Friday, November 23, 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)


  1. Very sneaky, Kessler's argument that it's better to fix social security and medicare under a president who cares about these programs than one who doesn't, right? Even R.J., the only one at CAF who's moved on from GOP bashing, isn't ready to say the president is Third Way.

    Also wish Eskow's "so-called 'centrist' Democrats" would supersede "Centrist Democrats" every time the phrase comes up.

    Thanks for the great links.

  2. Walmart Black Friday Actions

  3. I was so ready to become a fan, but then you revealed your sorry self as a lying Palestine Firster. Buh-bye!!!!

    1. "Palestine-Firster"? Jeez, are you one of those right-wingers who called people who didn't want to invade Iraq "Saddam supporters"?

      I thought I'd frightened all you peoplel away already.

  4. Yves often is right, yes, but not always. And her sneeringly condescending attitude of "I talk to experts!" with the often-explicit meaning that anyone who disagrees with her can't possibly know what they're talking about never fails to not impress me.

    It's true that, in what I regard as logical idiocy, forgiven or canceled debt can be regarded by the IRS as "imputed income" on which you can be taxed. But first, that is not always true and second, there are enough ways around the potential problem to make her slams of Rolling Jubilee sound more petulant than substantive.

    For example, the group could buy debt but instead of cancelling it could simply never get around to trying (in any practical way) to collect it. IRS rules do apparently require some effort to collect a debt (if it's called that) but I don't know of any rules about how aggressive those efforts must be. That would leave the debtor with the impacts on their credit rating but would still remove the threat of foreclosure or seizure of their bank account or other assets. (And in any case, it does appear that the first $13,000 of debt could be dropped by being regarded as a gift.)

    Or, perhaps more practically and if the debtor was able, the group could look to renegotiate or settle the debt for a fraction of the face value, perhaps equivalent to what the group paid to obtain it, money which could then go back into the kitty to buy more debt.

    So maybe - maybe - Rolling Jubilee has to make some relatively small adjustments in some cases. That hardly justifies dismissing it as a "gimmick," especially by someone whose alternatives are "develop legal theories" and "do a documentary" while arguing both that Rolling Jubilee will be so small it will have no impact and so big that it will significantly raise the cost of buying debt.

    1. that's a great critique of Yves' post, but i still find myself leaning in the direction of the third of her (and others with whom i've spoken about it) points: it's not something that is going to make much of a difference in most in-debt people's lives. and when it starts to become so, TPTB will make buying debt impossible.

      we should be used to this game by now, as it has happened on so many fronts and levels it's easy to lose count, at this point. the phrase i like best is 'pricing point' but there are many others. TPTB have it worked out for almost every industry. the minute someone starts to make waves in a progressive direction, the bottleneck (economic, political, resource, etc) is squeezed shut and the progressive idea dies.

    2. not going to make much of a difference in most in-debt people's lives

      That may prove to be true in the end for just the reasons you (and Yves) cite. However, beyond the signal lesson that very failure could teach a wider audience about the nature of the beast we face, I'm reminded of the story of the girl and the starfish, which you may well know but I'll tell here for others:

      It seems an elderly man was walking on the beach after a storm and saw a large number of starfish that had been thrown up on the beach by the storm to a point too high for the high tide to wash them back into the sea. He came across a young girl who was picking up starfish and throwing them back into the water.

      "What are you doing?" he asked.

      "I'm saving the starfish," she said.

      "Young lady," said the man, "there are many, many starfish. You can't possibly save them all. What difference does it make?"

      The girl thought for a moment, then picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea.

      "It made a difference to that one," she said.

  5. I'm not sure it makes sense for Chris Floyd to get on Atrios for not covering Gaza. Atrios almost never does foreign policy and for him, anything outside of Philadelphia is foreign. Similar for Digby.

    As for Kos, I count 73 diaries mentioning Gaza since November 17th. At least some of them are critical of Israel.

    It would have been fairer to blame me, because I do cover foreign policy, was aware of the story (DemocracyNow did very good background), and decided not to blog about it.

    It's not that the issue is unimportant or that there's no basis for moral outrage. It is important, because it's a factor in a gathering storm in the Middle East, and the fact that Israel assassinated the very person who was capable of stopping the missiles (resulting in the unleashing of an almost completely ineffectual barrage by Hamas) is completely outrageous.

    But I think that the news is getting out. There's not much more to say than what DemocracyNow has said: There was a ragged peace. Israel destroyed it through the assassination of Ahmed Jabari knowing that Iron Dome would largely protect it from the immediate consequences, and did so for what appear to be domestic political reasons.

    1. Iron Dome is interesting. It seems to be entirely Israeli in design and development, which is an impressive feat. Whether all the components can be made in Israel I doubt. There will be some fast computers in there. But the US Government is giving the Israeli government a couple of hundred million dollars, and there is talk of buying the technology.

      I find myself wondering how much American money is in Israeli arms manufacturing, effectively out-sourcing R&D.

    2. 300 million in US funding for Iron Dome alone, slated to rise by another 600M. Apparently Lockheed lost the bid; Israel would have been fine with an American developer.

  6. I'd like to add a couple more angles.
    Likud and Hamas are codependent. Each needs the other as a justification. Try substituting "Likud" for "Israel" and "Hamas" for "Gaza" and the narrative isn't quite the same.
    As far as I know, the Palestinians have never, ever had a genuine advocate. What "leader" ever has bettered their situation? Not their own, not their neighbors', not anywhere else in the world. After WW II ten million displaced persons were resettled in Europe. Only in the Middle East were people kept in camps.

    I wish I knew of any thing to try to do.

    1. Effective and honest Palestinian leaders aren't allowed to remain influential for long. Fatah's Marwan Barghouti was one, which is no doubt why he's been in prison for the last decade.

    2. Try substituting "Likud" for "Israel" and "Hamas" for "Gaza" and the narrative isn't quite the same.

      You might be right; that's why, when writing about this conflict, I try to refer to "Israel" and "Palestine," not "Likud" and "Hamas" except when I'm specifically talking about those entities.

      Still, I don't buy the notion that Hamas and Likud are "co-dependent." That's like saying that, say, the Iraqi resistance and the Coalition forces were co-dependent, or the American Indians and the European invaders were co-dependent.

      It's probably true that Israel likes to have violent resistance from the Palestinians to justify its own violence, but it doesn't really need it, because Israel usually breaks ceasefires and truces; if all Palestinians adopted and practiced nonviolence, Israel would just continue killing them off piecemeal. This has nothing much to do with Likud; it's the story of Israeli history. It sounds like you're trying to construct an equivalence between Israel and Palestine that just isn't there; Glenn Greenwald did a good piece on that last week.

  7. One of the long-term problems of Palestine has some connection with the idea of the Occupy Jubilee.

    Most of the land in Palestine was owned by absentee landlords, as far distant as Constantinople. The Zionist movement bought the land from the landlords, evicted the tenants, and Jewish settlement began.

    When you have a system of trading debt which, amongst other things, gives the debt a very low value because of the difficulty of recovering it, the idea that a political organisation is buying it up could be disconcerting. It could be presented in a bad way. And people who don't legally own the property can think that they do. They become people you can scare into supporting you.

    Land and outsiders, it's a dangerous combination.

  8. Off topic but tis the season. My eighty-year-old mother is a big reader and I'm ordering her a Kindle Paperwhite which my mother insists she doesn't want. I don't read much fiction so I would appreciate some suggestions from the Sideshow host and commentariat for a few ebook available selections and, especially, for a "can't miss" one to get past the resistance there will be to learning to use the complicated contraption in the first place.

    My mother reads a lot of mysteries, historical fiction, and novels with exotic settings (non- East Coast ones, anyway). The two literary recommendations I've made in recent years went over well enough, my mother went through several Alan Furst espionage novels [Link],* one right after the other, and the Dragon Tattoo trilogy.

    I'd like to load up the device with several books which feature female protagonists - or villains. I haven't read it myself but I did see the movie and I'm thinking of including The Hunger Games among my selections even though I don't think my mother ever reads scifi or futuristic stuff, unless one of you tell me it's just too "young adult."
    *CMike book reviews: Night Soldiers, first third of the book was an outstanding read, high-drama and highly educational; Dark Star, the second half of the book is a page turner.

    1. Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallender series -- international crime best-sellers, set in Sweden. As Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö's Martin Beck series dealt with the creation of the social welfare state, Mankell deals with the stresses as the society appears to fall apart

      Charles Todd has two good World War I mystery series. For a good female protagonist, try the Bess Crawford series. Relatively short fast reads, well-written.

      One of my all time favorite books is Connie Willis' The Doomsday Book. It's sci fi/historical, but don't let the scifi part put you off. Very good female protagonist.

    2. The Childrens Book by A.S. Byatt if your mother is interested in the Fabians. Thinly disguised characters Edith Nesbit, Eric Gill, etc.

    3. Thanks for the suggestions Nihil Obstet, you've given me a lot to work with. As far as picking the first book to read from a series, for me it's a Prime Directive that I begin at the beginning. With the Kurt Wallander books I see determining where that would be is a bit complicated.

      The relevant Wikipedia page seems to have a lot of spoilers so I tried to give it just a glance but I see from it that there is an order in which the books were written and published which is different from the book order which is faithful to the character's timeline, and there is a book which features the detective's daughter, not the detective himself, and Wikipedia also "[notes] that there is some overlap in the timeline among the novels as there are three separate series."

      The series by author Charles Todd looks promising though I got a bit of a jolt from the opening of his Wikipedia bio page:

      [indent]>>>>>Charles Todd is a pen name used by the American authors Caroline and Charles Todd. This mother-and-son writing team lives in the eastern United States, in North Carolina and Delaware respectively.<<<<<[/indent]

      Now that's an idea for an artistic collaboration that I never would have thought of on my own in this lifetime.

      That's a pretty strong recommendation you give The Doomsday Book, Nihil O. Nonetheless, I'll have to "look inside" and read a few chapters into it, between now and Christmas, to decide whether that one will work.

      Likewise Ksix, I'm going to have to read a few chapters into that The Children's Book. I'm not getting a sense of it but there are those 675 pages for which Wikipedia provides this explanation, "The book has so many fictional and historical characters that Byatt had to create a spreadsheet in Excel to keep track of them all." And that's on the way to WWI showing up at the end and proving the futility of liberalism? Yikes, I'm looking more for a Tai-Pan, a King Rat, or even a Whirlwind at this point, less for a masterpiece like Shōgun.