Wednesday, September 30, 2009

On International Blasphemy Day, A Toast: Fuck ALL "Gods"

As citizens of a secular state, we should resist all and any efforts to install "mysterious/miraculous" beings in our national memes. Blasphemy, and every other imagined affront to "god," is a 'thought crime.'

Via the Homepage:
Blaspheming the sacred is an obligation that every logical person must embrace. Like we all learned from Spiderman's uncle, "With great power comes great responsibility", and when your mind has evolved to a degree where you are granted an advanced understanding of logic and reason, you realize that the natural laws of the universe have given you a great power.

It is your responsibility as a logical person to shed light on the darkness of ignorance wherever it may be. Nothing must be left in the dark. No corner of this universe can be left alone from wanting to know.

There can be nothing sacred. Because the entire concept behind "sacred ideas" is that they are "off limits". It is something that you are not allowed to question, or speak out against, or even think. There's another term that fits this concept perfectly... "thought crime".

Some of you may be familiar with the term, "thought crime" from George Orwell's brilliant book, 1984. The nightmarish, dystopian society in which the main character, Winston Smith, finds himself was entirely founded on "sacred ideas". Ideas that you could never challenge. Ideas that you weren't even allowed to think about. Sound familiar?

There must be nothing sacred in a logical world, because for something to be sacred it would have to be left a mystery, and if you don't want to know, you are not logical.

And I'm not a hypocrite about it either. Even scientists should be held to this standard. Logical people only believe an idea when it has been presented to them with enough evidence to reason that it is more probable to be true then not. This standard must be held regardless if the person presenting the idea is a "Baptist Preacher" or a "Molecular Biologist". Nothing must be left off the table for scrutiny.

That's why blaspheming the sacred is so important. We must never let our society believe that there are untouchable ideas. We must never let a society convict us of "thought crimes". In fact, the most sacred ideas are the ones we should attack first. The ideas we are not allowed to question are the very ideas that should draw our attention the most.

So God Dammit people. Stop being such pussies already. Jesus motherfucking Christ. Are you logical or not? The only real blasphemy is ignorance.

Dusty Smith
The Ike/Sally image is part of a whole gallery of guaranteed "offensive" blasphemous images here.

More "Truth" About The Baucus "Plan"

The guys from "SickForProfit dot com/BraveNewFilms" do really good work. We owe them thanks (and others). Due to their efforts, we'll at least know the details of our oppression, even if there is nothing we can actually do about it.

Woody's Fearless Prediction: No "public option." Government mandated, private health insurance purchase. Criminal penalties for citizens who don't/won't/can't comply.

Oh, yeah. They're gonna fuck us. Gay-ron-TEED, chers...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Truly Lapidary Moment, by Chris Floyd

The Reason for the Anger and Intractability
of the Debate Over Health Care Reform in the United States

Written by Chris Floyd
Tuesday, 29 September 2009 12:58

One side is lying; the other side is not telling the truth.


Or to put it another way: One side is pretending that a wildly reactionary plan to further enrich rapacious corporations is really hardcore, gutbucket socialism from the Bolshevik trenches, while the other side is pretending that its "reform" is not really a wildly reactionary plan to further enrich rapacious corporations but something that will somehow, in some way, be good for some people at some point way down the line.


One often finds that dealing in such utter unreality makes it ... difficult to achieve workable solutions to real-life problems.
Res ipsa loquitur.

DOTOF™ to Susan (and former moonboo) on FB.

PNM, The Largest Utility in New Mexico, Will Leave US Chamber

Via SFGate--the local SCUM (SoCalledUnbiasedMedia--in Abq, the "Urinal") didn't print a goddamn word about it:
A statement from Public Service Company of New Mexico says the utility sees climate change as a pressing environmental and economic issue and that it can be most productive by working with organizations that share its view on the need for "thoughtful, reasonable climate change legislation."

PNM's decision to leave the nation's largest business organization comes on the heels of a similar announcement by California utility PG&E Corp.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been critical of the Obama administration's efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Read more:
Meanwhile, the State has sent the application for proposed, demonstrably "dirty" Desert Rock coal-fired powerplant, set to be built on Navajo land in northwestern NM, back to the EPA. According to the New Mexico FBIHOP:
The air permit for the Desert Rock coal-fired power plant has been sent back to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after an appeal by Attorney General Gary King was successful.

"In taking this permit back, EPA can now do what we have said they must do all along and that is to ensure that New Mexicans receive the full protections provided under federal law," King said in a statement.

Governor Bill Richardson also weighed in.

"This decision validates what my administration has long argued-that the Bush Administration was wrong not to look at harmful greenhouse gas emissions in issuing this permit," said Richardson. "I have full confidence that EPA will do the right thing the second time around."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Trophy Bust

Pittsburgh pigs pose with an arrestee at the G-20 meeting.

For those moments in late winter when Big Ben just doesn't do it anymore...

Fucking pigs...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sadly, This Is Only HALF The Problem

DOTOF&trade" to Wonkette, via C&L.
The slack-jawed, mono-browed, hare-lipped, knuckle-draggers are merely the "canon" fodder for the Owners.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Consolidation in the Vote-Theft Industry: ES&S Buys Diebold Vote Machine Division

Under a TruthOutDotOrg hed that alleges "Your Electronic Vote in the 2010 Election Has Just Been Bought," Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, of The Free Press, present this bit of jarring reality for you to consider, just when you thought it was safe to cast another ballot:
Unless US Attorney General Eric Holder intervenes, your electronic vote in 2010 will probably be owned by the Republican-connected ES&S Corporation. With 80% ownership of America's electronic voting machines, ES&S could have the power to shape America's future with a few proprietary keystrokes.

ES&S has just purchased the voting machine division of the Ohio-based Diebold, whose role in fixing the 2004 presidential election for George W. Bush is infamous.

Critics of the merger hope Holder will rescind the purchase on anti-trust grounds. (Yeah, right. More "hope". I'm sure it will be alright...not! W)

But only a transparent system totally based on hand-counted paper ballots, with universal automatic voter registration, can get us even remotely close to a reliable vote count in the future.

For even if Holder does void this purchase, ES&S and Diebold will still control four of every five votes cast on touchscreen machines. As the US Supreme Court seems poised to open the floodgates on corporate campaign spending, the only difference could be that those who would buy our elections will have to write two checks instead of one.

And in fact, it's even worse than that. ES&S, Diebold and a tiny handful of sibling Republican voting equipment and computing companies control not only the touchscreen machines, but also the electronic tabulators that count millions of scantron ballots, AND the electronic polling books that decide who gets to vote and who doesn't.
. . .
In short, the ES&S purchase of Diebold's voting machine operation is merely the tip of a toxic iceberg. Voiding the merger will do nothing to solve the REAL problem, which is an electronic-based system of voter registration and ballot counting that is potentially controlled by private corporations and contractors whose agenda is to make large profits and protect the system that guarantees them.

Although elections based on universal automatic registration and hand-counted paper ballots are not foolproof, they constitute a start. Stealing an election by stuffing paper ballot boxes at the "retail" level is far more difficult than stealing votes at the "wholesale" level with an electronic flip of a switch.

As it's done in in numerous other countries throughout the world, the only realistic means by which the US can establish a democratic system of ballot casting and counting is to do it the old-fashioned way. With human-scale checks and balances we might even be secure in the knowledge that our elections and vote counts will truly reflect the will of the people. What a concept!(Emphases supplied. W.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

As Shocking As If Glenn Beck Had Joined ACORN

Richard Posner, Chicago/Vienna school economist, Conservative jurist, and student of Milton Friedman, got around to reading Keynes' The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, and discovered his inner Keynes!

No. Really!
I have concluded that, despite its antiquity, it is the best guide we have to the crisis. And I am not alone in this judgment. Robert Skidelsky, the author of a superb three-volume biography of Keynes, is coming out with a book titled Keynes: The Return of the Master, in which he explains how Keynes differed from his predecessors, the "classical economists," and his successors, the "new classical economists" and the "new Keynesians"--and points out that the new Keynesians jettisoned the most important parts of Keynes's theory because they do not lend themselves to the mathematization beloved of modern economists. Skidelsky's summary of what is distinctive in Keynes's theory is excellent.
I shall leave it to the interested reader to pursue further the implicatiuons of that assessment. I'll let the ever-thoughtfulPublius, on Obsidian Wings, conclude:
The logic of Posner's essay also strikes at the very heart of trickle-down economics. I know that economists don't take trickle-down to be a rigorous theory or anything. But I think the basic idea has a lingering hold on the minds of elected officials. At the least, it helps justify in people's minds why concentrations of wealth (estate tax) and income (tax cuts for rich) are good policy rather than things that should trigger pitchforked mobs.

Posner's essay, by contrast, spells out the basic Keynesian idea that "trickle-up" is a much sounder policy. And, as it turns out, this type of trickle-up, multiplier-seeking policy approach is exactly what the stimulus adopts. The essay also illustrates (by describing Keynes in plain English) why the various federal banking interventions were important -- namely, to produce the stability needed to stop people from hoarding.
All the real Keynseyans were adamant all along that the stimulus needed to be MUCH larger. Too bad Obama was wrapped in the supply-siders of his own Party: Summers, Geithner, and Bernanke.

Right-Wing, Anti-Government Rhetoric Claims Life of KY Census Worker

Is this the beginning of a deadly trend, or merely an isolated incident?

Does it matter?

With the likes of Michelle Bachmann, and others, demonizing the Census and alarming the mono-browed, hare-lipped cracker knuckle-draggers enough to regress to their violent roots, it seems unlikely this will be the only event of this kind this year...

So, yeah. It matters...

Via Alternet (though the story's all over the place):
It's too soon to say why Census worker Bill Sparkman died, but found hanging from a tree with the word "FED" scrawled on his chest, Sparkman's death is being investigated as a possible homicide. Sparkman's body was found on September 12, according to the Associated Press, in the Daniel Boone National Forest in rural southeast Kentucky -- on the very day that anti-government activists marched on Washington.

The Census Bureau, according to the AP's Devlin Barrett, appearing on last night's Rachel Maddow show, has asked its workers in the county where Barrett's body was found to suspend their door-to-door canvassing.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dept. of As Others See Us: Al Jazeera On USer Violent Domestic Rhetoric

Michelle Bachmann, the US Republican Representative for Minnesota, tells a radio interviewer she believes Barack Obama, the US president, plans to set up mandatory "re-education camps" to indoctrinate young Americans.

Glenn Beck, a television personality working at the Fox news network, says on the air that Obama is a "racist" with a "deep-seated hatred for white people".

Comparing Obama to Adolf Hitler, an Iowa man named Tom Eisenhower speaks up at a town hall meeting held by Republican Senator Charles Grassley, and says "The president of the United States, that's who you should be concerned about."

"I'd take a gun to Washington if enough of you would go with me."

Retired FBI agent Ted Gunderson, a prolific writer and speaker about conspiracy theories involving devilish sex cults and the Illuminati, tells a gathering of right-wing "Patriots" in Florida that the federal government has set up 10,000 internment camps across the country and is storing thousands of guillotines for mass executions.

Mel Sanger, a self-described "political researcher", offers visitors to his website a $24.97-report full of "cutting edge evidence" that Obama is the biblical Antichrist.

Tens of thousands of right-wing demonstrators march on the US Capitol waving signs reading "Bury Obamacare with Kennedy" and calling Obama a "bloodsucking Muslim alien".

Steven Anderson, the pastor of the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Arizona, preached a sermon last month entitled "Why I hate Barack Obama", in which he declared, "I'm going to pray he dies and goes to hell".
Al Jazeera's senior DC correspondent, Rob Reynolds, calls it like even we'd see it if it was anybody but us: "Good Old-Fashioned Racism!"

He doesn't spare the lash:
The mainstream media in the US have been slow to catch up on the story of white racial hatred for Obama. But now the debate over the racist roots of the anti-Obama upwelling is out in the open, discussed on television networks and in newspapers.

"Some people just can't believe a black man is president and will never accept it," writes The New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

"There's something loose in the land, an ugliness and hatred directed toward Barack Obama, the nation's first African American president, that takes the breath away," offered Colbert King in the Washington Post.

The Southern Poverty Law Centre, an essential US institution that researches and exposes hate groups, notes "… unmistakable signs of a revival of what in the 1990's was called the militia movement," adding that "… the fact that the president is an African-American has injected a strong racial element" into the radical right.

The rage from the right has nothing to do with healthcare reform or any other factual policy issue. It is a concerted effort to de-legitimise Obama as president. Former President Jimmy Carter summed it up concisely in an interview with NBC News:

"I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man," Carter said.

"I live in the South, and I've seen the South come a long way, and I've seen the rest of the country that share the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African-Americans.

"And that racism inclination still exists. And I think it's bubbled up to the surface because of the belief among many white people, not just in the South but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It's an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply."
The cast of characters ain't pretty.
Abominable - and dangerous. The simmering potential for political violence underlies the ugly jeers and insults.

They are a motley group: white supremacists, Patriots, Sovereign Citizens, anti-Semitic Holocaust deniers, Neo-Confederates, Skinheads, Teabaggers, end-times prophecy adherents, birthers, Minutemen, New World Order conspiracists, Oath Keepers - the list is long and depressing.

Thousands of videos posted to YouTube show white militia members playing soldier - with real guns.

What they have in common - besides hatred for non-whites - is their worship of firearms and their intense paranoia about the government. They are continually encouraged in their outrage by right wing media and radio talk show hosts.
A catalogue of well-known examples leads to the following, regrettable but ineluctable conclusion:
While Republican spokespeople and elected officials scoff at the notion that racism is behind their protests, the spectacle of a white, Republican Congressman from the Deep South state of South Carolina shouting "You lie!" at the president from the floor of the House of Representatives blatantly revealed the sorry truth that this country has not entered a "post-racial" period, as some liberals like to believe.

We would like to believe that the racist right-wingers are just the leftover dregs of hate in a society steadily becoming more enlightened.

After all, Obama won the election last November by nine million votes. That means an awful lot of white people voted for him.

But while their numbers may be relatively small, the right-wing radicals - and the media bomb-throwers who fire them up - can do a lot of damage.

A few armed lunatics can alter the course of history. Think of Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber.

Think of James Earl Ray, who murdered Martin Luther King. Or think of John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.

Those last two examples were not chosen at random.

Why "Spelling" Matters!: New HIP* Vid From MoveOn.Org

Study Hard, or You May Die!

*HIP = Health Insurance Parasites

Monday, September 21, 2009

Twistin' The Knife Away??? Priceless...

Mike Stark chats up participants at the "Voter Values Summit" about the antics of John Ensign, Mark Sanford and David Vitter. They were not amused:

DOTOF™ to Digby/Hullabaloo

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sotomayor and the Myth of "Corporate Personhood"

Last week, reports emerged from the SC(R)OTUS, claiming that newly appointed Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor had publically opened the issue of the legitimacy of the landmark headnote on the "S-P vs. Santa Clara" decision, which in 1889 bestowed legal "personhood" on corpoRat America, and opened the floodgates for the corporatization of the nation, with the subsequent (and consequent) diminishment of real "natural" human, civil and political rights. The Santa Clara decision, along with "Buckley v. Vallejo" a century later, is the cornerstone and lynch-pin of the metastatic corpoRatization of the country.

I am glad she brought it up. It is, possibly, even a positive step, though--unlike Susie, over at Suburban Guerrilla (where I first read the report of Sotomayor's apostasy)--I am not ready yet to suspend my unease over Justice Sonia's sympathies for the corpoRats she served so assiduously before joining the Bench. While it is heartening that the issue should be getting public exposure (such as it is: a couple of bloggers, another being Digby, yesterday, being pretty much the extent of the SCUM's acknowledgment of the breech), I am also a bit nervous about it.

Why, you ask?

Because I fear that by tipping her hand before she has any reliable support on the issue with her colleagues on the Court, and whilst the RATS still control the majority (Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia, along with the ever-reliable, Ed Meese-kateer, Kennedy), all this forthrightness will accomplish will be to put up another GOPuke road-block in the path of any future Obama nominee--particularly if (crocodile tears?) something fatal should befall one of the Puke/K-RATS majority, or even in the event of the retirement of Stevens or Ginsberg. Sotomayor's opening the discussion of the issue will necessitate that NO subsequent Obama nominee be on any record of any kind, anywhere, ever, of agreeing with her on this or any other issue.

So that, in addition to GOPuke "litmus tests" on abortion, 'empathy,' etc., henceforth, any future nominee's attitudes toward the "Headnote" amendment will become a stalking-point for rightard, Senatorial opponents of democratic, personal civil rights.

And so, in a sort of perverse sense, Sotomayor's revelation of her openness to a SCROTUS discussion of the issue of corpoRat "personhood' will have the consequence, for the foreseeable future, of their not being nominated, much less appointed any Justices who would agree with her on revisiting, much less overturning, the SP.-v-SCC headnote...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Does "Religious Liberty" Include The "Freedom To Discriminate?"

Soi-disant "Religious Liberty" does not trump civil rights.
A Bushevik-era pander to the wackloon/flying-monkey/fucktard/kristo-fascisti, issued by the OLC (yeah, the same outfit that harbored war-criminal John Yoo, whence he dispensed his torture-authorizing security memos), permitting 'sectarian' organizations to discriminate in hiring, and other practices, is now under attack by coalition of groups, including Americans United and 58 other interested groups, which have petitioned AG Holder to revoke the regulation.

I don't expect it to happen, but:
Americans United for Separation of Church and State today joined a coalition of 58 organizations urging Attorney General Eric Holder to revoke a Bush-era rule regarding "faith-based" funding that the groups say threatens civil rights and religious freedom.

In June of 2007, the (Bushevik) Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) issued a legal memo asserting that a federal law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) gives religious organizations a blanket right to discriminate on religious grounds when hiring staff in taxpayer-funded programs.

In a joint letter to Holder today, a broad coalition of organizations said RFRA does no such thing.

“The Bush administration twisted federal law to buttress its misguided policies and allow religious discrimination in taxpayer-funded ‘faith-based’ programs,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “It’s time for the Obama administration to correct this error.”

The letter calls the Bush interpretation of RFRA “far-fetched” and goes on to assert, “The guidance in the OLC Memo is not justified under applicable legal standards and threatens to tilt policy toward an unwarranted end that would damage civil rights and religious liberty.”

The organizations argue that RFRA, passed in 1993, was designed to protect religious liberty, not countenance discrimination.

Many of the organizations signing the letter are members of the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination. The Coalition argues that religious groups that accept public funds should be required to meet federal civil rights laws.
(Emphases supplied. W.)
There's a novel fucking concept, no doubt about it. I have my doubts, however, about the Obama regime's commitment to restoring civil rights which the Busheviks abrogated, especially in the arena of reining in the the theo-fascists of the religious right.

I for one will be astonished if Obama doesn't order Holder to strike some kind of a feckless compromise. Obama's ambivalence about the participation of restraining religious interests in public life does not lead me to harbor much optimism.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

CREW Names The "15 Most Corrupt" Congress-critters

They are, in alphabetical order:
* Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL)
* Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL)
* Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA)
* Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA)
* Sen. John Ensign (R-NV)
* Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL)
* Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA)
* Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
* Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-WV)
* Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA)
* Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-NY)
* Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA)
* Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-IN)
* Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)
* Rep. Don Young (R-AK)


To create this report, CREW reviewed news media articles, Federal Election Commission reports,1 court documents, and members’ personal financial and travel disclosure forms. We then analyzed that information in light of federal laws and regulations as well as congressional ethics rules.

CREW’s fifth annual report on congressional corruption includes 15 members of Congress, significantly fewer than last year’s report. While corruption has remained a significant political issue, many elected officials seem to be taking greater care to avoid unethical conduct.

The list shrank primarily because out of the 24 members included in last year’s report, eight are no longer in Congress and seven others were omitted either because no action was taken by any law enforcement agency, or the House or Senate ethics committees, or CREW discovered no additional information to add. New to this year’s list are Senators Roland Burris and John Ensign, and Representatives Nathan Deal, Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Pete Visclosky. After having been off the list for two years, Rep. Maxine Waters has reappeared for unethical activities entirely unrelated to the conduct that landed her on the list in the past.

Of this year’s list of 15, at least 12 are under some sort of investigation: Vern Buchanan, Roland Burris, Ken Calvert, John Ensign, Jesse Jackson Jr., Jerry Lewis, Alan Mollohan, John Murtha, Charlie Rangel, Laura Richardson, Pete Visclosky and Don Young.

This year as every year, members have used their positions to financially benefit themselves, their friends and their families. Earmarks for large campaign contributors are commonplace and many members have traded legislative assistance for personal favors.

Although ethics reforms measures were passed last Congress and the House created the new Office of Congressional Ethics, there still appears to be little enforcement of ethics rules. In the Senate, Sens. Kent Conrad and Chris Dodd were not disciplined in any way for their participation in Countrywide Financial’s VIP loan program. The Senate Select Committee on Ethics sank to an all time low, holding itself -- rather than the senators themselves -- responsible for the senators’ accepting the loans. The Senate Ethics Manual is readily available and it clearly states that loans can be improper gifts. If CREW can read and understand the manual, presumably, senators can too.

As always things are worse in the House, which consistently refuses to condemn any lawmaker’s conduct no matter how outrageous. The investigation of Rep. Rangel, which was only initiated at the lawmaker’s request in the first place, has dragged on for a year with no end in sight. If the committee ever sees fit to release any sort of report regarding Rep. Rangel’s many misdeeds, expect the ethics panel to use the occasion as a “teaching moment,” reminding members of their responsibilities under the ethics rules. Any meaningful censure of Rep. Rangel is unlikely.

Similarly, thanks to Rep. Jeff Flake’s efforts, the House Ethics Committee was forced to reveal it is investigating the PMA scandal, which involves Reps. Murtha and Visclosky and likely other members as well. If history is any guide, however, nothing will come of the committee’s inquiry. If the committee opened the door to permit questions regarding the relationship between earmarks and campaign contributions, few members would be safe from scrutiny.

The Office of Congressional Ethics is now up and running, but it has yet to release any information about its work, leaving CREW to continue to question the office’s utility.

As a result of the Sen. Ted Stevens prosecution debacle and courts’ continued expansive interpretation of the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution, expect fewer federal corruption prosecutions of members of Congress in the coming years. First, the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section is in disarray. Section Chief William Welch remains in place despite the section’s mishandling of the Stevens prosecution and U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan’s forceful criticism. Thus, the department is likely to be hesitant to investigate, much less bring charges against other members of Congress absent glaring evidence of wrongdoing. Further debilitating criminal prosecutions is the continued expansion of the Speech or Debate Clause. An Arizona federal court is considering whether charges brought against former Rep. Rick Renzi can withstand constitutional challenge. In addition, federal investigators were forced to drop the investigation of former Rep. Tom Feeney after a court ruled the Clause prohibited the House Ethics Committee from providing any incriminating information it had obtained during its own investigation of Rep. Feeney’s conduct in regard to the Jack Abramoff scandal.

Given that the Justice Department has been defanged and the ethics committees are basically worthless, it will be up to the voters to decide if a member of Congress’s conduct disqualifies him from holding a position of public trust.

1... References to companies making campaign contributions are shorthand for campaign contributions by those companies’ political action committees and employees and, in some cases, their immediate families. We are not insinuating that any company named in the report has made contributions in violation of federal campaign finance laws.
DOTOF™ to Ken Silverstein's Washington Babylon blog at Harper's. Seems a dang shame that so many of 'em appear to be the leading lights of the "left/prog" wing, innit? And a special recommendation must attend the naming of Burris to the list. In less than one year, he's been able to attain a position alongsaide some of the most dededicated cheats, crooks, and miscreants with YEARS more experience...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Will Obama's financial 'reforms' be as toothless as his health-care 'plans'?

From Ryan Chittum indefatigable editor of the CJR Economics page, The Audit:
The other day Wall Street Journal story gave an “okay” overview of the prospects for reform and why they’ve dwindled. But even better is BusinessWeek’s story looking at how the proposals will (or won't. W.) actually work. Don’t get your hopes up.
The likely result? A package of worthy but lukewarm reforms that leave the global financial system—and taxpayers—exposed to another costly bust some years down the road…

International and U.S. proposals on the table target the hot topics: increasing capital requirements, corralling the “shadow banking system” of nonbank lenders, and otherwise trying to ensure that risk doesn’t balloon out of control. But in most cases they rely on the kinds of tools that failed the last time around, when supervisors proved less than vigilant, turf squabbles impeded regulation, and fears of foreign competition led governments to yield to industry demands for a lighter touch.
BW is wise to point out that simply increasing capital requirements is likely to fail—Wall Street will just figure out some new chicanery to get around them, regulators will be lulled into complacency, and there you go. The current mess is in no small part due to the fact that banks got around capital requirements by putting toxic securitized assets in off-balance-sheet entities like structured investment vehicles. In Europe, banks got around capital requirements by buying credit-default coverage from, you guessed it, AIG.

But to reinforce how milquetoast the Obama administration’s proposed reforms are, they wouldn’t prevent banks from taking “government-insured deposits with one hand and, in other subsidiaries, (making) risky bets on the market…” No Glass-Steagall 2.0, in other words. And they don’t propose any way to resolve a failed institution with entities overseas, like, well, any of the big banks.

BW also looks at how lobbying is particularly choking a couple of needed reforms (emphasis mine)
Officials in the Obama Administration also considered consolidating the Securities & Exchange Commission, which oversees the securities market, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which polices futures and commodity markets. But they concluded it would take too much political capital to buck the congressional agriculture and financial committees that split responsibility for the agencies—and that enjoy the campaign contributions that follow the oversight. Now the proposal calls for just one of more than a half-dozen federal financial regulators to disappear.

The Administration’s goal of consolidating all financial consumer protection in a single agency—perhaps its boldest proposal—is running into a buzz saw of bureaucratic infighting and industry lobbying. “Our strategy is to kill it,” says one lobbyist for the financial-services industry.
And just you wait for the upcoming Supreme Court ruling that corporate speech can’t be regulated.

Better get what we can get done now.

Finally, the article end on a Too Big to Fail note: Pointing out how engorged the fattest of the fat-cat banks have gotten:
Meanwhile, the biggest financial firms have only gotten bigger and harder to control. The Economic Policy Institute notes that the four biggest U.S. banks have about 45% of industry assets, up from around 27% in 2003.
Nice work.
Nice work to you, too, Ryan...Keep stoking the fire...

As Of This Moment, The Obama Regime Has Elipsed The Bushevik Record

for preventing terrorism in the USofA, in the first year of an administration, by more than 24 hours.

Change we can believe in!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Obama's Speech Long On Rhetoric, Short on Actual, Practical "Game-Changers," Reforms

Several liberal/left sources have raised essentially the same complaint about the Health Insurance "reform plans" outlined by "thePrez" this week in his address before a joint session of Congress. Bernard Chazelle, at Jon Schwarz' A Tiny Revolution dot com, is the most forthright I've seen, proclaiming outright that, all the rhetorical flourishes to the contrary notwithstanding, Obama is lying:
What I got from the speech was that Obama will force everyone to become a paying customer of a private health insurer (as opposed to paying the government). In the olden days, the government would tax you and pass on the loot to the robber barons. So 20th century! Obama wants to cut the middle man and have the taxpayer fork their money over to the robber barons directly. Or else. It's brilliant. (We could save Detroit by requiring every US citizen to buy a Ford or GM vehicle.) Health insurance stocks soared after the speech, which says all you need to know about it.

After rewarding the Wall Street gangsters with trillions of our own dollars, Obama had this to say:
... our ability to stand in other people's shoes; a recognition that we are all in this together.
Not only are we not "in this" together, Mr President, but your policies are to ensure that we never will be "in this" together. You lie!
David Swanson, at Democrats dot com, complained that while Obama waxed eloquent about the need for affordable health care, (the) suggested...non-profit “public option” might be optional for a Democratic health reform bill and could be triggered only many years into the future. Via Robert Parry/Consortium News, from The Real News:
...Obama’s vision of a revamped health system might well leave insurance companies in a dominant position with health care still considered a profitable commodity for corporations, not a human right for all Americans.

Swanson criticizes Obama for taking his strongest stand against the prospect that a health care bill might add to the federal deficit, when Obama has continued spending on the Iraq and Afghan wars and pushed through the largest military spending bill in world history.
The video is, as always with TRN, excellent:

Chris Floyd makes essentially the same point. which I made yesterday, that you can gauge the impact the speech had on the insurers by the fact that stock prices ROSE as much as 4% (Aetna)...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Barbara Boxer On Rachel Maddow Told Colleagues: "Man Up, You Slimy Fuckers!"

Well, not exactly. There is this (sporadic) "civility thing in the Village...But She did say...

"If you don't vote for this [the public option], then give up your health insurance.

Because your health insurance is run by the public; it's a government-run plan. And if you don't think it's good enough for you, then drop it...

If you're going to keep it, then you'd better give other people a chance."

Too true.

However, nobody ever didn't get re-elected for being a hypocrite...

Still, I wish she'd said it where there was somebody other than the "choir" listening. When DWT put the quote up was the first I'd heard of it.

Health Insurance Parasites' Stocks Gain, Post-Speech

Well, I was just completely surprised. You could knock me over widda feather. Nobody could EVER have anticipated this, via Yahoo BizNooz:
Health insurance stocks (.HMO) rose 1.5 percent after President Barack Obama played down the importance of a government-run option in a speech on Wednesday, a sign elements of the plan may be altered to soothe opponents. Critics say reforms will be expensive and could distort the existing market.

Cheaper, watered-down U.S. healthcare reform could help provide the next leg up for equity markets, said Linda Duessel, market strategist at Federated Investors in Pittsburgh.

"It will be very expensive as it stands right now," said Duessel. "To the extent that it comes down a little bit, the market should like that. If for whatever reason they wouldn't be able to come up with any conclusion here and it fails, the market might really like that."

Aetna Inc (AET.N) rose 1.2 percent to $29.60 and WellPoint Inc (WLP.N) was up 1.1 percent at $53.43.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"Seriousness": How-come It Matters To The Dims, Not The Pukes

I am tempted to say that it is because the Pukes' and their constituents--at least the more sophisticated of them--know they're actors in a political kabuki, enacted to give "legitimacy" to the self-aggrandizing, predatory practices of the oligarchy as it operates the State for fun and profit. Everybody KNOWS it's all a sham, and so nobody really takes seriously the mugging and miming and outrageousness that propels the theater. It's all a sham, and everybody knows, and the purpose is to amaze and amuse the rubes.

The Dims ARE the 'rubes.'

It is important to recognize that the relations between the two "parties" are decidedly hierarchical, with the Pukes occupying the "superior" rung, and the Dims arrayed beneath in orders of "inferiority." In this organization, USer politics replicates and reproduces the prevalent racial, economic, and social order with, in the USofA anyway.

The Dims are the "inferior" party for the very reason of their nominal existence: to represent the losers, the powerless, the social, economic, and racial "inferiors." In the economic iconography of the Owners and their designated operatives on the Right, poverty signals God's displeasure, where wealth is a sign divine approval.

The leaders of the Dims, of course, and their minions are mostly in exactly the same economic class as the leaders and functionaries of the "other side." It's as if the two "parties" were feudal rivals, with one--the inferior--clan bearing the bar sinister on the coat of arms.

But! Their leaders and leading actors are NOT permitted ever to abandon the pretense that everything hasn't pretty much all always already been decided by the time the populace hears about it. Van Jones cannot call the Pukes "assholes," even if/though by any and every relevant yardstick of such behavior they richly deserve the appellation. But Dick Cheney can tell Sen. Pat Leahy to "Go Fuck Yourself," and suffer no adverse repercussions at all...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Obama's "Cosby" Speech To ALL of Murka's Kids

The thing that's making the whole "speech to the kids" thing problematic is that Obama is pulling a "Cosby," but not limiting himself to criticizing only Black parents. Implicit in the whole notion of the speech is a critique of middle-class, bourgeois parents, and they don't like it. You are NOT supposed to claim that the spawn of white folks is in any way deficient, or in any way comparable with non-whites, especially if you are only half-white yourself.

Now it's perfectly okay for Bill Cosby, or even Barack Obama to lecture black parents; but you gotta know your place...

"Ah ain' no goddam, shiffless nigger! You can't talk down to me like you thought I was one!!! Mah kid's do FAHN in skewl."

You hafta remember: Obama actually doesn't give a rabid rat's fat ass about "Education." He cares about discipline, and hard work, and assimilation into the work force, and economic growth, and shit, but he doesn't give a fuck about 'education.'

If he did, he would NEVER have appointed that corpoRat/militaRat/anti-democratic/anti-public-schools demagogue/Boss, that scummy, smarmy snake Arne Duncan, to be his Education Secretary. Susan Ohanian has a LOT to say, all of it true, about Duncan, and what he represents for "education."

With that appointment, Obama perpetuated the Bushevik NCLB model of high-stakes testing, early and often.

Test results exist for one reason and one reason only: they retrocatively validate decisions made about students, based on their zip code, and not their IQ, long before the ever enter a classroom.

Get that through your fuuking heads, please before you start yammering about 'education.'

Murka doesn't DO "education." Murka does "school," which is a LOT different...

You "make" your education. You can do that anywhere.

You go to school to indoctrinated into the CorpoRat system. Period!

Mostly, students in Murkin schools do not "drop" out.

They're pushed.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Same Song, Different Music

Let the "serious" jubilation flow! Diane has returned to CabDrollery! And rejoins our number with a typically acute and intelligent reading of a week-end column by Leonard Pitts, in which Pitts lament, and Diane concurs, that "thePrez" has disappointed a LOT of people already. The instant case in focus is the treatment of detainees--and the apparent 'rendition' of one of them, one Raymond Azar, and its tacit betrayal of one of Obama's promises regardinig the "War On Terrorists."
I'll tell you something: Barack Obama was elected president in large part on a promise to restore the nation's battered moral authority. He appealed to voters because he seemed to understand what his predecessor did not, i.e., that America must embody ideals bigger than the exigencies and expediencies of the moment.

Somebody should remind him of that....Sometimes a dented promise is worse than no promise at all.

Exactly so.

If Mr. Obama is unwilling to lead in the manner he promised, then perhaps he had best get out of the way so that people of this nation who elected him can de-select him and consider some alternatives.

Which demands the question: "Which alternatives, exactly?"

As i stated in my reply:
I have become progresively more certain that the Pukes threw the election in '08, precisely to install in the Presidency someone who would erase the vile taste of Bushevism by becoming even more detested. They surrendered the Senate numerically (but not politically) for the same reasons.

When the Dims settled on the "novelty" slate--either BHO or HRC--they had their "perfect storm."

Not only would neither one (or anyone, for that matter) be able to repair or restore much of the astronomical clusterfux left behind by the Busheviks, but--being already either 'female' or 'black'--there'd already be a substantial "cultural (hegemonic) predisposition" to affix blame on them even if they didn't deserve it.

By the end of a single term by either HRC or BHO, they would be carrying so much baggage that the (white, Murkin proletarian) "majority" would not only reject them, but would also never vote for a 'marginal' candidate again.

With the consequence that the white, murkin proletarian majority would welcome with open arms whatsoever iteration of compassionate fascism the Pukes would care to offer 'em...
This is not the first I have taken up this tune, but it's become more and more a mind-worm...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Should Self-Proclaimed "Re-birthers" Be Allowed To Adopt?

Via Susie @ Suburban Guerilla, Pam's House Blend raises the question in the light of new revelations about a born-again couple accused of sexually abusing children under their supervision at a "Christian" center, and whom they later adopted, apparently for the purposes of CONTINUING the abuse.

Oh, did I mention the two were formerly associated with and parted on amicable terms with Pat Robertson's "university?" Oh, yeah.
Former assistant dean at Pat Robertson's Regent Univ and his wife plead guilty to child sex abuse
And the story just gets sordider and sordider. From the Hampton Roads Pilot:
Stephen McPherson and his wife, Melina, doted on the three teenage sisters at Hope Haven Children's Home.

The couple, house parents at the Christian-based community in Virginia Beach during the late 1990s, treated the girls to dinner and movies. They gave gifts, allowed the girls to stay up later than other children and took them along on vacation.

They also preyed on them.

Court records show the McPhersons manipulated the teens into submitting to fondling, kissing and other sex acts. They cited Bible verses that they said justified the abuse and, afterward, would pray together for God's forgiveness.

On Wednesday, the McPhersons admitted in separate hearings in Virginia Beach Circuit Court to committing the crimes. Stephen McPherson, a former assistant dean at Regent University, pleaded guilty to taking indecent liberties with two of the girls; his wife pleaded guilty to taking indecent liberties with the third girl.
This is NOT Stevie's first venture into these waters:
Stephen McPherson, 40, already is serving a 16-year sentence after being convicted of similar charges in Chesapeake. He pleaded guilty in January to forcible sodomy and object sexual penetration stemming from incidents involving two of the girls in his Chesapeake home.

The McPhersons adopted the three sisters after leaving Hope Haven in 2000 and moving to Chesapeake, according to court records. Melina McPherson, 37, was not charged in Chesapeake.

In Virginia Beach, the couple agreed to plead guilty in exchange for light prison sentences. Stephen McPherson's plea agreement called for him to serve three years in prison. The agreement for Melina McPherson called for her to serve 40 days in jail. Both must register as sex offenders and must have no unsupervised contact with minors, except for their two sons.

Commonwealth's Attorney Harvey Bryant said there was no indication that either McPherson would abuse their natural sons. The victims weren't pushing for jail time, Bryant said, because they did not want to see the McPhersons' boys, ages 4 and 5, grow up without their parents.
It seems to me that the McPherson kids would be better off if they were put on an orphan train and sent to Nebraska.
But mebbe that's just me?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Warning, Boy President! Quagmire! Quagmire! Quagmire

Vietnam. Afghanistan. History doesn't actually repeat itself. But it DOES rhyme...

General (SecretKiller) McCrystal was in DC last week, playing rhetorical games to hide the fact that, no matter HOW MANY troops Obama sends to Afghanistan, it won't EVER be enough to "win," or ever to break even.

From Bob Sheer (whom the LATimes fired to make room for J-Dough) at SFGate blog:
True, he doesn't seem a bit like Lyndon Johnson, but the way he's headed on Afghanistan, Barack Obama is threatened with a quagmire that could bog down his presidency. LBJ also had a progressive agenda in mind, beginning with his war on poverty, but it was soon overwhelmed by the cost and divisiveness engendered by a meaningless, and seemingly endless, war in Vietnam.

Meaningless is the right term for the Afghanistan war, too, because our bloody attempt to conquer this foreign land has nothing to do with its stated purpose of enhancing our national security. Just as the government of Vietnam was never a puppet of communist China or the Soviet Union, the Taliban is not a surrogate for al Qaeda. Involved in both instances was an American intrusion into a civil war whose passions and parameters we never fully have grasped and will always fail to control militarily.

The Vietnamese communists were not an extension of an inevitably hostile, unified international communist enemy, as evidenced by the fact that communist Vietnam and communist China are both our close trading partners today. Nor should the Taliban be considered simply an extension of a Mideast-based al Qaeda movement, whose operatives the United States recruited in the first place to go to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets.

Those recruits included Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9-11 attack, and financier Osama bin Laden, who met in Afghanistan as part of a force that Ronald Reagan glorified as "freedom fighters." As blowback from that bizarre, mismanaged CIA intervention, the Taliban came to power and formed a temporary alliance with the better-financed foreign Arab fighters still on the scene.

There is no serious evidence that the Taliban instigated the 9-11 attacks or even knew about them in advance. Taliban members were not agents of al Qaeda; on the contrary, the only three governments that financed and diplomatically recognized the Taliban - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan - all were targets of bin Laden's group.

To insist that the Taliban be vanquished militarily as a prerequisite for thwarting al Qaeda is a denial of the international fluidity of that terrorist movement. Al Qaeda, according to U.S. intelligence sources, has operated effectively in countries as disparate as Somalia, Indonesia, England and Pakistan, to name just a few. What is required to stymie such a movement is effective police and intelligence work, as opposed to deploying vast conventional military forces in the hope of finding, or creating, a conventional war to win. This last wan hope is what the effort in Afghanistan - in the last two months at its most costly point in terms of American deaths - is all about: marshaling enormous firepower to fight shadows.

The Taliban is a traditional guerrilla force that can easily elude conventional armies. Once again the generals on the ground are insisting that a desperate situation can be turned around if only more troops are committed, as Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal did in a report leaked this week. Even with U.S. forces being increased to 68,000 as part of an 110,000-strong allied army, the general states, "The situation in Afghanistan is serious." In the same sentence, however, he goes on to say that "success is achievable."

Fortunately, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is given to some somber doubts on this point, arguing that the size of the U.S. force breeds its own discontents: "I have expressed some concerns in the past about the size of the American footprint, the size of the foreign military footprint in Afghanistan," he said. "And, clearly, I want to address those issues. And we will have to look at the availability of forces, we'll have to look at costs."

I write the word fortunately because just such wisdom on the part of Robert McNamara, another defense secretary, during the buildup to Vietnam would have led him to oppose rather than abet what he ruefully admitted decades after the fact was a disastrous waste of life and treasure: 59,000 Americans dead, along with 3.4 million Indochinese, mostly innocent civilians.

I was reporting from Vietnam when that buildup began, and then as now there was an optimism not supported by the facts on the ground. Then as now there were references to elections and supporting local politicians to win the hearts and minds of people we were bombing. Then as now the local leaders on our side turned out to be hopelessly corrupt, a condition easily exploited by those we term the enemy.

Those who favor an escalation of the Afghanistan war ought to own up to its likely costs. If 110,000 troops have failed, will we need the half million committed at one point to Vietnam, which had a far less intractable terrain? And can you have that increase in forces without reinstituting the draft?

It is time for Democrats to remember that it was their party that brought America its most disastrous overseas adventure and to act forthrightly to pull their chosen president back from the abyss before it is too late.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Afghanistan: A War Too Far?

Via Antemedius (Edger), from TheRealNews:
The three most recent national opinion polls show majorities of Americans opposing the war in Afghanistan as well as the Pentagon's plans to commit additional US troops there. This marks the first time since the war began eight years ago that US opposition has eclipsed 50%. This mirrors even starker drops in support in other NATO countries that have led to a series of troop withdrawals in those militaries.

McClatchy Pentagon Correspondent Nancy Youssef tells The Real News that while General McChrystal's new strategy for Afghanistan will clearly require additional troops, the Pentagon and White House agreed not to release a troop figure request. This goes against the White House's original demand that the report include this detail, and, according to Youssef, represents a response to the war's growing unpopularity.

Doonesbury has been right ON about this, btw. Vide:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Re, Food: There Is NOTHING Even Remotely "Sustainable" About How We Live

"In the ongoing debate about whether sustainable agriculture can “feed the world,” it’s important not to lose sight of what industrial agriculture is doing to ecosystems—both in specific areas and on a grand scale."

The way we eat is trashing the fragile conditions
that make human life possible
By Tom Philpot, for Grist

Producing and distributing lots and lots of calories, leveraged by fossil fuel and synthetic fertilizers and poisons, may solve certain short-term problems; but the practice also creates long-term ones that won’t be easily solved.

In June, a study emerged showing that so-called inert ingredients in Roundup, Monsanto’s widely used flagship herbicide, can kill human cells even at low levels—“particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells,” reports Scientific American. This is an herbicide that’s used on virtually all of our nation’s corn and soy fields, covering tens of millions of acres of cropland. (It’s also widely used by landscapers and on home lawns.)

Then there was the recent atrazine imbroglio. For years, the EPA has been assuring the public that the highly toxic herbicide, still widely used in the Corn Belt, wasn’t showing up in drinking water in worrisome levels. Turns out that was a lie, as some excellent muckraking by the Huffington Post Investigative Fund revealed. Atrazine exposure has been strongly associated with reproductive health maladies, including a rise in hermaphroditism among frog populations.

Note that corn and soy production, as practiced today, is completely reliant on these two broad-spectrum herbicides.

Now comes news about the hazards of another input critical to the project of industrial agriculture: synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. When farmers apply nitrogen to farm fields, a certain amount enters the atmosphere as nitrous oxide. And according to a study conducted by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and published in Science, human-generated nitrous oxide is now the No. 1 contributor to ozone-layer depletion.

The study is the first ever to look closely at nitrous oxide’s role as an ozone destroyer. The results are alarming. From a summary of the study on the NOAA website:
For the first time, this study has evaluated nitrous oxide emissions from human activities in terms of their potential impact on Earth’s ozone layer. As chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which have been phased out by international agreement, ebb in the atmosphere, nitrous oxide will remain a significant ozone-destroyer, the study found. Today, nitrous oxide emissions from human activities are more than twice as high as the next leading ozone-depleting gas.

The withering away of the ozone layer, which was slowed but not stopped by the 1987 Montreal Protocol phasing out CFCs, is no trivial matter. As the NOAA summary puts it:
The ozone layer serves to shield plants, animals and people from excessive ultraviolet light from the sun. Thinning of the ozone layer allows more ultraviolet light to reach the Earth’s surface where it can damage crops and aquatic life and harm human health.
Moreover, the Montreal Protocol does not regulate nitrous oxide.

Of course, agriculture-induced nitrous oxide isn’t just eating the ozone layer. It’s also a greenhouse gas with 300 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide.

Thus the implications of agriculture’s reliance on synthetic nitrogen fertilizer are literally earth-shaking: The way we’re feeding ourselves is contributing dramatically to two processes—climate change and ozone depletion—that could literally make the planet uninhabitable by humans.

Worse still, we my be seriously underestimating industrial agriculture’s nitrous oxide emissions. When considering agriculture’s contribution of nitrous oxide to the atmosphere, scientists have assumed that about 1 percent of the nitrogen fertilizer applied by farmers ends up in the atmosphere as nitrous oxide. The EPA operates under that assumption, as did the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But the real number may be considerably higher. A 2008 study [PDF] by the Nobel-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen found that as much as 5 percent of nitrogen fertilizer applied by farmers turns into nitrous oxide—which would make agriculture a much larger contributor to climate change (and ozone depletion) than is currently assumed.

On top of all of that, nitrogen runoff from agriculture is also strongly implicated in the creation of coastal dead zones—large algae blooms that suck oxygen out of the sea and snuff out marine life.

What all of this points to is the need to bring ecological considerations into agriculture. And in fact, there’s already a budding field known as agroecology. Agrocecology is now at best a fringe field in academia; as public funding for university research dries up, giant agribusiness firms like Monsanto increasingly finance—and control—the research agenda. They have little interest in ecology and vested interests in pushing their own proprietary products.