that Bush-Clinton-Obama policy that ended the economic independence of Eisenhower's America? The party should re-embrace economic patriotism, stand up to Japanese protectionists and Chinese currency manipulators, and put American workers first, ahead of corporate outsourcers."

The Election map - read it and weep.

Bill Hicks on what happens after an election

In other news that isn't actually unrelated to the foregoing:

I can't even think about the so-called "school reform movement" without wanting to slap some people.

"E-mail points to White House involvement in USDA's firing of Shirley Sherrod" - Did anyone really think Obama's fingerprints weren't on this somewhere? He may not listen to the voters, but he listens to

Frank Serpico says, "The Police Are Still Out of Control [...] Today the combination of an excess of deadly force and near-total lack of accountability is more dangerous than ever: Most cops today can pull out their weapons and fire without fear that anything will happen to them, even if they shoot someone wrongfully. All a police officer has to say is that he believes his life was in danger, and he's typically absolved. What do you think that does to their psychology as they patrol the streets - this sense of invulnerability? The famous old saying still applies: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. (And we still don't know how many of these incidents occur each year; even though Congress enacted the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act 20 years ago, requiring the Justice Department to produce an annual report on 'the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers,' the reports were never issued.)"

"Verizon is launching a tech news site that bans stories on U.S. spying: Verizon is getting into the news business. What could go wrong? The most-valuable, second-richest telecommunications company in the world is bankrolling a technology news site called The publication, which is now hiring its first full-time editors and reporters, is meant to rival major tech websites like Wired and the Verge while bringing in a potentially giant mainstream audience to beat those competitors at their own game. There's just one catch: In exchange for the major corporate backing, tech reporters at SugarString are expressly forbidden from writing about American spying or net neutrality around the world, two of the biggest issues in tech and politics today."

Lee Camp: States Criminalize Off-The-Grid Living

Racism Insurance, and other stuff.


Huh. Movies That Passed the Bechdel Test Made More Money in 2013.

Why, yes, I would like to watch a fantasy TV series with a superhero team called The Librarians. Is it any good?

John Scalzi's erotic Watchmen fanfic novel

Traffic, "Don't Be Sad"

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The crowd called out for more

On Virtually Speaking, Marcy Wheeler talked with Patrick Eddington, a former CIA officer, and former intelligence staffer to Rush Holt, about the nature of "intelligence" and the loss of Congressional oversight. Homework for this one: Senator Frank Church on Meet the Press: The Intelligence Gathering Debate, 1975. "There would be no place to hide"

The Democratic Party's Tea Party faction in action: Obama's friends may successfully defeat Progressive Caucus member Mike Honda. Because another odious technocrat is just what we need. (Thanks to commenter ksix for the tip.)

Right now even the most optimistic Dem prognosticators are talking about hanging onto the Senate by a hair and probably losing some Congressional seats as well. And yes, we can blame the media for some of it, but let's not get carried away, because the Dems barely lifted a finger to try to give voters something to vote for. Robert Kuttner is right, even if the Dems aren't "routed" - this should have been an easy win.

This is the most recent video I've found of the remarkable performance of a certain candidate behaving like a petulant 6-year-old during a very lamely-handled interview by a soft-baller at The Cleveland Plain Dealer, which the paper for some reason keeps making people take down. Ah, here's an update of the story at PressThink.

Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Jeremy Scahill, and John Cook's statement on why Matt Taibbi quit First Look: "Taibbi's dispute with his bosses instead centered on differences in management style and the extent to which First Look would influence the organizational and corporate aspects of his role as editor-in-chief. Those conflicts were rooted in a larger and more fundamental culture clash that has plagued the project from the start: A collision between the First Look executives, who by and large come from a highly structured Silicon Valley corporate environment, and the fiercely independent journalists who view corporate cultures and management-speak with disdain. That divide is a regular feature in many newsrooms, but it was exacerbated by First Look's avowed strategy of hiring exactly those journalists who had cultivated reputations as anti-authoritarian iconoclasts."

It's going even farther than usual to say, "Government didn't build my business, I did," when your whole town wouldn't exist without the government.

Via Atrios, "The Red Cross' Secret Disaster" tells you what happens when you put a relief agency in the hands of people who come from today's Glorious Leaders.

You'd think the Crown Prosecution Service would at least hire people who are smart enough to tell a spoof video from real porn. But they never have been, and the stupidity of the law makes it easy for them to get carried away.

Remember when Samantha Power called Hillary Clinton a "monster"? Well, that's pretty rich, coming from Obama's Atrocity Enabler.

Making the point? "Muslim Company Forcing Christian Employees to Wear Headscarfs: A Muslim-owned arts-and-crafts store in Dearborn, Michigan is forcing its female Christian employees to wear traditional Islamic headscarves while on the job. According to local reports, Khilaf Krafts began requiring its eight female employees to wear hijabs last week, following the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which gave religious rights to family-owned businesses. Although five women working for the company are Muslims, the remaining three are practicing Christians. The company has threatened to fire any Christian woman who does not comply."

Elizabeth Warren may have just opened the door to a White House run

Everything You Need to Know to Vote in the 2014 Elections

Sean Wang says, "Midterm National Senate Polling Error Is Five Times Larger Than In Presidential Years." So, either way, don't count your chickens.

Blast from the past: Whenever I hear anyone talk about Al Gore's lack of charisma, I remember seeing the video (which, alas, I can't find now - a real shame because it's even more obvious how much more visually dynamic Gore can be) of Gore talking to some students at Concord High School in New Hampshire, and answering a question about how individuals can make a difference, and his story about how the poisoned water at Love Canal was exposed by a high school student who wrote to her Congressman. This American Life preserved the audio, fortunately, in a segment about how different candidates - with the example being Gore - are from the way the media middlemen paint them. Some interesting student comments: "He wasn't as stiff as people say he was. He comes out, takes his jacket off or whatever. He walks around, he asks for audience participation, he talks to the audience." "I mean, he was still Gore. But he wasn't quite as stiff as like-- he didn't just get up and talk like the other candidates did. He's kind of a neat speaker to see." Some of you may remember how the media turned this event into what had to be a complete nightmare for Gore - all, apparently, because MoDo and the Spite Girls thought George W. Bush (George W. Bush!) was hotter than Al Gore.

Kosher Halloween

What emphasis is for: "I never said she stole my money."

Our friend Pavl Duke, playing all the instruments.

Award-winning shadow-casting sculpture - We've seen a couple of these before and enjoyed them, but I have to say I was touched by the background of this one, which the artist says was based on a design from the Alhambra fortress in Granada, Spain, "which was poised at the intersection of history, culture and art and was a place where Islamic and Western discourses, met and co-existed in harmony and served as a testament to the symbiosis of difference."

Original 1967 video of "Whiter Shade of Pale"