Monday, June 9, 2014

Money for nothin'

David Margolick, senior contributor at Vanity Fair, discussed his book Strange Fruit: The Biography of a Song on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd. "He takes us back to 1939 when Billie Holiday first performed, and then recorded, one of the most extraordinary songs of the 20th century. The book reflects wide-ranging interviews, from Lena Horne to Pete Seeger, all of which describe how they were affected by the song." (.mp3) "Strange Fruit" has, of course, since been covered by a remarkable range of artists (I had some surprises looking around YouTube), but it almost never got recorded at all, because no record company would touch it.

Jim Hightower: "5 Signs That America Has Gone Bonkers - And a Glimmer of Hope [...] It might appear that the U-S-of-A has gone bonkers. So let me clear up any confusion that you might have: Yes, it has! Yet, it hasn't. More on that in a moment. First, though - whether looking at the 'tea party' congress critters who've swerved our nation's political debate to the hard right, or at the peacocks of Wall Street who continue to preen and profit atop the wreckage they've made of our real economy - it's plain to see that America is suffering a pestilence of nuts and narcissists in high places. These 'leaders' are hell bent to enthrone themselves and their ilk as the potentates of our economic, governmental and social systems and they are aggressively trying to snuff out the light of egalitarianism that historically has been our society's unifying force. [...] Most people know that things are screwy, that this is not the America that's supposed to be. And therein lies the good news: The USA hasn't gone crazy - its leaders have and they can be changed." Hightower is always more optimistic than I am, but some part of me needs to believe.

As to what's actually happening, Sirota, "If the Left Had a Tea Party: Suburban Albany is not known for its rip-roaring weekend scene, but this most recent Saturday night, it was the momentary center of the political universe, as an underfunded political party was using its quadrennial convention to try to force America's most powerful and best-financed governor to submit to its demands. Though the Working Families Party's conventions are typically low-key affairs, this one had drawn 800 activists and operatives and most of the New York press corps - all to see if the party would endorse conservative Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo or run a third-party candidate against him." In the end they endorsed Cuomo, but maybe they got something for it. He should still be run out of town on a rail, though.

NY Times reporter faces jail time after Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal: A New York Times journalist faces jail time after the US Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal on Monday over whether the First Amendment gives him the right to protect his confidential source. James Risen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, has repeatedly refused to name the source for his 2006 book entitled the State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration exposing CIA abuses he had discovered. In particular, chapter 9 of that book disclosed an attempt by the CIA to have a former Soviet nuclear scientist subvert the Iranian nuclear program. Arguments presented in Risen's book, forced the US Department of Justice to search his phone, credit card and bank records to compile a case against a former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling, charged under the Espionage Act, for allegedly leaking the Iranian story to the reporter.

Amazon plays Monopoly: "But the fact that it's entirely normal doesn't mean that we should casually dismiss this particular spat. Amazon's influence over the book business is now greater than anything Barnes & Noble ever enjoyed. The retail landscape is vastly different than it was five or 10 years ago. There are far fewer options for buying books. What Amazon's most virulent critics feared has come to pass. Having consolidated its power over the book publishing industry, Amazon is now exploiting it. If it continues to do so, unchecked by antitrust enforcement or meaningful competition, there's a very real chance that the quality product at the center of all this - the book! - will suffer."

"Pepper Spray Cop's Settlement Sets Dangerous Precedent [...] Lt. John Pike of the UC Davis police pepper-sprayed a group of sitting protesters in 2011. Amidst an autumn of federally-coordinated, violent police suppression of the Occupy movement, the incident in Davis was clearly one of the most heinous cases. A group of students had linked arms, sat down, and refused to move when the police came to evict their encampment. Lt. John Pike then casually exhibited a red can of military-grade pepper spray, nonchalantly strolled past the protesters, and doused them in orange gas, which led to the hospitalization several of the students. International outrage ensued. "Pepper Spraying Cop" became a widely-shared meme, and Pike was originally put on paid leave and eventually fired. The students sued, and a $1 million settlement was split between all 21 of them. Pike was just awarded $38,058 in disability payments, after claiming he suffered "emotional and psychological damage" from his attack on UC Davis students."

Matt Stoller on "The Con-Artist Wing of the Democratic Party" and Geithner's self-serving book: "There's another serious omission about this period in Geithner's career: his time as a Treasury lobbyist. As documents unearthed by financial analyst Josh Rosner show, in the late 1990s, Geithner, Summers, and Rubin lobbied for World Trade Organization rules forcing the liberalization of financial services across borders, at the behest of large bank CEOs. This matters because the entire book is about Geithner's reflections on financial crises, and one of the central causes of these crises was 'hot money.' 'Globalization had unleashed enormous sums of ‘hot money' that could instantaneously flow across borders,' he warns, 'while the aspects of human psychology that had helped produce financial booms and crises for centuries remained unchanged.' By presenting globalization as an inherent natural force, and not mentioning his role in crafting the policies that led to hot money flows, he misleads by omission. In other words, Geithner wasn't just a firefighter, but an arsonist. You wouldn't know this, because Geithner in the book laments free capital flows. But he wasn't lamenting them when it mattered (and the position of the US government's trade representative today is still that hot money is good)."

David Dayen, "Summers: Helping Homeowners Would Have Hurt Banks: I have a review of Mian and Sufi's House of Debt out today, and so does Larry Summers. His review is very strange. It starts off with almost unvarnished praise for the book, saying 'it could be the most important book to come out of the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent Great Recession.' He celebrates their data collection, largely agrees with their alternative rendering of the causes of the crisis, and pronounces it 'a major contribution' that should give pause to what Mian and Sufi call 'the banking view' of the crisis, essentially that the economy hinges on protecting and saving the financial system. And then, Summers calls them naive and says they didn't understand the reality of what policymakers faced in 2008 and 2009. Specifically, he says that 'We all believed in 2009 what Mian and Sufi have now conclusively demonstrated - that reducing mortgage debt would spur consumer spending,' saying they did not have a narrow banking view of crisis response. Yet almost every one of Summers' objections - to supporting bankruptcy judges rewriting terms of primary mortgages, to forcing principal write-downs, to buying underwater mortgages through a Home Owners Loan Corporation-type structure - comes with the warning that the preferred policy of mortgage debt relief would hurt the banks." There's a more detailed analysis of Larry Summers' Attempt to Rewrite Cramdown History here from someone who actually understands bankruptcy, unlike, apparently, anyone in the Obama administration.

Elizabeth Warren And Thomas Piketty Discuss Nature, Causes Of Economic Inequality

The price of austerity is one those who won't pay it are always willing to pay.

I suppose Stiglitz is being circumspect in his calls for higher taxation of capital, but surely everyone has figured out by now that there's a level of wealth that no one should have.

Torture isn't torture in California prisons, either.

"There is a certain ironic symmetry in the resignation of General Eric Shinseki as Secretary of Veterans Affairs" - but of course, it's so much easier to short-change the VA and blame everyone else than it would have been to simply fund it - and fix it.

John Oliver on Net Neutrality. Update, the FCC website couldn't handle it.

Theory And Practice - Conversations With Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn

Here's the FULL PREMIERE of Lee Camp's new weekly TV show.

The Ansible obits tell me Ken Brown has died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 57. Damn, I liked him. He even occasionally commented here at The Sideshow.

I really miss Steve Gilliard. I just can't help thinking it would have been better if he'd been here these last seven years.

The Absurd Reason Why America Circumcises Baby Boys

When George Clooney made Roseanne work overtime

Wouldn't you know, the Anxiety Arts Festival London 2014.

The Comics Curmudgeon

Mark Evanier has a nice clip up of Holbrook's Mark Twain.

The Jazz Photography of Bill Gottlieb

Dire Straits


  1. There's a more detailed analysis of Larry Summers' Attempt to Rewrite Cramdown History here from someone who actually understands bankruptcy, unlike, apparently, anyone in the Obama administration.

    It is difficult to get a man to understand something when the fortune he'll get from big corporations depends on his not understanding it.

  2. I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around "seven years".

  3. Enjoyed the Sirota (and the counterview by Jacobin) about the WFP.

    And I finally gave up my Amazon account this month. Have been thinking about it for a while. Of course, I knew they were vile, rapacious, but they've also been a real lifeline.

  4. Mike Flannigan in "Tea Party Like It's 1899" or How Teabaggers Put the "Riot" in "Patriot"