27 June 2013

Do you promise not to tell?

Sam Seder interviewed Rebecca Traister about "Texas's draconian new reproductive laws, Wendy Davis's unexpected and amazing filibuster and how galvanizing will this moment be?" and also Ari Berman about the Supreme Court gutting the Voting Rights Act but overturning DOMA, on The Majority Report

Bruce Dixon, "SCOTUS Guts Voting Rights Act, Black Leaders Should Self-Reflect." And not just them.

Digby: "This really is Big Brother: the leak nobody's noticed [...] When the free press, explicitly protected in the bill of rights becomes equivalent to an "enemy of the United States" something very, very bad is happening. The administration says it's doing this to protect national security and that it is willing to protect those who blow the whistle on waste, fraud and abuse. But that is not how the effect of this sort of program is going to be felt. After all, it's being implemented across the federal government, not just in national security: [...] When the Department of Education is searching for "insider threats" something's gone very wrong."

Here's David Gregory trying to pretend he's a journalist and Glenn Greenwald is something else. The irony of the way Gregory closed the interview was probably lost on the Villagers.
There's nothing particularly ironic about the idea that some buried embarrassment might be dredged up to smear the messenger - in fact, that's the whole point. If you can keep files on everyone going back to their first blogpost, or Usenet post, or tweet, or Facebook status, or even their email, you can shoot the messenger from out of the past and make them, and not the message, the story. Luckily, it turns out that the "scandals" in Glenn Greenwald's past (about which he writes here) amount to precious little, with the result that the Twitterverse is alive with #ggscandals. My favorite was from Rania Khalek: "@ggreenwald once farted at a press conference and blamed Thomas Friedman"

Yves discusses Obama's TPP secrecy: "But in any event, these secret negotiations reveal how Obama is systematically stripping away our few remaining democratic protections so he can hand the country, lock, stock, and barrel, over to major corporate interests. The sooner ordinary citizens wake up to what a menace his policies are to their well-being, the better." (Thanks to D. for the tip.)

"Snowden Coverage: If U.S. Mass Media Were State-Controlled, Would They Look Any Different?: Unfazed by polls showing that half of the American rabble -- I mean, public -- believe Snowden did a good thing by leaking documentation of NSA spying, TV news panels have usually excluded anyone who speaks for these millions of Americans. Although TV hosts and most panelists are not government officials, some have a penchant for speaking of the government with the pronoun 'We.'"

Bloomberg, "U.S. Surveillance Is Not Aimed at Terrorists: The debate over the U.S. government's monitoring of digital communications suggests that Americans are willing to allow it as long as it is genuinely targeted at terrorists. What they fail to realize is that the surveillance systems are best suited for gathering information on law-abiding citizens."

Glen Ford at Black Agenda Report, "Rep. Clyburn: Putting Obama First - Civil Liberties, Peace, Justice, and Reality Last: "Black Congressman James Clyburn's 'gut' tells him that whistleblower Edward Snowden is conspiring with others to 'embarrass' President Obama. "
Bruce Dixon, "Why Democrats and Republicans Won't Confront Black Mass Incarceration, and Why The Green Party Will: Although the phenomenon of black mass incarceration is at the center of African American life, it continues to be obfuscated or ignored. The bipartisan consensus is that the social policy of black mass incarceration may exist only the minds of black people, and is certainly off the table as a political issue. To get this very real concern of Black America on the table then, may require stepping outside the bipartisan consensus. In Georgia, the state with the third highest black population and the largest percentage of its adults in the correctional labyrinth, the Green Party proposes to do what Democrats and Republicans won't --- make black mass incarceration a central political issue."

BUSTED: Bankers Caught On Tape, Joking About Bailout, And How They'd Never Pay It Back [...] So ... so it is bridged until we can pay you back ... which is never."
ANGLO Irish Bank boss David Drumm laughed about "abusing" the bank guarantee and warned his executives not to be caught abusing it, the Anglo Tapes reveal.

Chinese rebellion: "The owner of a Florida-based medical supply company has been trapped inside his company's factory in China by a group of about 80 angry workers, though they deny mistreating him physically. 'We women can't hold the boss hostage,' one employee, Gao Ping, told CBS News. 'We're negotiating. He didn't pay us wages.'"

Yes, Darrell Issa invented the whole scandal out of thin air by directing a report on the IRS treatment of political groups to ignore the treatment of liberal groups, and then claimed, because he had a report on the treatment of right-wing groups, that only right-wing groups were being scrutinized.

This is how much fun you can have by being on the dole. The life of luxury for which people eschew "honest work" because they don't want to give up all this decadent indolence.

Jesus Christ responds to DOMA decision on Twitter.

Bad chart of the day, on The Secret, and privilege.

Richard Matheson (1926-2013). His name came into my life when I saw it with some frequency in the credits of The Twilight Zone.

This picture tickled me.

For the Kindle: Lake Caerwych, "a free story of "friendship, time-travel, and haunting adventure in ancient Wales."

Someone asked me if I'd seen the SuperBeauty site, but when I searched I found all these neat pictures at Super Beauty Nerd instead.

The Smell of Stan Lee

McCartney interview on The Colbert Report

"Do You Want To Know A Secret?"

24 June 2013

Scratching an itch

"Why is the TPP draft treaty such a big secret?: President Obama in his last State of the Union address said that he hopes to see the United States ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, an proposed treaty among at least 12 nations on both sides of the Pacific that would set rules of what members governments could and couldn't do in regard to financial regulation, intellectual property rights and much else. But the Obama administration refuses to disclose precisely what is in the draft treaty or what the United States is asking for. That's classified information. That is to say, the classification system, whose original stated purpose was to make it a crime to disclose military secrets to foreign enemies, is being used to make it a crime to reveal the government's proposed trade treaty to the American public."

Pelosi booed at NN over Snowden. Just start about halfway through the video to see that. Personally, I wanted to smack her every time she said "bipartisanship". A chill went up my spine when she said, "...and now it's urgent to give him a legacy." WTF? Why should any of us care about that? That may be Obama's concern, but there is absolutely no reason in the world it should be mine or anyone else's. And when she said the right-wing complained that she'd rammed Obamacare down their throats and she responded that if she'd done any ramming we'd have single-payer, I would have said, "So why didn't you do that ramming?" (I also think she's forgotten that "poison pill" means you can't vote for it. Don't give me, "...but they're not lethal because there are other good things in the bill." Yes, they are lethal. Don't vote for them. Don't vote for any bill that has even one "poison pill" in it, let alone plurals. Jeez.)

RJ Eskow's Father's Day message: "9 Ways the Right's Cradle to Grave 'Randian State' Is An Assault on Millennials: Conservatives keep claiming liberals want a 'cradle-to-grave nanny state.' That rhetoric has distracted us from the real social re-engineering taking place all around us. The right, along with its 'centrist' collaborators, is transforming our nation into a bloodless and soulless Randian State. Their decades-long assault on our core social values is on the verge of consuming its first complete generation of Americans. Born at the dawn of the Reagan era, Millennials were the first to be fully subjected to this all-out attack on the idea that we take care of each other in this country, and they'll pay for it from the cradle to the grave."

Matt Taibbi, "The Last Mystery of the Financial Crisis: It's long been suspected that ratings agencies like Moody's and Standard & Poor's helped trigger the meltdown. A new trove of embarrassing documents shows how they did it.

"NYT Pays Tribute to Hastings by Attacking Him After Death: When a journalist dies, how can you tell if they've had a career that's upheld the proudest journalistic traditions of challenging the powerful and fearlessly exposing the truth? The New York Times will attempt to piss on that career in the journalist's obituary."

"The Pathologies of Politico" - Actually, I'd say these were the pathologies of pretty much the whole Washington press corps, with some variations for partisanship but not much in terms of real ideology. (I left a comment here, but I was late to the party.)

"Ted Rall: Keeping calm and carrying on was an appropriate response to the Blitz. Short of moving away from the targeted area, there's nothing you can do about bombs. Living or dying is a matter of happenstance. Keeping calm might help you make smart decisions. Panic is usually more dangerous than self-control. The same is true of terrorism. Terrorists will kill you, or not - probably not. You can't fix your fate. But that is decidedly not true about the economy. Not when what is wrong with the economy is not something no one can control - a giant meteor, bad weather, panic in the markets - but something that most assuredly can and indeed should be, like the systemic transfer of wealth from the poor and middle-class to the rich that has characterized the class divide in Western nations since the 1970s. The appropriate, intelligent and self-preserving response to mass theft is rage, demands for action, and decisive punishment of political and economic leaders who refuse to change things."

Joss Whedon in conversation

"Iain Banks: Raw Spirit" - long interview by Kirsty Wark.

Bloopers for Amazon Women on the Moon

Ruth's supermoon

21 June 2013

Happy Solstice

And happy anniversary, Mr. Sideshow.

Atrios on the alleged Skills Gap: "We've been getting regular reports of employers who are deeply concerned that they don't have a vast pool of highly skilled workers with specialty training willing to work in undesirable locations for 12 bucks an hour. That isn't actually a skills gap."

Dr. Black is pointing to a post at Balloon Juice by Kay, "Skills gap myth (finally) falls, but will anyone hear it?" Well, we all know the answer to that: When a conservative/"centrist" myth falls in front of millions of microphones, it still doesn't make a sound that can be heard amongst the Elite. They want their H-1B visas so they can have a workforce that is not American. (Understand this: It's not about getting skilled workers, it's explicitly about getting workers who are not American citizens, because American citizens have rights that non-American employees do not have.) Pretty much the entire "centrist" policy propaganda sheet is just a pile of zombie lies that arch-conservatives have been making up and re-jigging for hundreds of years. And there is certainly nothing new in the "skills gap" excuse for impoverishing the working people of America, which is actually not much different from the "blacks are naturally suited to slavery and whites are naturally suited to freedom" excuse that was so common pre-abolition. (And if you don't think our present elite is just re-hashing the whole Divine Right of Kings thing, you've forgotten just how much a king actually had to do in order to have "earned" that "right". They had to lead and win wars - and when I say "lead", I do not mean "sit back at the palace sending messages to the generals," I mean literally lead the charge. People who think they're better than other people and have a right to make our decisions for us by dint of their having achieved more power in the first place are very definitely not a new idea.)

In any case - and not that it will matter - I liked this comment in the ensuing thread from Bill E Pilgrim concisely demonstrating exactly why you had to be stupid to give the "skills gap" argument even a moment's credence:

A little logic and critical thinking would have helped also.

November 2007: Unemployment at 4.7%, aka as close to "full employment" as we get.

Oct 2009: Unemployment more than doubles, to 10%. Skill gap! Fully sprung from its own loins and grown to maturity, all in less than two years.

Whenever you point this out, someone always brings up the first-person anecdotal refutation along the lines of oh come on I know that certain kinds of jobs vanished. Yes, a lot of jobs vanished, but pretty much in all sectors, as Krugman keeps painstakingly pointing out.

Not that there aren't certain trends over the long term, but blaming our current high unemployment on skill gaps never made sense with even the most cursory look at the facts. What happened between the last month of 2007 and the last months of 2009 was not a sudden onset of skill mismatch, it's impossible.

Bad management will always blame "the workers" for their own incompetence, and it's certainly not new or unusual to hear the aristocrats complaining that "It's so hard to get good help."

* * * * *

It's always bothered me that our Blessed Leaders have simultaneously released corporations from any kind of restraints on sharing private data or profiteering while also contracting out to those same corporations things that used to be regarded as state secrets. And, say what you will about the intelligence community, it doesn't make sense to be allowing the same technology we are using to supposedly protect our country into the hands of people who will happily (and legally!) sell it to our supposed enemies. Isn't there really only one place for this stuff? (And do you remember how, as soon as all this out-sourcing stuff started, suddenly disks full of private information from places like the Veterans Administration that ordinarily never left the building suddenly started being "found" in Lafayette Park or somewhere someone had just casually left them? It's just amazing how much of this formerly-secure information is suddenly being released into the wild - by "accident", or is it design?)

Jonathan Turley: "The Price of Silence: Supreme Court Rules That Pre-Miranda Silence Can Be Used Against Defendant To Prove Guilt: "In a major loss for individual rights vis-a-vis the police, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that prosecutors could use a person's silence against them in court if it comes before he's told of his right to remain silent. The prosecutors used the silence of Genovevo Salinas to convict him of a 1992 murder. Because this was a non-custodial interview, the Court ruled that the prosecutors could use his silence even though citizens are allowed to refuse to speak with police. It is of little surprise that the pro-police powers decision was written by Samuel Alito who consistently rules in favor of expanding police powers."

David Dayen:
"Bank of America whistle-blower's bombshell: 'We were told to lie': Bank of America's mortgage servicing unit systematically lied to homeowners, fraudulently denied loan modifications, and paid their staff bonuses for deliberately pushing people into foreclosure: Yes, these allegations were suspected by any homeowner who ever had to deal with the bank to try to get a loan modification - but now they come from six former employees and one contractor, whose sworn statements were added last week to a civil lawsuit filed in federal court in Massachusetts."
"Unnatural Disaster: How mortgage servicers are strong-arming the victims of the Moore, Oklahoma tornado (among others)"

Bruce Schneier (with a little help from Glenn Greenwald): "Has U.S. started an Internet war? More than passively eavesdropping, we're penetrating and damaging foreign networks for both espionage and to ready them for attack. We're creating custom-designed Internet weapons, pre-targeted and ready to be "fired" against some piece of another country's electronic infrastructure on a moment's notice. This is much worse than what we're accusing China of doing to us. We're pursuing policies that are both expensive and destabilizing and aren't making the Internet any safer. We're reacting from fear, and causing other countries to counter-react from fear. We're ignoring resilience in favor of offense. Welcome to the cyberwar arms race, an arms race that will define the Internet in the 21st century. Presidential Policy Directive 20, issued last October and released by Edward Snowden, outlines U.S. cyberwar policy. Most of it isn't very interesting, but there are two paragraphs about "Offensive Cyber Effect Operations," or OCEO, that are intriguing..."

At Suburban Guerrilla
A trip down Memory Lane with Sy Hersh telling us the NSA was listening to our actual phone calls
"They don't even want you to know the definitions, because then you'll know how they're misleading you:."

Juan Cole: "Why Cheney is the Traitor, and Why we Can't Believe Obama on Safeguards (The Ultimate Clip of Gov't Lies): Dick Cheney on Monday called NSA leaker Edward Snowden a traitor, and Snowden shot back that given Cheney's own lies about Iraq, it is an honor for any American to be accused of treason by the former vice president. On Monday evening, Barack Obama came on Charlie Rose and insisted that the NSA would never misuse the telephone records it collects on all Americans because it would be illegal and that there are safeguards against that sort of thing. Obama did not say why he thinks the government has a right to see your telephone records given that you haven't done anything wrong and the 4th Amendment hasn't been abrogated. For the first time in his presidency, I felt as though Obama were looking me in the eyes and lying to me a la Cheney. I don't know what his ulterior motives are in this, but that he has some seems obvious."

"Hours After Supreme Court Strikes Down Voter Suppression Law, Senator Introduces Bill To Overturn Decision: "The Supreme Court struck down an Arizona voter suppression law in a surprise move Monday, but one Republican senator is already trying to work around that decision. Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the 7-2 opinion in the Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona case Monday which invalidated the state law requiring voters that prove they were citizens before registering. Such 'proof of citizenship' requirements can suppress the vote by making it far more difficult for people to get registered. Aside from Arizona, four other states currently require proof of citizenship to vote, including Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, and Tennessee. However, even Scalia's jurisprudence is apparently too liberal for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who announced Monday afternoon that he will file a bill overturning the decision."

"Hundreds Of Faith Leaders Arrested For Protesting Conservative Policies In North Carolina: [...] Eighty four protestors were arrested for civil disobedience in Monday's action. This brings the total number of Moral Monday arrests to more than 480, many of whom are clergy who have never before participated in political activism."

A funny thing happened on the way to the free market....

Can someone please explain to me why the Republican delegation in Congress contains so many OB/GYNs with, uh, unconventional views on biology?

"People Thought He Was A Monster And Wanted Him To Die. I'm Glad He's Alive To Tell His Story."

"Dog Whistle 2008: "Generational" - an interesting post that reminds us where this age-war stuff started, and in the ensuing thread, I found this paragraph quoted from Kos' Wikipedia entry: "Moulitsas is a fellow at the New Politics Institute,[31][32] a think tank of the New Democrat Network, which was founded by Simon Rosenberg in 1996. The NDN's stated purpose is to help elect "centrist" Democrats, and is considered by many to be a successor to the centrist Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), an organization that Simon Rosenberg resigned from in 1996."

Chris Hayes: "My Tribute to Michael Hastings

Seen on Facebook: "I just realized this morning ...."Duh! .... It's called Talking Points Memo" .... Why did you ever expect anything serious from them? Funny, isn't it? All that time we worried about who kidnapped Josh Marshall.... And he was there all along." -- Catharine Hendricks

National Man of Mystery

"T-rex wasn't born a killer he was made one."

John McAfee presents: "How To Uninstall McAfee Antivirus".

RIP: "Johnny Smith, Venerable Jazz Guitarist, Dies at 90: The Writer of ‘Walk, Don't Run' Who Had a Revered Technique" (The original: "Walk, Don't Run!")

Buffy Saint-Marie on personal responsibility and how she wrote the song, "Universal Soldier."

18 June 2013

And we speak of things that matter, in words that must be said

I was cruising the sidebar at Making Light and very nearly didn't click the link to "The MOOC Moment and the End of Reform," which at first glance might seem to be an arcane discussion of an educational fad, until I realized it was an elegantly restrained and yet scathing analysis of how incredibly stupid ideas are normalized by the pseudo-intellictual mumblings of Thomas Friedman and David Brooks and the general "Centrist" verbal magic tricks that pretend that utterly stupid or pointless ideas (usually scams to make rich people richer) that have a firm record of failure in the past are dusted off into something *NEW* and *MODERN* and *UTTERLY DIFFERENT FROM THAT OTHER THING IT LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE* because, you know, 21st Century The World Has Changed and, especially, INTERNET.

For example, why do I get the feeling that Jared Bernstein wants me to believe that technology is the problem when, y'know, right at this moment the Democratic leadership is trying to pass laws to give guest-worker visas to foreigners to do jobs millions of out-of-work Americans could be doing? (Leaving aside the fact that if technology is reducing the amount of available work, why isn't this reflected in available leisure time as it easily could be? If your workload has been reduced so that it only fills four days a week worth of time while producing the same amount of value, why aren't we all getting three-day weekends for the same weekly pay? And if all this modern technology is actually having the claimed effect, how is it that so many offices report reductions in staff for doing the same amount of work they always did, only with less time available for leave?) These days I get the willies whenever I hear well-known supposed progressives explaining why we can't have a nice country anymore, usually in language that simply elides the simple fact that we can decide to do this differently. As someone said, "You cannot understand economics without understanding power."

There are two shops out there making diamonds out of dust, finely honing language so that it appears to say something other than what it says in order to slip in ideas which, in their raw form, we would immediately recognize as anathema. One shop pretends to revere a civil (but relatively recent) past that has been eroded by modernistic thinking, and the other dismisses the past (well, the more recent bits of it) in order to sell you a bright, shiny future full of wonderful modern stuff, but both of them want to dispense with the civil, democratic past that some of us still hold in living memory in favor of an even older past in which we had that one thing that the Constitution is all about getting rid of: aristocracy.

(David Brin got into some fascinating background on this in his recent appearance on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd, where they discussed transparency and privacy, reminding us just how vital eliminating aristocracy really was to the formation of the United States.)

Stuart Zechman likes to point us to the New Democrat Network's paper (.pdf) heralding their fabulous new modern future in language meant to deceive us into thinking they're talking about something we might actually like:

The fact is that the productivity gap between the United States and Europe and Japan has increased steadily for more than a decade, pointing to America's single, most important economic advantage at a time for rapid globalization: basic competition is more intense inside the U.S. economy. Japan and Europe's large countries still maintain regulatory walls around much of their retail, wholesale, financial, business and personal service sectors, so they are still dominated by millions of inefficient, small companies with little incentive to change almost anything. America's more bare-knuckled competition at almost every level and aspect of its economy makes its workers and companies less secure, especially in a time of galloping globalization and technological progress. It also forces companies and workers to change all the time, by using the latest technologies and business practices to improve something they make or do, or come up with new products, processes and ways of doing business.

It is to our advantage that we've made life difficult for individuals and small businesses? Really? Isn't this actually a recipe for monopoly capitalism? And has there ever been a time when monopoly capitalism served anyone but the people who already controlled the monopolies? And how, exactly, is it an "advantage" if it's harder for our small businesses - and our individuals - to succeed than it is in other countries?

On the right, they say that liberals are bad because we want to do this modern thing (circa 1776) of hamstringing Big Money so it can't get bigger than all the rest of us combined. In the White House, they say that liberals are old-fashioned because we still believe in that democracy thing where the public is protected from Big Money getting together and squashing all the rest of us. They are not singing the identical tune, but their strains don't actually clash. It's not opposition, it's harmony.

And both strains reach the same coda. So I guess it's time to link again to those two classics, "What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It?" and "Defeat The Right In Three Minutes".

* * * * *

This week on Virtually Speaking Sundays, David Waldman (KagroX) and Gaius Publius discussed why we don't want armed cops (and others!) in our schools, and the signs of government corruption. And at what point do people start to act?
Last week's guest on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd was former Baltimore police officer Peter Moskos, author of Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore's Eastern District, who discussed the militarization of the police (and says The Wire is all true).

Your Daily Grayson: on the NSA revelations

"The US farm bill is a corporate victory and a slap to struggling Americans [...] It should be clear to members of Congress that improving the financial lot of Americans is more important than any other task at hand, as well as a task they have consistently failed to accomplish. Yet legislators keep blowing their chances to do anything constructive, leading even Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke to chide fussbudget lawmakers for their counterproductive waste of time on cutting pie-in-the-sky estimates of deficits. So, in response to this very real, very pressing, very immediate crisis, Congress is creating a particularly grotesque imitation of economic stimulus. Congress is not providing any alternatives to struggling families as it cuts the food stamp program, it is just slashing the cost and hoping that poverty - and its siblings, unemployment and crime and homelessness - fix themselves. Good plan."

Actually, Americans don't like being spied on.
Aaron Swartz makes the cover of Time.
Thanks to Wendell Dryden for noting in comments former UK ambassador Craig Murray's post on the deceptive precision of the language that is used to justify a process of spying that effectively nullifies any legal protections that citizens of the US or UK have against programs like PRISM. "It is precisely analogous to our receipt of intelligence from torture, which I was told as Ambassador was perfectly legal as long as we don't request that the individual be tortured."
Marcy Wheeler (with a little help from Julian Sanchez) on The CNET 'Bombshell' and the Four Surveillance Programs [...] "Mueller didn't deny the NSA can get access to US person phone content without a warrant. He just suggested that Nadler might be conflating two different programs or questions. [,,,] The possibility that the government would do this kind of thing has been raised repeatedly since Russ Feingold did so repeatedly in 2009 during the FISA Amendments Act debates, speaking specifically about the content of calls to people overseas. It may be that, discussed in isolation, the government can avoid talking about what Feingold and Wyden and others have called a backdoor. Which is probably why they don't want us to 'confuse' (that is, understand the relationship between) the business records and content access." (And turdsplat from the administration suggests there's even worse we aren't hearing.)
And more from Atrios on The Big Grift, here and here.

Dean Baker says, "Fred Hiatt is Holding Head Start Hostage Until Liberals Support Cuts to Social Security and Medicare [,,,] One final point, there is no guarantee that even if liberals agreed to cut the benefits received by people on Social Security and Medicare that the money would go to domestic discretionary spending. In the past surplus funds have been used for tax cuts targeted to the rich. In the current political environment in Washington it would be absurd to assume that this could not happen again."

Commenter ifthethunderdontgetya professes to be "shocked" that it turns out there was game-rigging going on among the gamblers in the markets for "at least a decade". Libertarians tell me that this kind of thing can't happen because people simply won't give their custom to institutions that give them a bad product, but I wonder what all the people who were cheated have to say about that.

I'm so old, I can remember when wages didn't go down.

"Rand Paul's new outreach coordinator David Lane has declared a 'holy war' on 'us', That's a broad "us," by the way. Though most of the stories associated with this have focused on frothing homophobia against marriage equality and LBGT rights, a closer look at this homegrown call for jihad speaks to a war against a rainbow of people and issues far broader than our LBGT population, allies and marriage equality initiatives."

"Banning Psychedelic Drugs Hurts Research, Scientists Say [...] In a paper published online today (June 12) in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience, a group of researchers argues that drug laws enacted in the United States and the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s have hindered vital research into the drugs' functions and therapeutic uses. The laws were designed to prevent drug use and drug harm, but they failed to do that, said paper co-author David Nutt, a psychopharmacologist at Imperial College, London."

Iain Banks: the final interview, in the Guardian.

Via Making Light:
Ken Mcleod on Iain Banks: " Literary merits aside, and generalising unfairly, the field as Iain found it presented a dilemma: American SF was optimistic about the human future, but deeply conservative in its politics; British SF was more thoughtful and experimental, but too often depressive. Iain broke out of that dichotomy with all the panache of the spaceship exploding from inside another spaceship on the cover of Consider Phlebas, the first of his SF novels to be published, by writing of an expansive, optimistic possible future rooted in the same materialist and evolutionary view of life that had in the past been seen only as a dark background to cosmically futile strivings."
"How The American University was Killed, in Five Easy Steps"
"The standard you walk past is the standard you accept." - Australian Army chief's scathing warning to members who would degrade women.
Vigilante Copy Editor
here's that bad advice you were hoping for
It's amazing how much talent was put together to make this horror.
Early McDonald's menus

US States Renamed For Countries With Similar GDPs

Grr, this just proves things, and up yours, Saatchi!

"Everything Wrong With The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey In 4 Minutes Or Less"
The scale of the universe

Witness the terrifying birth of a supercell thunderstorm

Trailer for Elysium - Matt Damon lives on Earth. Jody Foster lives on Elysium. It's class warfare.

"This is the totally bonkers story of the US/Canada border."

Many years ago, convinced that you can never get enough cheese, I invented a recipe which is in this book. You can order it here.

This is not my usual sort of thing, but it's the single from the Broken Mirror Glass double LP released by Black October Records, also known as John Shirley's "Mountain of Skulls."

Simon & Garfunkel, "The Dangling Conversation", live.

11 June 2013

Known knowns

This week on Virtually Speaking Sundays, Joan McCarter and Cliff Schecter talked about the NSA spying story and Snowden's coming out as the leaker. (Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill in the Guardian, "Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations".)
What's it all about? Atrios says it's all part of The Great Grift.

Sam Seder speculated on the members-only segment of his show Thursday that Center for American Progress must have been "released" by the White House from having to pretend not to know that the Grand Bargain was a bad idea, and that's why they were able to release their new report saying the facts have changed. And Ezra Klein wrote about that report, meaning it's become acceptable to discuss this point of view. Sam reckons the White House is letting CAP start the walk-back on the whole Grand Bargain scenario, and that this means they're backing away from it and it's a dead parrot. I think Sam could be on to something. Maybe it means Democrats in Congress aren't willing to lose their seats over an outrageously stupid and unpopular plan just to please this lame-duck president, or maybe it means that Mr. Hopey-Changey himself has realized that once the IMF itself is admitting they got it totally wrong in Greece, his idea of making life worse for Americans is just too embarrassing to be associated with.

Bill Black, "How Elite Economic Hucksters Drive America's Biggest Fraud Epidemics [...] A dangerous cycle begins when prominent economists pander to plutocrats and bought politicians, who reward them with top posts, where they promote the perverse economic policies that cause fraud epidemics. Crises develop, and millions of people are ripped off. Those who fight for truth are ignored or ruined. The criminals get wealthier, bolder and more politically powerful, and go on to hatch even more devastating cons."

David Dayen, "Your student loan isn't really a loan" - because real loans have protections, among other things. Dday also talked about this on NPR.

How the NYT damns Glenn Greenwald with faint praise - Starting with failing to mention up front that he's a lawyer and civil liberties expert, and going right on to make sure the quotes they sought didn't come from people who would care more about civil liberties than they did for their conservative credentials, but rather confirm the prejudices of the "journalist".
Democracy NOW!, Amy Goodman with Glenn Greenwald. Note Dianne Feinstein complaining that we've become "a culture of leaks". Of course, the United States is supposed to be a culture in which the whistle is blown on corruption and law-breaking by public officials and large institutions. It's an interesting sleight-of-hand to make it sound like "leaking" is some unsavory bacterium that has infected this, uh, culture, rather than a necessary ingredient in a democracy.

I had an Obot in my Twitter feed trying to smear Glenn Greenwald by pointing to something stupid he said in one of his very earliest posts. Interestingly, he posted a link to an image rather than to the post itself, where Glenn himself has updated it to say that he believed a lot of wrong things in the earliest days of his blogging career. Lots of people believe ignorant things and change their minds. David Brock, who started the Democratic site Media Matters, did so precisely because, as a right-wing political operative, he learned that his conservative masters were not on the level. Dennis Kucinich was once anti-abortion until he was convinced that banning abortion was a stupid way to address unwanted pregnancy. Why, even I used to believe stupid things in my early blogging career - like that the Democratic Party would never go along with the kind of right-wing crap the Bush administration was up to. So, just for the record, here is Glenn's ignorant post on immigration - with an update that makes it clear he is considerably more enlightened on the subject than Obama.

And speaking of prejudices, how are you likely to be profiled by strangers walking by? (And how much privilege do you take for granted?)

Norman Solomon, "The Bill of Rights Exists: An Open Letter to Dianne Feinstein"

In The Atlantic, "The Numbers Don't Lie: It's Irrational to Give Up This Much Liberty to Fight Terror."

"The question libertarians just can't answer" - I actually think this is slightly wrong, since there are countries where no one regulates the powerful and almost everything is legal. Which is what libertarians are really talking about, although they may not always realize it. These countries where there is no regulator to interfere with the money-making projects of people who already have too much money are terrible places for most people to live, and we used to look down on them. Sure, you could set up a libertarian state - but within about five minutes you would end up with either competing warlords or some kind of monarchy or other corrupt state form. People will accrue power, and, and then they will fight over power, and the vast majority of the populace will lose, just like what always happens when you don't have a government that's stronger than all those other powerful interests, backed by democracy. Because as crummy as "the people" are capable of being, they are still smarter than the Elites. And as I think Churchill once said, democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others.

"Noam Chomsky: America is accelerating the apocalypse."

Stunning photographs of the floods in Europe (via)

RIP Iain Banks, 59. I've already told you how much I loved this man, so I won't do it again, but you've gotta love a man who goes to the trouble to throw his own wake so his friends can say good-bye while he's still alive to hear it. That was a great party.
Author Iain Banks: In his own words

You might be surprised by how interesting the interview of Bill Wyman in Rolling Stone magazine is. (And I was also surprised to learn that Gary Brooker - that's this guy - is in his band, The Rhythm Kings.)

This Lexus ad is a neat piece of art.

Animated .gif of the day: Bunnies!

I had no idea that Studs Terkel and Calvin Trillin had a TV show where they chatted with people like Gene Wolfe, Harlan Ellison, and Isaac Asimov. This is very cool.

From The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences!

The other Charles Pierce

Yes, it's our Alan Dory doing this music radio show.

Somtow Sucharitkul's "Deserted City"

Water got about one-and-a-half stars in Radio Times, but we watched it anyway and loved it. Great fun, amazing cast, and the big scene with the big song, "Freedom".

07 June 2013

The week that was

David Brin was the guest this week on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd, discussing "transparency, security, privacy & openness in The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? (Winner of the Freedom of Speech Award of the American Library Association)." I actually recommend this - David actually brings up a lot of important points about the way the US was set up and what the goal was, and how accumulated inherited wealth is the enemy of freedom and of capitalism.

Max wants to get the old MaxSpeak site back up and says he needs html help. I really miss MaxSpeak, so I hope this happens soon.

Horrible news: Stirling Newberry has had a stroke. Updated here. This sounds a lot like what happened to Stu Shiffman, and right now Stu is able to eat baby food and speak on the phone and be understood - after a year of very good care. Let's hope Stirling also has very good care, but expect a long, scary, frustrating ride before he can talk to us again.

Glenn Greenwald's big scoop: "NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily Exclusive: Top secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data shows scale of domestic surveillance under Obama"
Charlie Savage and Edward Watt: "U.S. Is Secretly Collecting Records of Verizon Calls"
Bruce Schneier in The Atlantic, "What We Don't Know About Spying on Citizens: Scarier Than What We Know: The NSA's surveillance of cell-phone calls show how badly we need to protect the whistle-blowers who provide transparency and accountability."
@algore: "In digital era, privacy must be a priority. Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?"
Sam Seder talked to Marcy Wheeler about this on The Majority Report.

"Supreme Court upholds DNA swabbing of people under arrest" - We apparently have several Supreme Court justices who either don't understand or don't care that the point is to prevent cops from going on fishing expeditions. If they can retain data on people they've inappropriately arrested (as is so often the case), they can get anyone on anything, eventually, just because they don't like them. Interestingly, Breyer voted with the majority and Scalia voted against.

The British version: "Copyright extension: good for Cliff and the Beatles, bad for the little guys?" This is ghastly news for most musicians and for listeners. It means that many old recordings will remain hidden and buried while a tiny handful of already-rich performers will be the only beneficiaries. Those great forgotten recordings will remain forgotten, as will the performers' ability to generate income off of them. (Typically, I noticed that the mere act of linking to examples of great old British recordings in a Guardian article seems to have generated take-down orders. I've noticed a lot of that over the years, and since the previous industry-protection law came into existence, British creation seems to disappear off of YouTube like crazy. That means that, far from being protected, British creators are being robbed of promotional opportunities by these laws.)

The Democratic leadership thinks they're doing fine, even though their policies are not much different from Republican policies.
"If you hear a kind of whooshing, rushing noise, don't worry - it's not US jobs moving to China. Today's great sucking sound is the sound of agricultural wealth being siphoned off into the global financial system.
Why you need to be a corporation - so you can have some rights.
A rough week for Monsanto

The New Farm Bill is an Economic Disaster
Tom Tomorrow on SNAPs cuts in the Farm Bill, Those lazy babies.

It turns out that even with disastrous policies in place, Social Security and Medicare still aren't going to be bankrupted by the Baby Boomers. This fact is serious rain on the parade of Austerians, but, says Krugman (ever the optimist), "The truth is that the long-term outlook for Social Security and Medicare, while not great, actually isn't all that bad. It's time to stop obsessing about how we'll pay benefits to retirees in 2035 and focus instead on how we're going to provide jobs to unemployed Americans in the here and now."

Michael Hiltzik continues the call, saying, "Social Security should be expanded, not cut."

Sam Seder hosted Thom Hartmann's show and discussed the new, more optimistic report on Social Security and Medicare - and posted the show on his The Majority Report podcast.
Sam also talked to Trevor Aaronson about the FBI's Manufactured War on Terror.

Ian Welsh on The Decline and Fall of Post War Liberalism and the Rise of the Right, complete with scary graphs: "Liberalism failed because it couldn't handle the war and crisis of the late 60s and 70s. The people who could have, were dead or too old, they had not properly trained successors, those successors were paying attention to the wrong problem and had become disconnected from reality on the ground. And the New Deal coalition was fracturing, more interested in hating blacks or keeping the 'good' suburban lifestyle than in making sure that a rising tide lifted all boats (a prescriptive, not descriptive, statement.)"

"How Partisanship Enables Government Criminality."

Mike Lux notes that DC "centrists" are far away from the voters, and thinks populist Democrats have a good chance to win in red states.

"We Are Now One Year Away From Global Riots, Complex Systems Theorists Say."

"The Black Panthers And The Right To Bear Arms"

Susie Bright's film quiz (may not be work-safe). I was moved to link this because she includes a clip from one of my favorite films, Shampoo. Alas, a look at YouTube did not find me a clip of the scene toward the end when Jack Warden confronts Warren Beatty and George explains it all.

I liked this poster.

Cool aerial shots of London

"Poll: Are you sad to see Smith go?" - It was the comment thread that got me.

I've been reflexively skipping this ad after 3 seconds, but I decided to watch this time and realized it's a great little snap sightseeing tour of London.

Wired Space Photo of the Day: Hoag's Object

The Corrugation of Dreams - Sometimes I am completely amazed by what a creative individual can do with even the most unimpressive of materials.

Kenny Graham And His Satellites, "Sunday"

Louis Armstrong and the All Stars 1950. "Panama"

Roy Williams, George Chisholm, and the Alex Welsh Band, "It's Alright with Me"

01 June 2013

Why don't we stop foolin' ourselves?

Assuming I am still able to talk (my throat is being incredibly dry), this week's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays will be Avedon Carol and Marcy Wheeler.
Marcy Wheeler was the guest last week on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd, talking about Obama's drone speech and how scary his administration's policies really are.
Stuart Zechman and Dave Johnson were last week's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays, and discussed (in infuriating detail) how our "leaders" are by-passing democracy to make sure we live in the same horrible conditions we've always been horrified by in poorer (and "poorer") countries.

This week got away from me, thanks to a combination of a weird cold and some frustrating tech issues. If you were looking for more links, though, you could have kept coming back to the last post to see the interesting things that have been going on in the comments. For a start, Kim Kaufman supplied a link to Tavis Smiley and Cornel West addressing the unpleasant problem of who Obama really is, and how black people are getting tired of having him talk down to them, and CMike referred to this illustration.
And then CMike started providing links - like the one to Dean Baker's "Krugman Misrepresents the Left-Right Divide in U.S. Politics," which makes a point I like to keep coming back to about the non-divide between "left" and "right" in America over liberal programs. The divide, of course, is between the "elites" and the rest of us. [Alexandra Pelosi captured the Tea Party position on liberal programs perfectly right here - they're for 'em, even if they don't know that what they're supporting are liberal programs.]
And at the end of that comment, CMike linked to a public appearance by Chris Hedges, but since jcapan said he can't usually listen to stuff on the web, CMike generously transcribed parts of it right in the comment thread. So I heartily recommend you go back and look at that stuff if you haven't already.

Obama in 2008: "I don't want to present myself as some sort of singular figure. I think part of what is different is the times. I do think that, for example, the 1980 election was different. I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. They felt like with all the excesses of the 60s and the 70s and government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think he tapped into what people were already feeling. Which is we want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing" This is what inspired me to write "What Reagan did."

"Who's to Blame for Long-Term Unemployment?" This article would be much better if it replaced "Republicans" with "conservatives" and deleted the last paragraph entirely.

Charlie Pierce has a great idea - let's repeal the Espionage Act.

Is Memorial Day over now? Good, then I can post this.

"There ain't no super villain planning these attacks from some base. The truth is so much scarier and harder to face. You see, there's thousands of angry young men that are lost - sidelined in the economy, at a marginal cost." (via)

"Nearly a Quarter of People in Greece and the U.S. Can't Afford Food." Austerity bites. (via)

"22-year old failed fake Michigan Democrat Cody Bailey now running a for-profit charter school" (via)

Obamacare Doesn't Make Employers Cover Spouses: "One corner of Obamacare that hasn't gotten much attention is the fact that it will not require employers to cover spouses, which experts say could lead some employers to drop coverage for Americans' significant others. The Affordable Care Act mandates that employers offer health insurance to workers and their dependents. But the law defines dependents as children, not spouses." (via) Economist Umair Haque Uses Twitter To Dissect Conservatism: "Conservatism is a failure because it has succeeded beyond its wildest dreams. And the result is a society unfit for the future."

CMike provides us with the video clip in which Michael Kinsley proved way back in 2004 that he didn't have a clue.

I know I posted this back when it came out, but I didn't make a big deal out of it and now it seems to have come around to me again from people who just noticed it elsewhere, but, yes, Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humprhey knew that Richard Nixon had purposely interfered with Vietnam peace talks. This has actually been an open secret for a long time, but the Johnson tapes confirm it.

I was looking for confirmation that this story from The Times is a hoax: "Courts to be privatized in radical justice shake-up." According to the Guardian, it may not be quite that bad: "MoJ denies it has plans for privatisation of courts service [...] The Ministry of Justice has dismissed claims that is actively considering 'the wholesale' privatisation of the courts service as part of a radical review to save funds." Which I guess means they will be continuing the piecemeal privatization that's already been going on: "Some privatisation has already occurred since the coalition government took office. More than 100 magistrates and county court buildings deemed surplus to requirement have been closed down and sold off. Parts of the courts debt collection service have also been subcontracted to private firms."

Russell Brand puts the Woolwich tragedy in perspective.

The Vintage News newsreel library.

This is silly news. I mean, seriously, it won't look that way in your kitchen.

I hate to make a habit of it, but have another cat .gif..

"Slash: Not Just a Punctuation Mark Anymore" - a phenomenon I was completely unaware of. (via)

Remember this? Just for the record, I thought the Pips were worth that 80 grand.

Simon & Garfunkel, "Overs"