Saturday, February 28, 2009

USer Concern For Human Rights Ends Where Runway's Starts

Scott Horton, he of almost overwhelming bloggy ubiquity, examines the USer military quest to replace their Afghanistan supply routes at Harper's "No Comment" blog. He finds that much can be negotiated away in the way of human rights abuses in a country that has what the US wants: in the instant case, an airbase on which to host USer military traffic. (Interestingly, Ms. Clinton made much the same discovery in China last week, pleading for more loans.)

The supply route to Afghanistan became problematic recently when the old Soviet "republic" of Kyrgyzstan withdrew permission for USer troops and supplies to flow through Manas Airfield outside Bishkek, allegedly at the behest of the Russians who view USer efforts to build a toe-hold in the trans-Caspian with the same pleasure with which we greeted the apparent Soviet colonization of Cuba.
Human Rights and Military Bases

By Scott Horton

In his Washington Post op ed last week, Kyrgyzstan’s long-time ambassador to the U.S. gave us a fascinating insight into the process of base negotiations. Once the U.S. had its base, he wrote, all concerns about human rights and democracy went out the window. The base became the alpha and omega of the U.S.-Kyrgyz relationship, a development he wisely termed detrimental to both sides. With U.S. expulsion from its prime supply base in Kyrgyzstan now looming on the horizon just as the Obama Administration prepares to implement its ramp-up in neighboring Afghanistan, the U.S. quest for a base to replace Manas (Ganci) Air Force Base is getting feverish. And how does this affect human rights policy?

On Thursday, the State Department issued its Human Rights country reports—the first to come out of Hillary Clinton’s State Department—though the core of the report was obviously prepared and submitted under Condoleezza Rice’s stewardship. The pages dealing with the Central Asian dictatorships offer some interesting reading. I understand that efforts to replace the Kyrgyzstan base are now focused on Uzbekistan, which once allowed the United States the use of two air bases. The regime of Islam Karimov, often reckoned the most brutal and dictatorial in the region, kicked the United States out in November 2005, ostensibly over U.S. criticism of mass slayings of Uzbek civilians in the Ferghana Valley following a popular uprising there. Now the German government, which has a military base in Termez, is said to be brokering a new deal for the Americans. How has this affected the U.S. take on the human rights situation in Uzbekistan?

Plenty. One of the country’s most acute human rights offenses is its use of involuntary child labor to harvest its cotton crop. Uzbekistan has drawn international condemnation for this practice, and a number of groups in Europe, North America, and elsewhere have called for a boycott of Uzbek cotton. Prior State Department human rights reports heavily criticized the Uzbeks over their child labor practices. In the current report, we learn that the Uzbeks are making great headway in battling child labor abuse: “Enforcement was lacking due in part to long-standing societal acceptance of child labor as a method of cotton harvesting.”

Last year a BBC documentary showed exactly what form this “long-standing societal acceptance” took. Uzbek authorities closed down elementary and middle schools and then bussed away the children to labor in 100 degree heat for a couple of weeks in fields filled with highly toxic pesticides and agricultural chemicals (to which children under 16 are particularly vulnerable). Children who refused to participate were threatened with beatings and were told they would not be able to continue their education. Last year I interviewed a young Uzbek college student who described to me in some detail her own experience in forced cotton field labor and that of her younger siblings, including in the course of the last harvest. “Societal acceptance” has nothing to do with it. Parents who complain about the practices are subject to threats and coercion, and come under police surveillance. The State Department has accepted and recycled the flimsy rationale that the Uzbek government offers up to cover its tracks.

Is this just sloppy research? I doubt it. I’d say that General Petraeus is probably coming pretty close to a new base deal.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Recrudescence of "Respectable" Racism

The press, the cable, and the culture, too, lately have been full of reports of irruptions of racist bile from if not unlikely, then unexpected sources: the leader of a state GOPuke party organization, the (GOP) mayor of a small California city, among others. The dead chimp cartoon, the magic negro song, and the WhiteHouse watermelon-patch card have achieved due prominence. The frankness of these expressions has only been equaled by the protestations of the perpetrators of the purity and innocence of their intentions.

And as they have done so, there has arisen a discourse which seeks to 'understand' and, to me it seems as much, to excuse these wretched excesses. Because, of course, each is but another window into the depths in the national character at which are cemented these really unpleasant, demeaning, embarrassing, hurtful, divisive (and therefore, to some people, really useful) demons of race.

I am not certain of the exact psychological mechanism, but it seems (counter-intuitively?) that Pres. Obama’s election actually seems to have liberated a strain of bigotry and invective that had, until relatively recently, lain pretty silent if not exactly dormant in the USer public psyche. In a way worth figuring out, I thingk, Obama's election has conferred a kind of 'popular' legitimacy on this kind of ‘humorous’ bigotry. His very public persona is somehow seen, by that segment of the culture which practices such things unashamedly and unabashedly, to make their slurs ‘acceptable.’ This is indicated in their apparent surprise when folks are offended by, and raise objections to it.

I suspect that, in each of these instances, the frisson of having “said what needs saying” (as whites in Louisiana claimed David Duke did) is all the incentive that was need. It would have been similar had Hilary been elected: just, instead of racism, the knuckledraggers would have spread sexist slurs, gay-ron-TEED, chers.

The following, which is part of a colloquy i conducted with a commentator on TP, today, may be illustrative of the issue. Previously the commentor, nymmed "backup" had been asserting that it was necessary to tolerate racism of the kind exemplified by the WhiteHouse melon-patch image and its dissemination by a public official if "we" were going to have any 'uncowardly' discussion of race. He urged that if such matters were met with hostility, or if the perpetrators of such acts weere going to suffer real consequences for their acts, the 'cowardice' would continue. I called bs, and more ore less accused him of both sophistry and 'genteel' racism. He replied:
Tokin. (or anyone). please cut and paste a statement I’ve made that you consider racist.
But that is not the issue, as I pointed out. He WANTED me to personalize it, but the roblem is not individual, but systemic. I said:
you are a talented sophist, i’ll give you that.

but your innocence is another camouflage. you are clever enough to have at least heard–even if you did not believe–that racism is not even particularly about individual acts or words. Racism is a system of arrangements and agreements and understandings among the dominant culture which permits, even encourages those individual acts of terror to achieve the larger social goal of retaining the current imbalances–which are always profitable for the majority, and almost always exclude the minority.

Obama’s election has provided that system with a certain challenge, even though he is not a member of the ‘class’ with which the requirements of justice and equity are associated. He is nevertheless the most prominent AVATAR of those interests. I hope, actually, that the persistence of that rational racism, that ‘respectable’ racism garbed in ‘humor’ may eventually propel Obama to assume the burden of King and others to compel white folks to genuinely apologize, and to finally remove the barriers that still stand between them and us.

The major one of those barriers is economic. Black households own less that 40%-by value, per capita--of those resources designated as wealth and owned by whites. Black America was not ALWAYS poor. It is not wholly so now, though poverty is ever more visible. And devastating. No. Whites conducted a number of race riots in the early and middle years of the 20th Century which, if they were not aimed at the black middle class, certainly had the effect of exterminating it and impoverishing them. Read up on Greenwood, OK, 1908.

You may never have owned slaves, nor your family; but-–depending on where you live–-there’s a pretty good chance you know somebody who’s related to somebody who did a lynching, sometime. There were a LOT of lynchings, and they occurred in some unexpected places. And there were innumerable acts of other kinds of savagery carried out on black folks by whites: beatings, rapes, torture.

What I refer to as your racism comes in your seeking to excuse, somehow to mitigate, and find an excuse for the evidently racist affront Grose committed.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pardon My Francais?: "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose"

The poster who goes by "mentarch," on WWL, posted this today.
Obama administration defends telecom immunity in new brief

Obama administration tries to kill e-mail case

In "spy case," Obama's Justice Department Holds Fast to State Secrets Privilege

Obama administration defending Bush secrets

Obama preserves renditions as counter-terrorism tool

Obama's Top Lawyer Says Obama Doesn't Want To "Weaken" Presidency

Intelligence Policy: New Perspective or Familiar Approach?

Obama eyes $200 bln for war effort: report

Obama's Iraq plan 'more like a Bush plan'

Obama Admin. Reportedly Sending Detainees to Bagram Instead of Gitmo
This list suggests the truth of the contentions of those who, on matters of international relations and internal 'security,' at least, regard there being no significant differences between the 'parties,' because the "parties" are no more than wholly-owned subsidiaries of CorpoRat/Military Murka. It is worth remembering, as I have proclaimed so often as to have become hoarse, that NO PRESIDENT SINCE George Washington has EVER ceded back to Congress the emergency powers they arrogated to address a crisis.

I am one of those who doesn't perceive a nickel's worth of difference between the Pukes and the Dims. Oh, yes, there are individual differences between individual personalities occupying positions of power. But their agendas, their 'ends-in-view', are indistinguishable. Both "parties" work for more surevillance, more militarism, more corporate authoritarianism, less freedom, less liberty, less services (for more taxes).

A Serious Question: Is This All There Is?

It is a puzzlement:

HOW can nominally reasonable, apparently intelligent people even imagine for a single moment, in the deepest fits of collective faith/delusion, that the OWNERS of the country --the elites, the aristos, the oligarchs, the plutocrats, etc-- would EVER turn over management of THEIR insanely valuable "property," (i.e., the Country) or even the system of its administration (i.e., the Government), to somebody--to ANYBODY--who wasn't utterly, totally, and completely trustworthy.

Would YOU turn over your immensely valuable business to someone who posed even the tiniest, remotest, slightest, slimmest CHANCE of undoing the least jot or tittle of your fantastically profitable status quo? Would Macy tell Gimble?

No! Preposterous! Who could believe--who would DO--such a thing?

So we must believe that Prez.O, having necessarily won their trust before even gaining the nomination, has long since faithfully demonstrated he neither will--nor even is particularly inclined to--upset any corporate/oligarchic/elitist applecarts...Obama's just another a game piece. Mebbe not a pawn, mebbe a rook; but nevertheless one whose moves are totally circumscribed by the game and the role he plays in it. But he's no less a figurehead than Bush was, and for exactly the same interests...

And just so you understand: Recessions, depressions, and the like, are GREAT for the wealthy, because in such distressed times, they can recover their assets from the peons to whom they have leased them (what, you thought you 'owned" anything?) at fire-sale prices. Prez.Obama (along with the rest of the Congress, the bureaucracy, and the Press,) is in on the scam, and they play along, happily.

And as to the illustration, and the query included therein: No, he won't prosecute. If he did--to continue for a moment the chess-piece analogy--he'd be a Rook acting like a Queen.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Jingle" Bobby Jindal

Louisiana's (conservative!) governor, Piyush ("Bobby") Jindal (the slight, sepia-brown hope of the flying-monkey faction of the GOPukes) proved himself utterly unready for prime-time pretensions with his affectless, pedantic, patronizing, predictable 'reply' to Pres. Obama's address to Congress and the People last night. Still, given the fact he was selected--along with his unaccountable but nevertheless increasing prominence, and his evident taste for the national spotlight (though how he handles himself therein is both somewhat problematic and revealing)--it will become increasingly impingent upon his detractors to have at the ready a term of sufficient snark to put the posturing parvenu in his place and infuriate his fans. A bit of semiotic slap-down, as it were.

For this purpose--a sort of snarky "re-branding," you could call it--I propose the term to which the Hed alludes: "Jinglebob." He's already got the diminutive "Bobby." It's no greater diminishment to add the musical descriptor; that is: "JingleBobby" Jindal.

"Jinglebob" is an old cowboy term. It refers to metal, slug-like appurtenances hung by cowboys on the outside of the rowels (the 'spines') on their spurs, to make the rowels 'jingle' as they moved and spun. It was an item of pure, sheer cowboy vanity. They didn't have much, and couldn't afford much, and that little 'jingle' was all they could do to stand out.

It fits, of course, as Jindal is an icon of the vanity of the GOP: a noisy, trivial, substanceless appurtenance to the GOPuke noise machine. Think about that: he's the noise you make by 'spinning'...

And, as one might expect, and happily, there's also the (concurrent) Urban Dictionary 'definition' of "jinglebob": A Christmas 'blow-job.'

So we'll just call him "JingleBobby" from now on.

Works BOTH ways.

That is a term with which almost any child, even, could have a LOT of fun.

Unless you wanna go the route of calling him Piyush. How does one pronounce that? "Pie-Yoosh?" "P'yush?" "Pi-oosh?"

Yeah, I know. It's childish and jejune.

So sue me...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Jig Is Up! Citi? BoA? You ARE The Weakest Links

Nationalization is coming, for at least two of the most egregiously crooked, corrupt and (coincidentally) failed banks, Citi and BoA, are gonna be nationalized (even if only 'temporarily'). So says the New York correspondent for the British paper, Financial Times (via CJR.
Nationalization is inevitable—and sooner rather than later.

That according to the Financial Times’s New York banking reporter Francesco Guerrera. I like that the paper’s editors let a news reporter use his accumulated knowledge to write a column like this.

Guerrera goes so far to say Bank of America and Citigroup are “likely” to be nationalized. Anybody want to take the other side of that bet? I didn’t think so, but it’s a measure of how false the old conventions of journalism force us to be that this piece seems edgy—Murrow-like even.
The game is up: within the next few weeks, if not days, the US government will have to step in and nationalise one or more banks.

The likely candidates to the dubious honour of being owned by Washington Inc can be found at the end of a sad trail of credit losses, management mishaps and share price collapses.

Come on down, Citigroup, Bank of America and a motley crew of regional and community banks.
I especially like this part:
Why am I so sure? Because, as the US banking guy for the Financial Times, for the past year I have had a ringside seat to the demise of the global banking sector.

The destructive blend of ineptitude, myopia and greed that led to the crisis has made it impossible for piecemeal solutions to work.

When commentators warn that a failure by the latest US rescue plan would lead to a “Japanisation” of the financial sector, they are missing the point. It is too late to worry about banks turning into “zombies” – they already are.
Yes. The real problem here is that almost no individual thinks that these banks aren’t insolvent. It’s the system that’s in denaial—seemingly incapable, like Japan in the 1990’s of admitting the obvious and swallowing hard and paying the price. Far from bringing needed “change,” Obama, by selecting the insider Geithner as Treasury Secretary, has bought into these toxic beliefs. Here’s Guerrera trying to shake us out of it:
Crushed under a pile of toxic assets, paralysed by wafer-thin balance sheets and deserted by fearful investors, once-mighty institutions such as Citi and BofA are barely able to perform basic functions such as lending and underwriting.

In fact, the only reason they have not joined Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual on the financial scrapheap is that taxpayers have propped them up with more than $500bn in cash injections and guarantees.
The kicker:
Banks will not like it – and Citi, for one, is already agitating for yet another bail-out without nationalisation. But as the financial chain comes under unprecedented strain, the time has come to take out its weakest links.

Righto! Applaud the FT for giving Guerrera the freedom to, you know, tell the truth—and make a call.
Yet another case of "how journamalism's spozed to get did!" Bravo, indeed. Unfortunately,and obviously not counting the George Wills and David Broders of the world, no USer paper would have the temerity to unleash a top reporter to tell the TRUTH about anything as inflammatory as the crash of banks.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Here's An Unpleasant Thought: "The Bathtub"

What if this economic crisis is "the Bathtub" in which Prez.O--in the instance (well, somebody's gotta do it!)--will be obliged to "drown" the government--that part of which supports the people--and fulfill thereby (ironically? or not...) Grover Norquist's (owner-approved) Neo-Con project???

There's more than one way to 'reduce' services. Probably the most reliable is to claim such service is too expensive. See any patterns, here?

The recipe for Imperial decline is indelible: increase taxes and reduce services.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Do Not Dawdle, Do Not Shilly-shally, DO NOT Pause In The Order Of Your Going!


Get thee hence forthwith and attend to the awesome Driftglass' amazing excursus on the forthcoming CPAC (Conservatard Political Action Committee) convention beginning tomorrow in DC: "Big Fucknozzle Trade Show". There you will discover (and possibly can imagine some use for) an utterly exhausting and exhaustive list of all the funds, foundations, and folks who support Fucknozzles, Unlimited at the CPAC. This is just the "A" List:
The American Conservative Union: who believe that OSHA, commies and liberals are destroying America.

Accuracy in Media: who believe that liberal control of the media is destroying America.

Advocacy Ink : who believe that bad wingnut PR is destroying America.

Alliance Defense Fund: who believe that non-Christians, queers, unregulated vaginae and porn are destroying America.

American Civil Rights Union: who believe that militant atheists are destroying America.

American Federation of Senior Citizens: who believe that liberals are destroying America.

American Future Fund: who believe that non-Limbaugh-approved thoughts are destroying America.

American Service Council, Inc.: who believe that "socialized oil" is destroying America.

American for Tax Reform: who believe that taxes are destroying America.

Americans for Limited Government: who believe that Evil Gummint things are destroying America.

Americas Majority: who believe that non-Judeo Christian morals are destroying America.

AT&T: who believes that iPhones are destroying America.
THe list goes on and on through the rest of the alphabet, all the way to:
Young America's Foundation: who believe that frivolous youth who are not "preserving and protecting Ronald Reagan’s Western White House—Rancho del Cielo—and using this historic presidential property and our newly renovated Reagan Ranch Center in downtown Santa Barbara, California, to pass on to future generations the ideas and lasting accomplishments of this great American President" are destroying America.

Young Americans for Freedom: who believe that Evil Gummint things are destroying America.

Youth For Western Civilization: who believe that Godless liberal multiculturalists who want defile to flower of our Southron Womanhood are destroying America.
(Anybody in Santa Barbara with an extra bottle of crazy glue could do the country a real service...)

P.S.: Am I being paranoid if I wonder whether there is any connection between the beginning of the Conservatard Creap Show and Obama's "Fiscal Accountability Summit," where the best minds in Government will work to find sufficiently secretive ways to put the chogie deep into the anal recesses of the (us) Boomers, whom Prez.O apparently regards with less respect than Ronald Reagan?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Obama Makes Chicken-shit Demands On Mayors, Lets Bankers Wipe Their Asses on Bail-outs

Chickenshit is as chickenshit does...
Obama tells mayors to spend stimulus wisely

ABC News Reuters –

WASHINGTON – Invoking his own name-and-shame policy, President Barack Obama warned the nation's mayors on Friday that he will "call them out" if they waste the money from his massive economic stimulus plan.

"The American people are watching," Obama told a gathering of mayors at the White House. "They need this plan to work. They expect to see the money that they've earned — they've worked so hard to earn — spent in its intended purposes without waste, without inefficiency, without fraud."

In the days since the White House and Congress came to terms on the $787 billion economic package, the political focus has shifted to how it will work. Obama has staked his reputation not just on the promise of 3.5 million jobs saved or created, but also on a pledge to let the public see where the money goes.

His budget chief this week released a 25,000-word document that details exactly how Cabinet and executive agencies, states and local organizations must report spending.
Gee, I musta missed this part of the banker bail-out: "...a pledge to let the public see where the money goes."

Speaking of bankers, it looks like the latest fraud-ball investor to get caught in his own Ponzi scheme, that fucker Sir Stanford, is gonna get the Bernie Madoff treatment: kid gloves, no arrest, no forfeiture, just surrender the passport.

He stole only a piddling 8 Billion. Nothing compared to Madoff. But way more than a kid with a gun who knocks over a liquor store. Who do YOU think would go straight to jail?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Is Val Kilmer Throwing His, Hat...Into The Ring?

A local blog, NMFBIHop, reports there are indications that the carpetbagging actor, who owns a BUNCH of New Mexico ground outside Santa Fe where he provides safe range for injured wild animals, may have his eye on the Gubernatioorial race in 2010, when incumbent Bill Richardson, who is term-limited, will have to step aside.

Early indications are that he may be considering running as a Democrat.
Thu Feb 19, 2009 at 02:20:54 AM MST
It looks like Val Kilmer is running for governor in 2010, at least according to a report by Heath Haussamen.
Val Kilmer has hired the Washington public relations firm McMahon, Squier & Associates to handle communications and media for his potential gubernatorial campaign, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed.
The move is a major step toward a gubernatorial run for an actor who has made a lot of noise about considering running for New Mexico governor in 2010 but taken no visible, concrete steps toward making it happen -- until now.
In case you are wondering, Kilmer has yet to acknowledge any of the issues for New Mexico. Not just since positioning himself for a run for governor, but since living in New Mexico in general.

Kilmer looks to be running as a governor as a Democrat. I wonder how rank and file Democrats will welcome the revelations that he was a supporter of Ralph Nader.
I have been in two of his films, though our paths never crossed (Blind Horizon and Comanche Moon). Personally, the information that he is a Nader supporter makes him MORE attractive to me than the likely front-runner in the Dim race, current Lt.Gov. Diane Denish, an old-line, neo-liberal Dim pol who has been around NM Dim Party politics for dog-years...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

DO SOMETHING! Paint Your Roof!!!!!

On the radio show, Living On Earth, this morning, I heard host Bruce Gellerman interviewing Arthur Rosenberg, California's Energy Commissioner, discussing the single simplest thing any home owner can do to combat climate change. Rosenberg presented a very simple answer to the question "What Can I DO?"

Here's the Audio. From the transcript:
Painting the roof of a house white reflects solar radiation back to the atmosphere and helps cool the planet. California Energy Commissioner Arthur Rosenfeld tells host Bruce Gellerman that a white roof not only saves on air conditioning costs but, also, offsets the heating effects of ten tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

GELLERMAN: So, white roofs and roads can help cool the planet, how?

ROSENFELD: Well, everybody who's ever walked on a roof knows if it's white it will only heat up maybe ten degrees above ambient temperature. If it's some nice architectural green or terracotta tiles or whatever, it can heat up to eighty degrees above room temperature. So a white roof reflects solar radiation back into space where it's transparent, where it belongs, and a dark roof traps heat and contributes to the greenhouse effect.

GELLERMAN: We should say this is not a new idea. The ancient Greeks knew about building in light colors long, long ago.

ROSENFELD: The Greeks have known to white wash their roofs and their whole buildings for 2,000 years, and the Pharaohs had white roofs 5,000 years ago.

In Santorini, Greece houses are painted white to keep them cooler.
ROSENFELD: Instead of giving it to you in dollars, because I don't know your air conditioning load and your habits, I can say that it will reduce your air conditioning by 10 to 20 percent, or your air conditioning load on the summer by 10 to 20 percent if the roof is white instead of whatever you put up. White roofs are good because they save air conditioning and they're common sense. But in addition the white roof, because it doesn't trap energy, reflects it back into space, cools the world directly. And for 1,000 square feet which is like half the area of your house, a white roof as opposed to a dark roof cools the world enough to offset the heating effects of ten tons of carbon dioxide. That's like two and a half years of emissions from your family car or like one year's emissions from your house near Boston. And that's why we're so excited right now.
There's considerably more, which I recommend heartily.

I"m gonna paint my roof this Spring. Key word: Elastomeric.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Scientists Report Pace of Climate Change Exceeds Estimates

Of course, nobody could have EVER anticipated this.

Via TruthOut, Kari Lydersen, The Washington Post:
"The pace of global warming is likely to be much faster than recent predictions, because industrial greenhouse gas emissions have increased more quickly than expected and higher temperatures are triggering self-reinforcing feedback mechanisms in global ecosystems, scientists said Saturday.

'We are basically looking now at a future climate that's beyond anything we've considered seriously in climate model simulations,' Christopher Field, founding director of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University, said at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science."
The prognosis is not promising if you live in or near, or depend on in any way (say for oxygen or pollution clean-up), rain forests, which are drying out frighteningly quickly and, when the inevitably burn, will mark the serious decline of the planet's natural resources to reabsorb carbon dioxide.
Unexpectedly large amounts of carbon dioxide are being released into the atmosphere as the result of "feedback loops" that are speeding up natural processes. Prominent among these, evidence indicates, is a cycle in which higher temperatures are beginning to melt the arctic permafrost, which could release hundreds of billions of tons of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, said several scientists on a panel at the meeting.

The permafrost holds 1 trillion tons of carbon, and as much as 10 percent of that could be released this century, Field said. Along with carbon dioxide melting permafrost releases methane, which is 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Yet another reminder, should one be needed, that we are soooooo fucked.

Monday, February 16, 2009

NCLB: You Get What You Test For...Duh!

It's one of the unremarked truisms of "Science": Instruments find what they're built to discover. Via the invaluable Susan Ohanian's vital blog, From Waco, TX, no less. Regardez vous:
Testing's 'collateral damage'

by John Young

It shouldn’t take a Ph.D like David Berliner to tell us what’s wrong with the way we do accountability in schools. He sees parallels in baseball, too, and he’s no Joe Dimaggio.

Sporting analogy: When you put too much emphasis on home runs, he points out, people strike out more.

When you put too much emphasis on anything at the exclusion of other things, players adjust in ways that make them one-dimensional.

Berliner isn’t an expert on baseball. A regents’ professor at Arizona State University, he is an expert on education. With University of Texas-San Antonio professor Sharon Nichols he’s co-authored Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts American Education.

Berliner spoke at Baylor University last week, his theme being how high-stakes testing makes America less competitive.

“Any time you invest a lot of value in an outcome measure you get a corruption of the measure,” said Berliner, in a true academician’s phrasing.

Texas being a proving ground for high-stakes testing and the federal No Child Left Behind law, it’s notable that its schools have become poster children for “gaming the system to lie,” said Berliner.

This includes not just outright cheating, but any number of maneuvers to make sure low-achievers aren’t tested.

Beyond that is the problem of “narrowing the curriculum” to meet the task of passing a test on core subjects.

In Texas and across the country we’ve seen schools with low math scores become slaves to computation at the exclusion of everything else.

“If you are going to gauge a school based on a test, then you’re going to prepare kids for the test,” he said. Yeah, we need a Ph.D. to tell us this. Even Berliner sees the absurdity therein.

“What you get is really boring curriculum heavily favoring reading and math, and a drop in [emphasis of] almost everything else” — recess, math, music, arts, social studies, science.

Berliner said this problem is most pronounced in inner-city schools with more than their share of poverty cases, and with low-low test scores. For many students in those situations, education is drained of its Technicolor in favor of dry work sheets and test-based drills.

Once again, it shouldn’t take a Ph.D. to tell us this, but:
“Anyone who looks at the future of the American workforce knows it needs to be more adaptable
than it is today. We’re developing a curriculum that’s very narrow, a one-size-fits all approach.

“Instead, we need a broad approach, one that’s wide so we have lots people who can adjust quickly when [economic] shifts happen.”
Success demands that schools emphasize such traits as creativity, collaboration and problem-solving, he said.

Cancer of boredom

Back to Berliner’s warning about a too-boring curriculum. Some traditionalists would consider that a weak complaint of the “touchy-feely” crowd that doesn’t want to crack the whip.

Well, Berliner cites a study in which 47 percent of those who dropped out cited boredom as the reason. It wasn’t that they couldn’t do the work. It was that they didn’t see any reason.

I know that the martial-law crowd can’t understand this, but: You know, schools ought to give children a reason to want to learn — other than passing a test.

It doesn’t take a graduate degree to see that we need to stop examining our measuring cups and examine what we’re putting in them. One idea would be to treat teachers as educators and not as vessels.

What you emphasize you’ll get, or at least lunging efforts at it. In the age of test-driven “accountability,” we are getting training and conditioning, but not education.

— John Young
Waco Tribune
John Young's a pretty perceptive fellow. "We are getting training and conditioning, but not education."

Not surprisingly, since 'education' (strictu sensu) has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with what happens in USer schools

Candidly, I've known David Berliner for 30 years, and mostly he's gotten it right. And he's right now. As is John Young. If you "read" purpose back from the consequences of schooling, it is difficult to escape the opinion that USer schools function mainly to ensure that as few as humanly and bureaucratically possible children, across the whole social spectrum, are permitted to escape the social-economic niches they were born into.

All the tests, grades, reports, discipline records, etc, are basically the evidence drawn ex-post-facto to rationalize and explain decisions made about children long before they ever enter a classroom the first time...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

So Do You Remember How Everybody Was SURE Obama Would NEVER Go After Social Security? Wrong!

They keep saying they're not gonna do it, but I believe they're gonna fuck us! They'll juice it all up, with crises and shit, but the end will be the same: Robbery!

Figger that might have been before the 'dimensions' of the 'current crisis' were known.

Meaning, in Woody-speak: Fuggedaboddit! Yer fucked. All dat shit's sooo 2008.

I am not alone in believing so (though I have long felt alone, predicting, warning it was coming, official, and well-meaning protestations by the "faithful" to the contrary notwithstanding). Dean Baker, one economist who (along with Krugman) has gotten it right, sez "Don't drop your soap."
Word has it that President Obama intends to appoint a task force the week after next which will be charged with “reforming” Social Security. According to inside gossip, the task force will be led entirely by economists who were not able to see the $8 trillion housing bubble, the collapse of which is giving the country its sharpest downturn since the Great Depression.
(Step 1: Drop Trou. Ed)
This effort is bizarre for several reasons. First, the economy is sinking rapidly. While President Obama’s stimulus package is a good first step towards counteracting the decline, there is probably not a single economist in the country who believes that is adequate to the task. President Obama would be advised to focus his attention on getting the economy back in order instead of attacking the country’s most important social program.
(Step 2: Apply lube. Ed.)
The second reason why this task force is strange is that Social Security doesn’t need reforming. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it can pay all scheduled benefits for the next 40 years with no changes whatsoever.

The third reason that this effort is pernicious is that this talk of reform is occurring with the baby boomers just as the cusp of retirement. Due to the reckless policies of the Rubin-Greenspan-Bush clique, this cohort has just seen their housing equity wiped out with the collapse of the housing bubble. Tens of millions of baby boomers who might have felt reasonably secure three years ago are now approaching retirement with little or no equity in their homes.
(Step 3: Spread Cheeks. Ed)
Similarly, if they had been fortunate enough to accumulate any substantial amount of savings in a 401(k) account, they just saw much of this wealth vanish with the plunge in the stock market. The median late baby boomer household (ages 45-54) has a net worth of just over $80 including the equity in their home. This means that if they took all of their savings, they would have less than half of their home (assuming a median price $175,000) paid off, and nothing else.

The median household among older baby boomers would be doing a bit better. With a net worth of $143,000, this household could have most of their home paid off, but nothing else. And of course, half of the population has wealth less than the median, so they would be less well-prepared for retirement.
(Step 4: Take It In The Ass, Fools! Ed.)
In short, the vast majority of baby boomers will be approaching retirement with little other than their Social Security and Medicare to support them. And now President Obama is apparently prepared to appoint a commission that will attack these only remaining pillars of support.
(Step 5: Pretend You LOVE It, dumbass. Ed>)

The irony, of course, is that it has been we "boomers" who have kept the system afloat for the last 50 years. And the Obamanauts are gonna use the 'crisis' as the excuse they've been waiting for to fuck us. Gay-ron-fucking-TEED, chers...

In short, if you believed that Obama bullshit, you probably deserve what's coming.

Assume the position, morons!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Dr. Doom & The Black Swan Discuss the End Of The World

Nouriel Roubini and Nassim Taleb ("Dr Doom and the Black Swan") discuss the crisis --and what to do about it. The CNBC "journalists" (hacks!) seemed to be asking them for stock tips...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The GOPukes Go All "Jihad" on B. Hussein Obama

(Somehow, I do not understand how, this does not come as a complete surprise to me..Ed.)

Via TruthOut (which is again chronically short of money; I send 'em $5/mo)
Robert Parry, Consortium News:
"The Republicans and their right-wing media allies are doing whatever they can to strangle the Obama phenomenon in its cradle; the mainstream media pundits are stressing the negative so they don't get called 'in the tank for Obama'; and the Democrats are shying away from holding the Bush-Cheney administration accountable for its crimes. None of these developments is particularly surprising. Indeed, they track closely to the political-media pattern that took shape the last time a young Democrat won the White House, when Bill Clinton became President in 1993."
And what's more, the GOPhuckers seem PROUD of themselves. More from Parry:
...when Bill Clinton became President in 1993.

Then, the dispirited Republicans got a lift from the loud voice of a younger Rush Limbaugh who used his popular three-hour radio show to pillory Bill and Hillary Clinton. That, in turn, encouraged the congressional Republicans to vote as a bloc against President Clinton’s budget and economic plan.

Mainstream journalists also used the early Clinton years to disprove the Right’s old canard about the “liberal press.” As one senior news executive told me, “we’re going to show that we can be tougher on a Democrat than any Republican.” (Not at all surprisingly, either, the SCUM (SoCalledUnbiasedMedia) are STILL trying to shed the canard. Ed.)

And the Democrats of 1993 also didn’t want to investigate abuses by the Republicans who had just lost power. Despite evidence that the Reagan-Bush-41 administrations had obstructed investigations into Iran-Contra, Iraqgate and other national security scandals, Clinton and Democratic congressional leaders feared partisan warfare if those cases were pursued.

Everyone in that 1993 mix seemed to be operating out of a logical self-interest – the Republicans viewed Clinton as an interloper at their White House; the right-wing media desired larger market share and greater political influence; the mainstream media wanted to shake off the “liberal” tag; and the Democrats hoped to focus on the nation’s deepening economic and social needs rather than on complex historical disputes.

However, the result for the country from that intersection of self-interests proved disastrous.

The Republican determination to destroy Clinton infected the political system with an ugly virus of hyper-partisanship; the right-wing media ramped up its hate talk; mainstream journalism lost its way, wandering into a strange landscape of garish sensationalism and shallow news reporting; and the Democrats failed to counteract the threat posed by the neoconservatives who surfaced during the national security scandals of the Reagan-Bush-41 years.

In short, the dynamic that took shape in 1993-94 carried the United States into the catastrophic presidency of George W. Bush just eight years later. [For details on how this happened, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]
Now, at the other end of the Bush-43 experience, what may be most unsettling is that so little has changed, so few lessons have been learned.

Even some of the key players are the same, with Rush Limbaugh hoping to reprise his role as the bombastic voice that lifts the Republicans out of their post-election funk. And the new GOP players in Congress seem to be following the hand-me-down playbook from that earlier era.

So, House Republicans hailed their unanimous bloc vote against President Obama’s $819 billion stimulus package as their first substantive step back. That was followed by key Republicans – Mitch McConnell, John McCain and Lindsey Graham – refusing to join in any serious negotiations with Democrats in the Senate.

With the Republican Senate leaders vowing to filibuster the stimulus bill – thus forcing the Democrats to round up 60 votes – the Republicans were almost gleeful in their insurrection. The Washington Post quoted key Republicans expressing this exhilaration in a front-page story entitled “GOP Sees Positives in Negative Stand.”

"We're so far ahead of where we thought we'd be at this time," said Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, a backbencher eager to take a leadership role. "It's not a sign that we're back to where we need to be, but it's a sign that we're beginning to find our voice.
“Insurgency, we understand perhaps a little bit more because of the Taliban,” (GOPuke Texas Rep Pete) Sessions said during a meeting with editors of the National Journal’s Hotline. “And that is that they went about systematically understanding how to disrupt and change a person’s entire processes.”
Their choice of tactics will probably work, inasmuch as more than 60 MILLION voters apparently chose four more years of explicit GOPuke corruption and the erosion of civil and legal rights to the prospect of electing the Mocha Messiah. No 'party' with 60 MILLION loyal adherents is in any trouble in the USofA...

That Fucker Madoff's Whole Family Is Dirty, Dirty, Dirty; But They'll ALL Walk

The record-breaking scum-suck, ponzi-schemer Bernie Madoff sent his wife to secure and sequester $15 MILLION from the Ponzi-accounts just days before Madoff turned himself in and was arrested for stealing $50 BILLION from investors over the course of many years. Ruth Madoff made two withdrawals, one of $10 MILLION the very day before Bernie surrendered to marshalls. Oh, and did you notice that this week the SEC made a deal with Bernie? He MIGHT have to pay fines, and maybe restitution, too.

No, really, he did.
Official: Wife pulled $15M before Madoff's arrest
Glen Johnson, Associated Press Write
2.11.9 – 2 hrs 48 mins ago

BOSTON – The wife of disgraced money manager Bernard Madoff withdrew more than $15 million from a firm co-owned by her husband — including $10 million on the day their children turned her husband over to authorities for overseeing an alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme, the top securities regulator in Massachusetts said Wednesday.

Secretary of State William Galvin said Ruth Madoff, 67, withdrew $5.5 million on Nov. 25 and $10 million on Dec. 10 — the day before Bernard Madoff was arrested — from Cohmad Securities Corp., a New York firm co-owned by her husband.

The secretary cited wire transfer records produced by Cohmad as proof of the withdrawals. They came as Madoffs' scheme was unraveling as investors filed $7 billion worth of redemption requests.

They also appeared to follow what authorities consider a disturbing trend on the part of the Madoffs to hide money that could be used to reimburse burned investors.

Prosecutors have already said investigators found 100 signed checks worth $173 million that Madoff was ready to send out to his closest family and friends at the time of his arrest in December. Two weeks later, during the Christmas holidays, Madoff sent more than $1 million in jewelry and heirlooms to family and friends.

"We're not accusing her of anything wrong," Galvin spokesman Brian McNiff said of Ruth Madoff. "It's just one of the things that came out in the response, such as it was, from Cohmad" to a subpoena from Massachusetts officials. "Now, what someone in New York or the feds may think of it may be entirely different."

A telephone number listed to Ruth Madoff in Palm Beach, Fla., rang busy and a number in New York had been disconnected. A Cohmad spokeswoman in New York said the company had no comment. Ira Sorkin, a lawyer for Bernard Madoff, said he had no comment on the withdrawals.

In New York, meanwhile, the government and lawyers for Madoff agreed to a 30-day delay in the Wednesday deadline for obtaining a grand jury indictment against the money manager.

The new deadline is March 13.

As he had during a similar extension a month ago, Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Litt wrote that the government requested the extension "for the purpose of allowing time to conduct additional discussions regarding a possible disposition of this case."
I am absolutely, utterly certain that not only were Madoff's whole family--both his sons, and his wife--intimately involved in the rip-off scheme, they knew the end was coming and made arrangements so that "big, bad Bernie" would take the fall, preserving the privileges and perqs for his sons and wife. But the sleazy, scummy, scheming fuckers were ALL in on it...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Peace In The Middle East? Israeli Elections Cause More Doubt Than Hope

Israel's election on Tuesday ended in a near draw, with the two front runners - centrist Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni and hawkish Likud chief Benjamin Netanyahu - each claiming victory. With nearly all votes counted, Livni's party won 28 Knesset seats, and Netanyahu's 27 seats, both falling well short of a majority in the 120-seat Knesset. In order to forma a government, one or both parties will have to agree to a "national reconciliation," coalition government, with no single mandate. Any new Israeli Government will now inevitably be Right-Of-Center/Hawkish, which means continued conflict with Gaza and the West Bank.

This is Time Magazine's take, published earlier today on Yahoo:
The result could be the worst possible outcome for Israel, guaranteeing weeks of political turmoil ahead and stalling any attempts by U.S. President Barack Obama's Administration to restart Middle East peace talks. Whoever comes to power in Israel is likely to be tugged in different directions by combative coalition partners. In the past, smaller parties have held governments of both the right and the left hostage to their narrow, self-serving agendas.

As the single largest party, Kadima will try to approach President Shimon Peres next week for permission to form what Livni calls a "national unity government that would be founded on the large parties in Israel from both Kadima's left and right." It is a logical option. But Livni lacks support among the other parties. For starters, she needs to coax Netanyahu to join her. The two parties actually share many of the same policies and ideologies - Kadima broke away from Likud and drifted to the center - and, in theory, their combined strength could usher in a solid, center-right government. But the mutual antagonism of both leaders makes an accommodation all but impossible. Netanyahu, for example, refused to debate with Livni in public, and both rivals launched smear attacks against each other.

Netanyahu, a former Prime Minister, insists that he should be Israel's next Premier, not Livni. He may be right. Political analysts say the Likud leader stands a far better chance of stitching together a right-wing coalition with small religious groups and Yisrael Beitenu, a nationalist, anti-Arab party that was the surprise in this election. At the last poll, in 2006, Yisrael Beitenu won just 11 seats. Yesterday it won 15, knocking the venerable Labor Party, which picked up 13 seats, into fourth place.

With Kadima and Likud both far short of a majority in the Knesset, Yisrael Beitenu's controversial leader, Avigdor Lieberman, has emerged as a key power broker. Speaking to his party supporters at midnight as votes were being tallied, Lieberman indicated that his natural inclination is to side with Netanyahu. "We want a right-wing government," he said flatly. Lieberman also took a swing at the outgoing Kadima-led government for entering into Egyptian-brokered cease-fire talks with Gaza's Islamic militants, Hamas. "We will not have direct or indirect negotiations with Hamas nor a cease-fire," he said, adding that he would join any government that had as its objective "the defeat of Hamas."
One certain casualty: Israel's pretense at being a 'secular/religious' state will not survive the compromises needed to form a government. Secularism is dead in the State of Israel.

"You Ain't A'Goin' Nowhere"

That's the impression by Ken Silverstein, Harper's mag's Washington editor and proprietor of "Washington Babylon" blog, and one of the most "catholic" (small "c") readers I know of. He fastened on a particular bit of international military/industrial propaganda and extrapolates from it that Prez.O may have some difficulty abstracting "all" USer from Iraq--as pledged--before 2011. (At best, I expect Prez.O to 'rebrand' troops on the ground.)
American Arms Sales to Iraq: Signs of a long stay?

By Ken Silverstein

From Eli Lake:

As President Obama weighs options for withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraq, the country’s military is purchasing American helicopters, cargo planes and tanks equipment that typically requires a prolonged U.S. presence for maintenance and training.

Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, who is in charge of training Iraq’s security services and military, told The Washington Times that some of the ordered equipment would not be delivered until 2012, even though a new status of forces agreement (SOFA) requires all U.S. troops to exit the country by 2011.
Interestingly, the source for this tidbit is the Washington Times, which connections inside the Govt, and especially DoD, are still superlative--thanks to the embedded, entrenched cells of Bushevik loyalists inside the Pentagon and the "defense" industry.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Can Prez.O Get A 10% Defense Budget Cut?

Short answer: "Are You FUCKING Kidding Me?"

Ken Silverstein, who somehow reads EVERYTHING, has this up at the Harper's Blog:
From Stephen Walt:
Obama’s plan to cut the Department of Defense’s budget request by roughly ten percent is a step in the direction of a more sensible foreign and defense policy. But as one would expect, the proposal has some neoconservatives up in arms, insisting Robert Gates be given the full budget he requested and predicting the worst if he doesn’t get it…

Strategy is about relating means and ends. From that perspective, it doesn’t make sense to spend as much as we did when the economy seemed to be healthy. Nor does it make sense to pursue the overly ambitious and misguided foreign policy that we tried (unsuccessfully) to pursue under President Bush. Given the results of those policies and our current financial plight, this stubborn defense of the budgetary status quo has a head-in-the-sand quality that would be laughable if the issues weren’t so important.

A prominent example is Robert Kagan’s recent warning against any attempt to cut the U.S. defense budget. He opposes any trimming even though the United States spends almost as much on defense as the rest of the world put together and even though the U.S. economy is facing its biggest crisis since the Great Depression.
The Defense budget is sacrosanct. Expect a rousing chorus of "He Hates Out Soldiers. He's Killing Our Boys."

Expect it to work, too.

In case it doesn't, though former Raygun functionary Lawrence Korb wants to "Re-brand" Defense spending as part of the 'stimulus':
Increased spending on defense should be part of a stimulus package, but there is a wrong way and a right way to do it. The wrong way is to ask Congress to spend money on weapons that are not needed. For example, two of the four largest defense contractors, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, have been pouring money into a publicity campaign and stepping up congressional lobbying efforts to maintain funding for an unnecessary and expensive program: the Air Force's F-22 Raptor.

The right way to use defense spending to stimulate economic growth, while simultaneously enhancing our national security, is to accelerate defense spending in the next two years for items that would have to be purchased eventually. Analysis of the defense budget shows that there are three areas where this can be done: personnel, military construction and equipment "reset."
USers will NEVER retreat from international militarism. I have mentioned before that the B-2 Bomber is the paradigm case of the military co-opting defense cutters in Congress by ensuring that there is some work on the B-2 in EVERY Congressional distict in the country, all 435 of them, which ensures the continued support of all 435 Congresscritters fo the program. Some one or few companies in every District either makes, or polishes, or tunes, or ships or installs, or tests B-2 sub-assemblies, securing jobs for the District, and ensuring--as long as those jobs persist--a constituency for this monstrously expensive (over $2BILLION/copy) boondoggle.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

States Whose Senators Vote To Kill The Stimulus Forfeit Thereby Any Claim to The Benefits

Via BuzzFlash, today:
If a U.S. Senator votes against the "Main Street Job Creation Act" (BuzzFlash's name for the "stimulus" bill), their state should lose half the funding from the bill. If both U.S. Senators from one state vote against the bill, the state loses its entire allocation from the legislation.

This may sound Draconian, but it might induce the people out of work and with piles of bills to tar and feather the "economic kamikazee" Republican Senators who got America into this mess -- and to run them out of the country.

After all, most of the GOP Neo-Confederate opposition to the "Main Street Job Creation Act" comes from Senators who represent states that already receive more money from the federal government than they pay into the treasury. With the exception of Florida, most of the Old South is still poorer than most of the rest of the nation, and needs massive federal aid to survive economically.

Stepford Republican Senators who believe that you can stop a house from burning down with a tax cut for the rich -- like Chatty Kathy dolls who just repeat the same line over and over again -- should suffer the political consequences of being so profoundly treacherous to the nation. And nothing would get them off the nearly 30-year-old message point of tax cuts for the rich like a good tar and feathering.

So let Mitch McConnell and John McCain lead the Anti-job, Anti-economic recovery "Stonewall Jackson" brigade of GOP rebels who would do the Union harm. But let their states hold them responsible for not receiving any funds to help improve the employment and economic prospects that comes with the "Main Street Job Creation Act."

It's fair and just, because otherwise the Confederate holdouts and their co-horts in the GOP Senate caucus can claim that they are defending the legacy of Ronald Reagan (a cratered economy, in reality) without consequences.

Let's have some accountablity here.

It's probably not possible to do it, but it makes such fundamentally good sense that I'd recommend trying it, just to see h ow far it would get.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

"¡Que Se Vayan Todos!" "¡Si Se Puedes!" "¡Ya, Basta,! Bandidos!"

Finally, they'd had enough.

A loaf of bread cost $25.

The economy was in shambles. As Naomi Klein describes it, it was a moment for democracy:
(T)he people of Argentina, who, in the midst of an economic crisis eerily similar to our own, took to the street banging pots and pans. They shouted, "¡Que se vayan todos!" ("All of them must go!") and forced out a procession of four presidents in less than three weeks. What made Argentina's 2001-02 uprising unique was that it wasn't directed at a particular political party or even at corruption in the abstract. The target was the dominant economic model--this was the first national revolt against contemporary deregulated capitalism.
Other shoes are beginning to fall all over the globe: in Ireland, in Iceland, in Latvia, in Greece, and in Estonia, all once regarded as economic miracles, with huge growth rates, big spikes in gdp, etc.

Now the money is fleeing as fast as is once flowed, and the people in those nations are tasting the bitter bile of cleaning up the messes left behind by the global speculators who move industries and undermine currencies on a whim (think George Soros, no friend of 'liberalism,' friendz).

Now the US faces a catastrophe of similar kind but oon a far more massive scale, and all our leaders can do is name the same failed policy-makers to key positions, spout crisis/optimism rhetoric, and cave-in to the globalist interests which, if they can milk an additional scheckel out of the economy, will cheerfully preside over the dissolution of the country and the economy that made their predations possible in the first place. The only difference between Madoff and Paulson is that the one got busted running a splendid, profitable, virtually undetectable (to the regulators at least) Ponzi scheme, and the other got appointed to the Treasury. Otherwise? Pick'em!

Now the Pukes in Congress are acting like IMF/WorldBankers, trying to extort concessions on spending to (attempt to) relieve the present crisis. Employing the same economic 'logics' which have landed both our own economy and those of nations around the world ijn the shitter, they're extorting 'tax' breaks for the rich and blocking authentic stimuli (of which they apparently believe they won't get a big enough piece).

It is now way past time that the people of the US turned off the TV, fired the Pizza man, put down their Budwesisr Lite, and took to the streets to bang their pots and pans together, to create enough of a din that the cretins in BOTH wings of the Party of Privilege and Property will finally begin to look over their shoulders at what's back there catching up.

Remember tar and feathers? Pluck a chicken today...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Why Does CorpoRat Murka Hate Michael Phelps?

Could it be because he gives the lie to that central pillar of USer anti-pot propaganda: that marijuana use makes you a lazy loser, leads to other drugs, and in any case, indicates a weak character...

You must have seen by now the video or the photo of lean, lanky Phelps hauling a LONG, bubbly bong-hit, while relaxing among friends somewhere in Britain last week.

Michael Phelps is a multiple, multiple Olympic Gold Medal winneer. He's disciplined, and a ferocious competitor. The only reason Michael Phelps didn't win any more medals in Beijing is that there weren't any more to win...

And he smokes a little weed from time to time. Some weak character.

But comes now Kellogg, Inc. to make an example of Phelps. They withdrew their sponsorship/spokesperson agreement with Phelps, claiming his behavior reflected badly on their sugary, obesity-inducing breakfast products company image.

Boycott Kellogg. If you have some of their products in the cupboard, put 'em out on the snow for the birds, and go buy Post, or General Foods if you must consume sugar-covered grain foods to quell your munchies. The following was on FreeSpeechZone today, along with that WAAAAY kewl graphic at the top left:

Feburary 5th, 2009

BigLEAF (the infamous marijuana policy institute) hereby announces a full and complete boycott of the Kellogg's corporation starting Feburary 5th, 2009.

We call for a boycott of Kellogg's due to their complete disregard of stoned consumers, culminating in their dismissal of Michael Phelps (aka "the greatest Olympian") and their support of the DEA's war against innocent stoners who just want to smoke and munch in peace.

Most major sponsors, such as Visa Inc., Speedo, Swiss watchmaker Omega and sports beverage PureSport's maker Human Performance Labs, stood by the Oolympian following the news, even if they didn't condone his behavior.

But Battle Creek, Mich.-based cereal and snack maker Kellogg said Phelps's behavior is "not consistent with the image of Kellogg's." Therefore, BigLEAF has decided that Kellogg's products are "no longer consistent with the image of stoners" and will no longer be used as munchies by any stoner across the country and the world.

Cereal products such as Frosted Flakes, Cocoa Krispies and Fruit Loops were long considered the cornerstone of any balanced stoner breakfast, but not anymore.

In addition, BigLEAF is calling for a boycott of all Kellogg's brands, including Eggo Waffles, Cheez-It crackers, Keebler, Famous Amos and Nutri-grain. [learn more about kellogg's at wikipedia]

BigLEAF vows to maintain the boycott until Kellogg's admits their mistake and restores Olympian Michael Phelps to the side of their cereal boxes and issues an apology to stoners everywhere.

"We believe Kellog's decision is irresponsible," the director of BigLEAF added. "We're calling on consumers to boycott Kellogg's until the practice is stopped. If people must purchase Kellog's products, we are asking them to reduce their purchases or purchase generic store brand cereals. Every little bit helps.

* * * *
BigLEAF is a grass-roots consumer group fighting for the legalization of marijuana since 2009. With hundreds of thousands of members in all 50 U.S. states and over 30 countries worldwide, BigLEAF seeks to educate corporations about marketing strategies that insult their consumers and to encourage cannibus-conscious shopping habits across the retail spectrum.

Further Information:
I don't know what rank sugary, sweet cereal drenched in milk holds in the archives of Stoner Munchie notoriety, but it's gotta be pretty far up there.

This boycott will be hard on stoners, because some pretty decent munchies are made by Kellogg:

Apple Jacks® Cereal
Austin® Cookies and Crackers
Carr's® Products
Cheez-It® Crackers
Chips Deluxe® Cookies
Crunchmania™ Products
Famous Amos® Cookies
Fruit Flavored Rolls
Hydrox® Cookies
Jack's® Cookies
Jackson's® Cookies
Keebler® Cookies and Crackers, which includes:
Chips Deluxe® Cookies
EL Fudge® Sandwich Cookies
Fudge Shoppe® Cookies
Keebler® Grahams Crackers
Kellogg's® Keebler Cookie Crunch™ Cereal
Krispy® Saltine Crackers
Sandies® Cookies
Scooby-Doo!® Crackers
Soft Batch® Cookies
Vienna Cremes®
Vienna Fingers®
You can see it is going to require a serious sacrifice by stoners of the world to protest the outrageous treatment of one of our brothers, but a dood's gotta do what a doob's gotta do...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Oh No, Mr. Bill. It's Socialism. Oh NOoooo...

Joe Conason has a good piece up today on TruthDig, wherein he examines and dispatches the two most dominant myths and shibboleths regarding criticism of the the stimulus plan, which begins:
Mythology is overshadowing history in the debate over President Barack Obama’s plan to stimulate the depressed economy. Excessive airtime is devoted to the prejudices of cable hosts and radio personalities who regurgitate ideas they barely understand (and who haven’t entertained an original thought since the Reagan era). Urgent action that could prevent enormous suffering is delayed by all the same old agendas that have dominated Washington for the past three decades.
Of course, being prudent, Conason doesn't name the names (DINOs, BlueDawgs, along with the feculent GOPukes. He dismisses the tax-break chimera. He shows the efficaciousness of spending on food stamps and other resources for poor folks. He concludes:
It is true that we need to make real investments in transportation, energy, education and technology for the future—and that our future fiscal difficulties will be eased if we make those investments now. Yet the most immediate need is to promote demand, which will restore confidence and encourage investment.

What we ought to learn from this episode is that extreme inequality reduces national economic stability. The falling wages of working families forced them to rely too much on credit to maintain and improve their standards of living. Restoring the American dream means putting a floor under family incomes and reducing the gap between the richest and poorest, not only for the sake of simple justice but because that is the most reliable economic policy for the nation as a whole.
Whence cometh the hed above.

But let's be clear and real, here. Wages didn't simply "fall." They were suppressed, by both Pukes and Dims, since 1980 or thereabouts, to boost the bottom lines (and bonuses) of the corporat class. Working families were TOLD cheap credit was as good as higher wages (Greenspan, among others), and to regard their homes as liquid assets, cuz you know housing NEVER falls...Exterme income inequality is the NORM in the USofA, since forEVAR...and it ain't gonna change now...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Fuck Judd Gregg!

I have no idea why Obama wants this guy, in Commerce or anywhere else.

His record does not bode well for his pursuing any kind of remotely progressive or even marginally liberal proposals...

His record on matters over which the Commerce Dept might have influence is dismal:

Item: Voted NO on repealing tax subsidy for companies which move US jobs offshore.

Item: Voted YES on reforming bankruptcy to include means-testing & restrictions.

Item: Voted YES on restricting rules on personal bankruptcy.

Item: Rated 78% by the US COC, indicating a pro-business voting record.

Item: Voted YES on promoting free trade with Peru.

Item: Voted YES on implementing CAFTA for Central America free-trade

Item: Voted YES on establishing free trade between US & Singapore.

Item: Rated 92% by CATO, indicating a pro-free trade voting record.

Item: Voted NO on continuing federal funds for declared "sanctuary cities".

Item: Voted YES on declaring English as the official language of the US government.

Item: Voted YES on building a fence along the Mexican border.

Item: Voted NO on giving Guest Workers a path to citizenship.

Item: Increase limitations for H-1B, H-2B, and L-visas.

Are you starting to see a pattern here?

Can Prez.O Rein In The Ceasarist Generals?

Mark Crispin Miller is nervous about it. He sees the possibility of another Truman/MacArthur-style contretemps in Iraq, as the military maneuvers to block Obama's "promised" withdrawal schedule from Iraq and redeployment to Afghanistan. It makes me nervous, too.
We’re all being quite low-key about this situation, but it’s a dire one. Either ours is a civilian government, with the military ultimately taking orders from civilians, or it’s not.

What if Gen. MacArthur had defied Pres. Truman and refused to step aside? What if the Joint Chiefs had defied JFK, and gone ahead with Operation Northwoods on their own? (Who says they didn't? Ed.)

We can’t have this. (Well, fuukin DUH. Which is why that military judge at Gitmo, along with the former commander ot the USS Cole, are WAAAAAY outta line, and shoulod by now bith be WAAAAY out of the service... Ed.)

February 3, 2009
Generals’ Revolt Threatens Obama Presidency
By Dave Lindorff

If an article by Gareth Porter in run by InterPress is correct that CentCom Commander Gen. David Petraeus and Iraq Commander Gen. Ray Odierno, backed by a group of lower-ranking generals, are planning to mount a public campaign to try and undermine President Obama’s plan for a withdrawal from Iraq in 16 months, Obama needs to act fast and nip this dangerous act of insubordination in the bud.

It was a similar act of insubordination on the part of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that effectively destroyed the Clinton administration almost from day one. Recall that one of President Clinton’s first acts following his inauguration was to make good on a campaign promise to end discrimination against gays and lesbians in the military. His initial order was to simply end the ban on homosexuality in the military. But the Joint Chiefs publicly rebelled, and Clinton caved, coming up with the ridiculous and unworkable “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, under which gays and lesbians could serve in the military, but had to hide their sexual orientation or face ouster.

When Clinton, as commander in chief of the armed forces, allowed his generals to defy his orders, and, instead of sacking them all for insubordination and stripping off their stars, left them in their offices and surrendered to their objections, he didn’t just cave in to the military. He also alerted the Republican opposition that he was a political pushover.
Read on!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

AG Holder Should Begin His Tenure At DoJ...

...By demanding a letter of resignation from every single employee in the Department...

From Scott Horton's luminous "No Comment" blog:
As Eric Holder enters the smoldering wreckage of the Justice Department, the challenges he faces will require extraordinary energy and exertion. He will enter with only a few hundred political appointees, while far larger number of “loyal Bushies” have been burrowed (illegally, as the Department acknowledges in its own internal probe) deeply into the institution. The first struggle on the horizon is likely to be a struggle within Justice for the institution’s soul. I expect sabotage and disinformation to flow freely for several months. Hang on for the ride.
There was a "Monica Goodling" in every Board, Bureau, Committee, and Department of the US Govt, embedded for the sole and only purpose of sabotaging reform...

What's A Poor Boy To Do?

When he's gotten used to all those Senatorial perqs? Tom Daschle had to go to WORK!

Sort of...Harper's Ken Silverstein quotes Emily Joffe on the myriad ways (former Senate Majority Leader) Tom Daschle had to shuffle to just to keep his feet off the pavement:
Like many Americans whose steady, reliable job has suddenly disappeared, Thomas Daschle cobbled together a bunch of gigs when he was laid off in 2004 by the people of South Dakota after more than two decades of representing them in Congress.
You'll be glad to know Tom's friends helped pull him through. Splendidly!

Friends, that is, in the industries he'd be charged with overseeing and regulation.

Bit of course, that wouldn't have ANY effect on someone as honest as Daschle, would it?
There was the day job at the law firm Alston & Bird that must have been blessedly free of the kind of dull legal minutiae that make up many a billable hour, since Daschle is not a lawyer. That paid $2.1 million over the past two years. The consulting position at InterMedia Advisors, a private equity firm, paid him $1 million a year. A senior partner there told The Post that Daschle did “a lot of helpful work,” which he declined to enumerate. A stream of speeches to businesses that had business with the government earned Daschle $500,000 during the past two years. There were directorships on several boards — BP Corp. alone paid him $250,000… (BP? British Petroleum...Emphases added. Ed.)

“He’s the gold standard for integrity in government,” said a former aide to Daschle, Andrea LaRue, herself now a lobbyist. (Lobbyists vouching for a Lobbyist? Who said irony was dead? Ed.) In recent months, as the economy has melted down, we have all learned about the art of monetization — of turning things such as bad home equity loans into arcane derivatives and how there’s lots of money to be made out of monetization (until sometimes the money disappears). Even if we don’t know what Daschle did to earn all his money, we do know that when you monetize the job of Senate majority leader, as Daschle’s financial disclosure forms reveal, you come up with almost $5.3 million in two years. Gold standard, indeed.
And according to NPR just now, more than $200K were generously donated by interests in health insurance and big Pharma. Who could ever have anticipated...

You could be forgiven for asking exactly what former Senator Daschle did for that kind of money.

I know what I'd do...

Monday, February 2, 2009

It's the Superbowl of Activism and We're Losing Big

Via Factesque
Enemies of the stimulus package are outcalling the suppporters of economic recovery by enormous numbers. I hope that someone smart does an analysis about what that means regarding the power of talk radio vs. the internet, which is where I think the fault line lies.

In the meantime, call your Senators now - no matter which party they belong to - and tell them to support the stimulus package.

• Daschle 'deeply embarrassed' about $120,000 tax error

That's the hed/tease for a story on Yahoo (and elsewhere) today.

And I'm very glad to hear ex-Sen. Daschle is 'deeply embarrassed' by his little 'oversight.'

I am, however, made just a LITTLE uneasy that Daschle seems to be able to pay off the WHOLE of his tax bill out of petty cash or pocket change: apparently, he just wrote a check for it.

"Wowee! I owe One Hundred Twenty Thousand DOLLARS? Who gnu? No problem! Will you take a personal check?"

Which should invite (not "beg") the question: Where does a failed legislator from a tiny, insignificant, fly-over state get that kind of casual cash, except from the deep pockets of "friends" in the industries he's supposed to regulate?

Yowsa! Lobbying is GOOD fer ya... Daschle and his wife BOTH benefit from the generosity of 'strangers,' it seems.

So there's a very evident quid. The "pro quo" remains undecided as yet, but it may be inferred from the interests of the industry with most to gain (and lose) if and when Obama & the Dims go ahead with health care 'reform.'

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Joe Lieberman: Funnier Than A Poke In The Eye With A Sharp Stick

(Image by Mr. Fish, Harper's)
By Scott Horton on Lieberman’s Sense of Humor

As my colleague Ken Silverstein pointed out, Joe Lieberman made a joke about waterboarding at last night’s Alfalfa Club Dinner. This is an excellent example of “humor” revealing the mindset of the man who utters it. As Thinkprogress reminds us, Lieberman is linked to Dick Cheney and John Yoo and distinguished from his friend John McCain in that he doesn’t consider waterboarding to be torture. Here’s how he explained his stance to an incredulous Connecticut Post:
“It is not like putting burning coals on people’s bodies. The person is in no real danger. The impact is psychological.”
The suggestion that the individuals are in no real danger wouldn’t likely be persuasive to the more than 160 individuals who died in detention, a substantial portion of them with injuries linked directly to the Bush Administration’s torture techniques. As the Bush Administration’s own Susan J. Crawford noted, torture is determined by the cumulative physical and psychological effect that the techniques applied have on the subject—which is why Lieberman, who holds a law degree, has things completely wrong.
Here, in toto, is Silverstein's note:
Joe Lieberman, Stand-up Comic: So did you hear the one about waterboarding?

By Ken Silverstein
Once inside the banquet hall, which is always off-limits to the media, the Alfalfans took turns trying to crack each other up. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) — the club’s outgoing president — noted that former vice president Richard B. Cheney injured himself while moving into his new home, according to a source inside the dinner.
“I had no idea waterboards were so heavy,” Lieberman quipped.
And another knee-slapper from Senator Christopher Bond, who “reminded guests that a newspaper recently published a list of the 25 people most responsible for the global economic meltdown.”

“You know who you are,” he said, according to the source. “And it’s good to see you here tonight.”
"I call you my base..."