Thursday, August 04, 2011

Thursday Stuff

(Remember when I said posting would be highly questionable this week? Well...)

Happy 50th birthday, Mr. President - here is some advice from Bill Maher...

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

...and these may be the most shocking comments yet from Governor Bully - I nearly passed out when I heard them (I can't believe I'm actually giving him credit, but he deserves it)...

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Update 8/5/11: Both of the MSNBC videos are acting up...just click the C&L link for Maher/Dyson and this one for Christie/O'Donnell.

...and let's not forget about next Tuesday in Wisconsin (click here)...

...and with that, I'm going to shut things down for about a week while I take a very-much-needed vacation. We had planned to journey up north as is our habit, but instead, we changed plans and will now journey to the land of Lex Luthor Scott (got in on a family deal that will allow us a choice between beach and pool and hopefully sunny weather). We're also trying to make sure Allen West won't make us afraid to come out of our house.

So, until the 13th or so, courage (and I leave you for now with a video).

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Wednesday Stuff

RIP Bubba Smith, one hell of a defensive end with a neat sense of humor to boot (once again, athletes make a lot of dough, including football players, but their bodies pay a terrible price)...

...and Rachel Maddow brings us the latest on Wisconsin, including the most recent Repug garbage (to do something about it, click here)...

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

...and remember when the news networks with initials for names actually produced prime-time programs called "documentaries," such as the "CBS Reports" series, including "Harvest of Shame"? Well, it takes Al Jazeera doing it here since our corporate media won't touch this stuff with the proverbial ten-foot pole (except maybe Scott Pelley's report on "60 Minutes" about the unemployed...and by the way, Todd Akin is full of shit - and only a Repug would actually be happy about the fact that this country is "deeply divided." And yes, Paul Ryan really is that big of a dick, as witnessed at about 11:15.)

..."oooh, you and you're name-calling - you're so mean." No I'm not. I've just been watching this garbage play out unabated for years and years and years and I'm sick of it, that's all (and please pay particular attention to the very end here)...

...and happy 85th birthday to Tony Bennett, performing here with John Legend (an apropos selection for some of those Harvard graduates in the prior clip who profess to hate government so much, or at least want to see it diminished).

Wednesday Mashup (8/3/11)

  • Today is the 30th anniversary of the day that The Sainted Ronnie R fired the striking PATCO air traffic controllers; this column by Joseph A. McCartin tells us, in part, the following…
    Although he opposed government strikes, Reagan supported government workers’ efforts to unionize and bargain collectively. As governor, he extended such rights in California. As president he was prepared to do the same. Not only did he court and win Patco’s endorsement during his 1980 campaign, he directed his negotiators to go beyond his legal authority to offer controllers a pay raise before their strike — the first time a president had ever offered so much to a federal employees’ union.

    But the impact of the Patco strike on Reagan’s fellow Republicans has long since overshadowed his own professed beliefs regarding public sector unions. Over time the rightward-shifting Republican Party has come to view Reagan’s mass firings not as a focused effort to stop one union from breaking the law — as Reagan portrayed it — but rather as a blow against public sector unionism itself.

    In the spring, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin invoked Reagan’s handling of Patco as he prepared to “change history” by stripping public employees of collective bargaining rights in a party-line vote. “I’m not negotiating,” Mr. Walker said. By then the world had seemingly forgotten that unlike Mr. Walker, Reagan had not challenged public employees’ right to bargain — only their right to strike.

    With Mr. Walker’s militant anti-union views now ascendant within the party of a onetime union leader, with workers less able to defend their interests in the workplace than at any time since the Depression, the long-term consequences continue to unfold in ways Reagan himself could not have predicted — producing outcomes for which he never advocated.
    I don’t think this column absolves Reagan under any stretch of the imagination, but it’s interesting reading anyway (and from the “past is prologue” department, I give you this).

  • Next, I give you last week’s Area Votes in Congress (here)…

    Speaker Boehner's debt plan. Voting 218-210, the House on Friday passed a bill (S 627) written by Speaker John A. Boehner (R., Ohio) to immediately raise the $14.3 trillion national debt ceiling by $917 billion and require both houses of Congress to soon pass a balanced-budget constitutional amendment.

    A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.

    Voting yes: Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Michael Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Pat Meehan (R., Pa.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), Jon Runyan (R., N.J.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

    Voting no: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), John Carney (D., Del.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), and Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.).
    Cut, “crap” and balance Mikey strikes again, as noted here (so bad a deal that even Tim Holden voted against it).

    Oh, and by the way, it recently occurred to me that I’ve gone all of this time since the thoroughly wretched 112th Congress convened and I haven’t had a word to say about Jon “How Much Tax Can I Get Away With Paying On My Farm” Runyan. And that’s because he’s pretty much voted like the total Repug shill I knew he would be.
    U.S.-Canada oil pipeline. Voting 279-147, the House on Tuesday set a deadline of Nov. 1 for President Obama to act on a Canadian firm's application to build a 2,000-mile pipeline for shipping crude oil extracted from tar sands in the province of Alberta to U.S. refineries in Texas. The bill (H.R. 1938) is nonbinding because this is solely an executive-branch decision. The administration says it could decide by year's end whether to allow TransCanada Corp. to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which would be in addition to its existing oil pipeline between Alberta and Cushing, Okla.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

    Voting yes: Brady, Dent, Fattah, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.

    Voting no: Andrews, Carney, and Schwartz.
    Another utterly wasteful, non-job producing exercise sponsored by the ruling gaggle of idiots…
    Endangered Species Act. The House on Wednesday upheld, 224-202, existing procedures for listing plants, animals, and their habitats as candidates for protection under the Endangered Species Act. This killed language that sought to use a funding cutoff to prevent the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2012 from taking this first step toward potentially protecting certain declining species. About 260 species are listed as potential candidates for protection under the law. The vote was taken during consideration of a GOP-drafted Interior Department budget (H.R. 2584) that remained in debate.

    A yes vote backed the amendment.

    Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Dent, Fattah, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Meehan, Runyan, Schwartz, and Smith.

    Voting no: Pitts.
    In my perfect world, Pancake Joe would be the only “endangered species” in PA-16 for a whole mountain of ridiculous votes like this one.
    Greenhouse-gas regulation. Voting 235-191, the House on Wednesday cut in half the fiscal 2012 budget for the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, under which power plants, refineries, and other major polluters must disclose emissions data to the Environmental Protection Agency. The amendment to H.R. 2584 (above) shifted $6.2 million of the program's approximately $13 million budget to deficit reduction.

    A yes vote backed the amendment.

    Voting yes: Dent, Holden, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.

    Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Fattah, Gerlach, Fitzpatrick, and Schwartz.
    Hmmm, I smell another “safe” vote for Gerlach and Mikey the Beloved to hone some pro-environmental bona fides while this awful pro-Greenhouse gases bill passed anyway (this tells you how Hal Rogers of Kentucky is partly to blame, though he has plenty of company).

    FBI Director. By a vote of 100-0, the Senate on Wednesday confirmed Robert S. Mueller 3d to lead the Federal Bureau of Investigation for two more years. Mueller began a 10-year term as FBI director on Sept. 4, 2001, as a George W. Bush appointee. President Obama retained Mueller for a shortened term to add continuity in his national-security team after the recent additions of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and CIA Director David Petraeus.

    A yes vote was to confirm Mueller.

    Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Chris Coons (D., Del.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), and Pat Toomey (R., Pa.).
    This week, both chambers took up fiscal 2012 appropriations bills and measures to raise the national-debt ceiling (uh, yep).

  • And speaking of that circus, I give you an opinion column from former Clinton and Obama econ guru (supposedly) Larry Summers, of all people, on the whole debt ceiling fiasco (here)…
    There will be no first default in U.S. history; no economy-damaging short-run austerity; no attack on the nation’s core social protection programs or on universal health care; and no repeat of the last month’s shabby spectacle for at least 15 months. All of this was in doubt even a week ago as Congressional intransigence threatened to make the problem of acceptably raising the debt limit insoluble. The Hippocratic Oath applies in economics as well as medicine and so it is no small thing for the Administration to have reached an agreement that does no immediate harm. It may well be that no better agreement was achievable given the political dynamics in Congress.
    In response to the "austerity" remark, this post from Think Progress tells us that 1.8 million jobs could be sacrificed as part of the debt deal (sounds pretty “austere” to me).

    Summers also tells us that “The United States’s current problem is much more a jobs and growth deficit than an excessive budget deficit.”

    As noted here, though, Summers has favored reduction of capital gains taxes as opposed to infrastructure investment as a financial stimulus, with the latter being a much more effective job creator. Also, Summers told former Dem CT Sen. Chris Dodd to remove caps on executive pay for firms receiving TARP funds, including Bank of America and Citigroup.

    Summers had the opportunity to advocate for policies that would have created more good jobs for those seeking work (and in the process, advocate also debt reduction for real). And we know what happened, as Stirling Newberry reminded us in the October 2009 post…
    Anyone who believes (Summers) when he pats himself on his back should remember that Summers' record of being wrong about everything of significance is awe inspiring in its completeness. This is the man who helped create the necessary preconditions for the financial crisis through radical deregulation of financial markets, then didn’t see the crisis coming till it was already well underway.

    Welcome to endless war, money for rich people, and trickle down for you. The future looks an awful lot like the past, doesn’t it?
    It did then, just as it does now (sigh).
  • Tuesday, August 02, 2011

    Tuesday Stuff

    A truly memorable Special Comment from K.O. on that stinking debt "deal," which codified, among other things, Repug hostage-taking as apparently acceptable negotiation (lots to do in response, and deciding to primary our "hopey changey" POTUS who went along with this instead of acting on some supposed 14th amendment option is a start, along with getting as royally pissed as Keith is, and rightly so)...

    Update 8/3/11: Still think it's nuts to primary Number 44 after reading this?

    ...and here's another "fathers and sons" tune.

    Tuesday Mashup (8/2/11)

  • I know I’m a little late with this, but The Old Gray Lady was guilty of some genuine journalistic malpractice over the weekend in this New York Times Sunday Magazine report on, of all people, James O’Keefe (here, currently sentenced to three years’ probation and 100 hours of community service for that stunt of illegally entering the office of Sen. Mary Landrieu)…
    O’Keefe wasn’t happy about spending his Memorial Day turning rocks into pebbles to pay his debt to society, but what really bothered him were the terms of his probation. He couldn’t leave New Jersey, his home state, without court approval, and the court in New Orleans, where he was sentenced, had turned down a travel request. At first O’Keefe feared revealing this bit of information — “my enemies will use it against me,” he said darkly — but indignation overcame caution. “I have to get government permission to accept speaking dates, which is how I make my living. I can’t travel to work on new projects. And I can’t leave to train others.”
    “I’m not comparing my situation to the gulag,” he said. “But I speak truth to power. You’d think liberal baby boomers would support me. Isn’t that what the ’60s were all about? Do we really want political prisoners in America?”
    Oh, that’s hilarious (with O’Keefe actually comparing himself to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn for good measure).

    There’s all kinds of ridiculous attempts here to whitewash O’Keefe’s garbage, working in concert with Hannah Giles, Andrew Breitbart and the rest of that foul ilk. That includes quotes from Brooke Kroeger, director of the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University, calling what O’Keefe does “undercover journalism.” It also includes someone named Dean Mills, dean of the University of Missouri’s school of journalism, who actually equates O’Keefe with Michael Moore.

    Oh, and speaking of the director of “Roger and Me” and “Fahrenheit 9/11” (mentioned at the end here)…
    O’Keefe grew up in Westwood, N.J., and still lives with his parents. His father is an engineer, his mother a physical therapist. In high school he was a theater guy, but Rutgers radicalized him. He was incensed by what he considered the political correctness on campus. Soon he began writing biting columns in the college newspaper, The Daily Targum, which caught the eye of Morton Blackwell, the head of the Leadership Institute in Arlington, Va., which he founded 32 years ago. The institute trains young conservative activists and budding journalists (including Ainsley Earhardt and Adam Housley of Fox News). In all, Blackwell says that there are some 90 institute graduates working in local and network news around the country. The institute has also helped establish more than 100 conservative alternative campus newspapers and magazines, and it gave O’Keefe seed money for The Centurion. O’Keefe’s last editorial, “I Have a Dream,” set forth a vision of a college where, among other things, conservative views were respected, Christian tradition was honored and people realized that “guns are no more responsible for Columbine than spoons are responsible for Michael Moore’s obesity.”
    Note to O’Keefe – nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green and Federal Judge John Roll were killed by a nut with an assault rifle containing a 30-round clip; Jared Loughner didn’t carry out these crimes with a gallon container of Haagen-Dazs (to say nothing of critically wounding Gabby Giffords also).

    There’s all kinds of ripe stuff in this mess from Zev Chafets, who apparently is angling for a book deal with another right-wing icon, but I’ll focus on this item for now (as noted here)…
    …Chafets leads the reader to conclude that the core controversy is whether it's ever okay for a journalist to mislead his subject. But the mortal sin that O'Keefe commits in the ACORN videos is misleading the audience. His videos are presented to the public in less than honest ways that go far beyond normal "selectivity." Instead of quoting a former Times public editor (who wrote two columns about the ACORN controversy) as his expert source, Chafets should've consulted the report from the California Attorney General's Office. The staffers who wrote it interviewed everyone involved, saw all the raw video footage, and issued a lengthy accounting with detailed descriptions of the misleading edits O'Keefe made.

    Readers are never alerted to that report, or its most damning section: the story of Juan Carlos Vera. He was an employee at ACORN's San Diego office. O'Keefe and Giles came in, pretended to be a pimp and prostitute, and asked for help smuggling underage girls across the Mexican border.

    In the ACORN videos, it appears that Vera is willing to be an accomplice in the made up smuggling plot. O'Keefe may well have thought so at the time. According to the California Attorney General's investigation, however, Vera didn't know what to make of the pair at first, tried to elicit as much information as possible from them so that he could contact law enforcement, and called his cousin, a police officer, as soon as they left. Phone records confirm the call to his cousin, and Vera was soon directed to a San Diego police officer who specializes in human smuggling. He spoke to that police officer too. As Vera was cooperating with police, the ACORN sting videos began to appear, portraying him as a willing child smuggler. He was fired from ACORN during the PR fallout, and has since filed a lawsuit against O'Keefe and Giles.

    Chafets mentions none of this, but it's relevant for three reasons. First, it highlights one of the reasons that it is ethically questionable to take hidden video and air it without ever confronting the subject with its contents first. Second, you'd think that after phone records confirming that Vera called the police were made public -- and after an investigation by a state attorney general suggested his probable innocence -- O'Keefe would apologize, or at least correct his original story. But he didn't. Finally, if a magazine story is setting forth a controversy about a journalistic story, isn't it relevant to include the fact that one of the subjects filed a lawsuit against the reporter?
    Here is more on this from Eric Boehlert of Media Matters.

    I’ve been holding back on saying this for a little while, but no longer – though it still provides interesting content on occasion, the Sunday New York Times has fallen off a cliff since Frank Rich has left (and Joe Nocera has tried ably to fill in for Bob Herbert, including today, but Nocera’s niche is more business than political commentary). Basically, the “common-sense-reality” point of view is disappearing. And it’s being replaced by more and more fawning cult-of-personality “coverage” such as the type Chafets provided here.

    And that is truly sad.

  • Next, this recent story tells us that it’s time for another “Friedman Unit”…
    ASPEN, Colo. — President Obama’s top adviser on Pakistan said Friday that the United States had six months to deliver “a knockout blow” to Al Qaeda’s senior leadership in Pakistan while the group was still in turmoil after the killing of Osama bin Laden.

    The adviser, Douglas E. Lute, a deputy national security adviser, said the United States needed to increase covert action in Pakistan to take advantage of the disarray within Al Qaeda’s senior ranks.
    As noted here, Lute said in August 2005 that "Everything in a counterinsurgency has to do with the political outcome, not the military outcome." He also said we need an “information war” to fight “bin Ladenism” and the enemy was “Islamic extremism.” And he was right.

    Lute also said, however, that the Iraqi “leadership” would “step up,” there was no "hard factual evidence" of a "clear link" between Afghanistan's drug profits and "extremists," and the Iraqi insurgency was “90 percent home grown.” And he was wrong.

    Wonder if Lute will return after another “F.U.” for a progress report?

  • Finally, this story tells us the following…
    LOS ANGELES — In a major victory for Marvel Entertainment and its parent, the Walt Disney Company, a federal judge in New York granted them summary judgment in their legal dispute with the heirs to the comic book artist Jack Kirby, while denying the Kirbys request for judgment against Disney and Marvel.

    The ruling, by Judge Colleen McMahon of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, declares comics and characters created by Mr. Kirby — who helped give birth to the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk and the X-Men, all of which now underlie valuable movie series — were works for hire under the Copyright Act of 1909, and cannot be reclaimed by the Kirby family.

    In 2009, Mr. Kirby’s heirs sent Marvel and Disney 45 notices of a plan to reclaim copyrights in a series of Marvel comics that were published from 1958 to 1963. The comics included issues of “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “The Avengers,” “Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos,” and others. In her ruling on Thursday, however, Judge McMahon said the notices “did not operate to convey any federally protected copyrights.”

    Marc Toberoff, the Los Angeles lawyer who represents the Kirbys, said, “We knew when we took this on that it would not be an easy fight given the arcane and contradictory state of ‘work for hire’ ” case law under the 1909 Copyright Act. “We respectfully disagree with the court’s ruling and intend to appeal this matter to the Second Circuit. Sometimes you have to lose to win.”
    And as noted here…
    “My favorite thing about Kirby’s artwork was his storytelling,” Lee said. “He was really a film director doing comics.”

    In that, Kirby was certainly ahead of his time. Comics are a huge part of Hollywood now, thanks to the modern era of computer-generated special effects that, finally, can match the galactic visions and super-powered mayhem that Kirby put to paper in the 1960s. Kirby’s influence is nothing less than massive on several generations of artists and filmmakers.

    “There was power in the work of Jack Kirby that changed the way I looked at things,” said Guillermo del Toro, writer-director of “Pan’s Labyrinth.” “There was no one else like him and there never will be.”

    Nevertheless, Kirby remains a distant second to Lee in name recognition, which Lisa Kirby said rankles. “A lot more people know the name Stan Lee than the name Jack Kirby,” she said. “I’m not putting down Stan Lee’s talents but it’s difficult for us to see that he does dominate the credit. That doesn’t reflect the work or the reality. To see Jack Kirby in small letters and Stan Lee in big letters, that’s hard for us.”
    As someone who was weaned on Marvel Comics from an early age, I think it’s sad that the estate of Jack Kirby has to scrape for crumbs by comparison to what Stan Lee has earned through the movies, TV shows and other promotion and merchandizing of Marvel’s characters and stories. Yes, Lee deserves his reward also, but he’s a member of perhaps the most successful duo in comic book history, not a solo act (and the over-hundred-year-old copyright law be damned – Lee should find a way to make good with the Kirby heirs without getting the “suits” involved).

    What a shame that the spirit of heroism and self-sacrifice exemplified by Marvel’s most iconic characters is apparently nowhere to be found from one of its founding fathers.
  • Monday, August 01, 2011

    Monday Stuff

    (Posting is very questionable for this week, by the way.)

    God bless Gabby Giffords - as shown in this clip, she returned to D.C. to cast her vote in this debt ceiling nonsense...

    Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

    ...and MTV debuted with this tune on this day in 1981.

    Sunday, July 31, 2011

    Sunday Stuff

    Robert Greenwald and Sen. Bernie Sanders bring us more on the Kochs and how they fund our corporate media punditocracy to speak against our best interests (here)...

    Update 8/1/11: More garbage from the Kochs here...

    ...and when it comes to Chuck and Dave, I think this song fits; happily, those guys will be worm food one day - of course, they could still do a lot of damage until we get to that point.