Sunday, January 30, 2011

Capitalism, Kinda

The closing rant by Bill Maher on Friday's show bordered on brilliant.

The Arab World

In a post the other day, I predicted a certain bit of crowing about Jr Bush and NeoCon policy because of the revolts that are happening in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen and even Jordan.  This was not a hard thing to figure out, so don't give me any credit for my amazing foresight - I was definitely not alone.

But, here's one of the aforementioned 'told-ya-so' articles by none other than Elliot Abrams (one of the pricks who should still be in prison because of Iran Contra).

So how long did it take?  A coupla days?

Now let's see how long it takes 'em to pretzel all this 'wisdom' when it becomes clear that the old autocratic secular regimes in these countries are going to be replaced with new  autocratic sectarian regimes.  That's right - we've destabilized the region; we've taken ourselves out of the game by chasing phantoms in desert shit-holes; we've crippled our military; and we've left the doors wide open for the Islamists to waltz in and take over the joint.  Yay, Bush.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Arab World

Tunisia, and then Egypt, and then Yemen.  The Arab street is finally rising up to throw off their oppressive regimes.  It's interesting and unsettling and impressive.

It's also NOT cut and dried.  It's not clear what anybody's really after.  And it's not at all clear that we'll see anything remotely resembling democracy pop up in any of those countries.

But how long will it take DumFux News to decide about praising Jr Bush and their own cheerleading for the Iraq invasion for starting this glorious march to freedom?  It might be a tough call for them.  They've been hedging on Bush since they started pandering to the Tea Partiers, so they'll have to figure out how to put some nuance into their pronouncements, which suddenly makes it all a lot messier than their audience likes it to be.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

SOTU

My basic reaction: Obama just lost the 2012 election.

He said a lot of the things we needed to hear; he wants us to do the things we really need to do; but he's trying to lead us in a direction that's always been seen as a threat by practically all of the big money interests.

Just by pushing for Clean Energy and an end to Corporate Welfare, Obama set himself up to get slammed.  Large piles of cash are sitting in the coffers of Big Business and PACs and Trade Groups, and the execs at those places will not sit idly by waiting for somebody to pinch off the flow of tax dollars out of our pockets into theirs.  They have huge amounts to spend and no limits on how they can spend it.  We're about to see the real effects of the Citizens United decision.

Ya heard it here.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Budget Woes

Politicians like to talk about cutting spending, and doing more with less, etc.  We've heard it all forever.  Now we're forced to do something real or we'll go broke for real.  But nobody's talking any specifics about what exactly they're going to cut.

Case in point: this bit from TPM:
"We've got to learn how to prioritize and do more with less in all areas of government," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor at his weekly press conference today. "It just is what it is. In the terms of transportation, we've got to figure out ways how to leverage dollars, how to come up with innovative ways to address the nation's ailing transportation infrastructure."
So this is nothing new at all.  The only thing that's changed is that we have a new bunch of nephews and brothers-in-law who will suddenly discover their passions for Road Paving or Childhood Development or any number of business interests they can get into quickly once the Repubs start killing off federal agencies and funneling the dollars out to their private sector cronies.

These guys WILL NOT spend significantly less for any length of time.  They'll still spend the money, but they'll spend it outside the government, and then they'll claim they're keeping their promises.  I saw a story the other day saying they're going to reduce the FBI and DEA by some thousands of agents - how much are you willing to bet those jobs won't actually be taken over by private security contractors?

So here's the kicker: they'll use the high-sounding rhetoric of "Cutting the Budget" to hack away at the Democratic constituencies in the fed gov't, and bolster their own constituencies in the private sector.  Any bets?

Bullying The Seniors

From Bob Herbert via NYT:

The demagogues would have the public believe that Social Security is unsustainable, that it is some kind of giant contributor to the federal budget deficits. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the Economic Policy Institute has explained, Social Security “is emphatically not the cause of the federal government’s long-term deficits, since it is prohibited from borrowing and must pay all benefits out of dedicated tax revenues and savings in its trust funds.”
Social Security is good at least thru the mid-2030s. And once the giant bulge known as The Boomers moves thru the system, it should get a whole lot easier to finance the thing.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

One From TED

I especially like the part where she ties it all into problem-solving.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Kinda Interesting

This is what a political statement looks like when you take out the content, and you only see the stagecraft.

I don't quite get the bleep at the end, but what really stands out is something that looks suspiciously like a teleprompter reflected in her glasses.

Tunisia

It occurs to me that we could file this one under The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword.

With all the sound and fury here in the US over "2nd Amendment Remedies", and "If ballots don't work, bullets will" - with all the potential for bellicose rhetoric to turn into real bloodshed, it's strangely reassuring to look at events in Iran and now Tunisia, and draw the conclusion: The revolution will not only be televised, but will actually be fought with cell phones and video cameras.

Disarming your citizens can have the unintended consequence of effectively neutering your government's authority to use force.  If you shoot an unarmed protestor, you aren't defending some lofty sounding governing principle.  You're just an asshole.

I don't know a lot about what's going on in Tunisia.  I only know that Ben Ali's government has been tagged as repressive for years, but now there's video on the web that shows unarmed citizens being gunned down in the streets.



And here's a write-up from Foreign Policy.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fantasy

Stochastic Terrorism

This is an excellent day because I've learned a couple of things.

First, I learned a little something about Stochastic Terrorism.  This is the tech term for the process that gives rise to the kind of Lone Wolf action that we saw on Saturday in Tucson.

And second, I finally did a little reading on Henry II and his problems with Thomas Beckett.

So, when I put these things together, it's a little clearer than before.  Not a lot, but some.

Read this from The Agonist.
The core of the theory claims a causal connection between the highly evocative political rhetoric of figures like "Beck, Hannity, and O'Reilly" and acts that have a probabilistic inevitability when you factor in the total number of "people who are emotionally unstable" and the nonstop exposure of these three (and more) by Rupert Murdoch's Fox News and broadcast operations.
There's still no direct-line cause-and-effect at work, but that's pretty much exactly what Plausible Deniability is all about, isn't it?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stephen Budiansky's Liberal Curmudgeon Blog: Not us (cont.)

Stephen Budiansky's Liberal Curmudgeon Blog: Not us (cont.)

#4 is exactly what we need to be talking about:
For as long as I can remember, I have heard conservatives blaming everything that is wrong in the universe, from violent crime to declining test scores to teen pregnancy to rude children to declining patriotism to probably athlete's foot . . . upon Dr. Spock, Hollywood liberals, the abolition of prayer in school, Bill Clinton, the "liberal 1960s," the teaching of evolution — in other words, upon symbols, rhetoric, cultural norms, and the values expressed by political and media leaders. Yet from the moment when someone gets a gun in their hands, apparently, society ceases to have any influence whatsoever on the outcome and individual responsibility takes hold 100%. Something is driving the tripling of death threats against congressmen (and the concomitant rise in threats against Federal judges and other villains of the right, from Forest Service rangers to climate scientists) and it isn't the sunspot cycle.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ms Giffords Of Arizona

An assassination attempt just misses - nine dead, more wounded, the main target barely clinging to life - and somehow, we can't just come out and say we have a problem in this country with the way we talk about politics.

Howie Kurtz does the usual hand-wringing, and I've heard some others soaking up large quantities of valuable airtime angsting about whether or not this kind of act can be attributed to the rhetorical recklessness of politicians and pundits.  And in the end, they say nothing.  They all "have to leave it there" after deciding nothing; all we come away with is that it was yet another senseless tragedy of our times, and that "gosh, I hope it wasn't something we said."

Look guys, words have meaning.  Politicians and commentators say the things they say for a reason.  They put words together in ways that are intended to prompt people to take some action.  Your actual intention may be simply to get people up off their asses to go out and vote.  But when you use the imagery of violence to get them to go out and do something, you don't get to sit back being surprised when somebody decides to take your words at face value.  In an obviously important way, this Loughner asshole did exactly what he heard Palin or Angle or any number of others say they wanted him to do.

For the most part, this lies squarely at the feet of the Repubs.  They own it; and I think they know it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sir John Of Orange

Matt Taibbi strikes again via Rolling Stone.

The Democrats have plenty of creatures like Boehner. But in the new Speaker of the House, the Republicans own the perfect archetype — the quintessential example of the kind of glad-handing, double-talking, K Street toady who has dominated the politics of both parties for decades. In sports, we talk about athletes who are the "total package," and that term comes close to describing Boehner's talent for perpetuating our corrupt and debt-addled status quo: He's a five-tool insider who can lie, cheat, steal, play golf, change his mind on command and do anything else his lobbyist buddies and campaign contributors require of him to get the job done.

Post Racial(?)

If the US is entering a period of real understanding and acceptance of "color differences", then why are so many of us so uptight about the real probability of a non-white majority that some believe is inevitable and will be here a lot sooner than we think?

What are we afraid of?  If we've treated people of color with the respect they deserve, then what do we have to fear from them when the time comes for them to take charge of things?

Who are the people who spend the most time and energy trying to warn us about the troubles we'll see when this change comes?  Are they the ones talking about social justice and equal economic opportunity? Or are they the ones who want us to build fences, and tell us we should round up all the brown people and deport them?

The way we treat people now is how we can expect to be treated in turn.

Reconstituting

In a perfect example of political theater as farce, the 112th Congress opened in the House with a reading of the "full" text of the US Constitution - except they didn't read the parts they didn't think were applicable, like the three-fifths clause and a few others.

David Cole has come up with what he thinks these "real Americans" really mean.  I've pasted the whole thing in here.  (here's the Washington Post article)


We, the Real Americans, in order to form a more God-Fearing Union, establish Justice as we see it, Defeat Health-Care Reform, and Preserve and Protect our Property, our Guns and our Right Not to Pay Taxes, do ordain and establish this Conservative Constitution for the United States of Real America.

Article I. Congress shall have only the powers literally, specifically and expressly granted herein, and no others. That means definitely, without question, absolutely, no regulation of the Health Insurance or Financial Services industries.

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected not directly by the People, but by other people whom the People have elected to better represent the People.

Any law enacted by Congress and signed by the President may be overturned by the vote of three or more States if they find it burdensome, offensive, annoying or in any way touching on Health Insurance, Property Rights or Guns.

Congress shall have no power to raise Taxes except on February 29, and then only if all the People of the United States approve such a measure unanimously, in writing and in English.

Congress shall balance the Federal Budget, preferably by eliminating the Departments of Labor, Energy, Education and State.

The preceding provision shall not apply to spending for the Department of Defense, appropriations for which shall increase three times as quickly as the growth in gross domestic product and upon the approval of House leadership in conference with Boeing, Halliburton, the Ashcroft Group and Kissinger Associates.

Arizona shall have the power to regulate Immigration.

Article II. No person except a natural-born Citizen who can produce video, photographic or eyewitness evidence of birth in a non-island American State shall be eligible to the Office of President.

The President shall faithfully execute the laws, except when, as Commander in Chief, he decides he'd really rather not.

The President shall not negotiate any Treaty without first receiving a signed and notarized note granting him permission, personally executed by every member of the Senate and the House, all 50 Governors and the editorial board of the Weekly Standard.

Article III. Judges shall strictly construe this Constitution, and we mean strictly, and shall under no circumstances cite, refer to, read or mention at cocktail parties or cookouts any principle or provision of International Law.

Suspected Terrorists shall be taken to Guantanamo and drawn and quartered in a public ceremony. Trials are optional, but if they occur, must be conducted in a Military Tribunal in which coerced statements are admissible so long as they support a Guilty verdict.

AMENDMENTS

1. Congress shall make no law abridging the Freedom of Speech, except where citizens desecrate the Flag of the United States; respecting an establishment of Religion, except to support Christian schools, religious apparitions in food products and the display of crosses and creches in public places; or abridging the free exercise of Religion, except to block the construction of mosques in sensitive areas as determined by Florida Pastors or the Fox News Channel.

2. The right to bear Semi-Automatic Weapons, AK-47s or Bazookas shall not be infringed by background checks, safety locks, age limits or common sense.

3. The right of Corporations, Hedge Funds, Business Leaders and Lobbyists to spend endless cash on campaigns and influence-purchasing shall not be infringed. The so-called right of Unions to associate shall be denied as fundamentally un-American and contrary to the agenda of the Chamber of Commerce.

4. Marriage and the benefits thereof shall be restricted to the Union of a Man and a Woman, consecrated in a Christian house of worship, with vows to expose any and all progeny to daily viewings of Bill O'Reilly.

5. All persons born or naturalized in the United States are Citizens of the United States of Real America only if their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were Citizens, and only if they pledge opposition to Health Insurance Reform or New Taxation. Any Citizen convicted of providing material support to Terrorist organizations, wearing clothing bearing images created by Shepard Fairey, or displaying Nancy Pelosi bumper stickers shall be stripped of Citizenship.

6. Aliens, of this world or another, shall have none of the rights guaranteed herein to Citizens.

7. Corporations shall have all of the rights guaranteed herein to Citizens, and then some.

8. No White Male shall be denied equal protection of the law through Affirmative Action or otherwise. In keeping with the intent of the Framers, as discerned by the Honorable Justice Antonin Scalia, distinctions on the basis of sex shall not be deemed to deny equal protection.

9. The right to be uninsured and make other people pay the costs of one's Health Care shall not be infringed under any circumstances.

10. Congress shall make no law limiting Americans' right to warm the Planet by using all the energy they darn well please.

11. The Unborn shall have the rights to life, to vote, to bear arms, to practice Religion except in a mosque in Lower Manhattan (see First Amendment) and to make campaign contributions, but once the child is born, it shall have no rights if it is an Alien (see Sixth Amendment).

12. No one may be required to do anything He or She does not want to do. Ever.

Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the Members present the Sixth Day of January in the Year of our Lord Two Thousand and Eleven. In witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our names, [REDACTED]






Saturday, January 1, 2011

Closing It Out

John Noah Roberts: Dec 16, 1927 - Dec 31, 2010

I could tell you all that he was a bull-headed, stiff-necked son of a snow ball, but anybody who knew my dad at all knew that much.

I could tell you that this ham-fisted hard ass was a complete pushover for strawberry ice cream, but if I dwell on that, I'll fall apart.

So I can just say that he lived and loved on his own terms.  I'm not sure I can expect much more than that from anybody.

God bless the man with a living thinking brain. God bless the mind that forms the thoughts that direct the hands that can make anything; fix anything; any time; for anybody.  And God bless the hands that held me as a child, and molded my future as a man.

God bless you, Pop. God speed you on your way, and know always that you were loved.