Tuesday, March 31, 2009

GOP candidate files election appeal before polls close

This is hilarious in a pathetically craven sort of way. I haven't really followed the special election in upstate NY to replace Kirsten Gillibrand, who was appointed Senator to replace Hillary Clinton, but it looks very possible that the GOP candidate Tedisco is going to lose. He's not ready to accept defeat.
The Dutchess County Clerk’s Office has confirmed to FDL that Tedisco’s people have filed an ex parte motion, the effect of which would be to investigate and overturn today’s election results, should the outcome not be to Republicans’ liking.
The polls haven't closed yet, much less the ballots counted, and the GOP is pre-emptively challenging the outcome. The Republicans are in total meltdown mode. They will go to any lengths to obstruct the normal process of our government in their desperate attempt to regain power -- the will of the voters be damned.

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Pentagon spending the real deficit driver

In all the debates about the deficit, the sacred cow in the budget has always been 'defense spending' by the Pentagon. This estimate puts the base budget alone for the period FY'09 through FY'13 at $2.6 trillion. That doesn't include expenses for the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. It doesn't include "supplemental appropriations" which are regulary requested whenever the political climate is ripe. As nearly as I can figure, that would add at least another couple of trillion onto the total.

The Pentagon's procurement and weapons development is badly broken. The GAO just released a report that shows just the cost over-runs on cost plus contracts ran $300 billion last year. The contractors have no incentive to fulfill the terms or contain costs and much of the money is spent on technology that doesn't work and programs developing weapons for wars that are unlikely to ever be fought.

The 'fiscal hawks' are always at the ready to take a scalpel to social safety net programs but will protect Pentagon payola at any cost. I undertand that some communites depend on this spending, but it needs to be redirected to more productive uses. Cutting their budget in half, and I believe it could be safely done, would pay for a lot of health care and take Social Security out of whatever danger it's supposed to be in.

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The man who blew up the world economy

The most interesting read of the day is this New York magazine piece by Michael Osinski, the guy who wrote the software that "invented" the various creative instruments of mass destruction that annihilated the financial sector. He issues a faint mea culpa, pointing out he just invented the bomb. He didn't push the button that triggered it.

He gets into the geekery about how he designed it a bit, but mostly it's an anecdotal piece about how he rose from a $200 a week fisherman to the computer guru of Wall Street. The glimpse into the culture on the trading floor is fascinating.
The world around me, though, had become bizarre. At the time, I had an odd sensation that mortgage traders felt they had to outdo the loutish behavior in Liar’s Poker. The more money they made, the more juvenile they became. What do you expect from 30-year-old megamillionaires whose overwhelming aspiration was something vaguely called Hugeness? They had wrestling matches on the floor. Food-eating contests. Like little kids, they scrambled to hide the evidence when the head of fixed income paid his rare visits to the floor.

Now that I was spending more time on the floor, I wondered why the men’s room always stank. Then one afternoon at three, when I was in there taking a leak, I discovered the hideous truth. Traders had a contest. Coming in at eight, they never left their desks all day, eating and drinking while working. Then, at three o’clock, they marched into the men’s room and stood at the wall opposite the urinals. Dropping their pants, they bet $100 on who could train his stream the longest on the urinals across the lavatory. As their hydraulic pressure waned, the three traders waddled, pants at their ankles, across the floor, desperately trying to keep their pee on target. This is what $2 million of bonus can do to grown men.
Easy money and pure greed bred a generation of well dressed frat boys locked into permanent adolescence. In many ways Osinski's tale is the classic American success story of a humble guy who worked his way to the top. But I think he excuses his own complicity too much. Even if he didn't push the red button, the shitpile could not have been built without him. And he knew what they were doing. It won't be that easy to wash the stink off his hands.

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Sense and nonsense on the drug war

I wondered when Obama laughed off the marijuana question at his town meeting the other day, if it would focus more attention on the drug war and sure enough, some major voices are still weighing in on the subject. Today Jack Cafferty posts a short essay at CNN. Here's the money graf:
What do you suppose the total price tag is for this failed war on drugs? One senior Harvard economist estimates we spend $44 billion a year fighting the war on drugs. He says if they were legal, governments would realize about $33 billion a year in tax revenue. Net swing of $77 billion. Could we use that money today for something else? You bet your ass we could. Plus the cartels would be out of business. Instantly. Goodbye crime and violence.
Reading the piece, you might think he had been reading my comments at Balloon Juice, where I spent far too long arguing the point with John Cole on Saturday. In any event, Cafferty's piece is pretty good except for the bit where he tries to blame the entire drug trade on lax border security that allowed cartels of illegal Mexicans to take over our cities. While it's true there are Mexican gangs in the business, everybody has a piece of the black market. It's not just Mexicans, legal or illegal.

Meanwhile, via Avedon, I see Eugene Robinson had a good rant a few days ago on the subject. He did pretty well until he fell off the rails of reality saying, "The obvious demand-side solution -- legalization -- would do more harm than good with some drugs, but maybe not with others."

There's a boatload of empirical evidence that proves this simply isn't true. Other countries have legalized, or at least decriminalized, illicit drugs at this point and the programs have been in effect for long enough to prove statistically that it reduces the harms of drug abuse and does not lead to a rise in addiction. The benefits of this approach far outweigh the harms of prohibition, which by any metric has been proven to be an expensive and abysmal failure.

But I shouldn't complain. I've been waiting for years for a national public discussion on the drug war. Even with the curious mix of common sense and outmoded false prohibitionist talking points in the debate, it's progress towards a more sane policy.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Speaking of Glen Beck

I don't really like to watch either Bill Maher or Keith Olberman. I find them both sort of grating in person and prefer to read what they have to say, but this Maher segment on Beck and outrage journalism is really good.



[hat tip Kevin]

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The Glen Beck effect

NYT posts a fluffer profile of Glen Beck today that didn't tell me anything I didn't already know except this. "His roots are in comedy — he spent years as a morning radio disc jockey — and continues to perform comedy on stages across the country." I'd suggest his current Fox show is also comedy. It's so pathetic, it's laughable.

David Carr's piece on the media and its obsession with horserace analysis was far more interesting and isn't getting the attention it deserves. This is right on target.
There is no question that the stakes are high in this presidency, and it’s hardly an epiphany that in order to feed the 24/7 beast, cable news has to turn every little thing into a big event. But something else is at work here. Gorged on ratings from a historic election and still riding on leftover adrenaline, the cable networks have steadfastly remained in campaign mode. And the hyperbolic rhythms and requirements of a cable news world have never seemed less relevant to the story at hand. [...]

Some of the viewers seem to have noticed that all of the election coverage is short an actual election. According to Nielsen, CNN, after hitting 3.28 million viewers on average during the week of the actual election, had drifted down below a million by mid-March. Fox News, 3.54 million the week of the election, is still above 2.1 million, while MSNBC, which hit 2.17 million, had 886,000 the week of March 16.
Where the 'liberal' stations are making their mistake, and this is true throughout all the media, is equating traffic with influence. The reason behind the ratings is Fox draws fact resistant viewers who aren't looking so much for news as for validation of their own views. These are largely people who don't want to search out facts that might distrupt the fantasy they are a silent majority just waiting to be heard. Fox offers comfort food to feed that myth. It doesn't matter to them that the infotainment is as intellectually nutritious as cotton candy. It tastes good and it goes down easy.

On the other hand, the 'liberal' stations draw viewers looking for more substantive fare. They demand facts. They want to see false talking points challenged as invalid. They're tired of repetitious he said/she said 'reporting' devoid of any meaningful context. They don't want to be entertained. They want to be informed. If they want gossip, they'll go to Gawker, where they do it better. The first outlet that figures out old-style, substantive, 'boring' policy-based analysis has an audience waiting to buy the product, will make a killing and maybe even save journalism.

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General Motors meltdown

I don't really have much to say about Obama refusing more aid to GM. The subject is well-covered everywhere else. I'm not finding it alarming that a requirement of more assistance is a management shake-up.

Dan at Pruning Shears voices my only objection in the quote of the day:
Responding to the looting of Wall Street by busting the UAW feels an awful lot like responding to 9/11 by invading Iraq.
Seems to me the unions have already made a lot of concessions. If the administration wants to get tough on bailouts, I'd suggest they start looking for concessions from the banksters instead of the Teamsters.

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All UR internet troolz belong to teh left

I'm not linking directly to Breitbart's insane rant this morning and I suggest you skip it too on the theory that giving them hits only encourages them. Besides this excerpt sums up the whole sorry screed.
Much of Mr. Obama’s vaunted online strategy involved utilizing “Internet trolls” to invade enemy lines under false names and trying to derail discussion. In the real world, that’s called “vandalism.” But in a political movement that embraces “graffiti” as avant-garde art , that’s business as usual. It relishes the ability to destroy other people’s property in pursuit of electoral victory.
Via John Cole. I sometimes forget how new he is to our side of Reality Street. He's come a long way, but still has a way to go.
I really am starting to buy into the notion that anything these guys accuse you of they are actively engaged in themselves.
Starting to buy? Thus it has been so since I've started blogging. But right-wing trolls and bloggers are so civil because they say they want to kill you without using swear words and lefties use that "F" word -- in their posts even -- so they're not. I bet those lefty vandals are leaving "derailing" comments on Beritbart's post right now pointing out that McCain was the one actively recruiting internet trolls during the election.

Thers has more excerpts and some more of those uncivil, liberally-biased facts. [graphic]

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fun with google

I don't check my referrals like I used to when I first started blogging. I think I used to check them hourly then. These days I rarely look unless I have a big spike in traffic. But I happened to take a peek just now and discovered I'm number one hit for forced cleavage. I'm surprised I don't get more hits for that. Or maybe I do and I never noticed before.

It's a post about the TSA, in case you were wondering.

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Pity, Jake DeSantis

A lot of people linking to Matt Taibbi's scathing response to the woebegone resignation letter by the AIG exec who felt so put upon for having to return his three-quarter of a million dollar bonus. But I'm going to post it here anyway to archive the link and I'll at least give you different excerpts:
Also, there's this: let's just say, Jake, that you're telling the truth, that you don't know anything about this toxic portfolio. If that's the case, then why the fuck does anyone need to retain you at an exorbitant salary to help unwind that very portfolio? If these transactions aren't and never were your expertise, then where the hell is your value here? [...]

I mean, half of Wall Street is unemployed right now. There are plenty of unemployed traders out there whose resumes don't include such entries as "Worked for years at small unit of AIG that helped destroy the universe; throughout that time was completely ignorant of burgeoning global disaster unfolding 5 feet from my desk." [...]

The idea that other companies would be so eager to pass over the seas of truly innocent available people in order to scoop up some still-employed veteran of AIGFP -- and that they would be so enthusiastic in their pursuit of said AIGFP employees that AIG would need to pay those AIGFP folks million-plus retention bonuses to get them to stay -- is so ludicrous it almost defies comment.
Read it all. Really. It was so good, I read it twice.

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Six years after

Exactly six years ago, I published my very first blog post. The petition I linked to at the end of that post was my very first attempt at fostering on-line activism. It was a great success story. When I was first made aware of that petition there were less than hundred Americans signed on. I'm by no means taking all the credit, but after two weeks of pitching it on every list serv and website I could think of that might respond, it had thousands of new names. It was exciting. I felt like I was making a difference.

I decided to post under a nym at first, so I called the first blog LA Stone Speaks. Eventually I decided that was too dorky and changed it to Last One Speaks so I wouldn't have to change the URL. I was so clueless in the beginning. I didn't really know how to do it, or what I wanted to do with it, I just knew I wanted to blog. I made a few big mistakes early. I used to get nasty emails for hotlinking to photos back in the day when bandwidth was expensive. And with my usual lack of tact, I managed to piss off a few big bloggers, including Instapundit in the first month. At the time he owned the blogosphere. It took me months to figure how to learn html and I never really mastered coding but I learned enough to get by and eventually figured out the rules of etiquette. I think I can claim to be a semi-popular blogger today.

Last One Speaks morphed several times, and now it's just my personal hideaway that I can't give up for a number of reasons, even though the traffic hardly justifies the effort anymore. But my reach can't be measured by my hit counters. Over the years I've guest posted on so many blogs I don't remember them all. Up until recently, I was actively posting to five blogs. Lately I've cut back to the original three but I'm far past the point of ever being anonymous again. When I started, you could google my name and get no hits. Now you can still find links on page 20...

In some ways I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do with this blogging thing. Google presence aside, it surely didn't make me rich and famous. But I was never in it for that. I just have to write and always cared most about the connections I've made through this medium. I have a lot of friends all over the world whom I'm never met in person and stayed connected to a lot of friends I made in life, whom I would have lost touch with if I depended on snail mail. As long as there is an internet, I'll be blogging somewhere. I was born for this. I can't imagine my life without it or without you my dear friends and readers. Thanks for sticking with me. Without you, I wouldn't have made it this far. [graphic]

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Tainted by torture

I don't know whether Abu Zubaida is guilty of anything or not. Chances are he's probably not a nice man who wished to do the US harm, but we'll never know for sure because any evidence against him was negated by torture. Worse yet, our government wasted millions chasing down false 'leads' he furnished under duress.
In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida's tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida -- chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates -- was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said.
Not only that, "within weeks of his capture, U.S. officials had gained evidence that made clear they had misjudged Abu Zubaida." They knew he wasn't a mastermind so they basically tortured him to get to confess to anything. Interestingly he was the one who fingered Jose Padilla, whom I remind you was not convicted of any terrorism charges in the end. Suddenly the "lost CIA tapes" in that trial make more sense. One suspects they were connected to the torture of Zubaida.

I'd note in passing, that the article is based almost solely on unnamed sources and unidentified court documents. In four pages, there are two attributed quotes. One to his lawyer and one to a former CIA agent. And a quote from a Cheney TV interview where he claimed the tortured confessions had led to dismantling "credible" threats. If that were true, don't you think they would have leaked the thwarted plots to the media at the time?

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Internet activism works

Thanks to everyone who signed the protest letter to the advertisers on BillO's House of Hate. Point and click activism works. Two other advertisers are going to stick with the windbag, but UPS is going to pull their ads. It's a good start.

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A measure of justice

Nice to see the system of justice in this country upholding the rule of law. Oh wait... that would be Judge Baltasar Garzón in Spain who brought forward a complaint against six of the war criminals of the Bush administration.
Spain’s national newspapers, El País and Público reported that the Spanish national security court has opened a criminal probe focusing on Bush Administration lawyers who pioneered the descent into torture at the prison in Guantánamo. The criminal complaint can be examined here. Público identifies the targets as University of California law professor John Yoo, former Department of Defense general counsel William J. Haynes II (now a lawyer working for Chevron), former vice presidential chief-of-staff David Addington, former attorney general and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, now a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and former Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith.
Not sure why Cheney didn't make the list. But if this goes forward to conviction, that's 24 countries in Europe these thugs won't be able to visit. Small justice, but it's something. And as Jay at Newshoggers points out, "The noose is tightening."
With the recent news that another three damning Bush Administration era torture documents will be released soon, and today's story that a New York judge has ordered the CIA to release all information about the destruction of videotapes of detainee interrogations, it's becoming more and more likely the extent of Bush Administration criminal conduct will become clear.
Can't come soon enough for me. Not for vengeance, but for accountability.


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Breaking the oligarchy

Via Jay Ackroyd, a good weekend read, The Quiet Coup, by former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, Simon Johnson, who sees the only way out of the financial morass, but it's not pretty.
But there’s a deeper and more disturbing similarity: elite business interests—financiers, in the case of the U.S.—played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse. More alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them.
Basically, we need to break up the bankster oligarchy. Unfortunately, nothing about Obama's little tete-a-tete with the banksters yesterday, or the current fixes on the table, convinces me that anyone has the political will to do what needs to be done.

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The GOP's war on gambling

You probably remember when the Republicans still controlled both the White House and Congress they passed a law making it illegal for banks and credit card companies to make payments to online gambling sites. This greatly affected the market share of overseas companies. Times being what they are now, the European Union, which oversees trade policy for a 27-nation bloc, revisited the issue and released a report noting the crackdown on European online gambling companies violates U.S. commitments under the World Trade Organization. They're presently seeking "a negotiated solution with the United States rather than file a groundbreaking complaint at the WTO."

The new Democratic majority apparently agrees and plans "to introduce legislation after the April 6-17 congressional break to overturn the U.S. ban on Internet gambling." It's about time. The GOP's vendetta on gambling struck me as one of the more egregious examples of nanny government run amok. I'd love to see the morality police of the American Taliban kicked back to the curb on this one.

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Geekery for grrrls

If you live in or near the Happy Valley, this looks like it could be fun.
ConBust is a sci-fi/fantasy/anime/gaming convention put on each spring by students at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

What sets ConBust apart from most other sci-fi, fantasy, anime, and/or gaming conventions is its focus on the female members of the participating community. While the various realms of geekdom remain stereotypically male-dominated, ConBust is held to celebrate the work of women amongst these genres.
It's going on through Sunday. The roster of speakers looks interesting and admission is very affordable.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Wingnuttery

There's just too much of it today to do it all justice.

Michelle Bachman: I am not a kook. Um, yes, you are.

Conservatives love to snuggie. I haven't seen one in real life, but they don't look that warm to me.

When GOPers poll themselves.

Gibbs squashes WaPo attempt to jump on the teleprompter.

I would think there's some secret GOP plot to make themselves look as ridiculous as possible for some unforeseen purpose, but unfortunately the idiocy is on our side too. Clearly, it's just a Village illness.

Harry Reid, man of insight and perspicacity.

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Big Bedfellows

This is really too funny. Even the title of the post, that I stole for this one, is so richly ironic you could get a stomachache from it. Two different brand name wingnuts. Same exact post.

Word has it KLo and Doughboy are fighting about who gets to take credit for it. Of course, that last part might be made up but it isn't hard to imagine the email exchange they are most certainly having over it. [h/t Lee]

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GOP = Got 0 Plans

The new GOP budget "plan" was released yesterday with much brandishing of a thin blue pamphlet. Ha. Ha. Ha. [Title stolen from Jack who says he stole it from Paul.]

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Not clicking

Can anybody think of a good reason I should care what David Brooks thinks about Afghanistan? I can't either, except maybe to mock his column and that's too easy. It's not worth the time and it just encourages the NYT to post more of his useless tripe.

The newspaper industry is trying to find a working model for an internet based product that generates income. They've fallen for the myth that traffic matters most. While it's a certainly a factor, hits don't equate influence, credibility or quality of content. But as long as they believe this, and they all do, not clicking and especially not linking, is the only way to send them a message.

I haven't read MoDo, Noonan or Brooks among many other overpaid pundits in a long time. I don't read Politico anymore. I wait for someone else with better analytical skills to cover the low points of the piece. I don't feel like I've missed anything.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Obama rejects drug war sanity

I can understand why President Obama can't exactly embrace marijuana legalization. He's already pushing for a pretty full boat of policy changes and the media would have a field day with the pot-head prez. That's still not an excuse for the snarky answer he gave to the most popular question on his website during today's town hall meeting. Drug policy reformers are not just stoners as he implied with his flippant response. Serious economists, other educated professionals and three former Latin American leaders have been speaking out on this issue lately and his failure to address it at all seriously with even a sentence or two of explanation was disrespectful to them and the 40% of Americans who believe it should be legalized.

To add insult to injury, a week after AG Holder announced the feds weren't going to bust medical marijuana dispensaries any more, the DEA raided a dispensary in California today. They refuse to say on what grounds the raid was conducted but it's telling that no arrests were made.

This all on top of the current wrongheaded plan to escalate law enforcement on the border and equip Mexico with more weaponry to fight the drug cartels. One can only conclude the administration is establishing their drug warrior creds and has no interest in even listening to cogent arguments on a new common sense approach to drug policy. I suppose I didn't expect any better, but nonetheless, it's a bitter disappointment to see the change president reject any change whatsoever to failed policies of the past.

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Semi-liveblogging Obama's town hall

I'm watching the live town hall. Not impressed with these answers. Shorter answer on why we can't have single payer health insurance. The insurance industry is too big and powerful to fight. We can't cut them out of the deal.

On legalizing marijuana, one of the most popular questions, he mocked the respondents, implying they were just stoned hippies and just said flat out no, he doesn't think legalizing a multibillion dollar underground industry will help grow the economy. Translation: Prohibitionists' lobbies are too powerful to fight. Gah.

So far the questions are much better than the answers. Which is an improvement over the presser the other night. So there's that...

Update: Answer on military procurement pretty good. Shorter: We're not going to just hand over money to Halliburton and the other big contractors anymore. Maybe give smaller contractors a chance to bid. Be interesting to see if that comes true.

Gives some strokes to the importance of nurses in medicine. Nice. They are under-rated and over looked way too often.

Education: Getting rid of inept teachers not going to play well with the teachers' unions.

Obama lucks out. Last Q from a young guy about pre-exiting conditions coverage. Plays right into his current narrative.

The one thing that stands out on the whole meeting is that Obama plays better when he's answering person to person in the room. He wins over the crowd with his charm. Well except for the guy who didn't get his Q on air. Obama talking to him privately as the meeting ends. He looks pissed.

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Random thought

All the headlines in the major papers are really negative about Obama. Think they're pissed off because he "broke protocol" at the last presser and didn't treat them like royalty?


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Streaming live now

Steve Clemmons moderating:

LIVE STREAM RIGHT NOW till about 1:00PM: Bernard Schwartz, George Soros, Martin Wolf, Laura Tyson and Many More on "What Will Take the Place of the U.S. Consumer?"

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Insurance industry tries to kill reform with kindness

We're still in the early stages, but the political climate is ripe and it's clear that some kind of health insurance reform is going to happen. The industry is already mounting their PR plan of attack against it with a feigned surrender.
In the letter, the two insurance industry groups said their members are willing to "phase out the practice of varying premiums based on health status in the individual market" if all Americans are required to get coverage.
Sounds good at first blush, but only "about 7 percent of Americans buy their coverage as individuals, while more than 60 percent have job-based insurance." They're not offering that option to small businesses and they reserve the right to "charge different premiums based on such factors as age, place of residence, family size and benefits package." Notice how they slip the age thing into an otherwise reasonable mix? Perhaps they're hoping no one would notice the fastest growing demo is aging Baby Boomers? [via]

This is the same kind of trick they played when they sold HMOs as their concession to better health care. They shouldn't even be included in the equation. As David Lindorff points out, "Health insurance companies add zero value to the delivery of health care. Indeed, they are a significant cost factor that sucks up, according to some estimates such as one by the organization Physicians for a National Health Program, as much as 31 percent of every dollar spent on medical services (a percentage that has been rising steadily year after year)."

A point that's made more clearly by Ezra's anecdotal post about his friend ending up at a hospital in Germany, where he knows no one and doesn't speak the language, because his insurance company refused to pay the excessive costs in the US.

We pay 40-75 percent more per capita for health care and receive less services than countries in Europe with national plans. The additional costs can be linked to the insurance industry. They're not going to give those profits up without a very big fight.

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Throw a wrench into O’Reilly’s Harassment Machine

This week's point and click activism is focused on hitting that hatemonger Bill O'Reilly where it hurts. In the wallet. I'm sure you're all familiar with BillO's ambush teams that confront his desiginated innocent target over some fabricated outrage. Last weekend two of his hired thugs harassed a Think Progress editor, who happens to be a tiny woman, because TP posted a critical piece about his neanderthal stance on rape. She's the latest of at least 40 other vicitms of his hitmen.

They put together a sign-on letter to all his major sponsors. All you have to is sign it here once and TP will forward it to all the advertisers. O'Reilly and his ilk are poisoning civil society with their toxic hatemongering. Take 15 seconds to fight back and sign on, please. [via Buzzflash]

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Mr. DeSantis goes Galt

Dear Mr. DeSantis: I'm very happy to learn that you "have benefited more than most during the economic boom and have saved enough that my family is unlikely to suffer devastating losses during the current bust" and I'm terribly sorry you have to suffer the burden of figuring out what to do with your $742,006.40, after taxes, retention bonus. Please don't let the door hit you on the way out. xxL

PS: Since you're all about "civic duty" could you leave a forwarding address? On the off chance that the handful of your fellow employees that "were responsible for the credit default swap transactions" and "conspicuously escaped the public outrage" are ever investigated, perhaps you could testify about your knowledge of their activities?

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Random thought

Any 'news' article that starts with the headline, What Obama Said, and What He Meant, is not worth reading. I don't click on that sort of crap anymore. It just encourages them to produce more of it.

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Obama beats the press

It's going to take a while to process the content of his remarks but Obama pwned the media at their own game last night. It was brilliant. He made them look vapid and petty by anticipating their questions and using them to propel his own narrative. The change in energy in the room was remarkable to watch. You could almost see them salivating with expectation for a kill when Obama walked in.

But Obama calmly assaulted them with complete sentences of full substance. No cheap soundbytes. By the time he squashed Ed Henry they were practically cowering in submission. I hear Tweety said they looked like zombies. They did. Even KO and Rachel looked a little gobsmacked afterward and were struggling to find a hook.

President Obama changed the rules of engagement last night. I don't think they were expecting it. I'm sure they didn't like it. But I did.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Wall St. Excesses Take Ultimate Toll

Shocking news from Wall Street! Manhattan Sold Back to the Indians. For the same price but slightly different terms.
Perhaps fittingly, while the seller in such transactions typically springs for the celebratory lunch, in this case, the contracting parties went ”Dutch treat.”
Via the estimable Mad Kane who delivers the snark on the times in rhyme. Click over for her delicious dish on current events.

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The case for legalization of drugs

I've been saying for years that legalization is the only sane alternative to the drug issue but I'm nobody, so nobody listens. Today CNN posts Jeffrey Miron's excellent essay making the case for a public health approach within the context of the proposed escalation of law enforcement resources on the border of Mexico.
The U.S. and Mexican responses to this violence have been predictable: more troops and police, greater border controls and expanded enforcement of every kind. Escalation is the wrong response, however; drug prohibition is the cause of the violence.[...]

Prohibition of drugs corrupts politicians and law enforcement by putting police, prosecutors, judges and politicians in the position to threaten the profits of an illicit trade. This is why bribery, threats and kidnapping are common for prohibited industries but rare otherwise. Mexico's recent history illustrates this dramatically. [...]

The U.S. repealed Prohibition of alcohol at the height of the Great Depression, in part because of increasing violence and in part because of diminishing tax revenues. Similar concerns apply today, ...Perhaps history will repeat itself, and the U.S. will abandon one of its most disastrous policy experiments.
Miron has been saying this for years as well, but perhaps in today's political climate he'll find a more receptive audience. The evidence is clear. Prohibition breeds violence. Society would only benefit if our legislators took his sage advice.

[Thanks to Mike at C&L for the linky love.]

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Obama reaches out to world leaders

Obama issued an op-ed today which ran in 20 31 publications around the world.
My message is clear: The United States is ready to lead, and we call upon our partners to join us with a sense of urgency and common purpose. [...]

But I also know that we need not choose between a chaotic and unforgiving capitalism and an oppressive government-run economy. That is a false choice that will not serve our people or any people. This G-20 meeting provides a forum for a new kind of global economic cooperation.

The nations of the world have a stake in one another, and the United States is ready to join a global effort on behalf of new jobs and sustainable growth.
Cue the wingnut Obamamessiah chorus in 5, 4, 3....
[h/t passerby]

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GOP to Cheney - just go away

GOPers thinking Cheney should crawl back under the rock he slithered out from:
[One unnamed] legislator said Cheney, whose approval ratings were lower than President Bush’s during the last Congress, didn’t think through the political implications of going after Obama.

Cheney did “House Republicans no favors,” the lawmaker said, adding, “I could never understand him anyway.
Really? I wonder what part of "Go fuck yourself," he doesn't get? I'd say that sums up his whole tenure in office, if not his entire life.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Why conservatives can't do comedy - Updated

Fox has been trying to come up with their own version of the wildly successful Stewart/Colbert model for a long time but they always fail. That's because laser focused satire based on recorded facts is funny. Mean-spirited mockery rooted in ignorance, isn't.

"He had no idea that Canadians were fighting in the war..."

Update: From Gutberg's Twitter feed: "My apologies to the Canadian military, they probably could at least beat the Belgians." He should probably cancel that trip to Toronto...

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Our liberal media

That liberal bias sure is a bitch. WaPo's editorial page last Sunday.
Eleven white guys, one white woman. At least six are more than 60 years old. Four are elected Republicans, but none are elected Democrats, even though the Senate, the House and the White House plus a majority of the governorships are controlled by Democrats.
Not so different on the Sunday morning bobblehead programs either.

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Right wing rage machine pwned again

I am shocked, shocked I tell you, to discover the wingnut blogragers worked themselves up into a frothing lather over an insult to the president of France. ZOMG, President Obama wrote a polite letter to the former president and apparently didn't cc: Sarkozy -- or something. Meanwhile, the Christian Science Monitor, having taken the unprecendented step of checking the facts, discovers it's worse than they thought.
[W]e found out that another French newspaper, the New Observer, explained that Obama was merely replying to a Chirac letter who was writing him as the head of his foundation — the Jacques Chirac Foundation for sustainable development and cultural dialogue. [...]

In any case, there is no evidence that the language has upset President Sarkozy or anyone else in France.
I won't bother to mention the mind-bending inconsistency of the same people who were pouring out bottles of French wine and renaming crispy potatoes as Freedom Fries suddenly becoming so horribly outraged by this imaginary slight. I have to admit I find watching them rampage into irrelevancy somewhat amusing.

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Quick reads

A few items that don't really warrant a post but are interesting reading.

Alex at OTB is amused by the Galt-TeaBagger movement(s).

Damn. We'll still have Tweety to kick around for another four years.

I would have preferred to see the station go off the air myself, but I suppose bringing former DNC chair Howard Dean on as a regular commentator can only be an improvment.

Another volcano erupts, this time in Alaska. Fortunately it appears my brother in Achorage will be spared from the ash fallout.

And can anyone tell me why bankers need private jets at all?

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Kroft sucker punches journalism into oblivion

The last time I watched 60 Minutes regularly Mike Wallace was still their big star, so I had no idea who this Kroft person was when I clicked in for Obama's interview last night. I wish I had remained in blissful ignorance. His 'zinger' question, awkwarded jackhammered into the interview, still has me irritated this morning. It was such a nakedly transparent wet kiss to the perpetually outraged blitherati and it worked. Every GOP watercarrier of the new and old media has been slobbering over it since last night.

When such an utterly inane question becomes the 'story' instead of the substance of the President's answers, it's a clear sign that meaningful journalism is well and truly dead, or at least brain-damaged beyond any useful cognitive function.

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Bailing out

I can't talk about the Bankster bailout today. It's making me crazy. If you want the latest buzz, take your pick here. Suffice it to say, I think the plan sucks. In fact, I think any plan that doesn't include criminal investigations into how these 'assets' became toxic in the first place, sucks.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Obama slaps back Cheney criticism

I wonder how long it will take the usual suspects to start hyperventilating about President Obama's 'disrespect' for the former occupiers of the White House? Pushing back on Cheney's previous bizarre criticisms of his new approach to the fight against terrorism, Obama had this to say among other things.
“How many terrorists have actually been brought to justice under the philosophy that is being promoted by Vice President Cheney?”

Bush administration terrorism policy “hasn’t made us safer,” Mr. Obama said, according to excerpts of the interview released Saturday. “What it has been,” he continued, “is a great advertisement for anti-American sentiment.”
I get encouraged when our president talks like this. It's the kind of change I believe in. Unfortunately, I never stop reading so I find myself wondering if he's really going to walk that talk. Embracing the same tactics to cover up the past administration's criminality won't change anything.

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Mad tea parties

I think it's a good thing when Americans exercise their constitutional right to peaceably assemble in protest, so I don't want to mock the Tea Party protestors. But it would be easier to appreciate their newly awakened activism if they showed any sign of understanding what they're mad about, instead of just showing up because they're crazy mad.

This is not lost on the less gullible in the ranks. From a Freeper thread, their problem in a nutshell as explained by "a professional media producer":
1. Incoherent message...
3. Speakers not prepared for the media - the organizer was asked to name some specific objectionable items in the stimulus. She couldn’t do it. I doubt many of us could.
There's more at the link (and yes this is the first and only time I'm likely to link to that toxic site), but number three nails why it's impossible to take them seriously. Invariably the interviewed "man in the crowd" ends up looking like a idiotic trained parrot whose only purpose is to mindlessly repeat after Limbaugh, or Beck, or Malkin or whatever self-serving opportunist they follow.

Meanwhile if you prefer the mockery, LGM and TBogg deliver the snark.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bad Will Hunting

Chris Mooney's polite takedown of George Will didn't get the attention it deserved. He shredded Will's wingnut placating, climate change denial column with a level of courtesy I hope to attain in another lifetime.
Partisans of this issue often wield vastly different facts and sometimes seem to even live in different realities...

In this context, finding common ground will be very difficult. Perhaps the only hope involves taking a stand for a breed of journalism and commentary that is not permitted to simply say anything; that is constrained by standards of evidence, rigor and reproducibility that are similar to the canons of modern science itself.
That's the most elegant version of [insert your own profane expletive here] I've ever seen.

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Pictures of the week

Why monitoring is probably a good idea.


Nature's A-bomb. Undersea volcano erupts just outside Tonga. [photo: Agence France Presse]

I'm liking TPM's new regular video feature, the day in 100 seconds. It's funny. But what's sad is they really can sum up the substance of the day's teevee news in only 100 seconds.

I forgot about the six year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Apparently, the legacy media did too, or at least I didn't see any coverage of it. But TPM remembered with a photo gallery of seminal moments.

That was good but the the best tribute was probably Doonesbury's strip for the day. Time to bring our troops home.

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Brit warns - beware the blogs

Brit Hume is the latest to warn that "teh blogs" are destroying journalism.
What are we getting?…We’re getting bloggers and websites and all sorts of individual entrepreneurs, and we have a vaster menu of choices today than we’ve ever had. But I think that we also have the danger that everything will be presented from one political viewpoint or the other, and that the media that confront us are going to be more partisan than ever — which means that the Media Research Center will have a mission for many years to come, and a good thing that is.
Spoken by one of the GOP's most stalwart watercarriers who only moments later thanked the right wing MRC's talking points division for feeding him most of his "news" stories while he was anchoring at Fox. You ever notice that the media mouths who hate the blogs most are the ones who are really crappy journalists?

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Czechs reject US radar base

While the US media endlessly twitters about bad jokes on Jay Leno and Joe the Plumber's sexual state, the rest of the world conducts some serious business. The lesson here is that our media is inane but activism works if you work at it.
In a major setback for Pentagon plans to install a U.S. military radar base in the Czech Republic, the Czech government yesterday withdrew, at least for now (and possibly for good), its proposal to ratify an agreement on the base. [...]

Thanks to the tireless activities of anti radar groups in the country, the No Bases Initiative and the Nonviolence Movement, popular opinion remained strongly mobilized against the radar. This public opposition culminated in a likely no vote in the Chamber. [...]

The anti-radar movement has drawn support from around the world from people alarmed by the dangerous military escalation of the proposed European missile defense program of the Czech radar and its companion Interceptor missiles in Poland.
Campaign for Peace and Democracy also circulated an internet petition signed by hundreds of Americans, including me, that was submitted to the Czech government on Monday. The Prime Minister claims the deal isn't dead yet but anti-radar activists are determined to keep pushing back until it is. You can still sign the petition here.

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AIG fallout

TPM catches a clip of "a great exchange on CNBC between the anchor and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA). Sherman has the guy mumbling about witch-huntery.

And I didn't read it yet, but everyone seems to be raving about this Matt Taibbi piece about the thugs of Wall Street. It isn't about money - it's about power and Matt says we're royally screwed.

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Precious Palin

Sarah Palin couldn't wait to express her shock Obama made a thoughtless "remark about our world’s most precious and unique people." And she does so hope that "President Obama’s comments do not reflect how he truly feels about the special needs community."

This shortly after she decided it suited her political purposes to reject part of the stimulus money. The funding she is refusing in part "would pay for educational programs to help economically disadvantaged and special needs students." I couldn't find a link but word has it she also came out against funding Special Olympics while she was campaigning last year.

Clearly she's joining the other stim rejecting, wingnut governors in positioning herself for another national run. A theory reinforced by this interesting Conde Nast piece that didn't receive enough attention. Seems she killed any chance of that fabled Alaska pipeline by playing politics with the contracts. Her theatrics are not sitting well with the natives.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Mysterious deaths

Avedon says out loud what I was thinking when I first heard about this:
It would be even more interesting to know whether Dick Cheney's Assassination Squad explains the mysteriously convenient deaths of so many people who seemed to stand in his way politically.
I mean, when you start counting them up, there were a lot of them.

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Twitter-dee-dee - Updated

File this under why I don't want to get hooked on twitter. The more I check out what's going on in tweet world, the more it begins to look like it's degenerating into playground politics. Looks to me like the 'pros' are taking all the fun out it. Think I'll just wait for the next big thing in social networking.

Update: The Twitterwar has been going on all day long. The most interesting part is that Tapper claims he was misquoted from his twitter feed. That is what bothers me about Twitter. It just feeds the whole frenzy for immediacy over accuracy.

Meanwhile, CNN reports on this earthshaking development. Joe the Plumber said he was horny. In public. In front of a bunch of high level conservative wingnuts.

Apparently, the professionals, call this journalism.

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Media Bytes - What's going on edition

Song in my head. I've been battling a little burnout this week but I've reading the news and collecting links as always, so here's a few items you may have missed.

With major metro newspapers shutting down all over the country, the legacy media is rightfully concerned about their future. Unfortunately they can't seem to see beyond their idealized vision of what they do. It's been long since "serious reporting" has been on their menu. Of course they blame the bloggers for creating a 24/7 rush for breaking news, but they're wrong. It's not that blogs didn't create a rush to publish environment, where the legacy media went wrong was trying to compete on that playing field instead of staking out their own territory for deeper and individualized analysis that only they had the resources to do.

And I agree that we need a robust and indepedent professional media for a healthy democracy but I fear it may be too late. They commited suicide when they decided to go with a business model that relies on photogenic idiots and ideologues whose only talent is delivering meaningless sound bites. And I like the occassional gossipy story as much as the next guy, but when our 'serious' journalists deliver a steady diet of such inane trivia as 1000 word stories on handkerchiefs, well, I don't know why they're surprised that they're failing.

However, having said all that, I was interested to hear there will be a White House kitchen garden. That sends a good message on a lot of levels.

Unfortunately, the White House has fallen down on framing the AIG mess. I'm no fan of lockstep, enforced consistency, but the conflicting statements on this one suggests an incoherency that won't instill confidence. It's true the bonuses are trivial, but *teh people* are seriously pissed off and they have become the focal point of their anger. Saying it's trivial, won't make it go away.

Speaking of AIG, this photo of the current head of AIG Financial Products at a cocktail party speaks a thousand words. None of them flattering.

Meanwhile, technology marches on. Via Hecate, this new computing concept thrills and scares me at the same time. On the other hand, via m. heart, the latest house on wheels just thrills me. I want one of these.

And ending with our customary picture show, the title of this gallery says it all. Detroit's beautiful horrible decline. More soothing is this shot, when galaxies collide. I'll never get over the wonder that we get pictures like this from space. And looking at the past, this is very cool. Petroglyphs in the wild.

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Paranoid ratings

Glen Beck, apparently encouraged by the high ratings his recent sobfest garnered, has clearly gone off the rails. He's taken to passing out John Birch literature and is currently peddling a conspiracy theory about Obama building internment camps for conservatives as part of a secret plot to build a "totalitarian state."

Most of the commentary was focused on the similarity between Beck's paranoid ravings and various fictional works. But here's the thing. While I think Beck is faking fear for ratings, I couldn't help but recall, the Bush administration did indeed contract for construction of camps in case of an "immigration emergency." To my knowledge they never started construction, but KBR was "to receive an estimated $450,000 annually for administrative costs." I wonder if we're still paying on that contract?

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

The sacred cow of spending

Eisenhower wasn't kidding when he warned us about the military-industrial complex. In all the debate over spending, the defense budget is rarely mentioned but it's a bigger suck on our Treasury than the social safety net. The Social Security "problem" and national health insurance could be easily solved by bringing military spending into some semblance of sanity. Young Matt puts it into focus today:
It seems to me that if you told the man on the street that you had a plan to spend double on defense what China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran spend combined that said man would assume you were proposing to spend a healthy amount of funds on national defense. Such a standard would, however, imply very large cuts.
Exactly right. We spend 5 to 10 times more for our national defense than our "enemies" and it's so unnecessary. And I'm not talking about overpriced hammers and toilet seats. The big bucks are being spent on developing sophisticated technology for wars we don't fight anymore. The dynamics of combat have changed, but the spending hasn't because the corporations with a lock on the politicians are deeply invested in obsolete R&D.

The defense budget is around half a trillion dollars. If we cut that in half, and we safely could, it would go a long way towards funding programs spent for peaceful purposes instead of war. It works for me.

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An exciting night at the McCompound

This is the second time I've heard the fire alarm in the middle of the night here. The good news is this time I didn't try to turn it off and set off my burglar alarm instead. The bad news is it was a real fire.

I almost didn't get out of bed. I didn't smell anything but when I heard the neighbor upstairs scream, I thought I should check the hall anyway and sure enough there was smoke this time. So I threw on my clothes and grabbed the four most important things in the house. My laptop, my camera, my purse and my passport and headed for the sidewalk. As it turned out the fire was on the wall in the stairwell, which happened to be the outside wall of my kitchen. For the first time I was really glad I don't have a gas stove.


By the time I got to the stairs some kid with an extinguisher had already put it out. Ironically, it was the fire alarm box that caught fire. This is what's left of it.


The fire department is really good here. I'm amazed at how many trucks and fireman we have. Half of them were trooping through my apartment to make sure it wasn't going to ignite. I tried to get more photos but apparently the reflective tape on their coats screws up the exposure and I only managed to get this one shot.


There were all so cute. I got to chat them up for a long time since I was the last one they let back into the building. And it was good I couldn't fall asleep right away because the fire marshall showed up 20 minutes later to take one last look at my wall.

Anyway, nothing really bad happened except my apartment was vaguely smoky because they had the door open. Took an hour in the freezing night to air it out again. But no big damage, no one was hurt and I got to see what my neighbors looked like. Some of them for the first time. So there's that.

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Fire!!!

Getting a late start today. We had a little fire in the building in the middle of the night. Details later.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

AIG: It's not the bonuses, it's the crime - Updated

Josh Marshall and the investigative team at TPM are digging into the public records of AIG and hitting a bedrock of deceit and corruption.
To give a little more background, a mix of congressional testimony, SEC filings and news reports suggest that there were concerns and suspicions going back at least to 2005 that Joe Cassano wasn't letting AIG corporate or anyone else look at his divisions books. Remember, this is the divisions where the CDSs were written, the ones that played substantial role in triggering the global financial crisis. The auditor they installed to find out what was going on was shut out. Their accountancy, PricewaterhouseCoopers, was disturbed by what it saw and felt obliged to note what was happening in SEC filings. Employment and compensation contracts aren't the issue here. That is a distraction. Think more in terms of RICO. Let us know more about the on-going criminal probe.
I've been thinking for weeks now that this is a RICO prosecution waiting to happen. And that is what it's going to take to calm down the public.

The focus of the anger is on the bonuses but that is not really what's driving it. People are pissed off because even the lowest info voter knows these guys screwed us and the perception is they're being rewarded instead of punished. Because they are. I continue to think that seeing a few indictments instead of endless rounds of "retention bonuses" would calm everybody down and restore consumer confidence.

Update: They're moving at the speed of light at TPM. The main perp has a name and the evidence mounts.

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March Madness

I know exactly zero about basketball but I love being in a March Madness pool because it gives me a reason to care who wins. I have a ultra sophisicated system for choosing my picks that's so good, rumor has it Nate Silver is trying to steal it. It combines a highly calibrated, scientific charting algorithm called eenie, meenie, miney, moe and a finely tuned distate for certain cities. Having just seen President Obama's bracket, I'm feeling pretty confident about placing well in the pool.
President Obama's NCAA Men's basketball Final Four picks, unveiled Wednesday, reveals the nation's first hoops fan picked Big East powerhouses Louisville and Pittsburgh, along with Memphis and the University of North Carolina.
I'd be willing to bet, it took him a lot longer to choose than it did to make my picks. Think you can beat me? Join us the Balloon Juice pool. It's open to anyone. You still have one day left to get in.

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Ditch the Diebolds

I'm hoping since we now have Democrats in nominal control of the federal government that maybe our *liberal* press will take a renewed interest in the inherently hackable touchscreen voting machines. As Brad Blog points out today, they're still very much a problem.
Even the audit log system on current versions of Premier Election Solutions' (formerly Diebold's) electronic voting and tabulating systems --- used in some 34 states across the nation --- fail to record the wholesale deletion of ballots. Even when ballots are deleted on the same day as an election.
We won by sheer numbers in the last election. The Dems advantage was simply too big to credibly game. We can't count on that in the future. Now would be the time to eliminate the system's reliance on such deeply flawed machines.

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Drug decrim works

Glenn Greenwald will be giving a talk at Cato on decrim on April 3rd. If you live near the Beltway, I'd bet it be worth attending. He'll be saying sensible things like this:
Evaluating the policy strictly from an empirical perspective, decriminalization has been an unquestionable success, leading to improvements in virtually every relevant category and enabling Portugal to manage drug-related problems (and drug usage rates) far better than most Western nations that continue to treat adult drug consumption as a criminal offense.

As a consensus in that country now recognizes, decriminalization is what enabled them to manage drug-related problems far more effectively than ever before, and the nightmare scenarios warned of by decriminalization opponents have, quite plainly, never materialized.
It comes as no surprise to me. I've been saying for years, it doesn't matter whether you think drug use is bad or good, the inescapable truth is -- some people are going to use drugs. And some people will never use them. It seems silly to think there are hordes of people just waiting for illicit drugs to become legal so they can fulfill their life long dream of becoming addicts. It's good we're finally seeing some empirical evidence to prove that a public health approach is the best one to deal with those who became caught up in the nightmare of addiction. [via]

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We'll always have Bushisms

Probably the only thing I miss about our former Creep in Chief is his unique *command* of our language and he didn't disappoint at yesterday's luncheon. In describing his upcoming most awesome book of memoirs:
"I'm going to put people in my place, so when the history of this administration is written at least there's an authoritarian voice saying exactly what happened," Bush said.
The book will center on his 12 most difficult decisions as president. His publicist denies rumors that number one will be deciding which lure to use when he caught that big fish. [via]

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bush speaking gig kicks off

Bush's speechifying tour got off to a shoe flying start.
Three Canadians were arrested and others threw shoes in protest against George W. Bush on Tuesday when he gave his first post-presidential speech in western Canada's oil patch. The footwear was tossed at an effigy of the 43rd US president outside a Calgary conference center where Bush was to speak to some 1,500 people at a luncheon, said Colette Lemieux of the Canadian Peace Alliance.

Some 200 protestors from across the country had gathered for the demonstration against Bush's invasion of Iraq and rendition of terror suspects, she said in a telephone interview with AFP.
Word has it that people from all over the country sent shoes for the event. Otherwise the lunch time $400 a plate "conversation with George W. Bush" went well. Our former Chief Incompetent packed in 1,500 to hear him "share his thoughts on his eight momentous years in the Oval Office." No confirmation on whether he planned to read My Pet Goat to the crowd.

Ironically, at the time the kickoff gig of this speaking tour was announced, the pundits were thinking Calgary was a safe bet.
"He's probably accomplishing the first thimbleful of money back into the old coffers, as he said he was looking forward to doing, but he's careful not to go too far before an audience where shoes might be thrown," said SMU political science professor Cal Jillson. "It does sound like he's not going to play without a net for some time."
Clearly, Professor Jillian misunderestimated the power of teh footwear. It appears shoe throwing is the new black arm band.

Originally the itinerary was supposed to include the U.S., Europe and Asia. I can't wait to see what kind of welcome he'll get across the pond. If you'll excuse the pun, I have a feeling they will baring a lot of soles.

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Oh, the places I've been...

A bunch of links I've been meaning to post to news you have missed.

Hate radio takes a hit in California. As Diane said, "How ironic: the invisible hand of the market just flipped off its most vigorous supporters."

That should make our friend Spocko happy. He didn't post on this one himself, but he's probably the longest standing warrior against the hate jockeys in Blogtopia and has other news of media malfeasance.

I still love this story and here's a new twist. Stewart vs. Cramer, and much more, as translated by Bobblespeak. The transcripts here are always much better than the real thing.

Our friend Hart has a great take on the Go Galt movement. And he doesn't think much of Andrew Malcolm but he called me a national treaure. Thanks buddy. The feeling is mutual.

Don't know what I would do without Dan's comprehensive posts on the overlooked news inside the Beltway. His week in tyranny is essential reading, but keep scrolling to his "through the cracks" post. As he said, "Those now in Washington are turning into conspirators after the fact, and increasingly the deeds of the prior leadership become those of the current one. And the rest of ours as well." He's right of course. As much as like some things Obama is doing, he's also making some very important decisions that are more than a little alarming.

To lighten up the mood, Whiskey Ina is doing art lately and has some fabulous self portraits. I have to find some time to figure out this SUMO paint thing. I want to do those too.

Hecate's place is a welcome oasis in these troubled times. I always leave feeling more centered and she's still doing the restaurant reviews that I really love. Make sure you scroll down far enough to get the White House recipe for spinach.

And lastly, nothing is more comforting than kittenz. This one is an especially nice gallery.

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Say goodbye...

I've had a busy day and I'm having a bit of trouble getting focused on the blogging thing. I'm pretty bummed out to have discovered last night that I lost a dear friend who I haven't seen in a long time. So the only thing I've posted is a eulogy for Cynthia.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

How progressive are you?

I don't usually post these quizzes but NTodd found a really good one. The questions are interesting and the format is done well. It's quick even though it's a little long. My score was 375/400. How progressive are you?

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Sucker Brunched

While most of the country is wondering if they can afford Ramen noodles this week, there are still some people who spend $5,000, up to $18,000 or $20,000 on Saturday brunch. Most of them are old money, but the investment banker crowd still make it past the doorman if they spend 2 or 3K.
A man who works in finance and was standing near the bar of Merkato 55 the following Saturday started to talk about this issue, but then he had second thoughts, saying he could be fired for drawing attention to the subject in the news media. Any overt display of conspicuous spending, he added, even if not a dime was expensed to a corporate account, would not sit well with his employer. “Excess,” he said, “is frowned upon heavily.”

As for how he and his fellow Wall Streeters could still afford such afternoons, he said: “We all made so much money in the past five years, it doesn’t matter.”

A 29-year-old man who works for a large investment management firm and was at Bagatelle’s brunch one recent Saturday and at Merkato 55’s the next, put it another way: “If you’d asked me in October, I’d say it’d be a different situation, and I don’t think I’d be here. Then the government gave us $10 billion.”
I was about to have lunch myself, but suddenly I feel a little sick to my stomach.

[hat tip watertiger]

[More posts daily at The Detroit News]

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Time for indictments at AIG

A lot of people linking to Josh Marshall this morning. I agree that the problem with the AIG bailout isn't just the bonuses, though they do rankle. But I don't think it's being perceived by the average Jake so much as impotence, as it is complicity. It smacks of politics as usual, not change and certainly not reform of the system. It will play as a broken campaign promise. It won't escape the notice of even the least informed voters that auto workers got screwed on contracts and white collar brass get millions in payola with no apparent enforceable conditions.

I'm thinking the only way to restore public confidence is for them to see the bankers held to account for creating the mess, instead of being bailed out any further. As I said at DetNews last night:

By clawing back the money through criminal prosecutions, the taxpayers would recoup the profit the racketeers took off the top of the debts, instead of paying their debts off for them, which is what we're doing with the bailouts. Of course the perps won't like this idea, but I can't think of a better way to restore consumer confidence than showing the people our government is willing to bring their well-connected, enormously wealthy patrons to justice.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

America's worst Sheriff will be investigated

Point and click activism works. The petition I asked you to sign asking for a Justice investigation of the civil rights abuses of Arizona sheriff Arpaio ended up with 38,000 signatures and was duly delivered to Congress with some ceremony. An investigation is pending. Here's hoping justice will be served and law enforcement will be rid of villianous cretins like Arpaio.

Thanks to everyone who signed on to make this moment happen.

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For the record...

Dick Cheney is a smug, remorseless. lying, soulless, malevolent parasite and a irredeemable psychopath. That is all.

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Rewarding failure - Updated

An obligatory WTF post. I'm sure you'll all have heard that AIG has another round of retention bonuses in the works. Geithner made the obligatory "sternly worded phone call" and that changed practically nothing.
In a letter to Geithner yesterday, Liddy agreed to restructure some of the payments. But Liddy said he had "grave concerns" about the impact on the firm's ability to retain talented staff "if employees believe that their compensation is subject to continued and arbitrary adjustment by the U.S. Treasury."
Same lame excuse every time. Where are these people going to go? If there's a huge demand for bank execs capable of running their companies into ruin, I haven't heard of it. A more legitimate concern is over lawsuits for breach of contract but as many have pointed out, bankruptcy is still an option. I don't know why we don't just take it over and break it up into pieces small enough to fail.

And as I've been saying for weeks now, we shouldn't be bailing these people out, we should be indicting them for fraud.

Update: A simpler solution. Offer to fire them for cause--hey they ruined your company-- don't pay them "retention" bonuses.

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They Surround Us

Since I don't watch Fox, I'm late to Glen Beck's party, or protest, or pep rally, or whatever it was supposed to be. I'm about as confused about it as Shep Smith. I don't know who Shep is either, but I hear Chris Matthews thinks he's going to be fired for mocking Glen.

Anyway, as far as I can tell, I think us dirty liberal socialists are supposed to wildly intimidated by this "new and growing" movement of very concerned citizens, who through the power of the internets have discovered -- they are not alone. Apparently there's at least three thousand of them willing to brave the mean streets of the new Amerika and proudly assemble in public.

I ventured to Glen Beck's site, (and no I'm not linking to him), to find the accounts of these victory bashes. They amassed by the hundreds to watch Glen Beck on TV. About 500 filled the The Rex Theater in Wyoming. Some 275 packed a conference room at the Holiday Inn in Asheville. They crammed 150 into Bassett Furniture in CO. Nearly 75 took over the Old Spanish Mission Inn in FL and who knows how many stormed the Magic Mushroom in Breward County.

Long did I search the intertubes for photos of these fearsome warriors but sadly, while many spoke of this awesome gathering, few actually attended and fewer still brought their cameras. But we are not without proof that these disgruntled Americans exist in more than Beck's fevered imagination. In Virginia the citizen journalists chronicled the festivities. Although festive may be the wrong word. These people look dead serious. And one suspects that a few Galters infilitrated the event, since the tables are remarkably empty of anything that resembled purchases from the bar. You might have thought they would have at least ordered tea...

Nonetheless, these intrepid souls filled the folding chairs across America yesterday. They laughed and they cried with their leader, pledging to follow at least 7 of the 9 tenets of the new revolution. And there were speeches afterwards.

So be afraid, very afraid. You may not actually see them, but they're out there -- somewhere.

[More posts daily at The Detroit News]

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Happy Birthday Giovanni Schiaparelli

There are things I loathe and fear about Google, but I love their little obscure memorials.
In 1890, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli drew this map of Mars. Today, on his 174th birthday, we are excited to include his work with many other new features for Mars in Google Earth.



Granted this is just a promo for their latest gimmick, but I find it just astounding that in my lifetime we went from orbiting a chimpanzee around the earth to orbiting Mars with a satelite that sends back enough real data to create a virtual replica of the planet.

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Profiting from loss

One thing that doesn't seem to be mentioned much in the debate over these 'too big to fail' investment banks is they're also just plain too big. The other day, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., said "the U.S. can rescue its banking system by the end of the year if officials start cooperating and stop the 'vilification' of corporate America." If "officials start cooperating?" That sounds like pretty much like a threat to me. And so does this.
“If we act like a dysfunctional family and we don’t finish these things and we’re forever debating them, I think this will go on for several years,” Dimon, 52, said at a conference hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington. “It’s completely up to us at this point.”
Who is this "us" he speaks of, I wonder. I don't think it's you and me.

Interestingly, Mr. Simon is also on the list of the top ten people who benefited from the crash. I'm no economist but it seems to me that there's something very wrong with a system that rewards greed and failure. The temptation to deliberately cause failure is obvious. No entity should have that kind of power.

[More posts daily at The Detroit News]

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