30 November 2012

All the Clouds'll Roll Away

Ian Walsh was on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd talking about how our sociopathic elites don't care and won't improve their behavior unless we make their lives miserable.

Sam Seder talked to Stephani Kelton about what's really going on in the economy on The Majority Report.

Big news in the last few days is the Palm Beach Post story, "Former Florida GOP leaders say voter suppression was reason they pushed new election law", confirming from several former GOP officials and some current operatives - er, "consultants" - that voter fraud was never a concern, but legitimate voters were. "Former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer says he attended various meetings, beginning in 2009, at which party staffers and consultants pushed for reductions in early voting days and hours. [...] Wayne Bertsch, who handles local and legislative races for Republicans, said he knew targeting Democrats was the goal. [...] Another GOP consultant, who did not want to be named, also confirmed that influential consultants to the Republican Party of Florida were intent on beating back Democratic turnout in early voting after 2008. [...] Crist said party leaders approached him during his 2007-2011 gubernatorial term about changing early voting, in an effort to suppress Democrat turnout."
Ari Berman on The GOP's Voter Suppression Strategy: "In a little-noticed yet significant development on election day, Minnesota voters defeated a constitutional amendment that would have required them to present a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot. It was the first time voters had rejected a voter ID ballot initiative in any state." People are getting clued-up.
This is a good little video about voter suppression, even though it leans a bit too hard on racism. But it's about more than that, since the real threat to the oligarchy isn't black people or any other minority, it's everyone finally seeing what's happening and turning on them.

The Democrats put on a show about protecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but it's just the usual kabuki. Digby: "Yesterday the White House met with business leaders and the president of the Chamber of Commerce so I guess this was "get the left onboard" day since they trotted out Dick Durbin (an odd choice considering his total cave on Simpson-Bowles) and a big meeting with all the important unions and assorted lefty groups." Dday: "Overall, Durbin tried to put a happy face on a grand bargain deal expressly to encourage the Professional Left in DC. Many of them came out of a meeting at the White House encouraged by the Democratic line as well. I think there's a serious case of 'trust but verify' needed here. And it should be noted that this is where the party is at before one minute of negotiation with the other side." Trust? No. Trusting the White House and Democratic leadership makes no more sense than trusting the Republicans. And I'd make Durbin spell it out for me: Where do you want to cut costs? Because if you mean cutting benefits, you're not serious.

I wonder what they threatened Barbara Lee with to make her withdraw her bid for the House Dem leadership, clearing the way for one of the bad guys in the name of "unity". Breaks my heart, though.

Paul Krugman is saying "Bruce Bartlett Is A Mensch" for writing a piece in The American Conservative, "Revenge of the Reality-Based Community", in which he details his trajectory from a comfortable nest within, and then complete alienation from, the conservative movement and the Republican Party as he became increasingly aware that they were wrong: "I hit upon the idea of ignoring the academic journals and looking instead at what economists like John Maynard Keynes, Irving Fisher, and others said in newspaper interviews and articles for popular publications. Recently computerized databases made such investigation far easier than it previously had been. After careful research along these lines, I came to the annoying conclusion that Keynes had been 100 percent right in the 1930s. Previously, I had thought the opposite. But facts were facts and there was no denying my conclusion. [...] On the plus side, I think I had a very clear understanding of the economic crisis from day one. I even wrote another op-ed for the New York Times in December 2008 advocating a Keynesian cure that holds up very well in light of history. Annoyingly, however, I found myself joined at the hip to Paul Krugman, whose analysis was identical to my own. I had previously viewed Krugman as an intellectual enemy and attacked him rather colorfully in an old column that he still remembers. For the record, no one has been more correct in his analysis and prescriptions for the economy's problems than Paul Krugman. The blind hatred for him on the right simply pushed me further away from my old allies and comrades." You can see why Krugman is so impressed (I'd sure love to see certain individuals admitting that I was right and they were wrong about Bush's response to 9/11, for example). Thers, on the other hand, wasn't nearly as impressed, and Atrios called all this conservative breast-beating boring Narcissism.

Bradley Manning gives evidence - of being tortured. He's pleading guilty to charges that carry 16 years worth of time. It is an outrage that Manning, and not the president who has allowed his torture, is the one on trial.

I don't think this will measure up to Tim Leary and G. Gordon Liddy's tour together, but Bowles and Simpson get $40,000 for telling audiences our country can't afford a decent retirement system.

Mark Warner has announced he doesn't plan to run again for the gubernatorial seat in Virginia. Of all people, Terry McAuliffe has announced a bid for the seat. Fortunately, Tom Perriello says he might run for the seat, too, which might save Virginia from McAuliffe.

"Indiana State Police Chief Advises Lawmakers to Legalize and Tax Pot." Of course, "Governor-elect Mike Pence's (R) office insisted in a statement on Tuesday that he would oppose any attempts to make marijuana legal."

Chris Hedges, "Elites Will Make Gazans of Us All. Gaza is a window on our coming dystopia. The growing divide between the world's elite and its miserable masses of humanity is maintained through spiraling violence."

"You are committing a crime right now. Are you reading this blog? If so, you are committing a crime under 18 USC 1030(a) (better known as the 'Computer Fraud & Abuse Act' or 'CFAA')." (via)

"The Peasants Should be Revolting." We need some old-fashioned solutions to the latest outbreak of elite greed.

"Steve Israel Insists He's Not A Dismal Failure And That He Did Just As Well As The DSCC." The measure of Steve Israel's success is not in the percentage of seats gained in the House, but by how much he failed to re-take the House when that goal was actually in sight.

Juan Cole on Egypt: "The Egyptian religious Right (the Muslim Brotherhood) and the secular liberals and leftists had been allies in overthrowing Hosni Mubark in Jan.-Feb. 2011. That alliance frayed once the Brotherhood won the presidency last June, but the rhetoric of unity had continued. Morsi's high-handed executive orders on Thursday has decisively split the religious and secular wings of the revolution, who now confront one another. Asma Mahfouz of April 6 tweeted that Morsi was taking the country to civil war. Even some figures on the religious right, such as Wael Ghoneim (formerly the head of Google in Egypt), broke with the Brotherhood over these decrees. Ghoneim was quoted as saying that 'The revolution was not made in search of another dictator.''

If you want people to organize, you'd better ask them. This isn't about elections - they come last. First, you need to get people involved in the real issues. "There's this weird cultural thing that happens between the Democratic Party and the labor movement, which plays out in a number of ways. One is how pollsters have almost replaced organizers in the American labor movement. It's like labor doesn't talk to workers any more. They talk to pollsters who talk to the workers. I would argue that any good organizer any day of the week anywhere knows before any pollster whatever he needs to know about what the workers think. Period. That's what good organizers do. [...] The mistake is that how you win an election and how you win change are fundamentally different. The election of the right people is a prerequisite to fundamental change, but all we do is help them get elected, and then we don't do anything in the governing period except put everyone to sleep like a switch. If you think about the talent on the Obama team, what are they going to do for the next three and a half years? They basically go home. If you have the best campaign team during the election, those people actually need to stay and keep organizing the base every damn day, to actually create a left base to allow these people to run to the left when they're governing."

Just a reminder that there's still good reason to think 2004 was a stolen election. "Sancho began investigating the problem after watching the votes come in during the infamous 2000 presidential election. In Volusia County precinct 216, a memory card added more than 200 votes to George W. Bush's total and subtracted 16,000 votes from Al Gore. The mistake was later corrected during a hand count." Hand counts. In the precinct, in public, on the night. In Britain, they manage to do this even though the polls don't even close until 11:00 PM. Which is another thing. Why do polls in the US close any earlier than that?

I had no idea this cover existed. All these years, I would have been thinking of it as a Beatles track rather than discovering it later as a Fats Waller tune.

Christopher Lee reads The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Django Reinhardt - "Liza (All the Clouds'll Roll Away)"

27 November 2012

More precious, far, than gold

Sam Seder talked to Bill Black on "why pushing for austerity in a economic crisis is illogical, how Europe plunged itself into a unnecessary recession and social crisis with austerity policies, why governments need to stimulate the economy, how Greece's debt crisis is fundamentally different from America's 'debt crisis', what the IRS does with your cash if you send it in to pay your taxes and how a 'grand bargain' would be grand betrayal of the middle class and the poor."

Everyone who's seen it says that Chasing Ice is so visually beautiful that you've got to see it on the big screen. Watch the trailer and a neat clip. Or watch a news story about how James Balog turned from being a climate change skeptic into a man who risked everything to document the receding glaciers. Or this interview with Balog and Jeff Orlowski. Or listen to Sam Seder's interview with Orlowski on The Majority Report.

Rajiv Sethi at Naked Capitalism on "Curtailing Intellectual Monopoly: The Insanity of US Copyright Law"

I'd like to see a more readable version of this image, but, you know, pass the word to your neighbors and relatives, because most people still don't know that there's a cap on what you pay on Social Security.

About a minute of Bernie Sanders

Huh, I would have sworn I'd linked to Brad Hicks' "How Damon Runyon Would Have Explained Jon Corzine" already, but now I don't see it.

I thought I'd have a look at Memeorandum to see what they're talking about these days, and one item I found was a hilarious piece by Gregory Mankiw in which a "liberal" Obama has a conversation with a "moderate" Obama over future economic policy. As usual, the term "moderate" is undefined and meaningless. There is, of course, no actual liberal in that conversation, since pretty much everything the "moderate" Obama says would normally be met with derision at best by an actual liberal. (Why is it that "moderates" like to talk about how any minute now the whole of Congress is going to break out into some kind of Woodstock Nation in suits where everyone will hold hands and come to a shining agreement?) But, for those keeping track of the output from the right-wing's Mind-Reading School of Journalism, this should definitely be on the reading list. (Obama does seem to believe the same rubbish that Ross Douthat believes, though, doesn't he?)
Memeorandum links a short piece from bm at CEPR called "That Shortage of Skilled Manufacturing Workers is Really a Shortage of Employers Willing to Pay the Market Wage", and a related article at No More Mister Nice Blog on "How To Create Serfs". These are actually sensible and have some good comments in the ensuing threads. (See also Krugman on The Fake Skills Shortage.)
Memeorandum cites a post by Kathleen Greier at The Washington Monthly called "Grover Norquist: the end of an error?" noting that Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) has said he's not worried about what Grover Norquist will do if he votes to raise taxes. Geier does not seem aware that Norquist himself has said he's not all that worried about taxes right now, nor does she acknowledge that raising taxes (but not very much) on the rich is the alleged "liberal" side of the Grand Bargain to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, a principle goal of the arch-conservatives since before I was born - and also a clear goal of Barack Obama and other "liberals" in the Democratic leadership. Ms. Geier's post is in the "Look at this Republican who is being more reasonable" mold, much as earlier but apparently forgotten pieces on Norquist's relaxation of his anti-tax position were. But, as Digby says, this is flim-flam, and all part of the process of setting up the destruction of the New Deal that the financiers, plutocrats, and royalist factions are itching for.

Glenn Greenwald, "Prosecution of Anonymous activists highlights war for Internet control: That the US government largely succeeded in using extra-legal and extra-judicial means to cripple an adverse journalistic outlet is a truly consequential episode: nobody, regardless of one's views on WikiLeaks, should want any government to have that power. But the manifestly overzealous prosecutions of Anonymous activists, in stark contrast to the (at best) indifference to the attacks on WikiLeaks, makes all of that even worse. In line with its unprecedented persecution of whistleblowers generally, this is yet another case of the US government exploiting the force of law to entrench its own power and shield its actions from scrutiny." (Also: Glenn on the false equivalency in the Gaza issue.)

I can't help feeling that everyone who heard or read Joe Klein floating raising the Medicare eligibility age is morally justified, if they ever meet him, in punching him in the face.
Some rare good news when federal education officials tell PA that charter schools must meet the same standards as "traditional" schools.

40 years later, Dennis Miller smears Sacheen Littlefeather.

No matter what anyone says, it's hard to look at this picture without being sure you're looking at vegetation on Mars.
Diamond Ring and Shadow Bands - a neat picture of last week's eclipse.

Mary Martin, original kinescope, "Never Never Land"

23 November 2012

Give him a great big kiss

As always, I am thankful for my readers, for all the things they do, pointing out great links as well as my errors, and engaging each other in argument. and most of all, for coming back. Thank you all.

On Virtually Speaking Sundays, RJ Eskow and Dave Johnson talked about fiscal cliff scare talk, shock doctrine scripting, social security and medicare. Here's RJ at his usual spot saying, "Wall Street Finds a 'Third Way' to Plunder Our Wealth." (And he recommends this audio clip of Alex Lawson of Social Security Works arguing with some Third Way putz. Worth a listen.)

And while we're on that subject, The Giant Lie Trotted Out by Fiscal Conservatives Trying to Shred Social Security provides a good break-down. (via) (Can't say I'm thrilled with the re-titling where it's reprinted at Salon as "GOP's big Social Security lie", since Centrist Democrats have worked hard to catapult the same lie.)

350 economists say "Jobs and Growth, Not Austerity [...] The budget hawks have the sequence backwards. Public outlay for jobs and recovery come first, growth is restored, and revenues follow. Budget cuts in a deep slump lead only to a deeper slump." (via)

Is the Occupy Jubilee a bad strategy? Yves says so, and she's usually right.

Verizon declares itself exempt from regulation

Did you know there was a Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus? I think it's supposed to be a secret!

It's an interesting religious question about how Rush Limbaugh's fans perceive getting goodies from government, except that I'm not sure it's fair to pretend this is a particular partisan thing, either. After all, the Democratic leadership also seems to think it's appropriate to steal our tax money (and Social Security money) and give it to their rich friends instead of the rest of us.

The Missing Living Wage Agenda - Some things we really have to do. Oh, and, "Fifty-eight percent of U.S. workers say they would like to be represented by a union, but only 11.8 percent actually are."

I think it's fair to say that progblogs that devote a lot of pixels to foreign policy or military issues are being strangely silent on this one, but I'm not entirely sure that this particular criticism is fair. A lot of liberals have watched whole communities fall apart in the past in arguments over Israel's policies and America's support for them, have been subjected to extremely abusive attacks from former supporters and friends, and have learned to be pretty gun-shy when it comes to raising the subject at all. Some no doubt have stayed away for that reason, but the terrain has changed a lot in the last ten years and we shouldn't be so shy about it anymore. We all know that Israel started electing terrorists to leadership and that their policies toward their neighbors have been increasingly belligerent and murderous, and we know that they are encouraged by right-wing Rapture fanciers with big money lobbies and by administration policy. We know that Congress voted unanimously to support the recent outrage even though most Americans are opposed to these kinds of policies. (To the few who are left: Don't pretend this is Israel defending itself. Israel has been attacking Gaza all along, and a tiny number of occasional, ineffective missiles in retaliation do not justify this kind of operation.) And while it's true that tribalism and partisanship make it hard for some bloggers* to overtly criticize policies by Democrats, or to acknowledge the bipartisan nature of the leadership consensus of evil, the fact is that a lot of us know that nothing can change if we don't do something about the deteriorating domestic situation and whatever we can to restore some semblance of democracy.
In related news:
"My son Mohammed refuses to eat. He follows me everywhere because he's so scared and asks me every 10 minutes when we're going to die."
Watch this clip of an Israeli government spokesman trying to defend an attack on journalists to an interviewer who isn't falling for it.
Chris Floyd has the same complaint about liberal bloggers, but it's worth reading this article anyway to get more background on what's happening politically. (Also: If you are still writing about Sarah Palin at this late date, you're a jackass. You shouldn't even be writing about Romney - the election is over and he's done.)

Bearing Witness: Exclusive photographs from inside besieged Gaza

Thom Hartmann on What Greedy US Retailers Don't Want You To Know...

Macy's and other CEOs are lobbying Congress to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits and other important economic security programs, all to get themselves and their companies massive tax breaks.

Speaking of jackasses, Thomas Friedman Department, I don't think I could have competed in a contest to sum up The Grenade of Understanding.

The New York Times whines to Twitter, and Twitter suspends a critic's account.

Punctuation cannibals

Mwah! (The Shangri-Las)

20 November 2012

The four horsemen

"Deadly Tuberculosis Outbreak In Florida Covered Up By GOP Governor Rick Scott: When the Center for Disease Control issues a warning about a large outbreak of Tuberculosis(TB), a rational person would prepare to address the issue; perhaps notify the local hospitals or shelters. If the area had a top-notch treatment center, I suspect notifying them would likely be at the top of one's to-do list as governor. Instead, Governor Rick Scott of Florida ordered the shutdown of the state's only TB treatment facility, the A G Holley State Hospital in Lantana, Florida - part of a larger Department of Health budget cut signed just nine days before the state was notified. The shutdown was accelerated after the notice was given, and the facility shut down 6 months ahead of schedule back in June. The reason given; austerity, in order to fund the tax cuts for the rich."

The Blue Dogs Are A Spent Force... Until You See How They've Ditched The White Sheets And Hoods And Morphed Into The New Dems: ""Former" New Dems Steve Israel (who is also a "former" Blue Dog) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz are pushing caucus members to elect New Dem chairman Joe Crowley, the most corrupt Democrat in Congress, to the position of House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman over iconic progressive Barbara Lee. They are pushing the meme that the New Dems are the rising force inside the Party. In fact, they're doing more than pushing the meme." Meanwhile, Andrew Cuomo is another Republican cuckoo in the Democratic nest, and Atrios says we will destroy his presidential aspirations in 2016.

"How Hostess screwed the workers" - I can't look anywhere without seeing some nitwit claiming that this story is about how unions screwed themselves out of jobs, but the fact of the matter is that Hostess was badly managed (in the current management style of persistently undercutting their own business to pocket money that should have been reinvested in the company to update it and make it solvent), and the workers were being offered what amounts to swallowing something like a 25% pay cut (closer to 50% if you count concessions already made in recent years). And all so a few tightwads could keep ripping off a dying company to make themselves richer. (And vote the CEO a 200% pay rise, and steal the pension fund.) Unions have in the past treated these pay-cut offers as if their bosses were acting in good faith, but they weren't and the whole country is suffering the consequences of consistently lowered wages for most Americans. Good on the unions for telling Hostess their miserly attitude had killed the golden goose. (Oh, and Krugman on how the unions made life better, and rich people managed to live with it.)

When I see Tom Friedman writing about how employers can't find skilled workers who can do science and math, I see Tom Friedman opening the door to more BS about how employers should be hiring people who aren't Americans and will work for less. Dean Baker tells you who can't do math.

Don Dorito recommends: "Jodi Dean sez - The more neo-liberalism has entrenched itself the more we have been hearing this language of democracy, as if participation was going to solve all problems - but this is a fantasy because the fundamental truth is that it is not going to solve these problems. Keeping all the activity in the democratic sphere makes it seem as if people are busy, engaged etc. without ever affecting the basic structure. It's a fantasy because it functions like a screen. The rest of the interview can be found in: Saying ‘We' Again: A Conversation with Jodi Dean on Democracy, Occupy and Communism. "

So-called social programs: Actually, I'm in favor of not calling them "social programs". Since they have obvious economic benefits to the entire country, I think we should call them "national economic security programs". Social Security, for example, provides more security to America in every way than Homeland Security ever could. So does Welfare, for that matter - not just because the people who collect it are not dying in the streets, but because the money they spend is good for the whole economy.

"Did Anonymous really stop Karl Rove from stealing another election?" While some may think it's all a hoax, the fact that both Bob Fritakis and Thom Hartmann think it's credible means it's worth serious consideration. And some of us still remember that funny things happened in Volusia County, Florida in 2000 and in Ohio in 2004. And this. (And, once again, people: When the announced vote totals contradict the exit polls, something is wrong.)

"Trafficking and the new civil liberties debate" - No one wants to see human beings enslaved (not that this is stopping our own government from turning Americans into slaves in numerous ways, not least of all our prison industry, but also in some of our foreign military contracts), but moral panics lead to bad laws. By the way, it's almost impossible to get real numbers for trafficking - no one knows how many people are being illegally trafficked or how many people are involved, and as with other moral panics, we see advocates of anti-trafficking laws pulling huge numbers out of the air and bandied about authoritatively without any foundation at all.

A graphic look at budget cuts

Tom Tomorrow on the Petreaus scandal.

I am startled to learn that, before I was born, Martin Landau was a comic strip artist.

APOD: Cathedral to Massive Stars
(If you keep clicking the arrow for previous APODs, you see some nice shots of the recent total eclipse, and also this lovely meteor and moonbow.
And I've never seen clouds like this. Or like like this.)
And a nice Aurora, and another, and another, and another.
Here's a different look at aurorae.
And here's a neat optical illusion.

17 November 2012

My city was gone

David Cay Johnston was on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd about how companies gouge and steal from government and individuals alike by out-and-out cheating and lying.

Here's an illustrative story for one of the things Jay and David talked about: "Why Cell Phones Went Dead After Hurricane Sandy".

Over in Seattle, a Socialist candidate scored 28% of the vote in a State House race - which is no small thing!

Occupy Debt: Occupy's Rolling Jubilee buys $100,000 worth of medical debt - to tear up the IOUs.

Sam Seder interviewed David Graeber on The Majority Report, Occupy Debt.

It would appear that unions are putting the pressure on to try to protect social insurance from our party leaderships. (Also: Jesus but Rahm Emanuel is a creep!)

Just before the election I was talking to an ordinary confused voter about the standard deduction, and realized that he didn't know what it was. My friend is a tax-payer, he's an American who has worked for many years and filled out his forms, but he didn't know that the line where he gets to subtract a little money from his income before he has to calculate what he owes the government is called "the standard deduction" and means he's allowed to make that amount of money before he has to start paying taxes on the rest. Maybe this is something you should talk to your friends about. I remember asking a few years ago what the current standard deduction was and got no answer, and now I wonder if anyone knew what I was talking about. I had to google around to find my answer. But maybe I should have explained when I was talking about it before. Wikipedia: "When Congress enacted Section 151 of the Internal Revenue Code, it did so believing that a certain level of income, 'personal exemptions', should not be subject to the federal income tax. Congress reasoned that the level of income insulated from taxation under §151 should roughly correspond to the minimal amount of money someone would need to get by at a subsistence level (i.e., enough money for food, clothes, shelter, etc.)." In 1913, that amount was calculated to be $3,000, equivalent to $57,000 in 2005 dollars. The current standard exemption is $3,800, which is, you know, $3,800 in 2012 dollars, not even remotely enough to live on.

I spent the morning bringing myself down over at Ian Welsh's place, where I found him, among other things, predicting - with horrible believability - the future we are facing, in two articles, "The Left Wing Case Against Obama and Obama's Next Term, written pre-election, and his post-election "Reality about America's Future". I think he's right and I hope others will take heed: Just aside from wrecking what's left of our economy, Obama's Grand Bargain will not only revive the GOP but pretty much destroy the Democratic Party as an institution that can even pretend to have any relevance to We, the People.
Ian also mentions the response critics made to Matt Stoller's "The Progressive Case Against Obama" and to Matt's response to those critics in "Why is the left defending Obama?" In the second piece, Matt refers to detractors who evade his arguments, and links (as an aside) to one piece by Glenn Greenwald in which we see details of, well, the reason you don't see me linking to Balloon Juice much. It's in one of Glenn's "Various items" posts, so there are a number of other subjects mentioned, one of which is a talk he gave on the idea that some wars are "just" wars because they are fought for "humanitarian reasons". In that talk, Glenn points out that this excuse always accompanies calls to war.

You know things are bad if I'm citing Matt Bai, but: "Will Obama Agree to Entitlement Cuts? He Already Has."

Meanwhile, Robert Reich indulges a fantasy of Obama doing right by the country, but he's not dreaming big enough, and anyway, Obama doesn't want to save the American economy, so he won't pay any attention whatsoever.

Fiscal Cliff Scare Talk Follows Shock Doctrine Script

Naomi Klein on Bill Moyers: Hurricanes, Capitalism & Democracy

Yes, Virginia, There are Poorhouses, and Scrooge Would be Proud of Them

Since I don't watch a lot of this stuff on TV, I hadn't realized how ridiculous Petreus looked. Maybe it doesn't startle you like it does me, but it really does look weird to me. Meanwhile, Jeremy Scahill says, "The problem with Petraeus isn't what he did with Paula Broadwell." And, of course the real story is right here.

Our hearts were broken by the story of how Savita Halappanavar died in an Irish hospital because the doctors refused to take the action that would save her life. Roz Kaveney wrote a "Sonnet for Savita".

Saw Harry Shearer on Have I Got News For You the other night, which delighted me. Then KS put the link in comments for Harry Shearer's B-Rock's Grand Bargain Barn! And for his interview with Stephanie Kelton of the Levy Institute. Great stuff.
"HARRY SHEARER: (laughs) The other half of that. What's happening to our grandchildren? Who's doing what to our grandchildren?
STEPHANIE KELTON: Well, we're not doing them any favors at the moment, that's for sure. Cutting education, laying off teachers, letting our infrastructure fall into disrepair to the tune of, you know, $2.2 trillion, and a D rating overall. I mean, we're not leaving them a whole lot to be proud of., in energy and environment and any number of things, and a, you know, retirement system, Social Security, the cuts that they - the programs that may not be there for them when they need them and so forth. So we make all of these choices and the excuse is always, 'Well, we'd love to do better but we can't afford it.' Because we don't understand our own monetary system. We think the dollar comes from China.

The Democratic governor of my state is a neoliberal nitwit.

Game of Thrones [Food Trucks]: Chicago's Mobile Vendors in an Epic Food Fight

If you didn't watch it before, watch The Final Presidential Debate: Jill Stein and Gary Johnson.

American Extremists: "How does a racist bill pass?"

Five photos that sparked body image debates

I've always found it slightly bizarre that this song is theme to Rush Limbaugh's show. Can't help the feeling he wouldn't much get along with Chrissie Hynde.

12 November 2012


Avedon Carol and Jay Ackroyd were panelists on this week's Virtually Speaking Sundays, where I quoted commenter Richard Bensam from below: "Is there already a term for the political philosophy of conducting governance as if elections don't actually take place and everything has to be decided by an evenly-divided bipartisan coalition of conservative Democrats and hard-line Republicans? It seems like there ought to be a word for that if only to spare people a good deal of typing." Now that has got to be "centrist". (I also refer to our glorious Democratic leadership's successful effort to prevent what would have been a really nice - and easily possible - victory in defeating Paul Ryan. But Steve Israel didn't want to do that.)

So, with Bill Kristol signaling like crazy that it's okay to raise taxes (as long as it's just the incredibly small tax-hike the Dem leadership is asking for), we have:

Gaius Publius reporting, "Leaked deal memo for last year's Grand Bargain: 'Obama willing to go quite far'" - which, according to Bob Woodward, shows "a willingness to cut all kinds of things, like TRICARE, which is the sacred health insurance program for the military, for military retirees; to cut Social Security; to cut Medicare," and "We want to get tax rates down, not only for individuals but for businesses." In other words, Obama wants to cut good programs and give corporations more tax cuts.

Dean Baker reporting that "It's Monday and Robert Samuelson Doesn't Like Social Security and Medicare" - Yes, it's the conservative Washington Post keeping that drumbeat going! (Please take note: "In the case of Medicare, benefits were extended to cover prescription drugs, but this only became an issue because government granted patent monopolies sent the price of drugs through the roof. Drugs were not included in the original program in 1966 because their cost was trivial, but patent monopolies for drug companies now allow them to sell drugs at prices that are close to $250 billion a year above the free market price. Serious people might worry more about all the waste associated with these patent monopolies than the fact that the government is helping seniors pick up the tab for their drugs.")

Paul Krugman saying deficit scolds shouldn't be listened to, since (a) deficits are not bad in the current circumstances and we need more spending, (b) they are lying about caring about the deficits, and (c) they really just want to cut good programs that are good for Americans.

Your centrist Democratic leadership goes on TV to make fun of you for wanting a better country for everyone. Ed Rendell makes it clear that Obama is not interested in you, and neither is Ed Rendell, because his real base is in the Senate.

And, as if that weren't enough, Another Lame Duck Session Horrorshow: "First, Let's Kill All the Regulators" Bill: "No matter how bad things seem to be, there are always ways for them to become worse. While the campaign against Medicare and Social Security is being couched in the sort of faux inevitability that has become familiar via European austerity measures, other pernicious lame duck session measures are moving forward in the hope no one will notice. Dave Dayen wrote up a remarkably ugly one last Friday. Here we have just been through a wreck-the-economy level global crisis which was in large measure due to deregulation. The measure underway would not only weaken already pathetic regulators like the SEC but for good measure would hobble other ones like the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (after Fukushima, how can anyone with an ounce of sense argue for less stringent oversight of nuclear facilities?)." Dday's piece is here. And over at the Great Orange Satan, Charley James called it "Joe Lieberman's Parting 'F U America!' Shot [...] Lieberman's bill to defang regulatory agencies has bi-partisan support in the committee - perhaps not entirely surprising given that its Republican members include Tom Coburn, outgoing Senator Scott Brown, John McCain and Rand Paul. But Carl Levin also is a member as is Hawaii's Daniel Akaka, yet they are supporting the measure even though they should know better."

Bloomberg: "Cost-Benefit Analysis Puts the Brakes on Dodd-Frank: Business lobbyists and Republican lawmakers who failed to stop the Dodd-Frank Act from becoming law have managed to put the brakes on many of its provisions a second way: cost-benefit analysis." - useful to bad guys because while you might know the costs, you can't really nail-down the benefits. So you make them up if it's something you want to paint as worthwhile, or you simply don't mention them if it's something you want to get rid of.

Thom Hartmann, "How America Is Turning into a 3rd World Nation in 4 Easy Steps: New reports that Taiwanese transnational manufacturing corporation Foxconn may be opening up some plants in the United States indicate that our nation has now entered the terminal fourth stage of 'third-worldization' or what may be better referred to simply as 'recolonization.'"

When Obama said he wanted to be a transformative president like Reagan, you really should have believed him.

* * * * *

Call them $tudents for Educational Reform, but they're just another front for billionaires who want to destroy education.

Neil Barofsky on Why Naked Capitalism Matters: "I first became acquainted with Naked Capitalism while I was still at Treasury as the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Like many government agencies, we had a clip service that scoured the Internet for news reports related to the financial crisis, and rarely a week would go by where it would not feature a posting from Yves that would provoke a Whoa! moment. This is the moment - well familiar to NC readers - when you are assaulted with a well thought out and often meticulously sourced argument that turns the established orthodoxy on its head with irrefutable logic. My mind is often changed by the force of Yves' arguments, and even on those occasions when I still disagree with her conclusions, I am grateful for the deeper understanding that I will inevitably gain from her work."

Teenager arrested on suspicion of "malicious telecommunications" after posting picture of burning poppy on Facebook.

Sarah Jaffe has a blog again - A Different Class.

Mitch Benn, "I'm Proud Of The BBC"

Sale item: Mick Jagger's love letters. Sounds like a bargain!

I've been noticing this image appearing all over the place, even used as a personal icon or gravitar (including by one of my followers on Twitter), and I bet none of them realize that this is how and where it first made its way to the web. Kinda freaks me out.

Jimmy Dorsey's Orchestra

10 November 2012

Hold that football, Lucy!

The Twittersphere is abuzz with Harry Reid's announcement that he's going be a mensch over Social Security. I always love it when Harry Reid makes such announcements, because it's a signal of what we can't expect from him. The Hill says, "Reid assures Sanders he won't agree to cuts in Social Security. HuffPo says, "Harry Reid: 'We Are Not Going To Mess With Social Security'."

Well, that settles it then! Just like when Harry Reid kept assuring us he'd stand up for a public option!

Like, back in February of 2010 when Kate Pickert at Swampland posted:

Re: Re: Could the Public Option Get a Third Lease on Life?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has told Greg Sargent that "if a decision is made to use reconciliation to advance health care," he's open to bringing back the public option. That was fast.

I can't find Stuart's comment at Swampland anymore, so let's put it here:
The First Salad Days of The Public Option

Ahh, yes...the good old days way back when liberals could possibly dream about maybe enthusiastically supporting the Democrats' glorious struggle with the Republicans over health care reform [link to CNN story from October, 2009]:

Reid backs health care public option

October 26, 2009 8:21 p.m. EDT

Washington (CNN) -- The contentious debate over health care took a new twist Monday as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced his decision to craft legislation including a public insurance option allowing states to opt out.

Reid's decision is a major victory for the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

Reid, a Nevada Democrat, has been melding legislation from the more conservative Senate Finance Committee and the more liberal Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. The Health Committee included a form of the public option in its bill; the Finance Committee did not.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has insisted that the House of Representatives will pass a health care reform bill including a public option.

President Obama is "pleased that the Senate has decided to include a public option for health coverage," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a written statement.

"He supports the public option because it has the potential to play an essential role in holding insurance companies accountable through choice and competition," Gibbs said.

Several top Democrats have expressed concern that the traditionally conservative Senate would not pass a bill with a public option.


Remember all of that wonderful, hope-tastic stuff they were saying back when it seemed pretty clear that everybody was confused by the disaster they had just witnessed, and had been walking around already for two weeks muttering "That jackass Baucus did all of that to get this piece of crap out of Finance...?"

That was as far back as when the President's Press Secretary actually said the public option was to "play an essential role" in a reformed health care system.

I remember those days well.

That was before the "concerns" of "Several top Democrats" who weren't Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, nor Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, nor popular President of the United States Barack Obama, that the "the traditionally conservative Senate would not pass a bill with a public option" turned out to be quite remarkably prophetic.

Well, that episode sure kept liberal Democrats on the edge of our seats, as if we might still be invested in whatever would finally be constructed out of the bill that had seeped forth from Max Baucus' Finance Committee's "Gang of Six."

Remember that cross-section of American political genius? Exactly three Democrats and three Republicans out of a majority Democratic committee --as if the Democrats had never been elected to a majority-- provided the perfect atmosphere for getting good policy accomplished in a timely manner: [NYTimes: "Health Policy Is Carved Out at Table for 6" Published: July 27, 2009]:

Mr. Obama, in his news conference last week, praised the three Republicans in the Senate group - Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Ms. Snowe. Mr. Grassley, the senior Republican on the Finance Committee, and Mr. Baucus share a history of deal-making, and group members said they share a sense of trust despite the partisan acrimony that pervades the Capitol.

Mr. Enzi, who sits on both the Finance Committee and the health committee, has a long record on health issues but found Democrats on the health panel unwilling to compromise.

After the group insisted it needed more time, the majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, conceded that a floor vote would have to wait until after the summer recess. "If this is the only bill with bipartisan support," Ms. Snowe said, "that will really resonate. It could be the linchpin for broad bipartisan agreement."

Strangely enough, it seems that neither the optimism-resonating Snowe, nor the patiently conceding Reid, nor the socialist Presid--sorry, I mean Republican-praising President could have predicted that Mr. Enzi's tolerance for such a lack of compromise would eventually run out four months later in the middle of October, when he finally voted against his own Gang of Six's bill.

A strange, new, disillusioned disappointment followed, when it became clear to everyone that the President was, in fact, playing eleven-dimensional political chess that no mere mortal could begin to grasp, the only problem being that he had been playing against a Jedi of an opponent whose formidable aggression, infinite wile and Napoleonic tactical skill had been legendary for decades: Iowa's Chuck Grassley. Liberal Democrats, especially those who had vocally rejected the "polarized politics of the past" during the Democratic primaries, were taken aback by this weird, not-hope, not-change sensation they were unaccustomed to experiencing from their President.

Two weeks of this miasma of liberal confusion crept by ("Did the President win? Did the Democrats get anything done? Is the bill as bad as everyone says it is? Isn't everything we begged for gone, and much we know is wrong put in?") before the next significant event happened: On October 26, 2009, our patiently conceding Majority Leader Harry Reid stepped up to declare his intention to support an opt-out, maybe just barely adequate public option available to less than 3% of the American people.

Fired up! Ready to go!

Oh the superb minutes that followed! Oh the hundreds of seconds of joy! We were so cheered, so ready to keep on fighting for Democrats, so back in the Change saddle, right up until we heard the bad news from President Snowe:

Reid said he hoped to eventually win over Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, the lone Republican to back the Finance Committee bill. Snowe has indicated her preference for a "trigger" provision that would mandate creation of a public health insurance option in the future if specific thresholds for expanded coverage and other changes were not met.

Snowe issued a statement Monday, saying she was "deeply disappointed" with Reid's decision on the public option. She argued that a decision in favor of a trigger "could have been the road toward achieving a broader bipartisan consensus in the Senate."

"It's unfortunate the Senate majority leader decided to take a different path, because he did say it was a pretty good doggone idea with respect to the trigger in September, so I don't what has happened to change his mind," she said later.

"It's regrettable, because I certainly have worked in good faith all of these months on a bipartisan basis and, as you know, have been standing alone at this point as a Republican to do so because I believe in good public policy," Snowe added.

Yes, that was indeed the turning point, as subsequent events have borne out. Olympia Snowe had just about taken a megaphone and shouted out to the nation what would need to happen for health care reform to pass, given such ruthless partisanship as Harry Reid showed by feebly pacifying shocked, betrayed liberals. The "Triggered" public option --a "Break Only in Case of Emergency " public option-- could be the only public option available for negotiating away later at some future "bipartisan summit."

And so we're here, back again at the place where Rahm and Baucus planted the non-majority flag of the Gang of Six, and made the outcomes of two national votes disappear for only a little while (six months) so that Mr. Enzi could be better pleased by his position, despite the chronic unwillingness of Democrats to compromise. We're back at another "bipartisan summit," in which the majority attempts to mollify the minority by pretending that it has already lost upcoming elections, as Democrats have been so comfortable doing in the past, when there was more bipartisanship.

And we are allowed by our leaders to possibly dream once again about maybe enthusiastically supporting the Democrats' glorious..."Trigger" option?

Good times, good times they were, and are still, apparently.

Thanks for reading this far, commenters, I really appreciate it.

Stuart Zechman

Glenn Greenwald has a list of six of the steps in the betrayal of liberalism that we can expect to see, but of course he left two out: Hostage-taking and co-optation to try to fight for the "more liberal" of two not-really-opposing bad policy proposals, which usually come in the same package. Like, say, maybe some sort of choice between a big "tweak" and a very slightly smaller "tweak" that only kills 9/10 as many people as the larger "tweak" will. Or maybe creating a fight over raising the age of retirement even further, so that you're fighting over 69 or 70. Are any of those proposals acceptable? No, of course not. But if they are suddenly on the table, we will see people allowing such a fight to become the fight, as if lowering the retirement age back down to where it used to be (or even lower) wasn't even conceivable. It is conceivable, dammit, and for every nasty proposal, there should be a counter-proposal that goes farther in the other direction than politicians have been willing to talk about. They want to raise the retirement age? We want it lowered to 55. They want to change the calculation for the costs of living? We want to change it so that the amount is higher rather than lower. They want cuts? We want the cap eliminated. Don't even argue about this crap - just go in the other direction.

Another thing to watch: Right now, everyone seems to agree on the need for something they call "immigration reform". And, certainly, no one doubts that we need to make changes. But watch out for what these people mean when they say "reform". Because, without improving things one bit, you may find yourself fighting over what kind of a guest-worker program we are going to have, rather than fighting on ground that recognizes that any kind of guest-worker program is an unacceptable evil.

Stop fighting on their ground. Stop letting them set the terms of debate so far to the right that people forget what things were like when they were better. When, for example, the top marginal rate was 91%. As CMike said in comments to the previous post: "Presenting for years at a time an argument on whether the top earned income tax rate should be at 39.6% instead of 35% means the corporate media is telling you that there is no substantial disagreement over what the tax rates should be."

Oh, yeah - and don't let them call it a "Grand Bargain" when it's a Great Betrayal. From Jcapan in comments below:

Howard Zinn, The Coming Revolt of the Guards: There is evidence of growing dissatisfaction among the guards. We have known for some time that the poor and ignored were the nonvoters, alienated from a political system they felt didn't care about them, and about which they could do little. Now alienation has spread upward into families above the poverty line. These are white workers, neither rich nor poor, but angry over economic insecurity, unhappy with their work, worried about their neighborhoods, hostile to government- combining elements of racism with elements of class consciousness, contempt for the lower classes along with distrust for the elite, and thus open to solutions from any direction, right or left.

In the twenties there was a similar estrangement in the middle classes, which could have gone in various directions-the Ku Klux Klan had millions of members at that time-but in the thirties the work of an organized left wing mobilized much of this feeling into trade unions, farmers' unions, socialist movements. We may, in the coming years, be in a race for the mobilization of middle- class discontent.

The fact of that discontent is clear. The surveys since the early seventies show 70 to 80 percent of Americans distrustful of government, business, the military. This means the distrust goes beyond blacks, the poor, the radicals. It has spread among skilled workers, white-collar workers, professionals; for the first time in the nation's history, perhaps, both the lower classes and the middle classes, the prisoners and the guards, were disillusioned with the system.

Get involved locally. Even in small ways. And maybe in bigger ones.

* * * * *

I actually meant to link "Obama Wins, the System is Broken" in the previous post, but I forgot.

In other news, Obama moves to make the War on Terror permanent.

"What CAN happen here [...] So one of the things that can happen here is your assassination by Uncle Sam - and coming soon perhaps, by your local cop-shop."

08 November 2012

Yay, Romney's not president! Oh, no, Obama is still president!

BileJones noted in comments that, according to the right-wing Daily Caller, President Bill was in Philly the other day and asked, "Who wants a president who will knowingly, repeatedly tell you something he knows isn't true?" Well, not you or me, but then, I also don't want a president who tells you something that I know isn't true. And both of the Big Party candidates told me right-wing lies.

Here's the simple map that shows Obama's big take in the Electoral College and the addition of two more Democratic votes in the Senate. The House is still firmly in the hands of Republicans. The map at electoral-vote.com has more details.

There's a new Independent in the Senate, and his name is Angus King. He seems to be a "centrist" - he's for gay marriage, but also for the Bowles and Simpson letter. When he was governor of Maine, he vetoed a bill to raise the state minimum wage by 25¢.

On the bright side, poor old Lindsay Graham was angrily saying no one could tell him the Republicans lost the election because they weren't far enough to the right. And Karl Rove managed to rip off a lot of billionaires, much to their chagrin. The pseudo-libertarian right is sounding the death-knell of the nation (they seem to have missed the funeral in 2000), despite the fact that all Obama has done is extend policy further to the right than ever before, and, funnily enough, they didn't much notice their rights going down the toilet during the two terms preceding Obama's. The difference between the two parties has become insignificant on most of these matters, except where the most intimate personal freedoms are concerned, where the Republicans based most of their campaigns, it seems, on removing what freedoms are left. And while I can only agree that Obamacare is a crappy idea, maybe they should have taken that up with the Heritage Foundation for hatching the scheme in the first place, and not nominated the guy who first instituted RomneyCare. But the security state expands apace and the wealthy establishment power-base is shored up, because that's what the right-wing wanted. One of the truest measures of freedom - the ability to make a decent living and not fear losing it because you exercised a little free speech - is still on the wane, thanks in no small part to so-called libertarians of the right-wing.

And, while some Republicans are complaining that their rhetoric moved "minority" voters and women to the Democrats, it might just be that the real story of this election is the white voters who didn't show up, turned off by both candidates.

But there were victories worth noting, including the election of the first openly gay Senator in Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin (and, despite what this article says, she did not "move to the center" but simply campaigned as a liberal). I'm proud to say that my state voted for marriage equality. So did Maine and Washington. And Minnesota voted down a restriction on gay marriage.

But, "Peter Orszag of Bank Welfare Queen Citigroup is Selling Catfood Futures Hard: The Obama victory was less than 24 hours old when the Rubinite faction of the Democratic party was out full bore selling 'reforming' Social Security as the adult solution to the coming budget impasse, giving it higher priority than any other measure on the table while simultaneously admitting that this is not even a pressing (let alone real) problem. And the worse is that this snakeoil salesmanship, which comes from former OMB director, now Citigrgoup vice chairman of corporate and investment banking Peter Orszag, is almost certainly an Obama trial balloon."

So, there's a long list of issues where we need a real, substantive change in direction and we need to start putting the pressure on right now. By all means put your list in comments to this post. Start talking up expansion (not tweaks!) of Social Security and removal of the cap. (Remember: Most people don't even know there is a cap on SS contributions - make sure they learn about it!) Explain to anyone who will listen that Americans already pay more per person in taxes to maintain our medical system than do the British, and with poorer results. (And that those taxes paid for the superior medical care that foreign rich people come to the Mayo Clinic for.)

Gail Zappa on what Frank said. If you're going to get good fresh people into Congress (and we should), we should start working on that right now. There's another election in two years, and we deserve the choice to vote for people who work for us. Act locally now.

Even Kevin Drum knows that things have gone worse under Obama where things like the no-fly list are concerned.

"Buy American" used to be patriotic. Now, apparently, it's communism.

Air New Zealand - "The Hobbit" safety briefing

Your steampunk moment: Cool boots.

Google celebrates Bram Stoker's birthday.

04 November 2012

Roll on thunder, shine on lightning

Cliff Schecter handicapped the election on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd, and he thinks there are reasons to be hopeful at the prospect of two of the worst Senators in the Democratic caucus being replace with two progressives. Cliff says parties have been changed from within and we can do it again. Let's hope he's right. (Also, did you know Al Franken could draw the US map from memory?)

Here's Matt Stoller's "The progressive case against Obama," and here's Matt debating Sam Seder on the subject on The Majority Report. (And I was stunned to learn that Matt Stoller is a regular feature of Russell Brand's show. Crikey!)

Dean Baker, "Get ready for the phony debt fight: Both candidates agree: The national debt is the most urgent challenge facing the nation. But it's not -- at all."

Digby asks, "Will common sense prevail over the phony deficit crusade?" I think we all know the answer to that: "Sadly, budget realities have very little to do with the jihad against Social Security and medicare. It's not about the budget or the debt. It's about fixing the national 'character.' Just ask Paul Ryan. He thinks these programs are 'a hammock that lulls able bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency, and have that dependency culture.'" And Barack Obama thinks they interfere with our ability to "compete" with China in the race to the bottom.

"Silences Louder Than Their Words: Effective Economic Policies Neither Candidate Advocates" - I have an even longer list, but the fact is that Obama and Romney both avoid mentioning any policies that could genuinely be expected to have a positive impact on the American economy.

Jane Mayer responds to notorious election fraudster Hans von Spakovsky's response to her piece, "The Voter Fraud Myth".

"Political Polling Is No Longer Meaningful: When you receive an unexpected call from a private number or 1-800 number, do you answer the phone? Most people don't, and those who do are hardly a representative sample of the American population. Yet the results of all major political polls are based on the assumption that the 9 percent of us who answer the phone are perfectly representative of the 91 percent who don't." And that means we need good exit polls more than ever. Oh. "The Washington Post has reported that the major news networks plan to cut back dramatically on exit polling in 2012. This is a problem because with many states moving to paper-free electronic voting, exit polls are the only way to detect errors and fraud. Without a paper trail and with no solid polling, there will be no way to know that the results reported by private voting machine operators are in fact correct." (Not helped by the fact that we have the world's stupidest political press.)

Tell me honestly, if you interviewed a bunch of Obama supporters, wouldn't a lot of them sound just as wrong as these Romney supporters? (Really disappointed in Meatloaf, though.) (Meanwhile... Is Chris Rock being more ironic than he knows?)

"Civil Liberties in the War of 1812" - James Madison was the president we really needed on 9/11 in 2001.

Greg Palast offers a free download of his book, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits. (But donations are welcome, of course.)

And now, a political message from Joss Whedon.

This is a story I completely missed last month that highlights an argument I've engaged before about the idea that a right - in this case free speech - is protected as long as the government isn't the entity that punishes you for exercising it. But the fact of the matter is that if private entities are acting in a way that prevents you from being able to speak freely and survive, you don't have free speech.

Diet soda makes you fat.

If you can, listen to Lou Reed's New York Shuffle.

I really enjoyed the Halloween Google Doodle, and it's nice to know there's a page to go to where you can find them all when you miss them or want to see what the other countries are seeing, right here. (I think they should have put this one up outside of Mexico, too.) And since I missed the Star Trek doodle, it's very handy. And I couldn't get the Little Nemo doodle to play properly before, but now that my Internet Access Provider has finally taken my complaint seriously, I can see it all.

I don't want to talk about the storm (or its potential impact on voting in neighborhoods where the polling places have been wrecked by it), but please comment below and let me know that you're okay.

"The Hell of It"