Friday, January 31, 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.


  1. The Promiscuous Reader:

    "...defies left and right orthodoxy by arguing that worsening inequality is an inevitable outcome of free market capitalism"?

    Orly? I thought that "left orthodoxy" knew that very well.

  2. markkernes said:

    Most people don't know this, but Seeger once proposed that the "rumble strips" that can be found on some highways (like when approaching a toll booth) could be made of such varying heights and spaced certain distances apart so that a car driving over them would hear a tune being played.

  3. ksix said:

    My apologies, CMike. I'd either missed your link to Kaplan or forgotten where I'd found it. Whatever, it was illuminating.

    1. CMike said:

      The only apology owed is to Vice, we both should have linked to their site [LINK] even if we still were going to use that YouTube link in case the source link wasn't visible in the UK. I, myself, just recently have started checking in on the Vice homepage [LINK] aware, though, that Murdoch has a stake in the operation [LINK]. I'm finding a lot that's interesting there.

      (In the matter of the "know-it-all pontificator" did you see the correction at the end of his Jan. 3 Snowden article? [LINK] That was kind of a sloppy error to make if you're writing a particular month's semi-official gatekeeper response to such a well publicized controversy.)

    2. ksix said:

      I hadn't seen it. I stopped reading Slate after Weisberg took over and, except for a series of articles on missle defense (vaguely remembered), haven't read much by Kaplan. That interview was the first time I'd seen him and I found him so annoying I left it open in a tab and watched it in small doses. Worth getting to the end, though! It seems to be impossible to embarrass him into being more careful in his assertions, so why trust anything he says?

  4. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said:

    I suggest that James Clapper should be held in contempt of Congress.

    We all know that Obama's corrupt DOJ will not do anything.

  5. LarryE said:

    It turns out that Vera Scroggins is a bit of a flake - which is irrelevant to the human rights, legal, and Constitutional issues presented by her case but is relevant to the point I wanted to raise: That's part of the reason she was targeted for such an extreme measure. They went after her precisely because she is a bit of a flake.

    She clearly is not the only fracking opponent in the area and while she certainly appears to be the most active and persistent, I wouldn't be surprised if in the long run she turned out not to be the most effective. But that doesn't matter. The corporation went after her because she was the one they figured (correctly, based on comments on her case in the local paper) was likely to produce a reaction of "Oh, that one? Her? Who cares?" or better yet "Her? She got what she deserved."

    She was the one they figured they could cut away, single out, someone who wouldn't get a lot of sympathy or support from the local community and therefore the one though who they could establish the precedent for this sort of extreme restriction, that could be applied to others later, without generating significant opposition. It was a tactical strike not just against her but against any other existing or potential opponents of the fracking operation.

    They went after her, that is, partly because she was a pest that they wanted to get rid of - but also partly because she presented them with an opportunity to create a threat to hold over the heads of other, less stubborn, less persistent opponents to their crimes against the environment and, they would hope, thereby shut down all opposition.

    Scroggins' case reminds me of one some years ago in New Jersey, involving someone seeking a permanent injunction against someone protesting and engaging in simple trespass. This man had been arrested literally scores of times and, well, the target was tired of it. Unhappily I don't recall the details, but if memory serves the target was the Picatinny Arsenal and it was the Army seeking the injunction.

    What I do recall clearly is that the NJ Supreme Court rejected the request for the injunction in a decision that included one of the all-time great lines about free speech in the face of government (or corporate) opposition: "Reform," the Court ruled, "is not for the short-winded."

  6. LarryE said:

    My own RIP for Pete Seeger, from my cable-access TV show, can be found here if anybody is of a mind to check it out.

  7. Ten Bears said:

    347,000 people giving up the search for work entirely and dropping out of the labor force.

    That's buying into the Fascist's bullshit. It's also a great example of Pavlovian conditioning, even on the so-called left, or progressive middle, or what the frack ever. Everyone accepts these people are just gone. Out of it. No questions about it, a statement of fact. I wasn't one of them. Just because the Retards whacked my meager unemployment benefits doesn't mean I'm not looking for work, not picking up whatever comes my way. A day or two here, a week or two there. It's actually kind of like the sixties. Not much to do but just to hang around. Talk about revolution. I haven't been disappeared. Yet.

    No fear.