Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Press freedom isn't enough. Joe Lieberman needs to stop talking.

From the latest Glenn Greenwald posting, comes this important quote from the newspaper business in Australia: 

It is the media’s duty to responsibly report such [classified] material if it comes into their possession. To aggressively attempt to shut WikiLeaks down, to threaten to prosecute those who publish official leaks, and to pressure companies to cease doing commercial business with WikiLeaks, is a serious threat to democracy, which relies on a free and fearless press. 

 I was struck by the phrase "free and fearless." The "free" part is obvious. Democracies need a free press. Any schoolchild knows that. (At least I don't think the bastards have prohibited teaching about press freedom. It does have a well-known liberal bias.) However, the "fearless" part is critical. In the U.S., our Constitution enshrines press freedom in the First Amendment. Unfortunately, our politicians can threaten to do whatever the fuck they want on the evening news, including threatening journalists, and the evening newsman won't challenge said politicians because said newsman doesn't consider himself a journalist. So U.S. journalism, and now international journalism, is living under fear. And if not fear, then at least they feel hassled. This is bad. The press needs to be fearless and unhampered. They need to know that anything short of placing the U.S. under imminent danger (the standard adopted in the Pentagon Papers case) is fair game for publishing.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Guess what I learned about liberty today.

I learned that Thomas Jefferson bellowed his "tree of liberty" quote in support of Shays' Rebellion, which was a revolt against wealthy American creditors trying to impose fiscal austerity on the Massachusetts peasantry. Jefferson implied that the creditors were tyrants, and the tree of liberty would eagerly draw their blood. Worst of all, he voiced these deeply Unserious thoughts from France in 1787, which would soon embark on the first socialist revolution in the Modern Age.

I learned that Thomas Jefferson was clearly a Marxist. Suck it teabaggers.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Gem of an Article from the U.S. Treasury Website

Ever surfed through government websites purporting to be educational? I did, recently, and I was shocked, shocked. I found this history of the U.S. tax system at the Treasury Dept. website. The bold text is my emphasis:

"The economy boomed during the 1920s and increasing revenues from the income tax followed. This allowed Congress to cut taxes five times, ultimately returning the bottom tax rate to 1 percent and the top rate down to 25 percent and reducing the Federal tax burden as a share of GDP to 13 percent. As tax rates and tax collections declined, the economy was strengthened further. [well, no, because in the next paragraph a bad thing happens.]

"In October of 1929 the stock market crash marked the beginning of the Great Depression. As the economy shrank, government receipts also fell. In 1932, the Federal government collected only $1.9 billion, compared to $6.6 billion in 1920. In the face of rising budget deficits which reached $2.7 billion in 1931, Congress followed the prevailing economic wisdom at the time and passed the Tax Act of 1932 which dramatically increased tax rates once again. This was followed by another tax increase in 1936 that further improved the government's finances while further weakening the economy. By 1936 the lowest tax rate had reached 4 percent and the top rate was up to 79 percent. "

This is the tone of the entire history lesson: a lower federal tax burden maintained at all times leads to a stronger economy. This is right-wing bias. Lower taxes alone do not strengthen the economy, as the transition between the 1st and 2nd paragraphs hilariously indicates. The second paragraph has some redeeming qualities because it correctly describes the '32 and '36 tax increases as having worsened the Depression. Also, the phrase "the prevailing economic wisdom" alludes to the fact that in 1932, the idea of economic stimulus during recessions had not taken hold yet.

Fast-forwarding to the Reagan tax cuts, we have this rather insensitive phraseology:

"By reducing marginal tax rates it was believed the natural forces of economic growth would be less restrained. The most productive [read "wealthiest"] individuals would then shift more of their energies [read "spend more of their money"] to productive activities rather than leisure"

I'm sick of this crude language. Obviously, the Reagan tax cuts did not discriminate between hard-working rich people and lazy rich people. It gave them all the same amount of money. And wtf is this all about:

"Over the 22 year period from 1964 to 1986 the top individual tax rate was reduced from 91 to 28 percent. However, because upper-income taxpayers increasingly chose to receive their income in taxable form, and because of the broadening of the tax base, the progressivity of the tax system actually rose during this period."

Pretty sure that's a complete lie. Either that, or the article has a distorted definition of "progressivity", and it would do well to clue us in.

Now the Bush tax cuts, and the realization that this article has not been updated since '01 or '02:

"The 2001 tax cut will provide additional strength to the economy in the coming years as more and more of its provisions are phased in, and indeed one argument for its enactment had always been as a form of insurance against an economic downturn. However, unbeknownst to the Bush Administration and the Congress, the economy was already in a downturn as the Act was being debated. Thankfully, the downturn was brief and shallow, but it is already clear that the tax cuts that were enacted and went into effect in 2001 played a significant role in supporting the economy, shortening the duration of the downturn, and preparing the economy for a robust recovery."

Those were the days! -- and you knew who you were then!! Boys were boys, and men were men!

When the Obama propagandists ever get around to updating this article, I suggest they insert the part about multi-trillion dollar derivatives-trading being completely unregulated and untaxed throughout the nineties, the oughts, and even now.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

White-on-white racism in the UK

This is bizarre. I mean, I know that police are racist, but white-on-white, anglo-on-anglo racism? Really? What is this, the Middle Ages?

I wonder if this would have happened in the U.S., where there are plenty of brown people to hate?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Does election spending matter? Wrong question.

In analysis of election spending, the election outcome does not matter. The only thing that matters is the policy outcome. The only thing that matters is the quid pro quo. After Citizens United, and now that we are in the midst of a pile of shitty ads excreted by that infamous ruling, we have been treated to studies and musings over the extent to which money influences elections. In the musings category, there is a typically dim op-ed by David Brooks that discounts the Citizen's United ruling and the overall effect of money. On the Media, a typically excellent NPR program, gets in on the act as well. On this week's show, Freakonomics co-author Stephen Dubner argues that there is no causal relationship between total contributions and election outcome, and UVA professor Paul Freedman discusses a decade-long study finding that negative ads perform a wonderful public service, much like libraries and Roman vomitariums.

Yes, diligent reader, I am pissed at our treatment of this important issue. I think we are completely missing the point. The point is not the election outcome. Who gives a rats patoot if the Democrat or Republican wins? What is the policy outcome? What is the quid pro quo? Do a study on that, and you have got my attention.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Heaven's Pre-Election Thread

Jesus: So I was walking down Wall St. the other day, and I stopped and stared at that statue of the bull-- you know the one with its ass and balls exposed like some goddamn altar to Baal? I was staring right into that bull's balls, looking at my reflection in them. Then some city maintanence worker drops by, and he cleans and polishes the balls. For a moment, I cracked up cuz it reminded me of the ball-polishing scene in Big Lebowski. (Don't fuck with the Jesus! ROFLGANGER) Anyways, when I snapped out of that, I thought about everything those bull's testicles symbolize, and I thought about Obama and the election and Democrats dragging their ass, and I asked myself, "Do we have to await God's judgment on these Wall St. types to get any justice?"

Billy Graham: Jesus, we are all frustrated over the economy. We should not act rashly. Awaiting God's judgement seems like a good idea.

Jesus: Fuck off, Graham. It was a rhetorical question.

Billy Graham: right, I'll fuck off now.

Karl Marx: @Jesus- You know, we do have to await God's judgment on these folks to get any justice. That's why religion exists; it allows the elites to escape all accountability for their crimes.

Jesus: Karl, I happen to know that God exists. I am the son of God. I perform miracles.

Karl Marx: Jesus, I'm not saying God doesn't exist. I'm saying that organized religion is totally effed in the A. It's a tool of the powerful.

Jesus: Granted, it's a tool sometimes. It's abused sometimes. But Christianity was totally grassroots for three centuries.

Karl Marx: ...before it was astroturfed by Constantine

Jesus: ... before it was saved from Roman astroturfing by God, who totally smote the Romans for being asshats, in His Holy Estimation

Karl Marx: .. . before it was re-astroturfed by Charlamagne

Jesus: ... before it was saved, again, from astroturfing by God's Holy Smiting Bolt

Karl Marx: Really? We're gonna keep on doing this? It's your position that God smites everyone who uses Christianity to wield power?

Jesus: Yes, often-- I mean, generally, in the long run. But look, even if God missed a few smitings (ahem, Billy Graham), He totally kept Christianity OG gansta. Cuz if Christianity were totally about power, then how did the stuff about the camel and needle get through the censors? Or the part about David screwing his not-wife? Or the four gospels? Why would a religion need four stories about how I'm awesome? It wouldn't, unless it was interested in getting the story straight.

Karl Marx: That's a good defense of Christianity, Jesus, but it doesn't refute my argument that religion IS used as a tool of the powerful. And until God pre-smites everyone who wants to be a d-bag in Your Name, then we have to deal with the resulting d-baggery on our own.

GOD: Hey guys, may I say something here? Karl Marx is right.

Karl Marx: Awesome. So can we expect smitings and pre-smitings and the outing of all right-wing homophobic preachers?

GOD: Um, no, but I can push up the date of the Rapture. Let me check my palm...

Jesus: Shit, dad, you don't have an iphone yet?

GOD: Fuck no, fuck ATT. Wiretapping motherfuckers... I'm using Credo Mobile.

GOD: right, I can fit the rapture in August 2017, assuming a republican is president.

Karl Marx: I got Tim Pawlenty.

Jesus: Too moderate. It'll be Dick Cheney's re-animated head.

GOD: Nah, General Petreus. Trust me, shit's in the bag.

Monday, July 19, 2010

You are a terrorist suspect. I am on to you.

A paragraph from Dana Priest's investigative series "Top Secret America":

But improvements have been overtaken by volume at the ODNI, as the increased flow of intelligence data overwhelms the system's ability to analyze and use it. Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications. The NSA sorts a fraction of those into 70 separate databases. The same problem bedevils every other intelligence agency, none of which have enough analysts and translators for all this work.

Wow. The blogosphere has already commented 10 times over about the redundancy, waste, abuse and corruption at the heart of Amurica's national security horror show. (Most of which was said before this new WashPo investigation.) So I will simply republish this snippet of what we already knew/know and ask the question: How many terrorist communiques have you produced? And don't play dumb! The article said that the NSA collects 1.7 billion per day. That means that about 25% of the world population is doing something terroristy every day. So again, what the fuck have you people been up to?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Awwww, poor U.S. Army recruiters. . .

The kabuki fuckshow known as Elena Kagan's Supreme Court nomination has begun! Here's the gameplan:
  • What the Republicans need to do: make speeches pretending to attack Kagan's Ivy League pedigree, play Mad Libs with Kagan's completely unknown judicial philosophy, accuse her of hating the troops because of the Army recruitment dust-up (because helping Obama kill Muslims does not demonstrate clearly enough her commitment to the troops), and finally, pray to GOP Jesus that Kagan says something completely lezz-tastic and therefore disqualifying. 
  • What the Democrats need to do: nothing-- well, nothing that pertains to the nomination. Today they basically bashed the Robert's Court, and they should keep it up 'cuz it looks like they're having fun with that. 
  • What liberals need to do: find out whether she will keep torturing Muslims and holding them in jail forever, find out if she has ever been exposed to a poor person, and get her to say something lezz-tastic so that Andy Sullivan will shut-up already. Also, they should somehow derail the nomination and force Obama to nominate Diane Wood.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Who says liberals are not grizzled patriots who pick fights with terrorists and talk like sailors?

Rushbo. That's who says it. But I have more grizzle and patriotism on just one nut than John Stossel has in his mustache. Don't think that's a lot of grizzle and patriotism? Have you seen John Stossel's mustache? It's exquisite. . .

You know who else has a lot of patriotism of the grizzled variety? Sara Benincasa at Wonkette. Read about how she will single-handedly take down Osama bin Laden, who is hiding out in the Appalachians of North Carolina. Didn't know about Osama's knew hideout? I'm not surprised. Rush "lin Baden" is certainly not gonna divulge it. Good luck Sara!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Rape Vs. Date Rape

This ongoing oil disaster in the Gulf has got me thinking about the conduct of oil companies in the U.S. as opposed to their conduct in the Third World-- for instance, in the Niger Delta. The analogy that best describes the difference is rape vs. date rape. In the Third World, oil companies just sweep in, bribe the entire government, hire thugs for security, and drill with impunity. In the First World, it's more complicated. You've got to "wine and dine" the government first. You've got to determine who can be bought off. You've got to come up with a greenwashing strategy. You've got to study the regulations and determine which can be ignored, which can be defeated, and which ones can be written off as simply the cost of doing businesss. You've got to know when the inspector is coming.

You get the picture. We make it difficult to rape the environment. We make it a hassle. But we don't outlaw it. We've got to change this. Rape is rape.

Michael Jackson died one year ago. Cue hilarious quote from music reporter:

Bill Werde, editor of Billboard Magazine, says Jackson's death was shocking and tragic — and fans' interest in everything Jackson resulted in the strange benefit of digging the singer out of a deep financial hole:
"Not only does it spur an incredible interest in that artist, which of course, drives sales and other revenue opportunities, but it also removes the spending from the estate in a big way," Werde says.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Oh shit. I can see the headlines now: "Liberal commentator Glenn Greenwald calls U.S. troops terrorists"

Maybe my political sense isn't quite so well tuned, but I've been a loyal Greenwald reader for two years and I don't believe he's said anything quite as radical as this. Here's the whole article, and here's the healthy context:

In many Muslim countries, perceptions of the U.S. -- which improved significantly upon Obama's election -- have now plummeted back to Bush-era levels, while Obama's personal approval ratings, while still substantially higher than Bush's, are also declining, in some cases precipitously.  As Pew put it:
Roughly one year since Obama's Cairo address, America's image shows few signs of improving in the Muslim world, where opposition to key elements of U.S. foreign policy remains pervasive and many continue to perceive the U.S. as a potential military threat to their countries. [emphasis Greenwald's]
Gosh, where would they get that idea from?  People generally don't like it when their countries are invaded, bombed and occupied, when they're detained without charges by a foreign power, when their internal politics are manipulated, when they see images of dead women and children as the result of remote-controlled robots from the sky.  Some of them, after a breaking point is reached, get angry enough where they not only want to return the violence, but are willing to sacrifice their own lives to do so (just as was true for many Americans who enlisted after the one-day 9/11 attack) [emphasis mine].  It's one thing to argue that we should continue to do these things for geopolitical gain even it means incurring Terrorist attacks (and the endless civil liberties abridgments they engender); as amoral as that is, at least that's a cogent thought.  But to pretend that Terrorism simply occurs in a vacuum, that it's mystifying why it happens, that it has nothing to do with U.S. actions in the Muslim world, requires intense self-delusion.  How much more evidence is needed for that?
That could be problematic. Usually Greenwald is pretty good at not making statements that have been cordoned off with bright yellow police tape. If this statement gets traction, he'll probably have to apologize. I already feel like a troll for writing this, because he's been a huge influence on me. Since I would feel like a troll if I neglected to write about what I thought of the statement, I'm going to write about it.

Those in Muslim countries, whether or not they are Muslim or Atheist or Christian, are entitled to be angry at the U.S.. We don't get it. We have known why Arabs, Persians, Pashtuns, and Africans have resorted to terrorism, but we keep on doing the things they hate because we are an empire and that's what empires do. Before Obama, liberals chalked this behavior up to Bush's stupidity, but now it should be obvious to anyone that it does not matter in the least who the president is. We are an empire, and we act accordingly-- that is to say, with complete disregard for human life that is not our own, and with ~80% disregard for American lives. 

That said, when anger engenders a complete disregard for human life, as it does in the case of terrorist attacks, justice must be done in order to try and break the cycle of violence. This is why terrorists must be tried in courts rather than locked away forever or assassinated. 

It is clear to me that Greenwald was not comparing terrorists to U.S. soldiers, but rather he compared the anger of Muslims who resort to terrorism or resort to attacks against soldiers (those "willing to sacrifice their own lives") to the anger of Americans who enlisted after 9/11. So that is my take on what Greenwald said. Let me make this clear: I am not apologizing for him. If what he meant by his statement was what I interpreted it to mean, then what he said requires no apology.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

fun with terrorism material-support statutes

The SCOTUS terrorism support ruling yesterday outlawed consultations with terrrorist groups on how to resolve their disputes peacefully. However, the majority made clear that advocating on behalf of a terrorist group without consulting with them is perfectly legal. Allow me to be one of the first to take advantage of this allowance and advocate on behalf of the PKK vis-a-vis their dispute with what's-his-name. (It will become painfully clear that I did not consult with the PKK before writing this.)

I support the PKK's position on establishing an autonomous region within the region they are in right now, as long as they do so peacefully, or as long as they do so in a multilateral armed conflict condoned by the U.N.. They should NOT terrorize people, however. That would be terrorism, which I do not support with any materials whatsoever. The PKK are a noble people with a culture dating back to that time Christ paid them a visit. They have a proud tradition of establishing regional hegemony-- often in multiple regions simultaneously. Their hobbies include nomadic herding, horn-blowing, and ceramic-working. They probably ride horses. Actually, you know what they're like? They're like the Kingdom of Rohan in Lord of the Rings. So they're pretty kickass. We can trust them. Fin.

judicial activism from the "conservative" wing of SCOTUS

In the latest national security ruling from the Supreme Court, the majority has

Upheld a federal law that bars "material support" to foreign terrorist organizations, rejecting a free speech challenge from humanitarian aid groups. The court ruled 6-3 that the government may prohibit all forms of aid to designated terrorist groups, even if the support consists of training and advice about entirely peaceful and legal activities.

NPR has reported that the majority argued [agreed with] two points [concerning the peaceful, legal support given to terrorist organizations] :

  • It may ostracize allies.
  • It may give terrorist organizations an "air of legitimacy"

These are not legal arguments. Just call balls and strikes, John.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Gapminder World: Coolest Thing Evar!

For a data and graph nerd, this is awesome.

This week's "This American Life" is awful.

Just listened to This American Life. Some background on TAL: It is the one show on NPR that understood that the entire financial crisis was caused by banksters trading stuff they had no conception of whatsoever. It looks like this sanity has worn off. They have now contracted the austerity virus, and they are spreading it. The premise of this latest show was that the WHOLE WORLD (ZOMG JESUS!) is facing a debt crisis-- not necessarily a recession, mind you, but a debt crisis. Now this would not be an issue if our political press were competent. Unfortunately, our lazy, incompetent press has a readymade narrative to deal with political crises and particularly budget intransigence: Those who refuse to slash education or the safety net are being children, whereas those who recognize that a balanced budget is more important than education or economic security are the grownups. We are told that the grownups are being "Serious", whereas the children, who are invariably liberal, only care about "pet projects", "votes", or worse, "pork". Of course, conservative Democrats help to fulfill this narrative by refusing to raise taxes on rich people. Indeed, conservative Democrats are likely to buy into the idea that raising taxes actually decreases revenue, or the idea that rich people can't afford to pay more. This is the real intransigence. It forces liberal Democrats to find money any way they can to keep families off the streets, in the hopes that perhaps next year they will be able to raise more stable forms of revenue.

According to this latest show's first half, the role of "the children" is played by the Democrats in charge of the New York state legislature. "The grownup" is played by Very Serious person Richard Ravitch. Ravitch is one of those great hangers-on in politics. He came up through the LBJ administration, but unlike-- say, Bill Moyers, Ravitch took a very well-worn path to Serious Personhood: (1) stay out of political battles, (2) work on only the most non-partisan projects you can find, and (3) accumulate gravitas. The result of this effort? Behold. Also, Ira Glass will call you a hero.

So what does Ravitch have to deal with? What is the background story, according to This American Life? Interestingly, very little is mentioned about the current recession we are in. Instead, the show focuses on one-time revenue sources called "one-shots" and the political climate that forces lawmakers to resort to one-shots. Now, on the one hand, explaining the standard budget clashes that occurred in every state long before the recession is essential to understanding the budget dynamics of the present. However, the show bolsters the false sense that it was this standard political bickering over budgets that caused the recession. Those who have listened to TAL during the recession have been treated to some excellent, easy-to-understand analysis of what happened to cause this recession. In short, it was banking shananigans, not political shananigans. To the extent that politics was involved, it was the failure to regulate or even pay attention to what was going on on Wall St.. If you are an informed news consumer, you will know this. But if you are not, and if all you pay attention to are headlines and talking points, you may begin to think that deficit spending somehow had something to do with the recession. Worse yet, a Democrat you may have voted for may say something as criminally misleading as this: "We've asked government to take on too many tasks that cost too much money, and here we are, in a quagmire, in many ways because of it." That was a statement from Governor David Paterson that Ira Glass let pass. No mention of whether "quagmire" referred to the recession, mind you. We are just left to stew in this uncertainty. It's what modern political journalism does best.

Another egregious part was when Ira Glass explained that the stimulus money was being used as a "one-shot". Glass said that people might not realize the stimulus was being used this way. This has been a Republican strategy to sour the public on the stimulus money. What they have done, and what Glass has done (most likely unwittingly) is to feign surprise whenever and wherever they see the stimulus money applied. Of course, the fact that stimulus money was being used to plug state budget shortfalls was no secret. That money allowed states to keep on paying for Medicaid and to keep people employed. That money did more to stimulate the economy than one-time payments to individuals did because the Feds knew that the states would actually spend the stimulus, rather than invest it. However, the show failed to mention that the state stimulus money was-- you know, actually spent. Instead, New York's budget director said that the stimulus would actually exacerbate the problem in unprecedented ways. Why? Because the money will run out. Yeah, I shit you not. According to This American Life, money that runs out in two years is not actually money.

To deal with the current shortfall, Ravitch roles out his plan. His "bipartisan" plan, at least we are told, does not include tax hikes on those who can afford it. It only includes cuts and the implementation of standard accounting practices. In lieu of taxes, Ravitch proposes taking out a 2 billion dollar loan. Republicans opposed this because they saw it as a way to enable more deficit spending on the part of Democrats. Some Democrats, supposedly the conservative ones, opposed it as well. Governor David Paterson did not support the Ravitch plan because it was politically unpalatable, though we are not told why. At the end of the day, the listener is left with the impression that a tax hike on the rich would be even less popular than a 2 billion dollar loan. I would like to have seen the polling on this question. We are also left with the impression that in New York state, liberals are children who simply fail to realize that money does not grow on rich people. (Yeah, who knew? Guess where it grows instead!)

The second half was somewhat better. It examined the difference between two small Caribbean islands: Barbados and Jamaica. The show spent most of the time on Barbados. Barbados is doing well; Jamaica is poor. Both countries had to deal with the IMF and its standard imposition of austerity. We learn that how the two islands dealt with fiscal austerity determined their disparate economic fortunes. As I said, most of the segment was on Barbados. The only thing we are told about Jamaica is that their PM basically told the IMF to go fuck itself. He was determined that for once, the poor would not be the ones to suffer the IMF's kiss of death alone. He actually told the upper classes that if they did not want to shoulder their share of the IMF's austerity, they could leave their island paradise. That turned out to be a mistake, 'cuz they did.

Now those who are susceptible to conservative talking points will point to Jamaica as confirmation of all they know and all they will ever know. They will say that John Galt WILL leave you if you tax him. And what can we liberals say? Unfortunately, we live in a world where small countries like Jamaica are at the mercy of rich people who can pick up their capital and leave, thereby devastating the communities that raised them. This sad situation does not confirm conservative philosophy. It only proves that conservatives and rich people are dicks.

In the global recession of 1991, Barbados had its turn at the IMF's chopping block. This American Life tells the story of how, instead of dividing along class, Barbados was able to negotiate a deal whereby the austerity measures would be shouldered evenly across the class spectrum. To this day, there is a culture of cooperation between labor and management that is pretty inspiring.

So that's the story about how we easily forget why we're in a recession to begin with and how the upper classes can use the media (including the lib'rul media) to convince people that the only grown-up response is that everyone, including the poor who have no control over the various whims of our financial elite, must sacrifice. They convince people who cannot give to give more. They guilt them into the poor house, or no house at all.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Suck it, Hummer! The BP Oil spill only gets ZERO miles per 400,000 gallons -- per day!

From the AP:
BP officials previously said they believed the burner system could incinerate anywhere from 210,000 gallons of oil to 420,000 gallons of oil daily once it's fully operational. Work to optimize the new system was still ongoing, and the company did not say how much oil it has burned so far.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Holy crap, someone made it on NPR's "Marketplace" with a good idea!

NPR's "Marketplace" program is usually the worst offender on NPR when it comes to parroting the verbal flood of bullshit that comes from government and corporations, which is why this segment I just heard from Chris Farrel surprised me (skip to 3:57):

The amazing part comes at 6:00, when Chris endorses the idea of removing trade protections for companies and instead providing vouchers for laid-off workers, who they refer to as "free trade losers". NPR usually never talks openly about public policy solutions that would anger corporations. And that one would REALLY piss them off. It's not perfect, of course. Protecting companies does go a long way toward protecting workers. What we should do in addition to the voucher idea is keep hassling China over their exchange rate policy. 

In other news, in the segment just before Chris Farrel, we learn that investors gave BP a boost because of the 20 billion oil leak victim fund. Supposedly investors responded to the uncertainty being lifted. Do they interpret 20 billion as a cap? Is this the new cap everyone's talking about?

I want Alvin Greene in the Senate. I NEED Alvin Greene in the Senate.

Is it too much to ask, voters of Amurica, to have someone who eschews politics as usual-- or politics at all-- in the Senate? This guy is like the Democratic version of Joe the Plummer; he didn't come up through traditional channels, he just came up! I, for one, think it's refreshing. I think he's a diamond in the talus heap of South Carolina politics. So he has some legal troubles, so? If I had a dime for every black man accused of obscenity by a white woman-- well, I would have plenty of dimes.

On a more serious note, Jim DeMint is one moderately fucked scandal away from getting booted out of office. Come on progressives! Let's do this!

Monday, June 14, 2010

9/11? What 9/11?

The Afghan War is now officially about the fuckin' lucre. We will never leave now.

update: Well, I've since learned (see here, and links therin) that the "discovery" of 1 trillion in mineral wealth beneath Afghanistan is not quite so fresh and its importance to the Afghan economy has been exaggerated. Mining companies need an easy way to get the loot out of the country, after all.

Whatevs. Judging by the feverish manner with which the story "broke", I'd say the Pentagon is angling for another justification for war. Afghans are fucked five ways from Tuesday.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

the evolution of elite conservative thought:

John Adams, Federalist: "Let the human mind loose. It must be loosed. It will be loose. Superstition and despotism cannot confine it."

Newt Gingrich, Republican: "I think this is one of the most critical moments in American history. We are living in a period where we are surrounded by paganism."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Speaking of politicians being scum,

Every liberal should read this post twice, and the links therein.

Liberals, just because we believe that government can provide a safety net and can effectively direct public investment, does not mean that we may trust politicians. Politicians, remember, are scum. Even Alan Grayson and Dennis Kucinich should be treated as if they're about to screw us at any moment. The survival of democracy, at the very least, depends on its citizens not treating politicians like celebrities. The people who cheered on Obama during the election like he was goddamn Justin Bieber might as well have been screaming, "I want you to institute fiscal austerity measures in the middle of a recession because investment bankers come first!!!! Now look at my boobies!!!!"

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

our wingnut cousins in the former USSR

This is a good documentary on the growing right-wing/authoritarian movement in Russia and what it looks like on the ground. The best part is at 35:55, which looks like a militia gathering in the U.S. Of course, in Russia, their wingnuts are more influential. Note that during the gathering, the head Y-chromosome talks on the phone with a parliament member.

Helen Thomas, and the real problem with Washington "journalism"

I'm not an apologist for old people racism (OPR). I'm the first to tell my grandma to shut the fuck up when she starts in on the Irish (not true). But it's a damn shame Helen Thomas has to go out like this, because Helen Thomas, unlike most of the DC press corps, actually did her job responsibly. I honestly think she hates powerful people, as any decent journalist should. So it's a shame we're talking about Helen Thomas because this,

is the only problem in journalism worth talking about. Joe Biden and Rahm Emmanuel help command the largest, most powerful military in the world. The economic policies that they help craft mean the difference between life and death for those in the Third World, and between comfort and destitution for those in the First World. We need to stop treating these masters of the universe as fellow human beings. They're domestic tranquility is not ours. They're suffering never compares to ours. They are politicians. They are scum. They are not worthy of representing a pile of shit, let alone me. Few people in DC have the conviction and self-respect to act as proper journalists, so anyone who does so deserves praise. Helen Thomas has been one such person. One outburst of OPR won't change that.

For more analysis of Thomas's offending comments, go here. What made her comments noxious was the notion that Jews should go back to Germany and Poland. All nations are to some extent afflicted with the original (and in many cases, ongoing) sins of conquest and oppression. In Thomas's comments, I doubt she was referring to these children, for instance, who would sew seeds of peace if only their parents would permit it.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Eric Cantor needs your help.

His homework project is to cut spending in a recession, thereby weakening the national recovery (such as it is) and providing succor to foreign bond markets. However, he does not know where to start because he is, in fact, only 12 years old. You can give young Eric your ideas on how to cut the budget at this website. But if you ask me, the budget cuts he has featured are pretty miniscule: in the 10-100 million dollar range. In order to counteract Obama's huge stimulus package, for instance, you need cuts on the order of 100 billion to 1 trillion. Here are my ideas on how to approach the appropriate level of cuts:
  • end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • end all funding for fancy weapons systems
  • legalize marijuana
  • end mandatory minimum sentencing and three-strike laws
What do you think? If you agree, tell little Eric.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

speaking of money-sucking blood funnels...

I was reading this post, and this financial tidbit deserves repeating: Did you know that China lends us money at 3.3% interest? Well, not just China, but the entire bond market? People all over the world who want to invest in the United States for a period of 10 years only want 3.3% interest. Wow. They're nice. China is nice. Credit card companies and U.S. banks, on the other hand, not so nice. The interest rate on a 24 month personal loan: 10.83%. The average credit card interest rate: 14.26%. This means that American banks hate us approximately 3.8 times as much as the rest of the world. This makes some sense; domestic institutions know us better. But still! Fuck you, American banks!

Thank you, Matt Taibbi, for this post

Goldman Sachs CEO and human/squid hybrid, Lloyd Blankfein, is participating in a too-cute NPR series on summer jobs. Before growing his money-scenting blood funnels, young Master Blankfein worked as a concessioner at Yankee Stadium. He says that he learned the value of a dollar by making 3 cents per drink sold. I believe I speak for all present concessioners at Yankee Stadium when I say, "Go fuck yourself Lloyd." Actually being a productive human being for one summer does not absolve you of the fact that you are presently a parasitic cephalopod.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rest in peace, man.

Dennis Hopper passed on. Here's one of my favorite scenes in film:

National Sacrifice

From John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, 1961:
Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.

Dulce Et Decorum Est, by Wilfred Owen, 1918:
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

On this Memorial Day, let's talk about national sacrifice. Wilfred Owen, in the most famous poem about war (with the possible exception of the Illiad), derides national sacrifice as "the old Lie." His poem does not provide a political explanation for why holding the pointy-hats at the French border failed to equal the loss of England's blood and treasure. It was probably self-evident to his audience. On the other hand, the crotchety old fucks who were grateful for the war surely viewed Owen's poem as treason. Surely it was also viewed as arrogant. If I were one of those crotchety old fucks, I would press Owen on the relevance of "the blood / Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, / Obscene as cancer". Of what importance is the loss of individual life when compared to the Cause? Surely, of even less importance is the manner of such loss. Is not dwelling on "vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues" a bit indulgent?

While Wilfred Owen did not find it necessary to mix war and politics in his famous poem, plenty of people at the time were starting to awaken to the fact that war is politics by another means, or vice versa. Class struggles in the nineteenth century caused the citizens of the great empires to differentiate between the interest of the state and the interest of the people. This is the dominant theme in the late Howard Zinn's studies of history: history from the point of view of the people, rather than from the state. (Before nationalism came to dominate conservative political thought, it was also a dominant theme of conservatism-- that is, the primacy of the individual.) Zinn wrote, "... we must not accept the memory of states as our own. Nations are not communities and never have been." (Again, I can't help it. William F. Buckley could have said that, yet Zinn is the communist. Go figure.) The thoroughly liberal concept of the individual and the community decoupled from the state must inform all discussions of national sacrifice. Specifically, we may determine national sacrifice to be justified if the nation acts in the interests of the community. If the nation projects alien or perhaps foreign interests onto the community, or needless to say, when it lies or exaggerates a threat, then losses to the community in the course of protecting the state's interests are in vain.

The idea of national sacrifice is as old as civilization, but it has certainly evolved. In the beginning, pharaohs would slaughter millions of their own in battle in order to kidnap and rape the opposing pharaoh's harem-- or something. Today, pawns like us have defense mechanisms against such abusive treatment, but not nearly as much as liberals like Howard Zinn would have liked. Noble sacrifice in service of the nation is something that we all pretend still exists but which no one really understands with any sophistication. We generalize too much when it comes to soldiers and war. When the newly sacrificed are fresh in the ground, we dare not ask if the cost is justified. And even as those who died in Vietnam were turned to bone, Democrats dared not question the liberal bona fides of JFK.

The truth is, there are few instances in which national sacrifice can be described as trans-partisan or in the interest of communities across our nation. Lincoln's implicit message at Gettysburg was that every life sacrificed on that famous battlefield was equal in value. He knew that was bullshit. The South slaughtered both Northern and Southern soldiers because they wanted to continue to slaughter Africans for profit. National sacrifice has been a corrupted idea, a mere political meme, for a very long time. The new liberals who broke with the Establishment during Vietnam were certainly not the first to realize this, but they were perhaps the first with the potential to do anything about it -- namely, to stop the next aggressive war from happening. They clearly failed, and that's really fucking depressing. What's more depressing is the reason why they failed: our stupid parents are still fighting not only Vietnam, but the Civil War as well. Here's something fun to try: go back in time and show Lincoln -- just before the Gettysburg Address -- maps of the last 150 years of electoral college results. He would have stood at the podium on that sacred ground and told the audience, "Screw you guys, I'm going home!" And as for Vietnam's terrible legacy -- John Kerry lost the 2004 race because he fought in Vietnam. If 40 years ago, Kerry had joined the Massachusetts Air National Guard and kept his mouth shut about the justification for war, he would have won.

A democracy can only last so long without fighting tyranny before it loses its purpose. The United States ran out of external threats long ago, and terrorist organizations are unworthy substitutes for authoritarian superpowers. With each Memorial Day that passes without being engaged in a credible Manichean struggle with evil, citizens will continue to look inward for those Who Hate Our Freedoms. In the case of myself, I look at news like this everyday, and I can't wait until we pass on the World Police badge to people who are not crazy -- or better yet, to no one at all.

Well, I don't know how to wrap this up. Do you really need it wrapped up, though? I feel like you've got the gist.

UPDATE: Dennis Hopper is dead.

UPDATE 2: The oilocalypse continues.

UPDATE 3: Fuckin fuck balls.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Scott Brown is a traitor to bears everywhere.

Scott Brown made history in February when he became the first bear to serve in the U.S. Senate. Well, not anymore he's not. Sources deep inside the Brown administration have revealed that he is about to relent to a relentless Teabagging: "It's ugly. They're threatening that if Brown dares to follow the 2/3 majority (of his voters!) who support repealing DADT, then he will not enjoy Teabagger support in 2012." Head Teabagger Sarah Palin cried, "Scott Brown has fucked us for the last time! From now on, it is we who shall do the fucking! My army of unwashed balls and taints shall descend on Taxachussets and mercilessly rub out all opposition to wingnut orthodoxy!" She then added, "Mwahaaahaaahaaaa!"

Monday, May 24, 2010

no one knows what libertarianism is: one of the many reasons why libertarianism is stupid

So libertarianism is still being talked about because Rand Paul is still saying stuff. (I know, calm down people.) The latest thing he said was some racist bullshit about the Civil Rights Act. Read this on how Rand and his supporters don't actually care about staying true to liberatarian philosophy (O RLY!!!). Read this on how we should never be surprised when it turns out that libertarians are shallow people who don't actually have any convictions. Finally, read this on how it sounds when libertarians desperately want to be accepted by liberals (not to mention non-crazy people):
The basic libertarian position on civil rights is as follows: (1) Private discrimination should, in general, be legal (this includes affirmative action preferences, btw). Many libertarians would make exceptions for cases of monopoly power, and most would ban private discrimination when the government itself ensured the monopoly by law, as with common carriers like trains; (2) The government may not discriminate. If necessary, the federal government should step in to prevent state and local governments from discriminating; (3) The government may not force private parties to discriminate, and the federal government should, if necessary, step in to prevent state and local governments from forcing private parties to discriminate; (4) The government must protect members of minority groups and those who seek to associate with them from private violence. If the state and local government won’t do so, the federal government should step in; and (5) As part of the ban on government discrimination, and to prevent rent-seeking voters from taking advantage of the disenfranchised, members of all racial groups should be treated as individuals for voting purposes, and thus members of all groups should have equal voting rights. If state and local governments don’t guarantee such rights, the federal government should step in.
Well shit, if it were not for point (1), I would be a libertarian. Too bad point (1) is the sum totality of everything that is wrong and stupid about libertarianism. The reason that (1) is everything is that libertarians want everything privatized. Also, the modern corporation can be just as oppressive as government. Just ask people who work as slaves in the third world. Do you think they care whether their government or a multinational corporation (often in collusion with their government) is oppressing them? No. The result is the same: oppression.

But just because I'm thorough, let me deal with points 2 through 5 as well. First of all, the notion that the federal government must step in to uphold civil liberties and due process protections is called liberalism. That's our turf, damnit. If you want to act as though 2 through 5 are your thing, then awesome, but don't write it down in a blog and claim that it's your thing. It's a liberal thing. I seem to remember the Democrats taking great political risk in passing the Civil Rights Act, officially making it our thing. Back off of our thing.

Lastly (damn you thoroughness!), points 2 through 5 violate a central tenet of libertarianism (at least the sort of libertarianism that conservatives associate with, which is the only sort that matters politically): smaller government is more accountable to voters than bigger government, so federal government should not interfere (unless of course the GDHs legalize weed, then Big Brother should kill said GDHs). Is that about right? I mean, are libertarians going to violate this central tenet just because the darkies have a problem with the locals? See, to me, this gets to the heart of the matter. Libertarianism is too filled with contradicttion to make any sense. Either civil liberties are protected, or they are not. There are few gray areas-- and certainly not the gray chasm of "state's rights". The problem is that the vast majority of libertarians hold the "state's rights" view or at least associate with the "state's rights" crowd. The "state's rights" argument, since slavery, has almost exclusively been evoked in order to limit civil liberties, not expand them.

The conclusion here is always the same when the subject is libertarianism. As tristero at Hulaballoo says, "Everything good about libertarianism is already part-and-parcel of liberalism." Everything else about it is stupid or dangerous.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ron and Rand Paul: Why some on the Right are isolationists.

Back when I was a bit more politically naive, I appreciated the paleocon worldview. Yeah, they're racists. Yeah, they are the nadir of human progress. But they oppose neocons. And the enemy of my enemy is my-- well, let's just leave it at that. For example, I would watch Pat Buchanan on Chris Matthews say something old and grizzled and bitter about Bush and how he was fucking up everything and I would say to myself, "Awww. He's jusa big o' teddy-baywr! How'd he get mixed up in the Nixon administration?"

Now, despite their isolationism, I would prefer that paleocons not get anywhere near positions where they can affect foreign policy. I would go as far as to say that neocons are slightly better because, although every corner of the globe they touch turns into a charred hellscape, the neocons rape and pillage to provide for our economy. For now, we have money. This means we can use our lucre to buy the myriad goods and services gained through our globe-raping. On the other hand, if paleocons were in charge, Jesus would seriously think about coming again.

Obviously I'm just being a smartass, but my gut says paleocons would be worse. Exhibits A and B are Paul Sr. and Jr., or Ron and Rand Paul. Read this post by digby for some good background on the Pauls. The post explains that Paul Sr. was very much a part of the black-helicopter crowd in the nineties. He only gained cross-partisan support in 2008 because he was anti-war and anti-neocon, but he is nonetheless a liberal's nightmare. His son seems to be no better, and maybe worse. Like his dad, Junior rejects the neocon agenda of world domination and has actually parroted his father's controversial statements about how meddling in the Middle East contributes to terrorism. However, he has thrown in his lot with the Tea Party, a group of people who's respect for human rights is limited in scope to those with white skin and penises and limited in substance to property rights. Rand Paul also leads an army of militia-types with automatic weapons, who Rand claimed were merely protecting the integrity of the ballot during his recent primary victory. His opponent from the GOP establishment was complaining about these intimidation tactics, which made me do my Nelson laugh.

Ron and Rand are, above all else, very good politicians. They have found a highly nutritious niche market of voters to feed on, and now that our economy is in the shitter, their niche has turned into a veritable ecosystem of discontent, racial resentment and downright hate. This ecosystem is what fuels isolationism on the Right. That, and the fact that warfare has not gone very well for us lately. Anti-war liberals must remember that all anti-war sentiment on the Right is maintained exclusively by racism and xenophobia. If it were not for xenophobia, everyone on the Right would be like William Kristol, as opposed to Pat Buchanan. Isolationism has always been out there as a political force. It did not disappear in the Cold War. Remember the Balkans in the nineties? Somalia? Back then, when Clinton was directing America's military might against non-commies, everyone on the Right was a goddamn hippy. Hint: they were not being peaceful. They were being isolationist. Big difference. For fuck sake, right-wingers criticized Clinton for killing Iraqis!

Conquer them! Make them states! Free their women-folk!

Read this post by Greenwald. I propose that we re-liberate Iraq and Afghanistan and make them the 51st and 52nd states. That way, they would not be battlefields anymore, and the administration would have no grounds to hold prisoners there indefinitely. Also, the four senators from Iraq and Afghanistan would be teh awesome.

word of the day

pornoseptuagenarian - A prostitute who is in the age range of 70 to 79 years old.

Friday, May 21, 2010

footprints of wingnuttery

Just saw a Vanguard documentary on the Ugandan anti-gay climate at the time that the Ugandans were considering a bill which would have punished gay people with life-imprisonment or death. It was fucked up. I remember the row it created. Rick Warren had to issue a condemnation of the Ugandan bill because the fuckwit was part of a cretinous milieu of wingnuttery that has descended on Africa recently. The American Right has come to Africa under the pretenses of missionary work and fighting HIV. But what they are really doing is spreading right-wing ideology. The main dude spreading the hate, fiery evangelical Pastor Ssempa, said two things that drew my immediate attention: "liberal media" and "George Soros." Now who do you think taught the goodly pastor about the twin terrors of the liberal media and George Soros? Probably not Jesus.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dio, I hardly knew ye.

Seriously, I didn't. But he's gone now, died of cancer. Here's Dio being epic:

And a fitting tribute by Tenacious D:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

just, just -- fuck...

via Digby:

The US airbase at Bagram in Afghanistan contains a facility for detainees that is distinct from its main prison, the Red Cross has confirmed to the BBC.
Nine former prisoners have told the BBC that they were held in a separate building, and subjected to abuse.

This is pretty big news and I'm gonna read it in a second, but I want to say a few words on that last part for a second. Nine former prisoners were held in the secret, shitty prison. It's always the former prisoners, isn't it? As in, they used to be prisoners. As in, they were let go. As in, they probably didn't even take a shit where they were not supposed to, yet they were held in the pound-me-in-the-ass prison. How many former prisoners are wandering out there in the world, free? Well, there are about 500 that were special enough to land in Gitmo. That's just the tip of the iceberg though. Many, many more went through Bagram, Abu Ghraib, the black sites, the blacker sites, etc... How many of them would be as pissed and unforgiving as I would be? That is to say, really, really unforgiving. Like, homicidal? How many are going back to broken homes and broken communities? How many have nothing? How many have no one?

Then think about this -- because it's fuckin' fun, that's why! -- think about how many people in the business of running this morally bankrupt government give a rat's ass. If you have not thought about that, you do not deserve to be a fucking dog catcher.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

me making fun of Thomas Sowell

Sadly No has brought to my attention a piece by Thomas Sowell, who I remember reading in my hometown paper's op-ed section. He was creepy back then, and -- yeah, still creepy. Allow me to add another "shorter" to Sadly No's summation:

Shorter Thomas "Asian is the new White" Sowell: "The only thing black students learn in our failing public schools is liberal political philosophy -- and probably buttseks."

Sowell explains that when black students are exposed to the guiding light of white skin, or the equally impressive incandescence of the yellow man, they lose all aspiration. Back in the good ol' days, the White Man was the "Pied Piper" of black people, leading them out of poverty with His gay tune of prosperity. Why, in those days, the White Man had only to stand up straight and tall and say, "Look at me coloreds! I pulled myself up by the bootstraps! You can too!"

Now its all gone to hell. Ever since liberals started preaching equal opportunity, black students see high-achievers, and their first thought is, "Hey, according to equal opportunity, I should achieve similar results as the high-achievers. But I'm not. Even though we're in the same classes, our unequal performances must be due to an unequal distribution of capital vis-a-vis the inequity inherent in laissez-faire market economies. The failure of my school system to properly address this inequity is an injustice that me and my fellow low-achievers may correct by stealing the lunch money of the high-achievers." By Jove, Dr. Sowell, you have cracked the case! The solution must lie in teaching students accountability. But how? What criteria must teachers use to judge the achievement and progress of students? If only there were some sort of scale to express said achievement quantitatively? Jeez, I guess figuring out this teaching thing is tough work. It's like, conservative bromides about personal responsibility are not enough anymore. This does not bode well. Oh well, at least there's White Heaven:

Saturday, May 8, 2010

a crisis of probability is not a crisis

So I just heard a bloggingheads.tv discussion between David Frum and Glenn Greenwald. If you want to know what David Frum is thinking now, or how a reasoned discussion between liberals and conservatives is conducted, then I recommend it. What prompted this posting is something Frum said at the end of the discussion about bad things that leaders do during crises. Greenwald tried to get Frum to say whether he believed presidents ought to be able to break the law and be immune from the criminal justice system, but Frum evaded. In that back-and-forth, Frum said, "Bush may have done some things that ... everybody would have thought before [9/11?] were illegal ... that a lot of people think were immoral, and we don't do them anymore, the crisis has passed, the country has found a new footing." I'd like to focus on the "crisis has passed" part.

What I'm gonna say about this crisis of terrorism might sound a little neocon-ish, but to paraphrase one of my favorite comedians, Patton Oswalt, "I'm gonna bring you to Mordor and take you right back to the Shire, so stay with me!" I don't think the crisis has passed at all. Frum is saying what everyone else is saying, but everyone else does not know what the hell they are talking about. I think that the probability of a major, 1000-plus-casualty terrorist attack occurring in September, 2001 was similar to the probability of one occurring today. Of course, the probability was greater in September, 2001 because Richard Clark and other Clinton officials with knowledge of bin Laden's activities were warning the shit out of Bush that something would likely happen and Bush was sitting on his ass. But accounting for that major exception, the probability of calamity is the same today. I can say this because there is almost no data with which to calculate the probability of foreign terrorist attacks. This is up for some debate, because the definition of terrorism is usually in debate, but there have been only two relatively recent foreign terrorist attacks in the U.S. in which people have died: the first and second WTC attacks. Given those data, one could reasonably say that a U.S. citizen's probability of dying in a terrorist attack is ill-defined, but most likely the probability is vanishingly small. This near-zero probability existed in the eighties, the nineties, and the oughts, and it will probably continue to exist forever -- until someone blows up the universe.

My simple conclusion is this: It would be nice if -- in the period of time between now and the end of the universe -- we deal with the vanishingly small probability of terrorism in a rational way. We may do this by keeping the rule of law and democracy in tact.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Debbie Schlussel hates fat (and brown) people and the liberals hiding behind them. So much fat, so many liberals.

Debbie Schlussel is concerned -- in a rather morbid way -- she's morbidly concerned that liberals are engaged in an evil plot to rid the world of junk food, starving us all except for the Hollywood elite, who shall grow to Jabba the Hut sizes. Hollywood will then exalt morbid obesity as the new unattainable body type. We shall all huddle around our few old CRT televisions and watch as the Jabba the Hut version of Kristin Chenoweth is carried down the red carpet by her skinny, disgusting manservants, and we shall lick our lips at the prospect of scavenging enough caloric intake to one day be as satiated and luxuriant as Jabba Keifer Sutherland.

Why -- how, God -- does Debbie Schlussel divine these things? Does she consume Teh Spice? Does she commune with Ronald Reagan's ghost? Does Spice provide access to Ronald Reagan's ghost? Nej. Debbie Schlussel has deduced the foul liberal agenda because People magazine editors "They" have determined Gabourey Sidibe, Oscar-nominated actress of Precious fame, to be a "Most Beautiful Person". Sidibe is an obese African-American woman. Debbie Schlussel objects to this new definition of beauty, and she adds these racially charged racist remarks, because why not: "she's not just any fat actress, she’s a Black fat actress in a ghetto movie promoted by Oprah and based on a 'gangsta lit' book."

As I see it, People is promoting an excellent actress who broke through Hollywood's glass ceiling for large women and non-whites. That's beautiful. As Debbie sees it, however, People magazine editors Hollywood is thinking one of two things: (1) They really think Gabourey Sidibe is beautiful, which is ridiculous because everyone knows that Hollywood thinks that only size six bodies can be beautiful (QED). (2) They love food more than they hate fat people, so their alliance with liberal foodie Nazis is really an effort to impoverish Real 'Murica of food and concentrate food in Hollywood, where the stars will feast and grow enormous at our expense. In the latter construction, Gabourey Sidibe is a dry run for Jabba Lindsey Lohan.

In summary, Debbie Schlussel is ugly -- on the inside.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The wingnut argument for nuclear restraint

Wait! Where are you going? Here me out, damnit! This is good. Jonah Goldberg, manchild of Lucianne Goldberg, sez:
Ultimately, when and how a country uses its nuclear weapons does not depend on treaties. It depends on the Commander-in-Chief. Sure, worries about violating a treaty might — probably would — make using nukes more "costly" in a president's cost-benefit analysis. But at the end of the day, using nukes is such a huge deal that I think most presidents, most human beings, would make the decision based on their core values and instincts. And, suffice it to say, I don't think Barack Obama would ever use nuclear weapons under almost any remotely plausible circumstances.
As promised, this blogger will ignore the notion that refusal to destroy the universe makes one a pussy. He will instead make the wingnut argument for not pushing the button: In the event of WWIII, our brave, grizzled survivors of nuclear Armageddon will need a land of milk and honey to brutally conquer and subjugate. Like the Jews of yore wandering in the Wilderness, they will need a land free of plutonium if they are to smuggle their exceptionally resilient (and undoubtedly conservative) seeds into the next generation. We shall need a virgin land, and this land shall belong to our enemies. And like zombies we shall descend upon the virgin land of our enemies and rapaciously consume it. We shall make our gluttony pleasing to our God Jehovah by gathering the choicest pieces of ass and cremating them inside the belly of the Wicker Man. We shall force the pagan warlords to watch as we rudely introduce their harem-women to our large, Western penises. We shall rebuild the Temple of David and place a large, gaudy crucifix atop it. We shall institute a ban on headscarves. We shall repeal universal healthcare and force everyone to buy shitty HMOs. We shall emulate the powerful moral governance of the Catholic Church and choose a pope who will order the weakest amongst us not to have buttseks.

In these ways we shall avenge our vaporized brethren and build anew atop the fertile corpses of our foes. And all because our president had the foresighted restraint not to push the button.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Oh internets

A Hutaree militia message board has been attacked by the glorious /b/tard army. Their weapon of choice? Big black dicks. As with many /b/ performance art projects, the message here is hard to divine, but I'm gonna have to go with the fact that there's nothing scarier in the mind of white conservatives than big black dick. After all, the most infamous wingnut militia, the KKK, was founded to rescue white women from the scourge of black cock.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

OMG, Harry Reid is the Devil! Tell me something I don't know, Republicans... James E. Christ!

This is precious. Republicans upset about slavery! Come the fuck on! Everyone knows that Republicans invented slavery 5000 years ago in Egypt. This is why 70% of Jews are Democrats.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Remember when Alan Greenspan realized that his whole life was a fraud?

Yeah, he totally did:

A long-time cheerleader for deregulation, Greenspan admitted to a congressional committee yesterday that he had been "partially wrong" in his hands-off approach towards the banking industry and that the credit crunch had left him in a state of shocked disbelief. "I have found a flaw," said Greenspan, referring to his economic philosophy [Randian quackery]. "I don't know how significant or permanent it is. But I have been very distressed by that fact."
"I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organisations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms," said Greenspan.

Alas, Greenspan has yet to hara-kiri himself on national television. Oh well. Yesterday, Digby wrote that the problem with Ayn Rand acolytes, besides the fact that they won't die properly, is that they fail to realize that "unbridled greed and selfishness makes people reckless." This is true, but there is also a perfectly logical reason why Ayn Rand remains a black taint upon all humanity: ownership of our shining city upon a hill is collective. Yeah, look it up. The corporation is a financial instrument with which America's patrician class smears accountability throughout the land. No one person wants full ownership of something as big and complicated as the modern corporation. They would have to be an utter loon. And yet many people who are stuck in Ayn Rand's fantasy universe actually think that the people who run America's financial empire are accountable for the health of their empire. They are not, and they never were. The only people who truly put their financial asses on the line in this "malfunctioning corporation called the USA" are small business owners.

When the hell did we lose sight of this? How did the free market become construed as financial anarchy? There's a lot of talk about how we have privatized gains and socialized losses. To some extent, that's always going to be true. The government is always going to be there, God willing, to bail out large companies in order to prevent recessions. Furthermore, people already socialize their losses by putting their money in stocks and bonds. The government cannot force management to "go down with their ships." Well, it could, but then no one would manage any corporations, and we need corporations to make microwaves and maintain the intertubes. In conclusion, the solution to the boom and bust economy is strong, sensible financial regulation and smaller corporations. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010


David Broder wants to tea-bag Sarah Palin:
The snows that obliterated Washington in the past week interfered with many scheduled meetings, but they did not prevent the delivery of one important political message: Take Sarah Palin seriously.
Her lengthy Saturday night keynote address to the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville and her debut on the Sunday morning talk show circuit with Fox News' Chris Wallace showed off a public figure at the top of her game -- a politician who knows who she is and how to sell herself, even with notes on her palm.
This is how you would write a column about a mentally-handicapped politician running for town dog-catcher -- if you were her mom.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Corporate whores need proper uniforms.

In the wake of the Supreme Court's Citizen's United case, it's clear that the people need to strike back. Here's one solution that I heard from a caller to the Diane Rehm Show today: legislators need to wear sponsorship patches on their suits.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Institutional analysis becomes conspiracy theory when the government says so.

At least, Cass Sunstein would like to make that official. Papa Cass is one of Obama's closest confidants and head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. He's considered to be a major contender for the next Supreme Court opening, which should really scare the shit out of both liberals and conservatives because he's open to the idea of "cognitive infiltration" of those who investigate or foster conspiracy theories. Cass Sunstein is not crazy by the way -- well, yes he is. What I mean is, he acknowledge's that several bad conspiracy theories turned out to be true during the Cold War, like the one about the DOD manufacturing terrorist plots and blaming them on Castro. It's just that now is the present, which as every Serious government official knows has nothing to do with the future. Anyway, why would someone who acknowledges that many government conspiracy theories have been verified as accurate want to have the same government interfere with the public dialogue -- that is, any more than it already has through the MSM? Well, that's an easy one. Glenn Greenwald explores Cass's reasoning behind "cognitive infiltration" in the first link, and I largely agree with his analysis. I think that what it boils down to is this: Cass Sunstein is a bad elitist, which is worse than a neutral elitist. Here are my definitions: 
elitism (neutral) - the belief that elites (those who have distinguished themselves based on merit or subjective criteria) should lead, teach or otherwise influence society in a non-deceptive manner and that this elite guidance achieves the most favorable results for society as a whole.
bad elitism - the belief that elites must deceive the public or conduct covert propaganda in order to achieve the most favorable results for society as a whole.
Does this make sense?  I found the dictionary definitions inadequate. One could write a PhD dissertation on the modern conceptions of elitism, but I've chosen to draw the line between neutral and bad elitism at the point of deception. In this construction, Cass is (not coincidentally) a bad elitist.

P.S. - Do try to muddle through the abstract of Cass's paper in the second link. I think Cass accurately describes most conspiracy theorists as "typically suffer[ing] from a crippled epistemology," but Cass needs to take a timeout and realize that covert government interference in public debate is designed to cripple epistemology in society at-large. If it indeed becomes standard practice to make undisclosed payments to experts who are willing or pleased to tow the government line, then every expert opinion becomes fair game for government skeptics. Now, you could argue that we've been dealing with this sort of corruption for a long time and no epistemological crises have crippled society yet, but Cass seems to be open to the idea that cognitive infiltration be legalized and accepted by the high courts as Constitutional.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

the Haitian Earthquake

As with the devastation wrought by Katrina, I hope that our thoughts of Haiti turn to the inconvenient fact that natural disasters are often anything but. Haitians are dying in disproportionate numbers right now because they are poor and oppressed. The oppression came first, then the poverty, then more oppression. It's a positive feedback loop. Poor people are not only easy to oppress (keep up the good work Iraq and Afghanistan), they seem to literally beg for it. So in Haiti's time of need, know that they need more than the world's temporary relief efforts. They need the world -- namely us -- to finally leave them the hell alone.

update: There are more Haitian history sources at the end of this wonderful post at Reclusive Leftist.

update 2: The folks at Credo, the progressive phone company, sent me an email with two ways to help Haiti: give to Doctors Without Borders, and tell Obama to grant temporary protected status to Haitians living in the U.S.

Friday, January 1, 2010

George Will's Freaky Voyage

George Will celebrates the New Year by taking a massive hit off his life-sized Ayn Rand-shaped gravity bong and writes about the nature of the universe:
Already 99.9 (and about 58 more 9s) percent of the universe - it is expanding lickety-split - is beyond Earth's atmosphere. Into what is it expanding? Hard to say. We can say there is lots of stuff in space: Hold up a penny at arm's length and you block from your field of vision three galaxies - billions of stars and other things - 350 million light-years away, which is right next door in our wee corner of the universe.
Get that? There's lots of stuff in space, and it's beyond our so-called "warming" atmosphere. This means that if global warming is a problem, rich people can always expand, like the universe, into the great unknown! But fear not intrepid voyagers, this column is not simply about dog whistle-politics and fancy science talk, it is about the indomitable human spirit:
Before Darwin, many people believed that no species could become extinct because this would mean there had been an imperfection in God's original handiwork. Yet 104 years before publication of "On the Origin of Species," the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 had caused some people to doubt that God has ordained a benevolently ordered universe. Nevertheless, in 1787 other people - Americans call them the Founding Fathers - who were influenced by Newtonian physics and the deist idea of God as cosmic clockmaker, devised a constitutional system of separated powers, checking and balancing one another, mimicking what they considered our solar system's clocklike mechanics.
Today, we know there is a lot of play in the joints of the Constitution, and that every 40 million years or so asteroids of more than half a mile in diameter strike Earth. Yet the Constitution still constitutes, and the fact that flora and fauna have survived Earth's episodes of extreme violence testifies to the extraordinary imperative of life.
Yes, George, certainty exists beyond the bong smoke. Happy New Year, you crazy bastard!

2000 - 2009 in Memoriam: Fuck You.

Fuck you, 2000 - 2009. You were definitely the shittiest decade since the 1930s. Everyone knows about the DOW going nowhere, but this decade was worthless politically as well. Again, it was not nearly as bad as the 1930s, which saw the disintegration of the peace following WWI and the rise of Hitler, but it was pretty horrible nonetheless. The decade basically started on September 11, which sucked. However, history will record that our reaction to those attacks precipitated much more death and destruction than Osama bin Laden could have ever dreamed of. Republicans and their allies in dank think-tanks like the Project for the New American Century thought they could turn a stolen election in 2000 into a new mandate for world domination. September 11 was their trigger -- their Pearl Harbor. It started two Middle Eastern wars that were basically about oil and hegemony. The rest is history. The only good thing about this decade was that the aggressor finally lost. The belligerent nation, the United States of America, will fall by the wayside. This century will belong to others. We don't deserve it.