Saturday, September 11, 2010

"It's Just Us"

Rachel Maddow and Eugene Robinson explain why it matters (and why it doesn't to Baby Newton Leroy Gingrich and his pals).

Update: This may be bad form for the day, but that's never stopped me before, so...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Stuff

I hadn't really planned to say much of anything about tomorrow - kind of posted about it already, including here...

...and this song is always synonymous to me with that day (a shame the music video can't be embedded, since I think that captures the emotions we associate with 9/11 so well).

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Thursday Stuff

By the way, today is the one-year anniversary of which ultra-boneheaded political moment? K.O. reminds us in a prior Special Comment...

...and except for this item, I think this song might now be apropos for the Repug South Carolina U.S. House rep in question.

Thursday Mashup (9/9/10)

  • Might as well dive right into it (here)…

    From Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan to Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton, congressional leaders have found a way to work with presidents on policy, even if they were ideological opposites. If Republicans win back the House, will they reach out in good faith to President Obama? NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE recently posed that question to Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee.

    “Absolutely,” Ryan says. “But these days, it seems like every time you reach your hand out, you get burned . . . from what I can tell, President Obama has little interest in trying to triangulate like Bill Clinton or Dick Morris.” The president’s ideology, he laments, often gets in the way of negotiations. “Barack Obama is no Ronald Reagan,” Ryan says. “At the expense of the American idea, he has doubled down on Chicago-style politics and class warfare, pitting one group against the other.”
    All together now – WAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!

    Here are the only six words you need to know when considering what the congressional Repugs plan to do if (God help us) they take control of one or both chambers after the election:

    1) Make
    2) Obama
    3) A
    4) One
    5) Term
    6) President
    And the proof is pretty much here in this Politico post by the ever-Repug-accommodating Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, particularly the following…

    “The goal, obviously, would be to make it a one-term presidency,” said a GOP lobbyist briefed on the talks.

    And it’s always hilarious to me to read the corporate media mythology about how President Clinton and Baby Newton Leroy Gingrich supposedly put aside their differences in true Broder-esque fashion, sang “Kumbaya” and passed welfare “reform,” which The Big Dog subsequently signed into law; Ezra Klein brings us the reality point of view here…

    …Clinton vetoed the first two welfare reform bills the Republican Congress sent him for their unimaginable cruelty -- they were punitive programs, focused on punishing, not uplifting, poor blacks. The third bill sparked the most acrimonious and intense negotiations of the Clinton White House, with the president proving unable to decide his course till the eleventh hour and 59th minute.

    Eventually, Gingrich and Co. crafted a bill they thought would split the Democratic Party and sent it to the president. Against expectations, he signed it, gambling that he could repair its most offensive elements during his second-term. On some level or another, he was right. He did improve the legislation. But a bill by Bill -- the welfare reform Clinton wanted -- would have been infinitely better, kinder, more generous, and more successful than the Republican incarnation. Clinton and the Republicans didn't work together -- they worked to undermine him and he sought to foil them. He won.
    So much for “bipartisanship.”

  • And speaking of Congress (the House in particular), the Bucks County Courier Times tells us here that incumbent Dem U.S. House Rep Patrick Murphy debated PA-08 challenger (and former Rep) Mike Fitzpatrick yesterday…

    Asked whether an extension of the tax cuts would contribute to the national budget deficit, Fitzpatrick said that similar reductions in the Kennedy and Reagan administrations actually provided increased revenue.

    "If you believe in pro growth economic policies you believe that when you cut taxes people will invest in the economy, you create jobs, more people will be working and paying payroll taxes ultimately revenue to the federal government will go up and will not go down," Fitzpatrick said.
    Gee, I’m not sure if that gets a “pants on fire” rating or not, but this tells us that The Sainted Ronnie R actually tripled the deficit (the adopted son of The Gipper tried to spread a related fabrication here).

    And if you actually care about reducing the deficit (and Mikey apparently does not), this chart from Ezra Klein (good stuff from him, coincidentally) should tell you all you need to know, particularly the area in red (and Princeton economist Alan Blinder disagrees with Mikey here on the job-creation impact of tax cuts – yes, I know this has been pointed out a million times, but as long as sleazy pols like Mikey keep regurgitating this stuff…).

    Also, the following should be noted about the debate…

    On outsourcing jobs, Murphy called Fitzpatrick out for being the tie-breaking vote to expand disastrous, NAFTA-style trade deals that outsourced American jobs to Central America and the Middle East. Before the vote Fitzpatrick met with constituents like Mary Dunne and promised her he’d vote against outsourcing. Then he walked down to vote, got a call from Dick Cheney telling him to be a “yes,” and he immediately Fitz-flopped.

    On the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, Murphy slammed Fitzpatrick for passing tax cuts for the Paris Hiltons and Lindsay Lohans of the world without paying for a dime of it. Murphy called for extending the middle-class tax cuts – which accounts for 98% of American families - and allowing those for the wealthiest 2% to expire.

    On choice, Murphy stated he supports a woman’s right to choose and highlighted Fitzpatrick’s extremist position of opposing that right, even in cases of rape and incest. Fitzpatrick is far outside the mainstream, Murphy said, and seems like much more of an Alabama Republican than a moderate Bucks County Republican.

    On stem cells, Murphy reiterated his support for stem cell research while Fitzpatrick tried to dodge his previous record of voting against it, denying the promise of that technology to millions of Americans who suffer from Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or other diseases.
    To reward our congressman’s good work, click here.

  • Finally, for some true hilarity (well, sort of), I give you the following from John Feehery (here, waxing nostalgic in part about what a great guy his boss former House Speaker Denny Hastert was – too funny)…

    Because Hastert is the kind of guy who never lets go of an issue once he got ahold of it, he took on Colombia as his own personal jihad. He lobbied then-Speaker Gingrich to push the White House to come up with a plan to aid the Colombian government. When he became Speaker, he designed his own plan, later known as Plan Colombia, to provide aid to the government. He worked with President Clinton’s anti-drug czar, Barry McCaffrey, and eventually, through sheer force of his persistence, made Plan Colombia the law of the land.

    It wasn’t easy. Neither the Clinton administration nor the Bush administration later on thought that Plan Colombia could work. Democrats in Congress (who also seem to take the side of the narco-terrorists, for some reason) opposed Plan Colombia, because they didn’t like the politics of fighting drugs at their source, and they didn’t like President Pastrana, his successor President Uribe or either of their tactics.
    Just remember that, boys and girls: Democrats = narco terrorists.

    With that in mind, I give you the following from The Nation (here)…

    Since 2002 Plan Colombia has authorized about $75 million a year for "alternative development" programs like palm oil production. These programs provide funds for agribusiness partnerships with campesinos in order to wean them from cultivating illicit crops like coca, which can be used to make cocaine. These projects are concentrated in parts of northern Colombia that were ground zero for the mass displacement of campesinos.

    USAID officials say the projects provide an alternative to drug-related violence for a battle-scarred country. They insist that the agency screens vigilantly for illegal activity and has not rewarded cultivators of stolen lands. But a study of USAID internal documents, corporate filings and press reports raises questions about the agency's vetting of applicants, in particular its ability to detect their links to narco-paramilitaries, violent crimes and illegal land seizures.

    In addition to the $161,000 granted to Coproagrosur, USAID also awarded $650,000 to Gradesa, a palm company with two accused paramilitary-linked narco-traffickers on its board of directors. A third palm company, Urapalma, also accused of links with paramilitaries, nearly won approval for a grant before its application stalled because of missing paperwork. Critics say such grants defeat the antidrug mission of Plan Colombia.

    "Plan Colombia is fighting against drugs militarily at the same time it gives money to support palm, which is used by paramilitary mafias to launder money," says Colombian Senator Gustavo Petro, an outspoken critic of the palm industry. "The United States is implicitly subsidizing drug traffickers."
    And what sweethearts Urapalma are - continuing…

    According to reports by the Colombian government and nongovernmental organizations, Urapalma has illegally claimed more than 14,000 acres of dense tropical land in Chocó--land seized with the help of people like (Brig. Gen. Pauxelino) Latorre and his paramilitary collaborators. Latorre, a graduate of the US Army training academy known as the School of the Americas, was charged (in 2008) with laundering millions of dollars for a paramilitary drug ring, and prosecutors say they are looking into his activities as head of the Seventeenth Brigade. Another general, Rito Alejo Del Río…is in jail on charges of collaborating with paramilitaries; he, too, received training at the School of the Americas.

    Government reports, legal documents and testimony from human rights groups show that drug-fueled paramilitaries--often in cooperation with the US-funded military--forcibly displaced thousands of Chocó's farmers in the late 1990s, killing more than a hundred. Since 2001 Urapalma and a dozen other palm companies have seized at least 52,000 acres of the depopulated land in Chocó, most of it held collectively by Afro-Colombian farmers…

    The damage may be just beginning. In 2005 Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, citing surging markets in food and biofuels, urged the country to increase palm production from 750,000 acres to 15 million acres--an area the size of West Virginia. Critics point out that many of the new palm growing regions exhibit patterns of narco-trafficking and paramilitary violence similar to that in Chocó, including massacres and forced displacement. A report by the international organization Human Rights Everywhere found violent crimes related to palm cultivation in five separate regions--all of which fall within Uribe's initiative. Almost all of these regions have also been targeted for palm cultivation support by USAID.
    As noted here, not passing a Colombian Free Trade agreement is one of the few means of leverage trade unionists have to demand justice for the murders of members and organizers; also, as noted here, Feehery’s former boss has a history of “freelancing” when it comes to that country, telling them in 1997 “not to deal with” President Clinton (nice), to say nothing of hostility to human rights abuses.

    And in closing, just remember that, amidst tales of rampant murder, seizure of property and trafficking in lethal drugs abetted in no small way by the most recent Republican Speaker of the U.S. House, Feehery still finds the unmitigated gall somehow to blame Democrats for being “unable to do anything constructive in any aspect of American life.”

    If that isn’t a “pot, meet kettle” statement, I don’t know what is.
  • Wednesday, September 08, 2010

    Wednesday Stuff

    "Worst Persons" from a week ago (Jonathan Popple of Wisconsin smokes so much weed that he decides to shoot at aliens, at 2:30 in the afternoon - fortunately, no one was hurt, though he was busted of course; Andrew Wellhouse, spokesman for the Wisconsin state Republican party, claims that that state's Dem gubernatorial candidate had a "super, secret fund raiser" with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi which, umm, never like, you know, actually happened; but Howard Kaloogian, chairman of Our Country Deserves Better PAC, gets the nod - as K.O. says "this is the group that heads Tea Party Express. One of its principles, opposition to bailouts. One of the companies it called out for taking a bailout was Bank of America. 'The place,' reports Think Progress, 'where it keeps all its money? The Corona California branch of Bank of America'.”

    There are times when the jokes truly write themselves).

    ...and switching gears totally, I'm sure I speak for practically all of us when I say that I hope Mark Chapman rots in a jail cell for the rest of his days (here, and kudos once more to this great book).

    Wednesday Mashup (9/8/10)

  • I think Kathleen Parker gave us a really good illustration of how the Beltway media enables its Repug “sugar daddies” here (not much else use for her column besides that, I must admit)…

    (House Minority Leader John) Boehner must be whistling a happy tune. Even though his critics say he's prematurely measuring for new drapes in the speaker's quarters, Boehner is hardly a household name beyond Washington and political parlors where the chattering class feasts on the latest polls. He's not a lightning rod like Newt Gingrich or Tom DeLay.
    More on “the Bugman” later, by the way…

    Effective immediately, Boehner is the un-Obama, and that is not a bad thing for Republicans. If the president were confident in his programs, some of which Republicans also support (research and development tax credits, for example), he wouldn't need to challenge Boehner on his own turf. Successful leaders ignore the hecklers and noisemakers.
    Memo to self: look for video of the “NO YOU CAN’T” freakout by The Orange One in the House after health care reform was passed; what a shining example of a “successful leader ignoring the hecklers and noisemakers,” particularly when that “leader” is one himself (never mind – here it is).

    Oh, and to get an idea of how much the Repugs “support” increased R&D tax credits, I should note that Parker’s link to a WaPo story in her column tells us of “Straight Talk” McCain’s opposition to those cuts as the only mention for the "loyal opposition" (and as far as Boehner himself is concerned, read this…yeah, that’s some “support” all right – and as this tells us, you could argue about the merits of the credits anyway…yes I know, more negative waves; sorry).

    Parker continues…

    …Obama doesn't even have the support of his own cast these days. Democratic incumbents are running against their own health-care law, de-emphasizing or failing to mention their vote. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon has sought waivers for certain Obamacare rules, even though he voted for them.
    I realize this concept is a little “wonky” for a well-kept corporate media scribe like Parker, but as this post tells us, Wyden…

    …says that there's both policy and political considerations behind his efforts. The politics first. He thinks the debate can be changed if individual states are given more of an opportunity--and given it sooner--to shape how the exchanges will work in individual states. This, he says, could "put the attorneys general in the states that are suing on the spot--make them innovate rather than litigate" on health reform. He says in conversations with governors around the country, including Republican governors, they recognize that repeal of the Affordable Care Act and successful lawsuits against it aren't feasible, and what they need to do is start working on ways to make the reforms work for their own states.

    As far as exemptions from the individual mandate are concerned, as the waiver was written into the law, states can only get an exemption from the federal individual mandate if they can come up with a better way to achieve the federal coverage requirements locally, so this is far from what some on the other side of the aisle seem to be proposing when they say that their states should be exempted from health reform. States will still have to abide by the Affordable Care Act, but would have more flexibility in doing so.
    Parker concludes (sort of)…

    More people say that Obama's economic plan is making the economy worse (33 percent) than better (30 percent), with 36 percent saying it is having "no real effect." The "Recovery Summer" didn't happen.

    The moral of this tale is that Obama is out of touch with the American people -- and he still just doesn't get it. They are sad and mad, and the disappointer in chief is banging pots at a bogeyman that doesn't exist.
    Just to let Parker know (concerning her “bogeyman that doesn’t exist”), this tells us that the national unemployment rate is currently 9.6 percent (and this post tells us that, as far as Parker is concerned, women serving in combat is “positioning (them) to become pawns of propaganda, (which) is called aiding and abetting the enemy”).

    What exactly was her Pulitzer for again?

  • Next, former Laura Bush employee Andrew Malcolm tells us the following (here)…

    Obama finds himself in the uncomfortable position of having built his political career substantially on being against one war (Iraq), while being in favor of and aggressively prosecuting another (Afghanistan).
    Obama is hardly blameless for events in Afghanistan, but the following should be noted from here.

    Oh, and get a load of this at the end of Malcolm’s post…

    Chicago politicians do not take kindly to pushing -- or, rather, being pushed. So then, with national power at stake, what -- or who -- does the Democratic Party start thinking about for 2012?
    I would like to offer the following well-reasoned comment in response:


    Please, Repugs, nominate Sarah Palin for president in 2012. Forget that boring, dog-abusing Willard Mitt Romney or Pawlenty Of Nothing. Just tell the moose-hunting, half-term former governor to put on her red high heels (or something) and start impugning every Democrat/liberal/progressive in sight. It will make the Hindenburg look like a weenie roast.

    Update 9/11/10: Oh, and speaking of "T-Paw"...

    Yes, I’ve had issues with Obama, but he’s an actual adult who has governed, unlike anyone else in the GOP “stable.”

    It’s almost embarrassing to point out what a hack Malcolm is, but like the mosquito buzzing around your face while flipping the grilled burgers during a late-summer cookout, sometimes he needs to be “swatted” every now and then.

    (Or, if not Palin, you can always consider this guy :-).

  • Finally, The Washington Times tells us the following (here)…

    NEW YORK (AP) — Kelsey Grammer is an investor and public face supporting a new network that launched Wednesday with entertainment designed to appeal to political conservatives.

    RightNetwork, whose first series, "Running," follows the fortunes of some Tea Party-backed candidates for public office, is also trying a new model to establish itself. It is initially making programming available through video-on-demand services, the Internet and through mobile phones, bypassing the approach of a traditional television network with a spot on channel lineups.

    Investors hope the support of a conservative audience that has made Fox News Channel and radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh successful could also work for entertainment programming, said Kevin McFeeley, RightNetwork's president.

    "We feel the precedent has been set," he said.

    Grammer, the Emmy-winning star of "Frasier," said the network represented a desire by him and some political friends "to stop allowing people who hate us to define us."

    "If you have NBC, ABC, you have entire networks flooded with a very particular point of view," he said. "They won't admit it, but it's clearly the way it is. There's plenty of room for us."
    God, I should have saved that HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! for Grammer, if he really believes that the “particular point of view” from network television is anything but conservative, as noted here, basically.

    Still, though, to be a good sport, I’d like to propose the following shows for Grammer’s fledgling propaganda outfit…

    Death Valley Daze – This sequel to the film “Gasland” (with a title invoking the program once hosted by The Sainted Ronnie R) is a weekly reality-TV show about families coping with the effects of polluted groundwater on their property, poisoned as a consequence of drilling for natural gas (note the disturbed countenances and permeating sense of futility by program participants hinted at in the show’s title, as well as the state of their formerly healthy surrounding environment).

    I Dream of “Greenie” –Wondering what financial crisis the former Federal Reserve Chairman and wunderkind of the investor class is ignoring these days? Follow him through a hectic day of congressional testimony (trying to disappear responsibility for the housing bubble that inflated on his watch) and media pronouncements against tax cuts brought to us by the ruling cabal of our 43rd president (just a few years late on that one, I’d say).

    Tips In Sanity “Tea” – Just in time for the “ramp up” of the 2010 congressional campaign season, this program (hosted by conservative notables taking their turns on a weekly basis) provides the viewer with “Haute couture” tips to properly accessorize just in time for disrupting town hall gatherings and other campaign events. First up is Ann Coulter, who cautions against too much eye shadow since it could clash with the black SS uniforms and swastikas in your anti-Obama posters; she also says a pale shade of lipstick works best so as not to contrast with the bright red markings simulating blood on your “No Death Panels in Obama Care!” signs.

    Here Come The Bribes – Tom DeLay is back in a weekly comedy-drama about money laundering, influence peddling and proselytizing for fun and profit. In the show’s “pilot,” he worms his way into the good graces of potential House Majority Leader Boehner (ugh) with an offer of a trip to the Northern Mariana Islands, a one-piece-spa hot tub, and a brand new set of Titleist golf clubs. Don’t miss the hilarious outtakes shown during the end credits, including assorted pratfalls during DeLay’s audition for “Dancing With The Stars.”
    Oh, and by the way, the Times tells us that the network, thus far, has only one benefactor, and guess who it is?

    The only other investor the privately held company has identified is Ed Snider, chairman of Comcast-Spectacor and owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and Flyers.
    Which makes this post all the more timely as far as I’m concerned; also, as long as we’re talking about the “orange and black,” nice move to sign goon Jody Shelley for $3 million and let Stanley Cup-winning goalie Antti Niemi of Chicago escape to the San Jose Sharks – I’ll remember that the next time Boucher and Leighton are carried off the ice (nothing against those two guys, but let’s be realistic, OK?).
  • Tuesday, September 07, 2010

    Tuesday Stuff

    Happy 80th birthday to Sonny Rollins - I don't have as many jazz clips as I'd like to have because it's frequently hard to get a really good performance of an entire piece of music - this is only an excerpt also, but it's really good stuff, IMHO (and no, I don't know who the guy is at the beginning and the end)...

    ...and I don't know if President Obama was chanelling Jimi here or not, but if he was, that's pretty hip.

    Tuesday Mashup Part Two (9/7/10)

    (Part One is here.)

  • Ross Douthat of the New York Times tried to be clever yesterday (here – basically, this post deals entirely with “The Old Gray Lady”)…

    To some extent, partisans persist in these arguments — “your side encourages extremists!”; “no, your side encourages extremists!” — because America really is rife with wild and crazy sentiments. The belief that Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim (apparently held by nearly 20 percent of the country) gets the headlines. But as the George Mason law professor Ilya Somin has noted, national opinion polls reveal support for numerous far-out or noxious-seeming notions.

    There’s the 32 percent of Democrats who blame “the Jews” for the financial crisis. There’s the 25 percent of African-Americans who believe the AIDS virus was created in a government lab. There’s support for state secession, which may have been higher among liberals in the Bush era than among Republicans in the age of Obama.
    Gee, that’s a new one.

    I will give Douthat a bit of credit for bothering to link to a poll supporting his claim about liberal support for secession (it’s a crap Zogby poll, but still a poll, giving us a number of 22 percent), but he doesn’t bother to link to a poll about Republican support for secession under Obama.

    Well then, allow me to do so here.

    Now I will grant you that it’s a Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll, so it’s probably as incorrect as the Zogby poll. And the number turns out to be 23 percent support for secession among Repugs under Obama.

    So it’s basically a wash, people (of course, I don’t recall any stories such as this under Dubya, but that’s another matter…and by the way, Governor “Goodhair,” I’m still waiting for you to deliver on your threat).

  • Next, John Harwood tells us the following (here – more Dem doom and gloom, of course)…

    "...the economic arguments for allowing the top rates to return to Clinton-era levels have weakened amid rising anxiety about potential impediments to a recovery."
    In response, I give you this, telling us the following…

    The latest CNN/Opinion Research poll shows that 69% of Americans support ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy--they like the idea of higher taxes for people earning more than $250,000 a year. Go figure.
    See you later, Harwood.

  • Finally, The Moustache of Understanding concocted a doozy of a column on Sunday (here)…

    …America has gone from being the supreme victor of World War II, with guns and butter for all, to one of two superpowers during the cold war, to the indispensable nation after winning the cold war, to “The Frugal Superpower” of today. Get used to it. That’s our new nickname. American pacifists need not worry any more about “wars of choice.” We’re not doing that again. We can’t afford to invade Grenada today.
    Sooo…Tom Friedman’s example of an American “war of choice” is…GRENADA??!!

    I wonder why he didn’t cite the obvious one: you know, the place where President Obama just announced the official end of combat operations.

    Do you think it could have something to do with this?

    And as long as Friedman is telling this country, basically, to get used to eternal debt and a standard of living eroding before our very eyes, maybe it’s time that we listened once more to two individuals who were ridiculed in some quarters for claiming that the war would cost at least $3 trillion (if anything, that was a conservative estimate, if you'll pardon the expression – here)…

    There is no question that the Iraq war added substantially to the federal debt. This was the first time in American history that the government cut taxes as it went to war. The result: a war completely funded by borrowing. U.S. debt soared from $6.4 trillion in March 2003 to $10 trillion in 2008 (before the financial crisis); at least a quarter of that increase is directly attributable to the war. And that doesn't include future health care and disability payments for veterans, which will add another half-trillion dollars to the debt.

    As a result of two costly wars funded by debt, our fiscal house was in dismal shape even before the financial crisis -- and those fiscal woes compounded the downturn.

    The global financial crisis was due, at least in part, to the war. Higher oil prices meant that money spent buying oil abroad was money not being spent at home. Meanwhile, war spending provided less of an economic boost than other forms of spending would have. Paying foreign contractors working in Iraq was neither an effective short-term stimulus (not compared with spending on education, infrastructure or technology) nor a basis for long-term growth.

    Instead, loose monetary policy and lax regulations kept the economy going -- right up until the housing bubble burst, bringing on the economic freefall.

    Saying what might have been is always difficult, especially with something as complex as the global financial crisis, which had many contributing factors. Perhaps the crisis would have happened in any case. But almost surely, with more spending at home, and without the need for such low interest rates and such soft regulation to keep the economy going in its absence, the bubble would have been smaller, and the consequences of its breaking therefore less severe. To put it more bluntly: The war contributed indirectly to disastrous monetary policy and regulations.
    It is beyond belief even for a neocon simpatico Iraq war cheerleader like Friedman that he can say anything at all about this country’s current dire financial straits and utterly ignore the mess in Mesopotamia. However, he continues to do so with impunity, and is handsomely rewarded by the “newspaper of record” for it, I’m sure.

    Friedman concludes with this (aside from his characterization of Europe as “rich but wimpy”)…

    An America in hock will have no hawks — or at least none that anyone will take seriously.
    Though, when it comes to warmongering corporatist politicians and their imperialist designs, I’m sure Friedman will do his very best to make us believe that we should continue to take them seriously anyway.
  • Monday, September 06, 2010

    Monday Stuff

    Hey, sounds like a good idea to me too...

    ...and I always liked this song and I just found it, so enjoy.

    Monday Mashup (9/6/10)

  • As I read this recent New York Times column by Sheryl Gay Stolberg on Michelle Obama, I kept remembering all of the columns from that paper’s former Public Editor Clark Hoyt about how the Times’ reporters aren’t supposed to use anonymous sourcing (hint: what Stolberg concocted is full of “Drudge bait”)…

    WASHINGTON — After 18 months of careful image-making and bipartisanship, Michelle Obama is shifting course as first lady, stepping up her policy agenda and dipping into election-year politics to campaign and raise money for Democrats.

    Despite stinging criticism of her summer vacation to Spain with daughter Sasha — aides warned her not to go, and the backlash was fiercer than they had imagined — Mrs. Obama is the most popular member of her husband’s administration.
    Stolberg might as well be criticizing Michelle Obama’s “optics” for her trip to Spain here, and in response, Media Matters tells us the following here…

    Right. And how were the “optics” when First Lady Laura Bush got a $700 haircut for the 2005 Inauguration? Or when Laura Bush went on vacation with her girlfriends along with an entourage of 25 in tow? And how were the “optics” when the taxpayers spent more than $20 million flying the Bushes back and forth to their vacation retreat in Crawford, Texas?

    How were those “optics”? They were just fine because nobody in the Beltway press corps ever cared about Laura Bush’s “optics.” Instead, for eight years she was, without question, deemed off-limits to any sort of sustained scrutiny. First Lady Bush was off-limits in a way that her Democratic predecessor, Hillary Clinton, was not. And she was off-limits in a way that her current Democratic successor most certainly is not.
    Oh, and here are more Laura Bush “optics” (and please, spare me the explanation that she was on a trip on behalf of fighting AIDS and malaria or something – I’m sure the safari was all about combating disease…riiiight).


    …it is Mrs. Obama’s decision to campaign that poses the biggest risk for the first lady, who arrived at the White House as the self-described “mom-in-chief” and has pursued, until now, a relatively risk-free path.

    …Mrs. Obama has confounded professional women and scholars who thought that with her Harvard law degree and background in hospital management she might take a more aggressive stance.
    Sooo…after Stolberg tells us everything Michelle Obama has done “behind the scenes,” she then says she could be blamed both for “taking a risk” and pursuing “a relatively risk-free path” and for not taking “a more aggressive stance” in making appearances as First Lady until now.


    Anyway, here’s more…

    With her husband’s poll numbers sliding, and many Democrats distancing themselves from him, Mrs. Obama, political analysts say, is the White House’s best hope for exciting the party’s lethargic base.
    As you may have guessed if you’ve read any of my most recent posts, the “lethargic base” thing is definitely a sore point for me. But whoever these “many Democrats” are who think that Michelle Obama will get these people off sitting on their hands…well, they must be living on another planet (or they’re spending too much time inside the Beltway).

    Oh, and here's something for the "lethargic base" to check out, along with this (no, the man and his policies aren't perfect, but do you honestly believe the Repugs would be an improvement??!!).

    And it gets better (well, worse actually), believe it or not…

    …as Mrs. Obama discovered in Spain, she is not immune to criticism. Aides say privately that they warned her there would be a cost to the trip, but she overruled them, insisting it was a rare chance to spend time with Sasha and with a friend whose father had died. But the intensity of the uproar — including accusations that she was a “modern-day Marie Antoinette” — caught the White House and Mrs. Obama off guard.
    I’m sure it did “catch the White House off guard” because such suggestions are so patently stoo-pid (and more fool Stolberg for repeating them ad nauseum – again, Media Matters has more here).

    And actually, I take back what I said earlier about the problem with anonymous sourcing; the main fault with this dookey from Stolberg is the fact that she was too lazy to cite them at all.

  • Next, I need to get something straight, OK?

    The Delaware Republican Party is ganging up on Christine O’Donnell, the newest darling of the teabaggers who is challenging incumbent Republican House Rep Mike Castle; he is running for that party’s nomination for the U.S. Senate seat soon to be vacated by Dem Ted Kaufman (here). And one of the charges against O’Donnell is some of her financial problems (noted in this post - third item).

    However, we have Carly Fiorina running for the U.S. Senate in California, another professed admirer of the teabaggers, who was forced out of her job as Hewlett Packard CEO for poor performance, yet received a severance package of $42 million; still, we hear nary a word about her own financially related issues (here).

    Sounds to me like we have more than a little bit of a double standard going on here.

  • Finally, I have to admit that I was a bit shocked by this Times column ostensibly on Net Neutrality by Joe Nocera (unpleasantly, I should note)…

    Net neutrality, of course, is the principle that Internet service providers should not be allowed to favor some Internet content over other content by delivering it faster.

    Really, who could be against such a thing? President Obama came out for net neutrality during his presidential campaign. Julius Genachowski, his former law review colleague and basketball buddy, who helped him arrive at that campaign position, is now the chairman of the Federal Communication Commission.

    Right-thinking public interest groups, like Public Knowledge (“Fighting for your digital rights in Washington”) are fierce, unyielding proponents of net neutrality, viewing its goodness as obvious. Google professes to be a champion of net neutrality. So does Skype. Even the Internet service providers say they favor it.

    Data networks, after all, have to be managed. The engineering is complex. The capacity is limited. Inevitably, some form of prioritization is bound to take place. Rules also have to be created that will give companies the incentive they need to spend the billions upon billions of dollars necessary to extend broadband’s reach and improve its speed, so we can catch up to, say, South Korea.
    As noted here, South Korea has relied on a public/private partnership, overseen by that country’s Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC), that has increased Internet literacy in that country, and the delegation of services to basically six ISPs controlling market share, to the point where “Korea now has the highest penetration of broadband in the world.”

    And meanwhile, in this country, we are still wrangling in court between our ISPs and the FCC as to who can regulate broadband and implement principles of Net Neutrality.

    Even though Nocera then tells us the following (actually, without snark for a change)…

    Thus, the public interest view that all data traffic on the Internet should be treated the same is unrealistic.
    Really? I suppose Nocera, then, has no issue whatsoever with the ISPs deciding however many tiers of content should exist whereby wireless would have a priority in terms of bandwidth and transmission speed, thus hogging up whatever Internet capacity can exist for humble blogger types such as yours truly to do their thing.

    This whole scenario reminds me of what happened before the mergers of communications companies in the 90s (AOL,Time Warner, GE, Disney, etc.), which led to a greater consolidation of the corporate voice than ever before. If, somehow, “Net Neutrality” rules emerge that differentiate between wireless and other broadband media, with the ISPs prioritizing content into “tiers,” you can basically kiss goodbye to about three-quarters of the blogs out there (including this one, I’m sure) since it will be impossible for anyone to read them due to connectivity issues.

    And I love Nocera's overall dismissive tone of the Bit Torrent issue, in which Comcast interfered with their downloads, because his "kids" use to get movies for free, or something (that’s not all that is available through Bit Torrent, it should be noted, based on this). He also says that we already have Net Neutrality now, utterly ignoring the fact that the battle is over the future (and his argument that ISPs should be able to tier Internet content because cable TV can tier its service is absurd).

    Also, I wonder if Nocera is aware that the FCC's Net Neutrality plan, the subject of the lawsuit by Comcast which led to a Federal Appeals Court opposing it, would permit the Bit Torrent blocking that started all the wrangling to begin with (here)? Now, though, the issue is the ISPs fighting with the FCC to determine who will decide whether we will have a level online playing field or not.

    Nocera concludes that this is “much ado about very little.”

    Spoken like someone who enjoys the protection of one of the largest and most formidable online news and editorial presences in the world (would that we were all so lucky).
  • Sunday, September 05, 2010

    Sunday Stuff

    Good to see this ad from John Kitzhaber against that fraud Chris Dudley in the Oregon gubernatorial election (more on Dudley here - last item)...

    ...and I'll give you a little bit of insight into how, as a Roman Catholic, our parish treated the unemployed of the Great Recession at Mass on this Labor Day - basically, they pretended they didn't exist (no mention in a homily, no general intercession...nothing). Of course, there were no shortage of patriotic tunes played to a deafening church organ accompaniment.

    Well, anyway, this goes out to everyone working and aspiring to work - even though relief does not appear to be imminent, let's work, hope and pray for a miracle anyway.