31 January 2014

To everything there is a season

This week's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays were Joan McCarter (mcjoan) and RJ Eskow, who "consider[ed] Income inequality. Are we seeing austerity fade away or morph itself into something different and more salable"? NSA and the The Privacy and Civil Liberties...."

President HopeyChangey gave a State of the Union Address again. It wasn't a Real State of the Union, but that's no surprise. I didn't listen to it, and I figured to expect even less than promised when I found out White House hack David Axelrod is running around saying "There are millions of jobs that are available and others that are emerging that require skills that people don't have now and if they had them they could fill those jobs." Everyone knows by now that this is a lie, of course. Mostly people are talking about what Obama didn't say.

"What Obama Ignored About The 'Lowest Unemployment Rate In Over 5 Years' [...] That's because a large part of the most recent decline in December was the result of 347,000 people giving up the search for work entirely and dropping out of the labor force. Such a decision helps the unemployment rate look better on paper, since it pushes those people out of the unemployment picture altogether. But in reality, it is not a great sign for the millions struggling to find work. [...] Old-fashioned job creation does account for some of the drop in the unemployment rate, but many of those jobs aren't great. In fact, 75 percent of the jobs created roughly midway through 2013 were part-time, and half of the jobs created in the past three years have been of the low-wage variety." Complete with scary graph of labor participation.

RJ Eskow, "On Wall Street, Sounds of Silence From the President [...] "Here are some of the words and phrases that did not appear in President Obama's speech: 'Wall Street,' 'bank,' 'regulation,' 'fraud,' 'settlement,' 'investigation,' 'too big to fail,' and 'Glass-Steagall.' He didn't mention the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or the Dodd/Frank financial reform bill. He didn't discuss the cynical attempts to roll back financial reform in Congress - attempts that are supported by members of both parties - much less insist that those attempts be defeated."

Bill Moyers discuss the matter with David Simon, who said, "The horror show is we are going to be slaves to profit. Some of us are going to be higher on the pyramid and we'll count ourselves lucky and many many more will be marginalized and destroyed." (Find the Matt Miller piece mentioned, "The real state of the union is inescapable", here.)

I saw people complaining that Obama didn't talk about the TPP, which seemed odd because I thought everyone already knew Obama was doing his damnedest to keep the whole thing off the public radar. Be that as it may, he apparently (note I still haven't been able to bring myself to read the stupid speech) did say something, because Yves says: "Obama made yet another pitch in State of the Union Address for his gimmies to multinationals known as the TransPacific Partnership and the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Today that idea went down in flames, at least as far as getting the deals done this year are concerned." Because, amazingly, Harry Reid appears to be digging in his heels about it. Of course, this is Harry Reid, whose backbone I never had much faith in, but he does seem to be looking at electoral odds lately. And Ron Wyden, who was supposed to be one of its backers, seems to be switching sides, too: "And although it received much less media coverage, matters for Obama got even worse because Ron Wyden signaled he's not on board either. This matters because Wyden is taking over as the chairman of the Finance Services Committee when Max Bacus becomes Ambassador to China."

Also at Naked Capitalism, Lambert on How Tom Perkins Transgressed the Unwritten Law - If you've noticed the kerfluffle of the poor, harried rich guy who complained in The Wall Street Journal that criticisms of the wealthy amount to a "progressive Kristallnacht", and how he suddenly got in trouble with some of his own people, Lambert explains why: He acknowledged class.

CMike found this rather astonishing debate, "What's Next in the Snowden Saga?", in which Fred Kaplan makes no sense whatsoever. He transcribed a bit of it in comments.
Meanwhile, Digby and Scott Lemieux on "The Big Chill" imposed by mass surveillance.

Thomas B. Edsall reviews a book: "Thomas Piketty's new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, described by one French newspaper as a 'a political and theoretical bulldozer,' defies left and right orthodoxy by arguing that worsening inequality is an inevitable outcome of free market capitalism. Piketty, a professor at the Paris School of Economics, does not stop there. He contends that capitalism's inherent dynamic propels powerful forces that threaten democratic societies. Capitalism, according to Piketty, confronts both modern and modernizing countries with a dilemma: entrepreneurs become increasingly dominant over those who own only their own labor. In Piketty's view, while emerging economies can defeat this logic in the near term, in the long run, 'when pay setters set their own pay, there's no limit,' unless 'confiscatory tax rates' are imposed."

"James Clapper Suggests Journalists Could Be Edward Snowden's 'Accomplices' [...] Snowden claims that he's won and that his mission is accomplished," Clapper said, according to a transcript from the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, posted by the Washington Post. "If that is so, I call on him and his accomplices to facilitate the return of the remaining stolen documents that have not yet been exposed, to prevent even more damage to U.S. security."

Elizabeth Warren says it all.

I don't think de Blasio is sounding much like who people thought they were voting for: "New York Mayor Bill de Blasio gave a heartfelt speech praising Israel at a private gala event hosted by AIPAC at the Hilton hotel in midtown Manhattan Thursday night, the local website Capital New York reported. According to an edited audio recording obtained by the site (below), de Blasio said that 'part of his job description is to defend Israel' and that it is 'elemental to being an American, because there is no greater ally on earth, and that's something we can say proudly.' "
- "Debtors prison in PA [...] Wodarski and a half-dozen other defendants contacted said they were sent to jail for costs they didn't have the money to pay. This is illegal, according to Vic Walczak, legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania. 'What is perfectly clear under both the U.S. Constitution and the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure is that you cannot send someone to jail if they cannot afford to pay the fine,' Waldzak said, 'because that's the equivalent of having a debtor's prison - of putting someone in jail simply because they're poor.'
- What a fracking company did to one activist: You have to see this to believe it"

David Atkins notices that the plutocrats seem to have lost Politico with their whining and night terrors: "No kidding. They should be worried. All but the worst of the Objectivist Randroids know at some level that they're being compensated wildly out of proportion to their contributions to the economy. Some, myself included, would even argue that much of the modern financial industry is directly counterproductive to broader economic health. They also understand that their obscene wealth isn't the anodyne result of growing the pie, but constitutes a direct theft of the pie at the expense of everyone else. And most of them have enough experience of history to know that when things get unequal enough in a society with a big enough middle class, the results range from broad progressive economic reforms to bloody revolution."

LeeCamp Tells You Everything The Big Banks Don't Want You To Know

Coyote vs. Acme, Plaintiff's Opening Statement: "My client, Mr. Wile E. Coyote, a resident of Arizona and contiguous states, does hearby bring suit for damages against the Acme Company, manufacturer and retail distributor of assorted merchandise, incorporated in Delaware and doing business in every state, district, and territory. Mr. Coyote seeks compensation for personal injuries, loss of business income, and mental suffering caused as a direct result of the actions and/or gross negligence of said company, under Title 15 of the United States Code Chapter 47, section 2072, subsection (a), relating to product liability."

WITI-TV anti-Beatles editorial from 1966

D. tells me in comments that " Speaking of CSNY, Graham Nash did some talking at the Commonwealth Club; there's a podcast. Robert Reich also spoke there on inequality." (I especially liked the Everly Brothers stories, but the kids singing made me cry.)

I just discovered Clyde McCoy's "Sugar Blues". I had never heard of Clyde McCoy, but now that I have, I'm planning to make his work my soundtrack for a while.

PSA: Due to spammers, I'm now blocking posts by "Anonymous". Make up a screen name, for chrissakes.

* * * * *

It's hard to avoid making little connections like this, but on the occasion of what would have been my father's 100th birthday, Pete Seeger died, and both of these men were more special to me than I feel able to say. I learned the news on Facebook, where a couple of my friends (the real-life flesh kind) briefly reminisced. The first one I saw was from Dave Hartwell:

The greatest living American folk musician has died. His music and performances meant more to me than I can easily articulate, even before I knew his name and heard the Weavers on the radio as a child. Once, at the Hudson River Revival he asked permission to sit on the ground next to me to listen to Ani DiFranco. He politely called me "sir." I was honored. He had more charisma on stage than anyone I ever saw in person, and somehow less ego. He respected the music of others and performed it as well as his own. He was publicly generous to others. I feel lucky to have had him alive for so much of my life.
Steve Simels has a little guest memorial from his "old college roommate" Peter Eisenstadter over at PowerPop.

Susie posted Bruce Springsteen's tribute from Seeger's 90th birthday, and this.

Obituaries from the Guardian, BBC, and The New York Times, and a musical tribute at the Telegraph, 10 great songs.

Of course, "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" was one of the first songs I ever learned to play, and then "If I Had A Hammer", and eventually his musical rendition of Ecclesiastes 3, "Turn! Turn! Turn!".

People keep playing Pete Seeger's performance of "This Land is Your Land" - and yes, I did once hear him perform it live - but we all know that's a Woody Guthrie song, right? (Just to show you how much things have changed, we learned this song in school, although admittedly they skipped some verses when they taught it to us.)

Pete Seeger believed it was always time to organize, to inspire, to do the work, and he kept doing it right up until the end.

26 January 2014

Find the cost of freedom

Allan Friedman and Marcy Wheeler were guests this week on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd.
Allison Kilkenny and David Waldman discussed Moral Mondays, Truthful Tuesdays, fast-food strikes, and the water in West Virginia on Virtually Speaking Sundays last week.
Stephanie Kelton and Gaius Publius talked about what money is on Virtually Speaking Counterpoints.

Start this one around the 25-minute mark to hear Lee Camp on how Utah is solving their homeless problem. (Use that link if you just want to hear that story, or this one if you just want to go to his page and hear the whole show - but that stream doesn't include time markers.) If you just want to read a story about how and why Utah did it, in contrast to what other localities are doing, try this link: "This trend makes Utah's accomplishment even more noteworthy. In eight years, Utah has quietly reduced homelessness by 78 percent, and is on track to end homelessness by 2015. How did Utah accomplish this? Simple. Utah solved homelessness by giving people homes. In 2005, Utah figured out that the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for homeless people was about $16,670 per person, compared to $11,000 to provide each homeless person with an apartment and a social worker. So, the state began giving away apartments, with no strings attached. Each participant in Utah's Housing First program also gets a caseworker to help them become self-sufficient, but they keep the apartment even if they fail. The program has been so successful that other states are hoping to achieve similar results with programs modeled on Utah's."

"Oxfam: 85 richest people as wealthy as poorest half of the world [...] The wealth of the 1% richest people in the world amounts to $110tn (£60.88tn), or 65 times as much as the poorest half of the world, added the development charity, which fears this concentration of economic resources is threatening political stability and driving up social tensions." Makes you think a lot of the world's problems could be solved by one major weather event at Davos.

"New Warren bill could save billions [...] Warren's bill would discourage tax-deductible settlements by forcing federal agencies to explain why certain settlements are confidential, and to publicly disclose the terms of nonconfidential agreements so that taxpayers can see how much settlement tax-deductibility is costing them." I'm not sure they care enough anymore that they would worry that their "explanations" make any sense or that people know how we are getting screwed. They won't be afraid of us until their servants kill them in their beds.
Money Addict - This guy quit trading because he realized it was harming the world, but it meant giving up his Big Chance. What's interesting is that it was an op-ed in the NYT.

"No, Medical Tourism Is Still Not a Solution to the U.S. Healthcare Crisis" - This is Mike the Mad Biologist's response to Dean Baker. I also disagree with Baker on this issue, but for different reasons. There are real ways to control medical costs in the US, and I don't think Baker is really addressing them. Yeah, we have a problem with overuse and resistance where antibiotics are concerned, but that's not the issue when you have people who spread disease because they can't afford any treatment at all, for example. Cutting the CDC (and cutting its independence from the political system and the all-holy Public-Private Partnership ideology) sure doesn't help. But, mainly, medical tourism just isn't practical, and neither is having a whole bunch of foreigners imported to do medical work that is best done by locals. We can train more people to do the work - we keep the numbers of doctors admitted to med school artificially low, and we do lots of other things that keep good people out of medicine. Of course, we could start by not letting the medical industry tell us what they think their time and work is worth and making us pay it.

"Blunt talk: Obama high on drug reform, but will he act?" - You already know what I think of Obama's promises and "aspirational" chatter, so, no, I don't expect anything good from him.

Yves Smith, "How Bitcoin Plays Into the Hands of Central Bankers and Will Facilitate the Use of Negative Interest Rates" - It's really all a gift to the banks.

You can't privatize a government function without losing confidentiality and security. This is in the UK, but the US is already far ahead in this category, since the Tories just finished the privatization process of the NHS. It means that all that data which was always understood to be confidential will now be in the hands of every private entity that has already weaseled out of the confidentiality agreements they used to treat as important. One of the greatest ironies of the arguments about Edward Snowden is that real secrecy is already gone precisely because putting "secret" or "confidential" information into the hands of private companies means it's already been let out of its box.

Ask Snowden Q&A, on the worst harms of mass surveillance ("bulk collection"): "The first is the chilling effect, which is well-understood. Study after study has show that human behavior changes when we know we're being watched. Under observation, we act less free, which means we effectively *are* less free. The second, less understood but far more sinister effect of these classified programs, is that they effectively create 'permanent records' of our daily activities, even in the absence of any wrongdoing on our part. This enables a capability called 'retroactive investigation,' where once you come to the government's attention, they've got a very complete record of your daily activity going back, under current law, often as far as five years. You might not remember where you went to dinner on June 12th 2009, but the government does. The power these records represent can't be overstated. In fact, researchers have referred to this sort of data gathering as resulting in 'databases of ruin,' where harmful and embarrassing details exist about even the most innocent individuals. The fact that these records are gathered without the government having any reasonable suspicion or probable cause justifying the seizure of data is so divorced from the domain of reason as to be incapable of ever being made lawful at all, and this view was endorsed as recently as today by the federal government's Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight board."

"CONFIRMED: The DEA Struck A Deal With Mexico's Most Notorious Drug Cartel [...] After being extradited to Chicago in February 2010, Zambada-Niebla argued that he was also "immune from arrest or prosecution" because he actively provided information to U.S. federal agents. Zambada-Niebla also alleged that Operation Fast and Furious was part of an agreement to finance and arm the cartel in exchange for information used to take down its rivals. (If true, that re-raises the issue regarding what Attorney General Eric Holder knew about the gun-running arrangements.)"

Aaron Swartz, the movie

I don't know what's weirder, the NYT Mag's cover, or the Tom Tomorrow version.

Betty Bowers, America's Best Christian, on The DOs and DON'Ts of PRAYER

Crony Capitalism Action Figures

Nice interview with Roz Kaveney at The Heroines of My Life .

It's been a long time since I saw Soylent Green and I'd completely forgotten the opening titles. You missed your chance to buy a can of Soylent Green and a cracker for $2,250.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

21 January 2014

I could never disguise all my little white lies

So, President Constitutional Scholar gave a speech in which he assured the nation that there were no abuses by the NSA (something even the NSA admits isn't true), and we need to violate the Constitutional rights of every single American in order to defend the Constitution. (Marcy Wheeler provides the annotated speech here.)
- Interestingly, Bruce Schneier reported the day before that, "Today I Briefed Congress on the NSA: This morning I spent an hour in a closed room with six Members of Congress: Rep. Lofgren, Rep. Sensenbrenner, Rep. Scott, Rep. Goodlate, Rep Thompson, and Rep. Amash. No staffers, no public: just them. Lofgren asked me to brief her and a few Representatives on the NSA. She said that the NSA wasn't forthcoming about their activities, and they wanted me -- as someone with access to the Snowden documents -- to explain to them what the NSA was doing. Of course I'm not going to give details on the meeting, except to say that it was candid and interesting. And that it's extremely freaky that Congress has such a difficult time getting information out of the NSA that they have to ask me. I really want oversight to work better in this country." (Marcy Wheeler had some observations about that.)
- Even the conservative Washington Post has Barton Gellman getting into the weeds of problems with Obama's definition of "spying".
- Here's David Sirota's piece from Thursday, "NSA defenders' shameless 'national security' bait and switch ". I like to remind people as often as I can that Bush started the surveillance program in March of 2001. I wonder why Obama and people like him keep talking about how it was a reaction to 9/11, as if it were not already in place and failing to do what it is supposedly for. Maybe because preventing terrorism is not what it's for.

"Court Strikes Down FCC Open Internet Order: WASHINGTON -- On Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Federal Communications Commission's Open Internet Order. In its decision, the court said that the FCC lacked the authority to implement and enforce its rules under the legal framework the agency put forth. The FCC's 2010 order was intended to prevent broadband Internet access providers from blocking or interfering with traffic on the Web. Instead of reversing a Bush-era FCC decision that weakened the FCC's authority over broadband, and establishing solid legal footing for its rules, former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski pushed for rules under the complicated legal framework the court rejected today."
- Shepard Smith Tells Anti-Net Neutrality Guest He "Sound[s] Like A Corporate Shill" "The Whole Internet Disagrees With You."
- Thom Hartmann, "The Internet Is Dead, Long Live the Internet!"

Ari Berman in The Nation, "Members of Congress Introduce a New Fix for the Voting Rights Act: Today Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and John Conyers (D-MI) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced legislation to strengthen the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision last June invalidating a critical section of the VRA. The legislation, known as 'The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014,' represents the first attempt by a bipartisan group in Congress to reinstate the vital protections of the VRA that the Supreme Court took away." This is not likely to go anywhere, weak tea though it is, but I was interested to see Sensenbrenner as one of the proposers. What I'm more interested in, however, is why all this legislation was ever about localities. There are certain actions that we have always known exist for the purposes of vote-suppression. They should be illegal everywhere. My VRA would always have listed them as felonies and any clever new methods we discover would automatically be added to them. (Isn't it odd that changing the polling place in a district without proper notification of the public isn't a recognized voter-suppression tactic and has not been outlawed?) And I'm sure you already know how I feel about any method of voting other than paper ballots hand-counted publicly on the night.

Yves Smith: "Yes Virginia, Obama and the Democrats Are Mussolini-Style Corporatists, Just Like the Republicans: Reader dSquib flagged a 'bizarre' article by Mike Konczal in the New Republic titled, 'Corporatism' is the Latest Hysterical Right-Wing Accusation: The secret history of a smear.' dSquib seemed quite perplexed that anyone would deem calling Obama a corporatist, which as we'll demonstrate is patently true, a smear."

Dave Johnson, "8 Phony GOP Solutions for Poverty That Will Only Bring More Economic Pain" - Dave missed a bet on Rubio's proposal to "remove the marriage penalties in safety net programs." Yes, there's a real marriage penalty, and it was introduced by conservatives to damage these programs - and poor families. It's part of that whole "truly needy" construct where the idea was supposed to be that a family with both parents present doesn't really need assistance and it's just that the lazy, shif'less father should get off the couch and get a job. Men moved out of the house so their wives and kids could get the benefits that were not available as long as the father was in the home. That was a huge sacrifice on their part in the hope it would afford help to their families, but of course the result was splintered families. If Rubio wants to get rid of this nasty bit of right-wing chicanery, I'm all for it. The only trouble is that there's precious little welfare left for those poor families to collect, since conservatives and "centrists" have been consistently conspiring together since LBJ left office to destroy War on Poverty programs. Having mostly succeeded, they are now going more directly after the New Deal.

Dean Baker take-down of "David Brooks' Primitive Defense of the Rich [...] Fans of arithmetic everywhere know that if the rich get more, and the economy is not growing faster, then everyone else gets less. (It might be primitive, but it's true.) And the economy has been growing very slowly for the last thirteen years and actually pretty slowly for the whole period in which inequality has been increasing."

Much as I dislike Dana Milbank, I sure nodded my head when I saw him saying, "Obama is off-message on the unemployed [...] On the House floor, 25 Democrats interrupted debate on a spending bill, coming forward one at a time to ask Republican leaders to take up an extension of unemployment benefits, which lapsed last month. The previous day, Senate Democrats had been doing their part to keep the issue prominent, provoking Republicans to block the legislation with a filibuster. This is exactly the sort of time when presidential leadership is most effective, when consistent use of the president's megaphone can focus national outrage and force holdouts to relent. But at the moment House Democrats were having their rebellion, Obama was giving a speech in Raleigh, N.C. - about wide bandgap semiconductors." Of course, there's a reason for this: Obama doesn't actually want to do anything for the unemployed.

Scary graph: Employment-Population Ratio

Photos: Rich people working very hard, poor people being lazy

1950s Capitalist Propaganda and Opportunistic Egalitarians

Wow, Jeremy Scahill's "Dirty Wars" has an Oscar Nomination for Best Documentary Feature.

Why artificial sweeteners make you fat

Can this really be not a gag?

Cartoon: Play Dead

The pool hall between two worlds - I don't know why the Flash didn't catch that drink before it spilled, though.

The Ramones with Kathy Lee & Regis
The Ramones on Letterman

The Beatles in comics

"50 Years Later: The Greatest Beatles Performance of All Time" - Just for the record, I could not only hear the Beatles really singing and playing even from way up in the stands at RFK Stadium, I could hear all of their mistakes. Anyone who doesn't think they were a great performing band is out of their minds.

"The Night Has a Thousand Eyes"

15 January 2014

Will time make men more wise?

(I don't know if Churchill ever said that, and I kinda doubt it, but it's something we all should be saying whenever they talk about cuts to things that make life better.)

Every day I read the news, and every day I read things that would have seemed impossible 20 years ago. It used to be that when you thought about reading things in the news that would have seemed impossible 20 years ago, you were talking about progress - about some nifty new invention that made life easier - a sewing machine, a dishwasher - or some expansion of the virtues of civilization. And maybe someday we'd all have jetpacks, or teleporters. Maybe we would have racial harmony, maybe even with the plant-people from some planet you never heard of. But most days I feel like the Martians have invaded and they didn't just catch colds and die.

"Set Up To Fail" is an interview with Michael Hudson that you can read, stream, or download as an .mp3:

Keynes had this idea that when there is unemployment, somehow the government spending has to come in and revive employment. That's called Keynesianism. There are a lot of simple Keynesians - even Paul Krugman is that kind of Keynesian. Post Keynesians go beyond that - basically, if there is anyone we look to be beyond Keynes it's Hyman Minsky, but also Randall Wray and myself. And we say that government normally has to not only run a deficit in order to revive the economy, it has to aim at raising living standards and wage levels, not increasing the economy just by printing money and giving it to the banks, which is what the Federal Reserve in America does and what the European Central Bank does. So, we put the real economy first, not the financial sector and the banks.


Plato explained this many years ago. He said that there is an eternal triangle law: democracies turn into oligarchies and within the oligarchies, the oligarchy makes itself hereditary and turns into an aristocracy, and then the aristocrats fight amongst themselves and some of them try to take the people into their camp and become democrats and the whole thing begins all over again. So we're in a stage of western civilization where we're turning from democracy into oligarchy.

Ian Walsh's "The problem of resistance to the oligarchy" is one of the most depressing things I've ever read, and I wish I could believe he is wrong, but I can't find an argument.
Ian's recent appearance on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd, wasn't quite as depressing. Or maybe it was, I'm not sure I can tell.

Hunter at DKos: "The nation sleeps a dreamless sleep [...] Were we that wrong, before? The Dream may have been dubious, but the void seems worse. Worse than promises of a shared national identity that would come to pass for only some is the new promise that the great heap of everyone will get nothing, and like it; there will be no jobs, save for the grace of the barons; there will be no pensions, because those were the dreams of a too-socialist era (itself fighting communism tooth and nail, perhaps, only to themselves fall to the disgrace of making promises to the working class, a flaw that we must remedy lest communism take the American rust belt one tired pensioner at a time). There will be no big government projects because the new dream says there will be none, and we will like it. Forget the old laws, because businesses have now transcended them. Forget the old duties of government, because the notion that government has duties is itself a petty fabrication."

Sam Seder interview on The Majority Report, David J. Blacker: The Falling Rate of Learning and the Neoliberal Endgame. "Professor David J. Blacker of the University of Delaware author of the new book The Falling Rate of Learning and the Neoliberal Endgame explains the roots of modern primary education in the United States, why changes in capitalist production drive education policy, what is the falling rate of profit? Why being exploited under capitalism is better than being disposed of, what neo-liberalism is a symptom of, why universal education is longer needed for modern capitalism and why we are moving towards an economy of eliminationism."

Gaius Publius has posted the Moyers segment where he talks to Yves Smith and Dean Baker, calling it "an excellent, listenable primer on what TPP is and why it spells death to democracy (literally) and breathes even more life into the predator 1% of the 1%."

From The Hill, "Democrats plead with Obama to abandon Social Security cut." Note that this story is cast entirely in terms of the politics, rather than the effect of the policy on, you know, the country.

"Supreme Court Denies Family Farmers the Right to Self-Defense From Monsanto Lawsuits: The U.S. Supreme Court today issued a decision in the landmark federal lawsuit, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al v. Monsanto. Farmers were denied the right to argue their case in court and gain protection from potential abuse by the agrochemical and genetic engineering giant, Monsanto. Additionally, the high court decision dashes the hopes of family farmers who sought the opportunity to prove in court Monsanto's genetically engineered seed patents are invalid. [...] 'This high court which gave corporations the ability to patent life forms in 1980, and under Citizens United in 2010 gave corporations the power to buy their way to election victories, has now in 2014 denied farmers the basic right of protecting themselves from the notorious patent bully Monsanto,' said Gerritsen. "

Randall Wray on The Greatest Myth Propagated About The FED: Central Bank Independence is worth reading for clarification. There's also an interesting little parenthetical at the end: "(To be clear, we have 4500 honest banks. We have a half dozen huge banks that are run as control frauds. Our financial system's main problems can be found among those SDIs - systemically dangerous institutions. We will not get back our economy or our government until we close them.)"

"7 Reasons Why You Should Stop Bitching About People On Benefits" - They left out the best reason, though: We're talking about people who have to spend their money, which creates demand, which creates jobs. That's a lot more productive use of your money than most of the ones politicians come up with.

Yes, the only thing missing from the Christie saga was... The Boss. (I laughed out loud.)

Ted Rall: "War is a Force That Gives Us Meaninglessness"

Racist enough?

A really touching use of photoshop

Mississippi John Hurt & Skip James

Live Yardbirds, Jimmy Page edition.

13 January 2014

I will try not to sing out of key

This week's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays were Avedon Carol and Gaius Publius. Gaius is always highly recommended in these quarters. I tried to talk more about TPP and our anti-democratic policy leaders and not too much about Chris Christie and the bridge.

Now, this is interesting - an article in The Washington Monthly suggests that renewal of Fast Track is dead on arrival Here's the horror show (.pdf): "Camp-Baucus Bill Would Revive Controversial 2002 Fast Track Mechanism: The Camp-Baucus Fast Track bill replicates the procedures included in the 2002 grant of Fast Track that expired in 2007".

One Year Later: Glenn Greenwald on "The inspiring heroism of Aaron Swartz: Whatever else is true, Swartz was destroyed by a "justice" system that fully protects the most egregious criminals as long as they are members of or useful to the nation's most powerful factions, but punishes with incomparable mercilessness and harshness those who lack power and, most of all, those who challenge power. Swartz knew all of this. But he forged ahead anyway. He could have easily opted for a life of great personal wealth, status, prestige and comfort. He chose instead to fight - selflessly, with conviction and purpose, and at great risk to himself - for noble causes to which he was passionately devoted. That, to me, isn't an example of heroism; it's the embodiment of it, its purest expression. It's the attribute our country has been most lacking."

EXPOSED: Tribalism in Washington! Or, as Ezra puts it, "The depressing psychological theory that explains Washington" - as was revealed when exactly the same policy prescriptions were put forward, the first time as "liberal" and the second time as "conservative, and how the Village reacted each time.

Oh, those clever COINTELPRO burglars! "COINTELPRO burglar: 1970 draft board burglars got in by leaving note on door saying 'Please don't lock'"

Athenae has a question about freeloaders. I think we should definitely take up her suggestion.

"Cold snap"? This is rather amazing - the recent weather in the US reduced to a "cold snap", the idea that there's a silver lining in that it will kill off whole lots of insects, and of course no mention of the fact that it's actually killing off people. And they wonder why we call NPR "Nice Polite Republicans"....

"Father sentenced to 6 months in jail for paying too much child support: A father will spend half of 2014 behind bars for doing too much for his son. After overpaying child support and seeing his son too often - breaking terms that were secretly modified without his knowledge - a judge sentenced him to a lengthy jail sentence."

Is someone poisoning female tourists in Asia?

Jewish Surnames Explained

RIP: Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones), 79.

Seth Breidbart said, "It's so obvious." Match.gov

I can't believe we don't already have one of these!

Cool picture of frozen Niagara falls.

The Batman theme song - visualized

"They will be missed: Remembering 24 sci-fi legends we lost in 2013"

Two hours of Howard Waldrop, George R.R. Martin, and Gardner Dozois

Yes, Atrios, I really want to!

Lake effect - If you can stand Facebook, this is a really weird bit of weather.

Couple Mocks Gender Stereotypes In Witty Engagement Photos

Dan tipped me off to Sandy Denny and Linda Thomson's version of "When Will I Be Loved".


An amusing sign

So, they are re-showing Jonathan Creek from the beginning for the first time in 20 years, so we watched the first episode, and I was not surprised that I didn't remember any of it, but I was a bit surprised that I didn't remember who the murder victim was, and absolutely shocked that we'd never noticed that the original actor who played Adam was replaced - and who originally played him. Ah, but we wouldn't have recognized him back then.

Another dead link to a re-found video: Joe Cocker's performance of "With A Little Help From My Friends", with "lyrics"

08 January 2014

A rumination with a view

This week, Digby and Marcy Wheeler were the panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays, rounding up the year in surveillance and "cognitive dissonance in the Village, the formerly impervious DC bubble."

Has anyone noticed that the United States government's agents seem to be embarked on a direct attack on the survival of the United States? I mean, seriously, would you want to visit, let alone do business with, a country that does things like this? "Outrage at JFK as Customs men smash a musician's instruments: Boujemaa Razgui, a flute virtuoso who lives in New York and works with many US ensembles, was returning to base over the holiday when Customs officials at Kennedy Airport asked to see his instruments. Bourjemaa carries a variety of flutes of varying ethnicity, each made by himself over years for specific types of ancient and modern performance. He is a regular guest with the diverse and enterprising Boston Camerata. At JFK, the officials removed and smashed each and every one of his instruments." The "reason" for this appears to be that they were "agricultural products". Ah, but that's a small thing in the context of unregulated banksters and runaway spy agencies, isn't it?
And speaking of spies breaking the country, here's Bruce Schneier on How the NSA Threatens National Security.

For the first time in a long time, The Washington Post has added someone who actually gives a damn about civil liberties. The good news, believe it or not, is that it's not a noted "liberal" or "progressive" public intellectual - it's actually libertarian Radley Balko. And while I'm sure Radley and I could find lots to argue about, on issues of civil liberties, justice, and the militarization of our police, Balko is a mensch.

"'Horror Stories' Show How Privatization Loots Taxpayers" - I've been saying this for twelve years now: You do not save money by privatizing; it costs more and it radically reduces efficiency. Every day there is a new "horror story" that is not just some glitch in the system, it's exactly what you can expect when you privatize. Dave actually understates the case here, because the underlying tax base is still always part of the gravy train.

"The Death Bet" - Ankit Shah tweeted the link to this Ian Welsh piece with the words, "A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in," which is right, but I had a bit of trouble with the way Ian wrote it, as if everyone just decided to let everything fall apart. There's a lot of language in this piece that makes me wonder what he was drinking, because it sounds like he forgot that the people who've made a life-long and successful project of tearing the New Deal apart are older than the generation he seems to blame for doing it. And, most of all, that "the bulk of senior executives and the bulk of powerful politicians" don't represent a generation, they represent a particular class of people. Most importantly, those people regarded the builders of the New Deal - members of their own class - as class traitors. A portion of the ruling class's power was wrested from them by rebels within their own ranks and given to the people, and now they've wrested it back. It has nothing to do with "us" or a generation or anything the rest of us did. Though it's conceivable that we might have had an inhuman amount of precognition and paranoia that caused us to kill them all in their beds back in the '60s before they were able to effect their program, we didn't and were just trying to live our lives and do the best we could with the world as it was and didn't notice the massive changes they were bringing on us until it was too late. Some people still haven't noticed, but "the bulk of senior executives and the bulk of powerful politicians" (and a tiny handful of extremely, immorally rich individuals and families) are the ones who made this world, and We, the People, are just desperately trying to live in it. (Why else would cutting the estate tax even be a topic of public conversation when only 18 families in the whole of the United States would even benefit from those cuts which would be so harmful to the whole nation?) And, even so, we still plant trees whose shade we will never sit in, even though we know that the bad guys may be coming to mow them down.

"Dignitary's Maid Reveals Indignities of Domestic Work [...] Though household labor has evolved from its rigid historical forms, a new chapter of the period drama for the era of globalization has emerged in New York's rarefied diplomatic scene, with curious case of Sangeeta Richard, the domestic worker of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade."

"Our Leaders Do Not Mean Well" - Daniel Falcone interviews William Blum, author of Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions since World War II.

Starting here, CMike left a comment on an earlier post - well, series of comments, actually, to overcome the limits of free Atom comment wordcounts - in response to a link that appeared in that post: "I'm going to comment and paste at extreme length about the top one of those three posters Avedon linked to over at Hullabaloo, with the upper caption on that poster repeating what, for a long time, has been the incessantly hawked neo-liberal claim that Finland has the best school system in the world. Now, of course, the neo-libs have no interest in seeing the Finns' "best in the world" system replicated here, but rather they want to create the impression among American voters and their elected representatives that our own K-12 educational system is failing. From there, almost seamlessly you can end up at the argument our labor market is beset by structural problems owing in part to these dysfunctional public schools which have left us with an inadequately educated work force, one that is not ready to compete successfully in the global marketplace and that that helps explain why wage rate growth for middle and working class earners in the U.S. has failed to keep up with productivity gains over the last forty years and why the new normal for the unemployment rate these days necessarily is going to be at a higher level than what would have been tolerated by voters in previous decades." And, once again, it turns out that it's not our public schools that are failing us.

The Odd Man Out keeps noticing that Poverty gets more expensive every day.
"The science of class superiority: If you're doing well, you believe success comes to those who deserve it, and those of lower status must not deserve it."

Jon Schwarz notices a little bit of rewriting history in an effort to make Edward Snowden the anti-Ellsberg. There's a lot of this nonsense around - how Ellsberg did X but Snowden did Y, and that somehow makes Snowden a bad guy. In this case, a Villager mouthpiece ends the Vietnam war a little early just to make what Ellsberg did more "okay" than what Snowden did. But of course, that's all wrong....

"New (and final) Tales of the City book to be published [...] The Days of Anna Madrigal, the ninth and final volume of Armistead Maupin's series (begun in 1978 as a newspaper serial), will be published on January 21."

T-Rex illusion
Groucho and Chico Marx

"Male Fans Made Bettie Page a Star, but Female Fans Made Her an Icon."

Warren Zevon, Peter Asher, Waddy Wachtel and others talk about The Life and Times of the Everly Brothers.

Zander left me a little (belated) birthday present in his presentation of the 12 days of Christmas, Day Six. Only trouble is I miscounted - I think I said "six" when it should have been five.

Patrick Stewart imitates cows.

Your steampunk moment

Green Arrow's most ludicrous arrows

Susie put up a smashing live performance of "Tell It Like It Is" - looks like it's on Jools, and it's so fine!

05 January 2014

Burn that bastard down

Just the other day I was complaining that no one is on television pointing out that "Obamacare" was actually a creation of the right-wing Heritage Foundation, and it's purpose was to prevent good health care. Little did I know that Michael Moore would soon be in The New York Times pointing out that very thing:
" I believe Obamacare's rocky start - clueless planning, a lousy website, insurance companies raising rates, and the president's telling people they could keep their coverage when, in fact, not all could - is a result of one fatal flaw: The Affordable Care Act is a pro-insurance-industry plan implemented by a president who knew in his heart that a single-payer, Medicare-for-all model was the true way to go. When right-wing critics 'expose' the fact that President Obama endorsed a single-payer system before 2004, they're actually telling the truth.

"What we now call Obamacare was conceived at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and birthed in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney, then the governor. The president took Romneycare, a program designed to keep the private insurance industry intact, and just improved some of its provisions. In effect, the president was simply trying to put lipstick on the dog in the carrier on top of Mitt Romney's car. And we knew it. "

Thursday's big story on page and screen was The New York Times' decision to publish an editorial calling for clemency for Edward Snowden. As NYT Public Editor Margaret Sullivan mentions, numerous news organs ("including Politico, Fox News, The Nation, and USA Today") quickly reacted to the story. Everyone's favorite pull-quote from the editorial: "When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government." When the Guardian published a similar editorial on January 1st, no one seemed to think much of it - perhaps as much because of the date as the source - but for The Newspaper of Record to make the case was another matter - why, even CNN was prepared to give viewers real oppositional debate:
Glenn Greenwald vs. Ruth Marcus (WaPo) on Snowden
The Situation Room, Jeffrey Toobin (Obama partisan) vs. Kristinn Hrafnsson (WikiLeaks) and Ryan Lizza (The New Yorker) on Snowden.

What can drive you the craziest is how just one crackpot can force big institutions to do stuff that most people just don't want.

Wealthy Americans Prove Pope Francis' Point by Threatening Economic Blackmail

I can find nothing to disagree with in Jesse Ventura's New Year's Message.

How The Twilight Zone Predicted Our Paranoid Present

"Porn in the Middle East - The Elephant in The Room"

RIP: John Fortune of Bird & Fortune, aka "The Two Johns", the brilliant political satire team. John Bird said, "He made me funny... as soon as he arrived everything flowed." The two of them used to take turns in their sketches being interviewer and interviewee - who was usually someone purporting to be a reputable source for the establishment, and always named George Parr. In this episode, George Parr explains the credit crunch to John Fortune. and here, John Fortune interviews George Parr, an investment banker. And here is John Bird interviewing George Parr, a British businessman in China, and John Bird interviewing George Parr, Home Office Minister (a particular favorite). Unfortunately, we couldn't find John Bird's interview with the Martian.

RIP: Phil Everly, 74, and some of the best harmonies ever. (More here.)

Nerdy NHS safer sex video

I was messing around in the 2007 archives looking up old links and exploring the link-rot when I re-found a pretty funny old video of Eddie Murphy and Cavett on Letterman's show.

There's a lot of interesting trivia (and some cool quotes) in this article about Marilyn Monroe.

Really tiny people playing with their food (Thanks, Charles!)

Masstransiscope restored - video here.

Neil Gaiman and Joss Whedon on the legacy of Buffy (Full podcast.)

Thomas Dolby, "The Toadlickers"