Saturday, December 31, 2011

Auld Lang Syne 2011

It's been a long strange year. Goodbye to all that.



Here's to 2012. Hoping 2012 brings better times for everyone.
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Time waits for no one


Well it appears I'll be turning the year feeling miserably ill, so no deep year end thoughts for me. Neither am I likely to make it to midnight since I just broke out the brandy to ease my tortured throat. Which is helping by the way. But I still have lots of saved links, so here's some the best of the year end reviews I've seen.

You can tell a lot about a GOP candidate from where they choose to live. Houses of the Hopefuls.

A rare photo journey inside North Korea.

Loved Stanley Kubrick's photos of New York.

Pete Souza's official White House 2011 gallery.

The Occupy Movement in 50 pictures.

Salon's media hack list of 2011.

An awesome movie mash-up that uses scences from something like 253 movies.

And best of all. The year in Lego.

Happy New Year's Eve. Don't drink and drive.

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To the moon Alice...

Been a while since I revisited my Chris Christie conspiracy theory. Don't underestimate him. Even if he just ends up as the VP, he's a dangerous opponent. He's the Ralph Kramden of politics. Here he is stumping for Romney, Jersey style.
“If you don’t do what you’re supposed to do for Mitt Romney on Tuesday,” Christie said, defiant in only a suit jacket against the biting cold and wind-whipped rain, “I will be back, Jersey-style, people. I will be back.”
I understand it was clear he was joking. But joking or not, that bully schtick sells to the swing voters. Suspect there's a lot of Jersey Shore fans in that demo. And he really is Gleasonesque. Hell, he even looks a little like Jackie. That could win over the elderly vote who still remember, and maybe somewhat long for, the days of The Honeymooners.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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Friday, December 30, 2011

Taking our country back

If I wasn't so sick that I'm ready to fling myself off this mortal coil rather than live another minute feeling this horrible, I might have written something like this. Well, actually, that's not true. I'll never be one tenth the writer as Charles P. Pierce. But he speaks of the same sort of thoughts that keep me up at night in his year's end reflections. This is just the closer.
It is a dead-level time for us as a people. There are now 146 million Americans who are ranked as "low-income" or "poor." Somebody really should do something about that. How we treat them in our politics is going to be the ultimate test of our moral credibility as a nation. Do we treat this situation as the national disgrace that it is, and commit ourselves as a nation to eliminating it? Or do we turn away from them, blame them for the malaise we feel in our lives, and drink deeply again from the supply-side, trickle-down snake oil? Do we look at the president — a Democratic president — and scream that this is no longer tolerable to us as a people? Or do we nod sagely and deplore the lack of civility and bipartisan cooperation in our government and hope that cooler heads will prevail, that the great national purpose of our age is to deprive ourselves further of what was supposed to be the promise of the country in the vague and futile hope that somehow, somewhere, things will get better down the line?

The moral act is to scream.
If you read nothing else this weekend. Read this in its entirety.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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Living large on Wall Street

Nothing the white collar criminal class does here is against the law. It should be but it won't ever change as long as our political elites protect the banksters' perks. Like this cozy little scam:
The stock market’s rebound from the financial crisis three years ago has created a potential windfall for hundreds of executives who were granted unusually large packages of stock options shortly after the market collapsed.

Now, the corporations that gave those generous awards are beginning to benefit, too, in the form of tax savings.

Thanks to a quirk in tax law, companies can claim a tax deduction in future years that is much bigger than the value of the stock options when they were granted to executives. This tax break will deprive the federal government of tens of billions of dollars in revenue over the next decade. And it is one of the many obscure provisions buried in the tax code that together enable most American companies to pay far less than the top corporate tax rate of 35 percent — in some cases, virtually nothing even in very profitable years.
So in other words, when the market crashed, the execs got mega stock options at a low price. Market recovers, they get to buy the revalued stocks at a bargain basement rate and the companies get a huge tax write off for the enhanced compensation. Which robs the national treasury of their tax revenue. Little taxpayers are effectively subsidizing executive payoffs, which are already astronomically high.

Yet the answer our political elites come up with every time to "help" the little guy is to throw more free money into the insatiable maw of the banksters and pay for it by making "sadly necessary" sacrifices in social programs for the poor and middle class. But please don't complain about it. It hurts their feelings.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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Cats and Fairies

Denial is no longer possible. I do indeed have a miserable cold in my head. So while I want for my brain to defog, here's a few more links I've been saving.


Love this story. Meet Artful Dodger, a "ginger moggy" who lives in England and has a taste for bus travel.

Sort of related, the 20 most important cats of 2011. A collection of the most viral cats gone cute youtubes.

Giving the the entire animal kingdom its due, Incredible animal photos of 2011.

And not to forget man's best friend. This is old I think, but it still made me smile all over again. All dogs go to heaven.

And oh yeah, the fairies. A Flickr gallery of a really nice Fairytale mural.
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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Too high a price for dirty oil

I'm late to the game on the Keystone XL pipeline, having only recently caught up on what's going on. Having now studied the details, it's clearly not a project I could support. Yet I see it does have majority support in the polling. I suppose it's because the proponents are inflating the number of jobs the pipeline might create and minimizing the horrific damage a pipeline break could cause. Wondering why anyone believes a 2,000 mile pipeline bisecting the entire U.S., partly routed over a critical watershed and an active seismic fault line is ever a good idea.

I have a longer post at Detroit News on this multi-billion dollar folly but I do want to repost the photo that brings it into focus. I've never seen an extraction site before.


Looks even worse than the deforestation of the Amazon. It's like taking three quarter of million acres of the Shire and turning it into Mordor. Disgraceful. Really hoping the GOPers ransom demand on the authorization forces Obama to cancel the whole damn thing.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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Rove predicts through rose colored glasses

People often tell me that Rove is over-rated as a political operative but my philosophy is don't ever take you eyes off a snake, even if it looks like it's sleeping. Granted, Karl's recent tweeting blitz of failed talking points smells of fear and desperation, as do his predictions in this op-ed in WSJ. He does make one valid and honest point though:
Groups like American Crossroads (which I helped found) will narrow the Democratic money advantage.
Otherwise, shorter op-ed: This is my wish list and I'm counting on my high priced, stealth smear ad campaign to make it come true.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Jon Swift: Gone but not forgotten


There have been many times since his sudden death that I wished Al Weisel, a/k/a Jon Swift, was still with us to decipher the conservative narratives with his inimitable brand of gentle satire. In a world where gut-busting snark now rules the internets, I miss Al's subtle and oh so polite evisceration of Wingnuttia; so skillfully rendered that first time readers often thought he was a sovereign citizen of Wingnutistan himself.

But Al under his Swiftian persona was a real liberal and a true friend to the small bloggers of what was then known as Leftopia. His kind encouragement and generous linking policy inspired many B-Z listers to keep posting. Myself included.

Every year at this time he would undertake the Herculean task of publishing a huge "best post of the year list." He invited everyone to contribute. Sure you had to pick your own best post, but he assembled the list, embedded the links and promoted the post, sending much appreciated traffic spikes to those who rarely saw them.

But while Al Weisel is sadly lost to us, a million thanks to Batocchio, the Vagabond Scholar for keeping the spirit of our dear friend alive by continuing the tradition with the Jon Swift Memorial Round-up. I, for reasons too complicated to explain, unfortunately missed the deadline, but there's a wealth of fabulous posts at the link. Some names you'll recognize, and some you probably won't. But read them all. Jon would have wanted it that way.

Via the incomparable Lance Mannion who got inside my head this week. This virtual world, that was once called the blogosphere has changed so much since the days we started this crazy blogging thing. His thoughts on twitter fatigue mirror my own. Everything changes. [graphic credit]

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They're all BoBos on this bus

It's Charles P. Pierce's birthday today, which I discovered by chance in a rare perusal of the comments. But that's not why I'm giving him quote of the day. It's because he summed up in one sentence why I stopped reading David Brooks so many years ago:
I think David Brooks belongs in a cage.
I have nothing to add to that, however, our estimable blogging hero has much more to say on the subject of Mr. Brooks "to-the-manor-born sociopathy" along with his usual delicious roasting of Brooks' fellow sociopaths. So, you know what to do

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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GOP applause lines

This isn't the only troublesome talking point audiences cheer as the GOP's Carnival of Clowns tour through Iowa but Rick Perry delivers the funniest applause line of the silly season, so far.
“Every barrel of oil that comes out of those sands in Canada is a barrel of oil that we don’t have to buy from a foreign source,” Mr. Perry said in Clarinda, earning a loud round of enthusiastic applause.
OK, so maybe those furriners up north aren't so threatening because they're mostly white folks and mostly speak English, so it's not really like a foreign country. Not like those evil furriners on the south border who don't even understand our language and refuse to learn to speak Amurkin at all. But it wasn't that long ago this same crowd was all hyped up about the existential threat of the imaginary NAFTA Superhighway which was going to destroy our sovereignty and create a North American government allowing them there Mexicans free passage all over our great land. A grave concern that still hadn't completely died as late as last year.

Back in those days, current Iowa frontrunner, Ron Paul warned Rick Perry was a mastermind of this heinous plot as evidenced by Perry's unrelenting support for the southern end of this behemoth roadway to hell, namely the Trans-Texas Corridor. But now they cheer a transcontinental pipeline that was an integral part of the NAFTA Superhighway blueprint? Gotta love those kooky cons.

But maybe all is forgiven because Perry pledged to ignore Supreme Court decisions that conflict with the social conservative agenda. Just as any God-fearin "strict constitutionalist" would do.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Don't let the door hit you...


Big news of the day, Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Turncoat), has decided to retire and spend more time making money. OK. That's not what he said but I give him a month or less after he leaves office before he takes a K Street address. Willing to wager he already has something lined up. And a SOB to the end, he waited until after the party sank a cool million into protecting his seat. DSCC got snookered.

I'm not shedding any tears over it. Yes, I get the concern about the risk to the Senate majority, but so what? I've long contended electing so-called centrist Dems who vote with Republicans does more harm than good to the Democratic brand. I'm not persuaded it's worth it just because Nelson voted Dem on the big final votes. He also voted with Republicans on crucial early votes, to water down those bills to near worthlessness. He may well still be to the left of the GOP, but only barely. He gave them a lot of "bi-partisan" cover. Might as well just cede the seat to a GOPer. Make the Republicans own their bogus policy prescriptions. [Graphic via expatyourself.com]

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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It ain't over til it's over

Lot of people buzzing about this Team Newt Holiday Video. Granted it is weird. But weirdest campaign video ever? Maybe weirdest of the day but in my book, this is still the all time winner:



And speaking of McCain, the twitter machine reminds me:
Nation Hahn: Things can change. RT: @debitking: On this day in 2007, John McCain was still in 4th place in the polls. #campaignfacts
Related thought: Newt moved to the top of the Ohio polls.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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Congressional wealth rises as Americans founder


In case anyone was still wondering why our political class can't seem to grasp the debilitating effects of poverty, it's no great mystery. It's wealth disparity, of course. But it is a bit surprising to see how wide the wealth gap between the pols and their constituents has grown.
Between 1984 and 2009, the median net worth of a member of the House more than doubled, according to the analysis of financial disclosures, from $280,000 to $725,000 in inflation-adjusted 2009 dollars, excluding home ­equity.

Over the same period, the wealth of an American family has declined slightly, with the comparable median figure sliding from $20,600 to $20,500, according to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics from the University of Michigan.

The comparisons exclude home equity because it is not included in congressional reporting, and 1984 was chosen because it is the earliest year for which consistent wealth statistics are available.
If they did include home equity, no doubt the gap would be much greater. But it's not just the wealth, it's the disparity between the life experience. Few of our current political overlords, who talk about making hard choices on austerity cuts, have faced the real tough choices of the poor. Whether to get their kid a badly needed new pair of shoes, or pay a utility bill. Between heat and a doctor's visit. Between food and medications. Wondering how long they can ignore that odd noise the car is making before the engine breaks down.

This is why I find it so infuriating to hear the privileged class rail about "entitlements" for the poor and near poor. They have no idea how hard it is to live within the uncertainty of poverty. Like everything in life, if you haven't experienced it yourself, you just can't really imagine what it's like. And for those few who may have actually grown up poor, once you leave poverty behind, it's not easy to retain experiential empathy. A fat wad of money in the pocket now has a way of dimming memories of past deprivations. [Photo credit: People wait in line to receive free milk in New York City.]

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Undecided in Iowa

Having enjoyed the status of "America’s sober, decisive First Voters" for decades, Iowa Republicans are now riding a rollercoaster of indecision in trying to choose from a dismal slate of GOP 2012 hopefuls. They fall in and out of love with their candidates with the speed of a Kardashian. WaPo interviews a few confused Iowans and concludes they can't decide whether to go for ideological purity or electability. I think it's a little more complicated than that.

For one thing, almost half of them get their information from Fox "News". To the extent that they're internet savvy, they apparently rely on far fringe right wing websites and viral emails to form their opinions. And those Iowans who don't go on-line, are missing being personally wooed by the primary candidates.

As one local Iowa official laments:
"We just haven't had as much face time," Republican chairwoman Trudy Caviness in Wapello County said. "That's why we're so undecided."
Indeed, the GOP hopefuls "have barely visited the state." There's a number of reasons for this that I laid out in a longer post at the Detroit News.

The short version is retail politics have changed. The old maxim about all politics being local isn't true anymore. National campaigns are mostly embracing the 50 state strategy now. They can't tailor their messaging to specific audiences because there's a million "citizen journalists" with cell phones just waiting to create a viral video out of even the smallest discrepancy in their talking points. Big media will give them free exposure for any campaign generated messaging with national appeal. And thanks to Citizen United spending, outside interests can tailor the devious attack ads without candidate accountability, which changed their overall campaign tactics.

I suspect we're witnessing the waning days of Iowa's influence on presidential politics. Personally, I don't see that as necessarily a bad thing. [graphic via]

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Links

Don't feel like blogging politics today so have some Christmas themed links:

Only a really old Jewish guy from New York could find just the right Christmas music. Porky Pig does Blue Christmas and a very nice cover of We Three Kings by an obscure band.

They do Christmas better in Europe. Baby Jesus' Grog House.

On more traditional note, I've yet to actually make one of these, but I do love me some gingerbread houses.

A little late but I also love advent calendars. This one looks like a recycled version of a classic as I recall them. And for a modern twist the Hubble Space telescope calendar.

Indulging my love of the Big Apple. Stars out in NYC and an Empire state of Christmas.

No white Christmas here but if I win the mega-millions, I'd go see these giant snow sculptures in China.

And this one could come in handy for your New Year's parties. Love these black olive penguins.

Merry day my cherished friends and readers. My Christmas wish for you all is that joy fill your heart and peace of mind finds you today and every day thereafter.

Gracious. Almost forgot to include Avedon's annual Christmas post. My favorite. of course, is Christmas greetings from Middle Earth and this treasure trove of Christmas graphics may also amuse the history buffs.

[Big thanks to Hudsonette for many of the photo links.]

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Blue Christmas

I've seen many a White Christmas in my life and loved them all, but at this point I would be more than okay with waking up on December 25th and having a blue Christmas like this one.


Throw some Christmas lights on the palm tree and pass the umbrella drinks. Photo credit: National Geographic contest winner, In the Philippines.
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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Hope you're all having a wonderful Christmas Eve. I've been at consecutive Christmas parties since noon. Just got home. So sorry, still no blogging tonight. Need to use my remaining energy for digestion.

Merry Christmas. I cherish you all.
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A Christmas Story

By Capt. Fogg

I'd describe her as a sweet little old lady except for the nearness of our vintages, but she's barely five feet tall and fragile. We'd been talking about the Kindle e-book reader and she had asked if I'd read Bill O'Reilly's book on Lincoln.
"Umm. . ." I said, stalling for time.
I remember not long ago having shocked her, and the entire dinner table for that matter by expressing distaste for Glenn Beck as a reliable source of information and I really try to be polite to nice people but I settled on:
"Well, I'm not a big fan of his."
" Really?"
" Yeah, I think he tends to make things up or tell us things he gets from rumor and web sites without verifying them, but I think that's true of Fox in general. I remember the first time I listened to him years ago, but maybe it was Hannity. I get them confused sometimes because I never watch Fox."
The look of astonishment still had not faded.

"But anyway, he was going on and on about how the PC Liberals had banned Christmas lights in -- I think it was Muskegon Michigan -- or wearing red and green clothing on Christmas -- and of course it was immediately checked by another network and it wasn't and of course it was a surprise to the mayor who had never heard of the whole thing -- and of course Fox never hinted that it had been caught in a lie."

Well here I go, I've lost another friend, I thought, but actually she was smiling.
"You know my son says the same thing about Fox: 'they make up stories mom, don't watch them.' "
"Well he must be a brilliant guy if he agrees with me," I said a bit relieved.
" He's got a PhD in Biochemistry."
"Well he sounds smart in spite of that"
" He is," said the proud mother, " but still, what I don't like is when they tell us we can't say Merry Christmas any more."
"but who ever told you that? That's what I mean. Nobody, and certainly not anyone in government has said that -- only Fox News! Merry Christmas! See, no black helicopters."

I try so hard to avoid such things. I'm much nicer in public than I am here, really and I don't want to make people feel bad, but you know the day is only half over and I have already read in several places how those PC Liberals won't let you say Merry Christmas and make you say Happy Holidays which means you have to allow people other options which means our Christianity is under attack and we're all victims of those PC Liberals who hate
Christmas. As I said, they're putting words in the mouths of their straw men and we're believing it and it may be that the only people defending the right to celebrate whatever we want in our own way and the right not to be forced to celebrate are those damned PC liberals and their damned Bill of Rights.

So maybe Lyin' Bill and Insanity Hannity and the Fox Fiends have done their work well, or maybe the people who pull their strings are pulling other strings, I don't know, but if you want to wish me Eid Mubarak or happy Adam and Eve day (which it in fact is) or Krishna's birthday (if he has one) I'll wish you one too and I'll celebrate our secular laws that allow it and curse the bastards who equate that right with the fall of American values.
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Friday, December 23, 2011

Waiting for Gandhi

by Capt. Fogg

Those CNN.com Polls are hardly scientific nor do they claim to be, but when I read that 76% of participants think the payroll tax cut extension should be approved, I have to wonder at the Republican pose that insists such 'socialist' things are being stuffed down our throats by tyrannical Democrats who don't represent us as well as billionaires and multinational corporations do. Other things like medicare and Social Security and health care reform have been stuffed down our throats even though three quarters of us support them. Yes, Americans can seem like geese sometimes, but it's mostly the people eating foi gras and hating Democracy who want to run the farm.

Even my most intransigently Republican friends are risking an eternity in hell by suggesting that the GOP is deliberately sabotaging the government and the economy and the well being of our citizens for political gain and Obama's approval rating is slowly climbing as the flock of candidates chortle about sin and repealing child labor laws. So perhaps the slow shift in mood has to do with the traveling freak show from whom Republicans will be forced to choose as well as the unavoidable recognition that our definition of "smaller government" smells so much of the 19th century British colonial attitude: do nothing, have nothing done and don't allow anyone to do anything. Gandhi was able to turn it back at them. It should be easier for us. We already have the vote.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Clock runs out: Boehner caves on payroll tax bill


Didn't blog till now because I've been following this drama all day. The episode is now officially over. As rumored, Boehner caved and the Senate's compromise payroll tax bill will be passed, albeit with a few cosmetic changes to make it slightly less embarrassing for the Speaker.

Let me stipulate at the outset, I find it depressingly pathetic we're cheering this "victory." Dems already gave away the highly popular mini-tax hike on the super-rich, awarded the GOPers their Pipeline talking point and only received a two month extension in return. This is a victory of optics, not of policy. Without Boehner's bumbling on the vote, they would have nothing. The Dems got lucky this time. Still, an optical victory is something. The Democrats finally held a line. That's more than we usually get and perhaps the thrill of this victory will make them less risk averse in the next battle that ever looms just over the near horizon.

Still, it wasn't just a victory over the recalcitrance of the crackpot caucus. The legacy media lost this battle too. Despite their best efforts to spin this as an just another DC gridlock, both sides do it, impasse, the majority of voters didn't buy it. The gatekeepers were reminded their hold on the narrative is slipping. That is worth celebrating.

Think the turning point came when the Arkansas GOPer defected. He issued this public statement early this afternoon:
These past few days I have met with my constituents in Arkansas’s First District, they are angry and they don’t understand why Congress cannot sit down, hammer out our differences, and have a solution we can all support. My constituents are honest, hard-working people who deserve a Congress that will put partisan politics aside in favor of the greater good. Congress must come together and act to ensure that my constituents, and millions of Americans all across the country, are not hit with higher taxes on January 1st...

We are now in a position that requires all options to be on the table, that requires Republicans to not only demand a willingness to compromise, but to offer it as well.
I've been to Arkansas. I'm pretty sure the First District is not a hotbed of liberalism. When his constituents compel him to make a statement like that, it tells me the tide is turning.

All that being said, I also think Steve Benen is onto something here. This payroll tax revolt was never about the bill. Cantor, who's been lusting after that gavel forever, played Boehner for a fool. He knew full well what Boehner was doing. Probably encouraged him to take the Senate deal. And then turned around and led the crackpot revolt.

End result? As Ed Henry tweeted: Longtime Boehner friend says Speaker did right thing but adds:"He did the deal w/Reid then told his caucus. I fear he may be ousted in '12."

I'd guess that was Cantor's plan all along. However it does appear Boehner is wising up to Cantor's perfidy. Johnny is finally finding his mojo, now that he understands his gavel is under threat. He's giving the crackpots a take it or leave it deal. Either pass the bill with unanimous consent tomorrow, or he'll make them take an on the record, roll call vote next week.

Not sure yet whether it's a blessing or a curse, but, interesting times. [photo credit]

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Nerdgasm

If I was banished to a desert island and only allowed one author's collected works, it would be Tolkien. Sure, there's a lot of authors I love and collections of more intellectual heft but Tolkien defined my life in more ways than I could tell in a blog post. So I'm really excited The Hobbit movie released the first official trailer. Think that means the movie is almost ready to be released.



It appears they've added some dialogue. There are lines in this trailer I don't remember from the book. I was wondering how they would make it palatable for an older audience. The Hobbit, in comparison to Lord of the Rings, is just a kid's book. Giving it deeper context with added dialogue will only make it better I think. Can't wait to see the completed project.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tweeting on the mock of the day, watching the time slip away

I trust you may have noticed, I finally installed my twitter ticker on the sidebar.

I mostly use my twitter account as a newswire. It's the fastest newswire on the internets now. News breaks there at least 20 minutes before it hits the traditional vendors. Unfortunately, it's also the most unreliable. As someone put it today, it's the best newswire for the first five minutes, and the worst for the next thirty. I call the latter, the hysteria factor.

But it's also a great social platform for direct communication. And I do have my days when I feel like haranguing big name tweeps. Those would often be the days when I don't post much here. Like today. I challenged the few big media tweeps I follow, and taunted random GOPers I don't follow, about the payroll tax bill standoff for hours this afternoon. And I encouraged the Dem leadership to stand firm and not pay the ransom this time. All of which may or may not help, but I find cathartic.

So, to make a long story longer, whatever its charms and flaws, I do check the tweetie regularly and often post good links that I'm reading but rarely end up blogging. Which is a really long way of saying, if I'm not posting, check the twitter ticker. There's likely to be something amusing there.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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Liar, liar, pants on fire

Politifact won the news cycle today with their cockamamie choice for Politifact Lie of the Year. They seemed to enjoying the mass condemnation from all corners of the reality based community. I'm pretty sure they were slapping each other on the back at Politfact HQ, assuring each other they must be doing something right since so many people were pissed at them. And look at that traffic spike, would you?

Likewise, the twitter machine was humming with lie of the year analogies and snarky hashtags. I saw a whole lot of laments about the sad demise of Politfact's credibility. And I asked myself, "Where have these people been for the last 12 months?"

I've seen this happen, time and time again. Like so many well intentioned enterprises before them, Polifact started out as a kickass project that did good work. Their unvarnished honesty was refreshing. They built a following. A big following. Eventually they got so big, building the brand became bigger than the mission.

From where I sit, Politfact was co-opted a long time ago. Think they started losing their mojo shortly after they won that Pulitzer Prize. I mean, am I really the only one who noticed the increasingly tepid exposures of right wing perfidy and strained reaches to condemn "the other side" too? To borrow from Charles, it appears they have been infected with a terminal case of gutless pissantery. All too often the price of success in what passes for professional journalism today. Sad.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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Dreams of a brokered convention dance in their heads

More speculative buzz this morning about whether Jeb Bush might still run in 2012. Steve M. ponders the possibility that the so-called bi-partisan Big Money Americans Elect is behind the mysterious Jeb push. That seems to be the most plausible theory to me, assuming Jeb is stupid enough to go for it. But he's supposed to be the smart one.

Meanwhile my brokered convention theory gets a big boost with the launch of a Brokered Convention blog. Run by conservatives who are really wishing they can have one. And where I discovered Krazy Kristol is pulling for my favored dark horse, Chris Christie.

And speaking of New Jersey's gasbag governor, the twitter tells me he was spewing his trademark bombastic bullshit on Morning Joe today. Not sure if these remarks were made there or in some other interview, but Christie wistfully admits he wishes "Mitt Romney could be 'a little edgier and bolder.'

But he concedes, Mitt has gotta be Mitt, and there Christie, the ever so loyal Romney man, sits. A VP in waiting who's primed to jump in, if he should just happen to be drafted as the savior of the party this summer.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Jazz is the thing that folks. Dig. Best.

Yes, I know it's traditional to post them, but forget White Christmas or Count Your Blessings or the rest of Bing's sappy holiday songs. This isn't festive in a seasonal way, but it's rocking around the Christmas tree.

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A conspiracy of a different hue

Speculation abounds. Jeb Bush popped up with an op-ed that looks suspiciously like a trial balloon for a possible platform if he should make a late entry into the GOP 2012 freak show. Steve M. dispatches the op-ed so read him instead of giving Murdock the traffic if you care what Jeb has to say. But the point is, Jeb is surfacing in strange places which is fueling its own conspiracy theories about Jeb's possible late entry into the 2012 race.

Of course, I still believe there's a fairly good possibility that someone will be drafted this summer to unite the ABO GOPers, but my money is still on Christie. While Jeb surely has the name recognition, I'm not so sure even the diehard 27%ers are ready to push another Bush into office. Besides, Jeb is kind of bland. Even sort of cerebral. If that was going to work with the rank and file, Huntsman would be the frontrunner.

If it happens, and granted it's still a rather big if, it has to be Christie. He's the only one who can really deliver the bombast that delights the diehards.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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The Bain of Romney's existence

The super-rich are different from you and me. When they leave a job, they get platinum parachutes. Like, for instance, Willard. Though he left his vulture capitalist corporation some 13 years ago, thanks to a sweetheart exit agreement, Romney is still raking in millions from Bain Capital today. And though nobody is disclosing the details, it's a good bet Willard is paying the capital gains tax rate on that dough, not an ordinary income tax levy like us working class schmucks.

Those would be the special tax breaks Romney is willing to protect to the death while he exercises his plan to slash and burn social safety net programs under the aegis of "fiscal responsibility." The same sort of fiscal responsibility that sent KayBee Toys into bankruptcy after Bain collected their millions in fees for running it into the ground. All those thousands who lost their jobs there and other Bain "managed" companies just need to work a little harder. Sacrifice just a little more to keep those profits rolling in to the "producers" who sent them to the unemployment line.

I mean, Mitt needs that money. "He's running for office, for Pete's sake!"

[photo credit]

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Let it be Paul

by Capt. Fogg

Ron Paul seems at the moment to be the front runner in Iowa, which to me offers some hope that American Conservative dementia might not progress to the point where that miscreant Gingrich might be selected to run against Barack Obama.

And no, I haven't become a Republican, but I'd far rather see Dr. Paul, whose ideas I sometimes agree with and sometimes don't in a debate than be forced to listen to Newt advocate a nation of "believers" where no one can be trusted who doesn't follow a Gingrich approved God, or God forbid, live in a nation with a president who insists he would arrest a judge whose decisions don't fit the doctrines of Newtonian Theocracy and plutocracy. For someone who makes such a fuss about the constitution's limitations on government power, you'd think he could show us the part advocating for a priest-king or a definition of a separation of powers that is subject to suspension at the whim of the President.

Of course one has to wonder whether the inner Gingrich is connected in any way to the outer, all too visible Gingrich, with strings attached to all sorts of crepuscular but malignant entities. Perhaps his outrageous anti-Americanism is simply bait to attract the creepy-crawly political vermin squirming in the anti-American mud and perhaps he's not really an enemy of democracy, Liberty and the rule of law and the other things most of us wish were core values in civilized countries.

So I have to think that at best, he's a fraud who fully intends to betray anyone foolish enough to think he means what he says, but I have to fear, at worst, that he means it. So yes, I'll take the candidate who I think goes a bit overboard with limiting the power of the Government to the man who would be king.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

I do not count the time

I'm fast approaching an important birthday. There's a zero at the end of it. So I've been thinking about the space-time continuum. I don't measure time in the same way I did when I was young. That's not to say I don't keep to a daily schedule, but I don't measure the passage of time in hours and days and weeks. Not even in months and years.



Time moves differently at this stage of life. I cherish it in single moments. I measure it in seasons. And decades.

That track by Richard Thompson, former bandmate of Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention. An under-appreciated British invasion band of the day. Still under-appreciated. I saw him live at the Baystate in lovely downtown Noho, he didn't even fill that room. Criminal neglect of great talent.

Bonus track: Nina Simone's unique cover.

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Boehner dances to Tea Party's tune

In this week's edition of "it's so obvious," having received his marching orders from the GOP Tea Party caucus, Boehner reneged on the payroll tax deal.

Yesterday, Boehner called it a "good deal." Today, hours after his conference call with the TP crackpots in his party, he rolled over like a well-trained dog.
[I]n an interview with NBC’s “Meet The Press” on Sunday, Mr. Boehner said the two-month extension would be “just kicking the can down the road.”
Which is exactly what he said when they were holding the economy hostage back in July over the debt ceiling. Oh wait, no he didn't. Pretty sure that was Cantor who said they could deliver a two year bill. Because nobody wanted to be debating another government shutdown at Christmas time. But Cantor blew up that arduously crafted "grand bargain" back then, leaving Boehner to play the useful fool.

And it was Cantor leading the crackpot caucus revolt yesterday. A cynic might think Cantor is still pissed off about being cheated out of that gavel he's been lusting over for years and is doing everything he can to undermine and embarrass Boehner. And if the rest of us get screwed while they wrangle over power, well, so be it.

Adding: If they're really so concerned about the short term uncertainty for middle class Americans, they could just amend the extentions and doc fix for a year now, with the pay-fors to be determined later. When they're not rushing to get out of town for the extended holiday.

[photo credit]

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

The riders on the omnibus go bleep, bleep, bleep

It's a sad state of affairs when one cheers "it could have been worse" as an outcome but Steve Benen runs down the omnibus and well, it really could have been much worse.

The crackpot faction in Congress, meaning, the Tea Party GOPers proposed an abundance of odious riders to the bill. They wanted to defund all the usual fringe right villians from NPR, to Planned Parenthood, to health care and abolish every regulation from consumer financial protection to the EPA. How did that work out, you ask?
All of those riders were removed by Democrats in the final bill. As appropriators from both parties noted in negotiations, there was no point in catering to the most conservative House members because they would never vote for the spending bill anyway. And sure enough, 86 Republicans, mostly from the hard right, bucked their leadership and opposed the measure. It “does not offer drastic spending cuts,” explained one of them, Joe Walsh of Illinois.
Of course it's not all good news. GOPers won some awful concessions. There were cruel cuts to discretionary spending that protects the public commons and the working class poor. The cruelest of all being a 25% cut in winter fuel assistance. But as Steve said:
Given what far-right congressional Republicans wanted out of this agreement and didn’t get, it’s not a bad omnibus. It would have been infinitely better had Americans not elected the most right-wing House in modern history, but under the circumstances, there’s reason to feel satisfied.
Not sure satisfied is the right word. But I am relieved it wasn't worse. So there's that...

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Must be the season of the bitch

Ah, the holiday season. When the news cycle gets slow and everybody gets cranky and starts fighting with each other. Just like at the family gatherings. Today, this defense of President Obama is what's causing a ruckus on the internets.

I'm not going to get into the particulars other than this. I think we can all stipulate the indefinite detention thing sucks. Just like every expansion of the national security appartus since 9/11 has sucked pond scum. Hell, I'm still royally pissed off about the Patriot Act. Every expansion has further eroded the "freedoms" the terrorists supposedly hate that we have.

As for the instant post, I'm somewhat amused the author accuses emo-progs of hysteria even as he makes his case with rather equally hysterical and accusatory rhetoric. But this point is well taken:
Don't blame Obama for signing it. Blame Congress for passing it.

Obama didn’t place this odious amendment into the bill; Republicans did, even if they didn't place the exact language into the bill, they created the impetus for including crap like this in an irrelevant bill in the first place. Go after them!
It is useful to remember Obama doesn't have line item veto power. He would have to kill the entire bill to make a symbolic point, which was probably worth making. However, the practical effect of a veto would have had an undeniably adverse effect on thousands of innocent bystanders whose survival and well being depend on the spending authorizations. Not to mention, the de facto spending freeze it would cause for at least a couple of months. Is that really better?

It's a tough choice and it's no more fair or principled for lefty activists to judge Obama's motives in making that choice, than it is for their critics to accuse them of having sinister motives in criticizing Obama. For myself, I tire of the outrage addiction on all sides.

Everybody bitches about Obama's choices and his failure to prevent unwanted outcomes but outside of Atrios who routinely suggests sensible solutions, I don't see a whole lot of alternate courses of action being proffered by the professional critics. Anybody who thinks they can do better than Obama, step up and run for office. I don't think I could do better with what he has to work with. You think you could? Go ahead. Show him, and me, how it's done. I'd love better choices. You have my total support.

Via ABL at Balloon Juice where there's a righteous row going in comments. And where John Cole just poked a stick into the hornet's nest again.

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Chris Hitchens and me

I don't have a story about me and Hitch. Like thousands of other readers, my story is an impersonal love/hate relationship with this work. Liked him when he agreed with me. Loathed him when he rolled over to the other side. Sure, I watched him get waterboarded and followed the ocassional link, but mostly I found him so irritating that I pretty much ignored him for years.

Even when I did like his work, never held the man in high regard. So, if you want to wallow in rose colored accolades, the hagiography is waning this morning, but you'll find lots of mournful remembrances here. And not everyone is shares my reluctance to speak ill of the dead. Glenzilla gets real as does Alex Pareene.

For myself, I don't have any strong emotions about his death. Yes, he was a colorful figure of our times, a technicolor man, but he didn't really color my world much. Nonetheless, you have to give him a lot of credit for going down fighting. May he rest in peace.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Rick Perry: Poster boy for Republican hypocrisy

In case you were wondering why Rick Perry was fighting against having to disclose his personal finances as required by the FEC for presidential candidates, this could be a clue:
Perry officially retired in January so he could start collecting his lucrative pension benefits early, but he still gets to collect his salary — and has in turn dramatically boosted his take-home pay.

Perry makes a $150,000 gross salary as Texas govenor. Now, thanks to his early retirement, Perry, 61, gets a monthly retirement annuity of $7,698 before taxes, or $6,588 net. That raises his gross salary to more than $240,000.
Sadly, this early "retirement" doesn't mean he's retired as the governor of Texas. No, he's still keeping that title and the salary. If he manages to serve his whole term, his retirement payments will be raised to reflect his additional years of "service." This is all perfectly legal and at the taxpayers' expense.

As for you hapless little taxpayers, well, Perry has a whole new plan for you.
“I do advocate totally rethinking the safety net, personal security programs completely,” Perry said in a November 2010 interview. “Why is the government collecting your tax money for retirement and health care programs? That’s not a stated constitutional role.”

In his most ambitious policy prescription so far as a presidential candidate, Perry proposed a partial privatization of Social Security for future retirees, changes that would not affect the federal benefits he will receive.
Classic GOP definition of shared sacrifice. We working class losers get to do the sacrificing, while the "producer" class gets to take our share of the national treasury. Which seems only fair -- to them

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dems deck the halls with bows of folly

Since I left the business of law, I pretty much save my profanity for special ocassions. This would be one of them. So this is for the hapless sad sacks that populate what was once a political party I was proud to claim.
Dear President Obama and DC Dems: Fk you. No seriously, Just fk you, each and every one of you merry gentlemen and gentlewomen. Why the hell do you think we should fight for you, if you don't fight for us?
I was going to write up my disgust, but while I was getting ready for my big dinner date this evening, my new blogging hero beat me to it. So outsourcing my rage to Charles P. Pierce's eloquence:
Oh, they have made a day of it. First, the pillars of Jell-O in the Senate roll over on the itty-bitty surtax they wanted to lay on the plutocrats to pay for a payroll tax cut for the rest of us. Then, the president announces that he's not going to veto after all the bill in which 400 years of Western jurisprudence is pretty much torn to ribbons and tossed to the wind, albeit slightly less deeply into the wind than the original monstrosity would have liked. And, finally, Ron Wyden of Oregon steps forward to give cover to zombie-eyed granny-starver Paul Ryan's latest attempt to "reform" Medicare in the same way that Arthur (Bomber) Harris "reformed" the building codes in Dresden. It's a Very Special Holiday Episode of the long-running hit comedy, Ah, Who Gives a Fk Anyway? [...]

It cannot be emphasized enough. Of the three issues under discussion, the polling data on two of them simply could not be clearer. The American people want taxes raised on the very wealthiest among us, and the American people do not want Paul Ryan's clammy hands anywhere near the Medicare program. Public opinion is (distressingly) ambivalent on the detainee provisions, but it's not overly popular with the people who have to implement it, and it has retired Marine generals throwing bricks at it, and, dammit, the president taught constitutional law, or so we are told repeatedly. [...]

Here's a tip, gang: The American people are not angry at government because people yell at each other and nothing ever gets done. The American people are angry because people yell at each other and nothing the American people really want ever gets done. They want higher taxes on billionnaires. They want Medicare kept out of the hands of the vandals. If they think about it a little, they even like their jurisprudence with a little habeas corpus sprinkled on top. Instead, they get endless platitudes, and the steady, futile placating of an insatiable political opposition.
That's just the highlights. Definitely read it all to experience the full range of my anger.

It's not even that I didn't expect it. It's not like we haven't seen this movie before. But I had some small hope they would rewrite the script. Certainly they were trying out some new dialogue in the rehearsals for the last few months that promised this time there would be vetos. There would be an honest to God fight for equitable outcomes. But, no. As the saying goes, same shit, different day.

It's insulting. Do they really think we don't see what they're doing? That we won't remember by November? We won't forget. We remember every single betrayal. So far, like a battered spouse, we've accepted the proffered bouquets offered in contrition. Accepted the promises to change. To do it better next time. But there's a limit to how many promises can be broken.

I've been around a long time. I understand the need for pragmatic compromise. But this isn't compromise, it's the same devious cave-in to placate the plutocrats. It's not only spineless, it's stupid. I'm really sick of stupid.

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Iraq war declared over

The headlines should rightfully read, US military occupation of Iraq comes to a close. Or something like that. Still, as a life long anti-war, pro-peace activist, I suppose I should be celebrating this:
BAGHDAD — The United States military officially declared an end to its mission in Iraq on Thursday even as violence continues to plague the country and the Muslim world remains distrustful of American power.

In a fortified concrete courtyard at the airport in Baghdad, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta thanked the more than one million American service members who have served in Iraq for “the remarkable progress” made over the past nine years but acknowledged the severe challenges that face the struggling democracy.
Panetta also said the many "lives lost in Iraq were not in vain." Wish I could believe that, but I still don't know what the hell we were ever doing there and don't see what we accomplished that was all so great.

Yeah, yeah, I know we toppled the hideous dictator Saddam Hussein, who was so cruel to his people. But there are hundreds of thousands less Iraqis there now to appreciate it, having been "liberated" into the graveyards. And of those remaining, are their lives really any better now? Let's ask these Iraqis:
As many as 2 million Iraqis — nearly 6 percent of the country's estimated more than 31 million population — are thought to have been forced from the cities and towns where they once lived and are housed in circumstances that feel temporary and makeshift.

More than 500,000 of those are "squatters in slum areas with no assistance or legal right to the properties they occupy," according to Refugees International, a Washington-based advocacy group. Most can't go home: Either their homes have been destroyed or hostile ethnic and sectarian groups now control their neighborhoods.
The last via Atrios who rightly notes, "We'll never really acknowledge the hell we unleashed."

Perhaps if even one of the Very Serious People who cheerleaded throughout the debacle and were wrong, wrong, wrong at every turn had really admitted how much they screwed it up or had paid even the tiniest price in credibility for it, it would feel more like a victory to me. But all these people still draw down the big bucks as they rest easy on their big media perches or remain safely snuggled into their "think tank" sinecures. Somehow that doesn't feel like winning to me.

Sorry to say, I just don't feel like celebrating. We lost this so-called war on so many levels. Small wonder the "victory" pagentry is so subdued.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Romney's zany campaign strategy

I suppose Willard thought he being clever with these remarks. In an interview on Wednesday when asked about Gingrich he told the NYT:
“Zany is not what we need in a president.”

“Zany is great in a campaign. It’s great on talk radio. It’s great in print, it makes for fun reading,” Mr. Romney told The New York Times. “But in terms of a president, we need a leader, and a leader needs to be someone who can bring Americans together.”
Somebody get this man a dictionary. Zany is Harpo Marx. Zany is Buddy Hackett. Zany is Robin Williams as Mork from Ork. Zany is Stephen Colbert. One might even stretch to call Charlie Sheen zany. Hell, I have zany moments myself.

Newt isn't zany. He's more like that doll Chucky from the horror movies. A seemingly harmless plaything that nobody believes is capable of doing truly creepy stuff. And by the time the adults figure it out, it's too late.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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What's in a name - Updated

Wingnuttia in a dither today over allegedly fraudulent petition signatures:
MADISON, Wis. -- The signatures of Mickey Mouse and Adolf Hitler will be counted on recall petitions targeting Gov. Scott Walker as long as they are properly dated and include a Wisconsin address, the board charged with reviewing the petitions was told Tuesday. [...]

"We will flag them, but we will not strike them without challenge," Buerger said after being asked whether Mickey Mouse's signature would be counted. He noted that in previous recall petitions, Adolf Hitler's name was struck because the address given was in Germany, not because of the name itself.
This comes up every time the Republicans and conservatives want to justify their voter suppression tactics. So on a whim, I just did a quick check on Google. There is actually someone listed in the white pages directory as Mickey Mouse. In fact, there several people with the surname Mouse. No Adolph Hitlers showed up, but there were three with the last name so it's possible there's a real person out there with that name too. I mean, besides that unfortunate baby with the crazy parents who was involved in the birthday cake scandal.

Update: Thanks to Steve M. in comments for dropping this link. The story isn't even true.


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GOP 2012: The long view


Nate Silver weighs in today to tell us the GOP Iowa race is wide open. Whether or not this will redefine the race in way that creates a clear frontrunner for the big prize remains a matter of much speculation.

Certainly, Team Obama is hoping for a long and muddled contest. Axelrod frames it in way that validates my pet theory.
“The longer this race goes, the more you’re going to see these Republican candidates try to mortgage the general election to try and win the primary campaign,” said David Axelrod, the chief strategist for the president’s re-election campaign.

“The longer the race,” Mr. Axelrod said, “the harder it will be to scramble back.”
Meanwhile, Chris Christie hosted a million dollar fundraiser for Willard the other night. Christie gathered some 500 illuminaries of the Jersey GOP and told the media "he expects the primary process to be a 'long slog' that won’t be determined by the first few states to hold contests."

And Christie sang Willard's praises to the assembled donors.
“As you’ve watched Gov. Romney perform over the last number of months in the many debates that our Republican presidential candidates have participated in, the things that are constant in Gov. Romney’s performances are things that will be constants in his presidency,” Christie added, listing the character traits Romney possesses including: maturity, intelligence, thoughtfulness, honesty, “and he has the integrity of his principles."

“That’s the kind of leader we need in the Oval Office," he said. "We do not need a Chicago ward politician in the Oval Office.”
Of course, this is exactly the same rhetoric he might use if he was running for President.

Sure, the "is Christie really running for VP" cocktail chatter is the latest insider parlor game and maybe that's really what's happening. But so far, I've seen nothing Christie is saying on the stump for Willard that would come back to hurt him if he found himself suddenly drafted this summer. [Graphic via Gothamist]

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NBC wants to hear from you

I've been fooling around with trying to resize graphics, without success, at my new Wordpress account at the Detroit News all morning, so late start to posting here. A quick byte to get going, NBC News wants to know what matters to you. You can tweet, facebook, Google Plus, YouTube or Foursquare your answers, along with a host of other minor platforms, including email.

Instructions at the link, but it seems if you hashtag anything on the internet today with #mattersmost, they'll find it. It appears you also have to give a location or they probably won't use it on air. Still, it's likely someone at NBC will read what you have to say either way, so there's that...

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Republicans target wealthy food stamp recipients

In today's episode of stupid political theater, the Republicans are proving their populist cred by going after shiftless millionaires who collect food stamps and unemployment benefits.
Under the Republican bill to extend a payroll tax holiday scheduled to be voted on in the House as early as Tuesday, those Americans with gross adjusted income over $1 million would no longer be eligible for food stamps or jobless pay, producing $20 million in savings to help pay for the tax cut for American workers. The idea is also embraced by many Democrats, who had a similar version of the savings in a Senate bill to extend the payroll tax cut, as did a failed Republican Senate bill.
As is rightly being pointed on the internets, the number of millionaires engaged in collecting this sort of welfare is negligible. The big bucks handouts to the super-wealthy can be found elsewhere.
Each year, the federal government hands approximately $10 billion over to the richest 1% of Americans — mainly to rich retirees — according to an IBD analysis of data on various federal transfer programs.

Using IRS data, IBD found that the top 1% of income earners claimed approximately $7 billion in Social Security benefits in 2009. That year, the program paid super-rich seniors — those with adjusted gross incomes exceeding $10 million — an average of $33,000 each.
According to the latest figures, the average Social Security beneficiary collects $14,124 annually. The other big money bite is for health care.
Medicare, meanwhile, paid roughly $2.6 billion in health care subsidies for the richest 1% of enrollees...
One might think these people already have gold plated health care insurance so I wonder how that works. Do these Medicare payments function as a undercover subsidy to the insurance companies, where they pick up the after Medicare costs? Also more generally, certain studies find that because of the way Medicare is financed, this so-called entitlement leads to "net transfers from the poor to the wealthy" since "the rich tend to live longer than the poor."

Clearly, the only way to fix this is to give the super-wealthy more tax breaks.

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Chris Christie watch

There are many conspiracy theories. This one is mine.

Today's supporting evidence that Chris Christie is running a stealth campaign for 2012 earns a "not bad" from Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) spoke out against the war on drugs on Monday, saying that "we need to do much different and much better than what we've done."

"I don't believe the only weapon we use against the drug problem is incarceration," he said in a short video released by his office. "I just don't think it's worked. And I think we see it over and over again that there's evidence that it hasn't."
This was a local event where Christie was touting how much he saved the state of New Jersey in incarceration costs with the his expansion of the state's drug court program. It's actually good policy and Christie defends it well.
Such programs defy Republican orthodoxy on the drug war, but Christie insisted that treatment, unlike jail time, attacks the root causes of drug-related crime: "Our experience tells us that there's a lot of folks who are non-violent drug offenders who are spending a lot of time in ... prisons and not being treated for the underlying addiction that's the problem that drives their continued involvement in crime."
This is exactly the sort of rhetoric that could win over a lot of Ron Paul voters and other libertarians.

I'm fascinated with my fixation on this theory. I know it's too loopy to come true and Lord knows I want to be wrong, but think about it in the long term. Any candidate that can win the GOP nomination has to skew so far to the fringe right, there's no way their platform can translate successfully to the general. The only way to solve that problem is to anoint a candidate who wasn't tainted as part of that process.

Christie is an insufferable, pompous gasbag, firmly residing in the pocket of the plutocrats but he projects independence with regular breaks from the GOP orthodoxy on issues that appeal to a significant segment of libertarians. Sometimes even liberals praise his positions. His arrogant "in yer face" style appeals to the independents who swing to the guy with the best swagger. He's "definitely" not running but he's appearing regularly at rallies in key states in support of his endorsed man Willard. He often steals the show.

More importantly, he's mastered the internets as well, or perhaps better, than Obama. He built national name recognition with his videos, many of which went viral. He shakes off criticism like a dog coming out of the water. The legacy media love him. If I was a GOP power broker, I would be trying to make it happen.

Not saying it would easy to pull this switch at the GOP convention. But it's early. Anything can happen and it doesn't look entirely impossible, at least not yet.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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Our children are homeless

Got caught up in real life yesterday and I've been fooling around with my newly redesigned Detroit News blog this morning. So all I have at the moment is this tweet of the day:
HoneyBearKelly: RT @MiaFarrow: 1 in 45 American children is now homeless. That's 1.6 million children. #poverty
No doubt they are also -- what's the new euphemism for hungry these days -- food insecure? That's criminal. We're the richest country in the world. This shouldn't happen here.

It only contains old archived posts at the moment but link to new Detroit News blog in the tagline below Glad to get rid of that horrible head shot in the old one. Of course, now I have none at all but I consider that an improvement.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Got no time

Just a random thought.

In a world where 40 seconds is an unacceptably long time to load a webpage, lots of people feel four years should be long enough to repair 40 years of institutional neglect.

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Drones over North Dakota

It started when gun-toting homeowners chased off the local Sheriff who was investigating some missing cows.

Janke knew the gunmen could be anywhere on the 3,000-acre spread in eastern North Dakota. Fearful of an armed standoff, he called in reinforcements from the state Highway Patrol, a regional SWAT team, a bomb squad, ambulances and deputy sheriffs from three other counties.

He also called in a Predator B drone.

As the unmanned aircraft circled 2 miles overhead the next morning, sophisticated sensors under the nose helped pinpoint the three suspects and showed they were unarmed. Police rushed in and made the first known arrests of U.S. citizens with help from a Predator, the spy drone that has helped revolutionize modern warfare.

But that was just the start. Local police say they have used two unarmed Predators based at Grand Forks Air Force Base to fly at least two dozen surveillance flights since June. The FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration have used Predators for other domestic investigations, officials said.
This is apparently the "first known arrests of U.S. citizens involving the spy planes in domestic cases". Emphasis on the known.

The larger question is, did Congress actually authorize this use when they gave U.S. Customs and Border Protection permission to buy unarmed Predators? The idea was they would use them to "search for illegal immigrants and smugglers on the country's northern and southwestern borders." Last I looked, North Dakota was not a entry point for either illegal immigration or drug smuggling.

Disturbingly, "officials in charge of the fleet said they have authority to perform such missions through congressional budget requests that cite 'interior law enforcement support.'" Note the use of the word "fleet." Who knows how many of these drones are already deployed, invisibly spying on US citizens?

This is unlikely to cause nearly enough alarm among ordinary Americans. In the instant case, the perps seem kind of crazy and violent and you know, thank God no one was hurt in their capture. But ordinary Americans would do well to remember the militarization of every local podunk police force in America was justified under fighting the war on drugs. So even when local police arrived in tanks, dressed in SWAT gear and busted down doors to serve warrants on minor drug dealers, no one cared. Hell, they were just drug thugs. But sometimes they busted down the wrong door. And innocent people died. And now those same tactics are being used against unarmed, peaceful protesters, seeking redress of their grievances with the government.

A police state doesn't happen overnight. Big changes happen in just such tiny incremental infringements. If we wait to express our concern until, like the Geneva Conventions, Posse Comitatus is rendered quaint, it will be too late.

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GOP Debate: Better than Ambien edition

I tried to watch the latest performance of the GOP's slapstick circus but only made it as far as the immigration question before I passed out from brain crushing boredom. Which was just as well. I needed the sleep and having read Richard Adams's live blog, apparently I caught the highlight of the show before Morpheus gratefully wrapped me in his embrace. My only regret is missing the #What10Kbuys hashtag fun on twitter.

Always worth reading, Charles says "all bets are off." While the answers to the remarkably convoluted questions were boilerplate, the shattering of Willard Mitt Romney's glass jaw changed the dynamics some.

I'm rooting for Ron Paul in the opening round myself. As Atrios remarked on twitter the other day, if Paul wins, the media will never mention Iowa again. Which would be for the best. Don't understand why a state which at this point is pretty much unrepresentative of the USA as a whole gets to be the kingmaker every damn time.

Anyway, I think I'm done with debates. Wake me up when they crown the King Clown. [graphic via]

Addendum: In case you missed the 10K reference:

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

In memoriam: Otis Redding

Otis Redding died on this date in 1967. He was only 26 years old. Like so many of that era, we lost him too soon. This song was my favorite of all.


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I quit, I give up...

I can no longer tell the difference between real headlines and The Onion. I only got two right on this short quiz.

And since I'm doing quick links, here's a few more I've been saving up for too long.

A sadly true campaign finance flow chart.

Tom Tomorrow illustrates class conflict. One of his best strips ever.

The most powerful photos of 2011.

And to end on jollier note, for real, the most awesome card trick I've ever seen. I'm told it's faked. I don't care. Don't want to know how they did it. Just want to suspend my disbelief and enjoy the magic, if only for a moment.

[Godzilla tree via pzmyers]

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Friday, December 09, 2011

Darkness, darkness, be my blanket

For reasons much too complicated to explain, and especially at this time of year, on the soundtrack of my rather long life, this song has always been in the top three. Tonight, it's at number one.



Not the best quality recording but it's about the lyrics for me.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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The World is the Battlefield

By Capt. Fogg

I find it remarkable that the proposed provision of the Defense Authorization act enabling a President to detain anyone suspected of belonging to a terrorist organization indefinitely and without trial, can be presented as one of those bits of "evidence" that Barack Obama is trashing the constitution. Obama's Indefinite Detention Powers is the title of more than one article. Remarkable indeed since he's threatening to veto the abomination if it passes.

I do recognize that since the Authorization for Use of Military forces (AUMF) that Congress approved after the September 11 terrorist attacks was used to bolster somewhat unfair arguments that Bush was trashing the revered document, an equal and more ridiculous counter charge has to be leveled against his Democratic successor. That is a principle we had beat into our consciousness when Bill Clinton had to face charges, some contrived and some with marginal merit that were so like unto those Nixon was glaringly guilty of.

But I digress. I'm not surprised to hear such things slithering in the murky Senatorial cistern, but I'm surprised at the bipartisan support of Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) bill and the astonishing lack of debate over this shocking redaction of the Bill of Rights. I was however surprised and pleased to hear Rand Paul declare opposition is heatedly as I would do, given the chance.

I was nauseated and enraged to hear our former Presidential contender, John McCain rail about how dangerous "these people" were without regard to how we determine fairly whether or not the accusations are true. I have been raised to think that justice demanded a fair trial and no decent civilization has failed to provide a process to determine the truth of an
accusation, sometimes made under duress or torture or out of jealousy or greed or worse. A less stuffy writer might simply ask: how the hell do we know the charges are true without a trial?

Senator McCain doesn't seem to care, although with his history, he might just give the opposite position tomorrow and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) seems proud of his shiny new black boots, claiming that now we can jail any American citizen because "it designates the world as the battlefield, including the homeland." Did he mean to say Vaterland?
"The FBI publishes characteristics of people you should report as possible terrorists. The list includes the possession of “Meals Ready to Eat,” weatherproofed ammunition, and high-capacity magazines; missing fingers; brightly colored stains on clothing; paying for products in cash; and changes in hair color. I fear that such suspicions might one day be used to imprison a U.S. citizen indefinitely without trial. Just this year, the vice president referred to the Tea Party as a bunch of terrorists. So, I think we should be cautious in granting the power to detain without trial."
writes Senator Paul in the National Review.

Yes, I think our legislators have earned their 8% approval rating and can only wonder why it isn't lower. John McCain, you're a goddamn terrorist yourself, attempting to make Americans afraid for political purposes. Rand Paul: you may be far right, but you're damn right too!

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Faster than a Godfather pizza delivery

Entirely predictable but at a speed which evokes the widower getting remarried the day after his wife's funeral, Herman Cain gets a Fox gig:
In the department of forgotten but not gone from the scene, Herman Cain appeared on Fox News' Sean Hannity show tonight, where it was revealed he'll be back next week to give his breakdown of this weekend's GOP debate.
Fox "News," wingnut welfare for those who aren't bright enough to snag a RW think tank sinecure.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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NPR calls GOP's bluff

Standing ovation for NPR this morning. Not often we see actual acts of journalism like this anymore. After months on end of listening to the Republicans wail they can't possibly support a tiny surtax on the super-wealthy because gosh, that would just crush the spirit of small business owners who will then never create any new jobs, NPR said, bring us a small business owner who fears the tax.

The Republicans came up empty. Couldn't find a single small business owner who could describe the paralyzing effect of tiny tax increases. So NPR asked the lobbyist groups. They couldn't deliver even one. NPR then issued a plea on Facebook. There they finally found small business owners willing to be interviewed.

To no one's surprise, none of them were quavering under their desks in fear of taxes. In fact, they all sensibly pointed out their main concern was demand for their goods and services. Taxes aren't on their list of concerns or criteria for new hires.

The only down side to this Pultizer deserving move is it happened on NPR. The people who most need to hear this message wouldn't listen to that liberal cesspool to save their lives. Or believe what they heard if somehow they were forced to listen to it. If it doesn't happen on Fox, it's not real for those folks. And we all know that's never going to happen.

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