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Sunday, 31 May 2009

The big stuff

As I've said, the excuse that our members of Congress were not allowed to tell anyone what they knew about torture is pure and simple nonsense. The Speech and Debate clause of the US Constitution says they can say anything they want on the floor and "they shall not be questioned in any other Place." (The idea that Congress could not be told why it was "okay" to torture is also nonsense, of course.) "What this means is that there existed a defined path for Pelosi, Harman, Rockefeller, Graham et. al to address their concerns and whistleblow the wrongs they were witnessing without any threat of prosecution, fines or other retribution. Jello Jay Rockefeller did not have to constrain his outrage to his hoky handwritten letter to Dick Cheney (yeah, like that was going to work). Jane Harman did not have to restrict her claimed outrage to her weak letter. Nancy Pelosi and Bob Graham didn't have to sit on their hands and effectively do nothing." [Via Pruning Shears, which also reports that "David Petraeus admitted the US has violated the Geneva Conventions and that torture created a recruiting tool for terrorists (more than a tool, by the way)."]

Boy, that Bernie Sanders sure sounds like a fiery liberal when he talks about healthcare. Bernie also sent the link to watch the PBS Frontline program "Sick Around the World". (This program struck me as somewhat dishonest, because they never admit that there's really no such thing as "it costs too much", and if "they" don't spend enough on it, that's a political choice, not the result of immovable fact. I did like the Swiss right-winger saying free-market healthcare doesn't work, though.) And Jacob Hacker on Why We Can't Compromise On Public-Plan Choice: "In short, the public health insurance plan should be a model for how to deliver cost-effective high quality care. Only a national, comprehensive and truly public plan can provide this essential benchmark for private plans." (Me, I want an NHS - the hell with all this fiddling around.) And Dr. David Himmelstein and Dr. Sidney Wolfe talking to Bill Moyers about what happened to single-payer, and Moyers with Donna Smith on our broken healthcare system.

I have to say I am completely freaked out about California. The wingnuts can say anything they like about Schwarzenegger, but he has brought them the right-wing dream: "The cuts Mr. Schwarzenegger has proposed to make up the difference, if enacted by the Legislature, would turn California into a place that in some ways would be unrecognizable in modern America: poor children would have no health insurance, prisoners would be released by the thousands and state parks would be closed. Nearly all of the billions of dollars in cuts the administration has proposed would affect programs for poor Californians, although prisons and schools would take hits, as well."

It's funny, Mary Shelley is credited with having written the first science fiction novel, and yet I've never heard any discussion of this one.

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17:10 BST


We're gonna do it

From time to time I try to explain to people how much more expensive it is to be poor, but they don't really get what I'm saying. Strangely, a helpful article on the subject appeared recently in The Washington Post, despite the fact that they are a conservative newspaper. Gary Farber knows they're right about this.

The Dutch think we are wimps. (via)

Domosthenes learns that George Will hates trains.

The scandal over MPs' expenses has blown up bigger than any we've seen in all these years of gouging and warring and kickback schemes as successive conservative governments from two different parties have been dismantling Britain, and the British media could be a mirror of its American counterpart as it pushes a story that looks set to ensure a Tory victory in the next election. Johann Hari wants to know, "Why are we silent about Cameron's voodoo economics? The political H-bomb of Expensaggeddon has confirmed the belief that our politicians are a homogenous class of crooks only interested in themselves. The gaps between the parties look increasingly like a fatuous blur, designed to cover the looting of the tax-payer. And itís true those gaps are way too narrow, clustering the parties well to the right of public opinion, where they are largely accountable to the rich and their media lackeys rather than us. But these differences are, in reality, still wide enough to determine whether millions of us will keep our jobs and our homes. Today, a wildly biased media is refusing to tell you how." Sound familiar?

At this point I really don't understand why every single person who flies hasn't written to their reps to complain about the confiscation of their personal items for no sensible reason. And security theater always manages to reach new depths. Like, for example, when they destroy a piano because they think the glue smells funny. (Also: Bolivia is to Lithium as Saudi Arabia is to Oil - and you'll need it for your battery-powered cars.)

Mary recommends some good reading on Interrogation without torture.

I hope you've been watching Eschaton for the little reminders that, no matter what the corporate media likes to think, our economic situation really isn't climbing back up to a glorious recovery. The idea that everything is about to be peachy again is based on the fantasy that if only the banks have enough money, people who have nothing will run right out and start spending again, presumably at the same loan-shark rates that are increasingly on offer. But people are starting to get the message that there is no help and there are no deals, and even those who are still in a position to play don't really want to anymore. (And in the meantime, we're all being told we should be worried about inflation, but this makes no sense to those who remember that a little bit of inflation used to be a good thing, and anyway to have it you really need to have a much better job market than the one we have now.)

"Darn those deconstructionists and their crazy rock and roll."

I see the Google is celebrating the 150th anniversary of Big Ben. (Big Ben, by the way, is the bell, not the clock.)

Make all our dreams come true....

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13:21 BST


Saturday, 30 May 2009

Same old story

Figleaves D-G seamless t-shirt bra with lace trimBra of the Week

Digby enjoys a display of Liberals' Values.

I probably should check out Naked Capitalism more often.

Listen to the archive of CS Kappler's interview with KagroX on Virtually Speaking here.

Here's a clip of a performance involving our friend Steve's band.

I think Ruth has the explanation for why The Washington Post prints so many stupid things (which is why I told you not to bother reading David Broder). There are still some good people there, and I'm in favor of rewarding good behavior, but I'd rather not give Fred Hiatt the ability to sell advertising for his editorials based on the fact that he publishes so much crap. So read the good stuff, post comments saying thanks, and ignore people like Krauthammer, Hiatt, Cohen, and Broder. It's the only way.

Robert Borosage on Betting on Failure: The Right's Story: "It's easy to scoff at Gingrich and mock Cheney. Voters weren't buying the conservative mantra when McCain and Joe the Plumber trotted it out in the campaign. But don't misunderestimate the right. There is no question that conservatives will learn the narratives put out by Cheney and Gingrich. The conservative movement excels at teaching their choir the lines of the hymnal. Over time, they will work hard to make Obama own the economic mess they left behind, and decry signs of weakness abroad. It is vital that the real story be told - and not just by the president, but by neighbors to neighbors, citizen to citizen. The story on how conservative policies and follies led us into the hole we are in - and now are obstructing the efforts to get us out."

Bob Herbert writes about Holding On to Our Humanity, but doesn't talk about how much easier it is to ignore the plight of others when we have already convinced ourselves not to care when we do evil even to our own.

Walking with Your Head in a Sling: "As a result of the dalliance and escalation in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively, tens of thousands of wounded veterans (quite possibly more) will swell the ranks of an already unwieldy throng that, due to its size, is being neglected, under-served and dishonored. Caring for those veterans won't be cheap (hence the reluctance thus far) but it is absolutely vital and morally obligated."

Ettlin has more on the continuing evisceration of The Baltimore Sun. This really is the place to watch a case study in the destruction of a once pretty good major news daily.

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23:24 BST


Stuff I saw

Once again, my apologies for my absence. A confluence of tech issues and other stuff have prevented me from posting as often as I'd like. On the bright side, not thinking about politics so much has been a relaxing experience - I can see why so many people are seduced by it.

Meanwhile, read Digby and not Broder on what the now odiously right-wing columnist for the conservative Washington Post had to say about a Supreme Court nominee who is herself fairly consistently conservative but who Broder "hopes" will turn out not to be some kind of raving lefty extremist. He appears to think she is a "liberal" because she is not ardently and vociferously in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade. Of course, there is no evidence that she isn't quietly in favor of overturning Roe, since she has made no public promotion of either support or opposition to it, but anyone who doesn't scream about the evils of abortion from the rooftops is apparently some kind of bomb-throwing liberal in Broder's world. The Villagers have defined "liberalism" down to these purely sexual personal rights issues, apparently - you can be a right-wing nut on everything else (e.g., you can actually support the elimination of Social Security and unions and still be a "liberal") as long as you aren't hysterical about abortion and Teh Gay. You're not really a right-wing crazy unless you are actively burning crosses on people's lawns, as far as I can tell. I wonder how the Villagers would characterize this guy (who doesn't seem to be aware that a woman who looks like this probably doesn't have a lot of menstrual periods in her future).

Eric Boehlert noticed how respectful the media was to Dick Cheney when he trashed Obama's policies, and remembers that they said it was a disgrace when Al Gore dared criticize a sitting president - even though Gore was right about everything.

Anna says she saw some winger named something like Krikorian whining about how hard it is to pronounce "Sotomayor" - which I thought was pretty rich coming from an Armenian. Anna thinks it's pretty rich coming from a member of a party where the leadership can't even agree on how to pronounce their own names. (She also smelled yellowcake when she saw this headline.)

Someone remind me - what was Bush's record, again?

We all know Bill Mahar has a few things backwards and can be a real dickhead (and anyone who thinks most free speech repression comes from the left isn't terribly aware of how much is really being stepped on), but he made some good points in this interview - although I was interested to see which bits of it are highlighted in the title that whoever posted it gave the video. I think you're supposed to fall asleep before he gets to the bit about criticizing the Democrats for being Republicans.

Um, I haven't found the promised archive link for the KagroX interview at VS, yet. I keep telling them they should put them on the relevant post, but they ignore me, and I never seem to be able to locate them myself.

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14:58 BST


Thursday, 28 May 2009

KagroX on BlogTalkRadio/Virtually Speaking tonight

KagroX (David Waldman) will be the guest on Virtually Speaking tonight at 6:00 PM Pacific. You can listen to it here on BlogTalkRadio live, or at Inworld Studios on Second Life. I'll post the archive link when I have it.

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17:45 BST


Reading material

Even Ted Kennedy has disappointed Diane on healthcare, because It's Still All About The Insurance Companies: "It's clear that Congress and the president still don't get it. Worse, it's clear that they don't want to get it, that they are perfectly happy with a system that will continue to generate huge profits for private insurance companies and for-profit health care delivery systems, and that they expect citizens to pay for those systems. "

Digby on the Village idiots, and Returning Wealth To It's Rightful Owners: "Al Hunt just told Andrea Mitchell that Obama could have picked a "more formidable intellectual force" for the court but he threaded the political needle very well. When Andrea Mitchell went on to ask if the White House was holding a conference call later to reassure people about her intellectual abilities, Hunt said that she wasn't as bad as Alberto Gonzales." Gosh, what could have made him say that?

Meteor Blades has A Little Reminder About 'Judicial Activism': "'Judicial activism' ought to have a straightforward meaning. But when foes of Democratic appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court and other seats on the federal bench deploy what has become a catch-phrase, there is an invisible adjective attached - liberal. In other words, their supposedly principled complaint is a dog-whistle."

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15:49 BST


Just a bunch of links

This isn't just any old lefty blog calling Obama a coward for refusing to prosecute the torturers and instead continuing Bush policies, but rather it's Willem Buiter's blog at the Financial Times.

You almost get the impression that the Cheney family's current high media profile exists to help Obama sell his policies, when the White House thinks it can use Cheney to "prove" it's better than Bush.

I confess to being befuddled that anyone fell for the idea that the Republican talking points had been leaked. It was obviously a handy PR trick, but had nothing to do with what they are actually doing.

BooMan says the right-wing media is working to the GOP's disadvantage in spewing crazy crap everyone knows is nuts and alienating people, but I think he underestimates their power to define the limits of discourse. They define how far right it is possible to go, while being opposed almost entirely by a "left" edge that sounds mysteriously just like the "sensible middle" of the crazy corporate GOP.

Gosh, I guess Hank Paulsen is just an innocent bystander.

NYT's Helene Cooper sets up the straw man defense. Gotta admit, whoever's writing Obama's speeches is a lot more careful with language. (via)

Ron Paul is a libertoonian loony, but he's right that we need transparency in banking. Is there any real reason not to audit the Fed?

This Week In Tyranny, a federal judge decided that the White House is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (!), and Harry Reid is a dangerous coward.

Celebrity journalist round-up.

I guess this means that Obama is "centrist" on slavery...?

I'm pretty sure I linked this a long time ago, but for those who missed it, Steve reminds me: Lego harpsichord.

And two girls on the piano. (Thanks to Dominic.)

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10:55 BST


Wednesday, 27 May 2009

I am a killjoy

I suppose I'm expected to ready myself for a fight to defend Sonia Sotomayor as a Supreme Court nominee against an onslaught of GOP hissy-fit in which she is falsely cast as some kind of a screaming (literally) liberal rather than a mostly-conservative (though not completely insane) jurist who prefers the powerful to The People but just doesn't happen to have a bug up her ass about abortion. She is, of course, just what we don't need - another "liberal" whose credentials as such rest entirely on the fact of not being a fire-and-brimstone anti-abortion gay-hating loony. Because that's what it takes these days - not actual liberal commitment to personal freedom, nor any resistance to the idea that rich, powerful people should run everything at the expense of the rest of us, or even a quaint affection for the idea that an honest day's work deserves an honest day's pay. But, friends, the GOP hissy-fit is just convenient cover for the sell-out Dem leadership sliding yet another corporate conservative in with the Supremes without most people waking up to the fact that that's what they're doing. I mean, how can we complain when the Dems valiantly confirm Obama's nominee despite the fact that, as conservatives keep pointing out, she is a flaming liberal? We should sit back and pat ourselves on the back for our valiant resistance to all that GOP hype about how she's "too" liberal. God forbid anyone should point out that she is actually to the right of more than two-thirds of Americans. (Ah, but somebody seems to like her.)

The Dems don't fight back against the fake right-wing outrage because it serves their purposes. They don't care that the right-wing are liars and they don't even mind most of the lies. They don't like being personally targeted by the right (because their friends can be bloody dangerous), but the lies actually serve their purposes. You never hear them complain, for example, that right-wingers consistently lie about what the President's job is, because they don't particularly want anyone to do the President's actual job. In fact, an overwhelming amount of the current public debate is about pretending that the President's real job does not exist - his real job, it is now averred, is to be "the Commander-in-Chief", and the discussion is about how he can do that job much better if he can just, y'know, ignore that Constitution thing. It must be true, because even Obama seems to agree, and I remember hearing all about how he is a Constitutional scholar throughout the campaign.

No wonder Kristol is always smiling. Oh, we've destroyed the conservative movement. The country is with us. No one likes the Republicans anymore. And yet even my favorite outraged lefty blogospheric voices are right where he wants them - defending a conservative president's choices as he destroys liberal America once and for all.

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12:35 BST


Weather report

My apologies for the extended holiday. It seems my body still wants a vacation, and there's too much other stuff to catch up on, so just enjoy these pictures Dominic alerted me to.

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03:57 BST


Sunday, 24 May 2009

Sunny Sunday

Freya Daisy underwired plunge braBra of the Week

Lego Grease

Alan Grayson is one of Blue America's greatest successes - not simply because he won his seat, but because he's keeping his promises, and of course drawing fire from the right as a result. This looks like someone we can support. (Speaking of keeping promises, I guess we can forget about all this stuff, too.)

DemFromCt has the morning pundit round-up so you can avoid reading certain individuals who only think poverty and hunger are worth noticing when they happen far, far away. And BarbinMD reckons that Cheney's real reason for making the rounds on TV is just, y'know, he wants a good book deal.

Personally, I support the troops not having to be troops.

The progress of Moral Clarity, and a note to Dick Cheney. Oh, wait, more moral clarity; et tu, Katrina?

What a relief - Republican leaders probably aren't as stupid and panty-wetting as they seem; they're just liars.

Ramzi Kassem, a Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School, represents many current or former prisoners at Gitmo and Bagram, and he spoke about his experience to The Talking Dog.

What does this make you think of? (via)

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13:26 BST


Saturday, 23 May 2009

Out in the country

My legs seem to be better rested, but my feet are angry. However, I am in some kind of idyllic little place full of pretty scenery, so I'm relaxing and drinking this blueberry drink and not thinking about the news much. I did see a few things, though:

Scott Horton, Federal Judge Spotlights Misconduct by Federal Prosecutors in Siegelman Case - and, despite the continued calls to investigate the clearly corrupt prosecution of this case, "Following the court of appeals decision to strike two of the seven counts on which Siegelman was convicted, the federal prosecutor on the case has suggested that he will seek to increase Siegelman's sentence from seven to twenty years. Siegelman's attorneys cite this as further evidence of vindictive motive on the part of the prosecutors. The Obama Justice Department has not yet announced a replacement of the prosecutors involved, and the Bush Justice Department's team remains in control of the case. Attorney General Holder's office advised the Huffington Post that notwithstanding the long-standing allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, now amplified by a large group of attorneys general and the state's former senior federal judge, the Justice Department had no investigation of the accusations underway." (Via Mercury Rising, where I also learn that the Obama administration doesn't think Cheney et al. did anything wrong when they outed Valerie Plame.).

Phil informs me in comments that "Torture does work. It seems you can torture people into admitting torture is torture.."

I can't believe even Bloomberg called this a serious threat to New York. If US government agents are the brains behind the "Muslim" terrorist threat, then the actual threat is the FBI.

Harold Meyerson: "They offer no solutions for the nation's problems but are chock-full of solutions for issues (such as the lack of concealed weapons in Yellowstone) that aren't problems. They play with renaming the Democrats while they're the ones with the identity crisis. But there's a reason they enumerate old themes and gravitate to the most peripheral ones imaginable -- a reason that's neither old nor peripheral. The economic crisis has plunged their worldview into crisis, if not negated it altogether. What's more, several leading conservative economists and thinkers have acknowledged as much, though none has really suggested a plausible alternative course."

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19:30 BST


Friday, 22 May 2009

Just this

I just got back from Abi's funeral, and I was charmed and surprised to walk in to Bonnie Raitt's smashing version of "You've Been In Love Too Long" (which, strangely, I can't find at YouTube, but there is this, and this). I love that track, but I hadn't known that she did. Anyway, there was a good crowd, and good food at the pub afterwards, and her aunt told us things I hadn't even known about Abi, while I told her what a sharp writer she was. It was good - but it also involved a lot of walking and boy am I tired. So here's just a little bit of stuff to keep you busy:

Read Fred Clark at Slacktivist on Hell and the Credit-Card Lobby. Not that Hell ever made sense to me in the first place - I mean, what kind of an evil bastard would do that?

Someone asked me recently if I could think of anyone else who did news aggregation of the sort I do, and when I went to check the people I thought of as doing that, it turned out that none of the ones I can remember seem to be doing it anymore. But then I realized that, although I don't think of her as doing that, Libby does, a lot of the time. (I did love this headline: "Netherlands to close prisons for lack of criminals." No explanation is offered in the article for why there is such a decline in the crime rate that would cause this.)

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16:43 BST


And on and on and on and on we go

One way to wreck your financial system is to make sure that the only people who are allowed to talk about it in the media are on the side of the thieves:

One of the most interesting reports I have read this year is The Story of Deep Capture by Mark Mitchell (pdf). First published last year, it is a 69 page report alleging corruption and collusion among hedge funds, regulators and financial reporters. It is tempting to dismiss it as tin foil hat conspiracy paranoia, but Mitchell is a former editor of Columbia School of Journalism. Maybe he went off the rails after working there or maybe he was a bad hire in the first place, but that is something that should be backed up with evidence. All I have seen so far are ad hominem attacks from targets of his investigation.

The problem with establishing anything with confidence is wrapped up in one of Mitchell's main contentions: That the world of financial journalism is relatively small; limited - at the time of his reporting, anyway - to one network (CNBC), a couple of newspapers (New York Times, Wall Street Journal) and a handful of magazines (Forbes, Barron's, Fortune). If the economic news cycle is almost entirely determined by such a tiny group then it is possible to court and capture the prime movers. Even more importantly, the scope of respectable topics and people can be so strictly defined and narrowed that those marked for ostracism can be almost entirely silenced.

I don't get this - Lanny Davis, of all people, suddenly standing up for what's right? Davis has been a pretty destructive example of the New Democrats for quite some time, and yet he is saying that Richard Bruce Cheney should be indicted "for complicity in illegal torture"? There must be some angle I'm missing, here.

Digby: "There seems to be some misunderstanding about Guantanamo. Somehow people have gotten it into their heads is that it is nothing more than a symbol, which can be dealt with simply by closing the prison. That's just not true. Guantanamo is a symbol, true, but it's a symbol of a lawless, unconstitutional detention and interrogation system. Changing the venue doesn't solve the problem."

And from dday: "So in public, the President gave a pretty speech about upholding the rule of law, but inside the White House, he vows not to uphold it, to do precisely the opposite of what he claims to believe makes us "who we are as a people." In fact, it does violence to the rule of law for the President to even decide who does and does not get prosecuted, as that is nowhere near within his jurisdiction. And as each new revelation about criminal activity committed at the highest levels comes out, the hollowness of Obama's rhetoric becomes more and more clear.'

From The Raw Story, "FCC can search homes without a warrant, agency says." Yes, that'd be the same agency that ordinarily thinks its only job is to stop people saying dirty words on the air. Oh, and protect us from seeing one of Janet Jackson's pasties. I mean. Seriously.

Chris Bowers says, "America Has a Unicameral Legislature."

10 things you didn't know about orgasm.

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00:36 BST


Thursday, 21 May 2009

Hell's bells

Unbelievable. Even Bernie Sanders punked out . Bernie Sanders actually voted for an amendment to prohibit "funding to transfer, release, or incarcerate detainees detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to or within the United States. And so did Russ Feingold and Barbara Boxer. It's so bad it's easier to list those who didn't join in: Durbin (D-IL), Harkin (D-IA), Leahy (D-VT), Levin (D-MI), Reed (D-RI), Whitehouse (D-RI). Everyone else (except a couple who didn't vote) followed the lead of Harry Reid, premier coward. Oh, and of course Obama, that great Constitutional scholar. (Oh, there's more.)

Apparently, Obama is frustrated because, well, we've been fed a steady diet of fear for all the years of the Bush administration and we don't want to close Gitmo because we are such fraidy cats. "If it weren't for the fact that every single voter voted for a man who said they would close Guantanamo in the last election, I might buy this. And the "long game" is actually long enough already for those who've been held for years without being able to confront their accusers and with no idea if they would ever be free." My favorite part of this is that they don't want to give the kidnap victims fair trials for the same reason the Bush administration didn't want to - because they have no evidence against them.

Obama made a pretty speech about civil liberties today, but so what? "Worse, Obama repeatedly invoked the paradigm of The War on Terror to justify some extreme policies -- see my post of earlier today on this practice -- beginning with his rather startling declaration that he will work to create a system of 'preventive detention' for accused Terrorists without a trial, in order to keep locked up indefinitely people who, in his words, 'cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people.' In other words, even as he paid repeated homage to 'our values' and 'our timeless ideals,' he demanded the power (albeit with unspecified judicial and Congressional oversight) to keep people in prison with no charges or proof of any crime having been committed, all while emphasizing that this 'war' will continue for at least ten years. [...] Similarly, he simultaneously paid homage to 'rule of law' while demanding that there be no investigations or accountability for those who repeatedly broke the law."

This underwear is not to my taste.

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17:57 BST


So much to say, so little time

Isaiah J. Poole asks, "Since Washington Won't Discuss Single-Payer, What's The Strategy? [...] 'The danger,' Hickey says, 'is that what we'll end up doing is like what they did in Massachusetts: requiring everybody to buy insurance, throwing subsidies that the insurance companies for the very poor, and creating a system where we pretending to be covering everybody but we're really not. And we are certainly not doing it in a way that challenges the prerogatives of the insurance companies in our system.'" (And Robert Borosage says, "The Health Care Lobby: Watch What They Do.")

I see over at Corrente an announcement that Bill Moyers will have a show on single-payer tomorrow. That should be worth watching. Also, "Indiana pension funds sue: Chrysler bailouts go to the politically wired. I'm shocked," "Max Baucus wants to tax your health insurance benefits, and more on healthcare.

Diane says "Business Needs Consumer Protection [...] In her role overseeing the bailout, Dr. Elizabeth Warren has encountered the underlying causes of our economic crisis, and this has produced an excellent concept for protecting our future. Without protections for the public, we have recreated the Great Depression, and will take some time to recover from those damages. (And Ruth and ProfW discuss reproductive health, Obama's movement toward accommodating the forced-pregnancy crowd, and giving clinic bombers a seat at the table. (Ruth has a great deal more faith in Obama's intentions than I do. I mean, he's giving money away to the banks with no strings attached and refusing to push for bankruptcy cramdown or foreclosure aid, he won't even consider single-payer, but he's consulting with Republicans - that is, the forced-pregnancy lobby - about who to put on the Supreme Court. Is there anything he's not selling us down the river on?)

Froomkin: "Here's one thing that hasn't changed in the Obama era: Republicans are still able to come up with scare tactics that turn Senate Democrats into a terrified and incoherent bunch of mewling babies."

Sorry about the light posting lately - there's been a lot going on and I'm really, really tired. I feel like I could sleep for a week - but I don't have time.

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11:44 BST


Wednesday, 20 May 2009

While I was otherwise engaged...

Strange that suddenly there was a story out Monday that claimed Sy Hersh said something he didn't say - that Cheney had ordered the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Not that I couldn't believe Cheney did that, but Hersh didn't say it. Wonder what caused that...? (Meanwhile, Russ Feingold wants an amendment - that will likely kill a pointlessly stupid Reagan commemoration bill.)

Paul Krugman says that Richard Posner "has decided that modern conservatism is intellectually bankrupt." He doesn't say how mind-boggling this is, or how hard it is to believe. Frankly, I'm a bit suspicious of "principled conservatives" who waited until now to notice that there was something wrong with the conservative movement.

Last week Glenn Greenwald took a look at Obama's record on civil liberties, and found it was approximately the opposite of what his campaign rhetoric seemed to presage. That, apparently, is because it is "centrist" to make the right noises right on time but pro-actively make decisions not to change the policies Obama criticized BushCheney for during the campaign: "Obama makes a melodramatic showing of ordering Guantanamo closed but then re-creates its systematic denial of detainee rights in Bagram, and "[l]ast month Secretary of Defense Gates hinted that up to 100 suspected terrorists would be detained without trial." Obama announces that all interrogations must comply with the Army Field Manual but then has his CIA Director announce that he will seek greater interrogation authority whenever it is needed and convenes a task force to determine which enhanced interrogation methods beyond the Field Manual should be authorized. He railed against Bush's Guantanamo military commissions but then preserved them with changes that are plainly cosmetic." (Also: Glenn interviews Eric Boehlert about his book on how bloggers affect the discourse, the primary, and politics.)

Steve Benen says the tories were winning the fight to quash any kind of investigation about torture until they started attacking Pelosi, and made investigations seem trendy again.

I've always suspected the Cheney White House of deliberately leaking top secret information to get it out there for political reasons - either to make the topic mentionable (that is, to start the weeks of calling anyone who pointed it out "conspiracy theorists" while the administration denied it, then slowly turning the conversation into, "And what if they did? What's so bad about it?" until you couldn't even point out that they were committing grievous crimes without being treated like a loony, even after they admitted committing grievous crimes), or to pump up their latest phony enterprise (yellowcake, orange alerts, exposure of intel agents, etc.). Republicans have never been reluctant to give away classified (and delicate) information if it served their desire to tell the press how brilliantly they are handling national security, but the Cheney administration made it a major prong of their "leadership". I think Steve M. may share my suspicions.

Among the many, many things the Bush administration did that left me gaping in astonishment early on was the post-9/11 decision to get into a less than savory relationship with Pakistan. It's been all downhill from there.

The most evil patent ever

Torture still doesn't work - except for, you know, witch hunters.

Why does the press still treat Newt Gingrich like he's speaker of the House?

Jesse Ventura vs. Sean Hannity.

Knee-jerk right-wing hatred. Conservatives: still a bunch of whiners.

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15:33 BST


Monday, 18 May 2009

You read it here last

"I Oppose Torture, and Kagro X Is My Hero" - because he brought in a strong performance on CNN, but there was one really odd thing - the other "progressive" on the show sounded just like another right-winger/Villager. But, apparently, Center for American Progress regrets the error.

Jesse Ventura isn't a hero of mine, but sometimes he does remind us of why a lot of people figured he couldn't be any worse than his competition and voted for him. Times like this: "If waterboarding is okay, why didn't we waterboard [Timothy] McVeigh and [Terry] Nichols, the Oklahoma City bombers, to find out if there were more people involved? What's your answer to that?" he asked. "We only seem to waterboard Muslims."

"Ohio DEA Agent Indicted for Fabricating Evidence, Perjury in 17 Cases" - really, the DEA is built to be corrupt. In fact, the whole drug war is. (And, personally, I think this graphic might just cover the entire Obama administration.)

The Editors: "We've got what amounts to a reverse Nuremberg defense, where Bush administration officials are let off the hook because they were only giving orders." (via)

Charles Pierce: "And this is the kind of person to whom President Obama regularly defers because Huckleberry is alleged to be one of the 'sensible ones.' Good Screaming Christ In A Camaro, what has the Republican party done since January that would make any thinking human being accord it the tiniest smidgen of a modicum of respect? Laugh at them and then do what you want to do. I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that the President of the United States is something of a political coward." Or maybe Obama is actually doing what he wants to do, and like the rest of the Democratic leadership, is just using the Republicans and the right-wing Dems as an excuse. Via Suburban Guerilla.

Caught plagiarizing Talking Points Memo, Maureen Dowd devises a lame excuse. Jamison Foser asks, "How would the NYT react if Joe Biden gave an excuse this lame?" And Glennzilla discusses The myth of the parasitical bloggers.

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Sleepier than thou

This is a good point about Affirmative Action, but a lot of employers have deliberately found ways to make it seem like part of a hostile environment (gee, it makes a great excuse for why they're not hiring you, white boy!) and often don't even bother to try to recruit qualified black people the way they go out of their way to do when it's not to fill their AA quota. And guess what kind of an impression that leaves....

Digby: "I have to say that between the CIA threatening to let the country be attacked if they are punished for torture and the military threatening not to investigate war crimes if they are made public, I'm beginning to have some doubts about the honor, integrity and commitment to the rule of law by a large swathe of the American government. Perhaps someone should look into that."

I take this article about the French healthcare system as more evidence that we don't just need universal health insurance, but a fully-funded National Health Service - that is, real socialized medicine. Single-payer (or Medicare for All) is just the centrist position.

Democratic Congressman Steve Israel will fall in line with Obama's call to curtail democracy.

I get the feeling that if we're going to get universal, single-payer healthcare, we're gonna have to do more than just phone our reps.

The editor of Adult Video News suspects that Sonia Sontomayor may not be a staunch defender of free speech.

What really pleases the Villagers

Oh, now I see what all this red-light district stuff in Second Life is all about.

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Sunday, 17 May 2009

Your happenin' world

Frank Rich says Obama Can't Turn the Page on Bush - no matter what Peggy Noonan says. And he's got a lot of good reasons to think this one, finally, has legs, and one of them is some pretty serious creepiness by Donald Rumsfeld. (And Attaturk found some pictures.) I hope he's right, but have reason to doubt.

Diane says one way the insurance industry kills good healthcare proposals is by pretending to support good healthcare reform - and they're doing it again. (And she also discusses the fact that, as predicted, Obama doesn't want to give up the power to violate our civil liberties.)

Fixer quoted me the other day, and his commenters also had some things to say about "socialized medicine".

Somebody powerful must have a lot of money invested in convincing athletes that steroids work wonders on their performance, because I've never been able to find another reason for the big obsession Congress and the media have with the subject. Or maybe it's just that they figure it's a bright shiny object to distract the public with. But a few facts would kill the whole thing.

Isn't it awesome how the media always seems to portray anything that touches on religion in such a way that the right-wing lunatic fringe is representative of almost everyone? And that's just one little thing....

Et tu, Craigslist?

Oh, how embarrassing!

Among the many things I don't look at very often, there is my Facebook page. (Sorry if you were wondering why I hadn't accepted your friend request yet.) And I didn't notice that Mandy was trying to sell off the Royal Mail until I got an invite to a Facebook group called Save the Royal Mail - send a "shrill" message to Mandelson and TNT. "'The shrill nature of some of the current debate is making it harder to make this case to potential partners.'(Peter Mandelson)"

Isn't it nice that the Democratic Party was able to acquire a Senator everybody hates?

Toles

The internet means I don't have to listen to my scratchy old copy of Tracy Nelson and Mother Earth's first album to hear this song.

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Quick links

Fantasie Shannon underwired side support braBra of the Week

"That's one way to clear the office kitchen at lunch."

You can hire Marcy Wheeler!

I think that whole "adult content" thing in Second Life may be a problem.

Winners of the 1999 Small World microphotography contest, via The Biomes Blog, of course.

Let's Launch a True Libertarian State - and make them live there.

Harbin Ice Festival 2009. I had a mental block against looking for these pics for a while after I heard Disney was taking it over. Maybe I even imagined that, I don't know.

Will Bunch isn't too pleased with the Philadelphia Inquirer's acquisition of John Yoo as a monthly columnist, and disgusted with their response to criticism about it.

Jeremy Scahill says that things are still pretty ghastly at Guantanamo under Obama. And what's this about how the administration is just struggling to figure out how to hold people indefinitely without trial?

Dick Cheney, Torture, Iraq, and Valerie Plame - it's all one thing.

It's just amazing what the Democrats can't seem to get done.

Perhaps even Bill Moyers can get one wrong.

Radio Torchwood

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Saturday, 16 May 2009

The torture never stops

On The Jay Bybee Question, Scott Horton wonders whether the House will open impeachment proceedings now that Bybee has refused to respond to an invitation to explain his role in the torture memos to Congress. He also appeared on a panel discussion of the subject, which you can watch here.

The Rude One seems much more restrained than usual, but I figure comparing Lindsay Graham's excuses for torture to "something Idi Amin would say" works for me.

For some reason Thers isn't convinced when David Ignatius argues that ignoring war crimes is the centrist position.

The more information we have about how the Bush administration used torture to force captives to help them create false links between Iraq and Al Qaeda, the more desperately the media helps defend torture and torturers. So, of course, what they regard as an important story is that a disgraced Republican is attacking Pelosi, as if it was all her idea. And as if they don't always attack Pelosi.

Rachel asks Zelikow, "Didn't The 9/11 Commission Order Interrogations?" (Here's a nice point: In a ticking time-bomb scenario, waiting 180 hours for a sleep-deprivation program to affect a victim doesn't exactly speed the process, does it?)

Lindsay Graham thinks he can excuse the administration by saying, "'If You're Trying to Commit a Crime,' You Wouldn't Brief Democrats." But, of course, that is the point.

Being prepared for the America of tomorrow.

Well, at least our administration has a sense of perspective. Um.

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Friday, 15 May 2009

Your tax dollars at work

While Republicans rant and rave about how Obama and the Dems are engaged in a socialist revolution, we can only wish they were even mildly socialist-leaning, or at least not so blatantly right-wing. Or, as Ian Welsh put it, "Sometimes it takes a socialist to say the obvious":

"When banks are charging 30 percent interest rates, they are not making credit available," said Mr. Sanders, who noted credit unions are limited to 15 percent. "They are engaged in loan-sharking."
The banks have been given, loaned and guaranteed trillions. They are given access to money at very close to zero percent. They then lend it out at much much higher rates. As Sanders notes, 1/3 of credit card holders are being charged more than 20%, some as high as 40%

That's usury. More to the point, it means that for all intents and purposes they aren't making credit available.

I don't know what Kinsley means when he says: "'We have endured gridlocked government for so long that the idea of a president and a Congress from the same party enacting the legislation that they promised to enact while they were running for office seems almost unnatural." Oh, if only we had had gridlocked government for the last nine years! Instead we have had eight years of both parties happily passing the right-wing agenda, followed by kabuki while Democrats pretend to be passing legislation to improve things. The two-party steamroller has been crushing us in a veritable Woodstock Nation of unity and bipartisan butchery. Of course, I suppose it's a mistake to say that "we have" any sort of government - they have us, and not the other way around.

"Democrat brags big oil supports climate change bill" - Gosh, that must be some really great bill, yeah?

"The Myth of 60 Rides Again" - David Waldman on how Harry Reid seems to be going out of his way not to get good, needed legislation passed.

George Harris at The Kansas City Star says, "Congress misses point on health care reform," and he's right about the facts, but I'm not sure they have "missed" the point at all. As far as they are concerned, the point is to have a charade in which they pretend to do what we need about healthcare while keeping the insurance companies happy. Since what the insurance companies want and what the public needs are in complete opposition to each other, the only thing that matters to them is that their little song and dance deceives the public long enough to keep all these slimy people from having their heads stuck on the ends of pikes while they steal more of our money.

Oh, and guess what? You know all that money "for our troops" that we voted for, which we gave to Halliburton KBR so that our troops would have food and water and equipment? Well, KBR is hoarding that water and not distributing it, so our troops have to steal water from them - water we already paid for them to have. And Congress doesn't appear to be interested in doing anything to change this situation, as far as I can tell. You'd have thought this was a no-brainer, wouldn't you?

So for eight years Democrats cried off trying to do anything to stop the Republicans because it was so important to put a Democrat in the White House and retake Congress, so that they could continue to do nothing to stop this disaster. That's bugger-all change we can believe in.

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And I also hate margarine

Your Democratic leadership in action: "You guys get this? The Senate cannot get 60 votes for Dawn Johnsen, Obama's choice to run the Office of Legal Counsel, because she was once a NARAL legal director. Dick Lugar, a Republican, has endorsed her nomination. But among Democrats, Nebraska's Ben Nelson is choosing an interesting time to start being an asshole. And of course, pretend Democrat Arlen Specter, still begging for a primary, is also working to block her appointment. And yes, they're working to block, because rather than vote against her in an up-or-down vote, they're apparently talking filibuster." Kos is incorrect about Nelson, who has actually been an asshole all along.

This could possibly be the worst excuse ever for an "accidental" use of a photo of a president's offspring in a circumstance that most charitably can be described as "inappropriate". And, even if it is true, you'd think they'd be ashamed to say it. (Not that I believe it. Just what kind of tags and flags are they using that this could accidentally have happened?)

Ettlin likes the idea of The Baltimore Sun being repurchased by Abell (or the Abell Foundation?), who used to own it back when I worked there, which seems a lot like prehistory by now. I certainly wouldn't be sorry about the prospect of seeing it turned back into a newspaper. I'm not sure I get the point of making it a non-profit; there's no reason why a good newspaper that respects its local market (and local community-based businesses) shouldn't still be able to make a profit. There are actually quite a few people who still like having a paper on their doorstep in the morning, after all.

While I agree that Candy Crowley is a right-wing jerk who shouldn't be on your television, and I often feel like smacking her when she mouths off, I also feel like smacking the commenters in the thread who think it's a good time to make fat jokes. The trouble with Crowly isn't that she's fat, it's that she's a right-wing jerk and she's on your television.

Steven D with a reminder that "'Enhanced Interrogation Techniques' was originally a term coined by the (wait for it) the Gestapo. Something to consider when you hear someone (typically a Republican politician) using that term as a substitute for torture." I've always assumed that was where they got it in the first place, actually.

I have a feeling that Triumph (which actually makes some pretty decent bras, and I still love that burgundy lace balconnette) made this one just to wind me up.

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Thursday, 14 May 2009

Made men

"Senate Rejects Proposal To Cap Credit Card Interest At 15%." I'm glad I'm not the only person who reacted like this:

Loan sharks. Our entire federal government is on the payroll of loan sharks. Criminals. The people who put the Mafia out of business. And they own Congress, and they own the President.

This is what we should do. Stop paying our credit cards. Demand a cap of 10% interest, and don't pay one penny to the credit card companies until Congress gets up off their lazy corrupt asses and passes a law making it illegal for anyone, credit card companies included, to charge anyone more than 10% interest on any loan, charge, or other financial transaction bearing interest.

Want a big laugh? The Republicans keep saying the Democrats are "socialists." The Democrats are closer to being made-men in the mob than to being socialists. Socialists actually do something for the people once in awhile, instead of just shoveling all the money into the coffers of the corporations.

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Woken by jackhammers

The American media think they're pretty hot stuff for helping to free a journalist who was being held in Iran, great defenders of the free press that they are. Except, gosh, it's funny that they haven't had much to say about the fact that the United States has been doing worse.

Scott Horton makes a recommendation: "Ted Sorenson is best known as the writer who filled the speeches of John F. Kennedy with wit, humor, and elegance. Today, Sorenson is 81 and bothered by failing eyesight. But he shows penetrating vision in a speech delivered last week at his alma mater, the University of Nebraska Law School in Lincoln. Addressing a class of newly minted lawyers, Sorenson raised a loud note of concern about what has occurred to the legal profession in the last eight years. In particular, his subject is the lawyers who betrayed their calling by implementing the Bush Administration's torture policies. The Lincoln Journal-Star reports his remarks."

You want to know what the Big Issue Of The Month is in Britain? Stephen Fry explains.

There's a black man in the White House! There's a black man in the White House! (And, strangely, conservatives are accusing him of carrying out the conservative agenda to increase unemployment in order to consolidate power.)

"Who cares?" Not about this, or anything else.

The final argument against torture must be that Chris Matthews agrees with Dick Cheney that sometimes' ya just gotta. (And I see everyone's trying to get together to rehabilitate Jeb Bush. Let's not let 'em forget who he is, this time. Also: Lindsay Graham still a creep - and more on that here.)

Look, just call it torture.

"Which Veep Talks Too Much?" and "The Dreaded E-Word" by MadKane.

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Wednesday, 13 May 2009

On the interwebs

Atrios gets it just right:
"WE MUST DESTROY SOCIAL SECURITY TO SAVE IT: Hey, it's Trustees report day. I had almost forgotten. The bad news is that with absolutely no changes whatsoever to the program it can pay scheduled benefits in full until 2037 after which it could continue to pay out about 75% of scheduled benefits forever. The good news is that the Social Security Administration believes we're going to live a bit longer!" Yes indeed, the damned Boomers had no children and are going to live forever, so Social Security is suddenly going to stop working before we all reach our 200th birthdays.

This one is strong even for the Rude One, but then what else can you do with Rush & Dick's love-fest? (And he's also pretty good at explaining the sudden re-emergence of Dick himself, including: "It's an ass-saving, investigation poisoning act. Let's say that an investigation into torture authorization (or lying under oath about torture authorization) leads right to him. Cheney's on the record protestations that it wasn't torture and that it saved lives, unchallenged by the media, abrogates any revelations and gets out there his defense. It upends the process of allegation and alibi and, barring any major new information, renders many of the conclusions of an investigation either moot or contradictory.") (Meanwhile, Toles.)

"Two Sizes Too Small" is a nice one from Hilzoy on the "obligation" of rape victims to report the crime, among other things.

I see Gavin M. has catalogued all the shades of Left for us.

Ruth reports on the further efforts of the "health" industry to thwart better healthcare.

What is that strange little graphic, and why can't The Washington Post spell?

This is the sad story of the Boston Teabagger who got the approval of his favorite Fox News hero to launch a protest against Janeane Garofalo. Here is Hannity covering the ambush of Garofalo.

Congratulations to one of our own, Marcy Wheeler (Emptywheel), for being among the winners of this year's Sidney Hillman Foundation Journalism Awards. (And to Jane Mayer, too, of course.)

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You're cellophane

Depending on what poll you read, anywhere from 60% to 80% of Americans like the sound of single-payer, and the same is even truer of physicians. But every effort is being made to keep single-payer off the table. This is because, we are told, Americans want to keep paying insurance company bureaucrats to try to prevent them from getting healthcare rather than cutting out the middle-man and the profit motive (and get their health insurance from a less avaricious and cold-hearted source). And because some people actually believe the stories they hear about how bad all that "socialized medicine" in the rest of the world is. I'll tell you for free that there is nothing superior about commercial medicine in America to the genuinely socialized (not just single-payer) system in the United Kingdom. Yes, some UK hospitals aren't as good as they should be, and yes, some UK doctors are jerks, and yes, you might not get elective surgery scheduled within a week of asking for it, but that's even more true in America. Under the NHS, though, you don't have to spend weeks or months on the phone with the insurance company trying to convince them that they should deliver on getting you healthcare you actually need and have been paying for - and you don't have to worry about what it will cost. There is no arguing between your doctor and bean-counters, and there's no co-pay, either. You will get the treatment your doctor recommends in reasonable time. But, as with so many things, we've got the memes running in the other direction until we don't even know how many Americans are in agreement with us.

I finally got around to watching Wanda Sykes at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. I liked her line comparing the excuses for torture to robbing a bank and going in front of the judge and saying, "Yeah, I robbed a bank - but look at all these bills I paid!" And she had a few good zingers about the Fox talking heads, Limbaugh, and Dick Cheney. But really, as roasts go, she left Obama pretty un-roasted. Maybe they should have gotten Dean Martin to spice it up some. Vanity Fair has a sort of mini-report on the affair.

Attaturk found our Torture Apologist of the Day - the one and only Richard ("liberal") Cohen of the conservative Washington Post.

Many people wonder if the timing of Al-Libi's suicide was just a little too convenient, and others wonder when it actually happened, and still others wonder how such an event could have received so little coverage that it took the conservative Washington Post more than 16 hours to put it on their site after the news came out. Which is pretty strange, when you consider that not that long ago Dick Cheney thought he was a very special guy.

Perhaps the extent to which Democratic leaders were briefed on the torture have been somewhat exaggerated.

Cary Grant and Ginny Simms

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Tuesday, 12 May 2009

A forest of thorns

I think Eric Martin's point - that torture is morally indefensible whether it works or not - is a good one, but I think he is too easy in giving in to the "sometimes torture works" argument. I am certain that if torture were in any way a reliable means of getting good information, the anti-torture argument would have been lost a great deal earlier in human history. (Just look at this shameless comment by Harold Ford, for example.) Morality, as we have seen in every other area, disappears pretty quickly when there's a buck to be made or an enemy to be spited, but this has always been the trump card in the argument: Torture doesn't work to get good information. Trouble is, it has always been a good way to terrorize people or to get false confessions. It "worked" for Cheney in the same way it worked in the Soviet Union - to get people to say things that weren't true but were what he wanted to hear.

To those of you who have never held it in your hands, it may not mean much, but losing the old design of The Baltimore Sun, which had its own stamp, is a bit of a bummer. (I couldn't confirm this with a quick google, but I believe Dave's commenter is correct that the H.L. Mencken font was designed for the paper. And yes, it was always very readable.) And speaking of that newspaper, John Nichols looks at David Simon's testimony to Congress about what ruined the newspaper business, and it sure wasn't the internet: "When newspaper chains began cutting personnel and content, their industry was one of the most profitable yet discovered by Wall Street money. We know now--because bankruptcy has opened the books--that the Baltimore Sun was eliminating its afternoon edition and trimming nearly 100 editors and reporters in an era when the paper was achieving 37 percent profits. In the years before the internet deluge, the men and women who might have made the Sun a more essential vehicle for news and commentary--something so strong that it might have charged for its product online--they were being ushered out the door so that Wall Street could command short-term profits in the extreme." David Simon isn't supposed to be a media critic, but he's pretty sharp on this aspect of it. At the other end of the spectrum, Howard Kurtz is supposed to be a media critic, and he just, y'know, bites. And when you see John Yoo giving his opinion on Supreme Court picks, you can sure see why Atrios says that The Philadelphia Enquirer is making it hard to care about saving his local newspaper.

The Other Stress Test - that would be the one we've had for the last several years, in which a number of banks failed so miserably that now they want taxpayers to bail them out. There's your marker. You don't need a new "stress test". (Also: Gail Collins is right about Arlen Specter. Does this fit into the blind pig-acorn category?)

This blogger needs your support, because before the blogging, someone has to pay for the phone calls and the other work that goes into covering the fight for your healthcare.

94 Billion Reasons to Rethink Afghanistan

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They Can't Take That Away From Me

Free at last: "TEHRAN, Iran - An American journalist jailed for five months in Iran was freed Monday and reunited with her parents after an appeals court suspended her eight-year prison sentence on charges of spying for the U.S. Roxana Saberi, a 32-year-old dual Iranian-American citizen, met her parents outside Evin prison Monday evening after the court cut her jail term to a two-year suspended sentence, her lawyers said. While they awaited her release, her mother, in a headscarf, smiled while her father looked overcome with emotion."

Texas rape victims forced to pay for evidence - Yes, the privatization of the police proceeds apace.

Kos on the White House Press Correspondents dinner: "Obama was brilliant on Saturday. No denying that. But there was something unseemly about the White House press corps yucking it up with George Bush and Karl Rove, and it's still unseemly seeing them yucking it up with Obama and his crew. For an industry that has spent the last few months whining about its poor lot in life, and how it's essential to our democracy as a check on government, all I saw on Saturday was those media types trying to be cool by sucking up to the government, just like they had during the Bush years. Here's a thought -- if you hold yourself out to be a check on government, then don't pretend they are your best friends and party together into the night. At its best, that relationship should be antagonistic, not friendly."

CBS' Bob Schieffer prefers judges whose brains have been sucked into the Capitol Hill sinkhole to a man who was "a good Justice, thoughtful, reasonable."

Anglechel reads Eric Boehlert's book about the blogosphere's contribution to the last presidential campaign, and finds something missing. I have to agree with her assessment.

How come we have money to burn on stuff like abstinence-only miseducation and kicking gays out of the military?

Duncan Mitchel says, "Dude, I'm a Fag."

Someone's telling me the price of tobacco went up in the US. Rolling tobacco went from $11/lb. to $33/lb. The price of a cigar went up $0.02. Now that's class war!

Fred & Ginger

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Monday, 11 May 2009

Olives and cherry tomatoes

Look, Bush confessed for godssakes. Hell, he bragged that he was breaking the law and would keep right on doing so. Not to mention that we now have the testimony of numerous witnesses and victims that crimes were committed. So the only purpose of investigations at this point - that is, the only useful purpose - would be to create the possibility, the corporate media permitting, that the information would be given a higher profile before the public. And yet, we still keep hearing about how we need to investigate whether any crimes were committed. But we know there were crimes - we have the bodies to prove it. Under George Walker Bush and Richard Bruce Cheney's command, people were tortured to death. So what is Harry Reid talking about, and why is he hedging about whether they were crimes?

If anyone doubted that NPR has been turned into just another corporate shill, get a load of this episode of fair-and-balanced Adam Davidson overtly blasting Elizabeth Warren (our hero) for making the crazy assertion that the financial crisis will not be solved until the American family begins to recover - and that helping the American family recover is not simply her "pet issue". Whereas Davidson apparently thinks the American family should just sit around waiting for the crisis to be over before we can worry about their concerns. And then listen to the "reason" he offers for having lost his cool.

Sam Stein wrote about three GOP loonies who for some reason are still permitted on television, and Jurassicpork thought it seemed like something from the Republican Twilight Zone.

Our old friend James has deleted his old blog, Left End of the Dial, and replaced it with Notes From Underground. (And did I really miss this anniversary?)

I confess to being amused by the fact that the big corporations that have been funding the American Enterprise Institute so that they could sell "free-market" ideology and spread their talking points have been so crippled by the "free-market" that they can no longer afford to fund AEI.

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Sunday, 10 May 2009

Media notes

The Pentagon had its own sweet little illegal propaganda op going, and the networks played along and don't want to talk about it now. "This Is Why We Need A Blogosphere," says KingOneEye on DKos:

Yesterday, Barstow was interviewed by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now to discuss the announcement that the Pentagon inspector general's office had withdrawn its own report that had previously exonerated the program. In the interview Goodman asked Barstow to comment on the lack of reporting on his story. Barstow said...
"You know, to be honest with you, I haven't received many invitations - in fact, any invitations - to appear on any of the main network or cable programs. I can't say I'm hugely shocked by that."

"On the other hand, while there's been kind of deafening silence, as you put it, on the network side of this, the stories have had - sparked an enormous debate in the blogosphere. And to this day, I continue to get regular phone calls from not just in this country but around the world, where other democracies are confronting similar kinds of issues about the control of their media and the influence of their media by the government."

"So it's been an interesting experience to see the sort of two reactions, one being silence from the networks and the cable programs, and the other being this really lively debate in the blogosphere. "

When an important and newsworthy story that exposes government wrongdoing at the highest levels - a story that appears on the front page of the New York Times and wins a Pulitzer Prize - cannot get the attention of television news outlets, there is something seriously wrong with that medium. When a respected journalist has to console himself with having his story get traction only on the Internet, it tells us a great deal about how corrupt the corporate-run news divisions of America have become.
KOE supplies contact details for our little friends at MSNBC to ask why this story isn't at least getting a higher profile from them. And it might be nice to thank David Barstow for doing a great story and not being afraid to talk about what should be a major scandal on everyone's radar. (More on this from Country Fair.)

This Week in Tyranny, the main subject is still torture, and Dan notes that even Chris Matthews is right that Nancy Pelosi doesn't get off the hook because she was only told that torture had been approved but not that it had actually been used, "That's akin to someone who voted for the AUMF being shocked that it quickly led to war. When you approve the prospective use of something, you approve its use. If it doesn't get used the way you want then you are either naive or disingenuous. I'm more receptive to the argument that she was constrained by classification requirements and an anemic briefing/oversight process. I definitely would like to see more attention to that. It still doesn't get her entirely off the hook, mind you. For an issue as urgent as this maybe you go public even if it means breaking the law. But the idea that she is blameless because she was told it was on the table but not actually in use yet is deeply, deeply unpersuasive to me." (It also appears that the networks are really angry that Obama has forced them to use the public airwaves to do public business on three occasions.)

Eric Boehlert notes that The Washington Post recently put a news article right on the front page that didn't even bother to quote Republicans as saying Obama's proposed budget cuts were in adequate, but simply asserted it without support.

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14:07 BST


"They oughta hang him and throw away the key!"

Chantelle - Africa Fashion half cup braBra of the Week

It's been another serious tech day around here, at the end of a tech-problem week. Now I have to get used to something new. But boy, do I have a great sysadmin.

Matt Taibbi on Religion, agnostics, and the cure for baldness.

Arlen Specter doesn't just scam the voters, he also scams people who want to support cancer research. You can tell he's not a liberal by the fact that the media isn't jumping all over this scandal. (Also: Republicans are terrorists. Really.)

It's amazing, really, that Nancy Pelosi doesn't want to cut Social Security benefits despite the fact that 95% of Americans actually agree with her. Thank God David Broder is here to call her out, eh? I can't imagine what Jane Hamsher could possibly find wrong with him. (Seriously, though, can someone please get Steny Hoyer out of Congress?)

Okay, okay, the real photo of Bush with his feet on the desk. Jeez, you people are no fun sometimes.

Mr. Sideshow went to the movies today: "Given the new Star Trek movie had to serve as an origin story, establishing the characters and their relationships while telling an exciting story, and that it had to accept the legacy of the old show while simultaneously closing the book on almost five decades of continuity in order to give filmmakers a free hand when it comes to any sequels, it was about as perfect a movie as it could have been. I don't often say that about any film."

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Saturday, 09 May 2009

On the Infobahn

The first reference I know of to using the "shining city on the hill" phrase to discuss America as a nation was as a warning that we should not come to think of ourselves that way lest we also come to believe it justified immoral acts on our part. Clearly, that's just what did happen. Torture isn't torture when we do it, and it isn't even when we do it - only when others do.

Just when I think I can no longer be surprised by the crap that comes out of "the mainstream media", CBS' golf analyst shocks me: "[I]f you gave any U.S. soldier a gun with two bullets in it ' there's a good chance that Nancy Pelosi would get shot twice, and Harry Reid and bin Laden would be strangled to death."

Meghan McCain is probably too smart to be a Republican, but she's still only two-thirds of the way there when she says, "The GOP Doesn't Understand Sex. I think the GOP understands very well that it serves their purposes to make sex as confusing and dangerous as possible; it helps conservatives maintain control of a weakened populace.

It really is amazing to me that we keep hearing all this about retraining workers who've lost jobs and no one says, "For what new jobs, exactly?" Well, actually, lots of people say it, but no one listens to us. The truth of the matter is that there are a lot of unemployed people out there who have good educations and quite frankly don't need any more training. And their talents are even wanted - just not from Americans, because Americans still have rights and employers can't push them around as easily. But foreigners on work visas? Hey, they work cheap, and the law prohibits them from going on strike. We should be a lot less worried about the people who sneak over our southern border to work for illegal employers than about the people who get work visas - visas that are supposed to be given only to people whose skills can't be found locally - specifically to avoid giving jobs to the Americans who do, in fact, possess those skills.

Awhile back Naomi Klein said that We Should Banish Larry Summers From Public Life, and recently Bob Somerby wondered why we don't see Naomi Klein on TV, and she's even been on MSNBC ("the liberal network") only once. And shortly thereafter, Naomi Klein was on the Maddow show.

Bob Herbert remembers Jack Kemp and his bad ideas.

It truly is puzzling that there's not more screaming about what has happened: "Versailles has given two trillion dollars to the bankers with no accountability and no transparency at all, and without even so much as a Congressional hearing."

Thanks to Charles for finding me this evidence of George Walker Bush insisting on respect for the office.

I think this link gets you the archived stream of CS Kappler's interview with me, but I can't get the page to load properly at the moment. The most recent item on the widget here should currently be that interview. There were a number of technical problems because they had to do it on Skype since I'm in England, so there's a bunch of dead air, but if you want to hear it or download it, those seem to be the places to go. And you might take note of the upcoming guests, including a number of familiar names - like our man Bruce Schneier.

M&S apologizes to the bra-wearing population of Britain.

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02:43 BST


Friday, 08 May 2009

Post-pub blogging

OK, a few links while I get ready to do the Virtually Speaking thing, which you can listen to here at 6:00 PM Pacific, or see "live" at Inworld Amphitheater on Second Life (or listen to the archived .mp3 when the link is posted afterward).

In Pottersville, Jurassicpork succumbs to the urge to describe the fetid sore that is Max Baucus, one of the most powerful and corrupt men in America.

As some of you may remember, the Bush administration's response to Congress insisting that the Army Field Manual be followed was to re-write the Army Field Manual to make torture acceptable. Some people missed that story, and others have forgotten, but it should be kept in mind whenever you hear anyone suggest that Obama has solved the whole torture issue by insisting that the AFM be adhered to.

It is unclear to me whether Bolton approved or disapproved of the original Spanish Inquisition, but it's a bit rich to see him use the phrase pejoratively in defense of waterboarding and other forms of torture.

I know I once linked to a photograph of George Walker Bush with his feet up on the desk in the Oval Office, but I can't find it now. I thought it would go nicely with Jamison Foser's piece on how the media "knows" things Bush administration aides tell them - even though, at this late date, we all know they are liars.

It's only right that Michael Savage should get the Rude Pundit treatment. And on another subject: "Here's where we stand as a nation: Right now, it is more likely that someone or some entity will be punished for the split-second exposure of Janet Jackson's naked titty during the 2004 Super Bowl than for authorizing the torture of detainees at our prison in Guantanamo Bay. "

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00:10 BST


Thursday, 07 May 2009

The more things stay the same

Isaiah J. Poole at Blog for Our Future on The Subprime Rogues Who Bought Congress: "A Center for Public Integrity report released today, "Who's Behind the Financial Meltdown," spells out how 25 of the country's largest financial institutions fueled the subprime mortgage market that precipitated the global financial crash. In addition, as a complementary Financial Times report today shows, these institutions spent more than $370 million over the past decade in lobbying and campaign cash for the deregulated environment that allowed their behavior to go unchecked. It is a glaring example of what Robert Borosage writes today and what other writers have said repeatedly: Wall Street bought our political system out from under the rest of us so it could be used to their ends, and now we are the ones who are paying the price."

At Open Left, Mike Lux has Six Steps to Dis-Empowering Wall Street . I think it's time to pay particular interest to his final suggestion, putting our deposits only in local banks, not the big gigantibanks.

The LAT apparently has a lot of sympathy for the poor, hapless credit card companies. Matt Taibbi doesn't: "Of all the truly revolting political developments of the financial crisis age - and there have been a lot of them - probably nothing is more disgusting than the weirdly intense media backlash against 'populist anger,' anger that is inevitably described by media sages like Hiltzik as irrational, unfounded, and pointedly unhelpful. The public is depicted as a great dumb beast lashing out wildly at shadows and hallucinations, with the poor diligent hardworking members of the financial class (slaving away to pump much-needed capital into the bloodstream of international commerce) suffering the collateral damage. And while commentators are always careful to note that much of the anger 'may' or 'could' be justified, rhetorically these lines always lead to a but clause. Rick Perlstein of Newsweek, for instance, noted that some populist anger is useful, but it can very easily transform into the '"bad" kind of populism - the hateful kind; the violent kind; the demagogic kind.' Author Robert Frank talked about the public anger over the AIG bonuses being reasonable up to a point, but 'if we're not careful, we could end up shooting ourselves in the foot,' as any broader effort to cap executive salaries would do more harm than good. This is another of the typical features of the anti-populism argument, the false dichotomy. We are constantly being told that we have to stem this populist anger or we'll have communism, hard caps on executive salaries, lynch mobs, pitchforks, etc. Except that in reality the consequences of 'populist anger' in this country are somewhat, uh, less severe. Think about it: when in American history has populist outrage ever led to serious punitive measures directed at rich people?" Not in recent memory, that's for sure. Now, the French, they've got moxie.

Chris hedges on Buying Brand Obama: "Barack Obama is a brand. And the Obama brand is designed to make us feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury, our elected officials continue to have their palms greased by armies of corporate lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East. Brand Obama is about being happy consumers. We are entertained. We feel hopeful. We like our president. We believe he is like us. But like all branded products spun out from the manipulative world of corporate advertising, we are being duped into doing and supporting a lot of things that are not in our interest."

Naomi Klein has A Lexicon of Disappointment: "All is not well in Obamafanland. It's not clear exactly what accounts for the change of mood. Maybe it was the rancid smell emanating from Treasury's latest bank bailout. Or the news that the president's chief economic adviser, Larry Summers, earned millions from the very Wall Street banks and hedge funds he is protecting from reregulation now. Or perhaps it began earlier, with Obama's silence during Israel's Gaza attack. Whatever the last straw, a growing number of Obama enthusiasts are starting to entertain the possibility that their man is not, in fact, going to save the world if we all just hope really hard. This is a good thing. If the superfan culture that brought Obama to power is going to transform itself into an independent political movement, one fierce enough to produce programs capable of meeting the current crises, we are all going to have to stop hoping and start demanding."

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Advise and consent

The NYT says the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility is shrugging off prosecutions for the Bush administration's pro-torture lawyers, but "is also likely to ask that state bar associations consider possible disciplinary action, including reprimands or even disbarment." David Waldman (aka Kagro X) explains why Disbarment won't do it:

... It doesn't fit the crime, and of course, it doesn't even come close to addressing the torture issue itself. But the reason that disbarment isn't enough is that disbarment is among the punishments for the deliberate failure to cite known contrary authority in legal briefs in a routine civil or criminal case.

But of course, this is no routine civil or criminal case.

[...]

In an ordinary civil or criminal case, when one of the attorneys withholds information about contrary legal authority, that deficiency is discoverable by the other parties, and that's what is supposed to keep things honest. But in this case, we're not only talking about legal memos that hid contrary legal authority that tended to indicate that certain of the techniques supposedly cleared as legal had in fact been historically prosecuted as crimes by the United States, but memos that were kept hidden from the other parties in this "case," but the conclusions of which were nonetheless offered up (in secret) as justification for the policies.

In the end, what happened here was this: Bush "administration" officials buttonholed Congressional leaders, swore them to secrecy, forbade them to consult with staff, and told them that DOJ attorneys had concluded that these techniques were legal. But these conclusions couldn't be reviewed or challenged in any real way. The memos were not only unethically skewed and designed to support a foregone conclusion, but they were kept secret so that their reasoning could not be reviewed, their conclusions could not be questioned, and the completeness of their citation of authority could not be verified.

Republican torture apologists make much of the claim that "Democrats in Congress were briefed." But were they? Is it really a "briefing" if you're simply assured that everything they're telling you about has been reviewed and deemed legal, but no, you can't see the memo? Nor can you discuss the details of the briefing with anyone else to get their opinion about the legality, lest you be accused of a breach of national security.

There's no question in my mind that what the administration's lawyers were doing was "justifying" illegal activity. It's like those right-wing anti-tax nuts who claim a legal justification in refusing to pay taxes on the grounds that the government has no Constitutional right to collect taxes, even though the Constitution clearly states (in Article I, Section 8) that Congress can levy taxes.

And the very idea that the administration had any legal right to withhold information on their reasoning is ludicrous on its face - Congress is obliged to review such policy issues, and the executive isn't entitled to keep secrets from them.

And that's the part that really sticks in my craw: the fact that members of Congress, who were fully briefed on the fact that the administration was torturing but refused to tell them what their rationale was, simply accepted that they were obliged to shut up and let it happen. Where the hell did they get that idea?

Surely it is obvious to anyone with a smattering of knowledge of the the Geneva Conventions, American history, or Constitutional law, would know that the appropriate response to both propositions - that waterboarding is legal and that they couldn't tell Congress why - was, "That's impossible."

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12:36 BST


A little bit of blogging

John Amato wants us to vote in a straw poll that asks, "Should a Draft Sestak movement be created to take on Sen. Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary?" Digby says we would vote, too.

Ruth on Sawing Off the Branch You're Sitting On, or killing the goose that laid the golden eggs - the business interests that have taken such an adversarial approach to workers that they are destroying business, too.

Is Chuck Schumer trying to kill the public plan for healthcare?

At The Poor Man Institute, more reasons to arrest John Yoo.

And Scott Horton with one more reason to repeal the Patriot Act.

This week, Virtually Speaking's CS Kappler (Daily Kos diarist CSKendrick) will interview Avedon Carol at 6:00 PM Pacific (02:00 BST) on Thursday at Inworld Studios. You can attend in Second Life, or listen live on BlogTalkRadio here. I'll post the archive link for later listening when it's available.

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01:10 BST


Wednesday, 06 May 2009

Not good for your blood pressure

DFA is asking us to call our Senators and tell them we want a public plan included in any new healthcare legislation. I'm actually surprised by the fact that the "debate", such as it is, has dwindled to the point where even DFA is willing to settle for this. But, although single-payer/Medicare for All is vastly more efficient and much more popular, it's not even part of the public "debate", which appears to be between mandated gouging by the insurance companies or mandated insurance that includes the public plan option. In any case, DFA would like you to tell them what your Senators' offices have to say. (For the record, Cardin's office said he is for universal healthcare and is "open to" either single-payer or Obama's plan; Mikulski's office said they knew she was for "comprehensive healthcare reform" but didn't know her position on any individual proposal. Is she ripe for a primary fight or what? I mean, really, her office generally ranges from "I dunno" to "Up yours". Obviously, her office needs to get a lot more calls.)

I can't tell you how thrilled I am to know that Americans' tax dollars are being used to subsidize foreign competition against American manufacturers. It's amazing how much more money "we" are willing to spend on union-busting than "we" are willing to spend on simply paying people a decent wage and living up to employer contracts with employees. Considering how much "business" spends on lobbyists and funding right-wing politicians' campaigns, it's increasingly obvious that none of this is really about saving money so much as it's about screwing workers - not because they have to make a buck, but just because they like it like that.

To me, "FTA" is still an acronym in which the "A" stands for "Army". But I'm beginning to think that Team Obama pushing a "Free Trade Agreement" with a major tax haven that protects its tax haven status means the "A" stands for "Americans". So much for lofty rhetoric about cracking down on tax havens.

Yeah, I miss The Horse.

Art or Porn - You decide. (Do I need to mention that this one is not work-safe?)

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A whole buncha links

First Specter says he's a loyal Democrat, and then he claims he never said it. (More on that here.) And I guess now he's wanting to prove he's not a loyal Democrat, because he's now saying that, despite the fact that more people voted for Al Franken, Coleman should be seated in the Senate.

"House Dems refuse funds to close Gitmo, relocate inmates: Lawmakers dealt a blow to Obama's push to close the suspected terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by stripping out the roughly 80 million dollars he sought for that purpose. 'I personally favor what the administration is talking about doing but so far as we can tell, there is yet no concrete program for that,' said Obey. 'I'm not much interested in wasting my energy defending a theoretical program.'"

On TV, Barney Frank says that Democrats Blocking Progressive Financial Reforms Should Be Kicked Out Of The Party, but I'm not so sure that Barney Frank is so innocent in all of this.

When single-payer advocates say they want a seat at the table, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, (Bad Dem-Montana) says "We want police." But you know what? We need healthcare. Maybe we could Give Everyone Healthcare By Shutting Down Insurance Companies.

"White House Eliminated Pledge To Repeal Defense Of Marriage Act From Website [...] Last week, after bloggers pointed out Obama's seeming hypocrisy on 'don't ask, don't tell,' the White House quickly revised the language to once again pledge to 'repeal' the policy, rather than just change it. Will the White House similarly fix this mistake, and reinstate Obama's campaign promise to grant gay couples their full federal rights?"Scarecrow says, "Republicans Are Not the 'Other' Party We Need."

Back in the olden days, Media Whores Online probably would have named the entire New York Times as Whore of the Week for their anonymously-sourced story about Condi and the gang: "But then look at why their 12 anonymous sources won't go on the record: 'they feared being enmeshed in future investigations or public controversy.' Since they're already enmeshed in public controversy (albeit taking their potshots at Cheney while hiding behind the Gray Lady's skirts), I suspect the issue is more the second part, a fear of 'being enmeshed in future investigations.' These people fear legal consequences for saying, in their own names, the things they've told the NYT are true. They won't say any of this stuff on the record for fear they'll have to do so under oath. "

Senator Ben Nelson (D-Too Stupid to Live) apparently doesn't know how insurance works.

I guess no one was surprised to know that Christianist proselytizing is a secret military mission these days, even though that's illegal.

Gosh, Clear Channel's got trouble. I'm so ... um, not sad. (via)

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01:42 BST


Tuesday, 05 May 2009

Blogging while sleepy

Plastic People: Frank, Pelosi don't Want Credit Card Interest Rates Capped. Yeah, voice of The People, blah blah blah.

Faiz Shakir illustrates the path of a right-wing meme: Right-wing radio-->Jake Tapper-->Drudge-->rest of media.

You know what happens when you have restricted access to the internet - restricted by high per-minute charges, for example? You might end up stuck with getting your news from Fox. And, on that other subject, I would like to think we can do better than last time, but I don't. (You know what sticks in my craw? All these years of right-wingers attacking Ramsey Clark, and no one defending him. I wish we'd had an Attorney General like him for the last 17 years, dammit. And I wish we had one now.)

Ettlin finds even more missing from his daily newspaper.

Condi Rice is an idiot, but the kids are all right.

An anniversary notice.

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04:09 BST


Monday, 04 May 2009

Look around, round

From Clark Newhall MD JD, "Multi Payer Plans Cost More and Deliver Less: Don McCanne, the web editor of the Physicians for a National Health Plan, commented on a recent report released by the Congressional Budget Office discussing the current proposals for "building on our present system" as Obama phrases it. He points out that without a single payer system, any 'reform' will inevitably cost more money and deliver poorer quality than we already suffer. In other words, the current system cannot be fixed or 'reformed', no matter how many mandates or how many subsidies are legislated. The risk pool is too small, the incentives for middleman profit are too great, the administrative burdens of underwriting and selling are too pervasive---for profit health insurance companies must be relegated to the past, just like for-profit fire departments, for-profit public education, for-profit police departments and for-profit interstate highway systems. A public utility must operate for the public benefit, not for private profit. There is no more important public utility than the American health system." But multi-player systems - mere tweaking at best of our current system - are the only kind the administration seems interested in considering at the moment, and that's what it's all being built around. "Once the decision is made that we must build on our current system, there is no possible way to avoid spending more money for reform that would fall so short of a high-performance system." (via)

Paul Krugman discusses another way our owners are eating us alive, with Falling Wage Syndrome: "In particular, falling wages, and hence falling incomes, worsen the problem of excessive debt: your monthly mortgage payments don't go down with your paycheck. America came into this crisis with household debt as a percentage of income at its highest level since the 1930s. Families are trying to work that debt down by saving more than they have in a decade ' but as wages fall, they're chasing a moving target. And the rising burden of debt will put downward pressure on consumer spending, keeping the economy depressed." I still think Krugman is being too optimistic about all this.

Chris Floyd notes that, although there has been near media silence about it, we've just seen the latest withdrawal of British troops from Iraq.

MadKane has been inspired to limerick about Karl Rove

And in an amusing coda to the great Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand Outrage, Andrew Sachs says Ross and Brand did him more good than harm by raising his profile.

Siouxsie and the Banshees

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14:25 BST


And it's real, and it's real - one more time

It's still all about torture, and Dan finds us this relevant quote from Jane:

"AZ," an informed source said of Zubayda, "was talking a lot." The FBI agents believed they were getting "phenomenal" information. In a matter of days, a CIA team arrived and took over, freezing out the FBI. The apparent leader of the CIA team was a former military psychologist named James Mitchell, whom the intelligence agency had hired on a contract. Oddly, given the agency's own dearth of experience in the area of interrogating Islamic extremists, he had no background in the Middle East or in Islamic terrorism. He spoke no Arabic and knew next to nothing about the Muslim religion. He was himself a devout Mormon. But others present said he seemed to think he had all the answers about how to deal with Zubayda. Mitchell announced that the suspect had to be treated "like a dog in a cage," informed sources said. "He said it was like an experiment, when you apply electric shocks to a caged dog, after a while, he's so diminished, he can't resist."
Gee, Even Jack Bauer didn't torture people who were already talking.

* * * * *

Jeralyn found a post by Reuters' Bernd Debusmann calling the War On Some Classes of People Who Use Some Drugs the elephant in the room and saying that public opinion has been shifting toward legalization for marijuana. Unfortunately, Jim Webb is still one of very few people in government who has been willing to point at it and ask why that elephant is in the room. (Also: "Obama Considering Reviving Military Tribunals.")

Mark Kernes at Adult Video News (may not be work-safe) discusses the Supreme Court's decision in Federal Communications Commission (FCC) v. Fox Broadcasting and says it has that special Scalia touch: "'Morality,' of course, is not defined in the law, and one might have thought that a 'strict constructionist' like Scalia would understand that - but it's clear that the current opinion was not authored by a 'strict constructionist.' Rather, its author was the life-long Roman Catholic who once described himself as a 'fool for Christ's sake.'"

Sumana Harihareswara (who I first came in contact with when she worked at Salon) and Leonard Richardson have edited a book of sf/fantasy short stories (and art) for the web (under Creative Commons license), and it's finally online: Thoughtcrime Experiments, available in HTML or downloadable .pdf.

"Cod'ine", live.

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01:18 BST


Sunday, 03 May 2009

I'd rather be thinking about food

The uncensored Jon Stewart interview of Clifford May. I was shocked when Stewart announced that he was having Clifford May on as a guest. It is not really defensible that this person should be treated with anything other than utter revulsion. Watching him sit there with a straight face claiming not to be pro-torture while then justifying torture was just the predictable result of having this piece of garbage on the show. But so is watching Stewart joke with him and listen to him as if he was something more than a creepy slug - and that's just wrong. Gratifying as it is to hear Stewart dismiss the "authorities" May enlists to support his case (Michael Mukasey? Really?) as liars, I'm with Doghouse Riley on this: You don't treat the Clifford Mays of the world as credible, decent human beings, because they aren't. When you give people this kind of friendly profile, you're already losing the argument - in this case, losing an argument on torture! Jon Stewart did not interview Glenn Greenwald when his books came out, so how can he find time to interview Clifford May? Even at the end of May's despicable performance, Stewart is laughing and smiling and shakes his hand. I wouldn't waste saliva spitting on that hand. Is everyone so determined to lose the argument?

"Bruce Fein Challenges Obama: Prosecute BushCo for Torture - or Pardon Them" - during an appearance with Bill Moyers with Mark Danner. (Read the full transcript, or watch here.)

Digby continues to track the story of just how taser-happy we've become, and this time, a story in The St. Petersburg Times tells us: "It was 'Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day' at the Franklin Correctional Institution, and Sgt. Walter Schmidt wanted to give the kids an idea of what their parents do. So he took out a handheld stun device and zapped them with 50,000 volts of electricity." Digby says, "Somehow or another these correctional officers seem to have gotten the idea that making human beings feel horrifying, pain that totally disrupts the neural and muscular system is so harmless you can even use it on little children. Where ever would he get that idea?" But just when I thought I couldn't be more shocked by this story, I learned that first Sgt. Schmidt asked the parents if it was okay to shock them,, and they said, "Sure." Where did they get the idea that was okay?

"US firms offshore 22,000 green jobs to India: Barack Obama and his green guru, Van Jones, have a green-collar job plan that they believe will solve the two biggest crises of our time: 5 million new green-collar jobs will directly stimulate the economy and will contribute to a more sustainable future in the face of coming climate change. But the 2009 Green Outsourcing Report, an annual industry study conducted by Brown-Wilson Group, found that green technology jobs are being created faster in India than in the US since Obama took office."

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14:45 BST


It's been a long week

Elixir de Lingerie by Lejaby - Hot Couture underwired half cup braBra of the Week

After seeing the absolutely necessary reform of the indefensible bankruptcy bill stalling, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said: "And the banks -- hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created -- are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place." Kevin Hayden: "So the class war continues, with 95% of us on the losing side. That's about par for course. [...] Again, is there a way to make it change?"

Steve Benen says the Washington Press Corps is bored now: "President Obama covered a fair amount of ground in his White House press conference last night, talking about the economy, the impending flu pandemic, and the faltering U.S. auto industry. The president fielded questions about nuclear arms possibly falling into the hands of the Taliban, torture, violence in Iraq, and Arlen Specter's big party switch. Obama also addressed hot-button issues like abortion and immigration. The problem, according to a variety of pundits, wasn't with the questions or answers, but rather, the fact that they found the hour-long Q&A insufficiently entertaining." Yeah, Maureen Dowd yawned when Al Gore spoke, too. But that was on the campaign trail, and, as Eric Boehlert notes, they have never made this complaint about a presidential press conference.

This Week In Tyranny, it's all about torture - or maybe it's all about torture apologists.

Did Obama actually say, "You can expect us to work on health-care reform that will bring down costs while maintaining quality"? Maintaining quality? For whom, exactly?

No one could have predicted that regular churchgoers are more likely to support evil than are atheists.

"Pigs in Space 17: If It's Convenient for the Banks, It Doesn't Matter If It's Illegal" - A little data company holds 60 million mortgages on American homes - or at least claims to. And that fact makes it unclear exactly who holds title to those homes. "Obscures it so completely that a MERS lawyer could stand in front of a judge and coolly tell him that his desire to follow the law was unreasonable and he'd just better get over the whole thing. That may be the real point that MERS used to sell its services: the banks could avoid paying fees, yes, but they could also avoid all accountability." (Also: "UAW Trades More Concessions for Probably Worthless Chrysler Promises.")

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02:40 BST


Saturday, 02 May 2009

That kind of morning

The weirdest thing I saw in the news last night was during discussions of Supreme Court Justice David Souter's impending retirement when one pundit after another casually stated that Souter was a liberal and this means there won't be much change on the court since it will be a liberal replacing a liberal. As if you didn't even need to wonder whether Obama's nominee would be a liberal. And while I know that whoever it is, the right-wing will rant and rave that it's some kind of feminazi or communist or Frenchman, I also know that they rave that way about every Democratic appointee despite the fact that they have been, at best, fairly middle of the road (as are Ginsburg and Breyer) on most issues and often much farther to the right on some others than anything you'd hear at your local drinking establishment. And, as near as I can tell, the only thing Obama knows about "liberal" is it's people he doesn't want to listen to on most days of the week. It wouldn't suprise me at all to know that they are all sitting around right now trying to find a nominee who would get the approval of more members of the Republican leadership than of the entire Democratic rank and file. That's the way he's operated so far.

Ah, yes, here's the kind of thing I'd like to be seeing more of: investors suing the ratings agencies for what can most charitably be referred to as "faulty debt analyses" but more accurately negligence and fraud.

Along with an update on the massacre in The Baltimore Sun (a subject that seems to have made his blog a gathering place for his colleagues), Ettlin discusses the rise of a local newspaper as the big gorilla shrinks. I've been thinking for a while that one of the reasons advertising has been shrinking at newspapers is that they have such a "national paper" attitude that they don't actually pay much attention to the local ad market. Local papers still seem to know why people buy newspapers and why advertisers buy ad space. It will be interesting to see how that goes.

I can't quite remember the moment when I began to suspect it wasn't going to go well for her, but Abigail Frost was smart and clever and somewhat crazy, and I still remember her when she was slightly wonderful, so that's the way I'd like to keep her now. Good-bye, Abi. And, Roz, I'm so, so sorry.

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12:52 BST


Friday, 01 May 2009

Happy May Day

Will Crooks and Liars' John Amato take Jane Harmon out? At C&L, he says: "I wanted to confirm to my readers that I am considering running for Jane Harman's seat. I've had meetings with bloggers and activists way before this story broke and they have urged me on. I've also been contacted by established campaign managers who have won elections which included huge upsets in the past that have expressed a serious interest in managing my campaign. This is a very important step in the process. At this point I am considering it, but haven't made a decision yet. I'm going to take my time before I decide, but I thought I owed it to you to confirm this report."

I see Andrew Sullivan is still a jackass. You'd think after all this he would have junked that stupid "Moore Award" of his years ago, given that Moore was right and Sullivan was totally wrong and even acknowledges it (sort of), but no. And here's a word from a recent nominee.

Larry Lessig has been explaining to us that some companies have been illegally sending bogus take-down messages to YouTube. And he uses examples in his presentation videos of companies that have done this. And now Warner Music has sent a bogus take-down message to YouTube about...Larry Lessig. As Cory Doctorow says, "Oh, this should be good."

Greg Sargent says Obama invoked the demon: "I noted below that Obama's acknowledgment at his presser last night that the Bush administration authorized torture will prove powerful ammo for those calling for a probe into Bush's torture program. First up: Dem Rep Jerrold Nadler, who just told me in an interview that Obama's comments leave the administration only one legal option: Investigate, and if necessary, prosecute. 'President Obama said, "They used torture, I believe waterboarding is torture,"' Nadler said, speaking of Obama's comments about his predecessors. 'Once you concede that torture was committed, the law requires that there be an investigation, and if warranted, a prosecution.' Nadler and other House Dems have already called on the Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor to look into potential torture crimes. Yesterday's comments from Obama, Nadler says, make it clearer still that this is the only legal path open to the administration - in part because Obama seemed to acknowledge that his predecessors had violated 'international law.'"

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19:12 BST


He read the menu through and through

Diane observes that the deal the Dem leadership gave Specter is absolutely nuts. That is, if they have an agenda that is in any way different from that of the Republicans.... (But I have to disagree with Diane on this one. People in authority always claim they are required to enforce the law when they bust some kid for some trivial offense that wasn't bothering anyone - just because they can. But we don't hear that when they simply don't bother to enforce the law. Ashcroft "had to" enforce the laws against prostitution and smoking pot, even though there were plenty of much more important laws he was quite deliberately neglecting. And, frankly, it was refreshing to see Obama make a statement specifically supporting - and, however lightly, arguing in favor of - choice, rather than lamely evading the topic itself by saying he just had to enforce some law someone else made. But I'm also waiting for someone to ask Obama his position on other controversial issues, such as whether the slaves should have been freed (still a matter of hot debate in some right-wing circles) or whether blacks are really entitled to equal rights, since he seems to think the controversy is legitimate when it comes to other rights. He is, let's face it, a bit weasely.)

The other day, Libby was saying that "the fight hasn't even started yet on single-payer, so we can get cracking. I intend to keep jumping on this hobby-horse, possibly until you have memorized every single detail of my medical history with the NHS, but there is a lot of money and power aimed at keeping a real improvement in our healthcare system from happening, and so far Obama has shown every sign of being on their side, not ours. He's keeping single-payer/Medicare For All off the table - so far successfully. In the meantime you might want to contact your reps to put some pressure on - and maybe send Jim McDermott (D-WA) a note of thanks for continuing to push the issue.

I'm pretty sure it was Atrios who linked this article on Geithner in the last few days, but I've lost track of the post. It talks about how last year he came up with a really stupid idea for saving the financial industry and everyone thought it was nuts: "He proposed asking Congress to give the president broad power to guarantee all the debt in the banking system, according to two participants, including Michele Davis, then an assistant Treasury secretary. The proposal quickly died amid protests that it was politically untenable because it could put taxpayers on the hook for trillions of dollars."

"One Meat Ball"

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01:08 BST


Tuesday, 02 June 2009

The summer she's comin' on strong

I went into a little bit of a tailspin over the news of terrorist activity by an extremist religious fanatic on American soil which is clearly a part of an anti-American movement. It may take me a while to turn the phrases in my head into sentences. In the meantime, David Neiwert is spot-on, and Digby has some important words and interesting thoughts on the issues involved. (Also: Yes, Ed Rendell is a loathsome toad.)

Oh, and Ezra: "As The American Prospect's Ann Friedman writes, this has to be understood in context. It is the final, decisive act in "an ongoing campaign of intimidation and harassment against someone who was providing completely legal health-care services." That campaign stretched over decades of protests, lawsuits, violence, and, finally, murder. The different elements were not always orchestrated. But the intent remained constant: To counter the absence of a statute that would make Tiller's work illegal with enough intimidation to render it impossible. This was, in other words, a political act. Tiller was murdered so that those in his line of work would be intimidated."

The right-wing is really good at promoting anti-American violence in public, it must be said. Recently, someone placed an ad in a Pennsylvania newspaper that really should have been caught before it was published: "The ad reads simply, "May Obama Follow in the Footsteps of Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy." Cute, right? But wait a minute - what do those great men all have in common? [...] The Times-Observer realized that they had published and distributed a call for the assassination of a sitting U.S. president early yesterday morning, and now the feds are investigating, because Obama is a power-mad socialist who hates free speech" (Via MTA, which I'm afraid may be right about why the Republicans didn't really put their all into beating Obama.)

Ruth found a rather interesting quote from Richard Clarke's WaPo op-ed that suggests that Cheney really was wetting his panties on 9/11, and that has a lot to do with why they proceeded to do crazy things later. But, isn't it funny that they were the crazy things Cheney had wanted to do all along?.

First we had Cheney on Halliburton's payroll while he was running the government, and now we have the Larry Summers kick-back express. Is it any wonder Barry Ritholtz is fed up?

This looks interesting, though I haven't listened to it yet: "I just had an enlightening conversation with counterculture heroine/outcast Joanna Harcourt-Smith, on my radio show The Media Squat (audio stream). She candidly addressed her and Leary's role in becoming informants for the government, all in the context of Timothy's imprisonment and Bush-style torture."

"I Got A Line On You" - really, I had no idea.

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02:12 BST


Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, May 2009


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