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Avedon Carol presents:

The Sideshow

My motto as I live and learn is: dig and be dug in return. -- Langston Hughes
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Saturday, 19 April 2014

Me and my baby love Saturday nights

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

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

Paul Krugman interview clip: worse than the Gilded Age.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great traffic signs of our time: Silly walk.

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

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

04:12 GMT comment

Sunday, 13 April 2014

No wind, no rain, no winter's cold

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 2014 Sony World Photography Awards (via)

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

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

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

Robert Downey, Jr. does great birthday parties.

Your archeology moment

This is definitely not the bra of the week.

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

Probably not work-safe performance of the 5th.

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

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

13:19 GMT comment

Friday, 04 April 2014

Clip joint

I was just noticing my friend Jack's sig file:

A Mission Statement for America:
  • form a more perfect Union
  • establish Justice
  • insure domestic Tranquility
  • provide for the common defence
  • promote the general Welfare
  • secure the Blessings of Liberty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fun with Corporate Conscience Clauses

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

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

A little warning about how study results can be misinterpreted.

Political Cartoons from The Week's collection

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

Your steampunk shopping site

I had been entirely unaware of the Alpine spaghetti harvest.

Simels wants you to see this Sandy Denny clip.

23:26 GMT comment

Friday, 28 March 2014

That's the way to lose your chains

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

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

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

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

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

This is how a liberal president talks about national security.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos by Elena Halfrecht

Terrible Real Estate Agent Photos

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

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

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

Cool aerial pictures of London

Skies you don't see very day

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

Have some more Animusic: "Resonant Chamber".

Rascals, Live (and not young)

"Forward! Not Forgotten" - HUAC version

15:27 GMT comment

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

I don't know what it's all about

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How many women can you find in this photo?

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

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

Young Rascals, live, "A Girl Like You"

16:33 GMT comment

Sunday, 09 March 2014

If I had my way I would tear this building down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reaping for Dummies

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

16:32 GMT comment

Tuesday, 04 March 2014

I got so much honey the bees envy me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The fix - on gold. Everything is fixed.

Ted Rall on the horse race dilemma

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

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

Aurora Borealis seen in Northumberland - nice pics.

Nebula Nominees

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

RIP: Legendary fan Bhob Stewart (1937-2014)

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

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

Submitted for your approval - Rod Serling

Nice hat.

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

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

18:05 GMT comment

Sunday, 23 February 2014

A million miles away

Stuart Zechman and Avedon Carol are scheduled panelists this weekend on Virtually Speaking Sundays. Assuming whatever I have doesn't get worse or something.
David Brin talked some more about privacy and transparency on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd.

One of the things we have to remember about Obamacare is that most of it is in the hands of the insurance companies, including the immediate PR aspects. So right off the bat, we had the companies sending letters to people saying things to the effect of, "We're sorry, but president Obama is making us get rid of your cheap policy and you'll have to buy a more expensive policy now," without also explaining that "the reason for this is that your cheap policy was so crappy that even offering it to you was fraudulent and we should all be in jail for it." Luckily for Obama, they didn't also explain that, "Of course, the other fraudulent aspects of commercial health insurance are still with us, so you probably still can't afford to use the policy to get health care of a quality you could get in most of the rest of the world, and you can still end up losing your home." And they certainly didn't get around to explaining that, "The reason for this is that President Obama and his pals in the White House refused to even consider the greater effectiveness and sustainability of kicking commercial insurers out of the equation." We kept being told that any other option was not "feasible", but maybe they had a different definition of "feasible" than we did. (And while I was reading the comments on that, I found a link to this discussion at the Oxford Union on "Has capitalism failed the world?")

Bernie Sanders asks "a panel of experts" whether Walmart should pay its workers enough to live on, or if the taxpayers should have to help support them instead. Of course, the poor get less welfare than anyone else does. (And here's Barry Ritholtz on How McDonald's and Wal-Mart Became Welfare Queens . Apparently, even he forgot that there used to be laws governing the treatment of employees in terms of time and pay that also would have prevented a lot of this.)

From Atrios:
"Message: I Care About Poverty" - even supposed "help" for the poor turns out to be another attack on the poor.
"Shouting And Screaming Is Part Of My Job" - This is obviously a response to people who claim that it was and is unnecessary for liberal progressives to scream with alarm when the White House seems to be proposing right-wing policies, since those right-wing policies end up not happening anyway (except for the ones that do). Just leaving aside the fact that Obama's offers to cut Social Security keep failing to pass because those crazy, obstructive Republicans refuse to accept them, the fact that the White House keeps proposing them even though no one wants them is a big clue. Yes, I think bloggers have certainly been instrumental in slowing down the train-wreck, although that was easier to do under Bush because more supposedly liberal bloggers were on the same page with liberal policy rather than "We have to support our Democratic/First Black President," but we had help from the right-wing on that, and if these odious policies are not already baked into the pie (along with the already-baked and extremely odious rise of the age of eligibility to 67), it's not for lack of trying on the part of the Obama Administration. It's not that they didn't want Social Security cuts, it's that they failed to get them because absolutely everyone else opposed them. And, frankly, I don't care if the Republicans did it for the stupidest and nastiest reasons in the world (which they did), I'm just glad they stopped it.
Via Eschaton:
"Watch This CNN Anchor Stop The Spin On The Minimum Wage"
"Here's Why Your Netflix Is Slowing Down"
"Here's Why Obama Can't Get Democrats To Back His Trade Deal"
Dean Baker: "America's Invisible - and Very Diverse - Working Class"

"Obama Admin's TPP Trade Officials Received Hefty Bonuses From Big Banks"

A lot of people are confounded by what happened to the vote at the Volkswagen plant - it seemed the union had everything going for it, and Volkswagen itself was not being hostile to unionization. So how did they lose?

Wonkette: "Cool New Kansas Bill Would Let Everybody Spank Your Child [..] OK, so the proposed law says that you must spank a child on the buttocks, and can restrain him or her to do so AND you can do it til the kid is a full-grown adult. We just can't see any downside to telling school personnel that they should tackle a high school senior and spank the kid. No liability or safety concerns at all nosiree."

An interesting question explored by Yanis Varoufakis at Naked Capitalism: "Can the Internet Democratize Capitalism?"
Lambert Strether had some fun with Greg Mankiw's NYT op-ed about the deserving rich, and aside from providing an interesting chart, raises a question I hadn't seen before about what "inequality" is and why suddenly everyone in Washington feels comfortable talking about it.

How come we let banks make money by creating debt? What if we didn't?

Ah, Tony Blair, the guy who was instrumental in catapulting the propaganda for war on Iraq, managed to earn Atrios' Worst Person in the World award for Wednesday with the revelation that he personally advised Rebekka Brookes on how to weasel out of phone-hacking charges. My favorite quote from the article: "According to Brooks's note, Blair advised her to set up an 'independent' inquiry, suggesting it could have "outside counsel, Ken Macdonald [the former director of public prosecutions], a great and good type". He said the inquiry would be "Hutton style" - a reference to Lord Hutton's inquiry into the death of David Kelly - and would "clear" her, but warned that "shortcomings" would have to be accepted as a result of the report. Some might interpret that as being practically an admission that they engineered a faux "enquiry" to cover up the suspected murder of David Kelly.

Ad with secret anti-abuse message only visible to children

When "Stand Your Ground" won't work

Cartoon: Energy sources

Lee Camp, Everything You Know About The Death Penalty Is Wrong!
A graphic of two financial collapses

Really? Women don't write epic fantasy? Do they really believe that?

A Tribute to Paintings We'll Never See - because the Nazis destroyed them as "degenerate art".

Your Steampunk Moment: Cool picture of The abandoned City Hall Subway Station in New York. More here.

Hanoi Rocks

15:36 GMT comment

Sunday, 16 February 2014

You find little excuses

RJ Eskow and Gaius Publius are scheduled to be tonight's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays. They apparently plan to talk about "the mentality of plutocrats and climate.." With Culture of Truth's usual contribution.

Sam Seder's guest the other day on The Majority Report was Melissa Gira Grant, author of Playing The Whore: The Work of Sex Work, and it was a pleasure to hear her saying things I've been saying for years. Most of the criticisms you hear about sex work apply to plenty of other jobs that we don't talk about the same way. Is it a job you take only because you need the money? You mean, as opposed to working in a factory, or for a horrible boss, or as a cleaner? Do miners go down the mines for the view, or for their health?
And here's what might be seen as a companion piece at the Guardian, "Strippers are not the problem - they're just doing a job."

Taibbi, "The Vampire Squid Strikes Again: The Mega Banks' Most Devious Scam Yet [...] All of this was big enough news in itself. But it would take half a generation - till now, basically - to understand the most explosive part of the bill, which additionally legalized new forms of monopoly, allowing banks to merge with heavy industry. A tiny provision in the bill also permitted commercial banks to delve into any activity that is 'complementary to a financial activity and does not pose a substantial risk to the safety or soundness of depository institutions or the financial system generally.' 'From the perspective of the banks,' says Saule Omarova, a law professor at the University of North Carolina, 'pretty much everything is considered complementary to a financial activity.'"

I really wish I could get across to certain of my liberal friends that both sides are funded by the Koch Brothers. You don't get something like the DLC out of nowhere, and when the people who support it are so few and so fringy, there has to be a lot of money behind it to give it the profile - and the success - it's had. "His book's acknowledgments list only sixteen politicians but identify twenty people 'whose support and generosity...made the DLC story possible.' Among them are Jon Corzine, the disgraced financier and former New Jersey governor; Michael Steinhardt, a hedge fund manager, major Republican donor and founder of the defunct neoconservative New York Sun newspaper; and Rich Richman, who recently gave $10 million to Columbia University for a research center directed by R. Glenn Hubbard, former chair of George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisors. (A Newsweek investigation in 2000 turned up some DLC underwriters that From doesn't mention: Du Pont, Philip Morris, Merck and the Koch brothers.)" That'd be DLC power-boy Al From.

Alex Pareene, "Is one of 'the crazy ones' behind a threatening email sent to House Republicans? [...] Yes, Republicans also think of certain other Republicans as 'the crazy ones.' No, those Republicans do not generally have policy beliefs that differ significantly from those of the crazy ones. One issue that does divide them, though, is the debt ceiling. 'Sane' Republicans exploit the regular mandatory debt ceiling vote by falsely claiming that raising it incurs additional debt, while understanding that raising the limit is necessary. 'The crazy ones,' though, genuinely believe that not raising the debt limit wouldn't end up causing an economic catastrophe, or that somehow causing that catastrophe is necessary in order to finally shrink our bloated federal government. What makes 'the crazy ones' crazy, in fact, is that they genuinely believe the cynical lies - about government debt, global warming, taxes, healthcare, immigration, Democratic Party fiscal policies and so on - that the non-crazy ones have been feeding the rubes for years." Via Atrios.

Jay Ackroyd notes that "Glenzilla's new home has quite the masthead." It sure does. And here's Dan Froomkin on The Terrible Toll of Secrecy.

"You Know Who Else Collected Metadata? The Stasi. The East German secret police, known as the Stasi, were an infamously intrusive secret police force. They amassed dossiers on about one quarter of the population of the country during the Communist regime."

Call for the UN to stop giving anti-drug aid to Vietnam: "The United Nations should immediately freeze anti-drug assistance to Vietnam after the communist country sentenced 30 people to die for drug-related offenses, three human rights groups working to get countries to abolish the death penalty said Wednesday. The call from Harm Reduction International, Reprieve and the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty cites the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's internal human rights guidance requiring the organization to stop funding for a country if it's feared that such support may lead to people being executed."

The Odd Man Out and Swamp Rabbit discuss Media Monopoly and the latest (illegal!) assault by Comcast, who bought out Time Warner Cable without, apparently, any concerns by the FCC or Justice.

The History of English in Ten Minutes (Thanks, Moshe!)

This one is about me, I just know it.

I can hear politics in all sorts of things, even this really fine cover of an old Martha & the Vandellas song by Bonnie Raitt.

17:33 GMT comment

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Shipwrecked and comatose

This week, David Dayen and Digby were panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays, and commented "on the postal banking proposal; ACA and entrepreneurship; bipartisan McCarthyism from Mike Rogers (R) House Intelligence, and Dianne Feinstein (D), Senate Intelligence. Political satire from Culture of Truth." Not to mention the open assault on the United States Postal Service by the people who are supposed to be running it.
David O. Atkins was the guest on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd, discussing "a world where the central banks' closest partners, the money center banks, routinely engage in criminal activity. It has the effect of turning the entire economy into a house of cards."

On The Majority Report, Matt & Michael Monday With Kevin Gosztola On The NATO3 and Bob Kincaid On West Virginia. The water has been poisoned, and no one is even sure the mess can be cleaned up. Maybe if we can convince people that these corporations are run by jihadist Muslims, something could be done to stop them.

Glen Ford at Black Agenda Report, "American State of the Union: A Festival of Lies [...] Barack Obama, who has presided over the sharpest increases in economic inequality in U.S. history, adopts the persona of public advocate, reciting wrongs inflicted by unseen and unknown forces that have 'deepened' the gap between the rich and the rest of us and 'stalled' upward mobility. Having spent half a decade stuffing tens of trillions of dollars into the accounts of an ever shrinking gaggle of financial capitalists, Obama declares this to be 'a year of action' in the opposite direction. 'Believe it.' And if you do believe it, then crown him the Most Effective Liar of the young century."

A Rash of Deaths and a Missing Reporter - With Ties to Wall Street Investigations [...] The case of David Bird, the oil markets reporter who had worked at the Wall Street Journal for 20 years and vanished without a trace on the afternoon of January 11, has this in common with the other three tragedies: his work involves a commodities market - oil - which is under investigation by the U.S. Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for possible manipulation. The FBI is involved in the Bird investigation."

"North Carolina's Moral Monday Movement Kicks Off 2014 With a Massive Rally in Raleigh [...] If today's rally was any indication, the Moral Monday movement will be bigger and broader in 2014. An estimated 15,000 activists attended the HKonJ rally last year, bringing thirty buses; this year, the NC NAACP estimated that 80,000-100,000 people rallied in Raleigh, with 100 buses converging from all over the state and country. It was the largest civil rights rally in the South since tens of thousands of voting rights activists marched from Selma to Montgomery in support of the Voting Rights Act."

The corruption of our judicial system has created a monster that defies any concept of "civilization" - and wasn't even funny on an episode of QI.

Absolutely everyone finds the editorial pages at The New York Times embarrassing. And, of course, the most embarrassing thing is Thomas Friedman.

The Koch Brothers Left a Confidential Document at Their Last Donor Conference - Read It Here

"The NSA Doesn't Spy On Americans" - This statement just might be inaccurate.

Strange, the right-wing seems upset about the idea that people might have the freedom to leave jobs they hate if they have portable health insurance.

New Photos of the NSA and Other Top Intelligence Agencies Revealed for First Time

The late Gary Webb on C.I.A. Trafficking of Cocaine - and why the media round against The San Jose Mercury News until it was finally bullied into repudiating its own very good story.

Progress: Olympic ad from Norway

"Satirical spaghetti monster image banned by London South Bank University as 'religiously offensive'."

RIP: Shirley Temple, 85. Eventually I started to think of her as a Disney princess, and then just a Republican diplomatic appointee, but on reflection, she may have been the ultimate 20th Century Fox. And I still remember her this way. Wow, that clip is weird to watch now.

"Woody Allen Speaks Out" - Again, the internets are abuzz with outrage, and everyone has to take a side. Is Woody Allen a strange, sometimes anti-social seeming guy? (I'd say so, yeah.) Well, then he must be guilty! Is Mia Farrow a flake who was raging with jealousy? (Sure looks that way to me.) Then her daughter made it up! Um, maybe neither of those conclusions are correct. I look for similarities in different kinds of child abuses cases - the real kind, and the false-accusation kind. They are both realities, and I'm a bit disturbed that some otherwise sensible people are willing to acknowledge only one of them.

"Scalzi's Redshirts coming to TV: John Scalzi's Hugo-winning, existentialist comedy space opera novel Redshirts is being adapted into a TV series by FX -- it's a natural! This is just wonderful news -- intelligent, funny science fiction from a novelist who plays with the tropes of the field, it's just what TV needs. Congrats, John!"

Why Did Someone Put a Giant Wooden Cock on a Kremlin Critic's Car?

A fabulous bit of gymnastics

I am Jello!

Fairy wings. More fairy wings.

Watch Matt Damon and Friends Read Mean Tweets About Themselves.

Have some cute overload.

"Here's the latest/annual Edwardian Ball after-movie, featuring San Francisco's alt-circus Vau de Vire Society, pagan-lounge act Rosin Covin, opera divas, shovel-playing guitarists, and many well-dressed types in San Francisco."

The Red Dwarf Theme

15:17 GMT comment

Wednesday, 05 February 2014

Out of touch with the rhythm and blues

Four years ago, Obama said this:

So the point I'm making -- and Blanche is exactly right -- we've got to be non-ideological about our approach to these things. We've got to make sure that our party understands that, like it or not, we have to have a financial system that is healthy and functioning, so we can't be demonizing every bank out there. We've got to be the party of business, small business and large business, because they produce jobs. We've got to be in favor of competition and exports and trade. We don't want to be looking backwards. We can't just go back to the New Deal and try to grab all the same policies of the 1930s and think somehow they'd work in the 21st century.
What a pity our president doesn't read blogs, or he might have seen this a few months earlier:
Splitting banks into retail and investment banks, keeping brokerages and insurance companies separate as well is part of a solution set which kept major financial crises like the recent one from happening for most of the second half of the 20th century. It was put in place by people who were experiencing the Great Depression and had learned the lessons of the roaring 20s.

The inability of our decision makers, whether British, American, Canadian or otherwise to understand those lessons and take action is why it is inevitable at this point that we will have an economic collapse. It is, at this point, all but inevitable, not because nothing could be done to stop it, but because no one will do what it takes.

"Progressive linguist George Lakoff: 'Liberals do everything wrong.'" - Like giving sound-bites such as, "Liberals do everything wrong." Thank you, Mr. Lakoff. Another thing you could be doing wrong is confusing "liberals" and "progressives" with those talking heads on TV and those people in the Democratic leadership who might use those terms to refer to themselves but who are actually embarked on pushing arch-conservative policies to re-establish aristocracy and eliminate democracy, destroying hundreds of millions of American lives along the way. Because they can only hire so many servants and the rest of us are just a threat. The reason the "liberals" and "progressives" on your TV and in your newspaper are always nattering about things like "nuance" and how "complicated" things are is because they need to confuse you about their own complete lack of liberalism or progressivism. But Lakoff is right about one thing: We don't need to hedge, fudge, or produce statistics every time we want to say something, and we should be talking like real liberal policies are the only moral policies, because they are. It shouldn't be that hard to point out that killing people in order to make a few Malefactors of Great Wealth even richer is evil.

I keep seeing people linking to a Daily Beast article called, "No, Women Don't Make Less Money Than Men." The funny thing about it is that at no time does it actually show that women don't make less money than men, it just tries to explain it away. So it's really a "Women make less money than men because" story. It doesn't explain why certain professions that actually hurt society make more money than other professions that women are more likely to be in. It doesn't explain why in some jobs that are associated with men - say, doctors and lawyers - there are artificially imposed ceilings on the number of people who are certified to perform those jobs, thus creating more demand for them individually, which helps jack up their pay scales - just aside from the government allowing some of them to set their own pay scales so people have to pay them some ridiculous fees for their work. So they're trying to pretend that the "gender gap" in income doesn't exist because of sexism, it exists because of some natural thing that just happens to mean society is ordered in such a way that women are more likely to be paid less for their work, or move into uncompensated work for part of their careers, and it's all just an accident of nature or something. Except that women still end up making less money than men.

Here's Ian Welsh on "The Four Principles of Prosperity", and it's a reminder of how the perception of what economics is and what it's for have been changed over the last 30-odd years. But it's not just economics, it's everything. Over here a relative of Mister Tristan jumps off from the Loaves & Fishes graphic I posted to quote someone who begins, "It is hard for us to come to grips with just how different the Bible's assumptions about poverty are from that of the average American Christian. Which tells me that there's an easy assumption that Elitist Jesus has risen so high in the American pantheon that we don't even know about the other one - although, in fact, the Jesus who loved the poor and told the rich to give their riches away is the one the Boomers were raised on.

Atrios has been talking from time to time about the view of "The Poors And The Blahs" that shapes a lot of the right-tribe's feelings of resentment, and he's very smart on this. People honestly believe (because their political leadership is prone to imply it or say it outright) that certain people - certain people who are poor or black or foreign - are getting things that "real Americans" aren't able to get, even when they need just as much help.

Tom the Dancing Bug on the poor, persecuted rich.
- Obama wants your children to be as miserable as Korean children, because Americans just care too much about their kids.

It's actually old news that business is now focusing on either the rich or the underclass, because the middle class is just too small to bother with, but apparently newspapers are noticing, too.

"President of Uruguay Criticizes the Business Suit: 'We have to dress like English gentlemen!' exclaimed [Uruguay President Jose] Mujica, clad in a rumpled white shirt. 'That's the suit that industrialization imposed on the world! Even the Japanese had to abandon their kimonos to have prestige in the world,' he continued, gesturing forcefully and rapping a pen on the table to punctuate his words. 'We all had to dress up like monkeys with ties.' (via)

A good start: "Third prominent banker found dead in six days"

Lee Camp on The Shocking Truth About Black People

"How to Find out Anything from Anyone" - and, he doesn't say it, but it's why torture is pointless and stupid.

And now, a New Yorker cartoon.

If the wingers are boycotting Girl Scout Cookies, it's time for you to send me some mint cookies!

"This Anti-Skipping School Ad Is The Most Disturbing Thing I've Ever Seen." I have long believed that firms pay people to come up with PSAs that are so ridiculous they will have the opposite of the purportedly-desired effect, so that your average kid will be convinced their elders are making crap up to scare them out of doing perfectly harmless things (which is sometimes the case, but those anti-tobacco ads in comics looked geared to make kids roll their eyes).

Bloomberg, "The World's 200 Richest People End January With a $107 Billion Loss" - via Corrente.

"The Woody Allen Allegations: Not So Fast" - This article seems to have kicked up quite a fuss on the internet, with people unfriending each other and the usual recriminations that go with this sort of thing. Either you're willing to reserve judgment or you're an apologist for child abuse, or something. But since I've been on several sides of being the kid in the middle, I've gotta say that no amount of the reading I've done on this tells me what actually happened, because I've seen how carried-away people can get with this stuff, and I've seen how what goes on between the grown-ups can happen without anyone really paying attention to what's actually happening to the kid - all the while swearing they are doing it for the kid.

I read "Doctor Who: 10 Mind-Blowing Uses Of Foreshadowing You Never Noticed" but, frankly, my memory is so bad I can't remember half the stuff they're talking about.

Cory sez: "Campbellian anthology: more than 860,000 words of free fiction from new sf/f authors: A reader sends us The 2014 Campbellian Anthology, a free and DRM-free ebook (.epub and .mobi) with 111 authors eligible for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and over 860K words of fiction." You can download them here.

Pete Seeger's Last Letter

"Porn gives young people an unrealistic and unhealthy idea of how quickly a plumber will come to your house."

Brian Wilson in studio with George Martin

I admit, I've never bought a Billy Joel album or gone to one of his shows, but I've never been one of his detractors, either - no one who knows music can say he isn't a talented man. He recently provided his audience with one of those perfect fan moments when he did a Q&A at Vanderbilt University and a student stood up and asked if he could play "New York State of Mind" with him. This is a nice one.

16:56 GMT comment

Friday, 31 January 2014

To everything there is a season

This week's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays were Joan McCarter (mcjoan) and RJ Eskow, who "consider[ed] Income inequality. Are we seeing austerity fade away or morph itself into something different and more salable"? NSA and the The Privacy and Civil Liberties...."

President HopeyChangey gave a State of the Union Address again. It wasn't a Real State of the Union, but that's no surprise. I didn't listen to it, and I figured to expect even less than promised when I found out White House hack David Axelrod is running around saying "There are millions of jobs that are available and others that are emerging that require skills that people don't have now and if they had them they could fill those jobs." Everyone knows by now that this is a lie, of course. Mostly people are talking about what Obama didn't say.

"What Obama Ignored About The 'Lowest Unemployment Rate In Over 5 Years' [...] That's because a large part of the most recent decline in December was the result of 347,000 people giving up the search for work entirely and dropping out of the labor force. Such a decision helps the unemployment rate look better on paper, since it pushes those people out of the unemployment picture altogether. But in reality, it is not a great sign for the millions struggling to find work. [...] Old-fashioned job creation does account for some of the drop in the unemployment rate, but many of those jobs aren't great. In fact, 75 percent of the jobs created roughly midway through 2013 were part-time, and half of the jobs created in the past three years have been of the low-wage variety." Complete with scary graph of labor participation.

RJ Eskow, "On Wall Street, Sounds of Silence From the President [...] "Here are some of the words and phrases that did not appear in President Obama's speech: 'Wall Street,' 'bank,' 'regulation,' 'fraud,' 'settlement,' 'investigation,' 'too big to fail,' and 'Glass-Steagall.' He didn't mention the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or the Dodd/Frank financial reform bill. He didn't discuss the cynical attempts to roll back financial reform in Congress - attempts that are supported by members of both parties - much less insist that those attempts be defeated."

Bill Moyers discuss the matter with David Simon, who said, "The horror show is we are going to be slaves to profit. Some of us are going to be higher on the pyramid and we'll count ourselves lucky and many many more will be marginalized and destroyed." (Find the Matt Miller piece mentioned, "The real state of the union is inescapable", here.)

I saw people complaining that Obama didn't talk about the TPP, which seemed odd because I thought everyone already knew Obama was doing his damnedest to keep the whole thing off the public radar. Be that as it may, he apparently (note I still haven't been able to bring myself to read the stupid speech) did say something, because Yves says: "Obama made yet another pitch in State of the Union Address for his gimmies to multinationals known as the TransPacific Partnership and the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Today that idea went down in flames, at least as far as getting the deals done this year are concerned." Because, amazingly, Harry Reid appears to be digging in his heels about it. Of course, this is Harry Reid, whose backbone I never had much faith in, but he does seem to be looking at electoral odds lately. And Ron Wyden, who was supposed to be one of its backers, seems to be switching sides, too: "And although it received much less media coverage, matters for Obama got even worse because Ron Wyden signaled he's not on board either. This matters because Wyden is taking over as the chairman of the Finance Services Committee when Max Bacus becomes Ambassador to China."

Also at Naked Capitalism, Lambert on How Tom Perkins Transgressed the Unwritten Law - If you've noticed the kerfluffle of the poor, harried rich guy who complained in The Wall Street Journal that criticisms of the wealthy amount to a "progressive Kristallnacht", and how he suddenly got in trouble with some of his own people, Lambert explains why: He acknowledged class.

CMike found this rather astonishing debate, "What's Next in the Snowden Saga?", in which Fred Kaplan makes no sense whatsoever. He transcribed a bit of it in comments.
Meanwhile, Digby and Scott Lemieux on "The Big Chill" imposed by mass surveillance.

Thomas B. Edsall reviews a book: "Thomas Piketty's new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, described by one French newspaper as a 'a political and theoretical bulldozer,' defies left and right orthodoxy by arguing that worsening inequality is an inevitable outcome of free market capitalism. Piketty, a professor at the Paris School of Economics, does not stop there. He contends that capitalism's inherent dynamic propels powerful forces that threaten democratic societies. Capitalism, according to Piketty, confronts both modern and modernizing countries with a dilemma: entrepreneurs become increasingly dominant over those who own only their own labor. In Piketty's view, while emerging economies can defeat this logic in the near term, in the long run, 'when pay setters set their own pay, there's no limit,' unless 'confiscatory tax rates' are imposed."

"James Clapper Suggests Journalists Could Be Edward Snowden's 'Accomplices' [...] Snowden claims that he's won and that his mission is accomplished," Clapper said, according to a transcript from the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, posted by the Washington Post. "If that is so, I call on him and his accomplices to facilitate the return of the remaining stolen documents that have not yet been exposed, to prevent even more damage to U.S. security."

Elizabeth Warren says it all.

I don't think de Blasio is sounding much like who people thought they were voting for: "New York Mayor Bill de Blasio gave a heartfelt speech praising Israel at a private gala event hosted by AIPAC at the Hilton hotel in midtown Manhattan Thursday night, the local website Capital New York reported. According to an edited audio recording obtained by the site (below), de Blasio said that 'part of his job description is to defend Israel' and that it is 'elemental to being an American, because there is no greater ally on earth, and that's something we can say proudly.' "
- "Debtors prison in PA [...] Wodarski and a half-dozen other defendants contacted said they were sent to jail for costs they didn't have the money to pay. This is illegal, according to Vic Walczak, legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania. 'What is perfectly clear under both the U.S. Constitution and the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure is that you cannot send someone to jail if they cannot afford to pay the fine,' Waldzak said, 'because that's the equivalent of having a debtor's prison - of putting someone in jail simply because they're poor.'
- What a fracking company did to one activist: You have to see this to believe it"

David Atkins notices that the plutocrats seem to have lost Politico with their whining and night terrors: "No kidding. They should be worried. All but the worst of the Objectivist Randroids know at some level that they're being compensated wildly out of proportion to their contributions to the economy. Some, myself included, would even argue that much of the modern financial industry is directly counterproductive to broader economic health. They also understand that their obscene wealth isn't the anodyne result of growing the pie, but constitutes a direct theft of the pie at the expense of everyone else. And most of them have enough experience of history to know that when things get unequal enough in a society with a big enough middle class, the results range from broad progressive economic reforms to bloody revolution."

LeeCamp Tells You Everything The Big Banks Don't Want You To Know

Coyote vs. Acme, Plaintiff's Opening Statement: "My client, Mr. Wile E. Coyote, a resident of Arizona and contiguous states, does hearby bring suit for damages against the Acme Company, manufacturer and retail distributor of assorted merchandise, incorporated in Delaware and doing business in every state, district, and territory. Mr. Coyote seeks compensation for personal injuries, loss of business income, and mental suffering caused as a direct result of the actions and/or gross negligence of said company, under Title 15 of the United States Code Chapter 47, section 2072, subsection (a), relating to product liability."

WITI-TV anti-Beatles editorial from 1966

D. tells me in comments that "Speaking of CSNY, Graham Nash did some talking at the Commonwealth Club; there's a podcast. Robert Reich also spoke there on inequality." (I especially liked the Everly Brothers stories, but the kids singing made me cry.)

I just discovered Clyde McCoy's "Sugar Blues". I had never heard of Clyde McCoy, but now that I have, I'm planning to make his work my soundtrack for a while.

PSA: Due to spammers, I'm now blocking posts by "Anonymous". Make up a screen name, for chrissakes.

* * * * *

It's hard to avoid making little connections like this, but on the occasion of what would have been my father's 100th birthday, Pete Seeger died, and both of these men were more special to me than I feel able to say. I learned the news on Facebook, where a couple of my friends (the real-life flesh kind) briefly reminisced. The first one I saw was from Dave Hartwell:

The greatest living American folk musician has died. His music and performances meant more to me than I can easily articulate, even before I knew his name and heard the Weavers on the radio as a child. Once, at the Hudson River Revival he asked permission to sit on the ground next to me to listen to Ani DiFranco. He politely called me "sir." I was honored. He had more charisma on stage than anyone I ever saw in person, and somehow less ego. He respected the music of others and performed it as well as his own. He was publicly generous to others. I feel lucky to have had him alive for so much of my life.
Steve Simels has a little guest memorial from his "old college roommate" Peter Eisenstadter over at PowerPop.

Susie posted Bruce Springsteen's tribute from Seeger's 90th birthday, and this.

Obituaries from the Guardian, BBC, and The New York Times, and a musical tribute at the Telegraph, 10 great songs.

Of course, "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" was one of the first songs I ever learned to play, and then "If I Had A Hammer", and eventually his musical rendition of Ecclesiastes 3, "Turn! Turn! Turn!".

People keep playing Pete Seeger's performance of "This Land is Your Land" - and yes, I did once hear him perform it live - but we all know that's a Woody Guthrie song, right? (Just to show you how much things have changed, we learned this song in school, although admittedly they skipped some verses when they taught it to us.)

Pete Seeger believed it was always time to organize, to inspire, to do the work, and he kept doing it right up until the end.

22:49 GMT comment

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Find the cost of freedom

Allan Friedman and Marcy Wheeler were guests this week on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd.
Allison Kilkenny and David Waldman discussed Moral Mondays, Truthful Tuesdays, fast-food strikes, and the water in West Virginia on Virtually Speaking Sundays last week.
Stephanie Kelton and Gaius Publius talked about what money is on Virtually Speaking Counterpoints.

Start this one around the 25-minute mark to hear Lee Camp on how Utah is solving their homeless problem. (Use that link if you just want to hear that story, or this one if you just want to go to his page and hear the whole show - but that stream doesn't include time markers.) If you just want to read a story about how and why Utah did it, in contrast to what other localities are doing, try this link: "This trend makes Utah's accomplishment even more noteworthy. In eight years, Utah has quietly reduced homelessness by 78 percent, and is on track to end homelessness by 2015. How did Utah accomplish this? Simple. Utah solved homelessness by giving people homes. In 2005, Utah figured out that the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for homeless people was about $16,670 per person, compared to $11,000 to provide each homeless person with an apartment and a social worker. So, the state began giving away apartments, with no strings attached. Each participant in Utah's Housing First program also gets a caseworker to help them become self-sufficient, but they keep the apartment even if they fail. The program has been so successful that other states are hoping to achieve similar results with programs modeled on Utah's."

"Oxfam: 85 richest people as wealthy as poorest half of the world [...] The wealth of the 1% richest people in the world amounts to $110tn (£60.88tn), or 65 times as much as the poorest half of the world, added the development charity, which fears this concentration of economic resources is threatening political stability and driving up social tensions." Makes you think a lot of the world's problems could be solved by one major weather event at Davos.

"New Warren bill could save billions [...] Warren's bill would discourage tax-deductible settlements by forcing federal agencies to explain why certain settlements are confidential, and to publicly disclose the terms of nonconfidential agreements so that taxpayers can see how much settlement tax-deductibility is costing them." I'm not sure they care enough anymore that they would worry that their "explanations" make any sense or that people know how we are getting screwed. They won't be afraid of us until their servants kill them in their beds.
Money Addict - This guy quit trading because he realized it was harming the world, but it meant giving up his Big Chance. What's interesting is that it was an op-ed in the NYT.

"No, Medical Tourism Is Still Not a Solution to the U.S. Healthcare Crisis" - This is Mike the Mad Biologist's response to Dean Baker. I also disagree with Baker on this issue, but for different reasons. There are real ways to control medical costs in the US, and I don't think Baker is really addressing them. Yeah, we have a problem with overuse and resistance where antibiotics are concerned, but that's not the issue when you have people who spread disease because they can't afford any treatment at all, for example. Cutting the CDC (and cutting its independence from the political system and the all-holy Public-Private Partnership ideology) sure doesn't help. But, mainly, medical tourism just isn't practical, and neither is having a whole bunch of foreigners imported to do medical work that is best done by locals. We can train more people to do the work - we keep the numbers of doctors admitted to med school artificially low, and we do lots of other things that keep good people out of medicine. Of course, we could start by not letting the medical industry tell us what they think their time and work is worth and making us pay it.

"Blunt talk: Obama high on drug reform, but will he act?" - You already know what I think of Obama's promises and "aspirational" chatter, so, no, I don't expect anything good from him.

Yves Smith, "How Bitcoin Plays Into the Hands of Central Bankers and Will Facilitate the Use of Negative Interest Rates" - It's really all a gift to the banks.

You can't privatize a government function without losing confidentiality and security. This is in the UK, but the US is already far ahead in this category, since the Tories just finished the privatization process of the NHS. It means that all that data which was always understood to be confidential will now be in the hands of every private entity that has already weaseled out of the confidentiality agreements they used to treat as important. One of the greatest ironies of the arguments about Edward Snowden is that real secrecy is already gone precisely because putting "secret" or "confidential" information into the hands of private companies means it's already been let out of its box.

Ask Snowden Q&A, on the worst harms of mass surveillance ("bulk collection"): "The first is the chilling effect, which is well-understood. Study after study has show that human behavior changes when we know we're being watched. Under observation, we act less free, which means we effectively *are* less free. The second, less understood but far more sinister effect of these classified programs, is that they effectively create 'permanent records' of our daily activities, even in the absence of any wrongdoing on our part. This enables a capability called 'retroactive investigation,' where once you come to the government's attention, they've got a very complete record of your daily activity going back, under current law, often as far as five years. You might not remember where you went to dinner on June 12th 2009, but the government does. The power these records represent can't be overstated. In fact, researchers have referred to this sort of data gathering as resulting in 'databases of ruin,' where harmful and embarrassing details exist about even the most innocent individuals. The fact that these records are gathered without the government having any reasonable suspicion or probable cause justifying the seizure of data is so divorced from the domain of reason as to be incapable of ever being made lawful at all, and this view was endorsed as recently as today by the federal government's Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight board."

"CONFIRMED: The DEA Struck A Deal With Mexico's Most Notorious Drug Cartel [...] After being extradited to Chicago in February 2010, Zambada-Niebla argued that he was also "immune from arrest or prosecution" because he actively provided information to U.S. federal agents. Zambada-Niebla also alleged that Operation Fast and Furious was part of an agreement to finance and arm the cartel in exchange for information used to take down its rivals. (If true, that re-raises the issue regarding what Attorney General Eric Holder knew about the gun-running arrangements.)"

Aaron Swartz, the movie

I don't know what's weirder, the NYT Mag's cover, or the Tom Tomorrow version.

Betty Bowers, America's Best Christian, on The DOs and DON'Ts of PRAYER

Crony Capitalism Action Figures

Nice interview with Roz Kaveney at The Heroines of My Life .

It's been a long time since I saw Soylent Green and I'd completely forgotten the opening titles. You missed your chance to buy a can of Soylent Green and a cracker for $2,250.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

17:07 GMT comment

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

I could never disguise all my little white lies

So, President Constitutional Scholar gave a speech in which he assured the nation that there were no abuses by the NSA (something even the NSA admits isn't true), and we need to violate the Constitutional rights of every single American in order to defend the Constitution. (Marcy Wheeler provides the annotated speech here.)
- Interestingly, Bruce Schneier reported the day before that, "Today I Briefed Congress on the NSA: This morning I spent an hour in a closed room with six Members of Congress: Rep. Lofgren, Rep. Sensenbrenner, Rep. Scott, Rep. Goodlate, Rep Thompson, and Rep. Amash. No staffers, no public: just them. Lofgren asked me to brief her and a few Representatives on the NSA. She said that the NSA wasn't forthcoming about their activities, and they wanted me -- as someone with access to the Snowden documents -- to explain to them what the NSA was doing. Of course I'm not going to give details on the meeting, except to say that it was candid and interesting. And that it's extremely freaky that Congress has such a difficult time getting information out of the NSA that they have to ask me. I really want oversight to work better in this country." (Marcy Wheeler had some observations about that.)
- Even the conservative Washington Post has Barton Gellman getting into the weeds of problems with Obama's definition of "spying".
- Here's David Sirota's piece from Thursday, "NSA defenders' shameless 'national security' bait and switch ". I like to remind people as often as I can that Bush started the surveillance program in March of 2001. I wonder why Obama and people like him keep talking about how it was a reaction to 9/11, as if it were not already in place and failing to do what it is supposedly for. Maybe because preventing terrorism is not what it's for.

"Court Strikes Down FCC Open Internet Order: WASHINGTON -- On Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Federal Communications Commission's Open Internet Order. In its decision, the court said that the FCC lacked the authority to implement and enforce its rules under the legal framework the agency put forth. The FCC's 2010 order was intended to prevent broadband Internet access providers from blocking or interfering with traffic on the Web. Instead of reversing a Bush-era FCC decision that weakened the FCC's authority over broadband, and establishing solid legal footing for its rules, former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski pushed for rules under the complicated legal framework the court rejected today."
- Shepard Smith Tells Anti-Net Neutrality Guest He "Sound[s] Like A Corporate Shill" "The Whole Internet Disagrees With You."
- Thom Hartmann, "The Internet Is Dead, Long Live the Internet!"

Ari Berman in The Nation, "Members of Congress Introduce a New Fix for the Voting Rights Act: Today Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and John Conyers (D-MI) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced legislation to strengthen the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision last June invalidating a critical section of the VRA. The legislation, known as 'The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014,' represents the first attempt by a bipartisan group in Congress to reinstate the vital protections of the VRA that the Supreme Court took away." This is not likely to go anywhere, weak tea though it is, but I was interested to see Sensenbrenner as one of the proposers. What I'm more interested in, however, is why all this legislation was ever about localities. There are certain actions that we have always known exist for the purposes of vote-suppression. They should be illegal everywhere. My VRA would always have listed them as felonies and any clever new methods we discover would automatically be added to them. (Isn't it odd that changing the polling place in a district without proper notification of the public isn't a recognized voter-suppression tactic and has not been outlawed?) And I'm sure you already know how I feel about any method of voting other than paper ballots hand-counted publicly on the night.

Yves Smith: "Yes Virginia, Obama and the Democrats Are Mussolini-Style Corporatists, Just Like the Republicans: Reader dSquib flagged a 'bizarre' article by Mike Konczal in the New Republic titled, 'Corporatism' is the Latest Hysterical Right-Wing Accusation: The secret history of a smear.' dSquib seemed quite perplexed that anyone would deem calling Obama a corporatist, which as we'll demonstrate is patently true, a smear."

Dave Johnson, "8 Phony GOP Solutions for Poverty That Will Only Bring More Economic Pain" - Dave missed a bet on Rubio's proposal to "remove the marriage penalties in safety net programs." Yes, there's a real marriage penalty, and it was introduced by conservatives to damage these programs - and poor families. It's part of that whole "truly needy" construct where the idea was supposed to be that a family with both parents present doesn't really need assistance and it's just that the lazy, shif'less father should get off the couch and get a job. Men moved out of the house so their wives and kids could get the benefits that were not available as long as the father was in the home. That was a huge sacrifice on their part in the hope it would afford help to their families, but of course the result was splintered families. If Rubio wants to get rid of this nasty bit of right-wing chicanery, I'm all for it. The only trouble is that there's precious little welfare left for those poor families to collect, since conservatives and "centrists" have been consistently conspiring together since LBJ left office to destroy War on Poverty programs. Having mostly succeeded, they are now going more directly after the New Deal.

Dean Baker take-down of "David Brooks' Primitive Defense of the Rich [...] Fans of arithmetic everywhere know that if the rich get more, and the economy is not growing faster, then everyone else gets less. (It might be primitive, but it's true.) And the economy has been growing very slowly for the last thirteen years and actually pretty slowly for the whole period in which inequality has been increasing."

Much as I dislike Dana Milbank, I sure nodded my head when I saw him saying, "Obama is off-message on the unemployed [...] On the House floor, 25 Democrats interrupted debate on a spending bill, coming forward one at a time to ask Republican leaders to take up an extension of unemployment benefits, which lapsed last month. The previous day, Senate Democrats had been doing their part to keep the issue prominent, provoking Republicans to block the legislation with a filibuster. This is exactly the sort of time when presidential leadership is most effective, when consistent use of the president's megaphone can focus national outrage and force holdouts to relent. But at the moment House Democrats were having their rebellion, Obama was giving a speech in Raleigh, N.C. - about wide bandgap semiconductors." Of course, there's a reason for this: Obama doesn't actually want to do anything for the unemployed.

Scary graph: Employment-Population Ratio

Photos: Rich people working very hard, poor people being lazy

1950s Capitalist Propaganda and Opportunistic Egalitarians

Wow, Jeremy Scahill's "Dirty Wars" has an Oscar Nomination for Best Documentary Feature.

Why artificial sweeteners make you fat

Can this really be not a gag?

Cartoon: Play Dead

The pool hall between two worlds - I don't know why the Flash didn't catch that drink before it spilled, though.

The Ramones with Kathy Lee & Regis
The Ramones on Letterman

The Beatles in comics

"50 Years Later: The Greatest Beatles Performance of All Time" - Just for the record, I could not only hear the Beatles really singing and playing even from way up in the stands at RFK Stadium, I could hear all of their mistakes. Anyone who doesn't think they were a great performing band is out of their minds.

"The Night Has a Thousand Eyes"

23:06 GMT comment

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Will time make men more wise?

(I don't know if Churchill ever said that, and I kinda doubt it, but it's something we all should be saying whenever they talk about cuts to things that make life better.)

Every day I read the news, and every day I read things that would have seemed impossible 20 years ago. It used to be that when you thought about reading things in the news that would have seemed impossible 20 years ago, you were talking about progress - about some nifty new invention that made life easier - a sewing machine, a dishwasher - or some expansion of the virtues of civilization. And maybe someday we'd all have jetpacks, or teleporters. Maybe we would have racial harmony, maybe even with the plant-people from some planet you never heard of. But most days I feel like the Martians have invaded and they didn't just catch colds and die.

"Set Up To Fail" is an interview with Michael Hudson that you can read, stream, or download as an .mp3:

Keynes had this idea that when there is unemployment, somehow the government spending has to come in and revive employment. That's called Keynesianism. There are a lot of simple Keynesians - even Paul Krugman is that kind of Keynesian. Post Keynesians go beyond that - basically, if there is anyone we look to be beyond Keynes it's Hyman Minsky, but also Randall Wray and myself. And we say that government normally has to not only run a deficit in order to revive the economy, it has to aim at raising living standards and wage levels, not increasing the economy just by printing money and giving it to the banks, which is what the Federal Reserve in America does and what the European Central Bank does. So, we put the real economy first, not the financial sector and the banks.


Plato explained this many years ago. He said that there is an eternal triangle law: democracies turn into oligarchies and within the oligarchies, the oligarchy makes itself hereditary and turns into an aristocracy, and then the aristocrats fight amongst themselves and some of them try to take the people into their camp and become democrats and the whole thing begins all over again. So we're in a stage of western civilization where we're turning from democracy into oligarchy.

Ian Walsh's "The problem of resistance to the oligarchy" is one of the most depressing things I've ever read, and I wish I could believe he is wrong, but I can't find an argument.
Ian's recent appearance on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd, wasn't quite as depressing. Or maybe it was, I'm not sure I can tell.

Hunter at DKos: "The nation sleeps a dreamless sleep [...] Were we that wrong, before? The Dream may have been dubious, but the void seems worse. Worse than promises of a shared national identity that would come to pass for only some is the new promise that the great heap of everyone will get nothing, and like it; there will be no jobs, save for the grace of the barons; there will be no pensions, because those were the dreams of a too-socialist era (itself fighting communism tooth and nail, perhaps, only to themselves fall to the disgrace of making promises to the working class, a flaw that we must remedy lest communism take the American rust belt one tired pensioner at a time). There will be no big government projects because the new dream says there will be none, and we will like it. Forget the old laws, because businesses have now transcended them. Forget the old duties of government, because the notion that government has duties is itself a petty fabrication."

Sam Seder interview on The Majority Report, David J. Blacker: The Falling Rate of Learning and the Neoliberal Endgame. "Professor David J. Blacker of the University of Delaware author of the new book The Falling Rate of Learning and the Neoliberal Endgame explains the roots of modern primary education in the United States, why changes in capitalist production drive education policy, what is the falling rate of profit? Why being exploited under capitalism is better than being disposed of, what neo-liberalism is a symptom of, why universal education is longer needed for modern capitalism and why we are moving towards an economy of eliminationism."

Gaius Publius has posted the Moyers segment where he talks to Yves Smith and Dean Baker, calling it "an excellent, listenable primer on what TPP is and why it spells death to democracy (literally) and breathes even more life into the predator 1% of the 1%."

From The Hill, "Democrats plead with Obama to abandon Social Security cut." Note that this story is cast entirely in terms of the politics, rather than the effect of the policy on, you know, the country.

"Supreme Court Denies Family Farmers the Right to Self-Defense From Monsanto Lawsuits: The U.S. Supreme Court today issued a decision in the landmark federal lawsuit, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al v. Monsanto. Farmers were denied the right to argue their case in court and gain protection from potential abuse by the agrochemical and genetic engineering giant, Monsanto. Additionally, the high court decision dashes the hopes of family farmers who sought the opportunity to prove in court Monsanto's genetically engineered seed patents are invalid. [...] 'This high court which gave corporations the ability to patent life forms in 1980, and under Citizens United in 2010 gave corporations the power to buy their way to election victories, has now in 2014 denied farmers the basic right of protecting themselves from the notorious patent bully Monsanto,' said Gerritsen. "

Randall Wray on The Greatest Myth Propagated About The FED: Central Bank Independence is worth reading for clarification. There's also an interesting little parenthetical at the end: "(To be clear, we have 4500 honest banks. We have a half dozen huge banks that are run as control frauds. Our financial system's main problems can be found among those SDIs - systemically dangerous institutions. We will not get back our economy or our government until we close them.)"

"7 Reasons Why You Should Stop Bitching About People On Benefits" - They left out the best reason, though: We're talking about people who have to spend their money, which creates demand, which creates jobs. That's a lot more productive use of your money than most of the ones politicians come up with.

Yes, the only thing missing from the Christie saga was... The Boss. (I laughed out loud.)

Ted Rall: "War is a Force That Gives Us Meaninglessness"

Racist enough?

A really touching use of photoshop

Mississippi John Hurt & Skip James

Live Yardbirds, Jimmy Page edition.

20:21 GMT comment

Monday, 13 January 2014

I will try not to sing out of key

This week's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays were Avedon Carol and Gaius Publius. Gaius is always highly recommended in these quarters. I tried to talk more about TPP and our anti-democratic policy leaders and not too much about Chris Christie and the bridge.

Now, this is interesting - an article in The Washington Monthly suggests that renewal of Fast Track is dead on arrival Here's the horror show (.pdf): "Camp-Baucus Bill Would Revive Controversial 2002 Fast Track Mechanism: The Camp-Baucus Fast Track bill replicates the procedures included in the 2002 grant of Fast Track that expired in 2007".

One Year Later: Glenn Greenwald on "The inspiring heroism of Aaron Swartz: Whatever else is true, Swartz was destroyed by a "justice" system that fully protects the most egregious criminals as long as they are members of or useful to the nation's most powerful factions, but punishes with incomparable mercilessness and harshness those who lack power and, most of all, those who challenge power. Swartz knew all of this. But he forged ahead anyway. He could have easily opted for a life of great personal wealth, status, prestige and comfort. He chose instead to fight - selflessly, with conviction and purpose, and at great risk to himself - for noble causes to which he was passionately devoted. That, to me, isn't an example of heroism; it's the embodiment of it, its purest expression. It's the attribute our country has been most lacking."

EXPOSED: Tribalism in Washington! Or, as Ezra puts it, "The depressing psychological theory that explains Washington" - as was revealed when exactly the same policy prescriptions were put forward, the first time as "liberal" and the second time as "conservative, and how the Village reacted each time.

Oh, those clever COINTELPRO burglars! "COINTELPRO burglar: 1970 draft board burglars got in by leaving note on door saying 'Please don't lock'"

Athenae has a question about freeloaders. I think we should definitely take up her suggestion.

"Cold snap"? This is rather amazing - the recent weather in the US reduced to a "cold snap", the idea that there's a silver lining in that it will kill off whole lots of insects, and of course no mention of the fact that it's actually killing off people. And they wonder why we call NPR "Nice Polite Republicans"....

"Father sentenced to 6 months in jail for paying too much child support: A father will spend half of 2014 behind bars for doing too much for his son. After overpaying child support and seeing his son too often - breaking terms that were secretly modified without his knowledge - a judge sentenced him to a lengthy jail sentence."

Is someone poisoning female tourists in Asia?

Jewish Surnames Explained

RIP: Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones), 79.

Seth Breidbart said, "It's so obvious." Match.gov

I can't believe we don't already have one of these!

Cool picture of frozen Niagara falls.

The Batman theme song - visualized

"They will be missed: Remembering 24 sci-fi legends we lost in 2013"

Two hours of Howard Waldrop, George R.R. Martin, and Gardner Dozois

Yes, Atrios, I really want to!

Lake effect - If you can stand Facebook, this is a really weird bit of weather.

Couple Mocks Gender Stereotypes In Witty Engagement Photos

Dan tipped me off to Sandy Denny and Linda Thomson's version of "When Will I Be Loved".


An amusing sign

So, they are re-showing Jonathan Creek from the beginning for the first time in 20 years, so we watched the first episode, and I was not surprised that I didn't remember any of it, but I was a bit surprised that I didn't remember who the murder victim was, and absolutely shocked that we'd never noticed that the original actor who played Adam was replaced - and who originally played him. Ah, but we wouldn't have recognized him back then.

Another dead link to a re-found video: Joe Cocker's performance of "With A Little Help From My Friends", with "lyrics".

15:45 GMT comment

Wednesday, 08 January 2014

A rumination with a view

This week, Digby and Marcy Wheeler were the panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays, rounding up the year in surveillance and "cognitive dissonance in the Village, the formerly impervious DC bubble."

Has anyone noticed that the United States government's agents seem to be embarked on a direct attack on the survival of the United States? I mean, seriously, would you want to visit, let alone do business with, a country that does things like this? "Outrage at JFK as Customs men smash a musician's instruments: Boujemaa Razgui, a flute virtuoso who lives in New York and works with many US ensembles, was returning to base over the holiday when Customs officials at Kennedy Airport asked to see his instruments. Bourjemaa carries a variety of flutes of varying ethnicity, each made by himself over years for specific types of ancient and modern performance. He is a regular guest with the diverse and enterprising Boston Camerata. At JFK, the officials removed and smashed each and every one of his instruments." The "reason" for this appears to be that they were "agricultural products". Ah, but that's a small thing in the context of unregulated banksters and runaway spy agencies, isn't it?
And speaking of spies breaking the country, here's Bruce Schneier on How the NSA Threatens National Security.

For the first time in a long time, The Washington Post has added someone who actually gives a damn about civil liberties. The good news, believe it or not, is that it's not a noted "liberal" or "progressive" public intellectual - it's actually libertarian Radley Balko. And while I'm sure Radley and I could find lots to argue about, on issues of civil liberties, justice, and the militarization of our police, Balko is a mensch.

"'Horror Stories' Show How Privatization Loots Taxpayers" - I've been saying this for twelve years now: You do not save money by privatizing; it costs more and it radically reduces efficiency. Every day there is a new "horror story" that is not just some glitch in the system, it's exactly what you can expect when you privatize. Dave actually understates the case here, because the underlying tax base is still always part of the gravy train.

"The Death Bet" - Ankit Shah tweeted the link to this Ian Welsh piece with the words, "A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in," which is right, but I had a bit of trouble with the way Ian wrote it, as if everyone just decided to let everything fall apart. There's a lot of language in this piece that makes me wonder what he was drinking, because it sounds like he forgot that the people who've made a life-long and successful project of tearing the New Deal apart are older than the generation he seems to blame for doing it. And, most of all, that "the bulk of senior executives and the bulk of powerful politicians" don't represent a generation, they represent a particular class of people. Most importantly, those people regarded the builders of the New Deal - members of their own class - as class traitors. A portion of the ruling class's power was wrested from them by rebels within their own ranks and given to the people, and now they've wrested it back. It has nothing to do with "us" or a generation or anything the rest of us did. Though it's conceivable that we might have had an inhuman amount of precognition and paranoia that caused us to kill them all in their beds back in the '60s before they were able to effect their program, we didn't and were just trying to live our lives and do the best we could with the world as it was and didn't notice the massive changes they were bringing on us until it was too late. Some people still haven't noticed, but "the bulk of senior executives and the bulk of powerful politicians" (and a tiny handful of extremely, immorally rich individuals and families) are the ones who made this world, and We, the People, are just desperately trying to live in it. (Why else would cutting the estate tax even be a topic of public conversation when only 18 families in the whole of the United States would even benefit from those cuts which would be so harmful to the whole nation?) And, even so, we still plant trees whose shade we will never sit in, even though we know that the bad guys may be coming to mow them down.

"Dignitary's Maid Reveals Indignities of Domestic Work [...] Though household labor has evolved from its rigid historical forms, a new chapter of the period drama for the era of globalization has emerged in New York's rarefied diplomatic scene, with curious case of Sangeeta Richard, the domestic worker of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade."

"Our Leaders Do Not Mean Well" - Daniel Falcone interviews William Blum, author of Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions since World War II.

Starting here, CMike left a comment on an earlier post - well, series of comments, actually, to overcome the limits of free Atom comment wordcounts - in response to a link that appeared in that post: "I'm going to comment and paste at extreme length about the top one of those three posters Avedon linked to over at Hullabaloo, with the upper caption on that poster repeating what, for a long time, has been the incessantly hawked neo-liberal claim that Finland has the best school system in the world. Now, of course, the neo-libs have no interest in seeing the Finns' "best in the world" system replicated here, but rather they want to create the impression among American voters and their elected representatives that our own K-12 educational system is failing. From there, almost seamlessly you can end up at the argument our labor market is beset by structural problems owing in part to these dysfunctional public schools which have left us with an inadequately educated work force, one that is not ready to compete successfully in the global marketplace and that that helps explain why wage rate growth for middle and working class earners in the U.S. has failed to keep up with productivity gains over the last forty years and why the new normal for the unemployment rate these days necessarily is going to be at a higher level than what would have been tolerated by voters in previous decades." And, once again, it turns out that it's not our public schools that are failing us.

The Odd Man Out keeps noticing that Poverty gets more expensive every day.
"The science of class superiority: If you're doing well, you believe success comes to those who deserve it, and those of lower status must not deserve it."

Jon Schwarz notices a little bit of rewriting history in an effort to make Edward Snowden the anti-Ellsberg. There's a lot of this nonsense around - how Ellsberg did X but Snowden did Y, and that somehow makes Snowden a bad guy. In this case, a Villager mouthpiece ends the Vietnam war a little early just to make what Ellsberg did more "okay" than what Snowden did. But of course, that's all wrong....

"New (and final) Tales of the City book to be published [...] The Days of Anna Madrigal, the ninth and final volume of Armistead Maupin's series (begun in 1978 as a newspaper serial), will be published on January 21."

T-Rex illusion
Groucho and Chico Marx

"Male Fans Made Bettie Page a Star, but Female Fans Made Her an Icon."

Warren Zevon, Peter Asher, Waddy Wachtel and others talk about The Life and Times of the Everly Brothers.

Zander left me a little (belated) birthday present in his presentation of the 12 days of Christmas, Day Six. Only trouble is I miscounted - I think I said "six" when it should have been five.

Patrick Stewart imitates cows.

Your steampunk moment

Green Arrow's most ludicrous arrows

Susie put up a smashing live performance of "Tell It Like It Is" - looks like it's on Jools, and it's so fine!

17:08 GMT comment

Sunday, 05 January 2014

Burn that bastard down

Just the other day I was complaining that no one is on television pointing out that "Obamacare" was actually a creation of the right-wing Heritage Foundation, and it's purpose was to prevent good health care. Little did I know that Michael Moore would soon be in The New York Times pointing out that very thing:

" I believe Obamacare's rocky start - clueless planning, a lousy website, insurance companies raising rates, and the president's telling people they could keep their coverage when, in fact, not all could - is a result of one fatal flaw: The Affordable Care Act is a pro-insurance-industry plan implemented by a president who knew in his heart that a single-payer, Medicare-for-all model was the true way to go. When right-wing critics 'expose' the fact that President Obama endorsed a single-payer system before 2004, they're actually telling the truth.

"What we now call Obamacare was conceived at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and birthed in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney, then the governor. The president took Romneycare, a program designed to keep the private insurance industry intact, and just improved some of its provisions. In effect, the president was simply trying to put lipstick on the dog in the carrier on top of Mitt Romney's car. And we knew it. "

Thursday's big story on page and screen was The New York Times' decision to publish an editorial calling for clemency for Edward Snowden. As NYT Public Editor Margaret Sullivan mentions, numerous news organs ("including Politico, Fox News, The Nation, and USA Today") quickly reacted to the story. Everyone's favorite pull-quote from the editorial: "When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government." When the Guardian published a similar editorial on January 1st, no one seemed to think much of it - perhaps as much because of the date as the source - but for The Newspaper of Record to make the case was another matter - why, even CNN was prepared to give viewers real oppositional debate:
Glenn Greenwald vs. Ruth Marcus (WaPo) on Snowden
The Situation Room, Jeffrey Toobin (Obama partisan) vs. Kristinn Hrafnsson (WikiLeaks) and Ryan Lizza (The New Yorker) on Snowden.

What can drive you the craziest is how just one crackpot can force big institutions to do stuff that most people just don't want.

Wealthy Americans Prove Pope Francis' Point by Threatening Economic Blackmail

I can find nothing to disagree with in Jesse Ventura's New Year's Message.

How The Twilight Zone Predicted Our Paranoid Present

"Porn in the Middle East - The Elephant in The Room"

RIP: John Fortune of Bird & Fortune, aka "The Two Johns", the brilliant political satire team. John Bird said, "He made me funny... as soon as he arrived everything flowed." The two of them used to take turns in their sketches being interviewer and interviewee - who was usually someone purporting to be a reputable source for the establishment, and always named George Parr. In this episode, George Parr explains the credit crunch to John Fortune. and here, John Fortune interviews George Parr, an investment banker. And here is John Bird interviewing George Parr, a British businessman in China, and John Bird interviewing George Parr, Home Office Minister (a particular favorite). Unfortunately, we couldn't find John Bird's interview with the Martian.

RIP: Phil Everly, 74, and some of the best harmonies ever. (More here.)

Nerdy NHS safer sex video

I was messing around in the 2007 archives looking up old links and exploring the link-rot when I re-found a pretty funny old video of Eddie Murphy and Cavett on Letterman's show.

There's a lot of interesting trivia (and some cool quotes) in this article about Marilyn Monroe.

Really tiny people playing with their food (Thanks, Charles!)

Masstransiscope restored - video here.

Neil Gaiman and Joss Whedon on the legacy of Buffy (Full podcast.)

Thomas Dolby, "The Toadlickers"

16:30 GMT comment

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The shape of things

This week on Virtually Speaking Sundays, Jay Ackroyd and Avedon Carol did a little round-up of our top ten issues. There's an outline with the relevant links here.

* * * * *

Here's an astonishing piece of crap from Alan Dershowitz:

As far as Greenwald is concerned, he's an ideologue. I don't think he would have revealed this information if it had been critical of Venezuela or Cuba or the Palestinian Authority. You know, he doesn't like America. He doesn't like Western democracies. He's never met a terrorist he didn't like. So he's a very hard-left ideologue that uses this to serve his political agenda not simply to reveal information in a neutral way. That makes him very different from WikiLeaks, I think.
I love the idea that (a) a concerned citizen should be criticizing other countries when their own government is clearly violating the rights of its citizens and (b) when you know the most powerful country in the world is committing egregious crimes and atrocities, you should aim all of your criticisms at Venezuela. Because they are so much more of a threat to the world, I guess. It's like saying that Germans during the rise of the Third Reich should have been pointing with alarm at Ecuador or something.

New article from Der Spiegel on the NSA's secret toys, and Glenn Greenwald saying the NSA can "Literally Watch Every Keystroke You Make."
Bill Moyers on What the Press Should Learn From the 'Snowden Effect'
Watch Mediastan, the WikiLeaks road movie.
"If you aren't doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide from the cancer-inducing scan."

* * * * *

So, was De Blasio just another spit in the eye of democracy? Someone realized people were beginning to see through the test-marketed half-truths of the "centrists" and decided to go with full-throated pretence? I mean, De Blasio did pretend to oppose stop-and-frisk, and yet he keeps appointing these awful people.

Matt Taibbi says the "Outrageous HSBC Settlement Proves the Drug War is a Joke: If you've ever been arrested on a drug charge, if you've ever spent even a day in jail for having a stem of marijuana in your pocket or "drug paraphernalia" in your gym bag, Assistant Attorney General and longtime Bill Clinton pal Lanny Breuer has a message for you: Bite me."

"An Open Letter to the Makers of The Wolf of Wall Street, and the Wolf Himself"

"Moguls Rent South Dakota Addresses to Dodge Taxes Forever" - People talk about that building in the Cayman Islands, but it's even worse than that: "Among the nation's billionaires, one of the most sought-after pieces of real estate right now is a quiet storefront in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. [...] While the super-rich use various tools to escape the levy - - some have exotic names like the 'Jackie O' trust and the 'Walton GRAT' -- the advantage of dynasty trusts is that they shield a family's wealth forever. That defies the spirit of the estate tax, enacted almost 100 years ago to discourage the perpetuation of dynastic wealth. "

"Cash Handouts Are Changing Inequality In Brazil: This is the same guaranteed minimum income idea that's being kicked around now, but it has a couple of things going against it. First, it works. Second, the right-wingers are aghast at giving money to people for doing nothing -- unless they're transferring untaxed wealth via trusts or estates to their ne'er-do-well children."

Dept. of Best Country in the World: "The opposite of what they do in America"

Odd Man Out on "The ill logic of the lower classes [..] When I got back here I asked the swamp rabbit, an amateur shrink as well as a closet bibliophile, why my former neighbor and I had shied away from one another. He spit into the Tinicum swamp and said, 'Your ex-neighbor feels like a bum. He'd feel even more like a bum talking to you, because you knew him when he had a house. And I reckon you didn't want him to know you feel like a bum, too.' I reminded the rabbit that I'm a fiction writer, not a bum. He asked me what the difference was. It was noon, but he already smelled like he'd finished off a bottle."

The P.U.-Litzers: Here Are the Stinkiest Media Moments of 2013

Robert Reich's End of Year Message has him singing Freddy Mercury, which is entertaining, even if it ends up sounding a bit too much like partisan cheerleading. Still, there's some optimism in the air, and maybe it'll amount to something.

"Why are we fat?"

"How Fanzines Helped Put Doctor Who Fans in Charge of Doctor Who"

Stupid Comics

The horrifying truth about Back to the Future

Ten years on: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The legacy of the teen heroine"

The only painting Vincent ever sold

Max Frost and the Troopers

One of the things I've been doing in Second Life over the last few years was throwing events that involve hiring DJs. When they find out that I love the Beatles, they cleverly include in their sets what are apparently the only four Beatles songs they can think of. These are usually: "Yellow Submarine", "Birthday", "Octopus's Garden", and "Maxwell's Silver Hammer". It took me a while to realize that there is at least one generation out there that perceives the Beatles as some sort of producer of children's music and novelty songs. It was rather startling to have to take them aside and tell them that those are not songs that really exemplify the Beatles' work and that if they'd never produced them I really would never have missed them.

13:06 GMT comment

Thursday, 26 December 2013

I pray on Christmas

Once again, Christmas distracted me from posting, so catching up with the entire week here:

For the Christmas tradition:
- Mark Evanier's wonderful Mel Tormé story, and here's the man himself in duet with Judy Garland.
- Joshua Held's Christmas card, with a little help from the Platters.
- Brian Brink's virtuoso performance of "The Carol of the Bells"
- "Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime."
- Ron Tiner's one-page cartoon version of A Christmas Carol
- And this year, Neil reads us A Christmas Carol.

* * * * *

The prezzies are below, but first, the news and politics:

Nice clip of Chris Hayes interviewing Elizabeth Warren - good questions, good answers.

Michael Bloomberg's New York is one he turned into a nightmare for many ordinary people so it could become a playground for billionaires, but he likes to pretend that God did it.

Libby's round-up on security and freedom issues - Snowden et al., Mandela.

Mika Brzezinski is enough to try anyone's patience, but in this case it was Glenn Greenwald.

"Federal Judge Rules That Same-Sex Marriage Is Legal in Utah." Utah. Wow.

"A Very Adult Social Security Tantrum: Centrist Dems are horrified by Elizabeth Warren's plan to raise benefits. But populists aren't backing down."

"Bob Newhart cancels appearance at anti-LGBT Catholic event."

"Growing Scientific Consensus on GMO Safety Fears [...] "For many years we have been bombarded with the comment that there is a 'scientific consensus' that GMOs are safe and we now have a large group of scientists who say this is not the case. We are now putting the theory forward that actually there is now a 'scientific consensus' that 'GMO safety has not been correctly tested'. This is purely to show that anyone can use the term 'scientific consensus'." "The party's over, Monsanto."

Dean Baker, "Inequality: Government Is a Perp, Not a Bystander: In his speech on inequality earlier this month President Obama proclaimed that the government could not be a bystander in the effort to reduce inequality, which he described as the defining moral issue of our time. This left millions convinced that Obama would do nothing to lessen inequality. The problem is that President Obama wants the public to believe that inequality is something that just happened. It turns out that the forces of technology, globalization, and whatever else simply made some people very rich and left others working for low wages or out of work altogether. The president and other like-minded people feel a moral compulsion to reverse the resulting inequality. This story is 180 degrees at odds with the reality. Inequality did not just happen, it was deliberately engineered through a whole range of policies intended to redistribute income upward."

Her Majesty's Privatized Prison Christmas: "For the first time this Christmas, people in prison will not be able to receive parcels from their loved ones under petty and mean new rules introduced by the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling. The new rules, which forbid prisoners from receiving any items in the post unless there are exceptional circumstances, were introduced in November as part of the government's changes to the Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) scheme. Under the rules, families are prevented from sending in basic items of stationery such as cards, paper or pens to help people in prison keep in touch with their friends and families and wish them a happy Christmas. They are also prevented from sending books and magazines or additional warm clothes and underwear to the prison. Instead people in prison are now forced to pay for these items out of their meagre prison wages to private companies who make a profit from selling goods to prisoners."

"De Blasio Hires Goldman Sachs Exec To Make City More Affordable: For all his campaign bluster against the two cities New York has become, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio isn't exactly shying away from some of the people who helped make it that way. This morning, the mayor-elect announced that Alicia Glen will serve as Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, a newly created position that will aim to make housing more affordable, as well create living-wage jobs for New Yorkers. 'We need to invest in key emerging industries and affordable housing so New Yorkers have a better shot at working their way into the middle class. Alicia has the record, fresh ideas and bold outlook to make that vision a reality,' said de Blasio at this morning's press conference. De Blasio discussed Glen's vast experience, but mostly skirted the topic of Glen's last position, as the head of Goldman Sachs's Urban Investment Group."

Rachel Maddow was particularly interested in this question and answer from a legislator who is trying to ban abortion in his state, from Al Jazeera's "The Abortion War".

And Pareene's No. 1 Hack is Mike Allen, but it turns out that the president's favorite columnists are a rather disturbing Hacklist all on their own.

The Public Editor of The New York Times, currently Margaret Sullivan, comes out against the term "entitlements".
Brendan Nyhan (of all people!) acknowledges: "Political centrism is not objectivity: How the media wrongly treats deficit reduction as non-ideological."

Langford explains David Cameron's brilliant new internet protection firewall and the incredibly dangerous sites you can't reach.
"Some websites should be unblockable" - Just what exactly do British Telecom et al. think they are protecting children from?

"I wrote the Anarchist Cookbook in 1969. Now I see its premise as flawed."

I used to say that the only thing that was better about health care in the US when I lived there was that the furniture was better. Actually, this may not be true. After all, I was seeing doctors in Montgomery County, and those were better days for American health care, too. If I want quality furniture, I can still pay for it by seeing a Harley Street doctor, but I'm just happy that the quality of care in the UK is good, and it's free - and my doctor doesn't have a TV or radio on in his waiting room. Not that I have to wait in there very long, but it really does sound like it's American HellCare over there.

Yves Smith, "Was Scrooge a Neoliberal? [...] Now in reading a story that is 170 years old, it's far too easy to overdo projecting the preoccupations of our era on to a very different time. But politically and economically, we are in the midst of a finance-led counterrevolution, in which the top wealthy, having succeeded in taking an ever-larger share of assets and wealth, are seeking to cement and extend their gains by rolling back hard-won labor reforms and social welfare programs. Their immediate target is the New Deal, but they'll take as much ground as they can. That makes Victorian England more relevant than it might seem."

Patrick Durusau, "A Salinas Card" - Because the Supreme Court just decided that if you don't already know your rights, you don't have them.

"That's how they getcha [...] But still, screw capitalism. Corporate hotel chains of the sort where one attends academic conferences are particularly good places for cultivating the experience of being had. A couple of years ago I booked a hotel room for AMS and the clerk taking my reservation over the phone got the date wrong, giving me an extra night on the Wednesday before the conference started. I showed up on Thursday and the check-in clerk told me I had missed the first night of my reservation and would be obliged to pay. I pointed out that I never reserved Wednesday night. She pointed out that it didn't matter: they had sent out a confirmation email that, had I read it, would have informed me of the mistake in enough time to change my reservation. And that's how they getcha. Of course I didn't read the confirmation email; neither do I read the 90-page terms-of-service agreement for which you have to click 'agree' before your new update of iTunes (or whatever) will run. Neither I nor anyone I know has the time to read every piece of responsibility-evading legalism spewed up in the course of any average daily negotiation of commercial civilization. Most of the time it still wouldn't matter even if I did, because I would need a lawyer to explain what any of it is saying. You can only give full informed consent to everything that demands it by belonging to the class of person who erected the whole system in the first place. You have to be 'good at capitalism'; you have to be in on the trick."

"Bradford synagogue saved by city's Muslims: It was around this time last year that the trustees of Bradford's final remaining synagogue faced a tough choice. The roof of the Grade II-listed Moorish building was leaking; there was serious damage to the eastern wall, where the ark held the Torah scrolls; and there was no way the modest subscriptions paid annually by the temple's 45 members could cover the cost. [...] But rather than close, Bradford Reform Synagogue's future is brighter than ever after the intervention of Bradford's Muslim community, which according to the 2011 census outnumbers the city's Jews by 129,041 to 299. A fundraising effort - led by the secretary of a nearby mosque, together with the owner of a popular curry house and a local textile magnate - has secured the long-term future of the synagogue and forged a friendship between Bradfordian followers of Islam and Judaism."

RIP: Dave Ettlin's amazing Aunt Alice, 1907-2013. "'And what a great time my brother Ben and I had running into every room, pushing buttons just to see the lights go on,' she wrote. A house with electricity, papa's 'Tin Lizzy' car with a crank-operated starter, an ice box refrigerator that needed a 10-cent block of ice to keep stuff cold. It was another world back then." She was a special lady.

RIP: Legendary pornographer and free speech radical Al Goldstein, 77

The EFF's NSA Crossword Puzzle

Your cute animal story for the day: Dog cares for tiny kitten.

This is something I never knew about Wally Cox.

The making of a London Underground poster

An amazing bit of pencil art

In which Susan never lost Narnia - she took it with her.

Sherlock Mini-Episode: Many Happy Returns

The Zombies still make me feel good.

Blind Boys of Alabama

15:42 GMT comment

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb?

And then inequality happened: "But as he turned to characterize the Great Recession, Obama's speech pattern changed: He shifted to a sentence structure that excludes human actors from the subject position. 'The deck is stacked' against the working class, Obama said. Why? Because 'taxes were slashed,' he said, and 'growth has flowed to a fortunate few.' His language gave no indication of who brought about these disparities."
"Time to bury the Clinton economic legacy [...] Many Democrats want to preserve the fiction that the prosperity of the late 1990s was due to deficit reduction rather than an unsustainable stock bubble."

"From the Bullet to the Ballot: An Unfavorable Review of a Work on the Black Panther Party" - Black Agenda Report managing editor and former Black Panther Party member Bruce Dixon on how black establishment historians are deleting the history of black analysis and conscience from the record. Big afros were cool, and then Barack Obama got elected president. You'd think no one knew any Vietnam vets and that Dr. King never spoke out against war and capitalism. "No matter what Bobby Seale says these days, putting black faces in high places is not why I was there, it's not why most of us were there. If you bother to listen to Fred Hampton's patter in the movie about Papa Doc and others, you can see it's not why he was there, it's certainly not why the Illinois Chapter of the BPP was there. It's not what our martyrs were slain for, or what some of our comrades did decades in prison for, or why some of them are still serving time. We were fighting for the end of oppression of men (and women) by man, something a little broader and deeper than many of those who pass for "black power" advocates did then or do today." (Also at BAR, this news round-up says de Blasio is, sadly, not exactly reversing course from Giuliani in his pick for Police Commissioner.)

Digby: "Are we seeing the beginning of a divide and conquer strategy on wealth inequality? I wonder if anyone else has been struck by the oddity of the president and other elite luminaries responding to Elizabeth Warren's populist message for the middle class with rhetoric and policies to help the poor? If one were the least bit cynical, one might think it was a strategy to divide the left along the usual lines --- by offering the only solution as being limited to taking from average workers to help the truly desperate. Leaving the very wealthy alone. Of course." I don't think this is at all a cynical take - it's what hostage-taking is all about. Convincing us that we need to "help the poor" at the expense of making us all poorer is a canny trick, but if we let them get away with it, there will be no relief at all for the poor, which will be 99% of us.

Stupid "job creator" tricks: "At Sears, Eddie Lampert's Warring Divisions Model Adds to the Troubles [...] In January, eight years after Lampert masterminded Kmart's $12 billion buyout of Sears in 2005, the board appointed him chief executive officer of the 120-year-old retailer. The company had gone through four CEOs since the merger, yet former executives say Lampert has long been running the show. Since the takeover, Sears Holdings' sales have dropped from $49.1 billion to $39.9 billion, and its stock has sunk 64 percent. Its cash recently fell to a 10-year low. Although it has plenty of assets to unload before bankruptcy looms, the odds of a turnaround grow longer every quarter. 'The way it's being managed, it doesn't work,' says Mary Ross Gilbert, a managing director at investment bank Imperial Capital. 'They're going to continue to deteriorate.' Plagued by the realities threatening many retail stores, Sears also faces a unique problem: Lampert. Many of its troubles can be traced to an organizational model the chairman implemented five years ago, an idea he has said will save the company. Lampert runs Sears like a hedge fund portfolio, with dozens of autonomous businesses competing for his attention and money. An outspoken advocate of free-market economics and fan of the novelist Ayn Rand, he created the model because he expected the invisible hand of the market to drive better results. If the company's leaders were told to act selfishly, he argued, they would run their divisions in a rational manner, boosting overall performance. Instead, the divisions turned against each other - and Sears and Kmart, the overarching brands, suffered."

"Inside the Saudi 9/11 coverup" - It's always seemed particularly strange to me that everyone agreed to completely ignore the fact that most of the hijackers were Saudi nationals and went from a "the hijackers were acting alone" theory straight to a "Saddam did it!" when it was time to pivot to Iraq without even a moment's eye to the country that has been exporting extremist Wahabism and nurtured the hijackers themselves. "But the White House never let it see an entire section of Congress' investigative report on 9/11 dealing with 'specific sources of foreign support' for the 19 hijackers, 15 of whom were Saudi nationals. It was kept secret and remains so today. President Bush inexplicably censored 28 full pages of the 800-page report. Text isn't just blacked-out here and there in this critical-yet-missing middle section. The pages are completely blank, except for dotted lines where an estimated 7,200 words once stood (this story by comparison is about 1,000 words). A pair of lawmakers who recently read the redacted portion say they are 'absolutely shocked' at the level of foreign state involvement in the attacks. Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) can't reveal the nation identified by it without violating federal law. So they've proposed Congress pass a resolution asking President Obama to declassify the entire 2002 report, 'Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.'"

Edward Snowden: "An Open Letter to the People of Brazil [...] They even keep track of who is having an affair or looking at pornography, in case they need to damage their target's reputation. American Senators tell us that Brazil should not worry, because this is not "surveillance," it's "data collection." They say it is done to keep you safe. They're wrong. There is a huge difference between legal programs, legitimate spying, legitimate law enforcement - where individuals are targeted based on a reasonable, individualized suspicion - and these programs of dragnet mass surveillance that put entire populations under an all-seeing eye and save copies forever. These programs were never about terrorism: they're about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They're about power. [...] If Brazil hears only one thing from me, let it be this: when all of us band together against injustices and in defense of privacy and basic human rights, we can defend ourselves from even the most powerful systems."

"Colorado professor forced to retire over prostitution lecture in 'deviant sociology' course [...] Patricia Adler told Inside Higher Ed that she was offered an ultimatum: accept a buyout, or stay but risk being fired and losing her retirement benefits if any student complained about her course in the future."

Alex Pareene is doing the Hacklist, and he's done a masterful job of channeling Thomas Friedman that had me giggling away - but who can the others be when Friedman is only number 9? Oh, well, one who outranked him this time is Richard Cohen, I see.

"Chicago's 'Smart Card' Debacle and Privatisation" - Sirota read this the same way I did, that it's more like a sit-com scenario than any kind of serious plan for a city's transport - but what it's really about, of course, is massive corruption.

Atrios is one of very few guys - hell, very few people - who are willing to use their platform to make the case for female freedom in a substantive way. It's not freedom for women to be terrified all the time that some guy is going to have sex with you, just FYI, and it's certainly not freedom to have your friends and family members constantly trying to prevent it. Sex can be a lot of things - messy, embarrassing, even dangerous (especially if you have been schooled by abstinence-only "educators" who told you a pack of lies to make sure you don't know what the hell you're doing), but it can also be revelatory great fun that makes life worth living.

"I thought I'd never understand ObamaCare until I read these eleven words from a Washington Post columnist: 'Insurers look at these next few years as a gold rush.'"

7 Rip-Offs Corporations and the Wealthy Don't Want You to Know About

Ted Rall cartoon: "Why Do You Hate Obama?"
Among things that could Never Happen....

Always sad to see someone you've always admired turn into a jerk.

20 things the poor really do every day

Sam Seder for the war against the war on Christmas.

Playlist for Life: "There is mounting evidence that if people with dementia are offered frequent access to the music in which their past experience and memories are embedded, it can improve their present mood, their awareness, their ability to understand and think and their sense of identity and independence. No matter how far their dementia has progressed."

"What These Dragon Blood Trees Do Is Straight Out Of Mythology. Except It's Completely Real." They look pretty strange to me, too.

Tales from the Unexpected: Christopher Lee's heavy metal Christmas tune

Watch Sweethearts of the Galaxy Episode 3 Now!

"The greatest rock n' roll Christmas song of all time", the way it should be heard.

16:30 GMT comment

Sunday, 15 December 2013

All the world's links at once

Scheduled for tonight's Virtually Speaking Sundays, "Joan McCarter and Jay Ackroyd compare and contrast the media attention to the beleaguered centrist Dems with John Podesta's appointment to a new position of power, and then discuss the pros and cons of cutting discretionary spending."

David Dayen in The American Prospect on Robbing Illinois's Public Employees serves as homework for that last Virtually Speaking Sundays Dday did with Gaius Publius.
And Sam Seder's interview with David Dayen on The Majority Report.

Public and Private Sector Payroll Jobs: Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama

At Naked Capitalism, Yves reposts "Bill Moyers: The Great American Class War, Plutocracy Versus Democracy".

Believe it or not, George W. Bush actually tried to close down the gulag at Gitmo but Cheney undercut him. Today's Cheney is Democratic Party honcho Steve Israel, who has kept Gitmo running despite opposition from just about everyone.

Atrios accidentally linked this two-year-old article about how Bush tried to find dirt on Juan Cole to discredited him, but it's worth reminding that this is exactly why we don't want our intelligence and law-enforcement apparatus storing back-data on every little thing you might have done in the past.
And Juan Cole certainly gets that, so he wrote, "Dear Pres. Obama: Dissent isn't Possible in a Surveillance State," in response to Obama's eulogy for Nelson Mandela: "Obama praised dissent in the service of human rights, but has done everything in his power to suppress dissent. Dissent can come from within the ranks of government employees (indeed, since 3% of the work force in the US is employed by the Federal government if you count the military, it would have to). If Mr. Obama truly valued dissent in the service of human rights, he would persuade his Attorney General to drop charges against Edward Snowden and he would use his presidential pardon to release Chelsea Manning from penitentiary. These two are dissenters, the one in prison and the other facing prosecution if the US could get its hands on him. They saw their government do things that they found ethically repugnant and blatantly unconstitutional, which the government had hidden from the citizens whom it was supposed to be serving. Their revelations of what they knew was the highest form of morality. [...] Greatness has escaped Mr. Obama. He seems content to be the community organizer of the Federal government, asking Congress and Federal officials what they think they need and offering to try to get it for them. That isn't leadership. His response to the NSA leaks was to announce that the country could now have a discussion of the practices, as though the citizenry could discuss matters being actively hidden from them, on which a sitting senator like Wyden is muzzled. Mr. Obama's chance at greatness is before him. Most of the abuses are in the executive, over which he largely has control. He could initiate major reforms restoring constitutional liberties. If he does not, he is very unfortunately choosing to play P.W. Botha, not Nelson Mandela."

Echidne says we need a different concept of "infrastructure": "All the things that a First World country is expected to have: Not only roads, bridges, communication systems, cheap-and-efficient transportation systems, but also clean water, safe food, schools which provide the citizens of the country with the needed skills and knowledge, basic safety nets which protect them against major illness, the pains of old age and utter poverty."

More NSA fallout, or "Why there won't be a third book in the Halting State trilogy" - because reality has caught up too fast with Charlie's imagination.

Dean Baker has to explain TPP to Paul Krugman. Yves Smith is distressed by the role Krugman has chosen to play - but heartened by the critical response of his loyal readers.
Spocko spends a minute-and-a-half pretending to be Ross Perot to tell us why there should be NO Fast Track on Trans Pacific Partnership Job Killer.
And here's Sam Seder talking to Zach Carter about TPP on The Majority Report.

How Slate redefines a push-back - Dave Weigel's weird article about how the left "made up" a debate about Social Security expansion. This is a very odd way to frame a story about how objecting to having policy made by people no one agrees with actually worked for a change. Well, they do have someone's support.

I'm sorry, you can't blame the internet for the fact that a story went viral because no one had time to check it. The Newspapers of Record have been printing crap since before there was an internet. And since the internet has been around for some time now, why is The New York Times suddenly noticing that there are fake stories around? I mean, jeez, those people get paid for the so-called gate-keeping and fact-checking and editing that allegedly goes on. If they can't do better than a lazy, sloppy, unpaid slob like me, why should anyone pay attention to them at all, let alone pay money for their product?

Like I've said for the last 12 years, the great thing about bloggers (the independent, unsalaried kind) is that they're not part of the beltway consensus, and they don't depend for their income on saying things that are pleasing to powerful, connected, people.

Even Reagan's labor secretary ultimately had to agree: "You can't run an economy like that."

Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or, poverty thoughts [...] I know how to cook. I had to take Home Ec to graduate high school. Most people on my level didn't. Broccoli is intimidating. You have to have a working stove, and pots, and spices, and you'll have to do the dishes no matter how tired you are or they'll attract bugs. It is a huge new skill for a lot of people. That's not great, but it's true. And if you fuck it up, you could make your family sick. We have learned not to try too hard to be middle-class. It never works out well and always makes you feel worse for having tried and failed yet again. Better not to try. It makes more sense to get food that you know will be palatable and cheap and that keeps well. Junk food is a pleasure that we are allowed to have; why would we give that up? We have very few of them."

Microaggressions - I grew up in a neighborhood where we were all living in the house our parents brought us home to from the hospital, and the other kids used to ask me, "Where are you from?" I'm from here, you nitwit!

Waterstone's responds - well, hell, that's where I wanna get my books from!

World's biggest snowglobe, Piccadilly Circus
What London Would Look Like If the Thames Barrier Had Failed

Licia Ronzulli takes her daughter to work - in parliament.

It's funny how often people refer to camera work (Photoshop, air-brushing, "touching up") as why models and stars look better-than-real in photos and film, but it's amazing how much of the work happens in make-up.

This article about Dave van Ronk and the new film about him brought up Lee Hoffman's folk bio, 'cause she was a pal of van Ronk and, of course, did a fanzine about that scene, too.

The Wreath of Khan

An Evening With Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer
And here's a nice photo of them with the Guardian story.

"When I Finally Realized What I Was Seeing, This Was The Coolest Thing Ever. Look Closer."

I saw this long ad on my TV and went to find it, and discovered there is a different and longer clip that is apparently a three-minute trailer for a seven-minute film. Odd. Oh, and apparently a director's cut of the ad.

Paul Krugman recommended this music, which is kinda neat.

Reginald D. Hunter on The trouble with Batman

For Daria fans

Wholock - an amazing bit of fan work.

"Carol of the Brains" - for your Zombie Christmas.
"Regeneration Carol"
And the baby hurricane made us play this one about eight times.

17:16 GMT comment

Sunday, 08 December 2013

All I want for Christmas

Well, you know me - all I want is right there in the Preamble of the US Constitution. Well, and a higher minimum wage, a wealth and income ceiling, a basic income guarantee, and socialized medicine. Oh, and peace on Earth. It's possible I may be disappointed.

Tonight's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays are David Dayen and Gaius Publius - should be really good.

On Virtually Speaking, Stuart Zechman asked Kevin C. Murphy what progressivism is and what happened to it.

On The Majority Report, Sam Seder talked to Chris Savage about the real story of Detroit, and to Dean Baker on reaching full employment. Matt & Mike talked to Geoff Mulgan on Predators and Creators in Capitalism's Future.

I came home from the pub and Roz pasted an untitled sonnet in an IM to me that started like this:
"Some eulogize him who will never learn
from words or deeds or what he did not do.
And that's all I needed to see to know that Nelson Mandela had died. And thanks to Jay for reminding us of Mandela's speech from the dock.

Down in comments, CMike presents two quotes that say a lot about what's really going on. It's just amazing how people are so desperate to believe that they can still hear the Obamas telling us it's Morning in America when they are quite explicitly promising us nightmares.

"I've worked at McDonald's for 5 years and have 4 kids. Any questions for me?"

Walmart to Install Surface-to-Air Missiles on Store Rooftops to Shoot Down Amazon Drones

"One in three bank tellers need public assistance"
Chris Christie: vindictive and petty
MSNBC at war, 2003

PR people whining about journalists

Metropolis Lifestyle Magazine

Trick Shot Titus - This video is lots of fun, but I still can't figure out how he can even be able to do it. Nice guest appearances, too.

the Ironic Illustrations of Norman Rockwell - It's interesting to look at these now, when the point has been forgotten.
"2D or not 2D"
Steampunk creatures
Microphotography: Snowflakes
Little people
Portraits of Cosplay Enthusiasts in their Homes
Digital sculptures

The Bailey's Christmas ad

Vince Vance & the Valiants

16:22 GMT comment

Wednesday, 04 December 2013

I can't look back, no memories

RJ Eskow and Stuart Zechman discussed the question, "What needs to happen in order to make a working health care system - for 99% of us - out of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)?" on Virtually Speaking Sundays.

Oh, yeah, it's that time of year again, and you know what that means - "Carol of the Bells" and Advent calendars from North Pole, St. Margaret and Mary, Project Britain, Busted Halo, Electric December - oh, and I really enjoyed this from last year. And have some Christmas lights.

The MMT Coloring Book would make a great little stocking stuffer!
Podcast: Stephanie Kelton talks to Bill Black and Randy Wray.

The argument between Americans isn't about whether the minimum wage should be raised, it's about whether it should be raised to $9.00 an hour or $10.10 an hour (or more). (Apparently, they didn't ask about $12.00 or $21.00.) This is true across political parties and income groups. Jay Ackroyd linked this poll at Eschaton, saying, "When reading articles about the resurgent left, it's interesting to mentally substitute 'popular' for 'populist.' " (The "neutral" tone of the "related article" got infuriating fast: "Food stamps have been cut for some, and many were stung by the payroll tax increase. Even their own companies have set up food drives to aid low-paid employees at individual stores or created help lines advising them how to stretch their food dollars and apply for public assistance." Makes it sound like the poverty of their workers has some outside, unrelated cause and has nothing to do with the fact that these companies have made enormous profit from going out of their way to impoverish their workers.)

Atrios declared them The Worst People In The World: The Third Way. Not surprising when you see who they are.

"U.S. Student Homelessness Up 10% Since Last Year

"Bishops sued over hospital abortion policies: The American Civil Liberties Union announced on Monday that it had filed a lawsuit against the nation's Roman Catholic bishops, arguing that their anti-abortion directives to Catholic hospitals hamper proper care of pregnant women in medical distress, leading to medical negligence."

"Black female professor reprimanded for pointing out existence of structural racism to white male students."

Boris Johnson declared that the gulf between rich and poor is inevitable because millions of people are too stupid to get on in life. (Digby's post also features a neat little video about wealth distribution.) The cab driver Thomas Friedman never seems to get (but, in a just world, someday will) posted a response on YouTube.

Patent troll wins first round - but it will be appealed.

"The Making of the Three Strikes Laws - video at the NYT site on rethinking a stupid, costly policy.

"Norfolk police warn of alarming clown epidemic"

Take a bus ride up Tianmen Mountain.

Renaissance Steampunk
"Bianca Beauchamp would make a fantastic Jessica Rabbit."

Recipe: Apple pie pumpkin

Roy Zimmerman's Austerity Beatles. It's not brilliant, and he missed a better angle on "Birthday", but....

Cool Photo: The Day the Earth Smiled

Tony Joe White, "Robbin' My Honeycomb"

15:46 GMT comment

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Turkeys away

I've decided to go back to maintaining The Sideshow site and using the Blogspot pages as the permalink and comment facility.

Panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays this week were Digby and Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel), talking about the NSA and denial of domestic spying, Snowden, and the filibuster. Bunch of eye-openers in here, particularly with regard to DiFi's continuing fealty to the security state.

Here's Glenn Greenwald being interviewed on BBC's HardTalk. As Glenn observed on Twitter, the interviewer seems to have a hard time absorbing the fact that security officials lie and that there have to be independent observers holding them to account. Note that the interviewer doesn't even understand how ironic - and terrifying - it is for someone to be called "a special case" who of course has his communications content spied on by the government when that person is a journalist. (Can't imagine why they'd want to do that.) Notice the way he seems to lash out when Glenn responds to another repetition of the idea that journalists shouldn't question power by saying that it's not the job of a journalist to investigate other journalists who question the claims of the powerful. It's almost comical to see how this stung interviewer tries to "challenge" Glenn.

Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism on "Identity Politics and the Stoking of Generational Warfare [...] A particularly potent political grouping would be for older people, particularly retirees, to team up with young people on economic issues. So it's not surprising that some political mavens are trying to make sure that doesn't happen. One of the strategies of the plutocrats comes from financier Jay Gould : 'I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half,' except this time, they aren't even having to hire one half to turn it against the other. Just as I've noticed an sharp uptick in women's identity articles, I've also seen a ramping up of generational warfare and anti-baby-boomer messaging (I have as much antipathy towards broad comments about baby boomers as I do women). This phenomenon admittedly has deeper roots, since billionaire Pete Peterson has been campaigning against Social Security and Medicare since the mid 1980s, and presenting old people as something society can't afford is part of his strategy. But he's been joined by fresh troops, such as Fix the Debt and billionaire Stan Druckenmiller's overt campaign to turn young people against older ones, The Can Kicks Back. Yet how does indicting a large group of people who are extremely diverse in terms of income, occupation, religion, family status, and ethnicity make any sense? It's tantamount to prosecuting everyone at JP Morgan for fraud and predatory practices, rather than Jamie Dimon and other responsible individuals."

Since we've railed here about patent trolls before, it is with some delight that we see our friend Whit Diffie taking them on.

It would appear that the new pope actually reads the Gospels. Rush Limbaugh is calling him a "Marxist" for it, but RJ Eskow wants to Occupy Christmas.

"12 Reasons Why Obama Is One of the Best Presidents Ever" - Remember the name Matthew D. Lynch, because this article is its own special kind of crazy. Everything in it is just plain wrong.

Lee Camp's Moment of Clarity: "Do You Have Any Idea What $50 TRILLION Looks Like?!"

The Sylvia School of Mainstream Journalism

Judith Kerr and the story behind The Tiger Who Came To Tea

Tauriel Refuses To Get Into Butt Pose In Hobbit Poster, Makes Legolas Do It Instead

Behind the Lens - The Day of the Doctor

Did Magneto kill JFK? See The Bent Bullet.

The great turkey pardon, myth-busting included.

Fine Dining with Albert Finney and Joyce Redman

A WKRP Thanksgiving
(I kept thinking of replacements for that second clause, like, "As God is my witness, I thought the NSA was above reproach," or, "As God is my witness, I thought bankers would never lie," or, "As God is my witness, I thought all black people were liberals.")

21:59 GMT comment

Saturday, 23 November 2013

I'll never get over losing you

Sam Seder interviewed Diane Ravitch about Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools about the myth of the education crisis and where the real problem is for our schools, on The Majority Report.

"Huge Change in Senate But Most People Don't Care" - Not sure how huge a change it is, since Democrats never bothered to filibuster anything much in the first place. They appear to have saved it for Supreme Court appointments, as if it's a special case, but with far-right crackpot radicals like Alito, Scalia, and Roberts on the court, it's hard to argue that eliminating the filibuster means extremists will somehow start sneaking onto the court, as if they hadn't already been walking right in and doing the crazy. And, you know, it's not as if we have any proof that Republicans won't change the rule back once they take over the Senate - which could easily happen unless Democrats start behaving as if they believe in democracy in the first place.
Jay Ackroyd got Joan McCarter and KagroX together to discuss what happened with the filibuster and what its impact is likely to be. This isn't a regular episode of Virtually Speaking, but it may clear things up for people to give it a listen.

Obamacare: Experimenting on people when you already know the outcome. This is when you really want to slap someone. And like Lambert, the first thing I thought of when I read that quote from an Obamacare defender was the Tuskegee Experiment. We already know what the outcomes are, we don't have to experiment at the cost of people's lives. And the whole "consumer shopping" approach to health care makes so little sense that it's amazing a person could reach adulthood and argue for it with a straight face. "Oh, yes, I'm in agonizing pain and may have only minutes to get into surgery to save life or limb, but this is a great time to sit down and comparison shop for the best surgeons and figure out which hospital is willing to take me and...."
Found a nice quote from Bob Perillo on FB: "I regularly get called things like "a friend of Ted Cruz" for opposing the ACA from the left -- which is kind of funny, since it was invented by Republicans in the first place. But of course I've just failed to appreciate liberal alchemy: policies made of lead become golden by the mere fact that they have been adopted by Democrats."

This is an interesting take on the guy who is funding Glenn Greenwald's new venture: "The Extraordinary Pierre Omidyar [...] Since its founding in 2004, Omidyar Network has committed nearly $300 million to a range of nonprofit and for-profit "charity" outfits. An examination of the ideas behind the Omidyar Network and of the investments it has made suggests that its founder is anything but a "different" sort of billionaire. Instead, what emerges is almost a caricature of neoliberal ideology, complete with the trail of destruction that ensues when that ideology is put into practice. The generous support of the Omidyar Network goes toward "fighting poverty" through micro-lending, reducing third-world illiteracy rates by privatizing education and protecting human rights by expanding property titles ("private property rights") into slums and villages across the developing world. In short, Omidyar Network's philanthropy reveals Omidyar as a free-market zealot with an almost mystical faith in the power of "markets" to transform the world, end poverty, and improve lives - one micro-individual at a time. [...] So brace yourself, you're about to get something you've never seen before: billionaire-backed journalism taking on the power of the state. How radical is that? In other words: look out Government, you're about to be pummeled by a crusading, righteous billionaire! And corporate America? Ah, don't worry. Your dirty secrets - freshly transferred from the nasty non-profit hands of the Guardian to the aggressively for-profit hands of Pierre Omidyar - are safe with us." There is a distinction between fighting state power and fighting the power. Will Omidyar be happy if his new news project goes after all of it?

Spooky Business: Corporate Espionage Against Nonprofit Organizations: This report is an effort to document something we know little about: corporate espionage against nonprofit organizations. The entire subject is veiled in secrecy. In recent years, there have been few serious journalistic efforts and no serious government efforts to come to terms with the reality of corporate spying against nonprofits. Much of what we do know about this subject has been uncovered by accident. So the picture we have is fragmentary at best: just a few snapshots, taken mostly at random, arising from brilliant strokes of luck, giving a mere inkling of the full range of espionage activity against nonprofits. There are, however, a few things we can say for certain." (.pdf)

"Workplace Climate of Retaliation at Hanford" - More whistleblower punishment. Honestly, bosses who do this should be put in jail anyway, but there is no earthly reason why any private company should be hired to do the public's business when they can easily profit by failing.

"Bob Woodward Disappointed That Snowden Didn't Go To Him" - Poor old Bob could have had a whole new Deep Throat to play with. Except, you know, he couldn't, because he wasn't trustworthy.

Unexpected quotations: "America is way too quick to trade freedom for the illusion of security,' he told The Daily Beast. 'Whether it's allowing the NSA to go way too far in what it intercepts of our personal data, to our government monitoring of everything domestically and spending way more than we should. I don't know if I want to live in a country where lone wolf and random terror attacks are impossible 'cause that country would look more like North Korea than America." -- Blackwater founder Erik Prince, noticing that the policies that made him rich are bad when done by a Democratic president

Atrios named Tom Brower The Worst Person in the World Tuesday and wondered why he isn't being arrested. You'd think someone who makes a practice of roaming around town taking a sledgehammer to other people's private possessions would be in custody by now.

The NYT is lying with scare quotes - If something is true but you put it in scare quotes anyway, you're telling your readers it's actually not true. Sometimes you really need to use scare quotes - like when the media call antidemocratic radicals "centrist" as if for all the world they really represent some sort of middle ground, I want them to put it in scare quotes, but they don't, so I have to. But when "doctors" are actual doctors, "farm equipment" is actual farm equipment, and "rights" are actual rights, well, you're never going to understand the Iran "negotiations" that way.

Once again, Ezra Klein makes me want to pound my head against the wall. Jeez, Ezra, hasn't anyone explained to you yet that privatization just loads on inefficiencies and "big government" can do a better job without greedheads getting in the way?

"A Cleveland Wal-Mart store is holding a food drive - for its own employees." I can't even think about that without getting up and yelling, so I sure can't type anything.

Krugman, "The Geezers Are Not Alright" - Someone needs to tell The Washington Post that there are already old people living on catfood.
"Expanding Social Security [...] The rise in life expectancy, it turns out, is overwhelmingly a story about affluent, well-educated Americans. Those with lower incomes and less education have, at best, seen hardly any rise in life expectancy at age 65; in fact, those with less education have seen their life expectancy decline. So this common argument amounts, in effect, to the notion that we can't let janitors retire because lawyers are living longer. And lower-income Americans, in case you haven't noticed, are the people who need Social Security most."

So, basically, Zimmerman is just a violent loony.

"Mother fined $10 for not including Ritz crackers in kids' school lunch" - because gods forbid your kid might not be getting enough starch.

More tips people shouldn't give their waiters

Cameron's Britain: "Police are cracking down on students - but what threat to law and order is an over-articulate history graduate?" Like Thatcher's Britain and Blair's Britain.

Is Al Gore right?

Don't make this film - a sequel to It's a Wonderful Life that seems determined to erase the virtues of the original film.

The death of science fiction's first Nobel Laureate, Doris Lessing, seems to have been a good excuse for the Evening Standard to dredge up an amusing little story about her night with Kenneth Tynan.

These concrete arrows point the way across America

The lost Eno album

Bitter Barista

The 40 Worst Rob Liefeld Drawings

Trailer for Mr. Peabody and Sherman. It doesn't feel like an improvement on the original.

How to peel a head of garlic in less than 10 seconds

Gah, I don't have time to finish playing the Doctor Who Google doodle. And if you don't, either, you might as well just watch this. (Later: Dammit, I couldn't resist!)

Geraldine: The David Frost Interview

The making of the making of Doctor Who - This is about ten minutes of background to the BBC's drama about how the BBC's first female producer and the first Indian director worked together to get the right man and make the TV show we're all still watching and loving 50 years on. An Adventure in Space and Time starts off as Verity Lambert's story, but it's really William Hartnell's, and the choice of actor for this role was perfect - he not only looks like him, but he plays like him, and I kept forgetting I wasn't looking at William Hartnell. And here's a video review of the drama with which I can't disagree.

Randy Newman, "Losing You"

16:56 GMT comment

Sunday, 17 November 2013

From me to you

Yesterday was the only convenient day for us to have Thanksgiving dinner. The best sysadmin ever also provided the pies. As always, I am grateful to him, and to Mr. Sideshow, and to you. And also to Boopsie, who is the most cutie-pie of them all and makes me laugh and laugh.

Avedon Carol and David Waldman (KagroX) are tonight's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays. I'm told we'll "discuss populism; the PPACA as yet another example of technocratic centrist failure; declaring surrender in the drug wars as Colorado passes weed tax and; the Village's slavering for Obama failure in his second term. Jay Ackroyd moderates. Plus today's ridiculous moment from Culture of Truth."
Thursday's guest on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd was Ian Welsh. CMike was kind enough to transcribe a portion of this talk in comments here. Homework for the episode includes Ian's articles, "Baseline Predictions for the next sixty years", "A New Ideology", and "How to Create a Viable Ideology".
You might also want to save this handy quotation: "After serving his time federal prison, John Ehrlichman granted an interview to author Dan Baum, who reports that Ehrlichman explained the origin of the war on drugs this way: 'The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar Left, and black people. You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black. But by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.'"

I can't now remember when it was I noticed it, but at some point in the Bush years I realized that there is an enormous group of people out there who don't recognize what I think of as a fairly universal story for English-speaking (and other) people, a story we refer to all the time as the illustration of how some piece of elite flim-flam is occurring and no one has the nerve to say so. A bunch of people who are younger than me simply have no idea what we're talking about when we say, "The Emperor has no clothes." I think that's a shame, because it's not simply a children's story (it sure isn't), but a warning about how con artists exist at every level and can swindle absolutely anyone because humans are too often afraid to speak up and may even believe there is something going on that everyone else can see but them, that the problem is with them. How many people, for example, simply assumed that our leaders talking suddenly about the dire threat represented by Saddam Hussein was based on some demonstrated fact that was not visible to those of us who kept noticing that Saddam simply didn't have the capability to be such a threat? How many people believed that the completely contrafactual "models" and rationales for the economic policies of the last 30-odd years all made perfect sense, that housing prices could just naturally (and harmlessly!) jump to ten times the median annual income of the populace, that Clinton's welfare "reform" of eliminating Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) would improve the condition of the poor rather than having a devastating impact on the poor and the black community, that Social Security is taking money out of the economy rather than putting it in, that private corporations can do a better job than government at running the programs government once manifestly ran more efficiently and effectively, that deregulation was actually a good idea - and so on? How many people hear that these fantasticly complicated-sounding financial facilities are just "too complicated" for anyone else to understand and think it actually makes sense to let the foxes continue to "guard" the henhouse? From the mouths of babes (e.g., cranky old activists and hippie bloggers) we heard that so many of these stories were actually not true, but the grown-ups wouldn't listen, even when the whistleblowers joined in - and instead they just wanted to shoot the messenger.

Among the myriad issues where the emperor has no clothes is one I still find it amazing that members of my own generational cohort seem to have completely fallen for an obvious lie: the crack cocaine story. I remember when it first reared its ugly head how we started hearing the same kind of outrageous claims that we once heard about marijuana and LSD; every issue of Time seemed to be all Reefer Madness on this drug preparation. It should have been manifestly obvious that no drug could instantly addict someone with one dose, for example - it simply makes no sense. And you would have thought a generation that cut its teeth on debunking lies about marijuana would have seen right through it, but they didn't. One of the most draconian drug laws ever resulted from this insanity and a succession of tragically evil drug policies have followed in its wake. (All of which, by the way, has had devastating impact on the black community as a whole, not to mention black activism.) Of course, it's not just my generation that dropped the ball on this - everyone does it all the time, dismissing even what they have seen with their own eyes in favor of manufactured "conventional wisdom" that pours down on them from the elites. Sam Seder did a great interview with Columbia University neuroscientist Carl Hart, author of the new book High Price: A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society, who explained "how we demonize people on welfare, his life experience and academic work, why not all users of Crack Cocaine are addicted, the Rat Park study, the variety of reasons people fall into drug addiction, who benefits from the War on Drugs and who pays the highest price and how we use drugs to avoid addressing poverty and unemployment," on The Majority Report.

Another term that I suspect some people have lost a grip on is one that Atrios keeps using quite accurately to describe the convoluted means "centrists" keep coming up with to do what should be straightforward tasks, is Rube Goldberg machine. He frequently employs the term to talk about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), an overburdened mess that could have bypassed most of its problems by getting rid of the huge complication of the expensive middle-men in the insurance industry, as we have seen. Perhaps that's why he posted this entertaining video Tuesday night.

The Amazingly Articulate Barack Obama gives a presser about a fiasco any smart person should have seen coming.
And an appropriate word from Mike the Mad Biologist

"Can we trade Obama for Nixon? It's difficult to know, in historical terms, how best to understand the monumental catastrophe of the Obamacare rollout. Is it yet another example of the pathological weakness and spinelessness of the Democratic Party, which never seems to get anything right and always prefers to negotiate itself into unnecessary compromise and ideological defeat? Or is it another symptom of our national refusal to pursue a rational and coherent healthcare policy, fueled partly by our bogus mythology of individualism and partly by the machinations of insurance-industry racketeers? Is there, to go one step further, a relationship between those two things?"

Suddenly I am not the only person talking about giving Americans a guaranteed basic income. And this is Business Insider!

Marcy Wheeler on "The Opportunity Cost of the Global Dragnet," or how the NSA is wrecking everything.

Dept. of Worse Than Bush: NSA Whistleblower speaks.
"Americans' personal data shared with CIA, IRS, others in security probe"

"The Rise and Fall of Fast Track Trade Authority [...] Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress writes the laws and sets trade policy. And so it was for 200 years. Over the last few decades, presidents have seized those powers through a mechanism known as Fast Track. Fast Track facilitated controversial pacts such as NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, which extend beyond traditional tariff-cutting to set constraints on domestic financial, energy, patents and copyright, food safety, immigration and other policies."
Why Do We The People Have To Read TPP On Wikileaks?"
Just in case you thought it was any better over here, the Transatlantic Trade Deal is the European version of the TPP, "...a privatised justice system for global corporations", and a direct attack on democracy.

Matt Taibbi, "Chase's Twitter Gambit Devolves into All-Time PR Fiasco."
Stacy Keach, #AskJPM tweets performed by voice of American Greed
Read the Tweets

"Caught in Unemployment's Revolving Door [...] 'I've been turned down from McDonald's because I was told I was too articulate,' she says. 'I got denied a job scrubbing toilets because I didn't speak Spanish and turned away from a laundromat because I was 'too pretty.' I've also been told point-blank to my face, 'We don't hire the unemployed.' And the two times I got real interest from a prospective employer, the credit check ended it immediately.'"

Say what you will about Ralph Nader, but the only way he's wrong about the Democratic Party and Obama is that he's not scathing enough. I don't think he even realizes what Obama really is.

"Vanity Fair editor's crazy conspiracy theory: Former NYT scribe Kurt Eichenwald just knows Edward Snowden's a Chinese spy -- no matter what logic says."

Richard Cohen managed to commit another atrocity, with the open approval of his editor, and a response from Ta-Nehisi Coates.
In honor of the occasion, Atrios linked to this blast from the past at A Tiny Revolution.

As some of you may recall, I learned my way around unpacking pseudo-science and "conventional wisdom" by studying the relationship between sex crime and a whole passel of anti-sex assumptions and anti-pornography "science". And no matter how much time you spend debunking this stuff, there is always more. And it's like that with everything.

"No, This is Not an Okay Tip to Leave." And if the meal comes to less than $25, you might want to consider this. (Well, some of us can only afford to eat in restaurants if we stick to the local tipping conventions, but if you can afford it, why not do it?)

The Original "Occupy": Novel Was Written 100 Years Before Zuccotti Park

How to Be an Atheist Without Being a Dick About It

Google, if the '80s never ended

You can listen to this Beatles at the BBC program until Thursday. It's fun.

16:46 GMT comment

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Easier said than done

Stuart Zechman explained the problems with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and how to fix them on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd. Here's Stuart's text outline of those issues. Homework includes a piece from last year in the WaPo, "A Limit on Consumer Costs Is Delayed in Health Care Law."
Joan McCarter and Jay Ackroyd discussed "the politics of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act; Harry Reid's filibuster reform talk; expanding social security; and the results of the 2013 elections and the attendant exit polls" on Virtually Speaking Sundays.

Today's healthcare frauds: Johnson & Johnson

"The rich: 'A class of people for whom humans are disposable commodities'" - Gaius Publius recommends pieces by Chris Hedges and Digby on the pathology of the Cloud People.*

More like this, please: Keith Ellison and Tom Guild in Oklahoma. Talk like the people matter and even the reddest states might just come out on the right side.

Noam Scheiber in The New Republic, "Hillary's Nightmare? A Democratic Party That Realizes Its Soul Lies With Elizabeth Warren"

Key Obama priority: "Getting the Republican Party back in a functioning state"

David Dayen in The New Republic, "Congress Is Starving the Agency That's Supposed to Prevent Another Meltdown"

Matt Taibbi, "Chase Isn't the Only Bank in Trouble"

If your business model requires you to break the law and continuously go to court and pay fines as a matter of course, you'd better make sure you have sufficient reserves of funds for the legal process.

WaPo: "The Great Recession may have crushed America's economic potential [...] The paper offers a depressing portrait of where the economy stands nearly six years after the onset of recession, and amounts to a damning indictment of U.S. policymakers. Their upshot: The United States's long-term economic potential has been diminished by the fact that policymakers have not done more to put people back to work quickly. Our national economic potential is now a whopping 7 percent below where it was heading at the pre-2007 trajectory, the authors find."
Paul Krugman on "The Mutilated Economy". The administration and Congress have conspired in their attack on the nation's economy at the behest of their corporate masters, but there's no reason we shouldn't call it what it is: a national security crisis.

Another surprise from the Pope.
"This might be the worse thing you read today: This story from New Mexico is just insane, and show just how out of control the 'War on Drugs' has gotten."
Election highlights: There's bad news, of course, but a surprising amount of good news.
Well, it would have been nice if they hadn't kept saying "trans fats" and just said margarine is bad for you. Doesn't anyone listen to Julia Child? Jeez.
Not everything is lost, in the world we all want to live in.

"Australian David Hicks: Survivor of Gitmo's Sadistic Abuse: Richard Phillips in 'David Hicks seeks to overturn Guantánamo "terrorism" conviction' reveals that former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Australian citizen David Hicks has lodged an appeal with the US Court of Military Commission Review to overturn his 2007 conviction of 'providing support for terrorism.' It is expected that the commission will NOT quash Hicks' conviction. His American lawyer from the Center for Constitutional Rights will then appeal the case to the US federal district court. "

Digby on the culture of unaccountability and prosecutorial misconduct that puts innocent people in prison - on purpose.

The Rorschach test controversy on Wikipedia. Oh, my!

Black Panthers' Fight For Free Health Care

"Terrible Columnist Richard Cohen Shocked To Learn That Slavery Was Really, Really Bad"

Cartoon: The high cost of incarceration

"Legal paper maps out conservative plan to abolish pornography"

Michael Moore recommends 12 years a slave.

"Why Scandinavian women make the rest of the world jealous"

Every now and then I think of these bitter things, and try not to break things.

Laurie Anderson's Farewell to Lou Reed

You can now look at the original Mary Shelly drafts for Frankenstein online.

Photoset: Steampunk DC characters

H.P. Lovecraft's "The Haunter Of The Dark", animated.

Sail - Awolnation with Tesla coils! FOR SCIENCE!

Masha and the Bear - a cute little children's show from Russia.

Fortean Times: 40 years of covers - in pictures

Halloween costume that makes lemons into lemonade.

"41 Camping Hacks that are borderline genius" - I don't do much camping, but a few of these are things you can use at home or in the wilds of, say, Central London.

Famous paintings animated

The M&S Christmas TV Advert 2013

The Essex, because it's the moment to just do it.

11:17 GMT comment

Tuesday, 05 November 2013

Paradise is waiting for you and me

Gaius Publius and Marcy Wheeler were this week's guests on Virtually Speaking Sundays Topics include: Whose in charge here? U.S. elected officials, like the President and Sen. Dianne Feinstein have disavowed knowledge of targets of U.S. intelligence services. Heads of intelligence operations tell bald-faced lies to Congressional oversight committees, and not only retain their jobs, but continue to be treated by the Beltway media as authoritative sources. Who are they spying on and who gives them their orders? Homework for this one includes:
"NSA tapping Google & Yahoo cloud-servers worldwide, per Snowden docs"
"DiFi's Fake FISA Fix Appears to Further Extend Searches on US Persons Under Section 702"
"What's the Relationship Database About?"
"Climate crisis: Our government is captured by billionaires; the solution is civil disobedience"
"Fukushima: 'Usual suspects in Japan are getting richer... at the expense of public safety'"

* * * * *

My thanks to CMike in comments for calling our attention to Seth Ackerman's antidote to Lind's piece trying to draw a straight line between the confederacy and today's right-wing Republicans:

Tea Party Yankees


In fact, all of Lyndon Johnson's major War on Poverty programs were enacted with a majority of Southerners voting for final passage. The 1964 Economic Opportunity Act - the omnibus bill establishing Job Corps, a federal work-study program, adult education funding, and various other things - was sponsored in the House by staunch anti-labor segregationist Phil Landrum of Georgia, and passed with 60% of Southern Democrats voting in favor, even as 87% of Republicans opposed it. Likewise, Medicare passed in 1965 with 61% of Southern Democrats in favor and 93% of Republicans opposed. The 1964 Food Stamp Act, after an intra-party log-rolling deal involving farm subsidies, went through on virtually a straight party-line vote.

There were certainly hard-right Southern Democratic legislators who refused to vote for such policies. There were also surprisingly liberal ones; the region's Congressional delegations were more ideologically diverse than is usually assumed.

If there was one legislator who best embodied the classic image of a conservative Southern Democrat in Congress, it was probably Senator Richard Russell of Georgia. An uncompromising (if 'genteel') segregationist and signer of the Southern Manifesto, Russell, according to a political scientist writing in 1950, belonged to a class of Southern legislators which 'speaks for the respectable conservatives, speaks for chambers of commerce, civic clubs, banks, corporations.' Russell was probably a bit to the right of the median Southerner in Congress. But it is a mark of how different that time and place were that Russell declared the proudest accomplishment of his forty-year Congressional career to be the National School Lunch Act, which he spearheaded in 1946 and then doggedly defended over the years whenever its funding was challenged: 'No one,' he charged, 'should seek to deny a poor child in a poor state a lunch at school because both child and state are less able to pay than a wealthier child in a wealthy state.'

The notion that this brand of Southern Democratic politics prefigured modern-day Rush Limbaugh-style Tea Party Republicanism is fallacious. If, today, there are modern-day equivalents of Russell's genre of Southern Democrat - on issues other than civil rights - they are not Eric Cantor or Ted Cruz, but rather Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, John Breaux, or Claire McCaskill. In other words, the closest modern-day equivalents of the conservative Democrats of the 1940s are modern-day conservative Democrats.

* * * * *

Mark Millar at Reuters, "Can expanding Social Security solve the retirement crisis?: I asked a financial services executive recently how our retirement saving system can be considered a success, considering that all but the highest-income households are approaching retirement with next to nothing saved. His reply: 'They don't have any money while they're working, so why would they have any money in retirement?'"

Michael Hiltzik in the LAT, "How much are we willing to pay for the pursuit of happiness? Research by Notre Dame political scientist Benjamin Radcliff suggests that social programs produce a happier population." Even better, we don't have to "pay" more for it, because these so-called "social" programs feed a healthier economy, as well.

Naomi Klein's article "How science is telling us all to revolt" in the New Statesman was an inspiration to Lee Camp, who did a video just for that, "Scientific Models Now Showing Revolt Is Our Only Chance?" (The Klein pieces is, of course, in the Russell Brand-edited issue.)

I don't know why David Sirota says "liberal-washing" is new. Stealing our language has been going on for over 30 years and Obama may very well be its pinnacle. Anyone remember during the Iraq war propaganda build-up how people who are completely hostile to women's rights suddenly kept pointing to how unfeminist Iraq is? (Boy, I bet those women are really grateful we destroyed their homes and made them all wear headscarves.) They've got Cory Brooker tagged as some kind of "liberal" even though he is one of the most important factors in the push for charter schools. And there's nothing like a famous Jewish civil liberties lawyer explain why torturing Muslims is perfectly fine to "liberal-wash" an evil, right-wing policy.

Alex Pareene, "Obamacare is a mess, and liberals need to fix it." Too right. People need to stop defending Obama and start pushing to make the problem workable. Yes, the program is a mess, because they let conservatives and the insurance companies influence policy. Now we have to get rid of that influence.

Robert Reich, "Why Washington Is Cutting Safety Nets When Most Americans Are Still in the Great Recession [...] Get it? The bottom 90 percent of Americans - most of whom are still suffering from the Great Recession, most of whom have been on a downward escalator for decades - have disappeared from official Washington." You know, lobbying your representatives used to be a perfectly honorable part of democracy. We need to figure out how to get back into that in a way they need to pay attention to. That used to be what demonstrations were about, of course, but they've found ways to put a stop to that. But people who represent the bottom 90% aren't running for office, either. They're not even trying to be a nuisance to the bad guys in primaries anymore. Where are they?

Poll: Growing Number of Republicans Dislike GOP. Now, if only all the people who hate their party leaders could get together....

"Coal Baron and Major Ken Cuccinelli Campaign Donor Sues Blogger for Defamation, Invasion of Privacy [...] Filed on September 25 in Belmont County's Court of Common Pleas, Murray's complaint accuses Mike Stark, creator of FossilAgenda.com and Stark Reports, and The Huffington Post of defamation and invasion of privacy stemming from Mr. Stark's September 20 article, 'Meet the Extremist Coal Baron Bankrolling Ken Cuccinelli's Campaign"."

Tom Tomorrow and Dr. Hand

To Flatten A Heroine: Artist Puts Disney Princess Filter On 10 Real Life Female Role Models

Yes, it's Diwali again. You would not believe the noise outside my window.

Barbara Lewis, "Make Me Your Baby"

13:06 GMT comment


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Avedon Carol at The Sideshow

And, no, it's not named after the book or the movie. It's just another sideshow.

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