Sunday, December 30, 2012

The roots of the poison tree

I've long been convinced lobbyists are at the root of corruption in government. Can't quite figure out how to cure the disease. I mean, hard to say we should just uproot it because, right to petition the government. But this mutation of lobbying rules should surely be pruned out.
The Post analysis shows that the interests of lawmakers and their relatives have overlapped to varying degrees on bills before Congress. In the past six years, for example, 36 congressional relatives — including spouses, children, siblings, parents and in-laws — have been paid to influence 250 bills passing through their family members’ congressional committees or sponsored by the members.

All of this is legal under the rules Congress has written for itself.
So maybe the problem is, they're writing their own damn rules.

[Dark Guardian Graphic]

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Lindsey Graham predicts the future

Which looks pretty much like a repeat of 2011. Apparently, (as Charlie calls him) Huckleberry Closetcase is more than willing to destroy the American economy unless the Senate agrees to starve granny. As he said in an interview:
I’m not going to raise the debt ceiling unless we get serious about keeping the country from becoming Greece, saving Social Security and Medicare [sic]. So here’s what i would like: meaningful entitlement reform — not to turn Social Security into private accounts, not to take a voucher approach to Medicare — but, adjust the age for Social Security, CPI changes and means testing and look beyond the ten-year window. I cannot in good conscience raise the debt ceiling without addressing the long term debt problems of this country and I will not.
Dr. Krugman explains how stupid Lindsey is:
The key thing to remember — and what the GOP hopes you won’t understand — is that raising the debt ceiling only empowers the president to spend money that he’s authorized to spend by Congressional legislation; nothing more. Conversely, a party that refuses to raise the debt limit is saying that it’s prepared to inflict vast damage on America in order to achieve things that it couldn’t achieve through actual legislation — in effect, that it’s prepared to use vandalism to subvert the constitutional process.
Also, as Think Progress noted in the first link, "Without raising the debt ceiling, the United States will be forced to embrace austerity so severe it will lead to 'a bigger GDP drop than that experienced during the Great Recession of 2008.'”

In other words, there's no surer way to "turn us into Greece" than to cave to Huckleberry's hostage demands. Which I assume is also the official GOP position. Which raises the eternal question, what kind of idiot making less than $500K annual votes for these soulless, self-interested cretins? [photo via]

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Obama calls the GOP's fiscal bluff

Admit I was getting a little worried last week when the White House was floating so many concessions to get to grand bargain on the fiscal tragicomedy. So feeling relived to see it was apparently a negotiation ploy to set up the GOP for a big fall over the semi-fictional cliff. At a meeting convened at the White House yesterday, Obama laid down his final offer and nobody looked happy on the way out.

[Evan Vucci AP photo]

It seems President Obama told them in no uncertain terms that he wasn't playing anymore. So they should stop dicking around, get to work and do their damn jobs. When I saw the expressions on their faces all I could think of was this:

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George Bush and the NRA

By Capt. Fogg

 ". . . and forgetting long-passed mischiefs, we mercifully preserve their bones and piss not on their ashes."

-Thomas Browne-
 _______________



I have to admit that there was a time I considered joining the NRA -- a couple of times actually.  The first was when I heard that Michael Moore belonged to it and I thought that membership would mean that my frequent maledictions might find their way to someones desk,  and the second was when I found that the one local rifle range that allowed black powder muzzle-loaders like my flintlock Kentucky long rifle required NRA membership.  In both instances my better senses took over and I decided it wasn't worth it.

I understand that following Wayne LaPierre's comments after the Sandy Hook massacre there has been a rash of resignations from the rank and file membership and a recent Snopes e-mail and a number of blog articles have reminded me of  the 1995 resignation from the NRA of George H.W. Bush. The President wrote an open letter to the NRA  after the group's refusal to disassociate itself from the then NRA spokesman LaPierre who gloated over the deaths of  the "Nazi's" as he called the federal officials slaughtered in Oklahoma City.

TREASON: the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign's family.

I didn't vote for Bush.  I've condemned him vehemently for his positions and offensive statements.  Although to compare GHWB to his 'George-without-the-H' scion is to make the old man look like George Washington in retrospect, I was enraged when he told us that he couldn't see how an atheist could be a citizen, and when he vetoed the Brady Bill, I wrote him an unpleasant letter.

These days, I have no faith that the Brady three day waiting period measure had any salubrious effect, and although I'm still not a real fan,   I have to give him credit for some things -- amongst which is his resignation letter.  Responding to Mr. LaPierre's vicious characterization of some of the murdered Federal Officers he had know personally as:

"jack booted thugs . . . wearing Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms” wanting to “attack law abiding citizens,”  the former president and life member of the NRA condemned LaPierre's words  as a "vicious slander on good people."

And slander  it was, a thundering manifesto of obvious disregard for the 19 children murdered by a mad bomber or bombers  and of utter and vicious contempt for the lawful government of the United States of America and a tacit approval of armed insurrection.  Now what is the definition of treason again?  Does anyone still see that loathsome miscreant as the defender of  the Constitution or the advocate for lawful and peaceful gun owners?  I don't even want to know the answer. 

Bush,  "a gun owner and an avid hunter."  wrote :

"Over the years I have agreed with most of N.R.A.’s objectives, particularly your educational and training efforts, and your fundamental stance in favor of owning guns. However, your broadside against Federal agents deeply offends my own sense of decency and honor; and it offends my concept of service to country. It indirectly slanders a wide array of government law enforcement officials, who are out there, day and night, laying their lives on the line for all of us."

For an organization heavily funded by those seeking to make the government the tool of  plutocrats, an organization  willing to ignore the murders of 168 people in it's quest to de-legitimize the legitimate government and its institutions and interfere with enforcement of its laws to claim to be upholding anything but  violence and lawlessness is foul and disgusting and worthy of the same kind of contempt as the Klan or the Aryan Nation. They are not a gun owner's lobby, they are a Hate Group, an enemy of  freedom promoting the use of arms to oppose and defy a democratically elected government. 

George H. W. Bush is an old man in failing health I've never really liked, but for that one act I choose to remember him.  And to Mr. Lapierre: I tell thee churlish beast:  A ministering angel
shall he be when thou liest howling.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Why yes, it is a class war

Ad seen on Wall Street...

[via]

And the greedy bastids are winning...
Chris Lehmann: Today's Politico Playbook is sponsored by Fix the Debt.org, and leads with a "breaking" PR release from the group. Journalism!
... because stenography happens.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

The fiscal cliff in memes

As we're waiting for the next act of the fiscal cliff tragicomedy let's review some of the some the past memes in this play.

Let's never forget the GOP's inadvertent admission at the RNC.

Their rejected budget proposals.

Their plans for the social safety net.

And their master plan to shift the blame via press release.

Which will be duly transcribed by the establishment media. [Filed under: What's wrong with everything.]

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Come on baby and rescue me

Not sure why so many journalists still ignore the obvious fact the Tea Party is just ultra-conservative Republicans by another name, not some new phenomenon. But yes, whereas they were once a fringe group among a majority of moderates, the ultra-cons have taken over the power structure of the Republican party despite their small numbers. Which is why, despite the rumors, gossip and stenography about the fiscal "cliff," we're never going to get a decent offer from the GOP. And let me remind the powerbrokers of the Democratic party (who won't read this) that a bad deal is much worse than no deal.

People did not wait in line for eight hours to see a deal that doesn't deliver on the promises made to get their votes. The two most explicit promises were to protect the middle class and shift a fairer share of the tax burden back to the wealthy.

For the last 12 years, even the least informed have noticed the government bailouts of the wealth holders. Who are doing just fine now, thank you. So the millions of working people of America are figuring it's their turn for a rescue.

Which brings us to the soundtrack of this post; also on Album One on the soundtrack of my life. I saw this when it aired in real time. RIP Fontella Bass.

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Buy this book

My friend Stephen wrote this book. It's only $2.99 for the Kindle or digital download. Or you can help him out by taking a Kindle preview for free and writing a review.

Do it for the children...
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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A very nerdy Christmas

How nerds do Christmas lights.

[photo via]

For the hobbit lovers a wonderful gallery of Middle Earth paintings by various famous artists. This one by John Howe was one of my favorites.

And for the Trekkies, a gallery of the weirdest and sexiest costumes from Star Trek the original series. Hard to pick a favorite here, but gotta love the colors in this one.

And this is more cool kidz than nerdy but one of Buzz Feeds better efforts I thought. Hot 2012 trends done in cookies.

Update: This just in. Christmas lights for Trekkies.

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Merry Christmas baby

Not so big on celebrating the holidays as I once was but going to try to avoid politics today out of respect for the tradition. So here's Otis. Hope he's singing this to Jack Klugman and Charles Durning up in heaven right now...



Okay, maybe just a little bit of vague politics from 1969. John and Yoko wish NYC a Happy Christmas.

[photo via NYTJim]

Photo came from this gallery of vintage Christmas photos of Hollywood stars.

And I've been trying to decide whether to post this one, but it did make me laugh if you take it in the kindest way possible. Everyone's favorite doorstop:

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas spirits

With the all the mayhem going on, didn't really get into the Christmas spirit this year until just this afternoon when Mike Finnigan posted his rendition of a classic Christmas carol that he did for the TV show ER in the 90s. Which happened to be one of my favorite shows back then. I probably heard it live.



He's such a great musician. Feel lucky to be internet friends with him.

Meanwhile, if you're pining for a White Christmas and live somewhere where that's just not going to happen, then you can do what I do. Live vicariously through the twitpics.

These days I'm just as happy to see it with my eyes and not feel it with cold, wet feet. [photo by knck1es]

But I do love snow. It's so magical. I've never quite believed that no two snowflakes are really not alike, but every single one is a work of art.

[Andrew Osokins photo and more photos at the link.]

And if you still want more, National Geographic has a whole archive of historic macro snowflake photos.

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Holiday reading

Wet, gray Christmas here in my little city. Perfect day to catch up on some lighter reading.

Every year some undercover (or not quite undercover) journalist goes on the National Review's annual Carribean cruise where well-heeled cons take to the sea with the stars of the NRO. I never get tired of these stories. The mood on this year's cruise was bleak and angry. Worth a read in full, but this one graf summed up the crowd's mindset perfectly:
“Their conception of what the country is about, they really were sure the country would reject Barack Obama,” he continued. “I do think it hits them hard. The fear I have, why this election stung, I think, Obama has successfully ­de-ratified some of the Reagan revolution in a way that Clinton never could and didn’t even try to. That’s what freaks people out, that feeling in their gut, either Obama has changed the country, or the country has sufficiently changed that they don’t have a problem with Obama. That’s what eats at people.”
Because this is their country dammit and everyone else who isn't them is ruining their sense of superiority and entitlement.

Then there's this related but not quite the same subset of conservatives. Meet the doomsday preppers whose gurus are not only the slickest of grifters but also serve as the saviours of the true believers.
Though doomsday evangelists fantasize about reaching mainstream consumers, hardcore prepping attracts a fairly limited demographic. Stevens pegs the market at about 4 million people, and he has his theories on why it's not for everyone. "It's the upper-middle white class that shows up here," he says. "I've seen two or three black people and that's about it. They never show up to these places. They don't get it. Culturally. It's not brainpower, it's not color, it's cultural. They've never lived this lifestyle. More important is the car with thin tires and the beautiful finish and nice clothes and rings. I'm sorry, that's just the way it is!"
Translation: those shiftless negroes only care about the bling and free stuff from the gummit. Can't get any money out of them. Fascinating read.

And another long read that's more entertaining is Alex Pareene's annual media hack list. Hours of snarky fun here.

A happy Christmas Eve to all. Whether you celebrate this holiday or not, may your days be filled with joy and peace. [photo via]

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Second Amendment solutions

To be clear, I support gun rights for responsible owners. I know many of them intimately. But this happened all across America in the week after the Newtown massacre. At gun shows. Where not everyone does a background check.
More than 200 people lined up at each of three entrances on Saturday morning to pay the $8 entrance fee to the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, which has an exhibit hall spanning 25 acres. They crowded the aisles of the show and stood two-deep at booths for assault weapons and ammunition clips.

At all three shows the attendees were overwhelmingly white men, with some women and very few ethnic minorities.
These are people who honestly believe without a shadow of doubt they are right -- both morally and intellectually -- and everyone else is either wrong, evil, or both.
Bob Hofmeister, whose wife owns Xtreme Sports, a gun dealer with a table at the Kansas City show, said the business sold 15 to 20 AR-15s in the past week.

"Some of these people just want to show their rights to own guns," Hofmeister said.
Because freedom, and nothing quite says public safety like tens of thousands of paranoid gun hoarders rushing out to panic buy semi-automatic weapons and stockpile high capacity ammo clips.

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Mitt Romney, reluctant candidate

They're still doing post mortems on Romney's failed bid for POTUS. Boston Globe rehash is pretty good if you're not sick of these yet. This part is the only thing that's new and much mockery of Tagg's claim ensued on the social nets.
More than being reticent, Romney was at first far from sold on a second presidential run. Haunted by his 2008 loss, he initially told his family he would not do it. While candidates often try to portray themselves as reluctant, Tagg insisted his father’s stance was genuine.

“He wanted to be president less than anyone I’ve met in my life. He had no desire to . . . run,” said Tagg, who worked with his mother, Ann, to persuade his father to seek the presidency. “If he could have found someone else to take his place . . . he would have been ecstatic to step aside. He is a very private person who loves his family deeply and wants to be with them, but he has deep faith in God and he loves his country, but he doesn’t love the attention.”
I actually believe Tagg. I mean, I think once he decided to run, Mitt wanted to win because he's that competitive but I don't think he ever really wanted to be President, at least not this time. I think it was Ann who really, really wanted to be FLOTUS and Mitt always gives his Queen Ann everything she wants. Just a theory. [Reuters photo via]

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If more guns is crazy, Wayne LaPierre doesn't want to be sane

Hot on the heels of the most bizarre press conference ever, NRA chief Wayne LaPierre is making the rounds of the bobblehead shows to defend the NRA's hare-brained position on gun regulation, that being, there should be absolutely no additional regulation whatsoever. Surprisingly, Dancing Dave challenged that idiotic NRA stand:
GREGORY: This is a matter of logic, Mr. LaPierre, because anybody watching this is going to say ‘hey wait a minute. I just heard Mr. LaPierre say that the standard is we should try anything that might reduce the violence. And you’re telling me that it’s not a matter of common sense that if you don’t have an ability to shoot off 30 rounds without reloading, that just possibly you could reduce the loss of life? Would Adam Lanza have been able to shoot as many kids if he didn’t have as much ammunition?’

LAPIERRE: I don’t buy your argument for a minute.
In fact, Wayne LaPierre can't believe you people don't get that the only obvious solution to gun violence is more guns. An arsenal in every house and an armed vigilante on every street corner and at every school house door is the ticket.

This is of course, just a restatement of LaPierre's tone deaf, mendacious NRA presser where he blamed everything from the media to video games for murderous rampages while he insisted it certainly had nothing to do with the easy availability of high-powered guns.

I still can't quite wrap my head around the insanity of this response from the NRA. If you somehow missed it, you can read the transcript of the NRA presser or watch the video. But the whole thing can be summed up by Mr. LaPierre's exact quote:
"This is the beginning of a serious conversation. We won't be taking any questions."
And while Wayne LaPierre was having this one-way serious conversation, a lone gunman went a murder spree in PA where among others, he killed a woman hanging Christmas decorations at a church and three armed policemen were injured. Which in the world according to the NRA would not have happened if only everybody was armed and ready to shoot at will.

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Christmas past

I'm posting Christmas graphics every day at my other place, but since no one reads that blog maybe I should post a few here since it's almost that time. Love antique Christmas cards. This one is from 1870.

[graphic via Mental Floss More cards at the link]

And for those who hate the holiday and want a little bah humbug to brighten their day, this was billed as the saddest Christmas album ever. Haven't seen a fact check on it, but guessing it could be true.

[graphic via Pour Me Coffee]

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Burning down the House

Over at The Corner, HQ of the very serious cons, they're somewhat mystified by the Tea Party cons pushing Boehner overboard during their mutiny on Plan B.
One false claim making the rounds about the House Republicans who defeated John Boehner’s “Plan B” last night is that they don’t understand that higher taxes are inevitable. A lot of them understand that point perfectly well. Some of them have been privately advising the Republican leaders to pursue a strategy that they know would lead to higher taxes than Plan B contained.
Establishment GOPers should have thought of that when they empowered these champions of "enlightened self-interest" in 2010.

It's not that complicated. The people who elected them don't do nuanced agreements. There is only one cardinal rule among purity cons. If Democrats are for any part of it, they are against it. Compromise is the dirtiest of all words in their vocabulary. [photo credit]

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Jutxaposition of the day

At the checkout. Posted without comment.

[via Athenae of First Draft]
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Thursday, December 20, 2012

How to eliminate the deficit and live happily every after

I didn't play the fiscal cliff game myself because, hate numbers. But I bet it's fun if you like this sort of calculating:
Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to figure out a path forward using this calculator. First, identify which aspects of the fiscal cliff’s tax increases and spending cuts you would allow to go forward, and which you would cancel. Then, pair it with other deficit-reduction policies you want to enact to start bringing deficits down even without the pain of an immediate austerity crisis. Then, add in any stimulus measures you might want to cushion the blow of deficit reduction and try to get the economy on track.
Me, I think everyone should just listen to Atrios. He did it and came up a surplus by 2016 and hefty growth thereafter. How did he do it, you ask?
Things I did: double make work pay, American Jobs Act, income tax rebate, public option, increase payroll tax cap, increased the gas tax, carbon pricing, and extending the payroll tax cut.
You know, liberal, hippie, Keynesian stuff. And if you need further convincing that our only spending problem is we aren't spending enough, another reminder that austerity doesn't work. It just makes things worse.

[Big thanks to Micheal JW Stickings of The Reaction for kindly linking in at Mike's Blog Round-up]

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Boehner's Plan B From Outer Space

Speaker Boehner issued an ultimation on the fiscal bluff this afternoon. It's his "Plan B" or nothing. And what is Mr. Boehner's Plan B you ask?

Nearly half the people who make between $521,000 and $1 million get a tax cut on the average of $240. Only a little over a quarter of the billionares "would see a tax hike, of around $97,000." As for the rest of the us?
The upshot: around one fifth of households in the lowest two quintiles (up to $60,000) would see an average tax hike of more than $900. Around 13 percent in the middle quintile (from $64,000 to around $107,000) would see an average tax hike of nearly $800.
I don't know where this plot twist in the kabuki is supposed to lead, but if it takes us over the cliff, I'll probably thank Boehner for giving us the push. The latest "compromise" offers I've seen from the White House have stunk worse than a barn full of rotten eggs. Hoping this is a theatrical device that allows Boehner to look tough and gives the White House an out on signing off on a BFD which is this case means bad fucking deal.

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Far right launches major fake rage attack on liberal blogger

It seems the fringe right fauxrage brigade organized a hate mob against Erik Loomis who blogs at Lawyers, Guns and Money. They're engaging in their favorite pastime, trying to get him fired. They've deluged his university with protest mail. The university responded by validating their deceit and publicly reprimanding Erik. And that wasn't even the worst of it. He was also questioned by the State Police. [details at the link]

I generally ignore this pack of lunatics when they're just mindlessly sniping but this is step too far to leave unchallenged. It would be good to counter them with a show of support for Erik. I sent the following email to:
Dean Winnie Brownell: winnie@mail.uri.edu
Provost Donald DeHays: ddehayes@uri.edu
President David Dooley: davedooley@mail.uri.edu

It's come to my attention that one of your untenured professors, Erik Loomis, has become the target of a vicious smear campaign by a group of unhinged, far right extremists whose main mission in life is to destroy anyone who disagrees with their world view. These people are guilty of using far more incendiary language and in fact, actual threats of violence against their political opponents.

Please do not let them deceive you with their false flag operation. They have no interest in civil discourse. Mr. Loomis, in the heat of emotion we all felt at the news of the Sandy Hook massacre used a common metaphor to express his grief and outrage at the indignity of this avoidable loss of young lives. It couldn't be more clear to everyone, including those who launched this falsely premised vendetta, Mr. Loomis meant no actual threat against Mr. LaPierre.

I have been reading his work for years and I assure you there are few greater advocates for civil society than Professor Loomis. I urge you to stand in full support of Mr. Loomis and rescind your censure of his remarks.
I would urge everyone to do the same. Feel free to steal mine, or write something more eloquent.

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Things you don't see on the TV news

Big Media dutifully transcribes every utterance made by the major actors on Capitol Hill in the fiscal bluff kabuki. But they never seem to get around to reporting the obvious motivations of the Big Money players in this drama.
According to The Public Accountability Initiative, the group Fix The Debt - which advocates for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security cuts while pushing corporate tax reform - has 38 leaders with “ties to 43 companies with defense contracts totaling $42.3 billion in 2012.”
We have the most bloated defense budget in the entire world, but they'll move heaven and earth to protect that spending problem. On this sinking ship, it's women, children, the poors and the olds first -- to be thrown overboard.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Grimm's tales

by Capt. Fogg

"They need to change the subject" writes Fred Grimm in the Miami Herald as though anyone who doesn't quite share his assumptions and conclusions  or ill informed and breathless opinions,  must be of an ilk.  It's easier than to address real concerns after all. That might require him to address my concerns and yours rather than to abuse a straw man.

"Gun advocates — a polite term after the seventh mass murder of 2012 — would rather not fumble around on TV just now, trying to invent a sane-sounding rationale that pretends to find civic good in the easy commercial availability of military weaponry" he continues.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/12/17/3146597/gun-advocates-just-change-the.html#emlnl=Five_Minute_Herald#storylink=cpy

Suddenly everyone is an expert on guns and gun law,  but although I'm hardly a "gun advocate" I do advocate the truth and the truth is that although the police and the military do use some autoloading pistols, real military assault rifles have been banned since 1937 and are not "easily available" at your local Bass Pro Shop or Wal-Mart. That dearly beloved ban left store shelves loaded with extended magazines and the kind of weapons it didn't actually ban.  I'll just assume that my Grimm brother here is as ignorant as most journalists who think that BA in journalism grants poetic license and instant expertise on all matters and not just someone looking for ratings by reaching into that bucket of breathless hyperbole and  cheap drama and pulling out plums about "high velocity bullets" without actually knowing anything about ballistics.  Would the victims have been better off being hit by slow moving .45 ACP slugs or faster moving .22 magnums?  Not really.

So am I changing the subject or is he avoiding honest questions  by lining up straw men like -- well like targets in a shooting gallery?   Is he being honest by asserting that unless you first accept his solution to the problem and don't ask any inconvenient questions you're either being a "gun advocate" or changing the subject?  Well no, if you ask me.  I think I'm right on topic.

No, what matters is the emotion he can cram into another tired repetition or our ritual morning and artisinal outrage -- and that's what sells papers. What apparently doesn't matter is a rational approach to school security.  What's apparent to me is not some culture of violence and video games led by the black robed evil ones at the NRA, but the same kind of tunnel vision that made us spend a trillion dollars on airport security in response to another tragedy that could have been prevented for a few hundred bucks per plane by installing heavier and lockable cabin doors.

So am I changing the subject by insisting that we read the "assault weapon ban" before wanting it back or that we might look at our existing gun control laws  with an eye to seeing what has worked and what hasn't?  Am I avoiding a discussion or is he replacing discussion with stereotypes and  straw men who can't fight back?

So am I "gun advocate" even though I'm not promoting more gun ownership and instead promoting a wider, more informed look at security?  Or is Grimm a greedy, opportunistic hack looking for ratings?  Your answer is more likely to describe you than me, sad to say, because this never has been a rational discussion about protecting the public but a battle of fairy tales and illusions where pragmatism and fact do fear to tread.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

A change is gonna come

President Obama's speech in Newtown, CT last night is being called his Gettysburg Address by quite a few of the very serious pundits.



It wasn't that earthshaking from my seat. In fact, it felt a bit too much like a sermon to me in the beginning. For a while I thought he wouldn't mention gun regulation at all. But then he went there:
I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change.

Since I’ve been President, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by a mass shooting. The fourth time we’ve hugged survivors. The fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims. And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and big cities all across America -- victims whose -- much of the time, their only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
When he got to this part, I seriously teared up out of sheer gratitude that at least the words were being said:
We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law -- no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.

But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this. If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that -- then surely we have an obligation to try.
Yes, I know talk is cheap and we always throw a lot of it around in the immediate aftermath of these horrifying massacres. And then nothing happens. And surely, though I've seen many calls demanding immediate action, it's not going to going to happen quickly. Nor should we try to solve such a complicated problem in the heat of emotion. It demands a cool-headed, well thought out approach.

But I have hope we will do something because this time, the victims were so very young, the public shock and anger is so widespread, and the shared sorrow so very deep. I find it a positive sign that I'm seeing so many people yelling at the right buildings. I'm seeing constructive suggestions and a determination to make something happen that I haven't seen in very long time. It just might translate into some kind of first steps towards sane gun regulation.

I'm not going to give up that glimmer of hope unless and until it becomes indisputably clear that there isn't any.

[Optional soundtrack for this post, Sam Cooke]

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Time for the blame game - Updated

I saw Jake Tapper get into a brief argument this morning on the twitter about the media buying into the "violent video games are the problem" trope the anti-regulation gun crowd always uses to deflect blame. Jake said something like it should be a valid part of the discussion. Fine. Let's discuss that trivial contribution -- again.

But Big Media never seems to want to discuss their own potential causation of these brutal crimes. I know for the people on the ground being there is not a choice. I understand the need to feed the 24/7 beast but the competition for a "scoop," (which lasts a sum total of ten minutes or less on the internets), is out of hand. We should be able to agree interviewing kids at crime scenes is awful. Identifying the wrong person is negligent and this sort of paparazzi-esque assault of the mourners should be considered off limits among pros.

[Adam Gabbatt photo]

But that's about bad manners. The larger issue is how much does a huge media response like this contribute to the next act by a "troubled" kid who feels socially disconnected and very possibly suicidal?

[photo via Danbury News Times]

A depressed kid who feels invisible sees random young killers become celebrities on the teevee. What are the chances that level of attention could inspire him to copycat? As Roger Ebert explained it after Columbine in a taped interview:
"Events like this," I said, "if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn't have messed with me. I'll go out in a blaze of glory."

In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, the NBC Nightly News and all the other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of "explaining" them.
They were looking for pundits who would blame violent movies. So the interview never aired. Apparently, that's not a valid part of the discussion. Yet.

Update: This morning a reporter asks, "When does reporting become rubbernecking?"

She asks if news agencies shouldn't use a pool system for covering these horrible events, as they do for so many other stories where space is limited and duplicative coverage is not only unnecessary but also intrusive. Good question. One I've been asking as well for a long time.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

And the angels weep in sorrow

I didn't do a thing yesterday but sit in front of the computer and refresh the screen as that horrible day unfolded on the twitter. I haven't felt this level of paralyzing shock since 9/11. It's not that I haven't been equally horrified by the all too many massacres that occured since then, but this one hit so close to home for me.

I grew up near Newton, CT. I didn't watch any live video because I've driven those streets. I know what the scene on the ground looks like without seeing it. And I'm not able to bear seeing the faces of the families who lost their children. Much less the interviews with the surviving kids. Just imagining that makes me want to throw a brick my teevee.

I'm sure you know by now, the killer, Adam Lanza was a troubled kid himself. The rest of the details of the massacre in Newtown are still being revised and expanded almost hourly. But this much is clear. Twenty innocent children won't be opening their Christmas presents. The bright decorations will make a mockery of the ruined celebration. They will not lighten the dark sorrow of the grieving families.

Some of the dead children surely had siblings in the same school who survived. They and the hundreds of other kids who lived through the massacre will have suffered emotional wounds that won't ever completely heal. No matter how long they live.

Our President wept on national television.

[Charles Dharapak AP photo]

We all wept for their lost innocence. And contrary to the sniping in the gallery, President Obama had every right to respond first as a parent.



Every parent in America was feeling the same crushing disbelief and horror and suppressing the urge to rush to their own kids and just hug them. And then spent the rest of the afternoon agonizing over what to say to them. How to explain a world gone so mad that first graders could be gunned down in their classroom?

Last night, this tweet nearly shattered my heart.
@rascality: Thing 1 & Thing 2 adapting a lockdown drill the former learned at school yesterday to the home & practicing it repeatedly.
Thing 1 is about six years old. Her sister is younger. What has our society come to when kids barely able to tie their own shoes need to practice how to escape an armed maniac?

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Lawyers, Guns and Money

By Capt. Fogg

Is the title of the song and as the song goes, the shit has hit the fan, at least for John Hammar, an ex-Marine from Ft. Pierce, Florida, a town just a few miles north of me.  I'm sure you've heard that he's been jailed under one of Mexico's tough and comically ineffective gun control laws.  Of course your sense of comedy may differ on this point.

Seems Hammer and his friend had planned to drive across the Mexican border near Matamoros in a Winnebago filled with surfboards and camping gear -- and an old shotgun he'd inherited from his great grandfather which, as purchased from Sears, has a 24" barrel -- an inch too short for Mexico, although just fine in Florida.  US officials  told him that all he had to do was to file some papers with the Mexican authorities and it would be legal, but they were wrong and Mr. Hammar now sits chained to a cot in a Mexican jail cell hoping at least for Lawyers and money.  No more guns please.

Fox News of course is running around screaming and yelling about "trumped up charges" which seems strange, US laws about barrel length being just as arbitrary as Mexico's and carry punishments at least as severe.  In fact US laws require gun owners to know more than you'd expect the average lawyer knows and are just as arbitrary as concerns lengths and dates of manufacture and type of stock. It's possible in fact for a gun to be quite legal to send through the mail and an identical one with a one digit serial number difference to be felonious.  It's possible to own a handgun to which fitting a folding stock can put you in jail for being below a certain arbitrary barrel length.  Mexican law, unbeknownst to Hammar and his advisors, classifies a nearly antique relic from Sears Roebuck as a military weapon, a practice quite akin to the US classification of an ordinary rifle as being an assault rifle because of the shape of the stock or the country of manufacture.

But I digress.  Our Republican friends and faithful defenders of chaotic reasoning are hinting that this is all Obama's doing and that were he a real 100% American President like John Wayne, he'd be down in Matamoros waving a pair of six guns and displaying a pair of something even less attractive.  Life being somewhat less of a vintage cowboy movie than Fox would like us to think, he isn't.  He's in Washington being the president; a task that requires him to deal with more serious things like North Korea playing with ICBMs and trying to prevent the Middle East from once again dragging us into a war. Traducing Obama --  that's what Fox does.  That's what Fox is for.

I'm sure that if we still carry enough clout with Mexico, we might, or rather the Executive branch might be able to get the man released, even though pleas from Mexico to have mercy on their citizens have been rudely and routinely snubbed.  We are as you know, God's own chosen "leaders of the Free World" and fuck you very much.  I do hope we can because it looks like the man never intended to break any laws, just as so many Americans run afoul of so many counter-intuitive legal niceties of our crazy quilt of emotionally driven crime bills, bans and statutes.

Mexico, as I said, is a nice example of the failure to prevent people from  causing  problems by controlling and banning objects or substances.  That, low tax, business friendly, country with a weak government has become a slaughterhouse despite it's tough, restrictive gun laws and the even tougher gun laws in China have produced a flood of  mass school stabbings and that country is now considering registering kitchen knives and cleavers.  Meanwhile, despite stringent gun control measures, and because of its drug laws, the drug cartels have made Matamoros one of the most dangerous places in the hemisphere. The jail in question recently lost 20 inmates  in a single gang related fight despite the illegality of weapons in a prison.

Is there a lesson we even need to consider thinking about?  Is tough talk and tough law the best solution to systemic failures of a society, or are such policies the result of  parsimony and a distaste for looking for the roots of problems?  Is the prohibition of  Marijuana and "get tough" drug laws the root failure here? Oh but we're Americans so why consider what happens abroad as being a lesson?  We're unique!


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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Angels we have heard on high

Doing my part to build the Christmas spirits, just now found this on the facebook. First for real LOL I've had all week.

[Joe Heller cartoon]

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Project @DroneStream

[photo via The Guardian]

As a project for an NYU graduate class, Josh Begley set out to tweet "a complete history of known U.S. drone strikes Tuesday with the goal of doing it all in ten minutes." The first one was:
Nov 3, 2002: In the first known US targeted assassination using a drone, a CIA Predator struck a car, killing 6 (Yemen)
Each tweet includes a link to the source news story reporting the strike.

It's going to take a little longer than ten minutes to complete the project. When this was posted at Atlanic Wire, @DroneStream had been at it for five hours with no end in sight. Plus "he's only documenting the strikes we know about, and doesn't include strikes in Afghanistan."

I'm against bombs in general -- always -- but the main reason I'm glad to see a focus on drones is because their use is becoming normalized and civilian police departments are quickly adopting them as tools to fight ordinary domestic crime right here in the U.S. Our civilian law enforcement is already disturbingly over-militarized. Not sure I'm right, but willing to bet, somewhere in America, surveillance drones are being used against us almost every day. Would love to see the same project done documenting that activity.

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Matt Lauer is creepy and overpaid

You've probably heard about Anne Hathaway's "wardrobe malfunction" the other day. She slid out of limo and her dress hiked up exposing her lady bits. Which the pack of feral paparazzi who lurk around star studded events duly photographed.

So she subsequently does an interview with Matt Lauer who immediately went into "creepy guy at the hotel bar who's engaged in an endless and futile attempt to cheat on his wife" mode.
“Seen a lot of you lately,” he said after welcoming the actress to the show.

After the tasteless quip, he continued: “Let's just get it out of the way, you had a little wardrobe malfunction the other night. What's the lesson learned, other than keep smiling, which you always do.”
Being woefully uninformed on the rising stars of pop culture, (don't know anyone younger than Meryl Streep), I'm not sure who Anne Hathaway is. But this classy answer makes me want to find out and watch her movies.
“It was obviously an unfortunate incident,” she replied. “It kind of made me sad on two accounts. One was that I was very sad that we live in an age when someone takes a picture of another person in a vulnerable moment and rather than delete it, and do the decent thing, sells it.”

She continued: “And I’m sorry that we live in a culture that commodifies sexuality of unwilling participants, which brings us back to ‘Les Mis,’ that's what my character is, she is someone who is forced to sell sex to benefit her child because she has nothing and there's no social safety net.”
I don't know what kind of money she makes, but I imagine she's likely worth more than they pay her. Meanwhile, Matt Lauer makes @25 million a year. For a four day work week. Where he asks creepy questions. Clearly, he's not worth the money.

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GOP releases latest hostage demand

[Mike Luckovich cartoon]

The GOP apparently now realizes they're going to have to cave on the tax rate hike for the wealthy 2 percenters. So the "new" GOP plan is to replay last year's debt ceiling fiasco:
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) introduced a bill Wednesday to trade nearly $1 trillion in entitlement savings for an equal hike in the debt ceiling.

Corker said the Dollar For Dollar Act would include $937 billion in savings from Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, with an equivalent, dollar-for-dollar hike to the debt ceiling. [...]

Corker said his bill would raise the age of Medicare eligibility to 67 and would include the Medicare Total Health package that would increase private-sector competition for covering the elderly. ...
Because everybody knows private insurers are just going to fight each other to the death in order to grab the lucrative coverage for the olds and their increasing health issues.
Corker said he’d also “slowly” raise the age of eligibility for Social Security benefits, but did not specify an age.
The bill also includes a chained Consumer Price Index for Social Security, which will slash benefits, especially for those tiresome olds that refuse to die. The longer you live, the less you get. And as an added bonues, if those old moochers expect to get a free ride on the poverty gravy train, well he'll show them. The bill institutes "a waiver program for states for Medicaid coverage." Which means the states can effectively kill the coverage for anyone they consider underserving. You know, like old moochers who refuse to die in a timely manner.

Makes you kind nostalgic for the old "death panels," doesn't it? And did I dream that the GOPers just spent the whole last election cycle wailing hysterically about how the Democrats were trying to kill Medicare? Not sure, since I've yet to see a single Big Media report mention it.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

GOP: There's a price for everything

Apparently the Republican plan is just keep on doing the same thing over and over again. Looks like yet another hostage situation over emergency relief funds to repair Hurrican Sandy damage.
But Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) told reporters on Tuesday that he could not support the $60.4 billion supplemental in its current form, and that he hoped offsets would be part of any negotiation of a final package.

“At $60 billion? In this time when we’re trying to solve the deficit problem?” Kyl said. “Can I verbalize that stinky look on my face?
I don't know if he can verbalize it but the stink of GOP obstruction permeates all across America.

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Protect the vote

It's a rather tepid statement. He's not advocating any particular action, but at least Holder broached the subject of voting integrity:
Attorney General Eric Holder said during a speech on Tuesday night at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library that it’s time to consider setting national standards for how elections should be handled. [...]

“This means taking steps to address long lines at polling places — and ensuring that every polling place has an adequate number of voting machines,” Holder said. “We must acknowledge that giving our fellow citizens access to the voting booth for longer hours and over additional days will enable more of them to cast their ballots without unduly interfering with the work or family obligations that so many have.”

Holder also said that the “ordinary citizens who, just last month, endured long lines, biting temperatures, and blazing sun to make certain that their votes would be counted” were continuing the legacy of Americans who have fought for the right to vote.
He's got that last part especially right. All those hundreds of thousands of people who stood their ground are my heroes of 2012. Our voting system is a mess. We're long overdue for a national standard and according to a recent study, nearly 90 percent of voters agree.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose

This was tweeted into my stream this afternoon:
One tough nerd: "I have signed the freedom to work bills into law." - Gov Rick Snyder
And by freedom he means, the freedom to be worked to death for little pay, few insufficient benefits and absolutely no job security in the name of obscene corporate profits. And of course, the legislation is straight out of the Koch-funded ALEC playbook. Practically verbatim.

So yes, as Teamster's president Jimmy Hoffa said on CNN, "This is just the first round of a battle that's going to divide this state. We're going to have a civil war."

As they should. This ransacking of workers rights needs to be contested. And when organized labor fights back in Michigan, never forget, the Republicans fired the first shot.

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No easy climb for Hillary in 2016

I want to shoot myself for even mentioning 2016 yet again, but there's been so much buzz about Hillary taking another crack at it that it's worth mentioning briefly. A lot of her former supporters who populate my social nets have been chirping enthusiastically about another Hillary run practically since election day ended. Nate Silver says Hillary has a shot at it and would be a good candidate in many ways. Meanwhile, the usual GOPers are allegedly quaking in fear at the mere prospect of her running.

Hard to believe anybody is buying the GOP line. As so often happens, I agree with Charlie on the GOP's faux terror:
I am sorry, but does Newtie know something I don't? Is every talk-radio host in America planning on joining the Carthusians between now and corn-shuckin' time in Iowa in 2016? Are all the foundations who fund the bilge that passes for intellectual energy on the American Right going into funding the arts all at once? Is the political salience of outright hysteria going to wane that precipitously over the next four years? I doubt all of that at once. What you're going to see when and if Clinton announces is Whitewater-plus-Benghazi, all run through the massive post-Citizens United pukefunnels, and what a lot of fun that's going to be.
Would love to believe Hill could just stroll into the White House and protect our hard won gains. But I remember the awful graphics in all the ugly viral emails being passed around by the wingers when it looked like she had the nom locked up. I remember how loudly the GOPers, led by Rushbo himself, were cheering Hill on in 2008 once she started losing. They were dying to run against her. You could practically hear the salvering behind closed doors. Their megaton of oppo was already pre-researched and fully written. Rather doubt they threw it away. More likely they've been adding to it regularly.

And what do we suppose our fair minded media would do with another crack at the Clintons? This happened in 2009.

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Stupid spending priorities

I was surprised to learn we could eliminate homelessness for less than the cost of what we spend on Christmas decorations. Which is not suggest people shouldn't decorate for Christmas. I assume much of that money goes to small U.S. businesses like tree growers and florists.

But I'm posting this infographic because it shows where our government's spending priorities are focused. If the deficit alarmists were serious they would be looking at big money corporate welfare instead of nickel and diming social programs for working class Americans.

The corporate write offs for meals and entertainment looks ripe for elimination. Why shouldn't they be absorbing that themselves as the price of doing business. Particularly at time when corporate profits have risen to obscence levels while the working man's wages have lost ground. And, of course, there's no sensible reason to continue to subsidize the oil industry. Those should have been eliminated years ago.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Lindsey Graham gets his macho on - Updated

If it wasn't so morally corrupt, it would be hilarious. Lindsey Graham finds his inner Ted Nugent and issues the GOP's hostage demand: Either you severely slash aid to the olds and the poors or we're going to burn the whole damn country down.

Of course, Lindsey's excuses for the GOP's extortion of America were total hogswaddle. I feel certain the Fox News blonde did not challenge him on it. In the interests of my health, didn't watch the vid, but guessing she nodded gravely in agreement.

In case you were wondering: This is not just Lindsey going all butch after one too many cocktails on the holiday party circuit. Also on Fox "News" Sen. Bob Corker made the same hostage demand. (No, I don't know who he is either.)

So really. Official GOP position.

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Sacred sightings - an ongoing series

You all know how much I love these holy manifestations. A Colombian sailor sees Virgin Mary in his empy coffee cup:
Rafael Barrios saw the heavenly markings as he finished off his early-morning drink in Cartagena’s appropriately named The Divine Child workshop.

The business has since become a make-shift shrine, with worshipers visiting in their droves to leave lit candles outside its entrance.

And Barrios believes last Tuesday’s ‘message’ is directed specifically to him – as it marked 18 years since his motorboat capsized and he started praying to the Virgin.
Sadly, there doesn't appear to be a decent photo of it. The one at the link is too small to judge its authenticity. One can only hope some over-zealous dishwasher doesn't inadvertently destroy it. [image via]
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The wilfull ignorance of the mainstream media

When last we saw long time DC wise men Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, they were being blackballed by the bobblehead circuit for their book blasting the establishment media's addiction to false equivalency. Now Dan Froomkin brings them back to discuss how our media elites missed the single biggest story of the race: "Namely, the radical right-wing, off-the-rails lurch of the Republican Party, both in terms of its agenda and its relationship to the truth. ...It also exposed how fabulists and liars can exploit the elite media's fear of being seen as taking sides."
"If voters are going to be able to hold accountable political figures, they've got to know what's going on," Ornstein said. "And if the story that you're telling repeatedly is that they're all to blame -- they're all equally to blame -- then you're really doing a disservice to voters, and not doing what journalism is supposed to do."
And at the root of this journalistic negligence are the billionaires who fund disinfo campaigns designed specifically to normalize a false view of reality. One in particular stands out for me.
Most reporters, however -- including many widely admired for their intelligence and aggressive reporting -- simply refused to blame one side more than the other. Mann said he was struck in conversations with journalists by how influenced they were by the heavily funded movement to promote a bipartisan consensus around deficit reduction and austerity. Such a bipartisan consensus doesn't actually exist, Mann pointed out. But if you believe it does, than you can blame both parties for failing to reach it.

"The Peterson world, I think, has given journalists the material to keep doing what they're doing," Mann said of the vast network of think tanks and other influential Washington groups underwritten at least in part by Wall Street billionaire Peter Peterson.
Several years ago, when Peterson first launched his "starve granny" campaign I was inexplicably invited on a conference call where he was introducing it to the public. I wasn't planning to talk but no one else asked any questions and his agenda was immediately obvious. So I jumped in and had a rather longish and somewhat testy convo with Mr. Peterson himself. I was polite about it, but couldn't help but challenge some of the more blatant false premises in his presentation.

Surprisingly, I was never invited on another tele-conference after that.

Anyway, do read Dan's whole post. Lord knows the media elites won't. It tells them how to fix a problem they're not interested in solving as long they continue to draw six figure (and better) salaries for pretending it doesn't exist.

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Sunday, December 09, 2012

Nobody's right if everybody's wrong

[xkcd cartoon]

Atrios touched on the nerdrage earlier and links to Digby this afternoon who did the longer. I've been watching this explode on the internets myself so I'll take the medium.

We go through this internal bickering every time the Hill shakes itself out of its stupor and tackles a big issue. You're either too shrill or too trusting. Too combative or too accomodating. A warrior for the cause or a tool of the establishment. Conflicts over priorities are the curse of diversity. But the strength of diversity is in our combined voice.

Nobody is doing it wrong. Everybody has a part to play in the kabuki. And Digby is right. Don't be so sure the "too" shrill among us don't prevent it from happening. We should appreciate the people who relentlessly come out early and hard against bad policy. I certainly do.

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Saturday, December 08, 2012

Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren 2016

I want to shoot myself for mentioning 2016 but I was only half joking when I tweeted that last night. I mean how fun would it be, after years of the fake "Obama is a socialist" spin, to have a real Socialist run? And what's not to love about the way Bernie Sanders talks?
“In a time of disfunctionality in the Senate, and all kinds of absurdity, this probably takes the cake when you filibuster your own” bill, the self-described "democratic socialist" lawmaker told MSNBC's Ed Schultz Friday evening. “The American people want action and it is undemocratic, it is unAmerican when a small minority can deny the majority from going forward.” [...]

“On the other hand, the majority in this country has the right to rule, has the right to make decisions. Obama won a huge victory. We won 25 out of 33 elections in the Senate. We won seats in the House.”
Yes I know he is never going to President, but he is a helluva spokesman for the liberal point of view. I've long thought he never gets the attention, or the affection, he deserves.

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Worst. Idea. Ever.

The internets are in an uproar about persistent rumors that the dreaded fiscal deal is going to shake out with Obama accepting a slightly lower than Clinton rate rise on the 2%ers and an agreement to raise the Medicare age to 67 years old. I'm not going to get too freaked just yet. I find it hard to believe that Obama doesn't know raising the Medicare age is the fking dumbest idea ever.

Besides the fact that it doesn't save any money and would actually would cost more, it endangers the public health. As Adele says in her post:
But the added cost is not the trigger for the invective; that comes from this: Raise the eligibility age and PEOPLE WILL DIE.

No, that’s not an exaggeration, and the failure of certain wonks to take that into consideration speaks to their isolation from everyday people, even the everyday people who provide services to them, such as grocery-store clerks, waitresses, and construction workers in right-to-work states. These are people who cannot wait until they’re 67 for the full complement of Medicare benefits. Many of them are people who will wind up paying the individual mandate penalty in Obamacare, because even if purchased through an exchange, the monthly premium will be more than they can afford.
And I actually didn't know life expectancy has dropped for the demographic that needs Medicare the most.
Life expectancy among the less educated and those with lower incomes has actually dropped. New research shows that between 1990 and 2008, white women lacking a high school diploma lost a shocking five years of life, while their male peers lost three years.
Our well fed, financially secure, very important pundits seem to be unaware, or perhaps they've simply forgotten, that there are millions of long term unemployed out there. I'm willing to bet a majority of them are between the ages of 50 and 65 years old. If anything we should be lowering the age limit to keep these people out of emergency rooms and prevent expensive medical crises that could be avoided with proper preventative care.

Meanwhile, there are some purportedly liberal contrarians of the very important pundit class who are asking what's the big deal about raising the age limit? They're finding "great" reasons to accept what would be a gross betrayal of the voters trust. They didn't re-elect Obama and give the Dems some gains to be sold out in lame duck negotiations. Which of course spawned the traditional December internet fights. If you like watching these unfold, you can probably catch up on the tick tock here.

In any event, I'm not going to freak out just yet myself. For one thing, Nancy Pelosi has been very clear that she's not accepting the age raise. So think I'll stay calm for now. Which is not to say I won't be polishing my pitchfork -- just in case.

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Daily jutxaposition

Christmas in New York edition. If you ever wondered how they decorate the giant tree in Rockefeller Center (and I have), here's what it looks like when the tree arrives.

[via Justin Shanes]

And after it's decorated:

[Tony Fratto photo]

And a long view of the plaza.

[via Hudsonette]

It's been years since I've been in New York at Christmastime, but Rockefeller Center was always one of my favorites. And the shop windows on Fifth Avenue.

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Friday, December 07, 2012

He knows if you've been naughty

Being allergic to strict schedules, not committing to a daily seasonal post. But in an effort to get into the spirit of the season, I'll share the best of graphics that cross my screen in any given day. This one seems appropriate for the current news cycle.

Next stop Lansing, Michigan. [Stuart Carlson cartoon]

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Your daily jutxaposition - Updated

Unnamed sources and our useless establishment media edition. Compare and contrast. From (as Charlie Pierce calls them) Tiger Beat on the Potomac:
Obama to take corporate cash for inauguration

President Barack Obama will accept unlimited corporate donations for his Inauguration in January, reversing his position from his first Inauguration, according to two sources close to the planning.
From the White House itself:
Presidential Inaugural Committee unveils unprecedented limits on fundraising; Broadens public access

The Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) announced today that it will abide by an unprecedented set of limitations on fundraising as part of President-elect Obama’s pledge to put the country on a new path. Unlike previous inaugural committees, the PIC will not accept contributions from corporations, political action committees, current federally-registered lobbyists, non-U.S. citizens and registered foreign agents. The PIC will not accept individual contributions in excess of $50,000. Current law does not restrict the size of donations. In past inaugurations, contribution limits have run as high as $250,000.
In other words, Drudge's little minions at Politico either have the lousiest sources in all of DC or they're too lazy to check and find out if the scuttlebutt is real. Probably both. And people wonder why Americans are so hopelessly misinformed?

Update: Well I guess I owe the slackers at Tiger Beat an apology. Today we have a named spokesperson confirming the change in policy.

The 2013 Presidential Inaugural Committee will accept unlimited money from corporate and individual sources but will not accept contributions from political action committees or lobbyists, according to spokeswoman Addie Whisenant. The committee also will not allow sponsorship agreements, she said.

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Leave that plant alone

A lot of people flagging Charlie Savage's piece on rumors the DOJ will be cracking down on Colorado and Washington state over the recently passed citizen initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana use. Not sure this is even real. There's a lot of words like "might be considering" here but I'll join the Greek chorus to say, if it's true, it's the dumbest, idea, ever.

Andrew thinks Obama should advocate for re-classifying pot out of Schedule One. A worthy project but I don't think Obama should be spending political capital on that either. It would likely lead to a media frenzy that would derail the momentum. But surely going after the states, and by inference the citizens, who passed the initiatives, many of whom also voted for the President, would be politically suicidal.

I don't need Obama to be proactive on moving this issue. I'm okay with allowing the changes to bubble up from the grass roots. It has been working well so far and we have far more serious problems to deal with right now. For one thing, if the DOJ is so bored they're looking for a fight, how about they address the horrendous mess of voter repression so sharply exposed only a month ago. Or prosecute a few more banksters. And if the DEA needs something to do, let them chase down meth labs. Those people are an actual danger to public safety. [photo via]

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Just another brick in the (pay) wall

Apparently digital ad revenues are down so pay walls are back in fashion among the online news sites. The rush to brick up the open doors appears to be predicated on NYT's success with the tiered model. Word has it WaPo is seriously considering going to pay wall next year.

It's not that I don't want them to make money for their work but I'm guessing if everyone does it, most likely it will lead to news consumers re-evaluating the worth of their product. I agree with this guy:
What pay walls are reminding me of is that time is my most valuable (or scarce) resource, not access to content. By putting a price on their content the Globe, the Sun and everyone else with a paywall is simultaneously helping me put a “value” on my time. And that is a real service.

But that doesn’t solve any problems for newspapers.
No it doesn't. For the most part, there is little unique content anymore. Everybody is chasing after the same stories. And there are always going to be free sites that innovate and try to break through the conventional narratives. If those thrive in the wake of pay wall fatigue, maybe that's not such a bad thing.

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