Sunday, February 23, 2014

A million miles away

Stuart Zechman and Avedon Carol are scheduled panelists this weekend on Virtually Speaking Sundays. Assuming whatever I have doesn't get worse or something.
David Brin talked some more about privacy and transparency on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd.

One of the things we have to remember about Obamacare is that most of it is in the hands of the insurance companies, including the immediate PR aspects. So right off the bat, we had the companies sending letters to people saying things to the effect of, "We're sorry, but president Obama is making us get rid of your cheap policy and you'll have to buy a more expensive policy now," without also explaining that "the reason for this is that your cheap policy was so crappy that even offering it to you was fraudulent and we should all be in jail for it." Luckily for Obama, they didn't also explain that, "Of course, the other fraudulent aspects of commercial health insurance are still with us, so you probably still can't afford to use the policy to get health care of a quality you could get in most of the rest of the world, and you can still end up losing your home." And they certainly didn't get around to explaining that, "The reason for this is that President Obama and his pals in the White House refused to even consider the greater effectiveness and sustainability of kicking commercial insurers out of the equation." We kept being told that any other option was not "feasible", but maybe they had a different definition of "feasible" than we did. (And while I was reading the comments on that, I found a link to this discussion at the Oxford Union on "Has capitalism failed the world?")

Bernie Sanders asks "a panel of experts" whether Walmart should pay its workers enough to live on, or if the taxpayers should have to help support them instead. Of course, the poor get less welfare than anyone else does. (And here's Barry Ritholtz on How McDonald's and Wal-Mart Became Welfare Queens . Apparently, even he forgot that there used to be laws governing the treatment of employees in terms of time and pay that also would have prevented a lot of this.)

From Atrios:
"Message: I Care About Poverty" - even supposed "help" for the poor turns out to be another attack on the poor.
"Shouting And Screaming Is Part Of My Job" - This is obviously a response to people who claim that it was and is unnecessary for liberal progressives to scream with alarm when the White House seems to be proposing right-wing policies, since those right-wing policies end up not happening anyway (except for the ones that do). Just leaving aside the fact that Obama's offers to cut Social Security keep failing to pass because those crazy, obstructive Republicans refuse to accept them, the fact that the White House keeps proposing them even though no one wants them is a big clue. Yes, I think bloggers have certainly been instrumental in slowing down the train-wreck, although that was easier to do under Bush because more supposedly liberal bloggers were on the same page with liberal policy rather than "We have to support our Democratic/First Black President," but we had help from the right-wing on that, and if these odious policies are not already baked into the pie (along with the already-baked and extremely odious rise of the age of eligibility to 67), it's not for lack of trying on the part of the Obama Administration. It's not that they didn't want Social Security cuts, it's that they failed to get them because absolutely everyone else opposed them. And, frankly, I don't care if the Republicans did it for the stupidest and nastiest reasons in the world (which they did), I'm just glad they stopped it.
Via Eschaton:
"Watch This CNN Anchor Stop The Spin On The Minimum Wage"
"Here's Why Your Netflix Is Slowing Down"
"Here's Why Obama Can't Get Democrats To Back His Trade Deal"
Dean Baker: "America's Invisible - and Very Diverse - Working Class"

"Obama Admin's TPP Trade Officials Received Hefty Bonuses From Big Banks"

A lot of people are confounded by what happened to the vote at the Volkswagen plant - it seemed the union had everything going for it, and Volkswagen itself was not being hostile to unionization. So how did they lose?

Wonkette: "Cool New Kansas Bill Would Let Everybody Spank Your Child [..] OK, so the proposed law says that you must spank a child on the buttocks, and can restrain him or her to do so AND you can do it til the kid is a full-grown adult. We just can't see any downside to telling school personnel that they should tackle a high school senior and spank the kid. No liability or safety concerns at all nosiree."

An interesting question explored by Yanis Varoufakis at Naked Capitalism: "Can the Internet Democratize Capitalism?"
Lambert Strether had some fun with Greg Mankiw's NYT op-ed about the deserving rich, and aside from providing an interesting chart, raises a question I hadn't seen before about what "inequality" is and why suddenly everyone in Washington feels comfortable talking about it.

How come we let banks make money by creating debt? What if we didn't?

Ah, Tony Blair, the guy who was instrumental in catapulting the propaganda for war on Iraq, managed to earn Atrios' Worst Person in the World award for Wednesday with the revelation that he personally advised Rebekka Brookes on how to weasel out of phone-hacking charges. My favorite quote from the article: "According to Brooks's note, Blair advised her to set up an 'independent' inquiry, suggesting it could have "outside counsel, Ken Macdonald [the former director of public prosecutions], a great and good type". He said the inquiry would be "Hutton style" - a reference to Lord Hutton's inquiry into the death of David Kelly - and would "clear" her, but warned that "shortcomings" would have to be accepted as a result of the report. Some might interpret that as being practically an admission that they engineered a faux "enquiry" to cover up the suspected murder of David Kelly.

Ad with secret anti-abuse message only visible to children

When "Stand Your Ground" won't work

Cartoon: Energy sources

Lee Camp, Everything You Know About The Death Penalty Is Wrong!
A graphic of two financial collapses

Really? Women don't write epic fantasy? Do they really believe that?

A Tribute to Paintings We'll Never See - because the Nazis destroyed them as "degenerate art".

Your Steampunk Moment: Cool picture of The abandoned City Hall Subway Station in New York. More here.

Hanoi Rocks

Sunday, February 16, 2014

You find little excuses

RJ Eskow and Gaius Publius are scheduled to be tonight's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays. They apparently plan to talk about " the mentality of plutocrats and climate.." With Culture of Truth's usual contribution.

Sam Seder's guest the other day on The Majority Report was Melissa Gira Grant, author of Playing The Whore: The Work of Sex Work, and it was a pleasure to hear her saying things I've been saying for years. Most of the criticisms you hear about sex work apply to plenty of other jobs that we don't talk about the same way. Is it a job you take only because you need the money? You mean, as opposed to working in a factory, or for a horrible boss, or as a cleaner? Do miners go down the mines for the view, or for their health?
And here's what might be seen as a companion piece at the Guardian, "Strippers are not the problem - they're just doing a job."

Taibbi, "The Vampire Squid Strikes Again: The Mega Banks' Most Devious Scam Yet [...] All of this was big enough news in itself. But it would take half a generation - till now, basically - to understand the most explosive part of the bill, which additionally legalized new forms of monopoly, allowing banks to merge with heavy industry. A tiny provision in the bill also permitted commercial banks to delve into any activity that is 'complementary to a financial activity and does not pose a substantial risk to the safety or soundness of depository institutions or the financial system generally.' 'From the perspective of the banks,' says Saule Omarova, a law professor at the University of North Carolina, 'pretty much everything is considered complementary to a financial activity.'"

I really wish I could get across to certain of my liberal friends that both sides are funded by the Koch Brothers. You don't get something like the DLC out of nowhere, and when the people who support it are so few and so fringy, there has to be a lot of money behind it to give it the profile - and the success - it's had. "His book's acknowledgments list only sixteen politicians but identify twenty people 'whose support and generosity...made the DLC story possible.' Among them are Jon Corzine, the disgraced financier and former New Jersey governor; Michael Steinhardt, a hedge fund manager, major Republican donor and founder of the defunct neoconservative New York Sun newspaper; and Rich Richman, who recently gave $10 million to Columbia University for a research center directed by R. Glenn Hubbard, former chair of George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisors. (A Newsweek investigation in 2000 turned up some DLC underwriters that From doesn't mention: Du Pont, Philip Morris, Merck and the Koch brothers.)" That'd be DLC power-boy Al From.

Alex Pareene, "Is one of 'the crazy ones' behind a threatening email sent to House Republicans? [...] Yes, Republicans also think of certain other Republicans as 'the crazy ones.' No, those Republicans do not generally have policy beliefs that differ significantly from those of the crazy ones. One issue that does divide them, though, is the debt ceiling. 'Sane' Republicans exploit the regular mandatory debt ceiling vote by falsely claiming that raising it incurs additional debt, while understanding that raising the limit is necessary. 'The crazy ones,' though, genuinely believe that not raising the debt limit wouldn't end up causing an economic catastrophe, or that somehow causing that catastrophe is necessary in order to finally shrink our bloated federal government. What makes 'the crazy ones' crazy, in fact, is that they genuinely believe the cynical lies - about government debt, global warming, taxes, healthcare, immigration, Democratic Party fiscal policies and so on - that the non-crazy ones have been feeding the rubes for years." Via Atrios.

Jay Ackroyd notes that "Glenzilla's new home has quite the masthead." It sure does. And here's Dan Froomkin on The Terrible Toll of Secrecy.

"You Know Who Else Collected Metadata? The Stasi. The East German secret police, known as the Stasi, were an infamously intrusive secret police force. They amassed dossiers on about one quarter of the population of the country during the Communist regime."

Call for the UN to stop giving anti-drug aid to Vietnam: "The United Nations should immediately freeze anti-drug assistance to Vietnam after the communist country sentenced 30 people to die for drug-related offenses, three human rights groups working to get countries to abolish the death penalty said Wednesday. The call from Harm Reduction International, Reprieve and the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty cites the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's internal human rights guidance requiring the organization to stop funding for a country if it's feared that such support may lead to people being executed."

The Odd Man Out and Swamp Rabbit discuss Media Monopoly and the latest (illegal!) assault by Comcast, who bought out Time Warner Cable without, apparently, any concerns by the FCC or Justice.

The History of English in Ten Minutes (Thanks, Moshe!)

This one is about me, I just know it.

I can hear politics in all sorts of things, even this really fine cover of an old Martha & the Vandellas song by Bonnie Raitt.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Shipwrecked and comatose

This week, David Dayen and Digby were panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays, and commented "on the postal banking proposal; ACA and entrepreneurship; bipartisan McCarthyism from Mike Rogers (R) House Intelligence, and Dianne Feinstein (D), Senate Intelligence. Political satire from Culture of Truth." Not to mention the open assault on the United States Postal Service by the people who are supposed to be running it.
David O. Atkins was the guest on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd, discussing "a world where the central banks' closest partners, the money center banks, routinely engage in criminal activity. It has the effect of turning the entire economy into a house of cards."

On The Majority Report, Matt & Michael Monday With Kevin Gosztola On The NATO3 and Bob Kincaid On West Virginia. The water has been poisoned, and no one is even sure the mess can be cleaned up. Maybe if we can convince people that these corporations are run by jihadist Muslims, something could be done to stop them.

Glen Ford at Black Agenda Report, "American State of the Union: A Festival of Lies [...] Barack Obama, who has presided over the sharpest increases in economic inequality in U.S. history, adopts the persona of public advocate, reciting wrongs inflicted by unseen and unknown forces that have 'deepened' the gap between the rich and the rest of us and 'stalled' upward mobility. Having spent half a decade stuffing tens of trillions of dollars into the accounts of an ever shrinking gaggle of financial capitalists, Obama declares this to be 'a year of action' in the opposite direction. 'Believe it.' And if you do believe it, then crown him the Most Effective Liar of the young century."

A Rash of Deaths and a Missing Reporter - With Ties to Wall Street Investigations [...] The case of David Bird, the oil markets reporter who had worked at the Wall Street Journal for 20 years and vanished without a trace on the afternoon of January 11, has this in common with the other three tragedies: his work involves a commodities market - oil - which is under investigation by the U.S. Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for possible manipulation. The FBI is involved in the Bird investigation."

"North Carolina's Moral Monday Movement Kicks Off 2014 With a Massive Rally in Raleigh [...] If today's rally was any indication, the Moral Monday movement will be bigger and broader in 2014. An estimated 15,000 activists attended the HKonJ rally last year, bringing thirty buses; this year, the NC NAACP estimated that 80,000-100,000 people rallied in Raleigh, with 100 buses converging from all over the state and country. It was the largest civil rights rally in the South since tens of thousands of voting rights activists marched from Selma to Montgomery in support of the Voting Rights Act."

The corruption of our judicial system has created a monster that defies any concept of "civilization" - and wasn't even funny on an episode of QI.

Absolutely everyone finds the editorial pages at The New York Times embarrassing. And, of course, the most embarrassing thing is Thomas Friedman.

The Koch Brothers Left a Confidential Document at Their Last Donor Conference - Read It Here

"The NSA Doesn't Spy On Americans" - This statement just might be inaccurate.

Strange, the right-wing seems upset about the idea that people might have the freedom to leave jobs they hate if they have portable health insurance.

New Photos of the NSA and Other Top Intelligence Agencies Revealed for First Time

The late Gary Webb on C.I.A. Trafficking of Cocaine - and why the media round against The San Jose Mercury News until it was finally bullied into repudiating its own very good story.

Progress: Olympic ad from Norway

"Satirical spaghetti monster image banned by London South Bank University as 'religiously offensive'."

RIP: Shirley Temple, 85. Eventually I started to think of her as a Disney princess, and then just a Republican diplomatic appointee, but on reflection, she may have been the ultimate 20th Century Fox. And I still remember her this way. Wow, that clip is weird to watch now.

"Woody Allen Speaks Out" - Again, the internets are abuzz with outrage, and everyone has to take a side. Is Woody Allen a strange, sometimes anti-social seeming guy? (I'd say so, yeah.) Well, then he must be guilty! Is Mia Farrow a flake who was raging with jealousy? (Sure looks that way to me.) Then her daughter made it up! Um, maybe neither of those conclusions are correct. I look for similarities in different kinds of child abuses cases - the real kind, and the false-accusation kind. They are both realities, and I'm a bit disturbed that some otherwise sensible people are willing to acknowledge only one of them.

"Scalzi's Redshirts coming to TV: John Scalzi's Hugo-winning, existentialist comedy space opera novel Redshirts is being adapted into a TV series by FX -- it's a natural! This is just wonderful news -- intelligent, funny science fiction from a novelist who plays with the tropes of the field, it's just what TV needs. Congrats, John!"

Why Did Someone Put a Giant Wooden Cock on a Kremlin Critic's Car?

A fabulous bit of gymnastics

I am Jello!

Fairy wings. More fairy wings.

Watch Matt Damon and Friends Read Mean Tweets About Themselves.

Have some cute overload.

"Here's the latest/annual Edwardian Ball after-movie, featuring San Francisco's alt-circus Vau de Vire Society, pagan-lounge act Rosin Covin, opera divas, shovel-playing guitarists, and many well-dressed types in San Francisco."

The Red Dwarf Theme

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Out of touch with the rhythm and blues

Four years ago, Obama said this:
So the point I'm making -- and Blanche is exactly right -- we've got to be non-ideological about our approach to these things. We've got to make sure that our party understands that, like it or not, we have to have a financial system that is healthy and functioning, so we can't be demonizing every bank out there. We've got to be the party of business, small business and large business, because they produce jobs. We've got to be in favor of competition and exports and trade. We don't want to be looking backwards. We can't just go back to the New Deal and try to grab all the same policies of the 1930s and think somehow they'd work in the 21st century.
What a pity our president doesn't read blogs, or he might have seen this a few months earlier:
Splitting banks into retail and investment banks, keeping brokerages and insurance companies separate as well is part of a solution set which kept major financial crises like the recent one from happening for most of the second half of the 20th century. It was put in place by people who were experiencing the Great Depression and had learned the lessons of the roaring 20s.

The inability of our decision makers, whether British, American, Canadian or otherwise to understand those lessons and take action is why it is inevitable at this point that we will have an economic collapse. It is, at this point, all but inevitable, not because nothing could be done to stop it, but because no one will do what it takes.

"Progressive linguist George Lakoff: 'Liberals do everything wrong.'" - Like giving sound-bites such as, "Liberals do everything wrong." Thank you, Mr. Lakoff. Another thing you could be doing wrong is confusing "liberals" and "progressives" with those talking heads on TV and those people in the Democratic leadership who might use those terms to refer to themselves but who are actually embarked on pushing arch-conservative policies to re-establish aristocracy and eliminate democracy, destroying hundreds of millions of American lives along the way. Because they can only hire so many servants and the rest of us are just a threat. The reason the "liberals" and "progressives" on your TV and in your newspaper are always nattering about things like "nuance" and how "complicated" things are is because they need to confuse you about their own complete lack of liberalism or progressivism. But Lakoff is right about one thing: We don't need to hedge, fudge, or produce statistics every time we want to say something, and we should be talking like real liberal policies are the only moral policies, because they are. It shouldn't be that hard to point out that killing people in order to make a few Malefactors of Great Wealth even richer is evil.

I keep seeing people linking to a Daily Beast article called, "No, Women Don't Make Less Money Than Men." The funny thing about it is that at no time does it actually show that women don't make less money than men, it just tries to explain it away. So it's really a "Women make less money than men because" story. It doesn't explain why certain professions that actually hurt society make more money than other professions that women are more likely to be in. It doesn't explain why in some jobs that are associated with men - say, doctors and lawyers - there are artificially imposed ceilings on the number of people who are certified to perform those jobs, thus creating more demand for them individually, which helps jack up their pay scales - just aside from the government allowing some of them to set their own pay scales so people have to pay them some ridiculous fees for their work. So they're trying to pretend that the "gender gap" in income doesn't exist because of sexism, it exists because of some natural thing that just happens to mean society is ordered in such a way that women are more likely to be paid less for their work, or move into uncompensated work for part of their careers, and it's all just an accident of nature or something. Except that women still end up making less money than men.

Here's Ian Welsh on "The Four Principles of Prosperity", and it's a reminder of how the perception of what economics is and what it's for have been changed over the last 30-odd years. But it's not just economics, it's everything. Over here a relative of Mister Tristan jumps off from the Loaves & Fishes graphic I posted to quote someone who begins, "It is hard for us to come to grips with just how different the Bible's assumptions about poverty are from that of the average American Christian. Which tells me that there's an easy assumption that Elitist Jesus has risen so high in the American pantheon that we don't even know about the other one - although, in fact, the Jesus who loved the poor and told the rich to give their riches away is the one the Boomers were raised on.

Atrios has been talking from time to time about the view of "The Poors And The Blahs" that shapes a lot of the right-tribe's feelings of resentment, and he's very smart on this. People honestly believe (because their political leadership is prone to imply it or say it outright) that certain people - certain people who are poor or black or foreign - are getting things that "real Americans" aren't able to get, even when they need just as much help.

Tom the Dancing Bug on the poor, persecuted rich.
- Obama wants your children to be as miserable as Korean children, because Americans just care too much about their kids.

It's actually old news that business is now focusing on either the rich or the underclass, because the middle class is just too small to bother with, but apparently newspapers are noticing, too.

"President of Uruguay Criticizes the Business Suit: 'We have to dress like English gentlemen!' exclaimed [Uruguay President Jose] Mujica, clad in a rumpled white shirt. 'That's the suit that industrialization imposed on the world! Even the Japanese had to abandon their kimonos to have prestige in the world,' he continued, gesturing forcefully and rapping a pen on the table to punctuate his words. 'We all had to dress up like monkeys with ties.' (via)

A good start: "Third prominent banker found dead in six days"

Lee Camp on The Shocking Truth About Black People

"How to Find out Anything from Anyone" - and, he doesn't say it, but it's why torture is pointless and stupid.

And now, a New Yorker cartoon.

If the wingers are boycotting Girl Scout Cookies, it's time for you to send me some mint cookies!

"This Anti-Skipping School Ad Is The Most Disturbing Thing I've Ever Seen." I have long believed that firms pay people to come up with PSAs that are so ridiculous they will have the opposite of the purportedly-desired effect, so that your average kid will be convinced their elders are making crap up to scare them out of doing perfectly harmless things (which is sometimes the case, but those anti-tobacco ads in comics looked geared to make kids roll their eyes).

Bloomberg, "The World's 200 Richest People End January With a $107 Billion Loss" - via Corrente.

"The Woody Allen Allegations: Not So Fast" - This article seems to have kicked up quite a fuss on the internet, with people unfriending each other and the usual recriminations that go with this sort of thing. Either you're willing to reserve judgment or you're an apologist for child abuse, or something. But since I've been on several sides of being the kid in the middle, I've gotta say that no amount of the reading I've done on this tells me what actually happened, because I've seen how carried-away people can get with this stuff, and I've seen how what goes on between the grown-ups can happen without anyone really paying attention to what's actually happening to the kid - all the while swearing they are doing it for the kid.

I read "Doctor Who: 10 Mind-Blowing Uses Of Foreshadowing You Never Noticed" but, frankly, my memory is so bad I can't remember half the stuff they're talking about.

Cory sez: "Campbellian anthology: more than 860,000 words of free fiction from new sf/f authors: A reader sends us The 2014 Campbellian Anthology, a free and DRM-free ebook (.epub and .mobi) with 111 authors eligible for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and over 860K words of fiction." You can download them here.

Pete Seeger's Last Letter

"Porn gives young people an unrealistic and unhealthy idea of how quickly a plumber will come to your house."

Brian Wilson in studio with George Martin

I admit, I've never bought a Billy Joel album or gone to one of his shows, but I've never been one of his detractors, either - no one who knows music can say he isn't a talented man. He recently provided his audience with one of those perfect fan moments when he did a Q&A at Vanderbilt University and a student stood up and asked if he could play "New York State of Mind" with him. This is a nice one.