23 April 2014

Moonlight through the pines

Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Alexa O'Brien and others sue Obama over a clause of the NDAA. "The Barack Obama administration, determined to thwart the attempt by other plaintiffs and myself to have the courts void a law that permits the military to arrest U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and indefinitely detain them, has filed a detailed brief with the Supreme Court asking the justices to refuse to accept our petition to hear our appeal."

"US Is an Oligarchy Not a Democracy: 'Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But, ...' and then they go on to say, it's not true, and that, 'America's claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened' by the findings in this, the first-ever comprehensive scientific study of the subject, which shows that there is instead 'the nearly total failure of 'median voter' and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories [of America]. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.'"

Digby on the Oligarchy, complete with a link to Phil Agre's indispensable 2004 article, "What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It?", which has been on my sidebar forever and gets frequent links on the front page because everyone should read it and recommend it.

At Suburban Guerrilla
David Cay Johnson on Too Big to Jail
Krugman on Gordon Gekko's daughter and America's inherited wealth problem - I can see why Susie excerpted this, but Naked Capitalism has the full interview with some commentary, and there's an article called "What the 1% Don't Want You to Know" with it over at the original Moyers page.
Oklahoma wants to charge homeowners who install their own solar panels

Thom Hartmann in Salon, "Reaganomics killed America's middle class [...] You can see this trend today in America. When we had heavily regulated and taxed capitalism in the post-war era, the largest employer in America was General Motors, and they paid working people what would be, in today's dollars, about $50 an hour with benefits. Reagan began deregulating and cutting taxes on capitalism in 1981, and today, with more classical 'raw capitalism,' what we call 'Reaganomics,' or 'supply side economics,' our nation's largest employer is WalMart and they pay around $10 an hour. [...] According to Piketty, the post-World War II middle class was created by two major things: the destruction of European inherited wealth during the war and higher taxes on the rich, most of which were rationalized by the war. This brought wealth and income at the top down, and raised working people up into a middle class."

Schneier's Crypto-Gram includes lots of meaty stuff, including what the public-private partnership means to cyber security and privacy, and what IBM doesn't say.

"Elites Discover So-Called 'Free Trade' Is Killing Economy, Middle Class" - Yes, you'll never guess what The New York Times will notice next.

This story makes no sense at all: "NBC hired a ‘psychological consultant' to find out what is wrong with David Gregory's ratings [...] Last year, the network commissioned a psychological consultant to interview Gregory's friends and wife. According to a network spokeswoman, Meghan Pianta, the network wanted 'to get perspective and insight from people who know him best,' a project some at the network found unusual given his almost 20 year tenure at NBC." Funny they didn't ask the viewers and non-viewers, who might actually know.

"Inspired by the Daily Mail's brave exposé of the fact that charities will give emergency food packages to undercover journalists fraudulently claiming to be destitute and hungry," The Daily Mail Timeline of Shame.

A really small fish makes the case against despair.

This is probably the only truly credible threat I have heard about Al Queda since 9/11. "FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States: WASHINGTON - Putting the nation on alert against what it has described as a 'highly credible terrorist threat,' the FBI announced today that it has uncovered a plot by members of al-Qaeda to sit back and enjoy themselves while the United States collapses of its own accord."

"Farscape Creator Confirms That A Movie Script Is In The Works."

Scattered: Short film adapted from Ken MacLeod story

This is not the ad I saw previously when I clicked that Steam Powered Giraffe link, but I decided I wanted to play the song again and was instantly mesmerized by the new ad.

Ray Charles, "Georgia On My Mind"
Boz Scags, "Georgia"

19 April 2014

Me and my baby love Saturday nights

Avedon Carol and Jay Ackroyd are the panelists for the Easter edition of Virtually Speaking Sundays. Listen live or later at the link.
Jon Walker was the guest on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd, discussing what we want to happen and what is likely to happen once marijuana is legalized. Meanwhile, Lee Camp says, "Police Spend Millions Of Hours Arresting People For This Stupid Reason."

Watch (or listen to, or read) Matt Taibbi on Democracy NOW! talking about his book The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap and who goes to jail. You can read an excerpt here.

Paul Krugman interview clip: worse than the Gilded Age.

Vanity Fair interview with Edward Snowden
"What the MSM Did Not Report About Edward Snowden's Testimony Before the Council of Europe"
And when I clicked on this link, I thought I'd accidentally gone to Free Republic. It seemed obvious to me that Snowden had a good reason for this.

I'm not a big fan of Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), but I certainly respect and applaud his efforts on behalf of whistleblowers (despite the fact that he's still refusing to acknowledge Snowden as one of them). He gave a long speech last week in which he emphasized that it is the right and duty of government employees to expose wrong-doing within the government, and detailed the history of whistleblower legislation and how his own efforts to strengthen whistleblower protections had been stymied by both Reagan and Obama. He also revealed that the FBI had refused to comply with his requests for documents relating to their process regarding whistleblowers, instead saying it could best be answered with a briefing - a briefing the FBI walked out on when they decided they didn't like being asked questions about how they dealt with whistleblowers. Nevertheless, they told Grassley and Leahy's staff enough to damn their process: "However, the head of the Insider Threat Program told the staff that there was no need to worry about whistleblower communications. He said whistleblowers had to register in order to be protected, and the Insider Threat Program would know to just avoid those people. Now I have never heard of whistleblowers being required to 'register' in order to be protected. The idea of such a requirement should be pretty alarming to all Americans. Sometimes confidentiality is the best protection a whistleblower has. Unfortunately, neither my staff nor Chairman Leahy's staff was able to learn more, because only about ten minutes into the briefing, the FBI abruptly walked out. FBI officials simply refused to discuss any whistleblower implications in its Insider Threat Program and left the room. These are clearly not the actions of an agency that is genuinely open to whistleblowers or whistleblower protection."

I wonder why I didn't notice this story before now: "Right wing cyber attacks on Healthcare.gov website confirmed: Yesterday, the House Homeland Security Committee published a video on their Youtube page highlighting a portion of the committee questioning Roberta Stempfley, acting assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Cyber-security and Communications, who confirmed at least 16 attacks on the Affordable Care Act's portal Healthcare.gov website in 2013."

Unusually, The New York Times hints that it is aware of the unequal recovery, but puts it purely in generational terms. 'Cause we need an age war.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post got a little crazy in its defense of the Comcast merger: "I'm not sure where the Washington Post's editorial board falls in terms of insider/outsider status, but it just issued an editorial supporting the merger. And, oh man, it's just a terrible set of opinions bolstered by some equally terrible assertions. The gist of it is that a massive cable company is no problem because regulators have done such a great job at ensuring a competitive playing field to this point."

SCOTUSblog has been denied press credentials. This doesn't actually seem to be affecting whether they can cover the court, but it's certainly an inconvenience and it's hard to fathom a justification for it.
Elsewhere, a court has declared that blogs are real "media".

The reason we started having a 40-hour work week is that over 100 years ago there was a real union movement. But the reason we kept having a 40-hour work week (as opposed to an 84-hour work week) is that people learned that it's more productive for the company.

Isn't it funny just how like a crazy far-right wingnut your basic "moderate" is?

So, I guess that student loan thing was yet another false promise.

Ian Welsh, "Markets and Competitive Markets: Markets are almost entirely a product of government regulation and enforcement, and cannot be anything but. This is not just about the common observation that government must enforce contracts, but about the how it enforces contracts because contract law changes over time, and is differs from country to country."

It's amazing how different Southern Baptists were within living memory. But then, a lot of things ain't what they used to be.

What's wrong with this story: "Fox's Brit Hume: Obama Uses Race As 'A Sword' To 'Attack Others'."

Tom Lehrer, a voice of "the pre-counterculture left" (Click through; he's stranger than you think.)
How the Yippies levitated the Pentagon

A "stupid chain of unfortunate circumstances" - I wish the story had told us just what that was, because I'm having a little trouble figuring out how this little mistake could have been made.

"Finland just released this amazing, slightly NSFW stamp collection" - yes, by Tom of Finland.

Great traffic signs of our time: Silly walk.

The Muppets' Jesus Christ Superstar Is A Real Album That Someone Made.

"Steam Powered Giraffe" is a good name for a band.

13 April 2014

No wind, no rain, no winter's cold

Marcy Wheeler and Stuart Zechman are scheduled panelists for tonight's Virtually Speaking Sundays: "There's a common transparency theme with the NSA and CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services). There's the question of what missions are being served--neither seems primarily focused on the general citizenry, and acts in disdain, at best, for democratic processes. Both topics require explanation--most people haven't heard of CMS or know the role it plays in price fixing. Likewise, while we know the NSA has been collecting exploits and back doors rather than publicizing and fixing them, that's something else most people are unaware of. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. They set Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates, which are the basis for most insurance reimbursement rates. " Related article from the NYT, "Sliver of Medicare Doctors Get Big Share of Payouts"
Cliff Schecter and Richard (RJ) Eskow were last week's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays.

On The Majority Report:
MR's tenth birthday, with Janeane Garofalo
April Fools: MR Goes Right Wing
Jake Rosenfeld: What Unions No Longer Do; and Josh Orton: The McCutcheon Disaster
Henry Giroux: Zombie Politics: "McMaster University Professor and author of Neoliberalism's War on Higher Education Henry Giroux explains what exactly Neoliberalism is, why civic literacy is a threat to Neoliberalism, the public education crisis, why Neoliberals view the function of government as protecting the 1%, the delusions that drive the school privatization movement, the ideology of civic illiteracy, the distortion of freedom in American politics, why we have lost the ability to understand the broad context of the Neoliberal assault on the public, how the left has failed in understanding the culture war, how power is separated from politics, how we are living in a society of spectacle, why the left needs to have a bigger politics, the role of liberal reform in radical politics and how the young are suffering under austerity and how they could lead a movement for genuine change and are we heading towards another 1960s."
Greg Mitchell: When Hollywood Turned Left
Matt and Michael talked to Seyward Darby about the hidden victims in Rwanda, and to Scott Keyes about "Welcome To Shawnee, Oklahoma: The Worst City In America To Be Homeless."
And Sammy talked to Zoe Carpenter about her article "Will Phony Populists Hijack the Fight Against Inequality?"

Tom O'Donnel in The New Yorker, "L.P.D.: Libertarian Police Department [...] 'Stop right there!' I yelled as I ran. He was faster than me because I always try to avoid stepping on public sidewalks. Our country needs a private-sidewalk voucher system, but, thanks to the incestuous interplay between our corrupt federal government and the public-sidewalk lobby, it will never happen."

Marcy Wheeler, "The Neverending CIA Drone Story Actually about Outsourced Intelligence [...] That is, the NYT is really reporting that, in spite of nominal efforts to change things, we remain captive to those relationships with liaison services, almost 13 years after 9/11. And that happens to also translate into operating drone strikes in such a way that two countries which were implicated in the 9/11 attacks - Pakistan and especially Saudi Arabia - have managed to stay relevant and above criticism by sustaining (perhaps artificially) our dependence on them."

"Angus King Offers To Waterboard Dick Cheney 'Hundreds' Of Times: Dick Cheney has defended torture techniques so many times that a frustrated U.S. senator has finally offered to waterboard the former vice president."

"Nearly Half Of Americans Claim They've Changed Their Behavior Due To NSA: The folks at the NSA and their defenders used to use the argument that we were on the verge of a "cyber pearl harbor" in their constant attempts to change laws to give the NSA and others in law enforcement and intelligence more powers to spy on everyone (the argument being that they would do this in order to "protect" us). But... it's beginning to look like the "cyber pearl harbor" wasn't an attack from foreign hackers... but from the NSA itself. Eric Schmidt recently noted that the NSA's actions were a hostile "attack" and it appears that many Americans agree. A new poll found that nearly half of American adults who responded have changed some form of online behavior because of the NSA stories, and they think a lot more carefully about where they go, what they say and what they do online."

Alex Pareene in Salon, "Want to cut the rich's influence? Take away their money! [...] If the super-rich had less money, they would have less money to spend on campaigns and lobbying. And unlike speech, the government is very clearly allowed to take away people's money. It's in the Constitution and everything. I know it wasn't that long ago that it also seemed obvious that the government could regulate political spending, but in this case the relevant constitutional authority is pretty clear and there is no room for a so-called originalist to justify a politically conservative reading of the text. Congress can tax income any way it pleases. There is one glaring problem with my plan, of course, which is that Congress is already captured by wealthy interests, and is not inclined to tax them. But all I'm saying is that would-be campaign finance reformers ought to give up on their lost cause and shift their energies toward confiscation and redistribution."

"Why Obama's Regulators Let Wall Street Bankers Off Easy: If there's anything more maddening than the sheer scale of the financial fraud that sent America and the rest the planet spiraling into the economic abyss in 2008, it's the fact that no Wall Street bankers have gone to jail for causing the mess. As in zero, zilch, none at all. So at his farewell party last month to celebrate a lengthy career at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) - the US regulatory agency that supposedly keeps Wall Street in check - James Kidney, a trial attorney who had been hamstrung for years by indifferent bosses, broke his silence and went off on an awesome rant about how no one in the financial sector fears the body supposedly policing their behavior. The SEC, in essence, is a joke."

Robert Reich is right, we shouldn't be campaigning to raise the minimum wage to just $10.10 an hour. "Why The Minimum Wage Should Really Be Raised To $15 An Hour"

Lee Camp: "The President of the World Bank said something UNBELIEVABLE the other day. He said that there will be violent protests popping up around the world BECAUSE... smart phones and access to media have made it so everyone knows how everyone else lives. That's right! The problem with the immense inequality around the globe, the issue with having SO MANY destitute people worldwide is that they're now FINDING OUT just how much we're f*cking them! The cat's out of the bag! They saw an Instagram of Kim Kardashian on a jet-ski! GOD DAMN IT! If only they weren't all up on our motherf*cking Facebook wall, everything would be fine!"

Ian Welsh on "The First Real Russian Retaliation for American Sanctions" - Oil deals that don't involve US dollars will make it a whole new ball game.

Heartbleed - No one has figured out exactly how this vulnerability got all over the net, but there's no reason not to suspect the NSA.

I don't know much about oncology, but if it's really true that doctors make money from prescribing chemotherapy as is described in "97 Percent of The Time, Chemotherapy Does Not Work And Continues To Be Used Only For One Reason", that in itself would be a reason to distrust it. Of course, if it's true that these toxic drugs don't work in the treatment of most of the major cancers, that's a pretty big deal. "Dr. Allen Levin stated: 'Most cancer patients in this country die of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy does not eliminate breast, colon, or lung cancers. This fact has been documented for over a decade, yet doctors still use chemotherapy for these tumors.' In his book, The Topic of Cancer: When the Killing Has to Stop, Dick Richards cites a number of autopsy studies which have shown that cancer patients actually died from conventional treatments before the tumor had a chance to kill them."

"Tom Frank interviews Barbara Ehrenreich: 'You're the anti-Ayn Rand'"

Ugh, I clicked without thinking and got reminded of just how creepy Bill O'Reilly is. It's brand-new that college students do stuff they've always done, but people shouldn't complain about inequality because the United States set the gold standard on opportunity and, um, it's still the 1960s so nothing has changed since then. Seems Joan Walsh sees fear in O'Reilly's eyes.
Hm, this ad might have been a mistake. Oh, I guess so!

250 Years of Campaigns, Cash and Corruption - a handy timeline.

A bunch of scientists and Kate Mulgrew were conned into being in a geocentrist film.

"British Columbia Enacted the Most Significant Carbon Tax in the Western Hemisphere. What Happened Next Is It Worked." It's funny that people talk so much more about global climate than they do about the immediate environment, because I think people forget that one of the issues here is whether you want you and your children to be able to drink clean water and breathe clean air. You can be as much of a climate denier as you like, but those issues are right inside your house. (via)

"The Town That Turned Poverty Into a Prison Sentence" - Debtor's prison is coming back with a vengeance.

"Psychopaths: how can you spot one?" The interesting thing about this story is who the doctor spotted.

"Dorset Police unveil Tardis-style box." Or, as we think of it, a police box-style police box.

The 2014 Sony World Photography Awards (via)

The taste treat I've been waiting for: deep-fried butter on a stick.
Oh, and these.

Simels has another female vocalist he wants us to listen to.

Retro pin-ups of DC Comics heroines - These are really nice work.

Robert Downey, Jr. does great birthday parties.

Your archeology moment

This is definitely not the bra of the week.

This is the most unusual performance of "Mack the Knife" I've ever heard. Or seen. Strangely, it made me think of Hendrix.

Probably not work-safe performance of the 5th.

This is kinda cool - Doris Troy's original version of her song "Just One Look" with Linda Ronstadt's cover slapped on top of each other. (Would not have worked with the Hollies version.)

Marvin Gaye, "Can I Get A Witness"
Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrel, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"

04 April 2014

Clip joint

I was just noticing my friend Jack's sig file:
A Mission Statement for America:
  • form a more perfect Union
  • establish Justice
  • insure domestic Tranquility
  • provide for the common defence
  • promote the general Welfare
  • secure the Blessings of Liberty

Marcy Wheeler discussed NCAA unions,,Obama dragnet reforms and Ron Wyden. Tweet Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd.

Who could have guessed? "CIA misled on interrogation program, Senate report says: A report by the Senate Intelligence Committee concludes that the CIA misled the government and the public about aspects of its brutal interrogation program for years - concealing details about the severity of its methods, overstating the significance of plots and prisoners, and taking credit for critical pieces of intelligence that detainees had in fact surrendered before they were subjected to harsh techniques." (via)
"The CIA and the Moral Sunk Costs of the Torture Program: Once they sold their souls, they had to justify the sale, even if it meant misleading everyone about what torture was achieving."

Stuart and Jay were talking about this the other night,* and now here's Krugman on Growth Versus Distribution: Hunger Games. I guess this means he's getting over the idea that growth is necessarily good. Welcome to our world, Paul.

"Someone Else's Debt Could Ruin Your Credit Rating: Debt collectors are pursuing one in seven Americans - and often screwing up [...] That's not far from the truth. According to statistics from the Federal Reserve, one in seven Americans is being pursued by a debt collector, up from one in 12 just ten years ago. And substantial numbers of these Americans report being hounded for debts they do not owe. A new report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau logged tens of thousands of complaints claiming just this - that the debt in question is simply not theirs."

"Wealth Inequality Is Now As Bad As It Was During The 1920s" - complete with hand graphs.

"Interview with Ex-CIA Collaborator: 'The CIA's Plans in Venezuela Are Far Advanced': U.S. intelligence agencies have long been engaged in their own brand of social engineering, conjuring up 'color' revolutions energized by students in targeted countries - with Venezuela currently topping the list. 'If you succeed in getting these youngsters to believe that savage capitalism is the solution to all their problems, then there will be no revolution for Latin America. It's that simple.'"
"Armstrong Williams Wants 'Diversity' Favor from FCC"

I actually think Atrios had the most astute reaction to McCutcheon. Campaign finance reform isn't even meaningful when you have an aristocracy that is so wealthy it already controls who can be nominated and who the media will inform voters about (and how), and rich enough that they can buy government with promises of great rewards to officials after they "retire" (or are retired by the voters)

"'Deeply held principles' - Hobby Lobby does lots of business with China, land of forced abortions, and invests in companies that provide "morning after" pills, but after being solicited by moneyed right-wing interests suddenly decided to bring their "principled" stand against abortion to the Supreme Court.

"Judge: Probation for du Pont heir in daughter rape because 'he would not fare well' in prison: A Superior Court judge who sentenced an heir to the du Pont fortune to probation for raping his 3-year-old daughter wrote in her order that he 'will not fare well' in prison and suggested that he needed treatment instead of time behind bars, according to Delaware Online." Just how well does this judge think anyone else does in prison? Do they "fare well"? Does it improve their lives in any way? Are they completely unaffected? Perhaps we should ask her who she has sent to prison thinking they would "fare well" there.

This experiment reminds me of the Democratic Party, except without the first generation of monkeys that got the cold water.
"How to Get People to Accept Unfairness"
"Republican Monopoly"

Ryan Cooper in The Week: "Hey, liberal hawks: Stop hating the anti-war left" - What really pisses me off about this is that I disliked Putin even way back when it was fashionable to like him, and I don't like being lectured by some crackpot Iraq war-supporting "liberal" about being too in love with Putin. PS. We were not only right about Iraq, we were right about not trusting Bush to run an invasion of Afghanistan. (via)

Confused about economics? Visit BoonyvilleUSA, where it's all explained.

Fun with Corporate Conscience Clauses

Despite what you may have heard, Cannabis in the Netherlands is doing just fine."
Pot legalization music

Lance Mannion is reading a book and writing about it. "Why I just threw Peter Baker's Days of Fire across the room" - The most important phrase to remember is "uncounted votes".

A little warning about how study results can be misinterpreted.

Political Cartoons from The Week's collection

The Indy's April Fool's round-up
And the Grauniad

Your steampunk shopping site

I had been entirely unaware of the Alpine spaghetti harvest.

Simels wants you to see this Sandy Denny clip.