This should be the last post here on my own hand-coded pages, and I'll be delighted to wave good-bye to Echo comments. So, it's off to Blogger, with a slight change to the official title and a bit fewer of my personal decorating touches: From now on, look for me at:
It appears I will be standing in for Digby on Virtually Speaking Sundays, with Stuart Zechman unless his new baby takes him over. Jay Ackroyd will be on hand in any case, so I won't have to talk to myself.
Thomas Frank joined Sam Seder on The Majority Report to discuss the disappointments of Obama's first term.
Sometimes I just can't believe the weak tea I am offered as the reason I must vote for Obama. Cannonfire is telling me that Obama's order against torture might (or might not) be revoked by Romney, so, since absolutely no one is being tortured right now.... "Vote on Tuesday; protest on Wednesday." Yeah, that's worked real well for the last four years.
Amanda Marcotte: "Forget What You've Heard. Abortion Does Not Hurt the Democrats." What hurts Democrats is not dealing with the idea that the only help available from the government goes to the poor, blacks, and "the undeserving". And Democrats do not help with their focus on helping "the poorest" rather than everyone.
Charlie Pierce goes after Rahm Emanuel in style: "Of all the several good reasons for wearing a bag over your head while voting for the incumbent, curious staffing decisions are one of the more overlooked. Handing the financial sector over to some Wall Street lapdogs. Listening to Bob Rubin on anything. Putting the deficit commission in the hands of lobby-slick Erskine Bowles and the Undead Alan Simpson. But as far as I'm concerned, chief among these reasons has to be the current president's putting the spectacularly overrated Rahm Emanuel in charge of the White House staff. Emanuel hasn't breathed a breath of air in public service when he wasn't a self-aggrandizing and nasty bit of work. So it was with some glee that I noted on Thursday evening that a judge in Chicago handed Mayor Rahm his head on a stick as regards the "model" response of the mayor and his police force to the Occupy movement in that city. And he did so with a flourish...." Via Atrios, who said: "It should go without saying (but it doesn't) that hostility to nonviolent public protests is hostility to democracy, hostility to the nobler parts of our history, hostility to our constitution and the right of free association, and basic contempt for the idea that the proles should have any meaningful way to express their grievances."
Keep this one handy: "Obama Wouldn't Have Done That (OWHDT). OWHDT is an ironic tag for the countless awful, conservative things Obama will do that - had they been done by Romney - would have been used to shame lefties who didn't vote for The One.
I can't tell from this whether Labour plans to put the NHS back together, but I have a feeling these aren't the people to tell private interests that, no, they can't suck up the gravy train.
I blame Confucius for the Law of Comparative Advantage, which seems to suggest that because one country may be better at producing olives than another, that country should produce all the olives and the other country should have to buy from them. Or something. It also seems to suggest that producing olives more cheaply is more important than getting really good olives. And, presumably, that one country becomes dependent on the other for its olives, since it has ceased to produce its own.
Modern economists appear to worship this Law, and even some people I otherwise respect treat it as gospel. But you can see where it begins to stink.
I blame Confucius (rather than just Ricardo), because he's the guy who proliferated the idea that women shouldn't defend themselves since men are bigger and stronger and can do it for them. You can instantly see the flaw in this if you ask yourself who, exactly, it is that men are supposed to be defending women from - and, as Ali Sheldon reminded us, that's other men.
But somehow the idea caught on, and even martial arts developed by women for the purpose eventually became the province of men, and then the idea that if men failed to protect "their" women, they were dishonored. And the best way to eradicate the dishonor turned out to be some form of eradicating the woman, sometimes just by killing her, sometimes by marrying her off to her rapist, sometimes by disowning her from the family and polite society.
As you can see, Confucius' protection racket didn't really work out that well for women, as the Shoalin nuns who created gong foo might have warned.
The moral of this story is that the real advantage comes to those who grow their own olives and teach their daughters to kick the crap out of anyone who tries to take comparative advantage of them.
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On Virtually Speaking A-Z, Jay Ackroyd and Stuart Zechman discussed the sources of our leadership's destructive economic policies, and also whether Romney's is the most mendacious presidential campaign ever. That last is a very popular campaign approach right now among "progressives", along with the attacks on the Romneys as plutocrats - but is it true? Or is it just all the Obama campaign has to run on? Because Obama sure can't run on his record. On The Z-Files, Stuart asks you to "Imagine, if you will, that the only food that people have to eat comes from McDonald's." But he's really talking about health care. The unexpurgated text is here.
Atrios is in USA Today saying "Why not drop money out of a helicopter? The Federal Reserve should give people free money. People would spend this money, increasing demand for goods and services, causing employers to hire additional workers to meet this increased demand and reducing unemployment in the economy overall." Back at his own place, Atrios notes a startlingly bald piece of New Gilded Age rubbish in Forbes ("Holy entitled crap, batman") that has the added virtue of being a "We Millennials Suck" article, too. Like the "We Boomers Suck" and "Those Boomers Suck" articles, they are meant to stir resentment between the generations, perhaps allow those aging hippies to point and say that These Kids Today are, y'know, crap. But I don't know anyone, of any age, who sounds like the jerks in this article, and I doubt many people do. Because most people can't afford to think that way. But we know who can, right? And it runs in the family, across generations.
In moocherville, the people who use the most local resources (paid for by state and local taxes) but pay the least for them are the rich. The people who pay the most are the poor.
Gaius Publius says "Obama may cut Social Security benefits during Lame Duck session following election: Not good. After November, Obama will never again face the electorate. He's free to do as he wants. The Lesser Evil is still evil, folks. If you vote for it, it's your job to save us from it. [...] Barring an open Democratic office-holders rebellion, this is starting to look like a done-deal. Even Nancy Pelosi, judging by her words, is on board as well." Too bad we don't have someone like Josh Marshall to do what he did when Bush tried to mess with Social Security - but that guy seems to have been replaced by Democratic partisan who isn't interested in protecting us from evil policies. Remember, folks: When they say "chained CPI," they're saying, "Wreck Social Security."
I was over at Making Light and saw Patrick recommending some links, one of which was from UP with Chris, which I watched, and kept watching when they started talking about the right-wing's perception of the racial story of Barack Obama, how blacks and certain whites voted for Obama's symbolism rather than for anything about him that was of substance. And I thought, "Are they wrong?" (But absolutely do not miss the clip of Irish president Michael D. Higgins reaming out a right-wing radio hack on his own show.) Teresa collects stories of airport theft by and with the connivance of airport "security" and the TSA.
Bill Moyers and Michael Winship: "Like everyone else, we watched the movie of the week - that clandestine video from Mitt Romney's fundraiser in Florida. Thanks to that anonymous cameraperson, we now have a record of what our modern day, wealthy gentry really thinks about the rest of us - and it's not pretty. On the other hand, it's also not news."
Elizabeth Drew on "Voting Wrongs: The Republicans' plan is that if they can't buy the 2012 election they will steal it. [...] Having covered Watergate and the impeachment of Richard Nixon, and more recently written a biography of Nixon, I believe that the wrongdoing we are seeing in this election is more menacing even than what went on then." Via this startling post - well, startling to me, anyway.
Alan Grayson: "Hoover said that he believed in private charity, not government handouts. He predicted that government programs like Social Security would destroy private charity, 'one of the most fundamental of inspirations in the spiritual growth of the family or individual.'"
One advantage of having lost so much readership during the If-You-Don't-Love-Obama-You're-A-Racist primary campaign of 2008 is that I don't have many paid trolls in my comment threads. Yves Smith's timing was better, so she's getting a raft of them and having to institute moderation policies.
Because Democrats are in on it, too, and that's the sick, sad truth. In New Mexico, a solid Democratic state where Latinos are half the citizenry, Bush carried the state and the GOP has the governor's mansion. Why?
Because the Hispanic Democratic elite of that state don't want no poor folk voting - or jackasses like Bill Richardson would never win a primary. When I called the secretary of state, Becky Vigil-Giron, to ask why, in one poor Hispanic precinct, there was not a single vote for president recorded, she told me that, "Those people can't make up their minds."
"Those people." I'm glad to say she's on her way to prison. But she's a Democrat.
So, Republicans and Democrats steal votes from the same people: the poor and voters of color.
But on a strict numerical scale, 90 percent of the victims are Democrats, though they are victimized by both parties.
Mitt Romney says there are a lot of lazy people who don't want to have to "take responsibility" so they will vote for Obama. I expect Catfood Commission freeloader Erskine Bowles may also be voting for Obama, since there are rumors Obama plans to appoint him to something else he can wreck. Dean Baker reports.
Atrios says, "Rich People Don't Need To Work At All: Some rich people work, but the whole point of being rich, or being a 'maker,' is that you don't have to do anything. You have a pile of money. You invest it, or pay other people to invest it for you. You earn income from it. You don't need to labor at all. And these people have convinced themselves that they're the real workers of the economy. They can't go Galt soon enough. " Also, Big Media Duncan has an election-season gig writing his crazy liberal ideas online for USA Today: "We already have an excellent, if not especially generous, program in place. Workers contribute during their working lives in exchange for a promised benefit level during their retirement years. This program is called Social Security. Instead of considering some exciting new program to try to encourage workers into saving more, another Rube Goldberg incentive contraption designed to nudge individual behavior in the right direction, we should increase the level of retirement benefits in the existing Social Security program." Atrios is really good at making "centrist" ideas sound just as ridiculous as they actually are. You see, there's no nuance needed. Also via Atrios, Stories Newsweek might as well be publishing. Well, in a way, they are, they're just more subtle about it. So far.
I've posted the full text of Stuart Zechman's Z-Files: Separation (about how Obama and NARAL sold out women in a move that erases even more of the 1st Amendment's protection of religious liberty), at the other blog, for those who'd rather read (or be able to copy-paste). For those who missed it the first time, the video is here.
And yes, Dancin' Dave has been dancing again. You can see Mr. Gregory thinks himself a cool dude.
Back in the days before we admitted that virtually the entire political press corps is bought and paid for, Elton Beard wrote this about Mickey Kaus. Today, I'd say this applies just as well to the Democratic leadership, and I think it's all pretty deliberate. They are a nest of cuckoos.
Chris Hedges: "A public that can no longer distinguish between truth and fiction is left to interpret reality through illusion. Random facts or obscure bits of data and trivia are used either to bolster illusion and give it credibility, or discarded if they interfere with the message. The worse reality becomes -- the more, for example, foreclosures and unemployment sky-rocket -- the more people seek refuge and comfort in illusions. When opinions cannot be distinguished from facts, when there is no universal standard to determine truth in law, in science, in scholarship, or in reporting the events of the day, when the most valued skill is the ability to entertain, the world becomes a place where lies become true, where people can believe what they want to believe."
Sam Seder sat in for Chris Hays this weekend on UP.
KipW is unimpressed with the NYT correction below. "That's no correction! THIS is a correction!"
I've been having a Kelly Hunt fest. She's real fine.
Gaius shares my feeling that the Chicago teacher's strike is an important action and we should all be supporting the teachers - so why are "liberal" pundits backing the bosses? There's a bit of a duet been going on between Mike Papantonio and Gaius, and Pap liked Gaius' contribution so much that he did an entire segment on it. It's good, but it neglects to mention that one of the institutions the crazy billionaires have taken over is the Democratic Party, which is just as crazy, but in a different way. The policies are the same as the crazy-end GOP's, only with a slightly more benevolent tone. (Let's not forget that "truly needy" used to just be a conservative phrase, hatched to create a contrast with all those supposedly untruly needy who were getting too much help, just as "Social Security Crisis" is a term created by rich anti-New-Dealers, as is the idea that reducing government jobs or "entitlement" benefits - a policy regime Obama is proud of and eager to build on - is good for our econonomy, just as using the term "entitlements" is one of their tools.)
Here's Stuart Zechman's Z-Files: Separation - reminding me once again that, far from protecting reproductive freedoms, Obama has actually made right-wing religious extremism part of our law - and that Oboticism on the part of establishment-entrenched NARAL helped him out.
Good news and bad news: As previously noted, Echo has a notice up at the top of comments saying, "This commenting widget will be discontinued on October 1st, 2012." And I have concluded that the only workable solution is to simply move over to Blogspot. A good thing about that is that Atom comments far surpass Echo in quality. There is also the fact that there are a number of things Blogger does for me that I won't have to do anymore, which means I won't mess them up anymore. The bad thing is that people who click a link to one post will be less likely to see other posts from that same month, since a link to a Blogspot post only takes you to that one post. And, I still haven't figured out how to create the blogroll on the new Blogger thingy that doesn't seem to want to show me the template and just let me patch them in. (And where do I put my statcounters?) I would be very grateful for some help on making up the sidebar.
Panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays were David Dayen and Cliff Schecter. On Virtually Speaking A-Z, Stuart Zechman and Jay Ackroyd discussed whether the Romney campaign is really all that much more mendacious than usual, or whether something else is going on - in the press. Stuart Zechman explains Third Way in print, and in audio, in The Z-Files.
A whistleblower who told the IRS how UBS was helping US tax cheats was, of course, hit with a barrage of false charges by the Obama administration and sentenced to 40 months before he was awarded $104 million by the IRS for his help, but spending time in prison for doing the right thing makes that award bittersweet, says Marcy Wheeler.
Pierce on the voting mess: "You know when it all went bad? When a bunch of Republicans congressional staffers got on Enron jets and flew to Florida, whereupon they engaged in riotous behavior that intimidated the Dade County election supervisors into stopping a legitimate recount of votes and not one of them was hauled up on charges of violating the Voting Rights Act, even though their identities were so well known that they were all feted at a subsequent Republican victory dinner. Nothing happened to the people who ran that mugging, either."
A few weeks back I was talking about all those "lazy" unemployed or retired people who are living large on government money - and what I meant, of course, was the imaginary people who could find a job in a minute if they would just get off their posteriors and put their noses to the grindstone, but the wisdom of the day has it that they are just too "entitled", cushioned as they are with "taxpayers' money" they supposedly don't "deserve". Meanwhile, apologists for this deliberately job-poor economy claim the problem is "structural" and just requires everyone to brush up on education and new skills. But the jobs just aren't there, and that led Wendell Dryden to thoughts about what education can achieve.
People allude to slavery a lot, but maybe people need to be reminded of what slavery actually is: "I keep asking people what is the worst denial of freedom you can think of? Slavery. And what is slavery? One human being - a private person, not the government - literally owning another person as a piece of property. The government is not the only entity that can deny your freedom. Other people can too. But I would go one further. It is the role of the government to prevent people from denying other people their basic freedoms. After all, that's what the government does when its police prevent crime, is it not? And yes, the government does that by restricting the freedom of those that would deny it to others. It puts the person who robs you behind bars. That's what government is for." Also: Another part of the medical industry that you probably didn't know you paid for.
The Promiscuous Reader drew my attention to this old quote: "WHAT SOME WOULD HAVE PREFERRED: 'Now, I know there are some who would have preferred a protracted political fight, even if it had meant higher taxes for all Americans, even if it had meant an end to unemployment insurance for those who are desperately looking for work.' The assumption here is that he would have lost the fight. It's pretty much always Obama's working assumption that he will lose any fight. And then, funnily enough, he does."
Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report and Avedon Carol joined Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd to talk about the corrupting influence of Obama on liberal politics and related issues, and the massive incarceration rate in America and how it devastates the black community and America as a whole. Related links: Glen in BAR, "What Obama Has Wrought [...] These are world-shaking works of Obama-ism. Even Obama's 'lesser' crimes are astounding: his early calls for austerity and entitlement-axing (two weeks before his inauguration) and determined pursuit of a Grand Accommodation with the GOP (a $4 trillion deal that the Republicans rejected, in the summer of 2011) reveal a politician intent on ushering in a smoother, more rational corporate hegemony over a thoroughly pacified civil society. Part and parcel of that pacification is the de-professionalization of teaching - an ambition far beyond de-unionization. Of course, Obama begins with the delegitimization of Black struggle, as in his 2004 Democratic Convention speech ('...there is no Black America...only the United States of America.') To the extent that the nation's most progressive, anti-war constituency can be neutralized, all of Obama's corporate and military goals become more doable. The key to understanding America has always been race. With Obama, the corporate rulers have found the key that fits their needs at a time of (terminal) crisis. He is the more effective evil." Back when Obama knew he needed the support of black progressives, he distanced himself from the DLC although he was clearly being groomed for it.
I realize it's true that Eisenhower really was to the left of Obama, but what's this thing about being Eisenhower Democrats? (Also: Van Jones apparently exists to siphon off left enthusiasm for the sake of you-know-who.)
Sam Seder said Rahm gave the worst speech of the Democratic convention on Thursday's Majority Report. Jack Hitt and Kevin Baker reported live from the convention. Sam's guest on Wednesday's show was Matt Taibbi, talking about Mitt.
If you make one tiny little mistake with your bank, they charge you far more than that mistake was worth. If they make a mistake that costs you all of your household contents, no big deal.
Kip W in comments adds more to the private-public auto-censorship regime: A friend on Usenet has a very talented son who plays piano in a small classical combo. He put some performances up on YouTube, and they've been blocked by a recording company that claims they're 50-year-old performances by one of their groups. They got it put back up, and the company blocked it again. Can't reason with a dog in the manger, even if it's not his manger.
The Island paradise of the Maldives threw off a dictatorship and elected a man of the people - but when he left the corrupt judges of the previous administration in place, he made it easy for a coup to put the dictator back in power. The Obama administration quickly approved. Meanwhile, a whole island is a rubbish tip.
You know, for a minute during Deval Patrick's speech, I almost forgot what was going on and thought, "Yeah, that sounds like a real liberal!" - and then suddenly he started talking about the "accomplishments" of Barack Obama. This is the same Barack Obama who promised Democrats - Democrats! - that he hopes to shove the recommendations of Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson's letter down America's throat, despite the overwhelming opposition of almost everyone. That president said, "Now, I've cut taxes for those who need it, middle-class families, small businesses. But I don't believe that another round of tax breaks for millionaires will bring good jobs to our shores, or pay down our deficit. I don't believe that firing teachers or kicking students off financial aid will grow the economy, or help us compete with the scientists and engineers coming out of China." But he also said, "You can choose a future where we reduce our deficit without sticking it to the middle class. Independent experts say that my plan would cut our deficits by $4 trillion. And last summer, I worked with Republicans in Congress to cut billion in spending because those of us who believe government can be a force for good should work harder than anyone to reform it, so that it's leaner, and more efficient, and more responsive to the American people. [...] Now, I'm still eager to reach an agreement based on the principles of my bipartisan debt commission." That'd be the Pete Peterson-sponsored party that mostly just wanted to gut Social Security but still couldn't agree to those "principles" because some people recognized that they were evil and wouldn't support them.
"DNC Platform Change Vote Was Predetermined On Teleprompter, Delegate Voting Was Merely For Show: Controversy erupted at the DNC this week when Democratic party leaders forced a party platform change to reinstate language proclaiming Jerusalem as 'Israel's undivided capital,' and to reinstate references to God in the text. The motion had to be voted on by a two-thirds majority of the delegates for passage, and it became clear, after several vote calls by LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a major majority did NOT want the platform changed. Confused on how to proceed, the Mayor looked to a woman who came out and advised him, 'Just keep going, they're going to do what they are going to do.' The mayor then pronounced, 'in the opinion of the chair, two-thirds have voted in the affirmative,' provoking boos from the large crowd. Well, now Fox News is showing footage of the DNC teleprompter the Mayor was reading from. It shows that the two-thirds majority needed for the passage of the motion had been predetermined by party leaders, with complete disregard for how the delegates actually voted. Apparently, they forgot to tell the Mayor in advance that the vote was merely for show; that the only results that mattered were written on the teleprompter." Ah, Democracy.
Boy, Mike Flannigan has really had it with Obama. And, yet, he still can't tell that Obama is not "a moderate Republican", but a pretty far-right Republican.
Meanwhile, Scripps News had to walk back a take-down order against NASA (that YouTube complied with!) on footage of NASA scientists celebrating Curiosity's landing. "Congress sought to achieve a balanced process with the DMCA's takedown regime. Some critics charge that regime was already too favorable to copyright holders. But with Content ID, YouTube has allowed major content companies to opt out of even the minimal safeguards of the DMCA. Content ID gives content companies the power to unilaterally remove content. There's no apparent penalty for those who take down content carelessly or recklessly."
Now, I can feel another rant about the public-private Third Way censorship regime bubbling up; however, I'm somehow unable to put it into coherent sentences as yet. But I'd love to ask Declan McCullagh if this is what he was aiming for....
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Because of the holiday, there was no Virtually Speaking Sundays this week, but Culture of Truth did write his Most Ridiculous Thing about the Sunday's talk shows, and Jay Ackroyd recorded it here. The audio of Stuart Zechman's Z-Files: Extremists has also been posted at BTR. The unexpurgated text is here. (And after you check that out, a note on your infinitely cunning Democratic Party.) Also posted, Stuart's Z-Files on Equivalence - you know, there is false equivalence, but there's also real equivalence? And the full text is here.
David Dayen says the Democratic Party's platform on housing is dishonest nonsense: "The Republican platform on housing at least had the honesty to reject principal reduction. The Democrats pretend it doesn't exist. And they certainly don't appear to show any awareness of the continuing damage caused by the mortgage industry. Republicans mentioned that they don't want to unfairly advantage homeowners vis-a-vis renters, and they re-upped a commitment to low-income housing. There's absolutely nothing of that here. This platform plank borders on the offensive."
There are several interesting things about this editorial of a few weeks ago, one of which is that Mississippi voters firmly rejected an abortion ban - and, of course, legislators ignored them and passed one anyway. A federal court blocked it, but what interested me is that Glenn Greenwald drew the article to my attention as an example of The New York Times publishing something liberal about abortion. It's such weak tea it hardly qualifies as liberal, but at least it isn't foaming at the mouth against abortion, which I guess in these bizarre times is very nearly "liberal".
"Desmond Tutu: Why I had no choice but to spurn Tony Blair [...] On what grounds do we decide that Robert Mugabe should go the International Criminal Court, Tony Blair should join the international speakers' circuit, bin Laden should be assassinated, but Iraq should be invaded, not because it possesses weapons of mass destruction, as Mr Bush's chief supporter, Mr Blair, confessed last week, but in order to get rid of Saddam Hussein?"
We have a long history of disliking John Solomon, going back to his days as a "reporter" for The Washington Post and AP. It seems he has continued to be fishy.
The pace of Wall Street's war against the 99% is quickening in preparation for the kill. Having demonized public employees for being scheduled to receive pensions on their lifetime employment service, bondholders are insisting on getting the money instead. It is the same austerity philosophy that has been forced on Greece and Spain - and the same that is prompting President Obama and Mitt Romney to urge scaling back Social Security and Medicare.
Unlike the U.S. federal government, most states and cities have constitutions that prevent them from running budget deficits. This means that when they cut property taxes, they either must borrow from the wealthy, or cut back employment and public services.
For many years they borrowed, paying tax-exempt interest to wealthy bondholders. But carrying charges on these have mounted to a point where they now look risky as the economy sinks into debt deflation. Cities are defaulting from California to Alabama. They cannot reverse course and restore taxes on property owners without causing more mortgage defaults and abandonments. Something has to give - so cities are scaling back public spending, downsizing their school systems and police forces, and selling off their assets to pay bondholders.
This has become the main cause of America's rising unemployment, helping drive down consumer demand in a Keynesian nightmare. Less obvious are the devastating cuts occurring in health care, job training and other services, while tuition rates for public colleges and "participation fees" at high schools are soaring. School systems are crumbling like our roads as teachers are jettisoned on a scale not seen since the Great Depression.
Yet Wall Street strategists view this state and local budget squeeze as a godsend. As Rahm Emanuel has put matters, a crisis is too good an opportunity to waste - and the fiscal crisis gives creditors financial leverage to push through anti-labor policies and privatization grabs. The ground is being prepared for a neoliberal "cure": cutting back pensions and health care, defaulting on pension promises to labor, and selling off the public sector, letting the new proprietors to put up tollbooths on everything from roads to schools. The new term of the moment is "rent extraction."
Much thanks to CMike who, I guess questioning whether blacks are "more imprisoned than they've ever been", provided a link to Douglas Blackmon's presentation about his book, Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. I do recommend that you click that first link and listen to the talk if you possibly can; it's not just illuminating, but has some remarkable emotional moments. And this story is one worth bearing in mind given that today we already have cases of judges sending kids to jail so that the prison industry can make more money, and work gangs reappearing as well as many prison programs where prisoners are working for little or nothing for commercial interests, and we're even seeing more and more stories of the "workfare" version all over the country (and Boris even has one going in London). As the crusade to depress wages pushes on, varying versions of slavery are reappearing all over the "civilized" world, it seems, though so far it has usually taken a subtler form - a sort of "kinder, gentler slavery," you might say, with fine phrases to dress it up to seem like something "responsible" or frugal, rather than what it really is.
Why is the "disorganized single-mother" meme skulking around the pages of the NYT? Maybe they've all read Charles Murray's latest propaganda....
I seem to have missed this at the time, but last year Stuart Zechman wrote about the infrastructure bank scam all the "progressives" are telling us we should support.
The NYT made a calculator that doesn't include my favorite ways to improve America's fiscal health, such as a national health care system and a transparent and open process for price-setting; raising the standard deduction dramatically (so people have money to spend, thus creating demand, thus creating more jobs and more profits we can tax); lowering the retirement age to 55 (same reason); enormous taxes on enormous wealth (I figure anyone who makes a billion dollars should be paying at least 200% - they should be afraid to make that much money!); and restoring all the government-provided services to their former state of being handled directly by government employees (instead of outsourcing/privatizing or just eliminating them). Still, they do give you some options, and some people handle them better than others.
We won't get what we want just by voting for Obama anymore than women got the right to vote by voting for it.
Taibbi on Mitt's jihad against debt: "But what most voters don't know is the way Mitt Romney actually made his fortune: by borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back. This is the plain, stark reality that has somehow eluded America's top political journalists for two consecutive presidential campaigns: Mitt Romney is one of the greatest and most irresponsible debt creators of all time." (via)
Bad: "Bank of America hasn't modified one mortgage since settlement." Good: "A federal judge said Wednesday he would permanently remove harsh restrictions on third-party voter registration groups that have handicapped registration efforts in Florida this year. U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle said he would grant a motion to permanently remove the restrictions once he receives confirmation that a federal appeals court has dismissed the case (the state of Florida has agreed to dismiss their appeal)."
Believe it or not, every year there's a contest to interpret a T-shirt design into a cake. Here's an entry from this year, Bad Bad Walker. And this one is so beautiful it's hard to believe the creator could bring herself to eat it afterwards.
And, finally, congratulations to Stuart Zechman and his Lovely Bride on the birth of a baby woman!
Every Democrat or "lefty" who never fell in love with a Clinton or Obama, or who continues to View With Alarm the behavior of the Democratic Party, gets asked the question. The answer is at least more interesting and more constructive than the latest Red Alert about something Sarah Palin said or how evil the Republicans are. Here's one answer from Bruce Dixon at Black Agenda Report:
We know who and what the Republican party is. Back in the mid 1960s, when Democratic president Lyndon Johnson, under relentless pressure from the Freedom Movement embraced enforcement of the Voting Rights Act in the South, Republicans opened their doors wide to welcome the exodus of white supremacist voters and politicians who'd been Democrats until that time. The modern Republican party re-made itself into the permanent white man's party not just in the South, but across the country, the party whose brands are rancid racism, pretentious piety, monstrous misogyny and shameless warmongering.
When you match Republican brands against those of Democrats, who claim to stand for tolerance on racial and sexual fronts, who cloak their imperial wars in the garb of "humanitarian interventions,'" but who agree with Republicans that wealthy corporations do have the right to rule over us, that presidents possess the right to imprison, torture or kill us at a whim, the difference isn't black and white, but it's clear enough. The Republican brand is odious and deeply scary, easily more frightening than that of Democrats.
In today's political ecology, the job of Republicans is to provide political camouflage to right wing Democrats like the last two Democratic presidents Clinton and Obama, by moving still further rightward, even past the boundaries of lunacy. When Bill Clinton was busy passing NAFTA and ending welfare as we knew it, both measures tried and failed at by Bush 1, Newt Gingrich provided covering babble about taking poor children from their homes. While Barack Obama offered to put Medicare and social security on the deficit cutting table and enacted a so-called "Affordable Care Act" first passed as an insurance company bailout by Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in 2004, Republicans threaten the piecemeal repeal of Rove V. Wade and cuts to unemployment compensation.
The fact is that 120% evil Republicans offer the only justification for our support of 100% evil Democrats. And with the dissolution of what used to be the black consensus for equality, civil liberties, full funding for public education, and opposing war spending and corporate privilege, Obama-era Democrats continue to flee rightward toward war, privatization and austerity.
This deformed puzzle is not the political logic of free and responsible people. It's the cramped and twisted reasoning of someone trapped in a box urgently trying to convince himself that it's not really a box, that pragmatic acceptance of the box as the whole of the great and free universe is really all that can be hoped, struggled and strived for. It's not. Only a beaten, cowed and enslaved people can imagine their forbears sacrificed and struggled for them to choose among greater and lesser, but both still monstrous evils.
We at Black Agenda Report spend more time denouncing Democrats because they act like and enable Republicans. We don't spend as much time denouncing the party of white supremacy because Republicans rarely bother to pretend to be anything else. African Americans haven't voted Republican in 50 years. But we're more unemployed than we've been in seventy years, and more imprisoned than we've ever been.
Dixon recommends getting out of the two-party, lesser-evil box and preparing for something new. I don't know how to do that, but I do know that blacks and whites alike are "more unemployed than we've been in seventy years, and more imprisoned than we've ever been," and I'm horrified at every "progressive" who somehow thought it was more important to defend Obama's presidency than to defend the Democratic Party and the nation against this rightward push, to the point where even primary challenges to bad Democrats were out of the question. Paul Ryan and other Republican Horrors are people who the Democratic leadership actively protected against real challenges in their districts. The only reason there are any Republicans in Congress from New York is that the Democratic leadership makes sure that happens.
Dixon is right: The Republicans are giving the Obamacrats cover to pass a right-wing agenda. The Democratic leadership may give - or even believe (how stupid can you be?) - different reasons for why they have to pass that agenda, but it's been the right-wing agenda for longer than I've been alive (and, to be honest, back to colonial days), and it is being effected for them by Barack Hussein Obama and his band of Third Way Tories. We should be just as afraid of them as we are of the Republicans. (Nice editorial cartoon there, by the way.)
You'd think it was time for some high-profile legislator to call for breaking up the big banks. And higher capital requirements for big financial institutions. And Bernie Sanders has, of course. And Sherrod Brown. But you might be surprised at who else is calling for a break-up of TBTF banks.
David Sirota notices a a curious turn in advertising: "One spot for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (read: the casinos) shows a woman climbing onto her desk to demand a vacation. Another for McDonald's implores us to fight back against employers and 'overthrow the working lunch.' Still another for a Coca-Cola subsidiary seizes on the stress of harsh working conditions to create buzz for a branded 'Take the Year Off' contest. 'Marketers are adopting the theme of workers' rights at a time when unions themselves are confronting declines in membership and influence,' notes the Times. 'In effect, some labor experts say, they are turning a pro-worker theme on its head to serve the corporate interest.'" He calls it "workerwashing" - like greenwashing, only different.
Every now and then I'm brought up short by the realization that a lot of people still don't know what Third Way is, even though they regard themselves as well-informed. To some it even sounds a bit like conspiracy theory. It might be useful to point them to the piece Yves wrote last year explaining that these people, who run the Democratic Party these days, are committed to institutionalized looting.
I see (via) there's a deadline coming up for all sorts of musicians who have stuff streaming somewhere online to collect their royalties from SoundExchange. Let your musician friends know before 15 October.
David Waldman (KagroX) joined Jay Ackroyd on Virtually Speaking Sundays to discuss the "origins and logic of voter suppression, voter ID efforts, drawing upon military history; Rep.Todd Akin's 'black magical' assertions that 'legitimate rape' does not result in pregnancy; media non-coverage of false claims and assertions made by political campaigns and possible remedies." Jo Paoletti, an associate professor at my alma mater, talked about gender identity on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd.
While everyone is defending Obama against Naill Ferguson's spurious claims (and many are noting that Ferguson makes a habit of talking rubbish in the service of his masters), Dean Baker notes that Obama's critic's missed a bet: "But Ferguson got the nature of the failure wrong. Obama and his economic team, like the rest of the economics profession, badly underestimated the severity of the downturn. Being world class economists it was too difficult for them to recognize something as simple as an $8 trillion housing bubble and to understand the damage that would be done by its deflation. They certainly deserve to be haranged for that, but unfortunately all of Ferguson's friends would be equally guilty on this count." And it's much the same with all of Obama's other failures - no Republican will ever point them out in a straightforward manner, because those failures are, in every way, right-wing successes.
Susie says, "We Could Use Some Pussy Riots Here in the U.S.A." Aye, and everywhere. I was reminded, though, that Peter Tatchell also put his body where his mouth is and outraged the citizenry by protesting in the pulpit against the then-Archbishop of Canterbury's attitude toward gays, interrupting his Easter sermon. He only faced a maximum possible two months of incarceration and a £200 fine, but the judge was clearly not sympathetic to that idea and fined him a derisory £18.60, which most of us assume was a pointed reference to the year the law was passed. (I am proud to say that I personally wrote the check - er, cheque - to pay the fine, on behalf of Feminists Against Censorship.) Although I've had my arguments with Peter, we've usually been on the same side and I've always admired his courage. Although he's suffered many verbal and physical attacks (the media even put his private address on our television screens at one point while they were having a go at him), had his flat firebombed and been personally injured, he doesn't stop. He is well-known to the public for his activism on behalf of the LGBT community, but his horizons are larger than that.
Suddenly, everyone from James Fallows to Garance Franke-Ruta to Alec MacGillis to Jay Rosen to The Economist is worried about "balancing" lies with facts. Or, more to the point, dealing generally with lies. Fallows thinks the lying has finally gotten so far out of hand that some members of the press are beginning to think maybe...well, something. But even people on the right are getting pissed off with it.
Freedom? Liberty? No issue could be more symbolic of that, nor more fundamental. Where have the Democrats been on it? Nowhere. Charles Pierce on "The Democrats' Problem with Abortion: What Happened to the Pro-Choice Movement Anyway? [...] I would like to see the Democratic Party make a national campaign issue out of the fact that this perfectly legal medical procedure is unavailable to women wishing to exercise their legitimate constitutional rights to it in most of the nation. I would like to see the Democratic Party make a national campaign issue out of repealing the Hyde Amendment, which never made any sense in the first place, and which makes sense only if I can withhold that part of my taxes that go to pay for Antonin (Short Time) Scalia's salary. I would like to see the Democratic Party make a national campaign issue out of the fact that the real target here is not, and never has been, Roe v. Wade. It has been, and always will be, Griswold v. Connecticut. It is axiomatic among movement conservatives that the right to privacy derived from the Bill of Rights in that decision is a constitutional fiction and an example of unfortunate liberal judicial overreach. The sudden, bizarre attack on contraception this year didn't come from nowhere; that was the issue over which Griswold was decided. I would like to see the Democratic Party make a national campaign issue out of the fact that an assault on a woman's right to privacy over her reproductive decisions is the first step in the assault on your right to be private in any and all decisions you make. (Again, if you disagree, I suggest you take it up with Planned Parenthood.) I would like to see the Democratic Party make a national campaign issue out of the fact that, the recent events at the Family Research Council aside, only one side of this dispute has a legitimate body count. Only one side is clearly possessed of a violent, terrorist fringe. That ought to matter. Eric Rudolph ought to be as much a part of this ongoing debate as Sandra Fluke has been (and continues to be)." (My emphasis added.)
Atrios goes a little longer than usual to talk about the idea that the poor have it too good. And this goes back to something I want to emphasize, about how southern conservative legislators keep making their constituents poorer and those constituents vote for them in response, because if you can make white people resentful that they're not getting more help when, allegedly, "certain minorities" are getting much more help, they're going to really resent that idea of "government handouts" - even though, in reality, they are getting those very same handouts. The perception that Obama must be doing things especially to help poor blacks because he is black is one that seems to hold particularly well with these people, despite the fact that Obama clearly could not care less about blacks or the poor if he tried.
Will Bunch anticipates bad weather: "That said, the postponement/cancellation of a national political convention would be a big deal because...not a single person would miss it, and that could mean the end of future conventions as we know them, starting in 2016. There is a solution: Move the RNC to where it should have been all along: Sheldon Adelson's Venetian casino in Vegas (actually, Adelson's casino in Macao would have been better, but as Mitt Romney could tell you, "offshoring" takes time!). After all, Adelson is one of the only three voters Romney and Paul Ryan care about, along with Charles and David Koch. Wouldn't it be great to see the R&R Boys entering the convention on a gondola on one of those fake canals. Todd Akin could paddle."
People are having to fight big, thieving corporations when they have no money to hire lawyers. There's no money for public defenders. There's a real crisis in the courts, and people are having to be their own lawyers without legal training. (via)
Jay sent me another picture from a slideshow he says he's working on - click on it for a larger image. If it was me, I'd remove the dividing line in that top triangle and just make it "Neocons & Neoliberals". I also wonder where the rank-and-file Republicans who identify as "conservative" but support New Deal programs and are really much more mainstream in their views on social issues generally fit in this model. They may think of themselves as Christian but they don't identify with the "Christian" right, they don't actually care much about gays or abortion, and they think everyone is entitled to health care. They're Republican because their parents were and they always have been and they don't identify with the hippies they think of as liberal and, like everyone, they despise the bloodless centrists who are represented on television as "liberals". Some of them still remember, and hate, the corrupt Dixicrats of old. You see them all the time in poll numbers and once in a great while see them quoted, but almost everyone talks like they don't really exist. (In fact, when I refer to them here, I often get a "Guest" commenting that such people don't exist. But, again, someone is answering poll questions and voting Republican who corresponds to this description, and in real life, I actually do talk to these people from time to time. They may disagree with me completely on certain rhetorical pathways, but when it comes to issues, they are not really much farther right than I am.)
Wielding the People: "As though the people in question were a stick. I've seen some seriously nasty efforts to bully people into voting for the Blue Plate Special, but this year's Democratic hystrionics are way off the scale. The surface problem is obvious. As Bill Fletcher, Jr. observed, advocacy based on the Democratic record collapses under the weight of its own stench. There's no positive record to work with. The "nice" brand of advocacy has to take the form of pleas to participate in deranged comparison shopping. This is not just any lemon, ladies and gentlemen, this is a genuine proletarian lemon, certified by veterans of Students for a Democratic Society. It's far superior to the bourgeois wingnut lemon. It enhances your unique sense of self. The neighbors will feel like fools when you drive off the cliff in style."
Ta-Nehisi Coates on Obama's (Perceived) Transformation: "During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama earned the G.O.P.'s mockery. Now he has earned their fear. It is an ambiguous feat, accomplished by going to the dark side, by walking the G.O.P.'s talk, by becoming the man Dick Cheney fashioned himself to be."
John Quiggin has noticed the marketing of the generation game and says, convincingly, I think, that it's really no more than the age-old formula of complaining about the moral degeneration of the young and the errors of the old(er). Although, since someone had to leap in and say the article was incomplete without throwing a heap of blame at the Boomers, I was interested in this counter-theory from Josh G. at 26: "What you are probably thinking of as 'baby boomers' in the Tea Party context is actually in large part a previous cohort, the Silent Generation (born 1925-1945). This is the 'keep your government hands off my Medicare' crowd. Too young to fight in WWII, too old for Vietnam. With the exception of early childhood (where some of them went through the Depression), they basically lived a charmed life, entering the job market when wages were skyrocketing far faster than inflation, even for workers with only a high school diploma. And if they did want to go to college, it was usually cheap or free. They bought houses when they were dirt cheap and interest rates were low, and got to sell them at far higher prices once they moved into their empty-nest phase. But, like most people, they convinced themselves that their success was all their own doing (nothing to do with the New Deal and Keynesianism!) As soon as they were done with the universities, they voted to de-fund them for the next generation. They gladly accepted two-tier labor deals that would screw over younger workers. They voted for Ronald Reagan. They outsourced jobs and jacked up credential requirements, forcing their successors to work harder for lower pay than they ever had. No wonder the Republicans think they can pull their 'over-55' switcheroo with Medicare; the Silent Generation has been willing to sell out their children and grandchildren every other step of the way."
Dean Baker catches the WaPo again, with their new vocabulary using the word "tweak" to mean cuts in Social Security.
"Assange and Wikileaks: the basics [...] What Assange did, with Wikileaks, was engage in actual journalism. He was the last attempt to play under the rules of the current, corrupt system. What Wikileaks did was straight up journalism, no different than the Pentagon papers. Immediately afterwards, VISA, Mastercard and PayPal shut down all donations to Wikileaks, despite the fact that Wikileaks had been convicted of no crime. If an individual or organization can be shut out of the modern payments without any legal procedings, then there is no rule of law that matters. It is impossible to live in the modern world beyond a subsistence level if one is shut out of the electronic payments system. [...] Britain itself has given asylum to people accused of far, far worse crimes than Assange, and yet they are willing to trash the Asylum system over this? This isn't about sexual misconduct. Anyone who is stupid enough to think that anyone not named Assange would have caused Britain to threaten to violate an embassy is too stupid to be allowed out in public." Chris FLoyd reckons the US will go after Ecuador.
Private justice: How Hollywood money put a Brit behind bars: " [...] This is a new development for anti-piracy efforts. Organizations like the MPAA, RIAA, IFPA, and FACT have long lobbied law enforcement officials to prosecute 'rogue sites' and have provided them with information and logistical support to do so. But public prosecutors generally have the final say on who will be indicted. In the Vickerman case, the public prosecutors concluded that there wasn't enough evidence to merit prosecution. FACT disagreed and invoked what one lawyer told us is an 'archaic right' for a private organization to bring criminal prosecutions against other private parties." Needless to say, you need money to launch an investigation like this - and to defend against one. Freezing the victim's assets meant that, among other things, he couldn't even pay his ordinary bills. And then there is that little conflict-of-interest business....
Stuart Zechman and Jay Ackroyd discussed "neocons, where they came from, what they believe, and how they fit into the Conservative, Liberal, Centrist triangle that controls US policy and politics" on Virtually Speaking A-Z. I'll have to listen to this a couple more times to figure out whether this means the neocons are neoliberals are centrists or not. (I have odd technical difficulties listening to Blog Talk Radio live, lately - I think it's some unexplained packet-loss, but who knows?) I expect I will still come down (with Gaius Publius) to thinking that it's the same product with two different versions and targeted advertising campaigns. Even if it hadn't been true before, it's clear that as of 9/11, the crazy right-wing ex-trots had A Two-President, Three-Term Policy Coup in the service of an ideology most people would be appalled by. Wesley Clark thinks it's because nobody knew what to do after 9/11, but obviously, somebody got just what they wanted. Whatever it is, they sure didn't like the hippies, but they liked the Likudniks just fine.
And, of course, there is Social Security, which Eric Laursen (The People's Pension) discussed on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd. Laursen says the biggest danger to Social Security isn't the Republicans, whose position is well-known, but the "center-right" (or just "centrist", according to them) Democrats who are so thoroughly absorbed in the "Social Security failure" ideology.
Yes, you hear a lot (especially from "progressives") about "adverse selections", but the real profit model of insurance companies is not paying out, even if they have to pay a phalanx of lawyers and other professionals to make sure they don't.
Yves on: Washington state Supreme Court smacks down MERS: "Today, Washington State, which is a non-judical foreclosure state, gave MERS a serious setback. Its finding in Bain v. Metropolitan Mortgage, that MERS may not foreclose in Washington, is not as bad as it sounds, since MERS instructed in servicers to stop foreclosing in its name in 2011. But the reasoning of the ruling is far more damaging. And the court has opened up new grounds for litigation against MERS in Washington, in determining that it false claim to be a beneficiary under a deed of trust is a deception under the state's Consumer Protection Act (whether that can be proven to have led to injury is a separate matter)." Quelle Surprise! SEC Plans to Make the World Safer for Fraudsters, Push Through JOBS Act Con-Artist-Friendly Solicitation Rules: "If you merely looked at the SEC's record on enforcement, you'd conclude that it suffered from a Keystone Kops-like inability to get out of its own way. The question remains whether that outcome is the result of unmotivated leadership (ex in the safe realm of insider trading cases) and long-term budget starvation leading to serious skills atrophy, or whether the SEC really, truly, is so deeply intellectually captured by the financial services industry that it thinks industry members don't engage in fraud, they only make 'mistakes'?"
Ian Welsh on Police: "Police exist primarily to protect property arrangements. The war on drugs has paramilitarized police, with a heavy emphasis on overwhelming force. While police have always considered themselves above the common herd, and have always looked after themselves first and civilians second, it's very clear that police today are much worse in this regard than they were 10 years ago, and 10 years before that, and 10 years before that. Police are well aware that they have near full immunity: they can beat people, kill people, plant evidence on people and they will, in most cases, get away with it. Even if caught on tape, the worst punishment is likely to be paid suspension." "Pinochet had women raped by dogs and Britain wouldn't extradite him. Yes, he did. So I don't want to hear anything from Britain about how important extradition is to them or how important rape accusations are."
If this guy can figure out that porn never did him any harm, I wonder why he can't take the next step, but instead says things like, "Look, we were young boys. We didn't know any different. But we weren't meant to see what we'd just seen: it should have been kept from us, until such time as we reached the maturity to see it; our plastic minds could have been damaged by what we saw, and read." Like, why should it have been kept from you? How could your "plastic minds" have been damaged? What would you have been learning about sex and women in the meantime (largely from your ignorant peers and nervous parents) that would make you prepared to see pornography at a more "appropriate" time? When are you going to admit that a lack of adequate sex education is a much greater danger than pornography?
This week's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sunday were Avedon Carol and Marcy Wheeler. Jay wanted to talk about zombie-eyed granny-starver Paul Ryan. Officially, this silliness(via) is supposed to be the press tale, but as Marcy pointed out, the staffers are distancing themselves from the Ryan pick like crazy. For my part, I'm still thinking that with almost no one trying to run cover for Romney (and even when they do, these are the worst performances on behalf of a Republican candidate ever), the people who run everything (including both parties) really aren't interested in defeating Obama, because they like him right where he is, passing right-wing policies with barely a whimper from Democrats and "progressives". (Homework links: Lizza on the ascent of Paul Ryan, Ezra saying Ryan isn't a "deficit hawk", he's an ideological crackpot who wants to privatize SSI and Medicare and, "Ryan has even sponsored legislation ending the requirement that the Federal Reserve work to achieve full employment" - that is, he's actually anti-jobs. Also, Marcy on Romney. Also, Paul Ryan's opponent.) Of course, it could just be that Romney wanted to make the story about something beside his taxes....
Last week, Stuart Zechman pointed a sentence out to me in this article about Virgil Goode's fantasy challenge to Romney: "Many supporters in Farmville support Goode for his conservative economics and social policies. He wants to eliminate foreign aid, issue a moratorium on 1.2 million green cards, and audit the Federal Reserve." Stuart noted (Time apparently doesn't want me to be able to link to individual comments anymore) that auditing the Fed is being couched as a "conservative policy" even though the audit that actually took place resulted from the Paul-Grayson amendment, and, "By December, 2010, the Fed audit bill had 100 Democratic House co-sponsors, almost all of which were Progressive Caucus members, including Dennis Kucinich, who became the 218th sponsor. The Senate's version of the Fed audit bill (S. 604) was named "Federal Reserve Sunshine Act of 2009" and introduced by Bernie Sanders, also an advocate for enforced, statutory transparency with respect to Federal Reserve policy. Leading movement liberal and left-wing economists and financial writers, such as Dean Baker, Yves Smith, Naomi Klein and Bill Black were all vociferous in their support for auditing the Federal Reserve." Of course, the right-wing just wants to be able to trash-talk the Fed in order to abolish it, but transparency for the Fed is part of the (real) liberal agenda. One reason for that is that the Fed is supposed to be trying to get full employment for Americans. That's its job. It's not doing that, and no one seems to be asking why. Interesting, isn't it, that we didnt hear anyone mention Ryan's attempt to eliminate the requirement altogether. And by "anyone", of course, I mean Democrats, who are supposed to believe in that sort of thing.
"Bill Black: Krugman Now Sees The Perversity Of Economics' 'Culture Fraud'" - Yves introduces the piece this way: "Wow, is Black fast. I had just seen the Krugman post decrying how the three academic authors of Romney's white paper on economics - Glenn Hubbard, Greg Mankiw, and John Taylor - repeatedly and aggressively misrepresented research they cited in support of their positions, and wanted to say something. As much as it's good to see Krugman call this sort of thing out, it nevertheless raises a basic question: where has he been?" Alas, we know where he's been, because in order to avoid seeing through Obama, he has had to avoid noticing this - until now. But Bill Black does supply a reminder of what makes Alan Greenspan the kind of expert we should listen to: "Similarly, a generation of American lawyers who have studied corporate law have been reading Frank Easterbrook and Daniel Fischel's assertion that: 'a rule against fraud is not an essential or ... an important ingredient of securities markets' (Easterbrook & Fischel 1991). They do not inform the reader that Fischel, in his capacity as an expert economist for Charles Keating (who looted Lincoln Savings), tried applying this fraud-free dogma in the real world. He, and Greenspan (who served as both an economist and lobbyist for Keating - Keating used Greenspan to recruit the five senators who became known as the 'Keating Five') opined that Lincoln Savings was a superb S&L with stellar management. Lincoln Savings proved to be the most expensive S&L failure and Keating the most infamous fraud."
First meeting: "In 1989 I was working at a local movie theatre. That summer Tim Burton's Batman had just opened and I was really jazzed to see it. For some reason, I was asking people leaving a showing what they thought of it and one sweet older woman was telling me how wonderful it was. Then she asked me if I read comics. With the answer of 'yes,' she took the arm of the man with her and said 'This is the man who created 'Captain America.' We shook hands and I couldn't say anything. Jack Kirby gave me a firm pat on the shoulder and said, 'Don't worry about it' in response to what I believe was my expression of total awe."
The age war is heating up, and a lot of those sharp, cynical, disaffected smarties are falling for it. One of them has been in my comments for a while now, saying stupid things about how if only the Boomers would die off, things would be fine. In response to my last post, Soullite writes:
As long as you defend boomers, no sane millenial will ever listen to you.
We know enough about the world their parents handed them. We've seen enough of the world they handed us.
Nobody cares what kind BS you have to spew in their defense.
The parents of the boomers were, by and large, born in the 20th century and doing whatever they had to in order to get by; they were not the decision-makers who "handed" a better world to the boomers. That was done by the generation that preceded "the Greatest Generation", especially one man in particular named Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt was born in 1882 and handed the parents of the boomers that comfortable, enviable world. And since then, you will find few members of any generation who will say that was a bad thing, who think Social Security Insurance was a bad idea, who disagree with Roosevelt's belief in economic freedom, good education, and health care for all.
Nor will you find many "millenials" who think it was a bad idea to oppose racism and support equal rights for all, or oppose stupid wars as so many of the boomers did.
For nearly four decades, now, the Elites have pauselessly campaigned to convince the public that Those Hippie Boomers ruined America, but millennials by and large share the very same values the boomers campaigned for.
Who is it who supports depressing wages and making students pay a lifetime's wages out of their own pockets just to get enough of an education to let them earn those wages? Not the boomers, who were just starting jobs or in college themselves when, to their horror, they heard their elders announce that from now on student aid would be morphed into student loans. And it was no boomer who decided that every male in their generation would have to worry about their draft classification and whether they would be sent off to kill or be maimed or die in some stupid war in a country most of them had never heard of before.
No, the horrible world millennials were "handed" is one that people born in 1900 and 1907 (especially) and 1911 and 1913 and 1924 and 1926 and 1932 and 1935 (and 1935) handed all of us. Although they have had some latter-day help from 1946 (twice), and 1961, the die was cast by the time they got there, and it may be important to note that we've never elected a president who was born in the great lump in the middle of the baby boom in the 1950s. (Almost - that is, we elected someone who was born in 1948, which is at least nearer to the '50s, but a funny thing happened, there, thanks in large part to 1924, 1930, and 1936.)
Thanks to FDR, the boomers paid for their parents' retirement through Social Security Insurance. They have already paid for their own, as well.
Don't you be up in my face telling me how much you hate the baby boomers just because you were told to hate them by a bunch of rich toffs who want to steal money from people who earned it so they can make us all their slaves.
You know why they want you to hate boomers and refuse to listen to their counsel? Because boomers are the last generation that remembers.
Boomers remember that free education, Social Security Insurance, and heavy public investment in infrastructure, science, and scholarship made our country rich and gave us all the opportunity to improve ourselves and our world. And that every miserly penny pinched in public expenditure on the public has made us weaker and poorer.
The Age War is a creation of the Elites, meant to manipulate you into redirecting blame. Or, as Jcapan reminds us in comments:
I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half. - Robber baron Jay Gould
Meanwhile, the Greatest Generation has been listening to Bill O'Reilly, because he is loud enough to hear.
* * * * *
Last year Jay Rosen joined Jay Ackroyd and Stuart Zechman to talk about the media. It was the week David Broder died, an event that did a great deal to highlight the insularity of the Royal Scribes in the Washington press corp. And Stuart spent another hour talking to JR about their Church of the Savvy, as Rosen calls them. These discussions were rebroadcast Sunday and deserve a fresh listen. Stream or download the podcast here.
It's true, it's been a while since I talked about how a good reason why the rich should pay more taxes is that the rich suck the most out of the trough. In every way, from municipal stuff like garbage pick-up to those giant contracts, they eat our money constantly. So, of course, they hate to see "their" money go back to the rest of us, but even more, they hate the thought of losing that gravy train. (Even so, CNBC itself is saying the rich are cash-hoarders, not job creators - and even they think taxes should be raised. I hope they mean their own taxes.)
At the Porn Trial: Britain's stupid "extreme porn" law was used by the ridiculously aggressive Crown Prosecution Service to ruin Simon Walsh's career, something the acquittal can not remedy. (I can't even believe they went so far in the Peacock case as prosecuting under the '59 Obscene Publications Act, as if anyone is left who takes the "deprave and corrupt" standard seriously.) Good to know the High Court overturned the conviction of that poor guy who tweeted about his frustration with not being able to see his girlfriend.
The Rock Bottom Remainders played Ferguson, and Craig interviewed Steve and Dave, which was fun (and now I realize just how long it's been since I've seen Steve - the last time I saw him he was a lot bigger and his hair was black). But I love the way Craig does that little George Burns thing in the beginning.
Thanks to almost zero media coverage, few of us know about a law passed this past March, severely limiting our right to protest. The silence may have been due to the lack of controversy in bringing the bill to law: Only three of our federal elected officials voted against the bill's passage. Yes, Republicans and Democrats agreed on something almost 100%.
The First Amendment to our Constitution guarantees us the rights of free speech and assembly. A fundamental purpose of our free speech guarantee is to invite dispute. Protests can and have been the catalyst for positive change. Thus while we despise that protestors can burn our flag as protected political speech, and we hate that Neo-Nazis can march down our streets, we recognize the rights of these groups to do what they do and we send our troops across the world to fight for these rights.
Last year's "occupy movement" scared the government. On March 8, President Obama signed a law that makes protesting more difficult and more criminal. The law is titled the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act, and it passed unanimously in the Senate and with only three "no" votes in the House. It was called the "Trespass Bill" by Congress and the "anti-Occupy law" by everyone else who commented.
The law "improves" public grounds by forcing people - protestors - elsewhere. It amends an older law that made it a federal crime to "willfully and knowingly" enter a restricted space. Now you will be found guilty of this offense if you simply "knowingly" enter a restricted area, even if you did not know it was illegal to do so. The Department of Homeland Security can designate an event as one of "national significance," making protests or demonstrations near the event illegal.
The law makes it punishable by up to ten years in jail to protest anywhere the Secret Service "is or will be temporarily visiting," or anywhere they might be guarding someone. Does the name Secret tell you anything about your chances of knowing where they are? The law allows for conviction if you are "disorderly or disruptive," or if you "impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions." You can no longer heckle or "boo" at a political candidate's speech, as that would be disruptive.
After you swallow all of this and correctly conclude that it is now very easy to be prosecuted for virtually any public protest, you should brace yourself and appreciate that it is even worse. Today, any event that is officially defined as a National Special Security Event has Secret Service protection. This can include sporting events and concerts.
The timing of the law was not coincidental. The bill was presented to the Senate, after House passage, on November 17, 2011, during an intense nationwide effort to stop the Occupy Wall Street protests. Two days before, hundreds of New York police conducted a raid on the demonstrators' encampment in Zucotti Park, shutting it down and placing barricades.
This law chips away our First Amendment rights. Its motivation is 100 percent politically based, as it was designed to silence those who would protest around politicians giving speeches. Both Republicans and Democrats agreed they did not want hecklers at their rallies. If you want to protest a politician speaking to a crowd now, you can do so maybe a half mile or so away.
And that puts it far better than Salon did last March.
* * * * *
How is it that, magically, the prosecutors fail to make the case? The SEC is corrupt, and that's a very, very bad thing.
I see Paul Compos is on the generational warfare bandwagon. The weird thing is that the things "the Boomers" are supposedly responsible for - in this case, myths they (by which we really mean a few quite privileged people) tell young people - are things that Boomers heard from their parents in The Greatest Generation. These are memes that go back to the Bible - it's always the fault of the old or the fault of "these kids today", but never the fault of the people who actually were in a position to do something about it. Gee, I wonder how that happens?
Matt Taibbi: "Bank of America: Too Crooked to Fail: The bank has defrauded everyone from investors and insurers to homeowners and the unemployed. So why does the government keep bailing it out?"
It's Hip! It's Cool! It's Libertarianism!: "Libertarianism isn't some cutting-edge political philosophy that somehow transcends the traditional 'left to right' spectrum. It's a radical, hard-right economic doctrine promoted by wealthy people who always end up backing Republican candidates, no matter how often they talk about civil liberties, ending the wars and legalizing pot. Funny how that works." Libertarians think it's oppression when the government pays for your health care, but freedom when your boss monitors your every move and can fire you on a whim. (via)
A man walks into a house of worship and starts shooting. Six people die before the police take him down. It dominates the media for days with people discussing the causes of these horrible mass shootings with passion. Oh, wait, it doesn't.
At the top of comments, Echo has a message saying, "This commenting widget will be discontinued on October 1st, 2012." So, I'm looking into moving to Blogger. I opened up a new blog under the new style (because the built-in comments seem pretty simple and comparatively clean), and I can't find the code (like I could with the old style) for the template, and I haven't figured out how to put in a blogroll, and I don't see a way to change the date and time of the post, or any of the other things I could do on the old version of Blogger. It looks like I'm just going to have to lose the old comments - I can export the existing comments into an .xml file (Echo claims), but making it all work online seems problematic at best, even if I had an army of elves to do it for me. Getting the basics right would be nice, however, so any help (I'm looking at you, Steve) would be greatly appreciated.
Melissa Thomasson spoke about the history of our health insurance system on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd (and a bit of help from Stuart Zechman). You can also read her paper "Health Insurance in the United States" online, listen to her on This American Life, or watch her here. It's unfortunate that she spends so much time around economists who pretend there is something about the American character that we go to the doctor in a different way than people elsewhere do.
"Pussy Riot: will Vladimir Putin regret taking on Russia's cool women punks? [...] For two very full, very long days in Moscow, I have talked constantly to people about Pussy Riot. About how, back in February, three young women from a feminist punk-rock band sang a song in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. How they were arrested, imprisoned, refused bail, and now face up to seven years in jail. How the orders for this seem to have come right from the very top of the Russian government. And how their trial - starting tomorrow - seems certain to become a defining moment in Putin's political career." Thanks to Dan (of) for providing the link down in comments - he reckons the American media will ignore the importance of this story completely, but CMike says The Christian Science Monitorcuts to the chase. And the Guardian has The Pussy Riot trial - in pictures.
Once again, we are forced to wonder why Republicans are so prone to voter fraud.
How the RIAA "defends" artists: "The record labels that successfully sued The Pirate Bay for millions on the grounds that the network had infringed upon artists' copyrights have announced that it will not share any of the money it receives from the suit with those artists. Instead, the money will be used to bankroll more 'enforcement' -- that is, salaries and fees for people who work for the industry association."
Early color photos: "In the early part of the 20th century French-Jewish capitalist Albert Kahn set about to collect a photographic record of the world, the images were held in an 'Archive of the Planet'. Before the 1929 stock market crash he was able to amass a collection of 180,000 metres of b/w film and more than 72,000 autochrome plates, the first industrial process for true colour photography."
People have a lot of stupid ideas about the vast riches that recipients of disability, or welfare, or SSI have to roll in, but the thing that gets me is that you don't have to press too hard to get these people to tell you that they assume those recipients are precisely the people they wouldn't want to hire and sure don't want to work with. If you really think someone is lazy, shiftless, a doddering old fool or whatever other stereotype you impart to "losers", there's no way you want them working with you. "They don't want to work," you hear them say, and when they insist that such people should just "get a job," well, what do they think such people could contribute to their workplace? What I know is that the world is full of people who don't fare well in the workplace, who are inept at office politics, don't have whatever attitude is fashionable at the moment, don't even know how to dress the part, and though they may be very bright indeed, they end up losing jobs because they simply don't fit in. And the people who force them out of those jobs don't seem to worry much about where they will go next. To another place where they are unwanted? To a cardboard box in the sewers? To your office? Whether they are bright but inept at the office game or simply lazy people who "don't want to work", just what is the virtue of torturing them and those around them by forcing them to search for jobs they will function poorly at and ultimately lose? Personally, it seems to me that in an ideal world, it would be a jolly good thing to have the government pay people who can't function in the workplace to stay out of the way of those who are trying to get things done. Who knows, maybe if they had a guaranteed living income and could just sit around reading or playing games on their own, they could come up with some bright idea that would create jobs for other people who, you know, want to work. Hell, the worst that could happen is that a bunch of "losers" would be spending money in the economy and creating demand.
The other day when Sam Seder was talking to Matt Taibbi on The Majority Report, he referred to a Glenn Greenwald post on the Imperial Reporter himself ("I say this with all sincerity. If I had to pick just a single fact that most powerfully reflects the nature of America's political and media class in order to explain the cause of the nation's imperial decline, it would be that, in those classes, Tom Friedman is the country's most influential and most decorated 'foreign policy expert.'"), and down at the bottom of that post, the audio of an interview Friedman gave during his book tour in New Zealand, where a well-known host gave him a whole show's worth of rope to hang himself with. His performance of speciousness and short-sighted rhapsodizing is itself amazing, but it's worth listening all the way through to the end where she makes him completely lose his composure by asking him how rich he is, and how much tax he thinks a rich person should pay. For someone who purports to be some sort of policy maven, he really sounds stupid when it comes to the "complex" nature of taxation. (And, for a bonus, The sociopathy of Thomas L. Friedman: A compendium.) Sammy has also talked this week to Eliot Spitzer about Timothy Geithner and LIBOR, and to Neil Barofsky, "the first Inspector General of the TARP program... to talk about his new book Bailout: An Insider Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street. Turns out Tim Geithner was more focused on rescuing banks than homeowners."
Opening ceremonies: Of course, you know I loved it when Danny Boyle made a big deal of one of Britain's true crowning jewels, the NHS (and then showed it menaced by Dementors who looked to me just like Thatcher and Blair and Cameron and Osborn - and a bit like Norman Tebbit, of course). Perhaps less obvious to you, I loved it that Boyle or his camera crew or whoever made the decision lingered on that big bell so long and so often, and showed it from the back, where the name of its makers was engraved. That wasn't supposed to happen, because unlike all the other brand names you're seeing, the Whitechapel Bell Foundry was not a corporate sponsor, but simply a local firm that was hired to make a bell (as is often the case with big, national events). That small, family-owned local firm is, of course, the oldest manufacturing company in the UK (est. 1570) and the original makers of the two most famous bells in the world - the Liberty Bell and Big Ben. (But not this bell.) Kudos to Boyle et al. for giving such a showcase to the work of simple working people, both in symbolism and reality. (Lots of photos here from the day.) Meanwhile, U.K. military at Olympics outnumber U.K. troops in Afghanistan.
"Reporters Know What the 'Voter ID' Push Is Really About. Why Don't They Just Say So? This is not simply another gratuitously partisan act by the GOP. This is an attack on the very notion of democracy. The voter ID push, along with intimidation of voter registration groups and purges of voter rolls have only one goal: blocking legitimate but probably Democratic voters from exercising their constitutional rights. It is a poll tax with a new twist. [..] And the pursuit of this goal ostensibly in the name of voter fraud is an outrageous deception that only works if the press is too timid to call it what it really is. For reporters to treat this issue like just another political squabble is journalistic malpractice. Indeed, relating the debate in value-neutral he-said-she-said language is actively helping spread the lie. After all, calling for someone to show ID before voting doesn't sound pernicious to most people, even though it is. And raising the bogus issue of voter fraud at all stokes fear. 'Even if you say there is no fraud, all people hear is 'fraud fraud fraud',' said Lawrence Norden, a lawyer at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. [...] All reporters should get every candidate they can on the record about the issue of ballot access, make it clear to readers whether those candidates want to make voting easier or harder, and then assert the simple truth that there is no plausible justification for making it more difficult to vote, other than partisan trickery at the expense of the rights of minorities and the poor."
Familiar territory: Anyone who has been paying attention knows that the GOP has a long history of voter suppression and is perfectly happy to do anything, legal or illegal, to keep likely Democratic voters from having their votes counted. The list of methods is long. The fact that they have proudly admitted to it isn't really news. And yet, people still call you a conspiracy theorist if you point it out. (Also: Why the right-wing hates Elizabeth Warren (because they don't understand that capitalism can't exist without regulation), and a toon about ALEC.)
Most of this about McCain is true, but it goes back much farther than the '90s, and signing on to "liberal" (ish) causes was more a matter of burnishing his deeply-soiled (S&L scandal) image than of being reasonable, mavericky, or anything else. He needed to make "integrity" points and McCain-Feingold was harmless.
Dean Baker was the guest on this week's Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd, talking about his book, The End of Loser Liberalism (freely available online here), and how the government has ceased to function as a trusted third party - a necessity for healthy capitalism. (Question you should ask the next time someone gives you a load of libertoonian market-worship: Do you believe that the numbers at the gas pump should be true? If it says it's giving you a gallon, should it be an actual gallon? How do you prove it? Who should make that happen?) (And I can't tell you how gratifying it is to have Dean Baker around to emphasize the point I've been making since the beginning: that talking about "big government" vs. "small government" is a right-wing frame that liberals should question at every turn.) And, of course, patents as government-enforced monopolies, and the extraordinarily high price of medical products. And the things we could do to fix the present mess.
"The Verizon squeeze play: Verizon is consciously making DSL less attractive just as they've signed a new co-marketing arrangement with cable - driving unwanted DSL users into the arms of cable operators, with the understanding they can sell these users more expensive LTE connections later." Charter schools - as Sam Seder observed on The Majority Report, if a scandal of these proportions was exposed at a public school, libertarians would be saying it proved we should get rid of public schools. But it's a charter school, so...crickets. (Also, Sam goes after Peter Orszag's stupid idea of privatizing the US Post Office, and talks about voter suppression. - and Thursday he talked to Matt Taibbi. )
Constable Savage: "Since 1990, 1433 people have died in police custody or after police 'contact' ...and not one police officer has been convicted of a criminal offense."
There is something special about a man who is such a dolt he can be made a laughingstock by Boris Johnson. I think the people who run the Republican Party really wanted to make sure that Obama gets his second term.
As a time out from the breathless excitement generated by the ongoing battle to force Mitt Romney to produce his pre-2010 tax returns, perhaps, our sophisticated, leading-light progressives might kill some time wondering what they're going to do if they either eventually do, or in the end do not, get them. It seems like they could be spending some of the meantime working on a "vision thing" message of their own.
Here's a link to another quote that like-wise laid out the neo-liberal vision rather clearly a while back and which I'm sure I heard long before 1991. In stripped down, and updated form, I remember it as having been along the lines of:
The problem with the economy always is that the destitute [and those working people who are a couple of missed pay checks away from ruin] have too much money and the rich not enough.
Maybe something along the lines of: In a democracy, when the few succeed in concentrating too much of the wealth of a nation into their own hands, that inevitably leads first to political failure and then to economic depression.
"Are Some Republicans Just So Horrible That You Have To Support Crappy Democratic Opponents? The DCCC has been pretty successful in getting 'independent' Beltway organizations to fight their battles for them. Perfect example: what progressive could possibly look at Patrick Murphy-- a wealthy, lifelong Republican who was contributing money to Mitt Romney's campaign not all that long ago but who switched party registration in order to win a seat in Congress-- and think, 'oh, yes, I want to support him and contribute my money to him?' Saturday one of the top Democratic Party officials in the state of Florida, a progressive, called me to talk about another congressional race. Afterwards I asked her what she thought about Murphy. 'Oh, he's awesome,' was her response. I asked her why. She suddenly realized who she was talking to and backtracked a little. 'Well,' she said, 'he can certainly raise a lot of money.' Yes, that's awesome! She admitted he was likely to vote with the Republicans an awful lot-- particularly against progressive approaches to economic issues."
Atrios points to a remarkable story in the Guardian in which a Tory Minister says that, since paying tradesmen with cash allows them to collect off the record (and therefore avoid taxes), it is morally wrong to pay your plumber with cash. Atrios points to the repugnant morality of such a focus, but think about that for a minute: He's saying it's immoral to pay your plumber with the Queen's coin. With actual money. Because, you know, you are morally required to let banks (the height of morality) handle your money and move it around (and charge fees for that). Of course, they want us to blame plumbers rather than the real miscreants who have offshored enough money to pay every debt in the OECD and then some. These are terrible, terrible people. (More here.)
Police arrested actors for spilling custard, say Olympic protesters: Former Games commissioner says 25 officers took performers away in handcuffs at demonstration against sponsorship. The former London 2012 "ethics tsar" Meredith Alexander has accused police of an "Olympic-sized overreaction", saying they broke up a theatre performance designed to highlight the problems of corporate sponsorship of the Games and arrested six people on suspicion of criminal damage for spilling custard. [...] Three of those arrested were actors in the performance, the other three were in the process of cleaning up the custard, which had been poured over the actors."
"Departing IMF Economist Blast's Fund" - Too bad the ones with the most conscience and competence - and the cleanest hands - are the ones who leave, and then speak up when it's too late.
Stuart Zechman has pointed out to me that the subject of changing the number of Representatives in the House was brought up two years ago by Brainwrap, but I haven't seen it raised again. I also found this: "By the end of 1789 there were 64 Representatives in the House. And the census of 1790 showed 3,929,326 people. This would have each representing 61,396 people on average." Meanwhile, "Things are even worse now than they were."
Ralph Nader says there are growing doubts about advertising. (I always thought the most important advertising in my local paper was the stuff that told me about sales at local stores and had some coupons you could cut out.)
The only constitutional rule relating to the size of the House says: "The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand." Congress regularly increased the size of the House to account for population growth until it fixed the number of voting House members at 435 in 1911. The number was temporarily increased to 437 in 1959 upon the admission of Alaska and Hawaii (seating one representative from each of those states without changing existing apportionment), and returned to 435 four years later, after the reapportionment consequent to the 1960 census."
Most of you probably know this, of course - we occasionally hear it alluded to - but how did such an anti-democratic move, making it possible for a single representative to have a constituency in the hundreds of thousands, pass? And why is there no continuing debate on this issue? Is it really just that no one can imagine fitting them all in the Capitol Building?
Think about this for a minute: If you are running for Congress and trying to get the votes of 30,000 people, you might have a decent chance at winning even without spending millions of dollars on heavy advertising - you and your personal staff might be able to door-step everyone in your district for a talk about your positions and what their needs and concerns really are. You might be able to cover your district in even less time by throwing relatively small block parties or house parties on every street where you personally talk to prospective voters. You could make fliers and leaflets on your laptop and print enough copies in your diningroom to send out to your whole constituency. (OK, maybe you'd take it to Kinko's... but you could.) And if you lowered that limit to 15,000, or 10,000, or 5,000 - well, you might even be able to doorstep every one of your constituents yourself.
In such a situation, members of Congress would be forced to be much more responsive to the voters, far more beholden to them, and dependent on them, for their votes. It wouldn't really matter how many spin doctors they paid off, because they would have no choice but to deal on a face-to-face level with voters.
Sure, they wouldn't all fit under the Capitol Dome at once, but the truth is, in this age when they've already been voting electronically for a couple of decades, why should they have to? It's hardly as if they don't have, say, the internet. And it's hardly as if they have real debates anymore, or don't waste enormous amounts of time on votes confirming the sense of the House that Mom and Apple Pie are a good thing, or whatever. And if they have to spend a whole day just taking the vote, well, good - maybe they'd think twice about the need to drag bad legislation to the floor just so they can pretend they are getting something done. And since the rest of us have to spend a great deal of our time doing boring, routine crap at our jobs, sometimes just to flatter the sense of self-importance of our boss (or because our entire job consists of doing boring, routine things without even the promise of a living wage or a decent pension at the end of it), I think our well-paid members of Congress could survive such tedium. Maybe it would remind them what it means to actually have to work for a living. And maybe having to talk to constituents a lot and having to endure long and tedious processes would help them understand what we mean when we say that most people can't keep working indefinitely past the age of 65, let alone 67 or 70.
In other words, if you just got rid of that 435-member limit and used 30,000 not as the low end of the size of a constituency but the high end, you just might not have to worry about campaign finance law or any of that other crap, but you'd put democracy back into the hands of the people - where it belongs.
The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should give the strongest possible legal protection to mortgage lenders who follow key underwriting rules, according to lawmakers preparing a letter to the agency.
Richard Cordray, director of the consumer bureau, said the agency wants to avoid the question "being punted into the courts." He said it was less important which standard regulators pick than that it be written clearly.
Who is supposed to be representing consumers? Our representatives in Congress. But instead:
Washington's conservative consensus goes beyond the partisan divide. It's part of the fabric of Beltway politics and it may be a lot worse if Romney and a bunch of Republicans win in November and somewhat less worse if Obama and a bunch of Democrats win in November but... it's not a progressive consensus, it's a conservative consensus. And if Obama and Boehner are planning to foist it on America after the elections-- but before the new Congress takes its seats in November-- you've got to know who's being cut out of the bargain, no matter how grand it is: working families.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was a liberal darling when it was created as a post-financial collapse industry watchdog, but now, it is feeling heat from nervous Democrats who are siding with banks to pressure the agency as it makes its first major foray into housing reform.
The agency is tasked by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act with reshaping the home loan industry to prevent another flood of the sure-to-fail home loans that set off the financial crisis. But doing so means rewriting the rules for community banks as well as their larger competitors, and that has Congress nervous.
A group of House Democrats has joined Republicans in a push led by the lending industry to get the agency to provide banks with maximum legal protection against borrower lawsuits as it drafts new standards for home loans.
Yes, that's right, the New Dems, formerly known as the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and Third Way, want to formalize the position that if banks break the law, no one should be able to bring them to court. This is what Obama meant when he announced, "I am a New Democrat." Old Democrats believed in democracy.
Seriously, if you fixed the limit on members of Congress, you wouldn't need to waste time with crap like Citizens United and McCain-Feingold, neither of which should be our top issues. Fix representation. Let's have one great big campaign to do that, and maybe we'll start getting somewhere.
"Verizon and AT&T's Internet Mugging Threatens U.S. Prosperity [...] In a legal brief regarding Federal Communications Commission regulations, Verizon Communications claimed the right to edit and restrict the Internet content it delivers through its broadband services. Verizon says it is like a newspaper in that it creates, aggregates, and curates content. It claims a free speech right to filter the content, restrict it, or block it altogether. Verizon rejects entirely the obligation to carry all websites on an equal basis. It says there is no more justification to require Verizon to carry all web traffic equally than to require the New York Times to cover all stories equally. The company claims to offer an 'information service' rather than a 'communications service.'"
Greedy bastards: "The share of the nation's wealth held by the less affluent half of American households dropped precipitously after the financial crisis, to 1.1 percent, according to new calculations by Congress's nonpartisan research service."
Eventually, some time after the Poll Tax riots (or "Poll Tax Police Riots", as I was already thinking of them), I saw a documentary on my television called The Battle of Trafalgar, that confirmed everything I had seen on the day - the police actively trying to cause riots before demonstrators had done anything to provoke the crowd-dispersal tactics that were used against a lawful and peaceful demonstration. Having spent hours terrorizing the crowd (who had been barricaded in so that they couldn't disperse), the police then released them into commercial streets where, yes, a few incidents of "violence" (against property, not people), took place. By that time, the broadcast media was already portraying the events in reverse order, as if the burnt car had preceded the police action. That's what I saw, and that, it turned out, was what the documentary's makers were able to demonstrate.
That documentary was broadcast with little controversy, however, and afterwards I heard no discussion of it, let alone calls for an investigation. But now:
This is an outrage, and it seems to me it should present an opportunity to make a lot of noise and question what could possibly have been in the documentary that "required" censorship - with demands that the documentary be shown so that the rest of us can judge. That could generate a much wider reception for The Riots: In their own Words than The Battle of Trafalgar received.
WTF? Oh, if only I was any good at creating graphics, this is such an invitation to parody. With little swastikas....
It certainly isn't good policy that's keeping people from wanting to invest in a lawless system: "'The bigger problem, which I think investors are focusing on, is confidence in the financial system is eroding,' he said. 'There have been a litany of failures and confidence-reducing events recently which should cause anyone with a stock certificate and a heartbeat to think hard about what to do with their stocks,' he said." Oh, and: "I imagine I'll write a version of this post a million times, but the people in charge are failures. If, in January 2009, I['d] given a rough outline of what would happen in policy, the economy, and the financial system over the next 3.5 years, people would have thought I was crazy. No one would have believed that the people in charge would tolerate such sustained high unemployment. And yet they have. It is indeed a choice. They can make things better but they have chosen not to."
Atrios is hoping the Democrats will actually end up letting the Bush tax cuts expire as threatened. But I think about that and think, "They are threatening to let the Bush tax-shift expire if they don't get to have their Grand Bargain of killing the New Deal." I mean. Seriously.
Reading this article about Caitlin Moran kept reminding me of the days when Life magazine called Germaine Greer "The Saucy Feminist That Even Men Like."
This is why people have come to distrust science. Well, I don't mean science, I mean "science". But, like "centrist" and centrist, and "moderate" and moderate, the words may look and sound the same and be used as if they were the same, and yet, mean entirely different things.
Some people at the London School of Economics decide they want to prove that offshoring is not evil, so they imagine a model in which this is possible, then imagine that within this model it *may* be the case that offshoring is actually creating jobs for Americans rather than simply removing them, and then declare this case of pure wishful thinking to be a scientific "study".
Of course, it in no way resembles an actual scientific study, which would take real data from the real American economy and examine the context that is, rather than the model they wish to assume - and show them that offshoring has caused the complete disappearance of whole towns, the rapid decay of a major city, and an enormous increase in unemployment and poverty throughout the United States.
These models don't work to do anything other than further propaganda that attempts to tell us that what is right in front of our eyes is not really happening. It is not science, it is spin.
I can do that, too. I can create a Lego model of a town in which no one is oppressed, and no one goes hungry, and no one ever has to sleep out in the rain. Of course, that would be because Lego people never get hungry under any circumstances and they don't sleep in the rain because the whole town is on a small platform under my kitchen table.
My "model" will also never have its citizens rising up against the town leaders and storming the city hall with pitchforks and torches and putting their legislators' and aristocrats' heads on pikes.
But in real life, if idiots at LSE keep trying to tell us things that are manifestly not true and calling it "a study", well, we shall see....
[David House is sworn in and informed of his rights]
Patrick Murphy: Would you please state your full name for the record?
David House: My name is David House
PM: Did you meet Bradley Manning in January 2010?
DH: On the advice of counsel, I invoke my right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. I am concerned that this grand jury is seeking information designed to infringe or chill my associational privacy, and that of others, guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and that it is using information obtained without a search warrant in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. I define the preceding statement as "invoke", and when I say "I invoke" in the future I am referring to this statement.
In comments to this post, CMike says: "The question I'd most like to ask Theodore Roosevelt (or William Jennings Bryan): 'Now what?'" (Teddy Roosevelt is conveniently quoted here.) Jcapan says below CMike that Howard Zinn had the answer, looking to the other Roosevelt.
I like a good argument. I'll even argue with trolls sometimes if they aren't too incomprehensible. And my experience tells me that sometimes, honest to gods, you can change people's minds. So I've never treated all trolls equally. I was interested in the links about trollery on the Making Light sidebar which are also collected at the beginning of Jim MacDonald's "Dig Two Graves", but I'm also fascinated that any author would announce his intention to get revenge on a reviewer's (fairly painless) comments by retaliating with nasty reviews of the reviewer's other works. The sexual harassment component is just a bonus. (Aside: Having a name that isn't obviously feminine is still great protection from random trolls, but once people know you are female, many odd things do happen.) Abi Sutherland is a smart post-boomer who is not a policy wonk and clearly hasn't been in the weeds of the discussion of Social Security Insurance and its future, but now that she's had her information updated, she's written about it in a way that even your relatives can understand. I suppose it's too much to hope that your Congressional representatives could also understand it. Also: Why Marvel movies are better than DC movies.
The other day Stuart Zechman mentioned Austin Frakt to me. I was unfamiliar with Dr. Frakt, but he appears to be some sort of respected policy wonk on healthcare. So I went looking for examples of his work and found this interview with him on five books about health care policy. Frakt says a number of things I can't disagree with and demonstrates that he understands a lot about the nature of the problem, but he also says a lot of frustrating things of the sort policy wonks say that make me want to smack them. I liked Sophie Roell's opening question, though:
Leaving aside the insurance issue, why is the absolute price of American healthcare so high? The price of going to the doctor in the US, or buying drugs, can on occasion be 10 times what it is in Europe. It's particularly surprising when in every other area - from clothing to electronic goods to gas - American consumers are incredibly cost conscious and prices are almost invariably lower than elsewhere.
I liked it because it gives you some important information, right off the bat, about something most Americans really need to know. Frakt's answer says a lot of things that are true, but elides what the power of the medical profession has bought it, including the ability to price-gouge with the connivance of government. Which means he also doesn't say that the countries where health care costs are so much lower (e.g., the rest of the OECD), are countries where government restrains such behavior. Later in the interview, Frakt appears to be saying that real market competition would keep prices down - as if the market for medical care were the same as any other market, and as if it just naturally works that way everywhere else. But he does acknowledge the draw-backs of employer-based health insurance, such as:
Do healthcare economists think it's a good thing?
No. It's widely recognised that a more rational system would sever the connection between health insurance and employment. To the extent that the debate is over policy, it's about how to get there and under what terms. To the extent that the debate is over politics, it's just too easy to use the spectre of change to frighten people.
Why is it so inefficient? It creates too many distortions in the labour market. A lot of people will take and hold onto jobs for the health insurance, not because the job makes sense in terms of the work or even in terms of wages. There are many people who don't retire because of health insurance. There are even studies that show that there is lower creation of small businesses and less entrepreneurship because of health insurance. It's an unnecessary constraint on the labour market and on job creation, and it just doesn't need to be that way.
And, of course, the moment when I wanted to smack Frackt the hardest is where he exposes his absolute faith that the PPACA was absolutely and unequivocally the very best bill that it was politically possible to produce. Sorry, no. Obama and other neoliberals decided a very long time ago that this was the best they were willing to deliver, and all of their efforts were aimed at making this the bill, and not a better one. They could have done many things differently and created a different political climate, but they didn't want to.
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Internet Access Providers. Don't call them service providers, because that hides what they really do, which is simply provide access to the internet (which, we should always remember, exists because your taxes paid for its development at every level). Sort of the way building a side road provides access to the main highway, say. The people that built the side road still don't get to charge you every month for driving on it to get to the highway your taxes paid for, and they don't get to introduce bottlenecks to slow you down until you pay them extra fees (bribery) to use a faster lane in the side road to get to your highway. Internet Access Providers want you to think of the internet as something they built themselves and they should be able to control and use however they want. And they want to be able to steal and sell your private data, too. And decide what content you can see or create. That is, they want to take away all of your vital internet freedoms and your privacy as well. For the most part, they've already won the latter battle, but under the jointly-held definition of "freedom" coming from both Rand and Ron Paul, it seems it's Internet Access Providers, and not all of the people of the United States, who are entitled to "liberty", so the hell with your free speech and right to be secure in your persons and your papers. Techdirt's Mike Masnick talked to Sam Seder on The Majority Report on Tuesday's show about this push to curtail your online freedoms. On Monday's show, Sam talked to Christopher Paulos, plaintiff's attorney in the suit against GlaxoSmithKline after revelations that they made billions of bucks on a product with fudged research data. (Eliot Spitzer, who went after Glaxo a decade ago, gave a brief Q&A to Alternet about the settlement of the case and the pointlessness of these large settlement awards. Spitzer points out that the money they pay will be less than the money they made off of the fraud, and says nothing will change until people lose their jobs. But to me that's just a start - these people are criminals - shouldn't damages be sufficiently punitive that there is no incentive to perpetrate such frauds in the first place? And shouldn't people who knowingly commit these crimes go to jail?)
It fascinates me that people tell me with a straight face that we need to vote for Obama because Romney might start another war. I'm not even sure what this is, but I'm pretty sure there won't be much outcry from "progressives" if Obama wants to keep expanding the wars that can no longer just be blamed on Bush. (Also: Voucher programs are just another scam.)
More from Atrios: "Why Would They Do Anything Differently? The people who caused the crisis are all still in charge. And they've learned that any time they're losing money the free money bazooka will be aimed at them. Moral hazard is just for people whose $10 extra in food stamps might lead them to continue living the life of luxurious funemployment. They're going to keep playing the game as they've been playing it. It's working for them. And, yes, the monsters in our media wrote a trend story on funemployment. Such things do not make me shed tears when I hear about job losses in journalism." "An Evil Man I do wish more people who are maybe a bit more respectable than I am would start using moral language to describe the reprehensible actions of Bernanke and pals. There's no possible analysis of the welfare tradeoffs of these policies which leads to any other conclusion than 'mass unemployment is a small price to pay for keeping the rich fat and happy, or even fatter and happier.' Time to end our failed experiment in 'independent' central banking."
It's a shame "Obama's Accomplishments" is written by someone from the Cato Institute, since he isn't capable of seeing where the real problem lies, because the actual list of headline accomplishments is all too true. Pity it descends into nonsense like, "The economy may not get much better this year, not with all the taxes, spending and regulation weighing it down. President Obama may be hoping to achieve the distinction of being the president reelected with the highest unemployment rate." That's so, so wrong. High taxes at the top, lots of spending on the ground, and a restoration of all those regulations that were put in place to prevent another depression are exactly what we need, boyo, and you people just can't admit it.
Panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays were Avedon Carol and Cliff Schecter, who pondered the self-destructive policies of the Democratic leadership despite the fact that polls show that: "The public's desire for fundamental change does not mean it supports reductions in the benefits provided by Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Relatively few are willing to see benefit cuts as part of the solution, regardless of whether the problem being addressed is the federal budget deficit, state budget shortfalls or the financial viability of the entitlement programs." And check this out: "The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted June 15-19 among 1,502 adults, finds that Republicans face far more serious internal divisions over entitlement reforms than do Democrats. Lower income Republicans are consistently more likely to oppose reductions in benefits - from Medicare, Social Security or Medicaid - than are more affluent Republicans." That is to say, all those crazy Republican voters are more liberal than Democrats! [Also: Homework link for DW-NOMINATE referenced during the show.]
Daniel Marans of Social Security Works was a guest on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd, where they discussed the escalation in attempts to foment Age War in order to destroy Social Security in The Grand Bargain. In a week when Zeke Emanuel tried to make you forget that large numbers of elderly Americans already live on catfood and David Frum tried to convince you that old people aren't great drivers and therefore shouldn't get Medicare, it's refreshing to see people (like RJ Eskow) pushing back against the pack of lies created to convince you that you have to kill granny because she's trying to eat you.
Around here, fireworks season doesn't really start until the autumn (and seems to continue straight through New Year's Eve, as far as I can tell), so I had to settle for setting off my fireworks show in Second Life while listening to PDQ Bach. Meanwhile...
By way of apology from Jay Ackroyd, the 12-seconds of me being the one who called the Supreme Court decision. I'm still baffled that no one else seemed to expect it. And the whole rest of the progblogosphere seems to have the story wrong(via). Well, with notable exception. But it seems clear to me that affirming HeritageCare was the way to go for Roberts, who doesn't actually give a damn about the Constitution. I suspect the other four far-right justices of letting their partisanship get the better of them.
Neil Rest in comments to this post: "There's a strong consensus that Roberts flipped sides at the very last second. . I still don't trust the son of a bitch any further than I can throw the Capitol. What's in there to bite us in the ass later? The first suggestion that there's a poison pill in there comes from George Lakoff. Doesn't mean I'm right, but at least it puts me in damn good company." And I see via Atrios that John Cole at Balloon Juice is also in that general consensus, (And Republican-run states will have no hesitation about rejecting the Medicaid expansion, knowing that tightening the screws on their constituents can be claimed to be the fault of Obamacare rather than themselves. Yes, the law still sucks, but the more miserable arch-conservatives can make the populace, the more successful they are at convincing them that it can be blamed on "liberals".)
All sorts of articles are being written on what the Supremes' decision means to the millions of Americans who can't afford commercial health insurance and aren't eligible for the other kind - like Kate Pickert's "How the Supreme Court's Medicaid Ruling Endangers Universal Coverage" at Swampland. But Stuart Zechman's comment below it is perhaps more illuminating than the article itself:
"Policymakers wrote the ACA with the assumption that the Medicaid expansion would be adopted everywhere, so there are no other provisions in the law to help non-Medicaid eligible people earning less than 133% of the federal poverty level get insurance.
"Federal subsidies to help people afford insurance purchased independently will be created by the law, but are only available to those earning between 133% and 400% of the federal poverty level."
What do you mean?
Do you mean to say that the mandated "Bronze level" coverage in the state-based "Exchanges" is still somehow un-affordable for a family of four making a cent less than 30,657 dollars a year (133% poverty), even with the "subsidies to help people afford insurance"?
Or do you mean that, perversely, the law makes those federal subsidies only available to people who earn one cent over 30,657 dollars a year?
You do realize how odd it is that Medicaid expansion is necessary at all, given how "affordable" the subsidies are supposed to make the "Bronze level" policies sold in these state-based "Exchanges," don't you, Kate Pickert?
Given all of the federally-subsidized shopping for best-price coverage that PPACA enthusiasts claim will drive premiums down in these "Exchanges," can you clearly explain exactly why is it that unimplemented Medicaid expansion would leave any family of four making 30,657 dollars a yea priced out of these "markets" and uninsured? Or are poor people basically forbidden by the law from participating in the Exchanges at all?
More history: It's hard to believe, but the champion who spoke presciently against repeal of Glass-Steagall on the Senate floor was Byron Dorgan. Boy, was he right. And he's right now, too.
"Poor Land in Jail as Companies Add Huge Fees for Probation: CHILDERSBURG, Ala. - Three years ago, Gina Ray, who is now 31 and unemployed, was fined $179 for speeding. She failed to show up at court (she says the ticket bore the wrong date), so her license was revoked. When she was next pulled over, she was, of course, driving without a license. By then her fees added up to more than $1,500. Unable to pay, she was handed over to a private probation company and jailed - charged an additional fee for each day behind bars. For that driving offense, Ms. Ray has been locked up three times for a total of 40 days and owes $3,170, much of it to the probation company. Her story, in hardscrabble, rural Alabama, where Krispy Kreme promises that 'two can dine for $5.99,' is not about innocence. It is, rather, about the mushrooming of fines and fees levied by money-starved towns across the country and the for-profit businesses that administer the system. The result is that growing numbers of poor people, like Ms. Ray, are ending up jailed and in debt for minor infractions. 'With so many towns economically strapped, there is growing pressure on the courts to bring in money rather than mete out justice,' said Lisa W. Borden, a partner in Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, a large law firm in Birmingham, Ala., who has spent a great deal of time on the issue. 'The companies they hire are aggressive. Those arrested are not told about the right to counsel or asked whether they are indigent or offered an alternative to fines and jail. There are real constitutional issues at stake.'" Towns and states could, of course, save lots of money by de-privatizing and having their own employees do everything from handle probation to running the jails, but that doesn't play well with "the new rules".
"How a Lone Grad Student Scooped the Government and What It Means for Your Online Privacy: A gifted computer scientist, Mayer suspected that online advertisers might be getting around browser settings that are designed to block tracking devices known as cookies. If his instinct was right, advertisers were following people as they moved from one website to another even though their browsers were configured to prevent this sort of digital shadowing. Working long hours at his office, Mayer ran a series of clever tests in which he purchased ads that acted as sniffers for the sort of unauthorized cookies he was looking for. He hit the jackpot, unearthing one of the biggest privacy scandals of the past year: Google was secretly planting cookies on a vast number of iPhone browsers. Mayer thinks millions of iPhones were targeted by Google."
"How the new 'Protecting Children' bill puts you at risk: "Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives' judiciary committee passed a bill that makes the online activity of every American available to police and attorneys upon request under the guise of protecting children from pornography. The Republican-majority sponsored bill is called the Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011. It has nothing to do with pornography, and was opposed by over 30 civil liberties and consumer advocacy organizations, as well as one brave indie ISP that is urging its customers to do everything they can to protest the invasion of privacy. "Protecting Children" forces ISPs to retain customer names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and dynamic IP addresses."
We aren't going to get anywhere with people like this, who'd rather elect or re-elect Republicans than allow a progressive challenge, running the DCCC. Take a page from the Tea Party and kick out bad Dems.
"UK.gov proposes massive copyright land snatch [...] New legislation is proposed that would effectively introduce a compulsory purchase order, but without compensation, across an unlimited range of creative works, for commercial use."
Considering everything Sneakers had going for it and the fact that it appears to have done well at the box office when it opened, it's always startled me that so few people I run into seem to know it. I mean, the biggest stars of two generations playing action geeks (Redford, Poitier, Ackroyd, Phoenix - and James Earl Jones!), Ben Kingsley working for the Mafia, and a scene at the beginning in which a thinly-disguised Whit Diffie is murdered, all served up with an appetizer of Mike Bloomfield's great guitar work ["Really", unadulterated] - even I couldn't ask for more. But check out this little scene. Maybe Karl Rove did see the movie...
I hesitate to congratulate our friend jurassicpork on four years of penurious blogging at his present site, since I think things might be better for him if he had a good job that didn't leave him time for it. But jobs are thin on the ground under "the new rules".
Just for the record, here's the first half of Virtually Speaking Sundays (.mp3), where (after a discussion of Social Security and good verbal politics), I told Jay Ackroyd and David Dayen that I'd be very surprised if the Roberts court struck down the mandate. I gotta say that because it seemed like everywhere else, everyone was all ready for the Supremes to kill it. (Jay Ackroyd interviewed Chris Hayes about the SCOTUS decision on HeritageCare and about Chris' book, Twilight of the Elites, on Thursday's Virtually Speaking, and Chris had somewhat different reasoning from mine, but his was after-the-fact.)
Stuart Zechman noticed that something very unsettling has been going on coming from the entire liberal/progressive commentariat that completely ignores the context in which the entire "mandate" argument is occurring - he pointed to a comment at Swampland and his response, here:
bstockinger The Individual Mandate was always a way to make people who don't have health insurance to pay for some of the costs associated with their hospital costs when they suddenly did get sick or were in an accident.
I don't understand why conservatives think its okay to make those of us with health insurance to pay at least an extra $1000/year to help hospitals recover the costs of covering uninsured patients but it not okay for the government to charge/tax the uninsured for not having health insurance. That extra $1000/ year doesn't include the extra state and local taxes we have to pay to cover the uninsured in county hospitals, etc.
Stuart Zechman Are you trying to win an award from AHIP?
"The Individual Mandate was always a way to make people who don't have health insurance to pay for some of the costs associated with their hospital costs when they suddenly did get sick or were in an accident."
Seriously, no: the individual mandate was always a way for insurers and for think-tank conservatives to game for regulation in their interests, and to argue against guaranteed issue and community rating. Free market ideologues and insurers are operating under the premise that health insurance premiums and claims paid are always fairly determined, and not the result of market manipulation by insurers.
Guaranteeing issue, i.e. not excluding the sick and injured, therefore is "unfair" to insurers and a "market distortion" that must be offset by some other, pro-seller "distortion," lest there be a "death spiral" of eventual market collapse, where --quelle horreur!!-- the state might have to step in and offer public insurance, like Medicare.
These are pro-industry and right-wing arguments, with pro-industry and right-wing premises baked in. The individual mandate is an answer to a problem that doesn't exist in the real world, because, in the real world, there are no health insurance "free markets," and consumers have no power over price.
And you're not paying an extra one or two thousand a year in state or local taxes to cover the actual cost of the uninsured to hospitals, you're paying because the hospitals are charging vastly different (even more highly inflated) prices between insured and uninsured to state governments --another way for hospitals to game for regulation in their interests. It's called "cost-shifting."
When hospitals don't get that money from over-charging the state governments, where do you think they're going to turn, next? And then, after they cost-shift back to the insured, what do you think the insurers will do when faced with those bills? What have private insurers always done?
"their hospital costs when they suddenly did get sick"
This is the argument of the insurance companies' public relations campaigns you're making. It's a messaging campaign designed to help you blame other, ordinary people for the prices that anti-trust exempt health insurance monopolies fix, instead of the price-fixers.
They've been making this claim for a very long time, since the 1990s, when they were lobbying against state-based guaranteed issue:
"What happened next is starkly summarized in a 1995 letter sent to Premera Blue Cross by a woman in Eastern Washington.
"A few months before she gave birth that year, the woman bought an individual policy from Premera. As soon as the insurer paid her hospital expenses, the woman canceled the policy, telling Premera "we will do business with you again when we are pregnant."
"True to her word, in 1996, she bought insurance, Premera said, once again canceling after the insurer paid for the delivery of her next child.
"Altogether, she paid in 1,807 in premiums. Premera paid out 7,024.68 in medical bills.
"You don't have to be a business genius to recognize the problem with those numbers when multiplied by thousands of customers.
"Claims went up. Premiums rose. Pretty soon only sick people thought insurance was worth the cost. Premiums rose even more.
"Healthy people, like the Eastern Washington woman, waited until they needed insurance to buy it. At the time, Gov. Gary Locke likened it to buying fire insurance after your house is on fire."
That fabled woman didn't want health care for her kids, only for her multiple pregnancies to be paid for. By everybody else. Right. A big health insurer got a letter from her. They have that letter right here...look, Mr. Reporter! See?
It's the uninsured! They just won't buy insurance! It's not the insurers who are gaming the system, it's those damn consumers! Deadbeats! Pay your premiums like everybody else! Somebody other than you got something for nothing, Mr. and Mrs. Public!
But, of course, the state-based health insurers do price-fix. They are allowed to do so by federal law (McCarran-Ferguson Act). They are allowed to collude, and create "markets." That's why there is such a thing as an "individual market." That's why individuals pay such vastly different prices than even "small groups" of two. That's why the GAO found that HIPAA Act (1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) consumers sometimes got 600% increases in prices for the same "standard" policies! That's why there's no competition on the basis of monthly price, no race to the bottom for premiums, nothing except claims delays and denials. It's not deadbeat emergency-room patients who cause premiums to go up by 5-30% in a year. Insurers price-fix --because they can.
They can also cut people out and put people back into different "markets" to game the law, which is what they did in Washington State, right before they launched public relations offensives to get us to blame other people for their price increases.
So the message you're repeating is the kind of campaign they've been waging for decades in the press, and now their lobbyists don't even have to labor that hard to get Democrats to repeat the pro-industry line.
It's Harry And Louise, all over again.
Except that Harry And Louise were people you were meant to identify with and were nice, middle-class people like you, not deadbeat-mom types who would actually write a letter to the insurance company telling them (using the royal "we") that they were terminating insurance because they apparently believed that delivering a child is the only health care cost they are likely to incur.
So here you have "progressives" parroting this insurance company PR stuff, omitting to notice that we're talking about a fake market where there is price-fixing rather than competition (because they've already managed to con the government into giving them an anti-trust exemption to protect their artificially contrived business model). (Note that the companies that "fled" the state of Washington during this "disaster" were only a tiny percentage of the local insurance market and were essentially junk insurers whose model was to charge small premiums on the understanding that they'd never pay out at all.)
Of course, the takeaway from this, for those who insist on having a commercial insurance market, ought to be that all premiums should be the same (it's one group market, not different groups that get priced higher as they get smaller). Otherwise, the mandate is meaningless, since it's individuals, and not groups, who are part of the risk pool; and that hospitals only get to charge one price, regardless of the insurance status of the patient - and if the insurers won't pay that amount, an individual shouldn't have to, either.
Here's the special Democracy NOW! with Amy Goodman, Margaret Flowers, Michael Moore, Wendell Potter, and some other people who use phrases like "free-riders" and even "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."
Stuart also pointed out to me a bizarre way of thinking that seems to be leading the "progressives" of today. It works like this: Good policy is ideal. It's idealistic. It's therefore unrealistic. And that's why you can't have good policy. Somehow we need to get across to them that if it's not good policy, it's bad policy, and bad policy is bad policy.
(In other news, it is apparently official that anyone who notices that there's a real danger that the Democratic leadership will use the lame duck session to weaken/privatize Social Security Insurance is a conspiracy theorist because they are a racist. So, like, Jay and Dday and I are, y'know, Birthers.)
* * * * *
Sam Seder did a must-listen interview with Lori Wallach on The Majority Report about the secretive negotiations to destroy what's left of Americans' ability to have any say in their own country. Seriously, you need to know just how awful the "trade" bill is, and you need to spread the word - especially to your right-wing relatives who might actually help give it some legs. Among other things, it pretty much deletes the ability of any country to make any laws that put any national or human interest above the privilege of corporations to do anything they want. So American laws would be subordinated to foreign corporations - even foreign state-owned corporations. Or corporations owned by the French!
I've been giving short-shrift to my commenters lately, and I shouldn't - they're worth taking note of. For example, in comments to this post, there's a discussion of the re-emergence of neoliberalism after the Johnson presidency. CMike supplied a useful link when he said, "I'll add that Clinton came to office at the right time in the business cycle. Now it is true that Clinton's fiscal policy led to the nineties stock boom but that came after he agreed to abandon the progressive agenda he ran on and stay within the boundaries set out for him by Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin when he first arrived in Washington instead of playing a game of chicken with Greenspan in the matter of Fed interest rates, which, looking back, Clinton probably would have won. This story, with an accompanying one about Ayn Rand, is told powerfully in Part One of a three part Adam Curtis documentary found online here. I recommend it highly to anyone who has not seen it, most progblog fans will find it worth an hour of their time I would think. (BTW, it includes some interesting on camera comments by Joe Stiglitz.)
At the moment, you can't listen to the Virtually Speaking Sundays I did with David Dayen the other night due to, um, technical difficulties, but the takeway is that we should stop asking for what's supposed to be possible or reasonable and start asking for what we really want. I said we should respond to rubbish about how we need to cut Social Security benefits or raise the retirement age with a demand that we expand SSI, eliminate the cap, and lower the retirement age. (There's an extremely strong chance that they will use the lame-duck session to cut Social Security.) Jay said no, we should just tell them to do nothing, but I said we can't do that, because they'll "compromise" - we have to make doing nothing the compromise. Similarly with the Bush tax-shift haggle, we should insist on letting it expire and demand that the standard deduction be raised to $57,000. (You may notice that there is nothing new about me saying this sort of thing. Because the only way to negotiate is to ask for the moon as your starting point.)
QotD: "The great irony is that with productivity at an all-time high, and with no actual shortage of the real resources needed to take care of our seniors at a level that makes us feel proud to be Americans, to care for the sick, to educate our children, and to provide for the public infrastructure and institutional structure that facilitates and fosters private sector output and employment, there has never been a better time for the progressive agenda." -- Warren Mosler
Robert Reich: "So when regressives talk about 'preserving and protecting' the nation, be warned: They mean securing our borders, not securing our society. Within those borders, each of us is on our own. They don't want a government that actively works for all our citizens. Their patriotism is not about coming together for the common good. It is about excluding outsiders who they see as our common adversaries."
Jimmy Carter's op-ed in the NYT, "America's Shameful Human Rights Record," is framed as complaints about "America", but it looks to me like an attack on Obama's policies. (VastLeft is waiting to see which progbloggers will be first to trot out the old right-wing sneers about Carter and his brother.)
File 770's Extra Credit Bradbury Links include: "A much younger Bradbury - age 14, to be precise - appears in this photo with George Burns in 1934, taken in the days when he was submitting jokes to the Burns and Allen radio show. Decades later when they met again, George was astonished to learn that Ray was the same kid who once wrote for him. 'That was you!?' he exclaimed." PLUS! Bradbury in a Stan Freberg ad.
I've finally started watching Game of Thrones and mentioned to the Alpha Geek that the opening credits were a work of art in themselves. He'd never seen it, so he looked it up on YouTube and he said, "Oh, now I understand this."
Maybe after you listen to Sam's interview with Chris, you'll want to refresh your memory of the speech from Meet John Doe. As some once said, the business of our country is always safer in the hands of the American people than it is in the boardrooms of the elites.
Gaius Publius is looking for feedback on his Four Rules for managing an Effective Progressive Coalition: 1. No constituency in the Coalition takes a backward step to advance another's cause. 2. Members of the Coalition have each others' back. No constituency under attack stands alone. 3. The Coalition serves the Coalition, not the Democratic Party or any other group or goals. 4. The Coalition preferences political action to discussion. (This is the No Dithering Rule.)
Way back in the dark ages, Margaret Sanger had a big love affair with Havelock Ellis, the world's most famous proponent of eugenics. They argued a lot about that subject, but she had more important things to do and went back to America to get The Pill invented. The right-wing, today, likes to make a great deal of that long ago tie between Sanger and the eugenics movement. But it wasn't liberal philosophers who actually enacted eugenics programs that forcibly sterilized thousands of "undesirables" - oh, no, that was someone else.
I always check Suburban Guerrilla for links because Susie does a great blog, and she's been doing it in the face of considerable hassles for a long time. So, if you have it to spare, give to one of my favorite causes.
Man, I wish I wasn't going to have to miss seeing Greg Palast and Warren Ellis at Blackwell's. And it looks like the rest of Greg's London schedule is carefully placed to clash with mine, too. Damn. But if you're in London this week, maybe you can drop by and get your book signed.
Congratulations to Northstar and Kyle for getting a full wrap cover for their wedding. Sign of the times: Although this is also an interspecies and interracial wedding, people only seem interested in the fact that it's not intersexual. Fancy that. I did find it weird that the person who we see refusing to attend the wedding is an alien - why does she care? (PS. The real issue about older comics readers is that they know Alan Scott, and they know him as a straight guy who had two kids who are themselves important characters in the DC universe. In the same way that original Earth 2 fans know The Huntress as the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. And they don't like having the characters they love completely re-written and stories they loved declared null and void. There's no problem with Northstar being gay, because he was never anything else.)
Charles Pierce says, "The Lessons of Watergate Do Not Belong to Us. [...] But, if you happen to be passing by the Mount Transfiguration Baptist Church Cemetery in Aiken County down in South Carolina, you might stop by the grave of Frank Wills and say a little prayer for his soul. This weekend is his 40-year anniversary. It belongs to him, and to the three cops - public employees, as they are reckoned in the politics of the moment - who answered his call. Forty years ago this Sunday, they all did their jobs very well. In the 40 years since, as citizens of a self-governing republic, we've all done ours very badly."
The only real fiscal conservatives want liberal policies, because they are more efficient and cheaper.
Cory Doctorow reviews Drugs Without the Hot Air: the most sensible book about drugs you'll read this year [...] The latest in this series is Drugs: Without the Hot Air, by David Nutt. If Nutt's name rings a bell, it's because he was fired from his job as UK drugs czar because he refused to support the government's science-free position on the dangers of marijuana, and because he wouldn't repudiate a paper he wrote that compared the harms of taking Ecstasy to the harms of horseback riding (or 'Equastsy')."
Obama's former law professor says Obama must be defeated if progressives want to defeat conservatives. Also: "Remember the Ladies? [...] Use your lever and see what happens. The Democrats are in a tight spot. Let me spell it out for you: The Democrats entire electoral strategy, and that which they are pinning their hopes this year, depends on women staying on their side. In fact, you might almost say that all of the new laws enacted against women this year play right into their hands. At this point, they have no reason to try to curtail any of them. All they have to do is nothing and they will look good in comparison. But if you ever decide that's not good enough for you, they're going to start shitting their pants. You can get anything and anyone you want this year. Now is the time to ask for everything."
Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals didn't come out until 1971. Those '60s radicals hadn't read it, and many never heard of Alinsky until his name was suddenly being associated by the right-wing with Hillary Clinton. At this juncture more Tea Partiers have read it (yes, read it - because they're using it) than lefties ever did. Seeing excerpts from it turn up on the CoolTools site is amusing, but seeing the reaction in the comments is priceless.
RIP Victor Spinetti. Well, I saw both A Hard Day's Night and Help! several times on their first runs, so I'll always remember him fondly. Thank you, Victor.
1981: Bob Shaw (yes, the very one who wrote "Slow Glass" and The Two-Timers and a bunch of other great stuff) on TV with Bryan Talbot in Celebration, and their story Encounter With a Madman, featuring Jenny Eclair. Part 1, Part 2. (via)
Marcy Wheeler and David Waldman are the panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays this week - that should be hot. On Thursday, Stephanie Kelton of New Perspectives discussed MMT on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd. I'm recommending, for those who haven't yet, that you give a listen to Paul Newell and Stuart Zechman talking about New York politics last week. For one thing, it's fairly upbeat without being icky. For another, it provides some insight into how Democratic Party leaders arrange to lose, and how they might be defeated.
Jon Walker: "Voters simply don't want Social Security or Medicare cut. Raising taxes primarily on the rich and reducing military spending on needless wars are the few big deficit reduction ideas relatively acceptable to voters. The idea that there is some great silent majority in the electorate who wants their representative to get 'serious' on the deficit by cutting spending on popular government programs is a complete myth."
The thing that interested me most about the guy who heckled Obama during his immigration announcement was that it was the right question at the wrong occasion. Obama was talking about kids who were raised in America and continue to live there, but someone really should ask Obama the same question about his trade policies: "Why do you favour foreigners over American workers?" Because virtually every trade deal Obama makes is bad for Americans.
I really don't see how we're going to slow down a wholly undemocratic institution of the extremely unpopular recommendations in the Bowles and Simpson letter unless everyone finally starts deluging Congress with phone calls and, more importantly, walks away from their keyboards and gets out into the streets. A deluge of postcards to Democratic legislators saying, "I'm a Democrat and I will not vote for you if you show any support for the Bowles-Simpson recommendations or any further cuts to Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid," would be nice.
People need to understand that shows that appear to be apolitical really aren't. It's a shame Mr. Sorkin doesn't get that, either. (Ever notice that The West Wing always had plenty of room for right-wing talking points but, when it came to policy, no real rebuttal from the so-called liberals on the show?)
I get annoyed when I hear people talk about tax hikes or tax cuts as if all tax hikes are equal and all tax cuts are equal. When someone says, "You don't raise taxes during an economic downturn," there is no reason to take it seriously. Because it doesn't hurt at all to raise taxes on money that isn't working, and your average billionaire's money isn't working for the economy - tax it all you want. Hell, tax it into oblivion. No one should be a billionaire, anyway, they're automatic damage to a society. Frankly, I'm thinking there should be an earnings cap and maybe even a property cap, I just haven't worked out where to put it, yet. But I'm absolutely certain that no private individual needs more than a hundred million dollars. I just don't see how you can argue with that. Nor do I see any reason why unearned income shouldn't be taxed at a higher rate than earned income; it certainly shouldn't be taxed at a lower rate.
Meanwhile, raise the personal deduction on income to something that isn't ridiculous. Here's Wikipedia:
The personal exemption amount in 1894 was $4,000 ($80,000 in 2005 dollars). That tax was declared unconstitutional in 1895. The tax in its present form which began around 1913 had a personal exemption amount of $3,000 ($57,000 in 2005 dollars), or $4,000 for married couples.
Over time the amount of the exemption has increased and decreased depending on political policy and the need for tax revenue. Since the Depression, the exemption has increased steadily, but not enough to keep up with inflation. Despite the intent of the exemption, the amounts are also less than half of the poverty line.
There's a handy chart showing the 2012 exemption at a stunning $3,800, only $800 more than it was at a time when the steel mills were paying workers, what, two or three dollars a day?
For comparison, in the wild socialist high-tax misery of England, the Inland Revenue lets you make £8,105 before it starts taxing any additional income - that's about $12,000 or so at current rates.
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There's a reason why I'm not glowing with pride at the wonderfulness of Obama's announcement that he is going to stop being such a hard-line enforcer of immigration laws against "DREAM" kids - because it's too little, too late, and because it's the lame, counterproductive way he does everything. He could have passed the DREAM Act in his first two years. He didn't. Instead, he made life more miserable than ever for immigrants and funny-colored people and helped catapult the right-wing propaganda. Even when he's not actively trying to do evil, he still does. Of course, he is also actively and deliberately doing evil when it comes to jobs and labor in general.
The trouble with prosecuting leakers is that it's not actually illegal to leak. So instead, they find extra-legal means to wreck your life, or throw up smoke about espionage. But we have a government so full of criminals that they live in fear of leakers - when they are not doing the leaking themselves. It's not always easy to work out whether the leaks are "official" (that is, handed out to journalists by "sources" carrying out the orders of the administration), or from real whistleblowers (that is, dedicated Americans who want to expose inefficiency and criminality). The latter, of course, are the ones the administration fears.
Long-time readers of The Sideshow will know that for people like me, at the dawn of the liberal blogosphere, Gene Lyons was one of the few bright spots in the newspapers who we could link to without throwing up. This, too, has changed in the Age of Obama, when he has joined Karl Rove as seeing liberal critics of terror policies as, yes, terrorist-coddlers.
The Powell of positive thinking - Colin Powell isn't losing any sleep over his crimes, but apparently, his glibness passed for statesmanship on The Daily Show. Or so I'm told - can't see the clips, of course.
All best wishes to Stu Shiffman and Andi Schecter. The Caring Bridge page* says Stu had "an ischemic stroke (a blood clot in his brain) late on Wednesday. He was taken to Harborview Hospital, an excellent center for this, and is in the Neurological ICU there," where he has since "had an operation to relieve pressure on his brain, which went smoothly. Andi has been with him from the start. He has shown good cognitive signs, good bilateral function and some humor. This is a serious time, but we're guardedly optimistic. We expect much more information tomorrow (Saturday 16 June) and on Sunday." Later posts tell us that Stu managed to get out of bed, only to fall and break a knee and his nose. I'm sure this will all make a hilarious Shiffman cartoon when he's better - and I look forward to it - but right now it doesn't seem very funny to me.
Why is it impossible to connect to the internet for more than 20 minutes without being offered a free iPad?
I have to say I didn't feel terribly enlightened by this week's Virtually Speaking Science with Chris Mooney and Tom Levenson. Leaving aside the fact that I'm not sure this whole "conservative mind" stuff is terribly useful, it's probably wise to keep in your liberal little mind the fact that our neoliberal "centrist" wise men regard liberals as conservatives because we, you know, wish to conserve - or return to - a country that doesn't drive us all down to subsistence living. And they'd be right, if they didn't overlook that little flaw in their thinking that also regards New Deal America as an aberration in the natural order of things. In other words, they want to go back to the old ways because they are forward-looking, as opposed to we old-fashioned people who want to go back to the spanking-new idea of liberal government and freedom - you know, that stuff Jefferson and Madison were talking about - that was rather a departure from thousands of years of Our Betters making the masses miserable for our own good. That's the thing we call "progress" - movement toward more individual freedom for the masses, with greater democracy and more economic opportunity (and security) for all. And I found it further depressing that an hour of talking about how conservatives are the people who reject demonstrable fact while liberals are the people who are open to seeing things that are outside of our habits of mind, it ended with an apologia for Obama because, hey, look what he had to work with! Well, I know what he had to work with: A massive public rejection of conservative policies, control of the House and Senate, a mandate for a health care policy that would serve us all and for not screwing around with Social Security, and for withdrawing from Stupid Wars - a huge liberal mandate with which Obama could have done anything we wanted - or anything he wanted, which, unfortunately, was something else entirely. He could have done anything he wanted, and he did. That's the empirical fact. So, who is it, again, who is "reality-based"?
And, speaking of lobbyists, Ira Glass on just how shocking the corruption of our system has become.
Flying Blind, Robert Kuttner and James Lardner's report on the effects of deregulation of the airline industry (.pdf). This is really worth reading if you have any illusions about the advantages of airline deregulation.
From time to time I notice there's a bit of confusion hither-and-yon about the meaning of certain words and phrases we hear all the time and think we've picked up from context, but we haven't. (Even some pretty erudite people do this; it's not just illiterate dummies.) One of these is "hoi polloi", which some people take to mean its opposite, thus proving the dangers of using anything other than the plainest of English. The "hoi polloi" are the common people, the little people - you know, the ones who still have to pay taxes. Similarly, I've noticed confusion on some people's part over the meaning of "rank-and-file", as in "rank-and-file Democrats" - a term which does not refer to the party leadership or its hacks, but to ordinary people who are simply registered with their party and tend to vote for candidates in that party but have no real connection to its politicians and operatives. And now I see there are people who do not know what legislators and talking heads are talking about when they say "the public sector", and don't realize this is a reference to people who are civil servants (or "public servants") of some kind, who work for "the government" and are directly paid out of the public purse. Cops, teachers, and firefighters are obvious members of this group, along with all of the employees of the National Institutes of Health, the Park Service, and so on, and so on - and, of course, our elected "representatives". The private sector, at least in theory, gets its paycheck from various sorts of commercial activity - your plumber gets paid more directly by you, as does your grocery store, your drug store, etc. That division used to be more obvious back in the days before it became the habit of government to farm out work to private firms who gouged them for costs to do a shoddier job than government could do more efficiently on its own.
I can never resist an opportunity to sneer at either of these people and I'm delighted to find an article sneering at Matt Bai and Bob Kerrey together. (Not sure what Pareene means about these "political parties", though. What we have is tribes, but their leaders all seem to have the same agenda, so there's not much help there.) (via)
A sad and somewhat sudden farewell to our friend Jim Young, who joined us at the pub and for card games regularly when he was assigned to London for the State Department, but who, more importantly, greeted us in Chuch's limousine to Corflu. A toast: Mpls in '73.
Tonight on Virtually Speaking Sundays, Stuart Zechman talks with Paul Newell, New York Democratic District Leader, grassroots community organizer and reformer, about Paul's history in politics and the differences in perspectives between grass-roots, partisan Democrats and movement liberals. 6:00 PM Pacific, 9:00 PM EDT; listen live or later at the link.
Sally Quinn - yes, the same Sally Quinn who once launched a jihad against the Clintons because Hillary turned down an invitation to one of her dinner parties - has now written a piece lamenting the decline in civilization after she went to one of those Events of Important People and found herself forced to breathe the same air as nouveau riche riffraff like - ugh! - the Kardashians. The comment section has many educational contributions, but my favorite was this:
J. Pierpont Snively wrote:
I'm going to the Hamptons for the week-end, so dash it all, I will just have to miss one of those marvelous Washington cocktail get-togethers. And anyways, it's such a bother. Not like the good old days. What a good show it was, all the right sort of people. Not these ruffians and hooligans one has to associate oneself. And you find they hadn't even gone to Groton, or even Choate for that matter, so no use engaging them in reminiscences of one's youth. I was relating this to our dear old girl Muffie, who told me that the Seven Sisters now even accept men!
Yes, and it's frightfully difficult to get good help these days. My gin and tonic was brought to me by one of those damned wog servants, nasty little chap who's from one of those simply dreadful little countries in Africa that keep changing their names, who failed to include the requisite three icecubes. I'm just so glad Mater and Pater are no longer with us, they'd have been shocked at how simply awful things have become.
NASA's gift from NSA: "America's secretive spy agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, has been in possession of two space telescopes which are better than Hubble - and has now decided to gift them to NASA. Sources say that the reason for the hand-me-down is because the NRO - motto: 'Vigilance from above' - has found even better technology. The revelations leads to questions over how long the NRO has had the satellites - which are said to have 100 times the field of view of Hubble - and what exactly they were planning to use them for." Well, gosh, no wonder there's "no money" for NASA, eh?
I was interested in the way Obama's news conference has been reported as "catastrophic" because he uttered the words, "The public sector is doing just fine." Of course, Obama knows what he's doing - words guaranteed to stimulate someone like Jennifer Rubin to say, "The Republicans will have a field day, and rightly so. With 23 million Americans unemployed, unemployment at 8.2 percent and more than 500,000 fewer jobs than when Obama took office, the private sector is doing miserably. But in his universe, if government is borrowing more money to hire more public employees, all is well. Nothing Romney could say can be more damaging to Obama than the revelation that this is what the president actually believes." Obama hates the public sector, at least that part of it that is still trying to do its proper job. And, of course, the public sector is not doing "just fine", because under both Bush and Obama jobs and benefits have been devolving for over a decade and a full-scale assault on public workers is still in progress. And that assault is part of what is contributing to the ailments in the private sector. But you're not supposed to know that. Obedient progressives are supposed to be mollified by the assurance that the public sector is doing "just fine" while everyone else is supposed to continue to make it easy for him to make things even worse for the public sector and for private sector workers. Meanwhile, Obama wants a narrow victory, not a repeat of the overwhelming victory Democrats got in 2008 that forced them to make up embarrassingly bad excuses for doing what the Republicans want. If he was better than that, he'd have been saying all along, "The problem is not that the public sector is doing too well, but that the private sector is not carrying its own weight. It's not that school teachers make too much, it's that everyone else is not being paid enough." You'll never hear him say something like that, because he doesn't believe in paying people enough.
"As 'Fraudclosure' Continues, County Clerks Take Up Cudgel: Visit the office of John O'Brien, register of deeds in South Essex County, Massachusetts, and he'll eagerly show you stacks and stacks of documents. He calls it a crime scene. Why? These documents, a plethora of mortgage-related assignments, were used as legal justification for evicting millions of families from their homes through a deeply flawed foreclosure process, enabled by the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems industry consortium. There's nothing that gets O'Brien's Irish up more than a discussion of the rampant fraud he sees perpetrated on the court. [...] O'Brien is in good company on this bully pulpit. Other registers like Jeff Thigpen of Guilford County, N.C., have taken up the cudgel, declaring that MERS has effectively bypassed centuries of property law (an inheritance from English common law) mandating that real property be recorded at the time of transaction in a place accessible to the public: a registry." I still don't get the theory under which MERS was ever supposed to be legitimate. The law has always been perfectly clear that you have to register a transfer at the time of transfer and you have to pay the fee to the registrar. The idea that you can set up your own private transfer system to bypass that procedure makes no more sense than if I just bought a house and the previous owner and I declared ourselves a transfer facility and that therefore we didn't have to register the transfer and pay the fee.
"Former Wall Street bailout watchdog Neil Barofsky blasted the banking industry on Friday for inflicting a litany of abuses on American homeowners, and issued a withering critique of the Obama administration for protecting those same banks at the expense of homeowners. 'Our entire housing system is built on a foundation of fraud,' said Barofsky, who served as special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program from 2008 into 2011. [...] But Barofsky levied particularly heavy criticism on the Obama administration, which he said broke a promise to Congress to fix mortgages in exchange for the TARP vote in 2008. As Barofsky recounted, Obama told lawmakers he would change bankruptcy laws to secure widespread foreclosure aid if they voted in favor of the bank bailout. But once in office, according to Barofsky, Obama abandoned the pledge. Other lawmakers, including Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.), have previously presented a similar accounting of the events to HuffPost."
Matt Stoller places the blame for Tuesday's election results: "Now voters are making their own choice. Once again, this is a direct consequence of how Barack Obama has led the Democratic Party and redefined liberalism, into a party and an ideology that is defined by wage cuts, foreclosures, debt, and acceptance of dramatic political and economic inequality. Voters don't want to pay for a government and for government workers who they perceive as out of step with their interests. These pension cuts and the victory of Scott Walker-like candidates are consistent with the overall trend of liberals losing or throwing in the towel nationally. For example, prominent progressive incumbent Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, who chaired the progressive caucus in the House, just endorsed the establishment candidate in Northern California over the more outspoken anti-corporate candidate, Norman Solomon. Solomon is behind by a little over a thousand votes, with tens of thousands remaining to be counted. Meanwhile, New Mexico liberal Democrat Eric Griego, who ran ads demanding Wall Street bankers be sent to jail, lost his primary to a more moderate candidate. Sending bankers to jail is a popular position, so why didn't Griego's message work? It's simple. Voters don't trust any Democrat to credibly deliver on that or really any promise on economic justice. Obama has designed the party's policy framework specifically in opposition to economic justice. In that case, why not vote for the Republicans? It's a more consistent brand."
Bill Maher says Democrats should learn from the Walker campaign to stick to their guns. That'd be right if the Democratic leadership's "guns" were any different from the Republicans' "guns". But they're really not.
I was looking for a particular picture of a wave at Porthcawl from this weekend's Guardian with this story, but I couldn't find it on their website; however here are some others of the flooding in Wales.
Bruce Springsteen: last of the protest singers, is headed for London on Bastille Day, Woody's birthday. Well, maybe he's not the last, but he's certainly the biggest, and no one with his sentiments is likely to be given much air by our big media corporations anymore. (PS. Up yours, U2.)
CMike reminds me that I haven't bitched about flying in a while, mostly because I don't do it so much anymore. I used to regard flying as just another way to travel. I didn't love it, but it was faster than the train and I didn't have to wander endlessly down the corridor looking for the cafe car. And it made remote places accessible, which was cool. Of course, they used to let me put my guitar under my seat. Not anymore. Now I hate flying so much that when the BBC asks me to fly up to Scotland for a show, I ask them to send me by train instead. They used to act like I was crazy, at first, but they couldn't argue with the fact that it no longer costs me much time, since there's all that pre-boarding waiting around and security BS at the airport, and the seats on a train are just plain roomier and more comfortable. Plus, you can enjoy the scenery out the window (although that's not so much the case in America; it is in Britain, though).Which brings us to Doug Henwood:
The industry was deregulated in 1979. Though it's forgotten now, dereg - even though it's destroyed unions - was a project of Democrats. Their initial base was in Teddy Kennedy's office (as a wit once remarked, this shows Kennedy's merchant origins, since merchants - bootleggers in the case of the Kennedy family - always want to reduce transport costs). Dereg's intellectual guru was Alfred Kahn of Cornell, an advisor to Jimmy Carter, who signed dereg into law as president. Route and fare regulation was replaced by a free-for-all. The result has been disastrous.
A few numbers to make the point. Good stats on the industry (Annual Results: U.S. Airlines) begin in 1948. These tell us that the entire industry has cumulatively lost money since then. Add up all the gains and losses between then and 2011, and you get $37.7 billion in total losses. Adjust that for inflation, and you get $12.9 billion in total losses (2011 dollars). But what a difference deregulation has made. Between 1948 and 1978, the industry made $5.5 billion in total (or $28.7 billion in 2011 dollars). Between 1979 and 2011, it lost $37.7 billion (or $41.6 billion in 2011 dollars). Of course, I'm not here to defend corporate profits, but it's hard to see how an industry can survive under capitalism in a chronic state of loss.
Ah, but fares are down and ridership has grown faster, right? No.
No. Because to even approach the quality of a coach seat on a plane in the '70s, you have to fly first class today, which costs a boatload more than seats back in steerage did then or do now. And that's well before you have the added indignity of the post-911 security theater which seems designed to make you never want to get anywhere near an airport again.
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Back-story notations: There is some confusion about the Confidence Fairy and where it came from. It's even more confusing when you realize that the people advancing this idea regard themselves as Keynesians because they reinterpreted something from Keynes. The main culprits seem to be George Akerlof and Robert Shiller, who used a Keynesian phrase, "animal spirits", to justify policies of which Keynes would never have approved. If you look at that Amazon page, you'll see the rather long list of laudatory reviews by everyone from the Cato Institute to Matt Yglesias to [*gasp*] Robert Kuttner (but not, it should be noted, the Heritage Foundation). They've all read it. They've all signed on to it. And they're all wrong.
One argument taking place among the MMT crowd is about a jobs guarantee. The argument appears to rest on the idea that you can only do one thing, but I see no reason why you can't have a jobs guarantee and a basic income guarantee.
I was trying to find an old link (Google isn't as easy as at used to be) and stumbled on something completely unrelated, which led to something else which found me this page at Tom Paxton's site in which he talks about his relationships with some of his most notable colleagues. One is Doc Watson, who liked Paxton's "Leaving London" so much that he added it to his own repertoire, like this.
Yesterday, Sam Seder talked to Amanda Terkel about the Wisconsin recall (vote today!) on The Majority Report. Today's guest is Rachel Grady, whose film Detropia explores the destruction of Detroit.
Privatization: a way to steal taxpayers' money for the Jubilee. Atrios: "Aside from the obvious 'slave labor' element of this, using people like this for security by a private security is a complete scam. It's just collecting a bunch of money from the government to pretend to provide security. Security people need to be trained, have authority, and actually give a shit to serve any legitimate purpose. The only purpose here is 'take tax dollars and run.'" My breakfast companion: "Well, I'm glad Boris is in charge." Gosh, I just can't wait for 52 days of Olympics.
Radley Balko found an opinion by a Florida judge that ought to be required reading for every police commissioner and judge in the country, condemning police lying. But I was fascinated by the assumptions in the comment thread below in which people argued about why there was so much police lying. I even left a comment.
The Hospital Shakedown: "The detailed six volume report from Swanson's office highlights alleged misconduct so reprehensible that if found to be true, the company violated numerous federal and state laws. The company is alleged to have back-dated documents; shared with random employees the personal medical histories (as well as social security numbers and other personal data) of more than 20,000 patients; harassed patients at the hospital (often at their bedside) for payments; contacted relatives of patients; deceived patients who had credit in their account by demanding payment anyway and not disclosing that the company owed money to the patients; were careless with laptops, which were lost or stolen with unencrypted data; embedded employees among hospital staff so that patients believed they were sharing sensitive information with hospital staff; and that is not all." (via)
When someone finally looked at Eli Whitney's journals to suss out the origins of his famous invention, they found a note that someone called Ellie had come to him that day with an idea for "a kind of cotton gin." Elias Howe's journals turned up a similar credit for a woman who has also been lost to the history of the sewing machine. And now, to Xeni Jardin's annoyance, the NYT has informed us that, "MEN invented the Internet."
Somerby on or failing schools: "The New York Times has never reported those remarkable data from the NAEP! 'By the best national assessment we have available,' black fourth-graders are now scoring higher in math than their white counterparts from 1992! And no, there is no sign that cheating has been involved in this process. [...] Truly, that's an astonishing fact. And the New York Times has never reported it! Simply put, the New York Times doesn't care about low-income kids. Rather plainly, neither does the high lady Collins, although she does care about dogs."
Jay Ackroyd interviewed Karen Tumulty (formerly of Swampland, now of The Washington Post) and commenter Teresa Kopec on Virtually Speaking Tuesdays. Tumulty has always been one of the better members of the press corps, and Kopec is not an idiot - but it was illuminating to hear even these people fail to question some of the more idiotic assumptions of The Village and have no comment about blatant lies. More useful, I think, was when Stuart Zechman and Jay discussed the Overton Window and the misunderstanding people have about what it is, and whether it has any relationship to what is meant by "Centrism". Think "14 or Fight" vs. "15 and Ready." (Interestingly, I think this is another thing the right-wing got right and the left refused to acknowledge, thus ceding large swathes of important rhetorical ground. Which is why I think, if they're calling us "the left" anyway, we should stop talking about single-payer and start talking about how what our country needs is a National Health Service just like Nye Bevan gave Britain where the doctors are on a government salary. [Note that I'm not talking about the weaker version that has been created and continues to be devolved under the Thatcher, Blair, and Cameron governments.] I want enough people demanding an NHS that soon single-payer sounds like the "reasonable compromise".)
Barney Frank inadvertently reveals that Obama refused to use his ability to write down mortgages. "The mortgage crisis was worsened this past time because critical decisions were made during the transition between Bush and Obama. We voted the TARP out. The TARP was basically being administered by Hank Paulson as the last man home in a lame duck, and I was disappointed. I tried to get them to use the TARP to put some leverage on the banks to do more about mortgages, and Paulson at first resisted that, he just wanted to get the money out. And after he got the first chunk of money out, he would have had to ask for a second chunk, he said, all right, I'll tell you what, I'll ask for that second chunk and I'll use some of that as leverage on mortgages, but I'm not going to do that unless Obama asks for it. This is now December, so we tried to get the Obama people to ask him and they wouldn't do it."
If there is one person who really should be talking to Congress about derivatives, it's Bill Black, the man who handled the S&L crisis. But somehow, he's been disinvited. "What is really going on is that things are so toxic in Congress now, and the largest banks are so sensitive to any criticism, that the progressives fear that any criticism of bank practices that will cause the next financial crisis will be considered 'bank bashing' and will cause Republicans to be unwilling to participate. The fact that I have a 30 year record of non-partisan service to the nation on banking matters, including service as a banker with the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, does not count in such a world. We must not speak uncomfortable truths to power. You will see that it is his staff that informed me that the concerns that prevented me from joining the panel were maintaining a 'consensus' about the panel's 'balance' and avoiding 'bank bashing.'."
Matt Stoller: "Drug Warrior and Pro-Drone Democratic Congressman Silvestres Reyes Goes Down Hard: Yesterday, we hit a turning point in the war on drugs. Pro-legalization Democratic Congressional candidate Beta O'Rourke defeated eight term Democratic incumbent Silvestre Reyes in a bitterly fought and exceptionally vicious primary yesterday in a Texas border district, where the war on drugs was a central issue."
I just can't help the feeling that Obama and the Dem leadership have been courting electoral disaster. I realize the Republicans sound crazy, but they always really have, and it didn't stop Nixon or Reagan from winning elections. And, of course, there is no Plan B for what to do when that happens. Somehow, there never is. (Via a post with many, many more links at Naked Capitalism.)
So, we are left with Rules for reformists. Or, we can do what the Republicans did and be prepared to lose rather than keep electing people who don't represent our principles. Obama is as dirty as the Republicans and should be treated like one.
Some of us know Earl Kemp as a cool old science fiction fan, but he was also targeted by Nixon for publishing an illustrated version of The Presidential Report of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography. Here's video of Earl talking about it.
In case you've been wondering what the Whitechapel Bell Foundry has been up to lately, here's a little video of them rehearsing.
The prezzie that was ordered for my birthday last December finally arrived, but it was worth waiting for. I couldn't find a photo of that particular watch online, but there are a bunch of them with different fronts and metal coloring, and they all have the same clockfaces and backs, and those look like this.
Periodically, people remind me that representatives are highly dependent on the staffers who brief them. And the staffers who brief them are on the revolving door program.
DC residents demand to see their new unelected mayor: "Trent Franks, the Arizona Republican who proposed a 20-week abortion ban in Washington, DC and then barred DC's pro-choice female delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton from speaking out against the measure has a new problem on his hands: a flood of DC residents who are bringing their municipal complaints directly to the Congressman, who they're calling ;Mayor.' From potholes to rodent problems to public transportation complaints, DC residents have followed Franks' lead and begun funneling their problems to him rather than the city's own government. Well played, smartasses."
"Felony Interference with a Business Model [...] The problem isn't that these loopy arguments are going to win in this particular case. The problem is that the entertainment conglomerates have the resources to keep doing this kind of thing nearly forever, endlessly wearing away at the legal system and at our notions of what's just and unjust." Also via ML, "TIME TO ADMIT IT: Independent Central Banking Has Been A Failure," and "Everyone Hates Inflation Because They Don't Understand What It Is. Now a fancy-pants economics blogger can tell you that the most important price in the economy is the price of labor and the price of labor is equal to workers' incomes, so a general increase in the nominal price level is necessarily a general increase in nominal incomes. But nobody seems to believe that. Instead people are convinced that gasoline and milk are the main prices in the economy, and that a general increase in the nominal price level is necessarily a general decline in real incomes. Worse, oodles of media coverage have gotten people confused between the monetary concept of a general price level and the lifestyle concept of a "cost of living." The cost of living is massively impacted by real scarcities. A bad harvest in Australia, a war in Libya, a draconian zoning code in Silicon Valley, or a fad for strained yogurt increase the price of wheat, oil, houses, and yogurt respectively but none of those things are inflationary monetary policy and none of them can be reversed by tight money. The issue is that there's genuinely less "stuff" to go around. People - rightly! - dislike it when the cost of living goes up, so insofar as they think that loose money is a cause of high costs of living they will naturally rebel. Those of us who write about these issues need to try to explain them more clearly, since I think the language that's conventionally adopted is genuinely confusing."
HP's stock jumped when they announced they'd fire a lot of people. Brilliant Jill looks at the Job Creators: "27,000 people. 8% of Hewlett-Packard's workforce. That's just less than one in every twelve employees who will be offered an early retirement "package", which will boot probably yet more over-50's out of the workforce and into permanent poverty, or will be let go entirely. According to PRI's Marketplace program this evening, most of these cuts will be in the US. And we're supposed to believe that NOT ONE of these 27,000 people can possibly be trained to do the jobs in the areas of strategic focus? Seriously? Note what happened today: HP beat Wall Street's expectations, and are STILL jettisoning 27,000 jobs. HP is supposed to be one of the "job creators", isn't it? Don't "Rich People Create Jobs"? Let's look at some of the "rich people" who have run HP, shall we? " (Also: Our soldiers did not die to protect sham elections, and some music for the occasion.)
The headline of this story is "Trans-Pacific Partnership: Key Senate Democrat Joins Bipartisan Trade Revolt Against Obama ", but the real story is how Obama is so anti-democratic that he's freezing out a key committee chair rather than let Congress get in his way to, you know, represent the people: "Wyden said that his office was locked out of information about a trade pact in the works known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The deal, which involves eight other Pacific nations, includes broad details on government contracting terms that would ban "Buy American" preferences for U.S. manufacturers, and intellectual property standards that would increase prescription drug prices abroad. Those positions have drawn criticism from American labor unions, domestic manufacturers and international public health advocates."
Even Cliff Schecter is using the word "plutocracy", now. (But I still think that talking about advertising dollars is just too small a focus. When you've structured the entire campaign culture as one where campaigning is astronomically expensive, of course big money is going to run the show. The news media isn't going to talk about this because those political ads make them big money.)
In comments, CMike quotes the Ninth Amendment ("The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people") and says, "If "choice" in the matter of reproduction is not one, perhaps some conservative Strict Constructionists might be asked to give their own examples of these rights that are retained by the people but are not enumerated."
If you ever wondered how "Michelle" would sound with Nat Cole's voice and a bit of jazz-funk, check out his little brother. Yeah, I know, it never occurred to me to wonder, either, but I'm glad somebody did.
Dave Johnson has a song stuck in his head, but can't figure out why. Seemed obvious to me - Democrats, Lucy, football. The Republicans are your red herring. Why do you build me up, Buttercup, baby, just to let me down, and mess me around?
The news from Europe is getting worse by the day. Economic gloom across the continent and multiple crises in the currency zone.
With rising unemployment and inflation there are riots in the streets with forecasts of anarchy in some parts of western Europe.
And along with the simmering discontent there is a worrying rise of radical groups and populist right wing movements. In the fringes, secessionists are pushing for independence, indeed for the break up of the whole European order under which we have all lived secure and comfortable for so long.
At home in Britain there are worrying signs in every town - cuts in public services have led to closures of public baths and libraries, the failure of road maintenance, breakdowns in the food supply and civic order.
While political commentators and church leaders talk about a "general decline in morality" and "public apathy", the rich retreat to their mansions and country estates and hoard their cash.
It all sounds eerily familiar doesn't it? But this is not Angela Merkel's eurozone - it is Roman Britannia towards the year 400, the period of the fall of the Roman Empire.
First was the widening gulf between the social classes, rich and poor. When rich and poor start to live completely different lives this leads (then as now) to the poor opting out of the state. All studies today show that society is happier when the gap between rich and poor is reduced.
Widen it and you affect the group ethos of society, and also the ability to get things done through tax.
What I got out of last night's Virtually Speaking is exactly what Jay says here: "Make no mistake. There is a Beltway consensus to cut Social Security benefits--that they're gonna raise the retirement age, and also reduce the COLA. They just have to find a way to do it that will leave nobody accountable." But of course, you knew that.
Anything I have to say about how well Democrats defend our freedoms - especially where reproductive freedom is concerned - is just too bitter, so I'll let this item from Gallup do the talking. It's not like they can't when they want to. (I see (via) that Mike Signorale noticed, too.)
Credit card fraud for Scott Walker - We know he gets big money from some very rich people, but he also seems to be getting some suspicious small donations: "When MaryAnn Nellis tried to pay for groceries on April 14, her credit card was declined. Later, she said, she found out why: Her credit card company, Capital One, had flagged an earlier purchase as potentially fraudulent. The problem? A $5 donation to Friends of Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor's campaign committee, Nellis said. Nellis told a Capital One representative she had not made the donation to Walker, who is fighting an effort to recall him as governor in a closely watched, expensive election set for June 5. 'Over my dead body,' said Nellis, a potter and retired teacher in upstate New York who describes herself as 'adamantly angry and upset' at Republicans such as Walker. Nellis disputed the charge and she was issued a new card.."
Stuart Zechman and Jay Ackroyd had an interesting discussion on Virtually Speaking A-Z about that strange Krugman post that Yves was talking about. One thing they highlight is the distinction between calling for "infrastructure investment" and "public infrastructure investment". Another they bring into the spotlight is the bizarre basis on which these neoliberals think they are entitled to call themselves "centrists".
Stuart kinda blew my mind the first time he pointed this one out to me. He'd noticed Nate Silver referring to Evan Bayh as a "liberal" and wondered to himself how Nate Silver could believe this obviously false thing. And eventually he found the basis for Silver's terminology in the laughable models of Keith T. Poole and Howard Rosenthal. Over at Amazon.com, I see the blurb for their Ideology and Congress saying:
...despite a wide array of issues facing legislators, over 81 percent of their voting decisions can be attributed to a consistent ideological position ranging from ultraconservatism to ultraliberalism.
Really? Ultraliberalism? When did that happen? And what does it mean?
As near as I can tell, they don't mean anything to do with liberal or conservative ideology, but partisanship - the consistency with which an individual member of Congress votes with the rest of their party - and to the extent that they don't, they are "centrist" or "moderate". By this measure, you get to define the political spectrum purely on a two-dimensional basis of ideological liberalism and conservatism, with absolutely no deviation on principles of, say, authoritarianism vs. individual liberty, or family-oriented policy versus corporation-oriented policy or jobs vs. CEO pay, and no reference to the bribery and corruption that has now completely overwhelmed our political system. Nor can we take into account Lieberman's spite-voting, Kucinich's forced vote against his own principles after being assaulted by his own party leadership and their operatives, or any other factor. We have to ignore the fact that the Democratic Party has shifted its actual policy goals away from democracy and labor to corporations and the fanciful idea that good legislation is by definition legislation that both Democrats and Republicans will vote for regardless of policy outcomes. So the entire political axis is actually stripped of all ideology except this:
Ultraliberal (D)--------- Centrist/Moderate -----(R) Ultraconservative Votes Dem most --------- Not as much ------------ Votes GOP most
And as long as Bayh votes even a little bit more often with the Democrats than some other Dems do, that makes him "liberal".
(Note also that this is based entirely on roll call votes, not on all the other procedural mechanisms and back-room dealings that prevent roll call votes or forces them to the floor.)
So we're told that:
Using a simple geometric model of voting, Congress demonstrated that roll call voting has a very simple structure and that, for most of American history, roll call voting patterns have maintained a core stability based on two great issues: the extent of government regulation of, and intervention in, the economy; and race.
And, by that definition, the Democratic Party gets to be "the liberal party", even though it was once the illiberal party on race and now simply doesn't seem to care, and even though both parties very clearly want a great deal of government intervention on the economy - but the modern GOP gets to define the terms, and by those terms, it's only the Democrats that want government regulation of, and intervention in, the economy, and therefore they are liberal.
Add to this some more fanciful theorizing about how elective officials are carrying out the will of "the median voter", and you have an entire political theory - an ideology of its own, in fact - that is manifestly false and yet powers a great deal of the thinking of our "progressive" intelligentsia.
So, if you've ever wondered - as I often have - how it can be that even some fairly intelligent (and, indeed, liberal) people can brush away the disconnect between what the American people clearly want and the completely contraindicated policy decisions at the top, it's because they think they have a mathematical model of voting that reflects reality because they are not capable of telling the difference between partisan Republican rhetoric and the simple facts on the ground.
So, when Obama keeps trying to get Republicans to accept his Grand Bargain to destroy Social Security, the great liberal centerpiece of the Democratic Party's ability to hold voters - a policy that Republicans have historically opposed and abhorred for both ideological and partisan reasons, obviously - when Republicans are refusing to be lured into voting for their own right-wing policy, that's "right-wing extremism". Obama is trying to drive a stake through the heart of the middle-class, through America's real productive wealth, and through the Democratic Party's ability to win votes - yes, that's why it's The Third Rail - and the Republicans are stopping him, not because they are extremely right-wing (and certainly not because they oppose destroying SSI), but because they are extremely partisan. And that means that their refusal to agree to a right-wing deal is "right-wing extremism".
(The funniest part of all this is that the Republicans themselves don't believe in any of it and just don't care - this is purely a "centrist" devotion that they've managed to get a lot of "progressives" to internalize.)
Of course, we have a problem, because the "Centrists" are using the word "centrist", which normal people understand to mean some sort of middle-ground, mainstream political views. A lot of people think of themselves as "centrist" without realizing that it has nothing to do with the "Centrism" they hear referred to on their TV screens and in the newspapers. Which, I think, means we've got a job to do on getting people to unpack that word themselves. Next time someone tells you they're a "centrist", you might want to ask them, if they are Democrats, if by that they mean "neoliberal" - something most people recognize as a much nastier brand.
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Jeffrey Toobin at The New Yorker: "Money Unlimited: How Chief Justice John Roberts orchestrated the Citizens United decision [...] In a different way, though, Citizens United is a distinctive product of the Roberts Court. The decision followed a lengthy and bitter behind-the-scenes struggle among the Justices that produced both secret unpublished opinions and a rare reargument of a case. The case, too, reflects the aggressive conservative judicial activism of the Roberts Court. It was once liberals who were associated with using the courts to overturn the work of the democratically elected branches of government, but the current Court has matched contempt for Congress with a disdain for many of the Court's own precedents." As you know, I'm not as focused on this as a lot of people are because I don't really see the difference between acknowledged advertising for which an outside group pays directly and the non-stop advertising we see in the media generally, and news programming in particular, that funnels viewers into a narrow point of view. Still, this Supreme Court is working hard to roll back progress.
Dan at Pruning Shears has some good local reporting on an attempt by a town to fight fracking in the area.
Red Squares, and why Arcade Fire is wearing them. And Always check their boots: "Toronto is right now in the midst of a massive government / media propaganda fraud. As events unfold, it is becoming increasingly clear that the 'Black Bloc' are undercover police operatives engaged in purposeful provocations to eclipse and invalidate legitimate G20 citizen protest by starting a riot. Government agents have been caught doing this before in Canada." Meanwhile, Obama has high praise for police brutality in Chicago, which he seems to think is the free expression NATO "protects". All this and more at Lambert's extremely linky post at Naked Capitalism.