eXTReMe Tracker

The Sideshow

Archive for April 2010

Check box to open new browser windows for links.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Footprints in the sand

Mark Ames at the Smirking Chimp's "Confessions Of A Wall St. Nihilist: Forget About Goldman Sachs, Our Entire Economy Is Built On Fraud" is an entertaining read, but his friend forgot one thing: There is no real economy on Wall Street. Confiscating all those ill-gotten gains is the only thing left to do to put it into all those pension funds where it belongs. These people do not add value to the economy, and in fact there has been pretty much no innovation in America since unfettered "innovation" took over the markets. We don't need them, we just need to take back what they've stolen and return it to its rightful owners (working Americans). Moreover, everybody knows that what they are doing is just pure fraud - why would you invest with them? As Cenk points out, "If the casinos set their own rules and the government never checked in on them to see if they were cheating, only absolute suckers of the world would go to those casinos. Unfortunately, that's exactly the situation we have right now in our financial sector.". Their ideology has, once again, been proven a dead end.

Wow, there's actually a perfectly tolerable article about the Fiscal Sustainability Teach-In - "Heresy! Employment matters more than deficits" - at The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch: "Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as full employment -- real full employment of 4% or less. The U.S. and other countries enjoyed this phenomenon in the 1950s, accompanied by a moderate amount of government deficit spending (and, mind you, a much smaller government). This real economy objective -- making sure everybody has a job -- is more important for the public good, these economists believe, than targeting arbitrary and irrelevant deficit-to-GDP or debt-to-GDP ratios. Full employment is the key to real fiscal sustainability, they say. Achieve that and the rest will take care of itself."

Meanwhile, at the highly-corrupt party to steal your money so billionaires can play with more of it, the Obama-Peterson Make Older Americans Eat Cat Food Commission is a creature of Peterson's anti-Social Security foundation. I don't mean under-the-table bribery, I mean: "In June, according to the Washington Post, Obama's deficit commission will be participating in a 20-city electronic town hall meeting, put together by an organization called America Speaks. It is financed by Peterson, along with the MacArthur Foundation and Kellogg Foundation. This is a truly unusual event because it marks the first time a presidential commission's activities are financed by a private group that has long been lobbying the government on the very subjects the commission is supposed to 'study.'" So, the whole "Obama" commission has been outsourced to Peterson. (Keep reading the comments, there's more.)

At the bottom of a column on how Linden Labs is being sued over a unilateral change in its definition of what it has sold to people (for real money) in Second Life, I note an update to an article about how Bank of America has been cutting renewal of lines of credit to customers who are not in arrears. "The bank had sent out letters saying it was taking the action not because of anything the homeowners did, but because of 'current conditions in the financial markets.'" It's actually not unusual for insurers, banks, and other organizations to crap on their customers because of that organizations own bad investments (e.g., insurance companies jacking up malpractice rates on doctors because they lost money in the markets), but what is unusual is that they have baldly admitted they are punishing their customers because of their own investment problems and not because the customers did anything wrong or because of any knock-on effects directly related to the customers' business (e.g., pretending that rising malpractice rates are a result of high malpractice case awards in court). (The update was that the bank suddenly wanted to help a complaining customer who had been mentioned in the earlier column about them.)

Same in the US and UK, the thing we really need to cut is the military, but no one is talking about that.

Given that the biggest oil slick is Dick Cheney, it's not a surprise that Halliburton is responsible for the other big oil slick.

Man, Telebob takes a lot of pictures. I quite liked this. Oh, yeah, he makes videos, too.

One year after Abigail Frost's death, a mourning sonnet.

20:20 BST

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Fiddling while Rome burns

Matt Taibbi now has a column in the Guardian, and his first offering is "Will Goldman Sachs prove greed is God?" in which he notes that the world is being poured down the drain by a truly insane religious cult that doesn't believe theft and fraud are bad: "Now here's the really weird thing. Confronted with the evidence of public outrage over these deals, the leaders of Goldman will often appear to be genuinely confused, scratching their heads and staring quizzically into the camera like they don't know what you're upset about. It's not an act. There have been a lot of greedy financiers and banks in history, but what makes Goldman stand out is its truly bizarre cultist/religious belief in the rightness of what it does."

Lambert liveblogs the Fiscal Sustainability Teach-In: "A new narrative: We have to abandon the focus on financial matters and reorient the debate toward the real side of the economy."

At Fact-esque, "Big Business Starts Chewing on the Professional Class: Having starved the lower economic classes and decimated the middle classes, pushing them into the lower strata through a combination of rich-favoring tax policy, wage intimidation, off-shoring jobs, and outright theft, Big Business has begun to move its attention to ripping off the upper classes, starting with its own professionals." (Also: Would you believe Mayor Bloomberg wants to charge rent to the homeless?)

Atrios reminds us that the Village Wisdom says that Exciting New Taxes Are So Much More Awesome Than The Old Ones: "According to Ezra Klein, the unelected man who is now in charge of stealing your social security, Pete Peterson, thinks maybe we should have a consumption tax and a carbon tax. Leaving aside the merits of these ideas and focusing purely on the politics, I'm always struck by the fact that Washington elites constantly imagine that they can sell Exciting New Taxes to the public while bumping up the top marginal income tax rate by half a percent or increasing the gas tax by a nickel are politically impossible. Obviously resistance to income tax increases by elites is there because they'd have to pay it, while most exciting new taxes are regressive. Still they also blather on about VMT taxes, because adding a whole new somewhat regressive tax is much more awesome than simply nudging up the gas tax." (Meanwhile, I confess to be a bit weirded out about having a US Senator as a co-blogger. Anyway, Atrios already warned us that it's all theater. But it's a lot better bit of theater than refusing to go to the floor at all because the Republicans might vote like Republicans. Still, until the Democrats force the Republicans to do real filibusters, I'm not excited. I'll be excited when the Dems propose really good bills and make the conservatives - in both parties - get up on the floor and explain why they oppose doing what's right, for days at a time.)

Thanks to Paul Krugman for pointing out that the ratings agencies turned into a giant scam in themselves, and that we should be Berating the Raters: "The rating agencies began as market researchers, selling assessments of corporate debt to people considering whether to buy that debt. Eventually, however, they morphed into something quite different: companies that were hired by the people selling debt to give that debt a seal of approval." And, of course, the current finance bill doesn't really do much about this.

Economists start shouting "Fire!" in a crowded fire: "It is likely that TBTF [Too Big To Fail] firms have exploited informational asymmetries which contributed to the mis-pricing of risk and the misallocation of resources. The most straightforward way to prevent a repeat of the crisis in the future would be to limit the size of financial firms so what their activities are small relative to the markets in which they operate."

Get pretty before you go to court.

I generally try to avoid this kind of thing, but why should I be the only one who was grossed out by this creepy video the General found? (On the other hand, he also found my favorite Bible Verse To Spray-Paint On A Wall for the day.)

At Media Matters, Wash. Times calls for discrimination against transgender people. Well, okay, it's the Moonie Times, so we don't expect much better from them, but still.

Boing Boing: "In most states, it is illegal to marry someone of the same sex. In other states, it is legal to be married to your first cousin. While looking at gay marriage inequalities, Mac McClelland was inspired to make a map showing where kissing cousins can make an honest man/woman out of each other. Map of the Day: Cousin Lovin'"

I worry a lot about the fact that this administration is not going to help us out with a WPA, and that means that somehow we are going to have to figure out how to band together ourselves and create our own counter-economy that will do something to ameliorate them mess. Things are only going to get harder, and I don't know how much good we can do to affect the political process, but I'm pretty sure that we can only get by if we help each other.

My uncle was a musician (it kinda runs in the family), and apparently he used to play with this guy.

I wonder how many links I screwed up this time.)

04:56 BST

Monday, 26 April 2010

You better watch your step, you better stay in line

Tonight's Special Guantanamo Town Hall can be streamed live (and seen "live and in-person" inworld at the Virtually Speaking Amphitheater) tonight at 6:00 PM Pacific. (More details at FDL's The Seminal from Jay Ackroyd here.) Last night's guests on the Virtually Speaking Sunday talk show were Watertiger and Eve Gittelson (nyceve). You can listen to that stream at the link or download the podcast.

As many people have noted, the Teabaggers are not going to get on the right side of any issue because they don't care about fiscal responsibility or personal liberty or anything else other than the fact that they don't believe Democrats should be allowed in government. Nevertheless, Tom Friedman believes they are going to go green. Oh, yesssss. (via)

Amazingly, while insisting that Arizona's new law mandating that the cops demand to see proof of legal presence in the United States from anyone they "reasonably suspect" could be an illegal immigrant "is not going to lead to major civil rights violations," Bill Kristol actually says the words, "Look I'm a liberal on immigration." Um, no, you're not. (And you're not convincing about your taste for restraints on government after your support for the Patriot Act, either.) (Also: Krugman hammers Mitch McConnell for "possibly the most dishonest argument ever made in the history of politics" against financial reform. And David Neiwert says that, yep, the American right has indeed gone insane, although I'm not sure that makes any difference.)

Paul Rosenberg with some thoughts on organizing for regaining "progressive focus".

"Real Anti-Choice Agenda Revealed in Attack on Anti-Choice Dems: It was a small news item in Politico, but one that unwittingly revealed the truth behind one of the most persistent myths about the anti-choice movement, which is that they are 'single issue' voters. The story is simple. A number of anti-choice groups have decided to target anti-choice Democrats who voted for health care reform, even though there's no reality-based reason to think the law provides funding for abortion. In other words, the anti-choice movement is coming closer to coming clean about how they simply carry the water for the entire conservative movement, and cynically use fear-mongering over abortion to push for a whole host of right wing agenda items."

Susie engages in a bit of guerilla quilting.

The return of Joke Line. I suppose some people thought he had gone sane for a while, but this is Joe Klein we're talking about, here, and he will always come up with a reason why what conservatives do is "good".

It looks like Cenk is making enough waves to get profiled in the Guardian.

Top Five Myths About Having A Home Birth

In our continuing coverage of both advertising and lingerie, you get one guess why Fox says this ad is "too racy" to air. Good guess.

Eyjafjallajokull under the Aurora.

Gary U.S. Bonds

20:09 BST

Sunday, 25 April 2010

With your mercury mouth

No Romeo Fun in the sun floral t-shirt braBra of the Week

This ad had me rolling on the floor.

Galaxy in a Box


Tory advertising, amended.

Sideways Google and the Buddha pear mold, via Biomes Blog.

Cenk debates a Libertoonian and asks why Teabaggers aren't protesting Wall Street. Well done, that man.

Obama, banksters, the Chamber of Commerce, and the financial reform kabuki.

Smearing Jerry Brown - Diane finds the LAT doing a hit piece on the guy who actually did a good job for California during his previous time in office, by implying that he was somehow responsible for a deal he didn't make and did his best to ameliorate later when he came into office. The piece is written in such a way that the efforts to ameliorate the deal are conflated with the original deal. Suggested "connections" between Brown and Goldman Sachs involve his sister working for Goldman at a time that is irrelevant to the dealings in question. They're using it to set up a false equivalence between Brown and the much more seriously tainted Meg Whitman, his opposition in the upcoming gubernatorial race. Thus "both" have sinister ties to Goldman Sachs. (And yet, the same LAT published business columnist David Lazarus's fairly honest piece - as far as it goes - on financial reform.)

13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown reviewed. (via)

Bank of Scamerica (via)

A linky post from Natasha Chart.

The Vatican got really upset about a leaked memo proposing a rather interesting itinerary for Ratzinger when he comes to Britain, but they were pretty good ideas.

It really would serve the Tory parties ("New Labour" having become one of them) right if the LibDems beat them in the election, but some people are actually starting to believe this is within the realm of possibility. Cameron and Brown managed to get completely run over in the first debate - why, almost as if they had some opposition! Clegg didn't wipe the floor with them the second time around, even though they were both still full of crap. But the public apparently didn't feel that Cameron looked quite so much of a putz as he had the first time. A shame, really. The Conservative Party and the Labour Party have both presided over and continued the push for a nastier and more brutish Britain, and they really do need to be kicked the hell out.

Billy Bragg accosts BNP London Assembly member in the street.

I was over at Brilliant Jill's place when I saw her warning about this site, which I hope is the one the Gestapo use when they come looking for me.

Alan Moore isn't going to like this.

A little tiff between a Murdoch and the Independent. I like how at the end they secure the building to prevent further Murdoch incursions.

Celebrating the 45th anniversary of Blonde on Blonde. (Sony made this harder than it had to be, too, the swine.)

16:39 BST

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Time and tide

Echidne learns that the computers at Wellpoint are set to weed out expensive treatments, not fraud - so their excuse is fake anyway (not that anyone should be surprised). Posting at Eschaton, ql reminds us of Thom Hartmann's article last year on sociopathic paychecks.

The Glenn Greenwald digest links to a story on a former US Army microbiologist who testified Thursday that the FBI's version of the anthrax case is "impossible". (The more I learn about this case, the more I think maybe Dick Cheney really did orchestrate attempted assassinations of two Democratic Senators.) Glenn also links to an analysis of Elena Kagan's record and recommends Dan Froomkin's "appropriately angry post" at HuffPo "noting the virtually complete silence in Washington in the wake of the WikiLeaks Iraq video and the revelations of civilian slaughter in the Afghan province of Paktia, covered up with military lies." Froomkin says; ""I want someone on Capitol Hill to give a shit. So far (and I've done a bit of calling around) I haven't heard any member of Congress express any intention of holding an oversight hearing into the matter -- or even asking any questions at all" And some other interesting stuff.

Also relevant, if you haven't seen it yet, "Veterans Of "Wikileaks" Incident Announce "Letter Of Reconciliation" To Iraqis Injured In Attack."

Joe Bageant says We're Heading to a Slave Labor Planet.

I see Barack Hoover is doing financial reform. Yippee! But Krugman says he wishes Obama wasn't saying what he was saying, and "Don't Cry for Wall Street. Too right.

Angry Bear asks us to visit the Virtual Summit on Social Security, where Dean Baker and others are pushing back against the war on Social Security being launched from the White House, where Obama's appointees think older workers who'd like to retire someday are "greedy geezers". No, really!

Digby on Government bureaucrats who really know how to party. Apparently, our regulators couldn't do anything about rampant financial fraud because they were too busy downloading porn all day.

X-37B OTV-1 (Orbital Test Vehicle 1) is the first flight of the Boeing X-37B, an American unmanned spacecraft. It was launched aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral on 22 April 2010, and is currently operating in low Earth orbit. The US Air Force has not revealed what the spaceship's specific payload is, stating only that it will 'demonstrate various experiments and allow satellite sensors, subsystems, components, and associated technology to be transported into space and back.'

03:47 BST

Thursday, 22 April 2010

There'll be no sad tomorrow

More bread and circuses? "Could this all be a well-orchestrated Kabuki play intended for public consumption and political advantage. Could Goldman even be playing along here to buy time for reforms even as they have taken losses? Financial Analyst Tyler Durden thinks so, arguing, 'This has many wondering if the whole SEC action against Goldman (which some have already pointed out is a rather weak case) is nothing but smoke and mirrors to distract the broader public for a few weeks until anger once again dies down.'" (But, you know, it really is fraud. Just like this.) But Yves thinks it just might have legs. Of course, both things could be true.

Jay Ackroyd talked to Mason Tvert, co-author of Marijuana is Safer, on Virtually Speaking.

I see Jackson Street Books is holding a virtual Town Hall Meeting with military attorneys for some Guantanamo "detainees" next week on Virtually Speaking - Monday, 26 April, for an hour at 6:00 PM Pacific, which you can also listen to on the web. Should be interesting.

I can't see this video, but I enjoyed seeing Jon Stewart "apologize" to Fox News on my teevee.

Rich far-right crazies tried to take over a liberal college - but the college fought back and won. For now. How many other colleges are they trying to or succeeding in taking over?

You know, it's funny. My mom was an ordinary working-class girl from a poor family who went to work every day and made good meals for her family ever night, pretty much from scratch a lot of the time. Even when she got married and had three children, she mostly did that. She set a great table. She was just an ordinary middle-class mom when I was growing up. Nowadays, some people act like that's some some sort of elite activity, that making good food thing.

The Rude One explains How Jed Clampett dealt with financial fraud.

I like Google's Earth Day logo.

"There's a Place", take 4.

23:23 BST

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Strawberry Fields

"How the Corporations Broke Ralph Nader and America, Too

"Then something very interesting happened," Nader said. "The pressure of these meetings by the corporations like General Motors, the oil companies and the drug companies with the editorial people, and probably with the publishers, coincided with the emergence of the most destructive force to the citizen movement - Abe Rosenthal, the editor of The New York Times. Rosenthal was a right-winger from Canada who hated communism, came here and hated progressivism. The Times was not doing that well at the time. Rosenthal was commissioned to expand his suburban sections, which required a lot of advertising. He was very receptive to the entreaties of corporations, and he did not like me. I would give material to Jack Morris in the Washington bureau and it would not get in the paper."

Rosenthal, who banned social critics such as Noam Chomsky from being quoted in the paper and met frequently for lunch with conservative icon William F. Buckley, demanded that no story built around Nader's research could be published unless there was a corporate response. Corporations, informed of Rosenthal's dictate, refused to comment on Nader's research. This tactic meant the stories were never published. The authority of the Times set the agenda for national news coverage. Once Nader disappeared from the Times, other major papers and the networks did not feel compelled to report on his investigations. It was harder and harder to be heard.

"There was, before we were silenced, a brief, golden age of journalism," Nader lamented. "We worked with the press to expose corporate abuse on behalf of the public. We saved lives. This is what journalism should be about; it should be about making the world a better and safer place for our families and our children, but then it ended and we were shut out."

Wow, but this story (via) about how the Teabaggers' sugar-daddy in the Koch family made their fortune and then turned into far-right loonies is steeped in irony.

The Fiscal Sustainability Teach-In, says Jamie Galbraith, "will be the important event in Washington on April 28. Unlike the other meeting, this one will feature important work by honest scholars. It deserves at least equal attention, and very much more respect." Howie Klein invites you to help, and be part of it.

Alan Greenspan is an interesting fellow. He was apparently too stupid to see an obvious bubble, even though he was Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and even though lots of people were talking about the very obvious bubble. It was in all the papers - it wasn't a secret. And yet, he knows all the people who "did well" off of it. And, remember, folks, we're supposed to believe that only people who were this stupid are capable of solving the financial crisis, which is why we should let them keep their jobs even though they wrecked the American (and probably the world's) economy. (Via Digby.)

No one could have predicted... "Amazingly, as consumers struggle, U.S. corporations are staging a nearly unprecedented comeback that's largely escaping notice. The gargantuan, dispiriting job cuts that seem to dominate the news have also been the spur for an epic resurgence in profits. For 2009, the Fortune 500 lifted earnings 335%, to $391 billion, a $301 billion jump that's the second largest in the list's 56-year history, approaching the increase in the robust recovery of 2003. For last year the 500 raised their return on sales from less than 1% to 4%. That's close to the list's 4.7% historical average." Yeah, amazingly, the rich get richer and....

Cops raid campus newspaper: "At least half a dozen police officers and the Rockingham County commonwealth's attorney raided the offices of James Madison University's student newspaper Friday, confiscating hundreds of photos of an off-campus riot last weekend, the paper's editor said. Katie Thisdell, editor-in-chief of The Breeze and a 2007 graduate of Patrick Henry High School in Roanoke, said Commonwealth's Attorney Marsha Garst came Friday morning armed with a search warrant after Thisdell refused Thursday to hand over newspaper photos of the April 10 brawl." (The description of the riot in question is suspicious in itself - my experience is that when these things turn into riots, it's usually because the cops rioted.)

It's kind of interesting to think about the fact that Glenn Greenwald is one of very few bloggers who has mostly maintained his independence while still having enough influence on the White House that they think it worth their time to counter his arguments.

Oh, yeah: Bush knew.

Living is easy with eyes closed.

12:30 BST

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Trade those suits for orange overalls

Photographing Iceland's Fiery Volcano - and also this.

Wall Street Showdown: Take Action! - Join the actions in San Francisco, Charlotte, and New York at the end of the month to confront the thieves.

Susie finds that Noam Chomsky has never seen anything like this in America, but, "'It is very similar to late Weimar Germany,' Chomsky told me when I called him at his office in Cambridge, Mass. 'The parallels are striking. There was also tremendous disillusionment with the parliamentary system. The most striking fact about Weimar was not that the Nazis managed to destroy the Social Democrats and the Communists but that the traditional parties, the Conservative and Liberal parties, were hated and disappeared. It left a vacuum which the Nazis very cleverly and intelligently managed to take over.'" (Also, Elizabeth Warren has a litmus test for a good financial rescue plan.)

Somewhere in the comment thread below, CMike notes that DeLong deserves a shout out for suggesting we nationalize the American energy industry. And CMike also offered a heads-up to this week's episode of Bill Moyers' Journal, where Simon Johnson reminds us that, like I said, the most dangerous weapon of mass destruction to a nation is its billionaires.

Socialist defends socialism against associations with Obama.

Ken Silverstein has an update from the UBS whistleblower: "Arguing that a previous investigation of the bank was hampered by incompetence and political cover-ups, Birkenfeld said a U.S. legal settlement with UBS should be tossed out immediately so the bank can be hit with much stiffer penalties and fines. [...] 'The political influence of UBS is massive,' Kohn said, when asked about the bank's ties in Washington. 'They've purposely put in high place politicians or former politicians.'"

Next time someone tells you our news media is so vapid and useless because they are going for ratings, show them this video to remind them what great television can look like.

At Naked Capitalism, there is some evidence to support the theory that retail sales are up because people are spending the money they freed up when they decided to simply stop paying their mortgages.

Just leaving aside that it's another Republican boondoggle to spend taxpayers' money for no good reason, do you think we should point out that you don't need to prepare for the end of the world, since, you know, it'll all be over?

Jay Ackroyd and Joan McCarter (McJoan) on Virtually Speaking - listen to the archive stream at the link, or download the podcast.

04:34 BST

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Train kept a-rollin'

Pour Moi? Renaissance full cup braBra of the Week

Boop wallpaper

Aurora in Manitoba

Porcelain object

Sol in close-up

Kohler's advertising art, and Elena Dudina's fantasy art

Ken Silverstein found this one:

A former banker who blew the whistle on thousands of secret bank accounts rich Americans held at Swiss giant UBS claimed Thursday some U.S. politicians also kept off-shore accounts with the bank. "We had an office in Washington that we all referred to as the PEP office - for 'Politically Exposed People,'" Bradley Birkenfeld said.

He was speaking by phone - on tax day, no less - from Schuylkill County federal prison in Pennsylvania, where he is serving a 40-month sentence for his role in the tax evasion scheme. "Only top managers from the bank knew the names of the political clients," Birkenfeld said.

"Sting Calls for an End to the War on Drugs [...] For too long, the War on Drugs has been a sacrosanct undertaking that was virtually immune from criticism in the public realm. Politicians dared not disagree for fear of being stigmatized as "soft on crime." Any activist who spoke up was dismissed as a fringe element. But recently, I discovered just how much that's changing - and that's how I came to speak out on behalf of an extraordinary organization called the Drug Policy Alliance. I learned of DPA, as they're known, while reading what once might have been the unlikeliest of places for a thoughtful discussion of the Drug War - the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal. It featured an op-ed that dared to say in print - in a thoughtful, meticulous argument - what everyone who has seriously looked at the issue has known for years: the War on Drugs is an absolute failure whose cost to society is increasingly unbearable and absolutely unjustifiable."

How the White House "listens" to progressives: "On Wednesday, the Huffington Post learned, former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn, who is leading outreach efforts around the upcoming court vacancy, reached out to progressive allies to dismiss a critical article written about Kagan. The article, authored by Salon.com's Glenn Greenwald, attacked the former Harvard Law School dean for her expansive interpretation of executive powers." Yes, that's right, the White House wants help from "progressives" in combating Glenn Greenwald. Apparently, they found a few. Glennzilla responds.

Where is the Debate on Obama's Assassination Program?

FEC commissioner faces disbarment complaint after Raw Story report

I know everyone is devoting their efforts to Haiti, but it was a 7.2 in Mexicali, and they're not getting the attention - or the help.

I suspect the shadowy Gnome Liberation Front is infiltrating all sorts of unlikely groups.

The Yardbirds, live, 1968.

17:40 BST

Thursday, 15 April 2010

State of play

Dr. Quentin Young was MLK's personal physician and is reputed to be a "long-time confidente" of Barack Obama - but he wasn't invited to Obama's White House summit on health care. He says we have a lot of work to do, right now, to prevent this new health insurance law from becoming the dead end it seems likely to be:

But "wait and see" is not an option for us. The legislation just passed is completely inadequate to the task at hand.

Under the new law, the suffering and financial hardship imposed on Americans by our private-insurance-based system will largely continue unabated for four more years, and only then be subject to very modest regulation. (Loopholes in the law abound.) Over 50 million people will remain uninsured each year until 2014, which translates into 50,000 preventable deaths annually. A comparable number will remain underinsured, with many vulnerable to medical bankruptcy when serious illness strikes, even after 2014.

Even if the new law works as planned, at least 23 million people will remain uninsured at 2019. So "universal health care" remains a dream deferred.

His advocacy of a single-payer "Medicare for All" system meant he was frozen out of the official debate, but he had a few thing to say last March on Democracy Now! And, in case anyone is wondering, Amy Goodman played this clip at the time: "STATE SEN. BARACK OBAMA: I happen to be a proponent of single-payer universal healthcare coverage. I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent - 14 percent - of its gross national product on healthcare, cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. And that's what Jim's talking about when he says everybody in, nobody out: a single-payer healthcare plan, universal healthcare plan."

"Ever since Richard Nixon declared war on drugs in 1971, drugs have gotten cheaper, stronger and easier to get." And The War on Some Drugs has become our big national industry.

It's refreshing to learn that Virginia's governor even brought up the issue of restoring voting rights to convicts after they have served their time, even if he now seems to be trying to make it into a literacy test. I mean, yes, he is completely hashing it up, as some rogue liberal (who actually remembers that voting rights are rights) somehow snuck in to say in an editorial at even-the-conservative Washington Post. But I was beginning to think this was an issue that would never be revisited at all. And, like Atrios, I think such sense coming out of the WaPo editorial page is something to remark on.

Russ Baker at The Smirking Chimp: "The Game That Goes On and On: a Swiss Bank, a President, and the Permanent Government [...] The bottom line: UBS hedged its bets, and so had an inside track no matter which party took the White House. Thus, when Obama won, it was Wolf who ascended. The new president named the banker-donor to his White House Economic Advisory Board."

It's not really news that the recession is not over.

J.K. Rowling is not impressed with the Conservative Party's new claim to be a kinder, gentler same-old-same-old.

Notorious criminal organization forgives the Beatles. Ringo is unimpressed.

14:25 BST

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Sunday's on the phone to Monday

Our "representatives" pass a huge bill allocating an astonishing amount of taxpayers' money to a bunch of con men, along with some pocket change for actually trying to create jobs - supposedly to save our economy. Having already given away most of the store to the con men, they now balk at spending that little bit that might actually do some good.

Attaturk puts Pope Ratzi's moral values into perspective, and - to Molly Ivors' astonishment - MoDo actually makes some sense on the subject, as well: "When I was in Saudi Arabia, I had tea and sweets with a group of educated and sophisticated young professional women. I asked why they were not more upset about living in a country where women's rights were strangled, an inbred and autocratic state more like an archaic men's club than a modern nation. They told me, somewhat defensively, that the kingdom was moving at its own pace, glacial as that seemed to outsiders. How could such spirited women, smart and successful on every other level, acquiesce in their own subordination? I was puzzling over that one when it hit me: As a Catholic woman, I was doing the same thing."

The whole border security game is just more political theater until they stop the War on (Some) Drugs.

States Feel The Pain. And a pie chart. (Neither of these things should be news to you, but still....)

Harper's quotes Joseph Conrad on The Problem with Revolutionaries: "In a real revolution - not a simple dynastic change or a mere reform of institutions - in a real revolution the best characters do not come to the front. A violent revolution falls into the hands of narrow-minded fanatics and of tyrannical hypocrites at first. Afterwards comes the turn of all the pretentious intellectual failures of the time. Such are the chiefs and the leaders. You will notice I have left out the mere rogues. The scrupulous and the just, the noble, humane and devoted natures, the unselfish and the intelligent may begin a movement - but it passes away from them. They are not the leaders of a revolution. They are its victims - the victims of disgust, disenchantment - often of remorse. Hopes grotesquely betrayed, ideals caricatured - that is the definition of revolutionary success. There have been in every revolution hearts broken by such successes. But enough of that. My meaning is that I don't want you to be a victim."

Paul Rosenberg on Dawn Johnsen and the myth of Obama as Rorschach test says that he's not so much a Rorschach as two different guys, the one who tries to look like what you want, and the one who sells himself to the other guys. And that's a very bad thing, because:

First of all, civil liberties stand at the core of what America stands for--America as Langston Hughes so clearly understood her, a promise unfulfilled:
O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!
Second, the particular complex of violations that Johnsen wrote about, and that Obama has chosen both to bury and to build on, are central to an ongoing imperial project that is precisely the same historical evil that brought about the destruction of the Roman Republic. Avoiding that fate was arguably the Pole Star guiding the Founding Fathers in creating the American Republican. To honor civil liberties over the imperatives of empire is to preserve the original intent of the Constitution itself as a whole. It is a matter of principle for both liberals and conservative alike: for liberals because the constitutional order is that of a liberal democracy, and for conservatives because that was the original intent, and the basis for our enduring institutions. But it is also eminently practical: empires fall. It's what they do. And they leave terrible chaos and suffering in their wake.

Third, the failure to confront and redress these violations of core constitutional principals carries with it a failure to expose and thoroughly reject the web of paranoid fantasy that has come to dominate our politics and prevent any sort of rational, deliberative approach to solving the grave national and international problems that confront us. Because the multitude of paranoid lies, deceptions and crimes of the Bush/Cheney Administration were officially left unchallenged and unexposed, a vast expansion of the paranoid fantasy driving them now haunts our land, crippling our ability to solve even the most simple of problems--such as extending unemployment benefits.

In short, even the most modest, most centrist policies that Obama himself might want to enact become impossible due to his unwillingness to do the right thing.

The Beatles

15:55 BST

Monday, 12 April 2010

The pirate sector

I'm still in pretty bad shape, so it takes even longer than usual to read a few articles and compile a few links.

For decades, now, "inflation" has been treated like the worst possible bogeyman. I understand why this is - that is, inflation at certain levels can be a very good thing for the economy as a whole, helping to secure the economic stability of ordinary working people, or what in America is known as "the middle-class". The normal inflation cycle is that prices go up as wages go up. So the deal you made on that house, which may have caused you to live on noodles for that first year or two, becomes less and less of a burden as time goes on and your wages rise. Back in the days when we had responsible lenders and only wrote mortgages for two-and-a-half times your annual income, that was a very good thing, given that two-and-a-half times your annual income then eventually becomes only two-times your income, then a third of your income, and eventually a quarter of your income, because your income kept getting bigger and you were also repaying your loan. (Oh, yeah, the other thing was, of course, that you were able to repay your loan and only pay interest on the existing debt. Any other arrangement is, of course, manifestly evil and the banksters should all have been arrested as soon as they started charging people interest on debts they no longer owed. Strangely, that didn't happen.) So, since inflation is a good thing for people like you and me, it obviously had to be stopped. As Alan Greenspan indicated, their job is to create more economic instability for the hoi polloi. So, these days, wages mostly don't go up, and debts seem to increase rather than go down as you try to pay them off. Our owners like this situation so much that they are willing to go the way of Greece rather than put a stop to it. And you all want to listen to what Ian Welsh and Stirling Newberry had to say about the economy (among other things) on the VS stream, or download the podcast whenever Jay gets home to post it.

I have to say I am not optimistic that this will be fixed: "The court ruled that the Federal Communications Commission lacks the authority under existing legal framework to enforce rules that keep Internet service providers from blocking and controlling Internet traffic. The decision puts the FCC's Net Neutrality proceeding and the National Broadband Plan in jeopardy. The court ruled in favor of ISP Comcast, which was caught blocking BitTorrent Internet traffic in 2007 and contested the FCC's attempts to stop the company. The decision has made it near impossible for the FCC to follow through with plans to create strong Net Neutrality protections that keep the Internet out of the hands of corporations. Additionally, without authority over broadband, the decision means the FCC will be hamstrung when it comes to implementing portions of its just released broadband plan." (Stirling and Ian also talked about things like this, by the way.)

Jon Walker says, "Without Competition from Public Option, Massachusetts Battles Private Health Insurers [...] I think what is happening in Massachusetts also validates my belief the a public alternative is critical to making the new regulatory system work. I don't think the private insurance companies would have taken the bold step of refusing to sell on the exchange if there was a viable public option to grab more and more market share each week the insurance companies continued their temper tantrum. It would have also served as a baseline to help prove if the rate increases were excessive or justified." Scarecrow follows with "Massachusetts Health Insurance 'Market' Just Failed, And There's Worse to Come [...] The short version is that Massachusetts appears to be inadvertently fostering an artificial shortage in health insurance. And they're doing it for the same reasons that California authorities inadvertently created or exacerbated artificial shortages in electricity that repeatedly caused blackouts during the 2000-2001 crisis."

"Woman Sues Debt Collector, Wins $8.1 Million" - If they take you to court, it looks like you have nothing to lose by filing an answer and showing up in court. (I'm pleased to see, by the way, that my earlier suggestion that debt-buyers should not be able to foreclose on homes they can't prove an interest in has not only been working but has been extended to other things.)

Of course, it's all in the family - by which I mean Rahm Emmanuel and the hedgefund hustlers.

Matt Taibbi enjoys a moment of watching a premier member of the conservative New York Times op-ed stable praise the superiority of the rich.

But, I hear that fraud is finally being discussed in polite company - so, where are the prosecutions, eh?

Meanwhile, "President Obama's choice for Office of Legal Counsel Dawn Johnsen withdraws her nomination: The AP is reporting that Dawn Johnsen is withdrawing her nomination to be the next Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). Early in his administration, President Obama received praise from the legal and progressive community for nominating Johnsen. Salon's Glenn Greenwald called the pick 'Obama's best yet, perhaps by far.' As evidence, Greenwald highlighted an article in Slate that Johnsen authored in 2008, in which she excoriated John Yoo's infamous torture memo. Johnsen also sharply criticized the Democratic Congress for legalizing Bush's surveillance program. Jay Bybee, Bush's OLC head who went on to authorize illegal torture ' won easy confirmation in 2001 through a simple voice vote. However, despite being recommended by the Senate Judiciary Committee by a party-line vote, the Senate stalled Johnsen's nomination for over a year. Senate Republicans, joined by Ben Nelson (D-NE) and other conservative Democrats, threatened a filibuster. President Obama could have appointed Johnsen during a recent slate of recess appointments, but declined to do so." And, it turns, there was a high probability that if Obama had really wanted to, he could have appointed her in the normal way rather than as a recess appointment, but for some reason, he didn't want to. Well, that clears the way for her Supreme Court nomination, right? Right? Apparently not. Of course, we "had to" elect a "Democrat" because of, y'know, the Supreme Court! Because, I guess, it was really important to have a Democrat nominate a right-wing Supreme Court justice.

Teflon II

12:08 BST

Friday, 09 April 2010

Sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows

Sorry, this started out to be something I was going to make into a coherent whole, but then I came down with something strange (What Globalization Means To Me: People travel here from America on poorly-ventilated airplanes and bring me all their germs!), so now it's just a bunch of links, but I thought you in particular might be interested in tonight's Virtually Speaking with Stirling Newberry and Ian Welsh, at 6:00 PM Pacific (which is very soon, now), and you can listen at that link, or download the podcast here later.

Chris Floyd: "Davis is right to draw attention to Obama's astonishingly brazen claim of arbitrary power over the life and death of every person in the world, including American citizens. This is perhaps his most atrocious act of "continuity" with his despised and criminal predecessor. But unlike Bush, Obama has not been hugger-mugger about this assertion of world-engulfing authoritarianism, dribbling it out piecemeal in nods and winks, secret directives, cunning leaks and oblique references. No, he sent his National Intelligence Director, Dennis Blair, to proclaim the president's universal license to kill in open testimony before Congress. Just a few weeks ago, the intelligence poo-bah told the House Intelligence Committee (my, my, so much "Intelligence" around town these days, and so few brains) that Americans (and everyone else) could be killed -- without charge, arrest, trial or defense -- by the U.S. government if said government decides -- secretly, of course -- that the target poses "a threat" of some kind. This assertion of arbitrary power beyond the dreams of even the maddest Roman emperor was greeted with absolute silence by the great and good of the constitutional American republic. No thunderous editorials, no outraged demonstrations -- just nods of acquiescence and indifference."

And that's the depressing thing, the one that keeps reminding me that early on when people asked, "Would you rather McCain had won?" someone said, "At least then you'd know you were in a fight." And even though right now we are seeing Obama turn the Democratic Party into the Republican Party - only a more successful version, since it seems to have no real opposition - our ability to be outraged by outrages has dissipated with the knowledge that these horrific policies are occurring at the hands of officials with a (D) after their names. As if it was never the policies we objected to after all for eight long years. As if that (D) makes it all okay. But, dammit, it's not okay.

In Afghanistan, as in Iraq, innocent civilians are murdered, the official story is somewhat different, and no one seems to care.

Reuters was unable to get video of the 2007 killing of two of its employees in Baghdad through a Freedom of Information Act request, but Wikileaks has it, and as their spokesman says, it graphically shows how the mission in Iraq, whatever it is supposed to be, has been thoroughly debased. More at Think Progress, which notes that: "Last month, the New York Times revealed that Wikileaks has been targeted by the Pentagon and related intelligence agencies for its cooperation with military whistleblowers. In 2008, the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Center put together a report outlining tactics to suppress whisteblowers, in which it cited Wikileaks by name as one organization it intends to "destroy [as] a center of gravity" for whisteblowing activity. Meanwhile, the Wikileaks founder has alleged that his organization is being intimidated and spied on by American intelligence agencies."

When the Joss Whedon news isn't, really. And when it is.

Lesley Gore (Special thanks to CMike. And, for the record, I've heard it called an "ice lolly", but never a "lollipop".)

Fifteen TAFF winners in one place

01:41 BST

Tuesday, 06 April 2010

They've got them hoppy legs and twitchy little noses

Even at The Daily Kos it has been noticed that the health insurance bill renews funding for abstinence-only sex miseducation.

Alan Greenspan still won't admit it - he's still in denial that he helped caused disaster. Or, as Krugman put it, Greenspan is still not a mensch.

It's really not news that the Tories work for Rupert Murdoch. It's not even news that Tony Blair was one of the Tories that worked for Rupert Murdoch - after all, he went and knelt at Rupert's knee to get his blessing before the campaign that installed him in Downing Street. Rupert practiced in Britain first, before getting the Republicans to work for him, too.

Gene Robinson detects false equivalence in the suggestion that there are violent crazies on both sides. On the other hand, he still makes one when he compares violence on the left in the '60s to violence by the right in the present. To begin with, the violent rhetoric from the left was only in the streets and primarily a lot of crap from teenagers, not from broadcasters on national networks, not from elective officials - and certainly not coming from anyone who had run on a national ticket from the Democratic Party. And, for another, most of the violence was committed by the cops, not the lefties - there was only one group that I knew of that actually advocated violence, and for the most part they were shunned by the rest of the left and even their own old friends from their non-violent days recoiled from them. Moreover, even they - the Weathermen - did not have a policy of targeting living beings for violence, and they at least attempted to confine their bombings only to buildings that were vacant at the time. (The SLA, as far as I can tell, had no connections to anyone on the left and were genuinely an isolated case.) The Black Panther policy was that black people should be armed to protect themselves from the cops (sound familiar?), but not to initiate violence. (However, mere legal possession of guns by black people seemed to upset the police so much that they shot them in their beds, thus proving once again that exercising your right to bear arms doesn't mean much if the authorities want to get you.) The rest of the left was into various degrees of non-violent action and largely pacifistic, and found groups that espoused violence to be anathema. There were lots and lots of groups that quoted Jesus, Gandhi, and MLK on the need for non-violence, and no large groups that advocated for violent action. And if you think there was ever a time when anyone in Congress felt the need to make nice with a lefty movement journalist the way Congress today kowtows to Rush Limbaugh, you live on a very different planet from this one. (Does the term "HUAC" ring any bells?)

Note to dr anonymous - People who believed in Obama (who very much did send out letters as well as his meme-merchants trying to establish himself as a progressive) are angry at being conned. They would be just as angry if Obama was white. People really hate being defrauded. But, contrary to Frank Rich's letter-writing friend,* Obama did very much campaign as an even-tempered, "measured, deliberate, patient" and polite gentleman, and no one expected him to turn into an "intemperate, impetuous, impatient" president - nor did they want one, having just put up with eight years of the white version. The racist component of Obama support was that some people assumed he would be liberal because he was black, and indeed, some of them have been shocked to discover they were wrong. But Frank Rich's racial stereotypes are not theirs. They do have generational stereotypes that are unsettling, and they are uncomfortable with blacks who sound like they have been anywhere near the actual civil rights movement of the '60s - but they feel that way about whites, too. That Obama sounded like he could never have been a part of that cultural moment is what they liked about him, never realizing that what they were rejecting was more than just fashion and style. The rest of us dislike Obama for the same reasons we disliked Bush - because their policies are monstrous.

Fun with Texas Democrats: Bikes v. Dykes, I guess. Oh, wait.

Have some fantasy art, some of which may not be entirely work-safe.

02:10 BST

Sunday, 04 April 2010

Happy Jesus Zombie Day!

Next time we are told the main hotel is booked up and they are putting us in an overflow hotel, I'm not going. The ice box bedroom that can't be kept heated unless you leave your key in the wall is just one more insult after the offer of "free internet" for an extra £20 a day, plus the worst coffee I've ever had on two successive mornings. I am so glad to be home! Anyway, some leftover links while I check the news....

What's interesting about this story isn't so much the content as the fact that CNN called the perp what he is instead of some misleading PR name he and his kind invented: "Anti-abortion activist to be sentenced in doctor's slaying. An anti-abortion activist convicted of killing a Kansas doctor faces 25 years to life in prison when he is sentenced today. Scott Roeder, 51, was convicted of murdering Dr. George Tiller in January after jurors deliberated only 37 minutes."

"Worst reason for keeping filibuster ever" - Apparently, Claire McCaskill believes it would be bad to prevent the minority from blocking legislation because then people might disagree with each other or something and get all upset.

Note to Dan at Pruning Shears: The media, like the rest of the conservative movement, does not believe in democracy. That's why they amplify right-wing charges of Democratic voting fraud, and why they downplay documented evidence of right-wing voter-suppression and outright election fraud. This was obvious in 2000 when the media worked furiously to promote the meme that "the people" wanted a speedy installation of Bush into the White House more than they wanted to see the votes counted accurately, despite polls showing that the public was not nearly as panicked as the GOP and the media and actually thought an accurate counting of the vote was more important.

Just go with the bull.

Somerby thought it would be a good idea if someone in our fabulous media interviewed the Teabagger lady about what she actually thought, as opposed to the NYT, which did a big article on her (Somerby would also like to know why they focused on her, too), but did not actually delve into her views much. Interestingly, the only one who bit was David Letterman - and CMike suppled me with the links - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 - and it was interesting hearing the mishmash of truth and rubbish she made sound almost plausible in some part. It was also interesting to hear Letterman politely say that some of the things she was saying weren't true, mentioning that the Republicans were the ones who changed the laws to make things awful (and wondering where the Teabaggers were at the time), and pointing out that you couldn't very well create jobs for Americans if you're doing things that make sure they are created in China rather than in America. But I accidentally left the first one playing while I was doing some other things, and ended up hearing Craig Ferguson, which I have to admit was pretty funny.

Susie Madrak's Quote of the Decade comes from Cory Doctorow, who said, "Relying on incumbents to produce your revolutions is not a good strategy.."

And Obama now makes war on your environment.

New Poll: Teabaggers are just another name for Conservatives. Are they Daleks or Cyberman? (OK, that isn't a leftover link, it's a relatively new one, but how could I resist?)

Tonight's guests on Virtually Speaking will be Marcy Wheeler and Culture of Truth. Listen live at 5:00 PM Pacific or catch the archive stream/podcast later.

16:04 BST

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, April 2010

March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
Is the media in denial?
Back to front page

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

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com

There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image. AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike