Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Going pear-shaped

Thom Hartmann and Sam Sacks, in "No, Actually, This Is What a Fascist Looks Like", quote Vice President Henry Wallace: "They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection."

"Senators Reach Bipartisan Immigration Reform Deal: According to the Associated Press, the bill would grant legal status and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants only after a series of additional border security measures were put in place. In addition, the package would include an e-verify program to prevent employers from hiring undocumented workers in the future, an expanded visa and guest worker program to manage future immigration, and a separate streamlined path towards citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were bought to America as children." Atrios notes that this deal includes a free money stream for our now over-commercialized university system by offering free green cards to immigrant who get the right degrees, but later grossly understates the way the education game has changed for today's students The lucky ones start off new jobs in the position of indentured servitude (a polite way of saying, "slaves who are allowed to buy their way to freedom if they can find the money"). And that's true even at universities that were founded to be free institutions.

In 1994, "unemployment" stopped including a lot of unemployment - that is, we no longer count people who just plain can't find a job and have stopped looking as "unemployed". Understand, these are people who would jump at the chance to get job if they caught wind of one, it's just that the winds have stilled. They're as unemployed as anyone can be, but they've eaten through more of their reserves and can no longer afford to waste time looking for something that just isn't there. The real unemployment rate is a whole lot higher than what we've been told.

When I hear an idiot from the GOP publicly announce that he is a doctor and he "knows" something that is biologically impossible about conception, I figure the silver lining is that he probably won't get to malpractice on many women. (Hint: Arousal is arousal is arousal, whether that arousal comes from exertion, terror, or lust - raised skin temperature, faster heart-rate, etc. As you can imagine, it doesn't prevent conception.) In any case, 70% of Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, so I don't know why we have to pretend that it is "controversial". It may be controversial in some circles, but to most of us, the question is settled: Americans don't want to have their doctors' and pastors' jobs performed by politicians and cops.

Marcy Wheeler's "OK, But Can We Also Fire Lanny Breuer?" was mentioned in comments a few posts back and I meant to front-page it in the next post and somehow didn't get around to it. She quotes a good post by Cory Robin pointing out that a petition asking for Aaron Swartz to be pardoned gets the equation wrong, as if it was Aaron who was the wrong-doer and the government was not out of line. Marcy points out that Breuer has a lot of responsibility for turning the DOJ into the outrage it has become and says, "If we want to fix the injustice that was done to Aaron Swartz, we need to fix the aspects of the system that rewarded such behavior. We need to fix the law that empowered the prosecutors gunning for him. We need to put some breaks on DOJ's power. And we should start by getting rid of the guy who has fostered this culture of abuse for the last four years." But, of course, by creating an enormous batch of laws that are almost impossible not to break if you use the internet at all, Congress and two Democratic presidents are also responsible for creating that culture. And the current president has had a remarkable streak of appointing (or retaining) people who really like this sort of culture. What tremendous bad luck, eh? Or is it an accident that this president has granted fewer pardons in his first term than any other president in history. Yes, that's right, even George W. Bush granted more than twice as many pardons in his first term.

Plutocrats' Paradise: "And this is what makes Davos so fascinating: it is the most perfect case study of how the practitioners of free-market, globalised capitalism give the public one explanation for what they are doing and why, while privately pursuing the complete opposite. On the one hand there is an event attended by Sharon Stone, Bono and a slew of tame academics (14 Nobel laureates this week alone), the message being "we're open to anyone". On the other hand, there are those secret meetings, off limits to anyone not in the £100k club. It is both a reputation-laundry service, and the most shadowy backroom-dealing house. From its inception, the whole point of Davos has been to promulgate the gospel of free-market fundamentalism. In his brilliant book, The Agony of Mammon, Lewis Lapham describes how business-school academic Klaus Schwab convened the original summit in 1971 for top European managers interested in the secrets of American entrepreneurship and "freeing commercial enterprise from the bondage of government regulation". A grand, globalist ideology has since been wrapped around that trunk of class interest, but without it the entire enterprise would never have got off the ground."

Black Agenda Report was, unsurprisingly, less than impressed with Obama's second inaugural speech, with Glen Ford terming it "The White House Un-Reality Show" and saying, "And so it goes. The Great Deporter becomes the great protector of immigrant rights. The man who killed the Kyoto Agreement is heralded as a champion of the environment because he expresses respect for 'science' and pledges to somehow 'respond to the threat of climate change.' The mention of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s name signifies - what? Nowadays, not a thing. It is true: Obama is the most gay-friendly president to date. I don't think U.S. imperialism and Wall Street hegemons have a fundamental problem with that, either. Apparently, being gay-friendly is all it takes to be considered a champion of a 'progressive agenda' in 2013." A few days earlier, he had been no more cheery about the staging of the event, saying, "Don't You Dare Conflate MLK and Obama [...] The fires lit by the 'giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism' that Dr. King identified in his 1967 'Beyond Vietnam: Breaking the Silence' speech are consuming the world, now stoked by a Black arsonist-in-chief. Domestic poverty hovers only a fraction of a percentage below the levels of 1965, with 'extreme poverty' the highest on record. Black household wealth has collapsed to one-twentieth that of whites. Today, more Black men are under the control of the criminal justice system than were slaves in the decade before the Civil War... [...] One school of thought holds that corporate servants like Obama could not have taken root in Black America if Dr. King, Malcolm X and a whole cadre of slain and imprisoned leaders of the Sixties had not been replaced by opportunistic representatives of a grasping Black acquisitive class. In any event, had King survived, his break with Obama would have come early. Surely, the Dr. King who, in his 1967 'Where Do We Go from Here' speech called for a guaranteed annual income would never have abided Obama's targeting of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in the weeks before his 2009 inauguration. Forty-five years ago, King's position was clear: 'Our emphasis must be twofold: We must create full employment, or we must create incomes.' The very notion of a grand austerity bargain with the Right would have been anathema to MLK. Were Martin alive, he would skewer the putative leftists and their 'lesser evil' rationales for backing the corporatist, warmongering Obama. As both a theologian and a 'revolutionary democrat,' as Temple University's Prof. Anthony Monteiro has described him, MLK had no problem calling evil by its name - and in explicate triplicate"

"Dodd Financial Reform Bill is All Holes and No Cheese: In a letter to Senate majority leader Harry Reid and minority leader Mitch McConnell, luminaries including former SEC Chief Accountant Lynn Turner, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, hedge fund owner Jim Chanos, former Lehman Brothers Vice Chair Peter Solomon, former S&L investigator Bill Black, former Senate Banking Committee Chief Economist Rob Johnson, economists Dean Baker, Barry Eichengreen and others pointed out that Dodd's proposed financial reform legislation wouldn't have prevented the current crisis - and won't prevent the next crisis. Dodd himself has admitted that his bill 'will not stop the next crisis from coming'. In fact, the bill is wholly ineffective, failing to address the core things which need to be done to stabilize the economy."

I mostly try to ignore Gail Collins, but it might be worth your time to read her tribute to The Feminine Mystique at 50 as a reminder of how it's done.

Austerity, of course, is only for you and me, and not for, say, Big Pharma, who get lots of gravy.

This is an actual infographic from The Wall Street Journal.

I've never listened to "Baby Got Back" in any version until today, but I dutifully listened to the original and then to Jonathan Coulton's very different version. Coulton did a funny thing, turning a rap song into a white-bread ballad. This required him to add, y'know, a tune, thus making him the actual composer, in addition to some alteration of the lyrics. So I was confused by Fox/Glee's claim that their cover of Coulton's parody-cover was merely a use of his "arrangement". It's obviously a great deal more than that. And yet, even on Coulton's own post on the subject, neither he nor the commenters seemed to be aware of this (and neither did Atrios). Eventually, though, I found a post where a commenter called ChortlingMango clarified the situation: "Actually, US copyright law is pretty clear on the issue. An arrangement like Coulton's is technically called a 'derivative work,' because it is based on a pre-existing 'original work' (Sir Mix-A-Lot's original rap song). In order to create his arrangement and sell it, Coulton obtained a compulsory (or 'statutory') license from the copyright holder, the Harry Fox Agency. Coulton himself does not own the rights to Mix-A-Lot's lyrics, of course, but, according to the U.S. Copyright Office, 'the copyright of a derivative work covers ... the additions, changes, or other new material appearing for the first time in the work.' Even if Fox got permission for the Glee cover of 'Baby Got Back' from Harry Fox (which they undoubtedly did), they are also required to seek permission from Coulton for use of his 'additions' — chords, phrasings, rhythms, and so on — that make his arrangement unique. He'd have to prove in court that the two arrangements are, in fact identical, but, when you listen to both, there's very little question."

Is this your patent? One company's classy response to an accusation of design-stealing-that-wasn't.

Photos: Robert Bloch and Henry Kuttner. I've never seen a picture of Henry Kuttner before! (source) Here's Bloch in a dress with a ukulele. Bloch as Geekmaster, with Geek. Harold Gauer and Bloch with C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner.

Congratulations to Jim Nabors and Cadwallader.


  1. I also rather enjoyed this version of "Baby Got Back".

  2. Moi, je préfère Gilbert-&-Sullivan style.

    Also, where's George Orwell when we need him?

  3. Glen Ford 1, Krugman 0.

    I tend to like Paul K., in spite of the fact that as BDR says, "Paul Krugman's Obamapostasy will never come."

    But that was some horrid crap.

  4. Gotta give the WSJ credit for re-discovering Stalinist art. Those valiant, suffering lower upper class stakhanovites bring out the tears.

  5. Obama doesn't need to issue pardons. His DOJ doesn't prosecute war criminals or corporate fraud, so who would he pardon? Bradley Manning? Tim DeChristopher? John Kiriakou?

  6. You can't fix the damage that has been done.

    Hang the bitch. Eye for an eye.

    No fear...

  7. Naked Capitalism posted a 1988 interview with Tom Ferguson in which he says many prescient things about the Democratic Party. He ends with, "The choice for the Democrats in 1988 is between Roosevelt and Grover Cleveland." Well, we know how that went, though I think of our current president as a cross between Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson.

  8. re WSJ "infographic --
    retired beige couple with $180K income? ("$52,000 in investment income" -- so where's the other $125K from??) I'll bet that's way over the top 1% of retired beige people. Probably closer to the 1% of 1% of retired beige people.