Tuesday, May 31, 2011

As If Truth Even Existed

There is only Info-tainment in service of a political agenda.  Wherever you think you wanna be on the standard spectrum, you can find a thousand "news" outlets to help you confirm your bias.  There are still some places you can go to get fairly old-school, evenhanded reporting - Christian Science Monitor, McClatchey, AP (kinda), et al - but they're mostly pretty boring.  And there's the problem as I see it.  We've come to see straight up news as boring.  We want spice; a little salsa.  And a really smart guy like Roger Ailes knows exactly how to give it to us.

By Tim Dickinson at Rolling Stone
To watch even a day of Fox News – the anger, the bombast, the virulent paranoid streak, the unending appeals to white resentment, the reporting that’s held to the same standard of evidence as a late- October attack ad – is to see a refraction of its founder, one of the most skilled and fearsome operatives in the history of the Republican Party. As a political consultant, Ailes repackaged Richard Nixon for television in 1968, papered over Ronald Reagan’s budding Alzheimer’s in 1984, shamelessly stoked racial fears to elect George H.W. Bush in 1988, and waged a secret campaign on behalf of Big Tobacco to derail health care reform in 1993. "He was the premier guy in the business," says former Reagan campaign manager Ed Rollins. "He was our Michelangelo."
Lots of great take-aways in this thing, but I think my favorite is the term "liberal bigots".  It has a great ring to it, and captures the perfect combination of conservative self-loathing, white-bread aggrievement, and guilty projection.

Another one:
Dwell on this for a moment: A “news” network controlled by a GOP operative who had spent decades shaping just such political narratives – including those that helped elect the candidate’s father – declared George W. Bush the victor based on the analysis of a man who had proclaimed himself loyal to Bush over the facts. “Of everything that happened on election night, this was the most important in impact,” Rep. Henry Waxman said at the time. “It immeasurably helped George Bush maintain the idea in people’s minds that he was the man who won the election.”
And the Big One: DumFux News has become the model, so it probably just gets weirder for a good long while.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Ya Can't Make This Shit Up

From Right Wing Watch.



Do these guys just not understand there's no difference (for most of us) between this shit and their abject horror at the prospect of somebody imposing Sharia Law? I think the answer is YES, they do understand it. They're just using that little charade to set up another false choice. The argument is simple: "Look, America - we'd better install a good Christianist Legal System before those dirty Mooslums get a chance to subjugate us all to the New Caliphate blah blah blah."

For Memorial Day

Here's another one that bears repeating, particularly on this day.

George Carlin - Super Genius

On Darwin

In light of the bullshit that is the Conservative Movement/GOP these days, here's a bit of refreshment from The RSA (thersa.org):
The term Darwinism has, in recent times, come to suggest that savage, unbridled competition is the ruling principle of life in nature and must therefore rule in human society, too. Darwin’s views have, as neurobiology professor Steven Rose remarks, been seen as “justifying imperialism, racism, capitalism and patriarchy”. Today, he adds, “journalists refer to boardroom struggles and takeover battles for companies as Darwinian”. 
All this is actually the opposite of what Darwin wrote when he discussed human and animal societies in The Descent of Man. There, he traced the origins of sociability in animals and pointed out how many kinds of creature show a direct concern for one another.
It's kinda interesting that the GOP's Dead Jesus Wing takes every opportunity to trash Darwin, while all the swells in the Lizard King Wing practically cum in their pants if anybody even hints at the Dog-Eat-Dog Speech in Atlas Shrugged.

Anyway, here's where the rush to the logical extreme leads:  If your political affiliation requires a reflexive rejection of everything "socialistic", then that reflex is going to be triggered by a widening range of "socialistic ideas" - there're lots of Opinion Manipulators who are happy to point at whatever they need us to oppose and call it 'socialistic" - so this ever-widening definition will come to include anything that has to do with collaboration or cooperation or anything communally held - until eventually you find that you stand against all 4 principle objectives spelled out in the first sentence of the US Constitution - Justice, Domestic Tranquility, Common Defense and General Welfare.  These are concepts that can't be dictated.  They require mutual consent.

And here's the kicker:  Guess what else requires cooperation and collaboration and things that are mutually held?  Corporations.  By current political definition, a corporation is a socialistic construct.

It's just too sweet.  Alan Sherman's elegant imagery of "flying in tighter and tighter circles until it disappears up its own ass" comes pleasantly to mind.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Friday, May 27, 2011

We Gotta Fix This Shit

Here's the letter Arne Duncan sent out for Teacher Appreciation Week in early May.

I scanned thru the comments and found that they were almost universally negative.

And here's a reply posted on Democratic Underground today (from David Reber, who teaches high school biology in Lawrence KS):

May 25, 2011

Mr. Duncan,

I read your Teacher Appreciation Week letter to teachers, and had at first decided not to respond. Upon further thought, I realized I do have a few things to say.

I'll begin with a small sample of relevant adjectives just to get them out of the way: condescending, arrogant, insulting, misleading, patronizing, egotistic, supercilious, haughty, insolent, peremptory, cavalier, imperious, conceited, contemptuous, pompous, audacious, brazen, insincere, superficial, contrived, garish, hollow, pedantic, shallow, swindling, boorish, predictable, duplicitous, pitchy, obtuse, banal, scheming, hackneyed, and quotidian. Again, it's just a small sample; but since your attention to teacher input is minimal, I wanted to put a lot into the first paragraph.

Your lead sentence, "I have worked in education for much of my life", immediately establishes your tone of condescension; for your 20-year "education" career lacks even one day as a classroom teacher. You, Mr. Duncan, are the poster-child for the prevailing attitude in corporate-style education reform: that the number one prerequisite for educational expertise is never having been a teacher.

Your stated goal is that teachers be "...treated with the dignity we award to other professionals n society."

Really?

How many other professionals are the last ones consulted about their own profession; and are then summarily ignored when policy decisions are made? How many other professionals are so distrusted that sweeping federal legislation is passed to "force" them to do their jobs? And what dignities did you award teachers when you publicly praised the mass firing of teachers in Rhode Island?

You acknowledge teacher's concerns about No Child Left Behind, yet you continue touting the same old rhetoric: "In today’s economy, there is no acceptable dropout rate, and we rightly expect all children -- English-language learners, students with disabilities, and children of poverty -- to learn and succeed."

What other professions are held to impossible standards of perfection? Do we demand that police officers eliminate all crime, or that doctors cure all patients? Of course we don't.

There are no parallel claims of "in today's society, there is no acceptable crime rate", or "we rightly expect all patients -- those with end-stage cancers, heart failure, and multiple gunshot wounds -- to thrive into old age." When it comes to other professions, respect and common sense prevail.

Your condescension continues with "developing better assessments so you will have useful information to guide instruction..." Excuse me, but I am a skilled, experienced, and licensed professional. I don't need an outsourced standardized test -- marketed by people who haven't set foot in my school -- to tell me how my students are doing.

I know how my students are doing because I work directly with them. I learn their strengths and weaknesses through first-hand experience, and I know how to tailor instruction to meet each student's needs. To suggest otherwise insults both me and my profession.

You want to "...restore the status of the teaching profession..." Mr. Duncan, you built your career defiling the teaching profession. Your signature effort, Race to the Top, is the largest de-professionalizing, demoralizing, sweeter-carrot-and-sharper-stick public education policy in U.S. history. You literally bribed cash-starved states to enshrine in statute the very reforms teachers have spoken against.

You imply that teachers are the bottom-feeders among academics. You want more of "America's top college students" to enter the profession. If by "top college students" you mean those with high GPA's from prestigious, pricey schools then the answer is simple: a five-fold increase in teaching salaries.

You see, Mr. Duncan, those "top" college students come largely from our nation's wealthiest families. They simply will not spend a fortune on an elite college education to pursue a 500% drop in socioeconomic status relative to their parents.

You assume that "top" college students automatically make better teachers. How, exactly, will a 21-year-old, silver-spoon-fed ivy-league graduate establish rapport with inner-city kids? You think they’d be better at it than an experienced teacher from a working-class family, with their own rough edges or checkered past, who can actually relate to those kids? Your ignorance of human nature is astounding.

As to your concluding sentence, "I hear you, I value you, and I respect you"; no, you don't, and you don't, and you don't. In fact, I don't believe you even wrote this letter for teachers.

I think you sense a shift in public opinion. Parents are starting to see through the fa├žade; and recognize the privatization and for-profit education reform movement for what it is. And they've begun to organize --Parents Across America, is one example.

. . . No doubt some will dismiss what I've said as paranoid delusion. What they call paranoia I call paying attention. Mr. Duncan, teachers hear what you say. We also watch what you do, and we are paying attention.

Working with kids every day, our baloney-detectors are in fine form. We've heard the double-speak before; and we don't believe the dog ate your homework. Coming from children, double-speak is expected and it provides important teachable moments. Coming from adults, it's just sad.

Despite our best efforts, some folks never outgrow their disingenuous, manipulative, self- serving approach to life. Of that, Mr. Duncan, you are a shining example.

There's a lot that needs to be worked out, but the first thing we have to do is to understand that public education can't be included in this manic obsession with privatization.  There are things that simply must be held communally; among them are Healthcare, Law Enforcement, National Defense and (at minimum) K-12 Education.

Second, you can't fix the schools if you don't fix the communities those schools are trying to serve.

Third, there are problems with Unions and with Tenure that have to be addressed, but those are problems of ego and power structures.  The original point of tenure was to  protect faculty from undue pressures from donors, clergy and politicians.  You don't abandon the solid principles of collective bargaining and academic freedom when things get outa whack.  You tend to the needs; you tweak; you remodel and rebuild; you get the system back into balance and go on from there.

The Honorable Mr Weiner

He's generally a pain in the ass, and he can be uber partisan, but when a guy's right, ya gotta give him his props.

Two things:
1) The Repubs have been bitching about "no Medicare plan from the Dems". The Dems' plan was passed last year - it was called The Affordable Care Act (aka: Healthcare Reform).

2) The Repub plan is a voucher plan. Repub plans are almost always voucher plans. Why? Because they need to pay off their big contributors, and a voucher is a good way to launder the money.

An Apt Nickname

Sarah "The Barracuda" Palin is turning out to be exactly the empty-souled phony I think she is.

Zero Hedge has the story.

Even if it all turns out to be more legit than it looks, this reinforces her public image as a shameless opportunist, willing to work any angle that gives her any kind of advantage, or accrues to her personal benefit.  btw: none of this makes her a whole lot different from any of her fellows; what makes her stand out (for me) is that she's so clumsy and obvious about it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

War Is A Racket

"I spent 33 years and 4 months in active service as a member of our country's most agile military force--the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from second lieutenant to Major General. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism. I suspected I was part of a racket all the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all members of the military profession I never had an original thought until I left the service." --Maj Gen Smedley Butler

Huh? (update 2)

Starting at about 40:00, it goes into the heart of the matter regarding The Logical Extreme.

More No Surprises

OK, I get it now.

via Spy Talk:
At the same time Tiffany & Co. was extending Callista (Bisek) Gingrich a virtual interest-free loan of tens of thousands of dollars, the diamond and silverware firm was spending big bucks to influence mining policy in Congress and in agencies over which the House Agriculture Committee--where she worked--had jurisdiction, official records show. 
Filings by Tiffany’s lobbyist, Cassidy & Co., and other government records show that the firm’s spending on “mining law and mine permitting-related issues” in Congress, as well as the Forest Service, the Interior Department, and Interior’s Bureau of Land Management shot up sharply during the period when Callista Gingrich was chief clerk at the House Agriculture Committee.
Tiffany's annual lobbying expenditures rose from about $100,000 to $360,000 between 2005 and 2009, according to records assembled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan government watchdog organization.

No Surprises

This is certainly not news.
Members of the House of Representatives considerably outperform the stock market in their personal investments, according to a new academic study.
Four university researchers examined 16,000 common stock transactions made by approximately 300 House representatives from 1985 to 2001, and found what they call "significant positive abnormal returns," with portfolios based on congressional trades beating the market by about 6 percent annually.
What's their secret? The report speculates, but does not conclude, it could have something to do with the ability members of Congress have to trade on non-public information or to vote their own pocketbooks -- or both.
It would be news if anybody in congress actually did something about it.  The story does mention that a few Representatives have been trying to move legislation that could address this problem, but they've been at it for over 4 years now and it's gone nowhere.

Something else that would be news is if the Press Poodles would actually pick it up and at least put it in front of us.  But of course, that's not gonna happen.  News media are all owned by companies who benefit from the same inside information.  The parent companies contribute heavily to the re-election campaigns of these Congress Critters, who of course will then either pass bills that benefit those contributors, or kill regulations that restrict those contributors; the companies make more money, the Congress Critters get a nice little spiff because they have information the rest of can't get; and the contributions continue to roll in.  It's a Closed-Loop System that you get to pay for, and that you're not allowed into.  Such a deal.

And here's the kicker:  this is exactly where a truly unfettered Free Market takes us.  Everything is a commodity; everything has a price; everything is for sale.

Related: from Robert Reich.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Huh? (updated)

I've been wondering why the Repubs are trying to spin a Senate vote into a trap, and why they seem so hell-bent on letting the Dems paint them as the Medicare Villains all while seeming to think of themselves as the heroes who saved entitlement programs by destroying them, because of course, the true zealot holds himself superior to reality blah blah blah.

I'm seriously getting the feeling they're stuck in a kind of ideology whirlpool.  They're so determined to "out-conservative" each other, that it takes on an inertia that leads to critical mass and then implosion/explosion.  Maybe I'm just thinking of tornadoes or floods or disasters in general because that's in the news lately, but sometimes these random connections are valid. So against the backdrop of things that happen in understandable progressions, I'm also thinking of the mindset that ideologues eventually get into when the more radical of their ideas are proposed (or even adopted as policy), and are then rejected or ignored by "the masses" when it becomes clear those ideas weren't really all that great to begin with.

Watch this installment from The Power of Nightmares, and listen for the part about what happens when Ayman al-Zawahri comes to the conclusion that it's not just the infidels who are to blame, but that his fellow Muslims have failed to keep faith (at about 9:00).  These guys never stop to consider that they might have it just a teensy bit wrong - they always assume their followers are betraying their principles; and they always end up rationalizing the absolute need to punish their followers for those failures.

The parallels with what's happening in the GOP are rife and obvious to me. And no, I'm NOT saying the Repubs are just like al-Qaeda. I'm saying that once you've thrown in with fundamentalists of any kind, you're joining a race to the logical extreme.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Interesting (updated)

From a movie back in the day when the Democrats were Ronald Reagan and Bull Connor. And all the "good Repubs" hated guys like Eisenhower.

UPDATE : Oops - the movie's from 1940. So, gee - I got that one wrong. Don't care, it's still a great line, and Hope came up with lots of those.

Lithgow Does Gingrich

Huh?

Party first; everything else if and when we bloody well feel like it.
Leading Democrats, such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, think the Ryan plan is toxic, too. Reid plans to hold a vote this week in which Republican senators will have to go on record as supporting, or opposing, the House-passed budget bill -- which includes the Ryan plan to fundamentally transform Medicare as we know it. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, seeing the trap that Reid has laid, says each GOP senator will be free to vote his or her conscience.
To begin: scheduling a vote in the US Senate, requiring each senator to declare where he/she stands on the question of Medicare - is a trap?

Next: McConnell says he won't whip his people on this vote, and that means each Repub senator is "free to vote his or her conscience".  Just this once, y'all can vote on what ya think is best for your constituents.  But remember now, this is a special case, so don't get used to it.

Why is it OK for McConnell to say that shit out loud?
Why does it seem like I'm the only one jumpin' up and down yellin' WHAT THE FUCK!?!?

Dems v Repubs

The Repubs have a real problem with trying to figure out what to do with their crazies (aka Tea Partiers), and the Dems are pretending they don't have much the same problem.  There are lots of "lefties" who're speaking up and speaking out against what they believe are the ways Obama has betrayed them.

I guess I have to admit that even tho' I really knew better, I've been on the Obama band wagon.  I'll forgive myself for this, considering the simple fact that anybody is preferable to a complete fucktard like Jr Bush.

Anyway, Obama seems to be just as beholden to the Oligarchs as any of the rest of 'em, it's just that he seems to be a little less of a fucktard than Bush.

Weather And Climate

Some of the best I've heard on what climate change is really all about - in language I can understand. (via Balloon Juice comments)
It’s very, very simple. There doesn’t even have to BE a model, much less anything predictive- in fact it’s the opposite of predictive.
Weather is a chaotic system. Climate is a gauge of the energy in that system. Climate can be tracked in a broad, general sense. Weather cannot- it is chaotic, meaning it follows the mathematical rules of chaos as first discovered by Lorenz with (surprise!) a toy weather modeling equation.
Chaos works like this: if you have very little energy, things are stable. As the energy in the system increases, the range of possible states expands. At some points, the system can fall into predictable chaotic patterns: in weather, this would be knowing the general force of storms and cyclones, having a basic idea of how big these things are.
As the energy increases, the range of possible states continues to expand, and what you used to know about ‘how big tornadoes are’ stops being useful.
I’ll repeat that: as the energy increases (as the climate imperceptibly creeps upward in temperature), you stop being able to predict how big things like storms and cyclones will be.
If the CLIMATE stopped heating, and cooled off, the WEATHER would return to the tornado sizes people are used to.
It’s not going to do that.
As the CLIMATE continues to heat, by seemingly meaningless numbers (what’s a degree or two? right?), theWEATHER can and will start throwing up outlier events, storms and tornadoes that are unprecedented in size and destructiveness.
What we don’t know (?) is whether this is also causing the earthquakes- seems likely enough but I don’t know the laws under which tectonic plates move, they might not really be fluid enough to have chaotic behavior.
Weather does.
Climate sets the base energy level for weather.
Climate change directly causes the increase in potential destructive force of weather, because weather is a chaotic system.
It has NOTHING TO DO WITH STUDY OR THEORY! It is a mathematical formula like 2+2=4! There is nothing even slightly ambiguous about any of this!
Right now I would say, as a longterm plan get the hell out of any place, anywhere in the world, that is ‘tornado alley’ or ‘hurricane central’ or any of that. Seriously.
Because this is just a little teaser of what we will end up facing in just ten years and it’s too late to change that even if everyone suddenly woke the FUCK up.
Please, work to communicate these very basic and obvious points, because it can get worse or it can get ridiculously worse- and we as a species are stupid but we don’t really deserve what chaos can throw at us. The planet will be fine- it’s a big rock. Life on it? That’s the 100-year, 1000-year question.

another commenter asks:
I’ve heard of really, really terrible tornado seasons in the past. If this one is a result of the damage we’ve caused our own climate, why weren’t those? (If the question makes sense).

jinxtgr replies:
...As to the terrible tornado seasons: weather is chaotic. It ALREADY wasn’t stable. It’s too big to be stable.
The reason for terrible tornado seasons in the past is that weather was already chaotic.
Climate change means that it’s still chaotic but the possible maximum destruction goes up and up and up.
It’s not the fact of ‘fluke bad weather’ that’s an issue: that was already inherent in the system. What we are changing, and changing rapidly, is the scope of what that can mean.
Think of it like this: any given weather event could be considered as a marker for future events within one order of magnitude. So you get a tornado- might get another one a tenth the size, might get one ten times the size, don’t expect a thousand times the size.
Get one ten times the size, now expect a possible maximum of ten times the size of that, because you’ve established what’s within the range of possibility. Get one twice as bad, suddenly you’re considering possible storms 200 times as bad as what you once thought normal.
In a situation of climate change never assume a record weather event is something that will hit and go away forever, because it’s just demonstrated the range of the pattern of behavior. Not the maximum limit- it just demonstrated the range weather goes across now. You can safely expect that any given weather event is part of a chaotic pattern and that pattern just showed you weather could go there, anytime.
Because outlier weather can’t happen. It’s always part of the chaotic system, always showing the possible range of behavior.
If that seems like it’s worse than it used to be… o_O then what the hell have I been saying? That’s the whole point of climate change.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Quick Thought

On marriage equality.  I watched a YouTube clip of Minnesota lawmakers passing an  amendment proposal against gay marriage.



And I keep wondering, what is it that some people have against equality? Why are so many people so dead set against seeing other humans as equal - deserving of respect and opportunity?

I think my answer is simpler than it seems. We're competitive. One of our great strengths is that we know we have to compete; we know we have to get out there and scrap and dig and fight to carve out a life for ourselves. That's a good attitude when it comes to having to win your crust of bread for the day. But when it becomes so integral to the philosophy of how you live our life that you're willing to do anything and everything not just to gain some advantage for yourself, but to actively use the coercive power of law to put your competitors at a disadvantage, then you've lost your way. You're sure as hell not being true to the US Constitution's efforts to restrict power and to balance those competing interests.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Today's T-Shirt

Today's Public Service Reminder

Interesting

Wisconsin State Sen Lena Taylor rips into the "voter ID bill" - and makes a pretty good impression IMO.

What really stuck for me tho' was her mention of Martin Luther King being a card-carrying Repub. It always startles me a little when I'm reminded of how everything seems to flip over once in a while. In the American South during Jim Crow, the Democrats were guys like Lester Maddox and Strom Thurman and George Wallace, and they were all Democrats because Abe Lincoln was a Republican. So it just makes sense that MLK would line up with just about anybody other than those guys. It's good to get these little refreshers once in a while.

Feeling A Little Awkward

David Frum has always struck me as kind of a simpish poser, and it bothers me that I find myself agreeing with him more often the last coupla years.  It could be only that I think it's good when somebody on the Repub side stands up and calls "bullshit" on them once in a while - and he's been doing that a lot lately.  Maybe that's it.


Noah Kristula-Green makes the important point that Stanley Druckenmiller’s weekend WSJ interview has blossomed in a matter of days into something like GOP orthodoxy. We’ve evolved in the space of a decade from “deficits don’t matter” to “defaults don’t matter.”
It seems flabbergasting that a conservative party could arrive at this destination.
Yet the new mood exemplifies the trend we have seen over the past three decades, whereby one after another the “rules of the game” have been discarded as the two parties play politics ever more savagely.
The filibuster evolves from extraordinary procedure to routine super-major requirement.
Secret holds on presidential nominees proliferate.
And now even the debts and obligations of the United States become a tool of politics.
Everybody seems to assume that the rules will be reasserted before the game gets too dangerous. Maybe. Let’s hope. But one year’s outrageous innovation has a bad habit of becoming next year’s new normal. Anything a Republican Congress can do to a Democratic president, a Democratic Congress can do to a Republican president. Americans like analogies to ancient Rome: a republic felled by overcentralized power. They owe it to themselves to study the Polish commonwealth: a republic wrecked by an irresponsible legislature.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thanks, Dr Caldicott

That was just loads of fun.

Privateering

Classic - this comes as no shock to people, and so there's no general outrage, and so underfunded law enforcement agencies end up looking and acting a lot like the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Yo, Democrats

This is the kind of crap that drove me away from the Repubs, and just lends real credence to what used to be the bullshit about "both sides do it". So could ya not do this anymore please?

ER

When you try to force-fit healthcare into the Standard American Business Model, you're probably going to get some pretty ugly results.

NYT:
In 1990, there were 2,446 hospitals with emergency departments in nonrural areas. That number dropped to 1,779 in 2009, even as the total number of emergency room visits nationwide increased by roughly 35 percent.
Emergency departments were most likely to have closed if they served large numbers of the poor, were at commercially operated hospitals, were in hospitals with skimpy profit margins or operated in highly competitive markets, the researchers found.
The number of ERs went down by 27% while the number of ER Visits went up 35%.  In any other business I can think of, that would indicate an impressive increase in Productivity.  But healthcare is not any other business; and Emergency Medicine is a perfect illustration of that fact.

The logic chain is fairly simple.  More patients going to fewer ERs means there are fewer caregivers per patient, which means less time can be allotted for each patient.  But treating Gun Shot Wounds and Blunt Force Trauma and Ischemic Attacks won't take any less time just because your business plan requires a greater throughput of patients.  Even with the amazing tools available to help staffers do things better, medicine is always more art than science.  It's about people; not gadgets.  The proper care of people requires time.  Take away their time, and people die.  Simple.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Gutless

The very concept of taxation has gotten so politically toxic, our esteemed "leaders" have adopted a strategy of using code words and phrases rather than risk being the subject of public wrath if they dare utter any form of the term "tax".

David Frum:
But what this default talk looks like is that the GOP wants a crisis, not a deal. A deal would involve real pain for real voters: Medicare reductions, farm spending reductions, military reductions, and revenue measures. A crisis creates an exciting substitute for such a deal – especially if the GOP can temporarily and delusively convince itself that it can pin the blame for the crisis on President Obama. That will not be true. The whole world will see that the crisis was avoidable, and will see who insisted on forcing it. And however high you imagine the financial and political price – it will be higher.
It's been going on for a while of course, but it seems we've become so accustomed to the nonsense about how burdened we are; and how the gubmint just takes and takes and takes, that we've made it impossible for analysts and politicians even to say the words.

Frum is trying to make a good point about the difference between what his guys are saying they want and what their actions are saying about what they want, but I think he knows that if he so much as mutters "increased taxation" under his breath, the Tea Harpies will swarm down on him and pluck out his eyes, and nobody will hear what he's trying to say over the ruckus.

The same thing popped up in remarks Obama was making a little while back - maybe a coupla weeks ago.  He was talking about budgets, and he mentioned spending several times, but as he listed the spending cuts, he turned a brilliantly perverse phrase that stuck in my brain. He said (approx), "we also need to look at cutting spending from the standpoint of revenue".

Ever the optimist, I'd like to think all this means they're starting to talk about sensible tax increases in the meetings, and they're just trying to wink at us to let us know they're trying to get something done that includes fixing the revenue problems.

And BTW:
4,000,000 miles of streets and roads
75,000 dams
88,000 miles of coast line
12 super carriers
2 1/2 wars
1,431,000 people on active military duty (plus 200,000 in Nat'l Guard units)
800,000 miles of sewer lines
1,000,000 miles of water lines
95,000 Schools & Colleges
650,000 Cops
1,200,000 Fire & Rescue

All of that requires oversight and maintenance, and expansion to keep up with growth. Contrary to the kind of Wal-Mart mentality that passes for critical thinking these days, you don't get Great for Cheap.  

If we spend the money necessary to bring it all back up to acceptable standards, we’d see an economic recovery that’d blow your lip up over your forehead.

Monday, May 16, 2011

At Random

I just picked (everybody's favorite crazy) Uncle Ron here to illustrate a point.  One of the basic features of political rhetoric is the hypothetical If/Then/Else: "If we do (or don't) adopt my (or my opponent's) policy, then this or that terrible (or really great) thing will (or won't) happen".

They all say this shit all the time, and I have yet to hear any of the Press Poodles ask any one of 'em the basic question:
"Can you give me some examples of predictions you've made that actually came true?"
--AND--
"What predictions have you made that turned out not to be true?"

And when they give you the inevitable bunkum about how "the policy didn't fail; those other guys just failed to do it right", then you could possibly point out that that's almost exactly what some guys in the former USSR said about communism.

Are You Kidding?

This guy is making the case that fast food joints comprise the "new face of American manufacturing", and that it's a good thing.  Seriously, are you fucking kidding me?
Go into the kitchen of a Taco Bell today, and you'll find a strong counterargument to any notion that the U.S. has lost its manufacturing edge. Every Taco Bell, McDonald's (MCD), Wendy's (WEN), and Burger King is a little factory, with a manager who oversees three dozen workers, devises schedules and shifts, keeps track of inventory and the supply chain, supervises an assembly line churning out a quality-controlled, high-volume product, and takes in revenue of $1 million to $3 million a year, all with customers who show up at the front end of the factory at all hours of the day to buy the product. Taco Bell Chief Executive Officer Greg Creed, a veteran of the detergents and personal products division of Unilever (UL), puts it this way: "I think at Unilever, we had five factories. Well, at Taco Bell today I've got 6,000 factories, many of them running 24 hours a day."
So OK, let's make sure we're doing everything we can do to study and improve methods for efficiency and throughput etc, but let's at least acknowledge that we're talking about  assembling a burrito and not a car or a vacuum cleaner or a toaster;  and we need to understand that while there's dignity in all work, it's not cool to consider a job at Taco Bell making chimichangas to be the same as a job at Suzlon building windmills.

Do you not get the feeling that we're being set up for something?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sound Familiar?

When you hear any of the latest blather from almost anybody on DumFux News or most politicians (particularly those of a certain "conservative" bent), try to keep this in mind:

Ganser Syndrome:
...a rare dissociative disorder previously classified as a factitious disorder. It is characterized by nonsensical or wrong answers to questions or doing things incorrectly, other dissociative symptoms such as fugue, amnesia or conversion disorder, often with visual pseudohallucinations and a decreased state of consciousness. It is also sometimes called nonsense syndrome, balderdash syndrome, syndrome of approximate answers, pseudodementia, hysterical pseudodementia or prison psychosis. This last name, prison psychosis, is sometimes used because the syndrome occurs most frequently in prison inmates, where it may represent an attempt to gain leniency from prison or court officials.
"Death Panels"
"the social safety net is bankrupting the nation"
"Obama is a Kenyan usurper"
"FEMA camps"
"school vouchers will strengthen public education"
"the states are broke because they pay teachers too much"
"this is a Christian nation"
"thousands of black soldiers fought on the side of the Confederacy"

I keep believing everybody really has the best interests of the USA at heart (in spite of how some of the things I yell about sound otherwise), but I wish some of these clowns would try just a little harder to meet me somewhere closer to reasonable.

Colbert

Why does it always take this kinda weird shit to get us to pay attention?  Maybe we have such a great need to be seen as hip enough to get the joke that it forces us to look into the background to figure out why it's supposed to be funny(?)

Dunno - but it's really interesting.



Huckabee

Mike Huckabee announced he's not running for president in 2012.  I had him pegged as the the guy with the best chance to get the nomination so it comes as a surprise to begin with, but his stated reason seemed a bit odd to me.
“All the factors say go,” Huckabee said during a live, final segment of his eponymous Fox News Channel show Saturday night. “But my heart says no.”
Huckabee noted that while all of the “external” factors pointed toward him running, he only found an “inexplicable inner peace” when he decided not to enter the race.  (from Chris Cillizza, WaPo)
 These guys always talk a huge game about service and sacrifice; and they aren't exactly reluctant about saying Obama is 10 kinds of horrible for the country, but apparently Huck's inner peace just couldn't possibly stand the inconvenience of it all.  Plus, Huckabee did a lot of complaining in 08 about all the mean things people were saying about him.  I guess saving us from the evil Obama just ain't really worth all that.  Phony fuck.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Maverick Abides

This does not absolve John McCain for having become such a complete dick over the last dozen years or so, but I still hafta throw him a bone for trying to get back to his old self.
“The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti—the nickname of the al-Qaida courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden—as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaida, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaida. In fact, the use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed produced false and misleading information.”
Here's a decent piece by Joe Conason at Truthdig

Today's Wacky Pix




Police State

Calling all Libertarians and Anti-Gubmint Independents:  This is what's happening in Indiana, after many years of "conservative" erosion of civil rights in the guise of "common sense laws and law enforcement"; and under the watchful eye of a very popular Republican, Governor Mitch Daniels.

This is what's happening because of who you've been allowing to get elected.  Make no mistake here.  Every time you say something like "they're all bad" or "they're all the same" or "why can't the ballot say None Of The Above" or anything else that's just fuckin' stupid, you're taking yourselves and others out of the process, which is exactly what these shit-heels want you to do.

(hat-tip to Little Green Footballs)
INDIANAPOLIS— People have no right to resist if police officers illegally enter their home, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in a decision that overturns centuries of common law.
The court issued its 3-2 ruling on Thursday, contending that allowing residents to resist officers who enter their homes without any right would increase the risk of violent confrontation. If police enter a home illegally, the courts are the proper place to protest it, Justice Steven David said.
“We believe … a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence,” David said. “We also find that allowing resistance unnecessarily escalates the level of violence and therefore the risk of injuries to all parties involved without preventing the arrest.”
Chicago Tribune

And the circular logical is impeccable.  The police break down your door; they take whatever they want; they can stomp you and your family if you "resist" (and of course you will get stomped, because of course the cops will claim you resisted); and if you claim they've made a mistake, you can hire a lawyer (with whatever you can scrape together after  the cops have taken everything) and go to court; but since you had no right to "resist" in the first place - even when it was an UNLAWFUL entry - you have no case.

Let me be clear (if that's at all possible at this point): The scenario above is not meant to illustrate what's bound to happen every time the cops go to somebody's door.  There will be many more legitimate incursions than not.  But that's not the point (that's NEVER the fucking point).  The point is that when you grant the kind of power that this bullshit decision entails, you will get abuse - because you're inviting abuse.  Get it?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Let Fly

The prize for Scary-Freaky Zealotry today goes to the commenters at the DumFux News website.

A few samples from the comments section on the post regarding the "poetry event" at the White House, featuring a rapper called Common (via: Little Green Footballs).


nativeson1 6 minutes ago in reply to nickthecat
DONT RE-NIG IN 2012 !
——————
elsargento 6 minutes ago in reply to idahojon
HOW TO WINK AT A N I 6 6 E R. HOLD YOUR WEAPON OUT STRAIGHT AND CLOSE ONE EYE. NUFF SAID.
——————
paintaz Just now
Another classless move, from a classless president………….they will be bustin out some fortys !
——————
contributorj Just now
i wonder if moochelle will sneak off and perform a common bj…..
——————
kingtiger44 Just now
All in attendence will recieve a white lawn jockey statue, and a coupon for KFC.
——————
kingtiger44 18 minutes ago
Animal Control responded after a report of loose porch monkey’s.
Sometimes, it's all just a fucking circus.

Today's Inspirational Messages


New From Pew

Let's put this in front of Congress and see where the real power is.



Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Oops

Who do I talk to about a refund?

We Are So Fucked

Back to a once-familiar theme of this blog from about a year ago: bend over and grease up, America.

Daily Censored (by Michael Collins):
Official unemployment is around 9%. That excludes the marginally employed and under employed. Adding those two groups takes unemployment up to 15.9%. Add the long-term unemployed and the figure climbs to nearly 23%.
When you have 23% real unemployment/underemployment among those willing and able to work, you have budget deficits at every level of government. Businesses fail or slow down. Governments reduce or eliminate services. People lose their homes and health insurance. Credit ratings dive, making it more expensive or impossible to borrow for any reason, including emergencies. The unemployed contribute much less to the economy, which shrinks substantially, leading to more under or unemployment. There future darkens. All that’s left is hope, a commodity of little use today.
If you’re part of the financial elite in crowd, you don’t need hope. You’re about to get another big payday. Much lower taxes and relaxed regulation of foreign exchange derivatives are on the way.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wow

Brings a whole meaning to the phrase "holy crap".
(hat tip to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart)

A Prediction

Red State Update

A Terrible Secret

In the very short time she served as Alaska's governor, Sarah Palin's single greatest achievement was...wait for it...raising taxes!  There's a fair probability that it wasn't actually her idea - more often than not, it's the staffers who come up with these things - but she pushed hard for a program of taxing oil company profits in order to give Alaskans a share of their state's great mineral wealth.  And she did it by going out of her way to get the Dems to support her efforts.

via Joshua Green:
...she managed to solve, at least for a time, the problem that lay at the heart of Alaska's politics for a generation: how to break the oil companies' grip on the state and capture a fair share of their profits for Alaskans. Palin's major achievement was winning an oil tax that did just that and was called Alaska's Clear and Equitable Share (ACES).
Shocking, ain't it?

And here's where politics is so fucking weird that I just have to love it in all its perverse glory:  no politician is going to talk about it out in the open.  Obama can't point at it as a good example of appropriate regulation because then he has to give props to Palin for getting it done.  And Palin sure as hell can't talk about it because it directly contradicts the party-line dogma about government interference.

But the main thing is the same ol' crap that talking about taxation is considered political poison.  There's a program in place that fills the coffers of a (very red) state government, while not hindering the profitability of Big Oil, but it seems nobody anywhere else is allowed to make any serious effort at getting hugely profitable corporations off the dole, much less getting them just to pay the taxes they already owe.  This is just too weird.

Yeah, Um, About That Torture Thing

Osha Gray Davidson at Forbes:
“Listen,” he said, “waterboarding and/or other coercive techniques did nothing to contribute to our attempts to track down UBL (Usama bin Laden). What did succeed was weeks, months and years of diligent, laborious, and dedicated work – all within the bounds of legal and ethical boundaries….No torture, no waterboarding, no coercion – nothing inhumane – is considered a useful tool in our work.
Straight up - Dick Cheney is a criminal.  I can be pretty forgiving of people in positions of power who fuck up if I think they made wrong decisions in good faith.  I can even be persuaded to ease up on a guy if he comes back to say he fucked up and if he had a chance to do it over, he'd do it differently.  None of that applies to Dick Cheney.  The guy is bloated with rot. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Partisan Abides

It's become impossible to talk about certain things because the discussion always breaks along very predictable party line fracture planes.

The killing of OBL provides a good recent example.  Obama's National Security Team rejiggers the doctrine for going after the bad guys; they start almost from scratch because Jr Bush just decided to let it slide; and we get some pretty spectacular results in about a year's time.

Now, of course, Dick Cheney and John Yoo are all over the place doing the Told-Ya-So dance, trying to convince us that it was their torture regime that cracked the case when practically anybody who knows anything knows that's bullshit.  But the point is that the discussion breaks down again according to which party you favor, because that's what we get from the Press Poodles and the Opinionators.

So while we yell at each other about The Torture Party vs the Party of Appeasement or whatever recycled crap du jour is on the menu today, we aren't paying much attention to some things that should be pretty important.  eg: Obama has stepped up dramatically the use of these RoboCop drones, pursuing a very aggressive program of targeted assassinations.  And not only does he not feel constrained by international conventions against such things, he seems to have taken to heart the whole Unitary Executive malarkey.  Are "liberals" now OK with a president who does all the shitty things Jr Bush was doing just because he does them better?  Are Dems feeling good about themselves because they finally have a guy who actually goes out there and kills people?  Is that it?

Anyway, I get the feeling Obama's finding it really difficult to do much about reversing some of the damage done to our little experiment in self government the last 60 years or so, partly because of the power trip that goes with the office, but also because of the same ol' political expediency these guys always think they have to serve.  ie: if he goes after any of the Bushies for torture, he first has to get over the huge obstacle of making the case that it's not just a political witch hunt.  I think he's made one political calculation that's totally dependent on the "basic decency of the American people" (always a gamble) in that he's counting on us eventually getting over the truly toxic affects of an ugly combination of 9-11 plus the Authoritarian Reflex, and realizing that doing evil things in the name of goodness is just fuckin' stupid.

Another one may be that he figures if he's careful enough about how he knocks people around; if he can make it look like a "surgical removal of a malignancy", then he's got a shot at balancing the Peace Prize against the Creeping Empire.  Not bloody likely, but there's a weird Yin and Yang vibe to it.  (then again, see "just fuckin' stupid" above).

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Justice Delayed

Monica Marie Goodling, the key figure in the controversy about the political hiring and firing of U.S. Attorneys during the Bush Administration, has received a public reprimand from the Virginia State Bar.
A VSB subcommittee concluded that Goodling, a member of the VSB since 1999, had violated ethics rules by committing “a criminal or deliberately wrongful act” that reflected adversely on her “honesty, trustworthiness or fitness to practice law.”
Read the full decision.

But, hey - she was a douchebag for Jesus, so we're not gonna lift her license; and after all, she didn't really mean to break the law.

At a certain level, the power and the money and the position make it impossible for anybody to be guilty or to be held to account for anything.  The best we can hope for is that "nobility has the good grace to die by its own hand in matters of honor."  This is just all pretty fucked up right here.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

South Carolina Debate

Coupla points:
1) Repubs (traditionally and famously and loudly) have long made the assertion that they don't much cotton to all this polling and focus group kinda stuff, but here they all are - for about the eleventy jillionth time - sitting for one of Lil Franky's circle jerks.  Hypocrites

2) These SoCo's made an angry point of saying they think they're being disrespected by those Repub candidates who didn't show up, so at the end of the clip, Sean (they call me Mr Obsequious) Hannity went way out of his way to say that he was physically located in South Carolina at that very moment.

3) These latter-day Repubs are authoritarian to the point where they're practically eager to vote for a Caesar.

Iran

Won't it be interesting if Iran implodes?  (The Guardian)

It's shaping up to be a classic struggle between Secular (Ahmadinejad) and Sectarian (Ali Khamenei).

So who do you root for here?  Typically, I'd have to go with Secular Guy because I really hate it when somebody assumes political power by claiming to be "God's Representative On Earth".  But two years ago, when Iranian kids were in the streets trying to stand up for themselves, and Ahmadinejad sent his goons out to stomp on them, it was Khamenei and his clerics who called on Ahmadinejad to cool it.

So, as always, politics makes for some pretty strange morality.  And morality seems oddly political at times.

Friday, May 6, 2011

OBL Pix

I don't think I care one way or the other about the death pix of Osama bin Laden.  They constitute a document of some historical import, but I think the probability is high that they'd be seen as trophies, and that just increases the probability of some asshole using them to justify doing something shitty.  If we can make or keep more friends by tucking them safely away in the archives, then OK; let's do that.

The really interesting thing is what Sarah Palin came up with tho'.  She tweeted something about how releasing the pictures would serve as a warning to others who want to do us harm. I dunno how to break this to ya, sweetheart, but I have serious doubts that a potential suicide bomber will be deterred in any way if we threaten to kill him.

Where do these people get this shit?

Conflation

Obama's releasing his long form birth certificate didn't have much effect on Birthers, except that a few of the nuttier Repubs (eg: Michelle Bachman) kinda backed off a little.  But then, Osama bin Laden is taken down, and new polls indicate a near collapse in support for the opinion that Obama was likely born outside of the US.

For me, that comes as close as anybody will ever get to proving that it was just another example of a political party playing to the worst impulses in some people.  It was always and only about trying to delegitimize Obama's presidency.

And here's the sweet juicy fleshy part:  Jr Bush beat Gore and then Kerry by playing up the Manliness Quotient.  Bush wore the costume of the Great American Cowboy, he drove a pickup and he spent time "on the land" clearing brush, etc.  He was practically built from scratch to look and sound and act like our ideal of the typical American workin' guy's hero.  A father figure; somebody with big plans, and big swag, and a big dick.  And that big swingin' dick was never more evident than when Bush was making threats.  Bush talkin' smack about somebody was the basic theme for his whole time in office.  9-11 was the best thing that ever happened for that bozo, because it allowed him to play up the macho bullshit in order to hide the simple fact that he didn't have the intellectual horsepower God gave the average houseplant.

And that's how the Repubs have rolled.  There's probably a dozen or more examples of how Repubs have torn down real heroes who were running for office in order to give us cheap imitations.

Now they have a real challenge.  They spent all that time and energy carefully making OBL into this Uber Villain, only to have the wonky dithering law professor end up being the guy who took him down.  They have to figure out how to attack Obama for having done exactly what they said only a Super Manly Republican could do.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Let The Games Begin

Be sure to tune in tonite (9pm EDT - on DumFux News) for the first GOP debate, kicking off the 2012 Quadrennial Campaign Season!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Few Fun Pics

 

Just A Single Nod

One small detail of OBL's demise that's drifted thru the noise over the last coupla days is that  JSOC (Joint Special Ops Command - the outfit that pulled off the raid in Abbottabad) was Stanley McCrystal's baby.  Also, McCrystal was a major player in making the deal with Pakistan that included the "Hot Pursuit Clause" that made it all legal to invade Pakistan in our attempt to hammer OBL.

People under McCrystal's command were openly hostile to their CinC and others in Obama's admin (as reported via Rolling Stone Magazine earlier this year).  That's called insubordination, and it just can't be tolerated.  Our system requires keeping the military subordinate to civilian authority because we know it can be extremely dangerous to allow even the best general officers to build any public constituency that runs counter to that civilian authority while still in uniform.   So I won't cry for poor ol' Stanley because I think firing him was exactly the right thing to do, but I think we can acknowledge the guy for having made an important contribution.  Way to go, Stan.  Thanks - and enjoy your retirement.

One Good Line

It turns out that sending all that Foreign Aid to Pakistan over the years was just feeding the hand that bites you.

Good Old American Capitalism

Paraphrasing Mr Mencken: Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence or good taste of the American public.

It took a little over 24 hours for the plucky entrepreneurs to descend on the corpse.

Like I said before, there's something just kinda creepy about it, but at the same time, there's an element of The Circle Of Life as well; the dead become sustenance for the living, and so maybe there's some small reason to celebrate because we need to make an effort to find something good in all this bad.  Dunno.  I still I don't like the idea that we're providing incentive for scalp-hunting.  And watching what appeared to be some genuinely spontaneous demonstrations of heartfelt emotional release quickly descend into expressions of nationalistic fervor was chilling for me.


Something else I find a little unsettling is all the cheerleading at MSNBC last night.  All the "big liberals" have been practically giddy about the chance to snatch the National Security issue away from the Repubs.


And, of course, over at DumFux News, everybody has suddenly rediscovered their affections for Jr Bush - after spending the last 2 years rarely even acknowledging his time in office.

"Finally getting bin Laden" is a big deal, but  I'm betting dollars to doughnuts that what it means to politicians will turn out to be very different from what it means to Citizen Joe.

The task for the politicos now is to figure out the wording of a message that will keep us cheering and holding hands, while using our sense of unity as a wedge to isolate their opponents and to incite us to beat them to death with our feelings of good will.

"The nice part about being a pessimist is that you're constantly either proven right or pleasantly surprised." --George Will


Monday, May 2, 2011

ism

Ding Dong The Bastard's Dead

Osama bin Laden is dead.  There's a certain feeling of satisfaction for me, but I'm finding it hard to get into any kind of party mood.  First because I think it's more than just a little ghoulish and primitive to celebrate anybody's death, even when it's somebody who is so obviously and irredeemably a nihilistic asshole like OBL was.  But mainly it's because of the price the whole world has had to pay just to kill this one guy.  And it's because this isn't the end of anything; it's not the beginning of the end; it's not the end of the beginning; it's not any other clever little bumper sticker sentiment the pundits and PR spinners will come up with over the next several news cycles.  (Tho' I admit it'll be fun to see what we decide will be the winning slogan)

Here's one:
"My government spent a trillion dollars, 20 billion rounds of ammo and 6,000 American lives to kill Osama bin Laden, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt."