28 March 2014

That's the way to lose your chains

Sorry if you missed me - been preoccupied over the last week. Or distracted. Or something.

This week on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd, Stuart Zechman joins Jay to discuss the prevailing assumptions about the goals of economic policy and what they are supposed to be for.

Digby and Joan McCarter (McJoan) were this week's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays.
Last week on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd: "Masaccio is the nom de blog for Ed Walker, former Securities Commissioner for the State of Tennessee. He and Jay Ackroyd discuss the nature of markets and their role in a mixed economy. "Market solutions" have become an objective for policy makers, both conservative and centrists, which is entirely wrong. Markets are policy tools, not policy goals.Moreover,there are no "free markets." Markets can only arise within a framework of complex regulation. There is no more regulated marketplace than securities markets." Homework for this episode includes "How High Frequency Trading Works".

On The Majority Report:
Sarah Leonard, about her new article for Al Jazeera, "No sleep till world domination," on how Wall Street and Silicon Valley work cultures support inequality.
Matt Stoller: The Lost History of Free Trade
Mike Konczal: The Voluntarism Fantasy - Because there was never a time when charity and volunteerism solved the problems of the poor.

Obama gave a speech that was, well, incredible. And not in a good way.

This is how a liberal president talks about national security.

Joe Firestone says, "Progressives Need to Up Their Game Against Social Security's Enemies." Which isn't a terribly new thing to say, and we all know there's a reason why members of the Democratic leadership who call themselves "progressive" aren't making the case against Social Security's enemies, but since they're not, everyone else needs to study up on the issue and press the case even harder. (The discussion of taxes is beside the point since when the Democratic leadership talks about raising taxes on the rich, they aren't really talking about doing so in any significant way. Eliminating the cap on Social Security is a good idea, but if we're going to focus on economic inequality, it's going to take massive wealth confiscation at the top to make any real difference. I'm all for a 100% tax on wealth over $100,000,000, but that's not a proposal I've been hearing a lot about.)

Post-racial America - There are still people who think black people get "special treatment". Yeah, it's special, all right.
Robert Reich says if nobody good runs for president, he will.

"Microsoft Looked Through Reporter's Hotmail And MSN Chat Accounts To Identify Windows 8 Leaker: Apparently, Microsoft's desire to track down someone who leaked screenshots of Windows 8 is so strong that it's willing to violate its own privacy guidelines and promises to the public -- even if it means undermining Microsoft's main promotional campaign for email services." Update: But here's The Register's take, which puts a different light on things. And a further update to the story.
"Exile: Sarah Harrison On Paying The Price For Helping Edward Snowden "I cannot return to England, my country, because of my journalistic work with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and at WikiLeaks. There are things I feel I cannot even write. For instance, if I were to say that I hoped my work at WikiLeaks would change government behaviour, this journalistic work could be considered a crime under the UK Terrorism Act of 2000."

Revealed: Apple and Google's wage-fixing cartel involved dozens more companies, over one million employees

"Voracious Worm Evolves to Eat Biotech Corn Engineered to Kill It."

"Iraq War Vet Whose Skull Was Fractured By Oakland Cops During Occupy Protest Settles For $4.5M"

I have nothing to say about Fred Phelps dying except that it would be nice if his family and flock don't continue his business model. However, Bill Day said this. And Tyler Lopez and Mark Evanier figure we owe Phelps a debt for helping to energize gay rights.

I was looking for an article on the median income for 1914. Apparently, the word "median" just doesn't apply. I found a number of items on the average income for 1914, but they didn't really help. The closest I came was "The Overworked Working Poor of 1914: Women and Children and What They Didn't Get Paid". Which is interesting, I guess, but not what I needed.

A plane got lost. That's about as much as anyone knows, but it dominated the news all week.

"Why It's Time for the Journal of Porn Studies"
"Revisiting Dirty Looks" (Thanks to Gary Farber for the tip.)

Photos by Elena Halfrecht

Terrible Real Estate Agent Photos

I saw this in the sidebar of Making Light, where Teresa had linked it as "At which point, a historian has a horrible realization...."
And from Patrick:
"A Church So Poor It Has to Close Schools, Yet So Rich It Can Build a Palace" Calvin & Muad'Dib
"Capital One says it can show up at cardholders' homes, workplaces" ("Even the Internal Revenue Service cannot visit you at home without an arrest warrant," Rofman observed.)"

Your amazing bus stop - This is brilliant, although no power on earth could get me to buy the product, even if I still drank fizzy soft drinks. I still can't believe people drink diet soda.

Everybody's got a list in their head of things they'll do if they ever somehow end up with too much money. My list is mostly about sharing the wealth and has very few items of personal luxury, but these just went on it.

Cool aerial pictures of London

Skies you don't see very day

You just never know where William Shatner will turn up next.

Have some more Animusic: "Resonant Chamber".

Rascals, Live (and not young)

"Forward! Not Forgotten" - HUAC version

18 March 2014

I don't know what it's all about

"I've been a loyal American all of my life, long enough to realize what the true American way is. The true American way is a simple function of appetite. When I see something I want, I take it - as much of it as I want. And I don't care a bit if that doesn't leave enough for anyone else." - Lex Luthor
I like the Iain Banks quote in the graphic, but I can't help feeling the same lack of attention that led to the misspelling of his name is responsible for bothering to be against the Tea Party when there are bigger fish to fry. A great deal of money has gone into convincing you - whether you identify as liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican - to hate the people in the "opposite" tribe, and the Tea Party is a wonderfully misleading alternative to the two major parties/identifiers. You have three "parties", all funded by the same people, led by people who want to dismantle good government and reduce service to the people on behalf of a multinational group of extremely powerful people who think you are just an impediment to them having a good life - and their followers are all people like you who want the government to serve the people and not just corporations and a handful of rich dynasties scattered all over the globe and successfully (so far) managing to suppress the vast majority of ordinary people who have to work to live.

Alternatively, here is Abbie Hoffman's response to Jerry Rubin's emergence as a Yuppie. The context may be lost, but he was right then and he is still right. "The battle is not over."

RIP Tony Benn. I used to spend a lot of time talking to MPs, and only two MPs from the Labour Party were willing to say they opposed censorship. They were Mo Mowlem and Tony Benn. There used to be a joke floating around about how his lengthy name (Anthony Wedgewood Benn, Viscount Stansgate), got smaller and smaller until someday it was expected he would simply be known as "Ton" (pronounced "tone").
10 quotes from Tony Benn. - It's definitely worth listening again to Benn's explanation of the National Health Service - and democracy and choice - from Sicko.
Tony Benn on democracy. "Every generation has to fight the same battles again and again and again."

Do not tell me that the left isn't as good as the right at telling it. We were always better. But we forgot to buy up all the radio and TV stations.

* * * * *

David Dayen and Stuart Zechman were this week's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays. They discussed "Dianne Feinstein, the Senate and the CIA: a Constitutional crisis. Then the Progressive Caucus Budget and the politics of income redistribution. Plus political satire from Culture of Truth." Background material/homework for the show includes:
Steve Coll in The New Yorker, "The Senator vs. The C.I.A."
LarryE, "Spying fan Dianne Feinstein objects to being spied on"
"Obama: Taking Sides In CIA-Feinstein Spat ‘Not Something That Is An Appropriate Role For Me' To Wade Into"
Dday: "This Is the Fed's Most Brazen and Least Known Handout to Private Banks"
Dday: "Most despicable bank scam ever? How you may be paying them checking fees for following the law!"
The People's Budget
Progressive Caucus Unveils the Better Off Budget
A little background on Jack Anderson for those too young to remember or too old to still remember.
"NBC News Prez to meet with David Gregory"

Once again, thank the FSM for Crooks and Liars for providing their own videos of material they highlight from Comedy Central, in this case for this very good clip of Jon Stewart taking a GOP mouthpiece to school about food stamps.
Poor people's health care - not the same as everyone else's.

Dean Baker at Beat the Press:
"George Will Is Badly Confused on Economic Issues, Again"
"MSNBC Finds It's Hard to Get Good Help: Abby Huntsman on Social Security "
"Washington Post Is Confused: Pharmaceutical Industry Lobbyists Try to Increase Profits, not Improve Global Health"
"Inequality in Income Translates Into Inequality in Life Expectancy"
"Stiglitz Sets the Record Straight on 'Globalization'"

"Household Debt and the Great Depression: In November 1930, before anyone knew how Great the Depression would be, Charles Persons published an article in the Quarterly Journal of Economics called 'Credit Expansion, 1920 to 1929, and Its Lessons.' His thesis was stated forcefully in the first paragraph: 'The thesis of this paper is that the existing depression was due essentially to the great wave of credit expansion in the past decade.'"

Something Krugman says too little about in "That Old-Time Whistle" is that dismantling War on Poverty programs is something that started the minute Lyndon Johnson left the White House and that precious little is left of it. Conservatives hated those programs because they worked. Getting rid of them while continuing to blame them for the devastating effects on our communities of corporate irresponsibility is a great twofer for those folks, just like it was back in the day when they started crippling any program aimed at helping low-income families and then blamed the resulting effects on black culture. Black families didn't suddenly start splintering because they just collectively decided it would be more fun, they did it as a direct response to the fact that welfare rules were changed to make it impossible to get enough money to feed your kids if the father was still in the home - a rule that was "justified" by claims that such homes were somehow not "the truly needy". Once conservatives took over leadership of the Democratic Party, we had Clinton ending "welfare as we know it," thus making it even more difficult for people in the plundered inner cities to get by. This was disguised somewhat by an economy that overheated in the wake of the "technology revolution" of the period, but we all know what's happened since.

Snowden more optimistic than Digby - Or at least, Snowden's lawyer believes Snowden's revelations will spur a reversal of the entrenchment of the Deep State. Digby fears that not enough people care and the Deep State is so entrenched that its hold can't really be reversed.

I remember when I first saw an article in Time promoting the idea that depression was caused by a chemical imbalance (complete with nifty neon-lit pictures of brains) and that a brief infusion of drugs could reset people. There was no evidence for the idea, of course, and if I'd been a bit more cynical at the time I would have realized it was all an unlabelled advertorial for a new line of drugs that shrinks could hand out like candy. But the thing was, even then, you were only supposed to take these drugs for a couple of weeks and then you would be toggled back to normal. Except no one I know who was ever given this treatment was simply taken off the drugs after a couple of weeks and sent on their merry way. In fact, they seemed to get worse, continued on the drugs, lived in terror of not being able to get the drugs, and never recovered from their depressions. And some of these people had situational depressions, they would surely have recovered with no treatment at all. But they didn't, and instead they are spending a pile of money on dope all the time...
Why is a widely-used drug to treat pneumonia that used to cost $4.00 now costing $50.00?

Jeralyn Merrit tells me that Comcast has been airing a medical marijuana ad. That's new, I can't imagine that happening ten years ago.
Jeralyn also has a brief post on the failure of the nomination of Debo Adegbile to head the Civil Rights Division on the grounds that he defended some civil rights. Or at least he was part of the division of his organization that did. But it was Mumia Abu-Jamal. Anyone who is familiar with the details of that case knows it never passed the smell test, and the fact that his death sentence - not his conviction - was overturned has had the law-enforcement lobby in a tizzy for some time.

"Tomgram: David Bromwich, The Leader Obama Wanted to Become and What Became of Him: "Doesn't this just say it all? After Majority Leader Harry Reid went the ultimate mile for the president, loosing the 'nuclear option' on the Senate to wipe out Republican filibusters of a bevy of log-jammed presidential nominations, and after the Republicans -- the president's proudly disloyal opposition -- had fumed to their hearts' content, Obama still couldn't get his nominee to head the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division confirmed. The culprits in a Congress where, from the White House point of view, evil has been every shade of Republican turned out to be seven disloyal Democrats. Despite a "sustained closed-door effort" by Obama and his aides, they voted the nominee down. Think of it as a little parable for the Obama presidency."

Will Bernie Sanders run for president? He says he'd make a better president than Hillary Clinton, and he's right about that. He'll have to register as a Democrat, though.

Tom Tomorrow on what the Sunday talk shows said about Ukraine.

Life in Pottersville continues to bite - help if you can.

How many women can you find in this photo?

An Entire Day of All of Europe's Air Travel, Visualized

Not sure what it is about this picture, but I just can not stop laughing.

Young Rascals, live, "A Girl Like You"

09 March 2014

If I had my way I would tear this building down

RIP: Bartcop, aged 60. Not just the blog,* the man*. His real name was Terrence R. Coppage, though we never knew that back then. Back in the day, I used to link to him all the time, quote him, go to his page daily. Before I started my own blog, Bartcop.com was the focal point website for a whole lot of us. It was in Bartcop chat on IRC that I badgered Atrios about starting his own blog and gave him the link to Blogger that got him started. I met some of my favorite internet people at Bart's, found some of my favorite journalists. I've even met a few of these people when they visited London. I did not share his love of tequila, but we both loved Led Zep, I'm glad he made me aware of Shirley Manson.
The Rude Pundit, Susie Madrak and Brad Friedman have their own tributes up, and there's an article at The Raw Story.

Dave Johnson and Cliff Schecter will be tonight's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays and will "consider why the trade deficit matters more than the budget deficit, Ukraine, Robert Duncan and the 'war on drugs.' Plus political satire from Culture of Truth.".
Isaac Martin, fiscal sociologist and author of author of Rich People's Movements: Grassroots Campaigns to Untax the One Percent, was the guest on Thursday's Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd.

Adolph Reed, who recognized Obama's neoliberalism long before he became the Democratic nominee for the presidency, has an article in Harpers called "Nothing Left: The long, slow surrender of American liberals," which is only available to subscribers, but he discussed it with Sam Seder Wednesday on The Majority Report - highly recommended.
Also recently on the show, David Dayen on how the Post Office could save money, and Jodie Griffin: The Threat of The Comcast-Time Warner Merger & What Next For Net Neutrality?.
And Sam spoke to Mike Lofgren about his essay "Anatomy of the Deep State" at Bill Moyers' site.

Doesn't it bother anyone that the Israeli army is targeting Palestinian soccer players and murdering them on phony pretexts? It seems like the sort of thing you'd at least read about in the sports pages. "Just imagine if members of Spain's top-flight World Cup team had been jailed, shot or killed by another country and imagine the international media outrage that would ensue. Imagine if prospective youth players for Brazil were shot in the feet by the military of another nation. But, tragically, these events along the checkpoints have received little attention on the sports page or beyond."
Jon Stewart ponders the Fox News position on food stamp expenditure, which appears to be that poor people shouldn't eat junk food or nutritious, healthy food: "what's the right mixture of quality and class-based shame poor people should aim for in their meal planning?" (The video is Hulu so I can't see it, but text is supplied.)
And, of course, Obama is still working hard to promote the idea that Social Security cuts are a perfectly reasonable idea, once again saying they are still on the table.
And then there are Alan Grayson's ex-wife's allegations - which, true or not, could hurt him.
Why did the chicken cross the ocean? "Scores of Americans are in an uproar since Food Safety News revealed the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will soon allow U.S. chickens to be sent to China for processing before being shipped back to the states for human consumption."
Aasif Mandvi demonstrates how America has the best healthcare system in the world. And a Fox News commentator tells us how to solve the problems of those who can't afford health insurance. "If you're poor, stop being poor." (Video from Crooks and Liars, so I can see it!)

We know that Paul Ryan is what he is, but Atrios did what looks like a whole blog post, not just a link, on how The Washington Post writes about his war on the poor as if for all the world it's a great big piece of social justice for the poor. "Journalists can't be this stupid, so they've just chosen to let the politicians write the story they want told. It's 'make you stupider' journalism, instead of 'inform you' journalism, which is what so much political journalism is."
Atrios also made Paul Taylor his Wanker of the Day* Wednesday after his appearance on NPR promoting generational warfare. As Dean Baker reports, "Taylor repeatedly complained that younger generations don't seem angry about their parents' Social Security and Medicare. He told his interviewer: 'Well, what's so fascinating is there isn't any tension at the moment. You have a generation coming in that isn't wagging its finger with blame at mom or grandma, in fact, they're living with mom and grandma.'" I thought that was particularly interesting myself, since the quote from Taylor contains what should be the only explanation he needs for the not-so-curious fact that kids don't want to make war on their parents and grandparents. If you're living with mom and grandma, and you know perfectly well that they can't go out and get jobs instead of collecting the Social Security that is currently supporting you, it doesn't make sense to want to take their Social Security away, since it's not going to magically supply you with a good job, and in all probability it would mean you'll just all be living together in a cardboard box. Who is the genius who believes that if old people stay in the workforce longer - assuming they could manage to stay employed longer - they wouldn't be part of the job-competition that young people have to face? You don't have to spend that much time in the workforce to know that advancement often depends on the people above you retiring. And since employers these days are much more inclined to cut staff than add to it, getting rid of the people above you is sometimes the only way to move up, which is why more and more these days, you see some people actively conspiring to push out even the most valuable older workers (and they don't have to be that much older, either). Just leaving aside Taylor's bad math, most kids are also smart enough to figure out that mom and grandma are not the people who invented overwhelming student dept and policies that export and reduce American jobs. So, basically, the reason These Kids Today are not doing what Paul Taylor wants them to do is because they are smarter than him. Also via Atrios, McClatchy reports that the CIA is spying on members of Congress.

"WTF: CIA Took Secret, 'Unprecedented Action' Against Senate Intelligence Committee [...] The [Senate Intelligence] committee has spent several years working on a voluminous report about the detention and interrogation program, and according to one official interviewed in recent days, C.I.A. officers went as far as gaining access to computer networks used by the committee to carry out its investigation.... The specifics of the inspector general's investigation are unclear. But several officials interviewed in recent days - all of whom insisted on anonymity, citing a continuing inquiry - said it began after the C.I.A. took what Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado, on Tuesday called an 'unprecedented action' against the committee."
"Statement on Congress's Oversight of the CIA from U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: "The Senate Intelligence Committee oversees the CIA, not the other way around. Since I joined the Committee, the CIA has refused to engage in good faith on the Committee's study of the CIA's detention and interrogation program. Instead, the CIA has consistently tried to cast doubt on the accuracy and quality of this report by publicly making false representations about what is and is not in it. The public must be given a complete and accurate accounting of this dark period in our history by declassifying not only the full Committee study, but the Panetta Review as well. Only then can the American people understand the scope and impact of the CIA's actions and hopefully future generations will learn from these mistakes."

18th and 19th Century Paintings of London Superimposed on Contemporary Photos of the City

I have no idea what they mean about this house, which to me looks better on the inside than on the outside. Some of those carpets really have to go, though.

Reaping for Dummies

Peter, Paul, & Mary, live. Or, this very different, but interesting, cover from Garbage (that seems to forget the point that Samson tore that building down with brute strength).

04 March 2014

I got so much honey the bees envy me

Susie Madrak explained just how expensive it is to be poor on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd. I wish everyone understood this. It's amazing to me that there are people who don't already.

David Sirota talked to Sam Seder about the attack on pensions and how PBS is turning into the Plutocrat Broadcasting System, on The Majority Report.
And David Dayen talked to Sam about why the Post Office should become a bank.

Radley Balko on The drug war's profit motive explains that opposition to a medical marijuana bill in Wisconsin is meeting a brick wall from a law enforcement coalition that seems to be all about the money - without asset seizures and drug war funding, cops won't have as much money to play with to buy shiny military gear to assault people who have leaves, so having leaves needs to be illegal.

"Ex Monsanto Lawyer Clarence Thomas to Hear Major Monsanto Case: In Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms, No. 09-475, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case which could have an enormous effect on the future of the American food industry. This is Monsanto's third appeal of the case, and if they win a favorable ruling from the high court, a deregulated Monsanto may find itself in position to corner the markets of numerous U.S. crops, and to litigate conventional farmers into oblivion."

Glenn Greenwald, "How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations: One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It's time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents."

Krugman makes a chart on Austerity: "If spending had tracked what happened under Bush II, discretionary spending would be about a third - or more than 2 percent of GDP - higher. Since there is good reason to believe that the multiplier is 1.5 or more, this would mean real GDP 3-plus percent higher, closing much if not most of the output gap, and probably an unemployment rate below 5.5 percent. In short, we would have had a vastly healthier economy but for the de facto victory of disastrous austerity policies."

South Carolina legislature confiscates budget of college for assigning Alison Bechdel's Fun Home: "The South Carolina House of Representatives has withdrawn $52,000 from the College of Charleston for including Alison Bechdel's brilliant, celebrated memoir Fun Home in its summer reading program. Bechdel, creator of the Dykes to Watch Out For strip, published the memoir in 2006. In graphic novel form, it tells Bechdel's story of growing up closeted in a family riven by a father who can't admit that he is gay and an embittered mother who doesn't allow herself to notice her husband's affairs."

Ryan Cooper in The Washington Monthly advocates Free Money for Everyone. Good.

The fix - on gold. Everything is fixed.

Ted Rall on the horse race dilemma

This is a couple of years old, but I stumbled on it while looking for something else and it just reminded me that, aside from making great speeches on important issues, (unlike some presidents we could name), I've always wanted to be able to vote for Julian Bond for president. He's just naturally a right guy.

Telemarketing counter-script - for when they won't leave you alone.

Aurora Borealis seen in Northumberland - nice pics.

Nebula Nominees

June, 1968: How science fiction voted on the Vietnam War in the pages of Galaxy.

RIP: Legendary fan Bhob Stewart (1937-2014)

Music from Hell - "Luke and I were looking at Hieronymus Bosch's painting The Garden of Earthly Delights and discovered, much to our amusement, music written upon the posterior of one of the many tortured denizens of the rightmost panel of the painting which is intended to represent Hell. I decided to transcribe it into modern notation, assuming the second line of the staff is C, as is common for chants of this era. so yes this is LITERALLY the 600-years-old butt song from hell." It could have been a lot worse, all things considered.

"J. Michael Straczynski Options Harlan Ellison's Classic Sci-Fi Story 'Repent, Harlequin!'."

Submitted for your approval - Rod Serling

Nice hat.

I completely love it that someone made this, and I want to play in it, too!

This is such a great group, and such a great song.