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Wednesday, 31 August 2011

What is past is prologue

I think I finally got a close approximation of the actual color of these roses. I don't know why this shot wasn't orangy like the others, but it actually looks deep red.

The coolest thing I saw last night was this clip showing poor people with their own solar light bulbs made from, well, rubbish.

On Tuesday's Majority Report, Sammy spoke to Dahlia Lithwick about the war on the National Labor Relations Board and to Greg Mitchell of The Nation about some strangely unpromoted images, as discussed in his article "Press Censorship: Spiking a Famous Reporter - and Hiding the Truth About the Nagasaki Bomb."

In comments to this post, CMike helpfully types out passages from Selling Free Enterprise, the Business Assault on Labor and Liberalism 1945-1960 by Elizabeth A. Fones-Wolf, about the mass re-education program conducted by the business community to change the way Americans think: "During December 1951, half of the adult population of the industrial town of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, took regular breaks from work to study economics on company time. Employees from nineteen firms gathered in small groups to watch a series of films and to participate in discussions that focused on the values and symbols associated with the American way of life, including patriotism, freedom, individualism, competition, and abundance through productivity. That these firms halted production and pulled workers off the shop floor and out of offices for such a purpose was not an anomaly; in the years after World War II, millions of workers participated in similar corporate-sponsored economic education programs."

From Suburban Guerrilla
Nancy Pelosi's theory on why the rich are Tying people down with debt
Income inequality - Americans still believe we have better upward mobility than in most countries, but it's actually a lot easier to "better yourself" in Europe than in the good old USA.

Terrorists for the FBI: "The FBI has built a massive network of spies to prevent another domestic terrorist attack. But are they busting plots - or leading them? That's the question addressed by a year-long investigation in Mother Jones magazine. It suggests FBI informants are not only busting terrorist plots, they are actually leading them so the FBI can later claim victories in the so-called "war on terror.""

Yet more evidence of Tony Blair's collusion, and one more reminder that Obama is only making it worse.

Emergency relief

15:28 BST

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Mystery tour

In the last few days I've been hit by the Wayback Machine in some interesting ways, like this from Digby: "The NY Times featured an amazing story this morning about famed union man, Joe Hill. Seems there's some proof that he didn't commit the murder for which he was executed after all. This seems all the more poignant and relevant considering the current crusade to kill off the labor movement once and for all."

And then there's this: Dag Hammarskjöld: evidence suggests UN chief's plane was shot down.

Digby has been getting into that Pew poll that shows, among other things, that registered Democrats and Dem-leaning Independents don't want Obama to "compromise" with the Republicans. In fact, those Dem-leaning independents - the ones Obama is allegedly courting with all his compromising, "want Obama to fight the GOP harder.". So it seems the only people who really want Obama to "compromise" with the GOP are the far-right Republicans. (More from Suburban Guerrilla.)

Seven "charitable groups" provided $42.6m to think tanks that promote Islamophobia between 2001 and 2009. Keep an eye on those names. (via)

Matt Stoller: "In positions of power, the best expression I heard is that 'up there the air is thin'. That is, you have enormous latitude, if you want to use it. Power can be wielded creatively and effectively on behalf of whatever it is the wielder wants. Now of course there are constraints, plenty of them. Smart politicians spend their time working to maximize the constraints they want to impose and weakening the ones they want to overcome. But the basic Reaganite liberal argument defending supplication towards Obama these days is that Obama is 'disappointing'. In this line of thought, powerful corporate interests and Republicans are preventing him from enacting what his real agenda would be were he unfettered by this mean machine. Eric Schneiderman, who is in a far less powerful position as New York Attorney General, shows that this is utter hogwash. Obama is who he is, and anyone who thinks otherwise is selling something."

And more and more, the evidence suggests that Obama doesn't want to be a two-term president. He just wants to destroy the Democratic Party and the liberal-progressive coalition and retire to collecting huge speaking fees, perhaps as a member of the Carlyle Group. I mean, what is this?

I have always wanted to slap Kristof for being so urgent about problems in foreign lands that we can't do anything much about (at least the way we are doing things generally), and his inability to see that enormous tragedy is happening right in his own country that needs to be covered seriously. The big news this week at the NYT is that, apparently, Kristof just discovered America: "I've spent a chunk of summer vacation visiting old friends here, and I can't help feeling that national politicians and national journalists alike have dropped the ball on jobs." What's not news is that Thomas Friedman still hasn't discovered reality: "So there we have it, Thomas Friedman once again letting his poor grasp of economics and arithmetic invent grand problems where there are none. What would [we] do without him?"

Senator Bernie's plan to actually fix Social Security: "Get the money from where the money went: So because much of the real Social Security problem is that so much income is now going to just a few at the top, this gets the money to fix the problem from those top-level incomes."

At BTC News, a small overnight epiphany - that if Obama runs on his record, he's toast. And that's just what he seems to be doing, and his supporters think he's president James Bond, Gandhi, MLK,and Mandela.

Yes, of course, when they want to sell you something you wouldn't want if you knew the truth (e.g. war), they claim it creates jobs. I've heard that as long as I can remember. Well, now they're making the claim for Tar Sands.

Democrats' Cameras seized by police at Chabot Town Hall Meeting - another data point in the continuing series of activities where Republicans use public facilities (including the police) to enforce rules that only apply to Democrats and violate the very idea of democracy and a redress of grievances.

They're not going to do anything to help the public, but maybe something will happen to help ripped-off investors. But that would have to work really, really well before it would reach the rest of us.

GOP told don't come to Labor Day Parade.

What Atrios said. Again, as I recall I.F. Stone himself pointing out when he spoke at the first Earth Day, your individual bits of lifestyle change are not what protecting the environment is all about. (And this, too - even if Obama can't pass anything, his plan is still crap, and thus so is his messaging.)

Susie seems to be okay after her trip to the hospital, but remember, she is one of our best bloggers, which means, of course, no health insurance. Chip in if you can.

Also: Amateurs!

Brilliant Jill provides your weather music.

14:20 BST

Friday, 26 August 2011

Hot words

I think Stuart and Jay really got the formula right on Virtually Speaking A to Z last night in their discussion of what really happened with the whole bankster defraud-and-steal scam, and Stuart had me laughing out loud. Oh, Stuart, you are a rock star!

One of the things A&Z talked about last night was how Obama wants to make a deal to get the banksters to dribble a bit of money back on some of their victims - at least the ones who haven't already lost everything, I guess - in exchange for total immunity from an investigation of their (continuing!) crimes. Strangely, Obama had also been promising some relief himself with money he was handed to help out bankster victims, but he hasn't done it yet and apparently he is now letting on that he has no intention to do so.

Great show Thursday from Sam Seder, featuring John Amato, the weird story of how the FBI uncovered a CIA-backed domestic spy operation by the NYC police spying on Americans in New Jersey, Tar Sands, and the anniversary of the memo that started the most successful attack on the United States in history - and The Powell Memo segment is also posted on YouTube from the Sammycam. (Pass that on.) On Wednesday's Majority Report, Sammy talked to David Dayen about the Schniederman story, and to Amanda Terkel about progressive state ballot initiatives. (And check out Chris Hayes on the teevee talking about the Schniederman story.)

Remember that Goldman Sachs VP who changed his name so he could work for Darrell Issa without anyone noticing? "Revealed: Former Goldman Sachs VP Turned Issa Staffer Supervised Scheduling Of Elizabeth Warren Incident: [...] According to Flavio Cumpiano, a congressional liaison for the CFPB, Haller reportedly changed the time of the hearing at the last minute, then misled Warren staffers by promising to end the testimony by 2:15 pm that day. In the emails, Haller denies ever agreeing to 2:15. But, Haller had been informed that Warren could not go beyond 2:15:" And then she was publicly accused during testimony of lying about having to leave at 2:15 .

"Corporations pushing for job-creation tax breaks shield U.S.-vs.-abroad hiring data [...] Apple, by the way, is at the top or close to the top, in recent profits. GE has deceased its per centage of US workers from 54% to 46% in the last decade. Few contenders in the presidential elections or Congressional elections make this notion a part of their campaigns. The debate in regular media usually stops at words like 'protectionism'. The next time you read about tax cut money flowing to create jobs, hold in mind global trade demands that companies actually respond to, and do not think US jobs are a priority. The rhetoric merely implies a vague ideal...not company policies."

Little by little, Austerity kills. "Austerity and the failure to provide decent public services (street cleaning and drain maintenance) helped kill those four people on Friday."

It may very well be the end of the world as we know it, the way things are going.

Atrios: "Raising the Medicare eligibility age would increase health care costs. So, you know, lowering it would... decrease health care costs. Shhh. Don't tell anyone"
Jay Ackroyd: "Periodically, Krugman reminds us that Kenneth Arrow showed that market-based systems can't work efficiently as health care delivery mechanisms. Over at the Great Orange Satan, Mcjoan gives an object lesson. For Medicaid, and the health care system as a whole, a key element in cost control is minimizing ER admissions. For private sector hospitals, ERs are a profit center."

Jay Rosen: "So this is my theme tonight: how did we get to the point where it seems entirely natural for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to describe political journalists appearing on its air as... 'the insiders'? Don't you think that's a little strange? I do. Promoting journalists as insiders in front of the outsiders, that is to us, the viewers, the electorate.... this is a clue to what's broken about political coverage in the U.S. and Australia. Here's the way I would summarize it: Things are out of alignment. Journalists are identifying with the wrong people. Therefore the kind of work they are doing is not as useful as we need it to be." Too right.

Charlie Savage has been tweeting heavily about little nuggets found in the NYT dig into Cheney's memoir.

It looks like another Conservative MP is trying to break the internet again. There's always time to make a submission, I suppose.

Ettlin's eye-witness earthquake report from his couch.

Stuart Zechman's other life

16:10 BST

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Get a good job with good pay and you're okay

On Tuesday's Majority Report, Sam interviewed Don Peck, author of "Can the Middle Class Be Saved?"

I'm not sure which is more remarkable - that the conservative New York Times has suddenly realized that these financial criminals should be prosecuted, or that they waited until it was too late in the game to say so. (I understand they eventually agreed that the Iraq invasion may have been in error, too.) There's a front-page, banner headline-worthy scandal happening right now, first with news that the Obama administration has been leaning on AG Schneiderman to let their financier cronies off the hook, and now Schneiderman has been kicked off the probe committee: "The email announcing Schneiderman's dismissal from the states' executive committee was sent just after noon to more than 50 people by Patrick Madigan, a top lawyer in the Iowa Attorney General's Office. It read: 'Effective immediately, the New York Attorney General's Office has been removed from the Executive Committee of the Robosigning multistate.'" Because the White House was unable to derail his objections to letting these criminals walk. Our poor, "weak" president, of course, could have had nothing to do with this. Really, he belongs in jail with the lot of them.

And then there's Alexander Keyssar's opinion column at the conservative Washington Post explaining that the Real Grand Bargain - the one that made America so rich and actually served the public - is being systematically dismantled. "These changes have happened piecemeal. But viewed collectively, it's difficult not to see a determined campaign to dismantle a broad societal bargain that served much of the nation well for decades. To a historian, the agenda of today's conservatives looks like a bizarre effort to return to the Gilded Age, an era with little regulation of business, no social insurance and no legal protections for workers. This agenda, moreover, calls for the destruction or weakening of institutions without acknowledging (or perhaps understanding) why they came into being." Oh, they understand. That's why they hate them. Via Atrios.

For those who clicked on the link in this post and just got the Blogger homepage, it's Dean Baker's "Alan Greenspan Insists That He Knows Nothing About the Economy.".

At The Hill, there's a bit of a statement of the obvious going on - it appears that Elizabeth Warren's campaign fundraising could be hampered by the suspicion that corporate donors may not be able to bribe her into screwing the public. On the other hand, a smart campaign committee might make generous use of her opponent's reputation as the man Forbes called "Wall Street's Favorite Congressman". Or maybe an independent group could make that ad - you know, the one that looks almost like it's a campaign ad for Scott Brown, praising his cozy relationship with Wall Street and his willingness to screw the public on their behalf. I'd kick in a few bucks to pay to make that and air it in Massachusetts - wouldn't you?

Over at A Tiny Revolution, John Caruso unpacked the 11th Circuit's decision and called it Another Victory For Universal Healthcare. The court held that since the individual mandate is termed a penalty in the legislation itself, it doesn't fall under Congress' power to tax, but: "We first conclude that the Act's Medicaid expansion is constitutional. Existing Supreme Court precedent does not establish that Congress's inducements are unconstitutionally coercive, especially when the federal government will bear nearly all the costs of the program's amplified enrollments." In other words, they can tax people and then pay for medical care for all of us out of those taxes (which they already collect anyway, and cover some of us, while they spend the rest on shoring up the commercial healthcare industry), but they can't just force us to buy commercial insurance. (Also: Thanks a lot.)

"Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., called Tuesday for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to enforce a law limiting excessive speculation in oil markets."

Right now, Obama is polling poorly at the moment, but that isn't necessarily fatal. After all, the Republicans could try to impeach him for being liberal and thus get a whole load of people to support him who right now can't be bothered - but first he'd have to actually do something liberal.

It's hard to dispute this prediction about the outcome of the next presidential election, alas.

Some notes on a long, hot summer: "The funny thing about media blackouts is that you don't know they're happening, unless you happen to know about something crazy that's happening and can bear witness to the silencing that the Main Stream Media works so feverishly to create."

How to survive: "What happened next was extraordinary. The belief that citizens had to pay for the mistakes of a financial monopoly, that an entire nation must be taxed to pay off private debts was shattered, transforming the relationship between citizens and their political institutions and eventually driving Iceland's leaders to the side of their constituents. The Head of State, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, refused to ratify the law that would have made Iceland's citizens responsible for its bankers' debts, and accepted calls for a referendum. [...] In the March 2010 referendum, 93% voted against repayment of the debt. The IMF immediately froze its loan. But the revolution (though not televised in the United States), would not be intimidated. With the support of a furious citizenry, the government launched civil and penal investigations into those responsible for the financial crisis. Interpol put out an international arrest warrant for the ex-president of Kaupthing, Sigurdur Einarsson, as the other bankers implicated in the crash fled the country." (Er, update.)

Dave Johnson: "Rich Guy 'Deeply Resents' Helping Pay For Democracy: Hey here's a real dog bites man story for you: a really, really rich guy says to readers of billionaire Murdoch's Wall Street Journal that he "deeply resents" paying taxes and whines about how the government does things he doesn't like. This in response to Warren Buffet's call to ask billionaires to at least pay as much in taxes as their secretaries. Seriously, it wasn't in The Onion."

Kevin Drum seems to realize he is watching bad things happen, but I'm waiting for signs that he knows who could have stopped it and that he didn't even try.

I'm not allowed to see the video (but it might be this, which I didn't want to see anyway), but the text says Adam Serwer has a new job, at Mother Jones.

"There was just a 5.8 earthquake in Washington. Obama wanted it to be 3.4, but the Republicans wanted 5.8, so he compromised." - @TheTweetofGod (Alert from Watertiger - and Anna.)

Baby elephant

Pink Floyd, live

15:40 BST

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

They wrote the songs

Since there's nothing I can say that you don't already know, I was just going to post a bunch of YouTube vids, and dug some up before I ran into the Rolling Stone obit, "Songwriter Jerry Leiber Dies at 78", which has a nice clean audio tribute at the bottom (and photos).

One of the things the obit mentions is that Leiber and Stoller wrote "Hound Dog" for Big Mama Thornton, and Leiber wasn't happy with the way Elvis changed the words, but they didn't complain too loud about having an enormous hit. Of course, they have the hit version at RS, but YouTube provides.

Stand By Me
I Who Have Nothing
Tell Him
She Cried
Ruby Baby
Chapel of Love
Jailhouse Rock
On Broadway
Smokey Joe's Cafe

After all that, I find out Nick Ashford died as well. You all know this one.

14:20 BST

Monday, 22 August 2011

Cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good

Marcy Wheeler on 2 Funny Things about Obama Administration's Effort to Pressure Eric Schneiderman, those being that administration officials think the New York state Attorney General should back off of holding the financiers accountable so they can pretend to help people, even though the administration has had the ability to do both all along. And, um, it looks like even the "public's representative" at the New York Fed is pimping for an out of state bank. There's another deal on the table - or, as Stuart Zechman put it on the Twitter machine: "Telecom immunity all over again." As the NYT gently explains, "An initial term sheet outlining a possible settlement emerged in March, with institutions including Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo being asked to pay about $20 billion that would go toward loan modifications and possibly counseling for homeowners. In exchange, the attorneys general participating in the deal would have agreed to sign broad releases preventing them from bringing further litigation on matters relating to the improper bank practices." "Improper" is a nice way to say "criminal and fundamentally treasonous".

Busted: Jane Hamsher, Scarecrow, Lt. Dan Choi, Bill McKibben, and others jailed for Tar Sands protest. Because this one is all on Obama. (via) And here's why these actions need to be bigger. School's out - it should have been.

David Dayen spots the real deficit: "In short, there is no deficit that cannot be plugged except for our political deficit. It sustains the defeatism of years of no growth, stagnant wages, high unemployment. The political tendency toward right-wing and corporatist policy ideas over the past 30 years, tied up with the cost of running campaigns, the failure of traditional media, the conservative movement's public relations machinery, has widened that political deficit between what government can provide and what it will provide." Thereisnospoon: "But let's say the defenders of the Administration are right on the political realities of the situation. That doesn't mean the President had to embrace austerity with open arms. He could just as easily have laid out his jobs program and his desire to put America to work, while warning about the effects austerity would have. He could have called out House Republicans for taking the country hostage, and made clear that he was signing austerity measures under duress. He could have demanded real concessions in exchange for the austerity measures put in place. [...] But the Administration didn't do that. It chose to embrace austerity. Even if austerity was inevitable, the embrace of austerity was an unnecessary slap to the face of the progressive base, of intelligent followers of Keynes' economic ideas, and of working people everywhere, while doing little to shore up the President's credibility with independents or feed the confidence fairy in the markets." Like I said ten years ago, if the big question is whether the president is corrupt or whether he's just stupid and incompetent, the answer is that he has to go. Can't we find one competent liberal to run against Obama?

If the professional media is so much better than us granola-eating bloggers, how come they've never heard of dominionism, Christian Reconstructionism, or the New Apostolic Reformation? "Its bad enough that Miller hasn't heard of such a major movement in evangelicalism and so presumes that no one else could have either. What's worse is that she writes that the recent stories in The New Yorker, The Texas Observer and The Daily Beast "raise real concerns about the world views of two prospective Republican nominees" -- and then spends the rest of the piece telling us why we should not be concerned. Her main point is that not all evangelicals think like that. True. But no one said that they do." So, gosh, when presidential candidates hold the view that the Constitution should be overthrown in favor of a form of government that is repugnant to most Americans (including traditional evangelicals), we shouldn't remark on it.

I wonder when Brad DeLong first noticed that Hippie-Punching was actually higher on the agenda than jobs. I guess now upwards of 70% of the country classifies as Hippies, at this point, because everybody hates Obama's policies. Atrios hopes for better (well, so do we all!), but doesn't expect it, and neither do I.

Dan at Pruning Shears says, among many other things, that Roubini has been reading The Sideshow, that Karl Rove may be starting to regret his enlistment of culture warriors into the cause, and also points to a useful post by Adam Serwer on why the Obama campaign suddenly started worrying about ill-treatment of immigrants - because his poll numbers among Latinos are slipping. "Republicans are crying "amnesty." But they were already doing that anyway. At least now, the administration is actually being responsive to the concerns of one of its key constituencies, rather than saying one thing, doing another, and having their political opponents attack them regardless." Clearly, there are more constituencies that need to stop telling pollsters they will vote for Obama.

"Obama bans war criminals. Very funny [...] Hentoff's piece reminds us of the difference between 'disappointing' and 'disastrous.' Some people look at Barack Obama's record - his collapse on the debt ceiling issue, betrayal of organized labor, expansion of the war in Afghanistan, extension of the Bush tax cuts, refusal to push for jobs programs, failure to push for prosecution of Wall Street crooks and possible war criminals, and so on - and say his presidency has been disappointing. Others look at Obama's record thus far and say it is disastrous. I don't think historians will have a hard time making the right call on this one." (via)

Susie Madrak quotes a bit of Howard Zinn from Paul Street on Wisconsin: "Today, we can be sure that the Democratic Party, unless it faces a popular upsurge, will not move off center. ....The Democratic Party has broken with its historic conservatism, its pandering to the rich, its predilection for war, only when it has encountered rebellion from below, as in the Thirties and the Sixties." (Also: Want to make a more efficient solar array? Ask this 13-year old.)

How much respect can you have for a newspaper that claims the people protesting cuts in social programs are "anarchists"? Even Cato is smarter than the WaPo.

"My First Gay Bar" - Susie Bright's aunt Molly opened a legendary gay bar in Berkeley, but she never had gay pride. (May not be work-safe).

Offer Solutions

2011 Hugo Award Winners.

HDR photography tutorial, and some really nice shots.

"When the Levee Breaks"

14:00 BST

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Little wheel, spin and spin

Thursday, Sam Seder interviewed Matt Taibbi about his scoop on illegal activities at the Securities and Exchange Commission, "Is the SEC Covering Up Wall Street Crimes?" ("But in evidence he presented to the SEC's inspector general and three congressional committees earlier this summer, the 13-year veteran of the agency paints a startling picture of a federal police force that has effectively been conquered by the financial criminals it is charged with investigating. In at least one case, according to Flynn, investigators at the SEC found their desire to bring a case against an influential bank thwarted by senior officials in the enforcement division - whose director turned around and accepted a lucrative job from the very same bank they had been prevented from investigating.") And Friday, Cliff Schecter pretty much declared Obama's campaign apparatus to be incomprehensible.

Isn't it fraud to change your name to disguise who you are when doing business? "Goldman Sachs VP Changes His Name, Goes To Work For Issa Protecting...Goldman Sachs! [...] In July, Issa sent a letter to top government regulators demanding that they back off and provide more justification for new margin requirements for financial firms dealing in derivatives. A standard practice on Capitol Hill is to end a letter to a government agency with contact information for the congressional staffer responsible for working on the issue for the committee. In most cases, the contact staffer is the one who actually writes such letters. With this in mind, it is important to note that the Issa letter ended with contact information for Peter Haller, a staffer hired this year to work for Issa on the Oversight Committee. Issa's demand to regulators is exactly what banks have been wishing for." But then, Issa is a guy with a long history of bad practice, with more coming to light every day.

Stockman still doesn't quite seem to understand that in a prosperous nation, the government isn't afraid to spend money on the public in order to keep the country healthy, but at least he has something right: "The second unhappy change in the American economy has been the extraordinary growth of our public debt. In 1970 it was just 40 percent of gross domestic product, or about $425 billion. When it reaches $18 trillion, it will be 40 times greater than in 1970. This debt explosion has resulted not from big spending by the Democrats, but instead the Republican Party's embrace, about three decades ago, of the insidious doctrine that deficits don't matter if they result from tax cuts. [...] The third ominous change in the American economy has been the vast, unproductive expansion of our financial sector. Here, Republicans have been oblivious to the grave danger of flooding financial markets with freely printed money and, at the same time, removing traditional restrictions on leverage and speculation. [...] The fourth destructive change has been the hollowing out of the larger American economy." Unfortunately, the Democratic leadership seems to be embracing this approach, too.

Atrios on Fringe Views: "It really doesn't matter all that much whether the economy, according to somewhat arbitrary criteria, has another "recession." I think the true fringe view, where fringe means outside the Village, is that unending 9.0%+ unemployment is horrible and requires an appropriate policy response. The point is we never got out of the last recession, and whether GDP growth is barely positive or barely negative doesn't matter all that much." Which reminds me, I think it's time someone did a new version of the famous New Yorker map of the country, only with the White House, K Street, and Capitol Hill as "the country", and everything else as "the fringe". Or is that idea so obvious that someone has done it already>?

Krugman responds, "Soylent Green Is Corporations! [...] So Romney's remark may not have been as stupid as it sounds, but it was deeply wrong all the same." Except, no, it's as stupid as it sounds. Corporations aren't people, they're a mechanism that protects individual people from the consequences of their decisions.

The GOP is so far gone I normally don't even bother to talk about them, but even for a Republican member of Congress, expressing a desire to shoot his colleagues is a little weird. Pretending that Obama got where he is today because of unnamed social programs rather than because he had well-to-do Republican grandparents sending him to private school and making sure he got into the right schools and met the right people - well, that's just par for the course. He's black, he must've been an AFDC baby who got through on Affirmative Action.

Oliphant on Obama, and on his friends.

And the big wheel turn around.

15:20 BST

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Stuff I saw

Atrios flagged an interesting story this morning about how foreign students on J-1 visas have walked off the job at Hershey's, part of a program that is supposed to provide cultural exchange but is really just a massive rip-off. Hershey's seems to be implying they aren't responsible for the lousy conditions and poor pay the students have had to tolerate because it's all run by subcontractors, apparently. Interestingly, the kids, under this program, are also being gouged for rent far above what their neighbors are paying. Gosh, when I was a student, programs aimed at us included lower costs for housing and travel. Now it's a special way to get low-waged workers into overpriced housing.

Pruning Shears: "Um, no. There are plenty of options. It only looks like there aren't many if you happen to be locked into rigid, discredited and wealth-privileging neoliberal fairy tales. You know, the ones that have captured the imaginations of those who have properly insulated themselves from the widespread misery those odious policies cause. More stimulus is an option. Jobs programs are an option. Lowering the Social Security eligibility age (for those who are now too old for the job market) is an option. Taxing the rich is an option. There are loads of options, and it's a measure of how eager the press is to tell policymakers that they are helpless to do anything that they would blandly report something so obviously false." (And a take-down of Drum and Chait, a pointed quote from Athenae, and another useful quotation from Econned.

Sam Seder talked to Dahlia Scheindlin on Monday's Majority Report about the protests in Israel, and to Michelle Goldberg Tuesday about the Christian Dominionist plot to overthrow the United States.

"Obama Campaign Staffer Sends Out Email Bashing Paul Krugman And The 'Firebagger Lefty Blogosphere'." This kind of "it's just one person and it's nothing to do with Obama" trick helped him win the primaries, but I don't think it has the power it once did. People aren't suddenly going to discover they are more economically secure just because the White House pretends to distance itself from views it has already expressed in both word and deed. "But the Administration is seriously whistling past the graveyard at this point. They are reaching a tipping point. If folks like Marta Every and I are ready to hop off the train, it's not just angry cheetos-munching bloggers they're going to lose. They're going to lose the activist base that powered them to victory in 2008. If they think it's going to come back just out of fear of Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry, they're sorely mistaken." (Also: Obama's sexist metaphor is characteristically inapt, and he's apparently still bragging about his poor negotiating skills. Oh, and veterans' benefits are on the table. Don't you love the way we "support our troops"?)

We may not be more popular than Jesus, but at least we're more popular than the Tea Party and the Christianist Right: "Of course, politicians of all stripes are not faring well among the public these days. But in data we have recently collected, the Tea Party ranks lower than any of the 23 other groups we asked about - lower than both Republicans and Democrats. It is even less popular than much maligned groups like 'atheists' and 'Muslims.' Interestingly, one group that approaches it in unpopularity is the Christian Right."

The Plot to Kill the Post Office...And Its Union Contracts

6 of 7 Fracking Evaluators Are on Industry's Payroll: "Last spring, President Obama asked Energy Secretary Steven Chu to assemble an advisory board to review the practice of hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as 'fracking,' which is used to extract natural gas buried deep underground. Rather than critically evaluate the dangers of fracking, however, the panel sought to appease an angry public with scant suggestions about how to make extraction as safe as possible. Ruling as 'unsafe' a practice that has caused more than 1,000 documented cases of water contamination and sickened people across the country was never a possible outcome of the review. That's no surprise, considering that six of the advisory group's seven members are on the oil and gas industry's payroll."

Bruce Schneier is working on a book to be called Liars and Outliers: How Security Holds Society Together, due out in February, but back when he started, it was going to be called "The Dishonest Minority", a title which doesn't mean quite what you it sounds like: "The term 'dishonest minority' is not a moral judgment; it simply describes the minority who does not follow societal norm. Since many societal norms are in fact immoral, sometimes the dishonest minority serves as a catalyst for social change. Societies without a reservoir of people who don't follow the rules lack an important mechanism for societal evolution. Vibrant societies need a dishonest minority; if society makes its dishonest minority too small, it stifles dissent as well as common crime."

Two men get 4 years in jail for Facebook riot jokes; one to appeal.

"Taser used a number of times on Dale Burns before death [...] Pepper spray was also used when Cumbria Police attempted to arrest a man at a flat in Hartington Street, Barrow, at 18:30 BST on Tuesday."

The trouble with horrible stories like this one is that they fill us with astonishment and outrage even though, when we think about it, we know that this kind of thing is routine at every level of pretty much any institution or even any large social group.

If you've been missing Keith Olbermann, try this (and last night's show had Janeane Garofalo, looking pretty chirpy).

Now that was a transformational president! "Face-melting awesomeness"

Fiction list:
If you're a fan of the Phoenix Guards/Vlad Taltos books, you'll like Tiassa, the latest from Brust. I did.
It's been a long time since I read H. Beam Piper's lovely classic Little Fuzzy, but I had no trouble at all enjoying John Scalzi's return to the story in Fuzzy Nation.
I haven't yet finished Vernor Vinge's The Children of the Sky, the sequel to the wonderful A Fire Upon the Deep, but I'm having a lot of trouble tearing myself away from it.

I loved this one.

17:39 BST

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Assorted links

You wouldn't have known, in those days, listening to the way Britain was referred to by the American media, that it was a nation with full employment and universal literacy. But then along came Thatcher, and then her children Tony Blair and David Cameron, and now, Thatcher's grandchildren. It's the natural result of proclaiming that, "There is no society."

Remember when George Bush lost an election in Texas because he came across as being "too smart", so he vowed he would "never be out-dumbed again"? A lot of liberals just can't understand that kind of thinking because if there's one thing we can't stand, it's to be thought of, or treated, like we're stupid. But it worked for Bush, didn't it. And it sure seems like something much like it has been the Obama strategy, only with its own special slant: he's an incompetent negotiator, he's weak, he seems to have no core beliefs or morality - and can they really be this stupid? " How brilliant a strategist is the strategist who makes himself look like a ragdoll devoid of intelligence or principle?"

How much does the Democratic Party leadership hate democracy? "On July 30th the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party passed a resolution proposing that a primary challenge be offered to Obama next year. The Progressive Caucus's certification expired at the same time, and while other caucuses were routinely recertified that day by the state party, the Progressive Caucus (I'm told by its chair, Karen Bernal) would not have been, had a vote been held. So the recertification was tabled, and the Progressive Caucus is in limbo. It no longer exists, but it may yet continue existing."

I know I linked already to a section of Barbara Ehrenreich's new afterword to the tenth anniversary edition of Nickel and Dimed, but you really should go over and read (and watch the video).

Dan at Pruning Shears agrees with me that what happened in Wisconsin was good news.

Sarah Jones: In the last two months we've been exposed to an extreme radical agenda by far right Republicans, many of whom ran as moderates. In order to more fully explore the dynamics of religious extremism and far right politics, I interviewed Dominionist expert Leah Burton, who explains the dangerous infiltration of radical religious extremism into modern day American politics; specifically the relationship between many of these leaders' religious beliefs and the economic and social extremism we're seeing implemented by them.

Richard Clarke: "offers an incendiary theory that, if true, would rewrite the history of the 9/11 attacks, suggesting that the CIA intentionally withheld information from the White House and FBI in 2000 and 2001 that two Saudi-born terrorists were on U.S. soil - terrorists who went on to become suicide hijackers on 9/11." Via a post full of links (the rest of them on our more usual subjects lately, including some of our favorite econ writers), from Digby.

Via Digby, Steven Pearlstein's rant in The Washington Post at the business community for their complicity in wrecking everything. (Unmentioned, of course, is the complicity of The Washington Post.)

Also from Digby, an incoherent traitor who could be our next president.

But why do I get the feeling that whoever is running the show isn't supporting Rick Perry? This is The Wall Street Journal, not some lefty rag, and I don't think they normally mind crony capitalism at all. (On the other hand, it looks like David Gregory may be getting that old tingle up the leg....)

Architects of Fear! Paul Krugman says a fake alien invasion would cure the economy. (Of course, David Icke already thinks the world is being run by alien lizards. Icke is rather amazing - an awful lot of his analysis is rather good until you get to the lizard part. It's so good that people think he's being metaphorical about the alien lizards, but, alas, he's not. It's like he was invented to discredit an entire line of inquiry. "Oh, yes, just tell them there's an oligarchic takeover coordinated by the characters from that sci-fi show V - the original one, with the gay lizard decorator and the ceremonial mouse.")

"David Cameron's net-censorship proposal earns kudos from Chinese state media: UK prime minister David Cameron (who is reported to have rioted himself and then fled police while at university) has proposed a regime of state censorship for social media to prevent people from passing on messages that incite violence. This proposal has been warmly received by Chinese state media and bureaucrats, who are glad to see that Western governments are finally coming around to their style of management."

"Facing Ninth Deployment, Army Ranger Kills Himself. 'No Way' That God Would Forgive Him For What He'd Seen, Done, He Told Wife. More U.S. soldiers and veterans have died from suicide than from combat wounds over the past two years."

This kind of thing makes me want to tear my hair out. Why would you even write this except as partisan pumping for Obama?

Mark Thoma, "White House Debates Giving Up on Helping the Economy: "Apparently one of the things holding up a push to put people back to work is worries that the GOP might chant "tax-and-spenders," and the administration's demonstrated inability to respond or defend itself in response would harm Obama's reelection chances. In any case, the administration promised it would put doing what's right ahead of doing what's best for reelection. This is how you convince yourself that your reelection rather than, say, job creation is the most important thing to focus on."

Tony Auth on the economy

"Phone hacking: News of the World reporter's letter reveals cover-up: Disgraced royal correspondent Clive Goodman's letter says phone hacking was 'widely discussed' at NoW meetings"

"Coincidentally, a corset's job is to make things that are bigger on the inside look smaller on the outside."

Make your own ricotta cheese in five minutes.

16:36 BST

Saturday, 13 August 2011

And was Jerusalem builded here...

The best way to rob a bank is to own one. Umair Haque explains: "The bedrock of an enlightened social contract is, crudely, that rent-seeking is punished, and creating enduring, lasting, shared wealth is rewarded and that those who seek to profit by extraction are chastened rather than lauded. Today's world of bailouts, golden parachutes, sky-high financial-sector salaries - while middle incomes stagnate - seems to be exactly the reverse. Perhaps, then, our societies have reached a natural turning point of built-in self-limitation; and this self-limitation is causing a perfect storm to converge."

Stirling Newberry is also pretty good on the London riots, but would someone please kick his ass until he edits it to complete the last sentence of paragraph 5?

A funny thing happened to Motown on the way home from work the other day. (This almost makes it sound like the police had cordoned off the area to let the looters loot in peace.)

Dave Johnson of Seeing the Forest and a lot of other things usually seems so measured, but on Virtually Speaking Susie, talking about the economy, he let it rip, to my surprise.

Central Planning and The Fall of the US Empire - When you let a small number of people control your economy, it doesn't matter whether you call it "the free market" or "communism", you get the same decay. (But, I really wish people wouldn't say "entitlements" when what they mean is a fixed medical cost-evaluation system that ends up grossly over-charging you whether or not you are on Medicare.)

Sam Seder's interview with Bruce E. Levine, whose Alternet article "8 Reasons Young Americans Don't Fight Back: How the US Crushed Youth Resistance," is worthy of your attention. Returning to student grants rather than student debt would go a long way to energizing protest.

"Has the U.S. Turned Against Consumers? The Federal Reserve, the government, and Wall Street are all bleeding the consumer - and nothing is being done to stop it, writes Ed Wallace"

From Suburban Guerrilla:
Steve Forbes is a lying moron (but at least Dean Baker was there to disagree);
SugarHouse Casino workers trying to unionize;
Barry Ritzhold on Ratigan, in a straightforward discussion of the great national destruction and a leadership's "marriage to bad ideas" and evasion of doing things that work;
McCain's town hall meeting in Tucson and Rep. Betty McCollum (D) in the Twin Cities got a dose of mainstream and liberal feeling this time, and it wasn't praise for administration policies;
A civil resistance simulator;
It's up to us to save ourselves
Applying for welfare is a lot like being booked by the police;
Christianist Sharia Law

For a change. someone who really deserves it got sent to the slammer: "Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. was sentenced Thursday to 28 years in federal prison for taking $1 million in bribes from the builder of a pair of juvenile detention centers in a case that became known as 'kids for cash.'".

An unusual terrorist

Ari L. Goldman revisits the big story he worked on for The New York Times 20 years ago, "Telling It Like It Wasn't [...] Over those three days I also saw journalism go terribly wrong. The city's newspapers, so dedicated to telling both sides of the story in the name of objectivity and balance, often missed what was really going on. Journalists initially framed the story as a 'racial' conflict and failed to see the anti-Semitism inherent in the riots. As the 20th anniversary of the riots approaches, I find myself re-examining my own role in the coverage and trying to extract some lessons for myself and my profession."

Stuart is down in comments pointing out that Superman supports the New Deal.


Whovian perfume (Not me, boss, I stay away from anything that says "patchouli" in the ingredients.)

...among those dark satanic mills? (But this seems more appropriate.)

16:11 BST

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

They're not very sensible

Back when Ross Perot was running for president, I marvelled at his apparent belief that all we needed was for someone to go to Washington and, I don't know, put LSD in the water so everyone would love each other and get along? Really, his entire governing strategy, as he explained it, seemed to be, "I'm going to go there and make 'em all shake hands and get some real work done." No recognition of the huge ideological gulf between the two sides, just this bizarre Woodstock Nation kind of philosophy that even in the '60s you couldn't have sold to a bunch of stoned hippies. But people who look kindly on Obama seem to think that he has the same weird, Sunshine Acid kind of thinking, as if it was all about needing his own special personality to make the flower-wreathed fairy circle emerge. Obama is "weak", they say, because he didn't anticipate that real idiological differences could create real acrimony, let alone that blood-and-guts partisanship was so natural to the GOP because they opposed our very form of government. Michael Tomasky seems to be following this line when he calls Obama "The Untransformational President," neglecting to note that Obama has indeed been transformational beyond his wildest dreams, eliminating all meaningful distinction between the two parties and their policy goals, and ripping the mask of democracy from the face of America once and for all. No president, not even George Bush the Lesser, has done so much to show his contempt for the American people. And, for all his fine words about the hero he apparently doesn't know anything about, Abraham Lincoln, there is no evidence that Obama is compromising on policy - he has never believed in liberalism and he doesn't fight for it because he thinks it's stupid.

Alternatively, there's "The Sanity Defense".

Robert Reich, "Why the President Doesn't Present a Bold Plan to Create Jobs and Jumpstart the Economy: I'm told White House political operatives are against a bold jobs plan. They believe the only jobs plan that could get through Congress would be so watered down as to have almost no impact by Election Day. They also worry the public wouldn't understand how more government spending in the near term can be consistent with long-term deficit reduction. And they fear Republicans would use any such initiative to further bash Obama as a big spender. So rather than fight for a bold jobs plan, the White House has apparently decided it's politically wiser to continue fighting about the deficit. The idea is to keep the public focused on the deficit drama - to convince them their current economic woes have something to do with it, decry Washington's paralysis over fixing it, and then claim victory over whatever outcome emerges from the process recently negotiated to fix it. They hope all this will distract the public's attention from the President's failure to do anything about continuing high unemployment and economic anemia." The stupid-or-evil battle is over. We can see how callous such a calculation would be, and no "explanation" - including electoral calculous - justifies such behavior. If Obama wanted to improve the economy, he could fight for it, he could get up and tell the public what is really needed. He doesn't want to because, at best, he doesn't care that much. That lack of regard for the public welfare is evil whether it's stupid or not. The only question is whether they can actually be this stupid.

Monkeyfister points out in comments to the post below that, "In re: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit... That particular Circuit green-flagging the suit is really big. Do have a look at the make-up of that court.. This is a HEAVILY-LOADED Conservative court. Only three of the 10 seated Judges were appointed by Democratic Presidents.."

Here's video of Sam Seder and Ari Berman on Ring of Fire talking about the economy. Sam also talked to Chris Hayes on Majority Report Tuesday.

Wisconsin: Republicans appear to have lost two seats, the minimum Dems needed to take to have more pull in the state senate. Three would have meant the Republicans lost their majority altogether, but that doesn't appear to have happened. Of course, no one thinks Kathy Nickolaus hasn't done some GOP vote-fixing again. Remember, these fights were all in Republican districts, but the battle over Scott Walker's recall will be state-wide, and if his agenda can lose in even two of these districts this week, it doesn't bode well for his future in elective office. Greg Sargent: "Whatever ends up happening, Wisconsin Dems and labor have already succeeded in one sense: They reminded us that it's possible to build a grass roots movement by effectively utilizing the sort of unabashed and bare-knuckled class-based populism that makes many of today's national Dems queasy. Their effort - whether or not they take back the state senate - could provide a model for a more aggressive, populist approach for national Dems in 2012."

Science news (with thanks to Natasha Chart's tweets):
Weeds acquire genes from engineered crops.
Study: antibiotic resistance plunges when poultry farms go organic.

Kaiser Chiefs

16:09 BST

Tuesday, 09 August 2011

We're not gonna take it

As far as I can tell, rumors that my street was set on fire last night are, at best, premature. I went out for a walk this afternoon and saw no fire damage, although I did notice that a few of the shops still have their security grills out, even though they are undamaged and open for business. An unusual number of shop-owners do seem to be out on the pavements chatting with each other and keeping an eye out, but all seems otherwise peaceful. Have some analysis from Lenin's Tomb.

Atrios: "BBC News keeps bringing people on to ask them why the rioting in London is happening, and when they try to answer the question and provide an explanation (with any validity or not, who knows) the newscasters chastise them for justifying the violence." Yes, it's classic.

Sam Seder is saying he thinks S&P's downgrade was a political ploy to encourage The Grand Bargain. He interviewed Jeff Madrick, author of Age of Greed, The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970-Present Monday, as well as Laura Clawson of DKos's labor blog about what's really going on with the Verizon strike, and discusses the enormous protests in Israel, where 300,000 have taken to the streets. We need to see the equivalent in the US - think twelve million people in the streets would make them think twice?

Ian Welsh clearly is on the same page with Sam, and thinks it's it's a sick joke: "As everyone is pointing out, the idea that S&P, who rated all the subprime trash as AAA, has any credibility, is a joke. However, Obama and Democrats refused to destroy S&P when they had the opportunity and every reason to do so. The subprime crisis could not have been nearly as bad without S&P and the other rating's agencies rating trash AAA so that investors who must buy AAA by law could do so. To put it simply, S&P engaged in systematic fraud. They, like everyone on Wall Street and in the major banks, have not been indicted for this. The choice to not indict is policy. Obama's policy. If Obama did not want this to happen, it would not happen."

Of course, there is another way to look at this issue. As Sam says, a downgrade means there is an expectation that the debtor will not repay its debts. And no one thinks the US will default against commercial holders of US Treasury bonds. But: Any discussion of cuts in Social Security is a discussion of defaulting against the public bond holding - and that is what Obama clearly wants to do. So, it actually does appear that the United States is planning an intentional default on US Treasury bonds. They're just not planning to default on rich people or the Chinese.

Meanwhile, it looks like a few leadership Dems are trying to burnish their "liberal" credentials by opposing Obama on his attack on Medicaid. Leaving aside the fact that I don't trust anything that involves Harry Reid, I don't see any opposition to Obama getting anywhere on anything unless, you know, he wants it to.

"U.S. Court of Appeals Allows Torture Case Against Rumsfeld To Go Forward: Upholding a federal judge's ruling from last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit cleared the way today for a lawsuit filed against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over the use of torture. After facing detention at the hands of U.S. military forces, two Americans sued Rumsfeld and unnamed others for 'developing, authorizing and using harsh interrogation techniques in Iraq against them' in violation of their constitutional rights. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have opposed the case, but the appeals court allowed the case to move forward, holding that the 'plaintiffs have alleged sufficient facts to show that Secretary Rumsfeld personally established the relevant policies.' A Washington district judge already ruled earlier this month that an American contractor could bring a similar torture suit against Rumsfeld."

"Why Unions Matter: The Numbers [...] In other words, deunionization has allowed income inequality to rise partly because unions are negotiating wages for fewer people than they used to, and partly because unions no longer have the power to force the political system to pay attention to the needs of the middle class. But if income inequality has to be reduced in order for middle class wages to grow - and it does - and if robust middle class wages are a key driver of the liberal project - and they are - then we're all in big trouble. Mass unionization is gone, and it's not coming back. This means we still need something to take its place, and we still don't have it. Until we do, the progressive movement will continue to tread water."

Stuart just tweeted that Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" is The Honeycombs' "Have I The Right?"

16:40 BST

Sunday, 07 August 2011

The sky is crying

Tonight on Virtually Speaking Sundays, it's Avedon Carol and Digby. Listen live at 9:00 PM Eastern or later (stream or podcast), all at the link.

Cliff Schecter sounded downright depressed on Friday's Majority Report. Thursday's show was an interview with Digby, and he's also posted video of his stint hosting The Young Turks.

I think it may have been Stuart who pointed out this thread in which a bunch of liberals try to figure out what the hell Obama is up to. It's the usual veering around between "he means well" and, y'know, he's evil. I liked this one: "Thaddeus Russell: I am struck again and again by how closely Obama's rhetoric and policies adhere to Kristol's and Podhoretz's founding documents of neoconservatism: imperialism, cultural homogenization (e.g., his 'post-racial' discourse and especially Race to the Top), and the dismantling of the welfare state. So, to me, this explains his 'willingness' to sacrifice SS and Medicare. Also, the elitist attitude toward policy-making, which the neocons got from the original progressives."

Michael Moore on The Day the Middle Class Died: "From time to time, someone under 30 will ask me, 'When did this all begin, America's downward slide?' They say they've heard of a time when working people could raise a family and send the kids to college on just one parent's income (and that college in states like California and New York was almost free). That anyone who wanted a decent paying job could get one. That people only worked five days a week, eight hours a day, got the whole weekend off and had a paid vacation every summer. That many jobs were union jobs, from baggers at the grocery store to the guy painting your house, and this meant that no matter how "lowly" your job was you had guarantees of a pension, occasional raises, health insurance and someone to stick up for you if you were unfairly treated. Young people have heard of this mythical time - but it was no myth, it was real. And when they ask, "When did this all end?", I say, 'It ended on this day: August 5th, 1981.'"

People really need to understand that Obama is an extremely powerful man who is doing any evil thing he feels like doing.

Moody's and Standard & Poor's raided in Milan.

Media Ignores S&P Attack On Republicans: "Have you seen, anywhere, in any media, or even heard reported or repeated on NPR, the following sentence? 'We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act.' It's right there on Page 4 of the official Standard & Poors 'Research Update' - the actual report on what they did and why - published on August 5th as the explanation for why they believe Congress - and even the Gang of Twelve - will be unable to actually deal with the US debt crisis." Of course, S&P didn't acknowledge that cuts in entitlements and other domestic spending will actually depress revenues rather than reducing costs. Most "cost-cutting" measures in social programs really raise costs. No one wants to admit this anymore, but those programs were able to pass in the first place precisely because they reduced costs. (WIC is a great example of this.)

5 NOPD officers guilty in post-Katrina Danziger Bridge shootings, cover-up

BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King, and Paul Butterfield, live

22:48 BST

Saturday, 06 August 2011

This post was delayed by Kells Syndrome

Virtually Speaking A-Z and Virtually Speaking with CW Anderson was Stuart on fire, doing the first hour largely by himself in Jay's absence, discussing a curious statement by an unnamed senior White House creep who patronizingly explained the rest of the country is not like "the left" that refuses to accept that the New Deal was an aberration in American history that has to be corrected. And then he and CW talked about why the media behave the way they do, and it was refreshing NOT to hear someone try to explain it all in terms of trying to get more viewers and giving the unwashed masses "what they want". (We also got lots of articles mentioned, so here are some:
Americans Decry Power of Lobbyists, Corporations, Banks, Feds;
Independents agree with GOP that federal government has too much power,
How President Obama plays media like a fiddle,
Critics Still Wrong on What's Driving Deficits in Coming Years; Economic Downturn, Financial Rescues, and Bush-Era Policies Drive the Numbers,
Schism brews in Coffee Party and Response to report on "Coffee Party schism" in Politico
The Onion's Obama: Debt Ceiling Deal Required Tough Concessions By Both Democrats And Democrats Alike
Oh, and someone in the chat mentioned The Dreyfuss Initiative.)

Glenn Greenwald on The myth of Obama's "blunders" and "weakness"; "But it is absolutely false that he did not want these brutal budget cuts and was simply forced -- either by his own strategic "blunders" or the "weakness" of his office -- into accepting them. The evidence is overwhelming that Obama has long wanted exactly what he got: these severe domestic budget cuts and even ones well beyond these, including Social Security and Medicare..."

Sirota on Obama's anti-jobs agenda: "For months, polls have reported that reducing unemployment is Americans' top political priority -- and certainly a much bigger priority than reducing the deficit. This makes economic sense because of the connection between the two issues. As any Economics 101 course shows, creating new jobs is one of the best ways to reduce a nation's long-term deficits, because creating jobs generates tax revenues and grows an overall economy, thus shrinking debt both in real terms and as a percentage of GDP. Somehow, though, Americans' top priority is Washington's lowest. That's not what you hear, of course. On Tuesday, President Obama insisted to great fanfare that he's completely focused on creating new jobs. But a look past the spin and to actions shows that the rhetoric is the typical up-is-down Orwellian nonsense that has come to define the Obama era. What we are in fact witnessing is the final epic inverse of the New Deal and Great Society, as Washington openly declares war on American jobs." That whole "pivot" to jobs the White House claims is now on their agenda? Well, now that they've given us a "budget deal" that will certainly increase deficits and reduce jobs, they're doing these wonderful trade deals to pretty much kill what's left of our economic base. Win the future for whom, again?

"The most terrifying result of the debt ceiling crisis is not the deal itself - with its tight discretionary caps, its special joint committee that Republicans already are saying they won't allow to raise any revenues, and its potential for arbitrary across-the-board cuts. Instead, it's the precedent that Republican congressional leaders say the crisis has established. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared on the Senate floor today that this 'creates an entirely new template for raising the national debt limit.' As he explained on CNBC last night, 'In the future, any president, this one or another one, when they request us to raise the debt ceiling, it will not be clean anymore.'"

The "progressive" blogosphere - by which I mean the bigger blogs that are more insidery than, you know, our blogs - seem to be having a little war over how wonderful Obama is. In some quarters, you're just not allowed to admit that Obama got exactly what he wanted and has been terrible for his party and the country. In some quarters, you're allowed to say that Obama is a terrible president but you also have to pretend it's only because he's an inept negotiator. The latter is apparently an argument that he's not evil, so I guess we're supposed to vote for him on the grounds that he means well even though his results are evil, but at least he's not actually evil like the Republicans. Personally, I think he doesn't mean well and is even more evil than the Republicans, but never mind. I found I lost enthusiasm for reading Aravosis during the primaries when he went a bit Obamamaniac, so I'm not entirely certain what route he took to get to this point of doing his piece taking issue with the brilliance of Obama's leadership, "Barack Obama: Best. President. Ever", but given the history, it's remarkable that he has written this at all.

The Sacramento Bee reports some rumblings: "The California Democratic Party's Progressive Caucus marked the commander-in-chief's 50th birthday by releasing a resolution that supports exploring a potential primary challenge in 2012 to the first-term Democratic president."

Now more than ever, you should buy and promote the 2L40 T-shirt (and button, and coffee mug!) and make sure everyone sees it - especially if you are in DC or near a state capitol.

Froomkin: "Obama U.S. Attorney Nominee David Barlow Is Tea Party Senator's General Counsel."

TARP would have died without Obama, but it was necessary to ensure that horrible people who had been robbing the country blind weren't inconvenienced, so he actually interrupted his campaign to rush back to Washington and bring it back to life (against the will of the American people). However, for some reason, union members had to take a hit even though bankers didn't, so GM had lots of strings attached to their bailout, none of which impacted the people who had made all the bad business decisions that had hurt American automotive manufacturers. Also, Obama promised to push Card-Check but brushed it aside pretty quick. Wanna know why? Well, if it was my mission to destroy the Democratic Party, it's one of the main things I would do. I'd also enact austerity policies and make attacks on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Even if you're purely a partisan Democrat, you should be eager to get rid of this guy just to save the party. And that's just leaving aside the fate of, you know, the country, and 98% of Americans.

In The Nation, "The Hidden Casualty of the Debt Deal, A CNN poll conducted after the deal shows that a whopping 77 percent of Americans believe that elected officials acted like 'spoiled children.- The yawning gap between the mindset of decision-makers in Washington and the daily reality of most Americans is a grave threat to what organizers call 'little-d democracy.- This is about neither the Democratic Party nor the procedural machinery by which our nominally democratic government operates. 'Little-d democracy- is the basic idea that ordinary Americans, regardless of rank or stature, can have a voice in shaping our own destiny."

Jon Stewart on the debt deal, Scott Bateman translates Obama on the debt deal, and Ralph Nader supports a primary challenge.

15:17 BST

Wednesday, 03 August 2011

Only YOU can save America

Olbermann's Special Comments are usually all over the blogosphere, but this time they are strangely silent though it may be his best yet:

"The betrayal of what this nation was supposed to be about did not begin with this deal and it surely will not end with this deal," Olbermann continued. "There is a tide pushing back the rights of each of us and it has been artificially induced by union bashing and the sowing of hatreds and fears and now this evermore institutionalized economic battering of the average American. It will continue and it will crush us because those that created it are organized, and unified, and hell-bent. And the only response is to be organized, and unified and hell-bent in return."

"We must find again the energy and the purpose of the 1960s and the 1970s, and we must protest this deal and all the goddamn deals to come in the streets. We must rise, nonviolently, but insistently. General strikes, boycotts, protests, sit-ins, non-cooperation, takeovers. But modern versions of that resistance, facilitated and amplified by a weapon our predecessors did not have: the glory that is instantaneous communication."

"First you've got to get mad!" he exclaimed. "I cannot say to you meet here at this hour or that one, and we'll peacefully break that back of government that exist merely to get its functionaries re-elected. But I can say that the time is coming for the window for us to restore the control of our government to ourselves will close, and we had damn well better act before then because this deal is more than a tipping point from where the government goes from defending the safety net to gutting it. This is wrong!"

Greenwald sums up the Democratic leadership: "Three days ago, Democratic Rep. John Conyers, appearing at a meeting of the Out of Poverty caucus, said: 'The Republicans -- Speaker Boehner or Majority Leader Cantor -- did not call for Social Security cuts in the budget deal. The President of the United States called for that." (video here, at 1:30) [...] How can the leader of the Democratic Party wage an all-out war on the ostensible core beliefs of the Party's voters in this manner and expect not just to survive, but thrive politically? Democratic Party functionaries are not shy about saying exactly what they're thinking in this regard...In other words: it makes no difference to us how much we stomp on liberals' beliefs or how much they squawk, because we'll just wave around enough pictures of Michele Bachmann and scare them into unconditional submission. That's the Democratic Party's core calculation: from "hope" in 2008 to a rank fear-mongering campaign in 2012. Will it work? The ones who will determine if it will are the intended victims of that tactic: angry, impotent liberals whom the White House expects will snap dutifully into line no matter what else happens (even, as seems likely, massive Social Security and Medicare cuts) between now and next November."

Taibbi: "The Democrats aren't failing to stand up to Republicans and failing to enact sensible reforms that benefit the middle class because they genuinely believe there's political hay to be made moving to the right. They're doing it because they do not represent any actual voters. I know I've said this before, but they are not a progressive political party, not even secretly, deep inside. They just play one on television. For evidence, all you have to do is look at this latest fiasco. [...] We probably need to start wondering why this keeps happening. Also, this: if the Democrats suck so bad at political combat, then how come they continue to be rewarded with such massive quantities of campaign contributions? When the final tally comes in for the 2012 presidential race, who among us wouldn't bet that Barack Obama is going to beat his Republican opponent in the fundraising column very handily? At the very least, he won't be out-funded, I can almost guarantee that.And what does that mean? Who spends hundreds of millions of dollars for what looks, on the outside, like rank incompetence?"

Of course, Obama already had a blueprint if he hadn't wanted the debt ceiling to be "held hostage": How Clinton foiled Republican extortion over the debt ceiling.

What could have caused our National Man of Mystery to attack the New Deal, drone-bomb six countries, hound whistleblowers, and insist that he is allowed to assassinate American citizens? Can't imagine.

Stoller: "So why, if his Presidency has been such an unmitigated disaster, is he continuing to pursue this reckless course. My theory is that the key to the Obama administration's political strategy is not compromise or incrementalism. It is, quite simply, fooling liberals. When you look at Obama's governing role, he is clearly a servant of American oligarchs. But obviously he can't explicitly tell liberals this (unlike Republicans, who are explicit in saying they favor 'job creators'), because liberals like to think of themselves as favoring economic justice. So how do you acquire support from liberals, as he did in the primaries in 2008 and will need to do again in 2012, while pursuing oligarch-friendly policies? You do it by ensuring that liberals only focus on the ceremonial non-governmental aspects of the Presidency. You do it by making sure that they focus only on the televised aspects of the Presidency."

You say Obama did all this to win re-election? "Democratic lawmakers are openly questioning whether they can trust President Barack Obama to cut future deals with Republicans, while disappointment among party activists is raising doubts about their investment in his 2012 re-election campaign. 'Come on, got any other jokes?' cracked Representative Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, when asked if Obama bargained hard in negotiations with congressional Republicans." Obama's approval rating is below 50%. Is this really supposed to work?

Everyone seems to agree that Obama (like Blair did), has somehow created a situation in which no one seems to be a viable - or even willing - presidential candidate. We have no one who will challenge Obama in the primary, much less someone with sufficient name-recognition and following to get the job done. The trouble is, no one wants to vote for Obama. Some will say we have to vote for the lesser evil, but now I'm completely on board with the dictum that that just means you're voting for evil. I would really like to have someone to vote for. It would make a refreshing change. (Of course, if that can't happen because no one will take the job, the only option I can see is if everyone who is disgusted with Obama registers as a Republican and takes over their primaries. An actual liberal running as a Republican and decrying Obama's giveaways to banksters and saying, "He cut your Social Security and Medicare!" probably won't even set off alarm bells in the Tea Party itself - after all, Republicans are going to say that stuff anyway, aren't they? If you don't actually say you're a liberal, you might even win!)

Meanwhile, I note with interest that our resident friendly Obamapologists has been strangely silent, no longer producing little talking points direct from Obama HQ to my comment threads to explain away Obama's latest attack on America. Now we are left with only right-wing crackpot Tom Harrister calling us communists (communists!) for daring to critique The One.

Tuesday, Sam Seder learned that the Devil is in the details.

More police terrorism caught on camera.

Tom Tomorrow with Thomas Friedman, Private Eye.

More reasons to love Matt Damon (don't miss the bit at the end with the cameraman), an interesting way to improve your local economy (if enough people do it).

14:00 BST

Monday, 01 August 2011

They say that money can't buy love in this world, but...

On Virtually Speaking A-Z, Stuart and Jay argued about whether the other side is crazy and how you talk to them, followed by Jay's discussion with former head of Planned Parenthood Gloria Feltd about how we've ended up in such a mess and what we need to do to get past it.

And what a mess! Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel) and Stuart Zechman on Virtually Speaking Sundays, which opened right on the heels of Obama announcing the "inevitability" of forcing the United States into a Depression in order for baby Barry to be able to beam and point at his poo. Oh, wait, that's not how Stuart and Marcy put it; they said he had announced that We Have A Deal to raise the debt ceiling by, essentially, bringing the economy to a grinding halt. Which is precisely what they are doing. (This is an info-packed episode, you should listen just for all the eyebrow-raising detail.)

Later I was expressing distaste for something Ezra Klein had done recently and asked if anyone had seen it, and Stuart helpfully asked if I meant this from 2003, in which he said, "our extremists are profoundly dangerous to our party and republican extremists are profoundly helpful." And I said no, I meant this, where Lawrence O'Donnell and Ezra Klein help explain away Rachel Maddow's attempts to force the People's Budget into the discourse. And, asked by another present what was in it that makes Ezra a bad guy, we explained:

Avedon: Maddow talks about the Progressive Budget plan. O'Donnell and Ezra smack it down with a bunch of crap.

Stuart: Ezra says that the Progressive Caucus' plan is shit, because it doesn't do Third Way tax regimes that hurt ordinary people the most.

Avedon: They have invented a whole new phrase for ordinary forms of taxation. The Progressive Budget "stacks taxes". They make it sound like a new bad idea.

Stuart: Like this:
Stuart: "when i began to talk to tax experts about it, they said a couple of things. they said, one, there's not enough tax reform in the plan. they're stacking new taxes on top of one another. and in that way, they enhance a couple of the tax systems' worst tendencies right now"
Stuart: So, the problem with the liberals' plan is that it raises taxes

Avedon: Worst tendencies like progressive taxation.

Stuart: But doesn't "reform" the tax code to prioritize taxes away from funding things like Social Security or Medicare or interstate highway construction.

Avedon: I like the complaint that it doesn't have enough environmental measures. WTF? Stupid tax incentives for pretend environmentalism? Who the fuck cares?

Stuart: Ezra: "what it needs to do is more tax reform and more creative taxation. so taxing energy is something that would work a lot better. a lot of people brought up a value-added tax, which would work a lot better."
Stuart: "work a lot better" in this context means "middle class people pay more of it"
Stuart: What they mean by "taxing energy" is taxing people for consuming energy, and reducing taxes on producers of energy.

Avedon: But termed in mumbo jumbo that will befuddle listeners and makes it sound like somewhere under all that jargon is a legit reason to dismiss the Prog Budget.

Stuart: But doing so in a way that decouples taxation linked with the resulting productivity from it, like the gas tax we already have that funds interstates.
Stuart: It's worse than just that, Avedon. They're saying that they want to redo the tax code so that it "works better," which means more New Economy policy, which we can see failing in front of our eyes right now.
Stuart: That's the "new thinking" Ezra means: "they didn't think they had gone quite far enough in terms of new thinking on taxes"

Avedon: Yes, it's the old "modernizing" saw again - let's get rid of that ancient 20th century taxation and push forward to spanking-new medieval taxation!

Stuart: It's mumbo jumbo that, on the surface, says to MSNBC Democratic viewers "we agree with liberalism, we just think there are better ways to get there," but in the details says "liberalism is bunk, we're redefining what 'progressive' means entirely, so that it matches our agenda"
Stuart: I was trying to get to that with Marcy tonight.

Widget Whiteberry: soon there will be no language that conveys our meaning

Avedon: Feral elites.

Stuart: The means by which liberal Democrats are getting bamboozled.
Stuart: ...and crapped on.

And none of this is happening because the Tea Party has held the nation hostage. As Marcy pointed out last night, the UK, Greece, and other countries where this is happening do not have the Tea Party. They have "serious" people screwing the public from their lofty heights. And the "Tea Party" member who has worked so assiduously to make sure this is happening to us in America is named Barack Obama.

In the Guardian, they are talking about the local feral elite and what a pack of wild dogs they are. "'Something is unravelling before our eyes,' the group says. 'From bankers to media barons, private interests have bankrupted and corrupted the public realm. Power, for so long hidden in the pockets of a cosy elite, has been exposed. Those who wield it have been found wanting - in scruples, in morals and in decency.' The group says that the three crises - MPs' expenses, bankers' bonuses and illegal phone hacking - share common origins. 'Politicians, bankers and media moguls ... share a common culture in which greed is good, everyone takes their turn at the trough, and private interest takes precedence over the public good.'"

Free-market of the Politburo: "The end game of finance capitalism is eerily similar to the gigantism created by the Soviet "planned economy," where there would be a single humongous factory to manufacture cigarette filters, say, out in the steppes of Nicotinistan, and if it failed, no cigarettes. (Of course, the free market is supposed to be the antithesis of central planning, but what we laughingly call the free market just allocated a ton of capital to MacMansions with styrofoam pediments out in the burbs, now being demolished for cents on the dollar. So the difference between the banksters and the Politburo would be?)"

I think it's pretty naive for people to be talking like this when it's absolutely clear Obama is trying like hell to get the Republicans to throw him in that briar patch. And they know better. Obama doesn't want to create jobs, he doesn't want to save Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and he doesn't want to improve the lot of the American people. He wants to drive wages down so American rich people can "compete" with Chinese rich people by not having to give Americans decent wages and working conditions. And unless you can think of something we can do about it, it's not even stupid, it's just plain evil.

Apparently, the latest banned subject at Daily Kos is third-party and independent party activism and support. A list of interesting people is petitioning DKos to reverse that policy. You can add your name to the list here. (via)

William Rivers Pitt on our glorious president and his "victory" over the Republicans: "I see a president on his knees, hands outstretched, offering the best ideas and policies liberal governance has ever devised up to the voracious carnivore of GOP opportunism. I see the end of the New Deal, and a far crueler America emerging from the aftermath. I see a Democratic president voiding his bladder on all that he is supposed to uphold." (via)

I wouldn't mind if we could get rid of people like Andrew Cuomo, and I would love to see Sheyman beat Schneider in the primary and then beat the Republican in the election. I don't care what party anyone belongs to as long as we get rid of "moderates" and "centrists" who pretend not to be attacking good social programs while doing everything they can to undermine them. Let the remaining wingers be forced to fight out in the open against real liberals who will get out in front to promote Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and make it clear what the "centrists" and the "right-wing" are really up to.

Friday's viral phenomenon was: Spock Is Not Impressed.

Randy Newman, "It's Money That I Love."

16:45 BST

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, August 2011

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