Sunday, January 31, 2010

Accurate Comparisons

Devilstower at the Daily Kos draws an interesting comparison between the present State of the Union with the State of the Union in another not so distant time.

A Fitting Tribute To A Great Man, Howard Zinn

On the pages of the New York Times, Bob Herbert eulogizes Howard Zinn, the man, and his legacy to the world. It is well worth a read, to remind us not only of what we have lost, but of how much we have gained through Zinn's presence and work.

Perhaps the best demonstration of Zinn's gigantic stature as a historian, activist and principled human being came via Dave Horowitz, who said the following of his intellectual superior on the increasingly distasteful NPR: "There is absolutely nothing in Howard Zinn's intellectual output that is worthy of any kind of respect," as well as "Zinn represents a fringe mentality which as unfortunately seduced millions of people at this point in time. So he did certainly alter the consciousness of millions of younger people for the worse."

The contempt that a dishonest and deceitful intellectual midget like Horowitz has for Zinn is proof that the latter has done things right on this earth.

A Slogan In A Suit

For the second time in a handful of days David Michael Green, professor of political science at Hofstra University, has written a rather vitriolic dissection of President Obama's performance.

I will quote the passage from Green's post that captures the essence of my sentiments with regard to the two-party system:
What the last thirty years make increasingly clear is that the Democrats have simply become a sort of halfway holiday from the worst excesses of the GOP, a kind of spring break from the serious business of wrecking a superpower.

As a way of getting the president's attention Green's post is probably a failure, but as a vehicle for venting the frustration of thousands of people who do not regret their vote for Obama only because the alternative was far worse it does the job well.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Must See TV

All three segments in tonight's episode of the Bill Moyers Journal are well worth watching.

Monica Youn and Zephyr Teachout, on the influence of corporate money on politics after the Supreme Court's ruling in Citezens United..
Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO on jobs, the relationship between labor and the White House, and the future role of unions.
Finally, a tribute to Howard Zinn, historian, activist and national treasure who passed earlier this week.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bad Apple

What has no webcam, no multitasking ability, no HDMI, no Flash, no USB ports and costs $500 (without 3G)? Meet the iPad.

No, thanks. I'll stick my netbook, which costs half the money and already does what I need it to do.

The Passing Of A True Original

Howard Zinn, historian and activist, has died. The world is more than a little emptier today, but better for Zinn's legacy.

You can read about Zinn here, and watch Democracy Now's tribute here.

The State Of The Union Is... Gullible

Robert Koehler, editor at Tribune Media Services and nationally syndicated writer, is right on target when he says the the source of corporate power is the people's gullibility.

Glenn Greenwald's Perspective On Alito's Behavior At SOTU

A few minutes ago, I posted a link to UCLA Professor Adam Winkler's analysis of Justice Alito's reaction to President Obama's rebuke of the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling.

Then I came across this post by Glenn Greenwald, who offers a compelling perspective on what Alito's outburst means for the Supreme Court's (lack of) credibility in the eyes of reasonable people. It is well worth reading.

Air America Radio: The Latest Chapter In A History of Squandered Opportunities

Read this very important article by Danny Goldberg on the demise of Air America Radio.

Jon Stewart and Aasif Mandvi Dissect Democrats' Stupidity

No introduction or comment necessary. It's all in the video below.

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UCLA Law Professor Addresses Justice Alito v President Obama

During last night State of the Union address, President Obama rebuked the Supreme Court's recent ruling on Citizens United v. FEC, provoking an unseemly, if contained, reaction by Justice Alito, who was caught muttering "That's not true."

Professor Winkler, who teaches at the UCLA School of Law and is an expert on constitutional law, sheds a little light on the incident.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chris Matthews's Foot In Mouth Disease

Chris Matthews succumbed to his true self, once again, during MSNBC's analysis of the State of the Union address: "You know, I forgot he was black tonight for an hour." He must have realized immediately the idiocy of what he said because he blabbed on and on about the president and race, trying to undo the undoable. (See Think Progress.) Keith Olbermann laughed nervously, gallantly declining to draw attention to Matthews's statement, while Rachel Maddow lowered her head in pity.

I am not saying that Matthews is a racist, just that he is an idiot who plays a pundit on TV.

Stephen Colbert's Wit and Logic Stun Once More

And now that I have gotten your attention, I promise that I will post right here the video from his ruthless dismantling of the hypocrisy of the Roberts' Court ruling on Citizens United as soon as it becomes available, some time tomorrow morning.

Incidentally, I surrender. Stop reading The Daily Fuel and just use your time to watch AND study basically everything Stephen Colbert has ever said. He is a true genius. I can only hope that linking to his views will redeem me from all the silly, vain ideas I ever wrote here.

And here is the gem I was talking about...
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I've Heard It (Almost) All Before

As written earlier, in the middle of the President's State of the Union Address, President Obama talks a great game (mostly).

The best moment for me was the President's rebuke of last week's Citizens United ruling, and watching Justice Alito mutter "that's not true" when the President--in so many words--accused the court of judicial overreach; activism, you might even call it.

The problem for me, and--I suspect--for most Americans, is that I have already heard it all before. It's not that during the campaign first and during his first year in office the President has not laid out his view of where America needs to go in the future. It's that with every utterance, with every repetition of these ideas, and in the face of Washington reality, the view is less and less compelling.

Some will say that President Obama is not really to blame (and polls seem to confirm this view) because the real problem is not the President but Congress. There is some truth to this view, and until we change the political system in this country, until we manage to oust or change these two parties that treat us like their fiefdom, and the corporatocracy that feeds them, nothing will change substantially. But the fact remains that the Oval Office is where the buck should stop. And deflecting the blame away from the President himself does not change the fact that there are many mistakes the President either made or facilitated, and many promises he has broken.

Ultimately, whether you liked tonight's State of The Union Address comes down to this:
If you believe that the way to rescue the economy was to pour money into failing and criminal banks instead of rewarding the good ones;
If you believe that picking guys like Geithner, Summers, and Rahm Emanuel, and that confirming Ben Bernanke as Chair of the Fed is the right thing to do;
If you still believe that the answer in reversing unemployment lies in a better educated workforce, in spite of the fact that the real problem is that the market economy and the principles of globalization that nobody in power criticizes require that jobs go to the CHEAPEST educated workforce (to be found in some other country);
If you believe that health care reform means finding a way to give insurance companies more business no matter the cost to America;
If all these things ring true to you, then probably you got your kicks from the President's speech.

Me? I've heard it all before. Great speeches impress me to a point. But nothing makes a stronger impression on me than reality and facts, and both have a way of deflating any enthusiasm I might feel for concepts well expressed and badly betrayed.

President Obama Talks A Great Game...


The State Of The Union Is NOT Strong

"There is no doubt that Obama and his party represent the lesser evil, but it is deeply disturbing to have to defend the leaders of our nation in those terms."

That's Robert Scheer on Truthdig, making the same argument I made to my wife last night.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Oregon Voters Are Communists!

I am not even sure that Fix News will want to draw attention to this little tasty nugget of news, but Oregon voters just voted to increase taxes on the wealthy. Good for Oregonians!

Incidentally, the "tax hike" increases taxes on wealthy Oregonians (defined as single filers making over $125,000 a year and joint filers making over $250,000) by a rather measly 1.8% (2% for those making twice the given amounts). Never mind that the tax increase affects only the wealthiest 2% of Oregonians. That will be more than enough for assorted conservatives and teabaggers to scream of a socialistcommunist state, surely.

Again, good for Oregon and its brave citizens!

Krugman Blasts Obamanomics

"Appalling on every level" is how Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman describes the Obama administration's allegedly upcoming spending freeze.

And other notable economists and pundits are no kinder.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Is The Obama Administration About To Go "Full Retard"?

If alienating progressives, watching from the sidelines during the whole health care reform fiasco, bailing out the banks that failed instead of rewarding the ones that didn't while ignoring the plight of the new homeless, escalating the war in Afghanistan, keeping Guantanamo open and continuing many despicable (and counterproductive) policies of the Bush administration were not enough, it now seems that Obama and his advisers may have opted to go "full retard" (to quote the highly funny Tropic Thunder) by freezing discretionary spending for the next three years--in the middle of a recession. In other words, instead of taking the good lessons from FDR and building on them, he would seem to have chosen to follow the bad ones instead, presumably to see if they get him different results. This is at least what Jed Lewison and Eugene at the Daily Kos are guessing, and preparing themselves for.

I, on the other hand, am hoping--though without holding my breath--that the spending freeze will be achieved by cutting things like corporate welfare, abstinence only sex ed (isn't that an oxymoron?), aid to red states/counties whose governors/congressmen blast federal spending while taking advantage of it, etc.

We will find out as early as Wednesday during the State Of The Union address, I guess.

(And now, to cheer you up after such depressing possibilities, I am embedding the "Never go full retard" clip from Tropic Thunder.)

Roberto Saviano's NYT Op-Ed

Roberto Saviano is a corageous Italian reporter and author whose book, Gomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples' Organized Crime System, is an insightful and despairing look into the world of camorra, the mafia organization that has its grasp on the economy and the politics of Naples and surrounding areas.

The New York Times has published an op-ed that sheds much needed light on the condition of African immigrants in Italy. They are commonly seen and regarded as criminals by locals, Saviano says, when they should actually be seen as the exploited labor force they are. That is the often the plight of immigrants and minorities across the world, and it seems that their hosts are incapable of learning from history and from past mistakes.

Finally, Someone Said It

Democracy in America Is a Useful Fiction. That is the title of Chris Hedges's latest column and it contains the following, accurate statement about the Supreme's Court shameful ruling in "Citizens United":
The ruling is one more judicial effort to streamline mechanisms for corporate control. It exposes the myth of a functioning democracy and the triumph of corporate power. But it does not significantly alter the political landscape. The corporate state is firmly cemented in place.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Much Needed Perspective On "Citizens United"

Mitchell Bard has an interesting post about the Supreme Court's ruling on "Citizens United v. FEC". Its main points:

a) It is absurd to compare the power of unions to the power of corporations: There is no comparison. Period.
b) Wanna talk about judicial activism? Then take a look at what the Roberts court has done in just a couple of years.

You can read Bard's post here.

Ed Brayton Misses The Point

I agree with (and often quote) Ed Brayton from Dispatches From The Culture Wars much of the time, but in this post I think he misses the point of the gravity of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. Says Ed:
I know a lot of liberals are very upset by yesterday's Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v FEC, but frankly I think it's much ado about little. The standard reaction seems to be: "Oh my god, corporations can now spend tons of money to influence the outcome of elections." But I've got news for you: They already do that. They always have. And the campaign finance laws did not prevent it.

And then he goes on to say this:
The fact is that the campaign finance law that the court struck down was never really intended to reduce corporate influence over elections in the first place. It was designed to give the illusion of reducing corporate influence over elections.

This, of course, is true. It's not that corporations did not already spend millions and millions of dollars to influence the result of elections.

The problem with Thursday's ruling is that it further reinforces the opinion that money is a natural means of securing free speech, and that corporations are entitled to the same free speech protections in the political arena as individuals do without being exposed to the same liabilities that are attached to physical persons. Corporations cannot be put to death, they cannot be imprisoned, they do not have post bail, and so forth. This creates a class of supercitizens that the Founding Fathers would not conceivably have endorsed. In fact, all evidence points to the contrary: Founding Fathers feared the rise of corporation against the interest of the nascent Union. How supposed originalists like Scalia and Thomas failed to see this is a testament not to their dedication to preserving the original intent of the Constitution but to the degree of their subservience to the particular interests they represent.

Ruth Marcus on "Citizens United"

Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post attacks the "shoddy scolarship" of this week's Supreme Court campaign financing decision.

Friday, January 22, 2010

One Angry Rant

David Michael Green's latest post is one long, angry rant against President Obama's first year as president. It's a bit much even for me, but some of the points Green makes are undisputable, for example this one about the president's enemies:
Start by not even realizing they are your enemies. Then, treat them with greater respect than your friends, even though they’ve run the country over a cliff. Defer to them at every opportunity. Consult with them even as they insult you to your face. Allow them to run Congress, even though they have small minorities in both houses. Never force them to vote against simple, popular legislation. Never call their bluffs. Never associate them with the destruction they’ve caused. Never label them the treasonous hypocritical liars that they are. Help them to resuscitate the comatose near-corpse of their political party, just before it’s about to die, so it can rise up and savage you.

The rest of Green's post is here.

Supreme Shame

Please read this excellent editorial from the New York Times on the poisonous rationale and the disastrous effects that yesterday's Citizens United v. FEC is certain to have on our already corrupt political process.

Changing Subject, Briefly

Here is a provoking article by Ingrid Newkirk, published by the Guardian, on animal rights and how to be pragmatic about them.

(For full disclosure I will admit that I am a bit selective about animal rights, which is why find this article so thought-provoking.)

Dude, Like... Who Is Marta Cokely?

I know it's Coakley and not Cokely, but that's because I am almost 45. If you were 18-29 last Tuesday in Massachusetts, chances are you did not know and couldn't care less if it was Coakley, Cokely or Chokely. In fact, less than 15% of voters ages 18-29 turned out to vote, and the Democrats lost a Senate seat they held for almost 60 years. That does not bode well for the mid-terms, and Democrats only have themselves to blame.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Day Democracy Died (UPDATED)

In a stunning display of judicial activism, the kind that conservatives are prone to decrying, today's outrageous Supreme Court ruling sounded the death knell for democracy in the United States.

Corporations and unions (but corporations especially), with all their financial might, will be able to buy political favor in ways to date unprecedented. Their ability to influence the electoral process has been blown to unimaginable proportions by the Courts' corporate servants with today's ruling.

This is not a Republican vs. Democratic issue (though Republicans, in their role of defenders of corporate interests, are likely to benefit, at least initially): It's an American issue.

Events like these warrant a popular revolt, preferably a peaceful one, but a revolt indeed.

It is impossible to overstate the destructive import of the Roberts' Court decision. Some are already calling it the worst decision handed by the Supreme Court since Dred Scott, and that is a very high bar to pass. I will keep adding updates to the original post, below.

Here are two important opinions from Jason Linkins and Dahlia Litwick.

Senators Snowe (R-ME) and McCain (R-AZ) have expressed their disappointment with today's Supreme Court decision on unlimited corporate funding for political advertising

Greg Palast has a very troubling take on the Citizens United ruling.

In a somewhat rambling post on the Daily Kos, Potatohead nails the problem with today's SCOTUS Citizens United ruling:
Giving corporations this complete freedom of speech, "money as speech", without also constraining them as we the people are constrained by our needs and the natural world, does nothing more than grant any of us, who have sufficient wealth, [the right] to act above the law, doing harm without accountability, and stand above others, violating equality of law, and violating the social contract, checks and balances necessary for an equitable social justice.

That's what this ruling did. It says that really ugly people can invoke a corporation, do harm through it, profit from that, then place all accountability on the corporation, where our means for legal remedies are largely ineffective.

This is a mistake.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

59 Votes (via Daily Kos)

Markos Moulitsas poses the following question at the Daily Kos: "what did 60 get us last year?"


My Bet? Democrats Are Going To Learn The Wrong Lesson

Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate for the Senate seat vacated by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, has conceded to her Republican opponent, Scott Brown. With Coakley's defeat also goes the 60-vote majority that Democrats have held since the 2008 election. I bet that the lesson Democratic pundits, pollster and party leaders will come to the opposite conclusion of the one they should have reached: They will conclude that the Massachusetts election shows that Democrats must move to the center to keep their seats in 2010. The truth is the opposite.

In 2008, Democrats, starting with then candidate for the presidency, Sen. Obama, promised us change. Change we could believe in, no less. Since then, banks have filled their coffers with taxpayers money, they have decreased loans, and returned to the practice of awarding their management sick bonuses. Promised health care reform has been diluted to the point of irrelevance, but not without ensuring that the cost of health care will continue to rise, that Big PhRMA will continue to set prices as it pleases and that insurance companies will continue the practice of rescinding policies (thanks to the loopholes artfully inserted in the bill by insurance company servants in Congress.) The wars started by President Bush continue, Guantanamo remains opens and a new front in the "war on terror" is likely to ultimately open in Yemen, in spite of President Obama's denials (it's not like he has not broken promises he made in the past.) Lobbyists and their friends in Congress, including a number of Democrats, are fighting tooth and nail to declaw the regulatory agency that Elizabeth Warren is trying to establish in spite of special interests attacks.

And now, finally, after months and months of disappointments, one after another, the Coakley defeat, in a race for a Senate seat that Democrats have held since 1952--if memory does not fail me. Time for Democrats to understand that no votes can be taken for granted, that activism does not run on broken promises, that results--not dashed hopes--fuel the people's desire to give of their time, their energy, and their dwindling financial resources to a political cause.

In 2008 I helped many Democrats in many races. Since then I have written several letters to elected representatives and to the White House, begging them not to appease the worst elements in the Party (Lieberman, Nelson, Lincoln, etc.) and to serve the best interest of the American people instead and forgo a supermajority vote on health care. The sixty vote requirement to pass legislation in the Senate is a creation that favors not bipartisanship but corruption and Democrats have been playing into the hands of their opponents by pursuing a sixty vote strategy to pass health care reforms. Seeing as my pleas went unheeded, I sat the Massachusetts election out, like many disillusioned others. No phone banks, no donations, nothing to help.

Now that the filibuster-proof majority is no more, I am just too curious to see if Democrats will get my message and if they will understand that they need to grow a pair instead of giving in to turncoats and DINOs like Baucus, Nelson and Lincoln. They need to show their true colors, and I fear they will.

Republicans Are Dangerous, Democrats Are Plain Ridiculous

Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place, or between the "throne" and the sewer. In any case, I share Jon Stewart disbelief and rage. How can you not?

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

Thomas Sowell Gives Intellectuals A Bad Name

I never liked Thomas Sowell and I skewered his pedestrian attacks Obama and Democrats in a few posts on this blog.

I was therefore glad to see that Ed Brayton at Dispatches recognized the poor quality of Sowell's reasoning in a recent post. The problem is that because Sowell is recognized as an intellectual and an anti-conformist thinker (regardless of the fact that he is a poor example of both) he holds sway among the gullible and the uncritical members of his audience. Kudos to Ed for exposing the nonsense that Sowell spews.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Rudy Giuliani Is A Despicable Hack

Granted, he is not the only one. Despicable hacks abound among conservatives, particularly when it comes to recent history revisionism. Rudy Giuliani is perpahs the most conspicuously despicable because he made a career off of 9/11 revisionism.

Representatives from the media, however, are even more despicable when they fail to challenge even the most outrageous falsehoods and lies, like the one Rudy Giuliani told a complacent George Stephanopoulos of ABC. This one.

Jump Off The Sinking Ship

Or, as Roger Lowenstein puts it, Walk Away From Your Mortgage!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Local Hypocritical Idiots

Enter Mike Coffman, Republican congressman from Colorado, who broke his ankle on Christmas morning, received taxpayer sponsored health care to fix it, and then went on to rail against the "trillion dollar takeover of healthcare" concocted by a "radical liberal agenda that threatens our freedom".

Idiot, ass, and hypocrite. Shame on the Denverites who elected him.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

John Oliver Looks Back On Better Times

The bad thing about The Daily Show is that it is on vacation more often than an Italian bank employee. The good thing is that when cast members come back to work, their batteries recharged, they never cease to skewer hypocrites with their wit.

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In the next segment, Jon Stewart and Aasif Mandvi join wits to destroy the idiocy of Brit Hume and his recommendation for Tiger Woods.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

I Say: Go For It!

A while back I wrote that Rahm Emanuel should be fired. It looks like that might not be necessary after all, if the WashPost is to be believed.

The guy wants to run for mayor of Chicago? I say go for it, and get out of the American people's way.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Terrorists Are Smarter Than The Politicians That Are Supposed To Stop Them

The Obama administration announced that all citizens from certain countries (14)trying to enter the United States will be frisked, patted down and will have their baggage searched. A chorus of "it was about time!" lifted from Capitol Hill and surrounding areas. Obviously those who cheered the administration's decision (including countless conservatives who scream for profiling) count on terrorist being too dumb to get a passport from a different country or fake ID once they get to the U.S.

And these are the people we count on to make us safe?

I am sitting on my couch, waiting for the first terrorist with a French or German passport who blows up an airliner or a building (sit on your couch long enough, and anything will happen). That's how long it's going to take to show how completely and easily duped some people are.

This (Among Other Things) I Can't Understand

Someone explain this to me:
  • Republicans spent 18 months campaigning against then Senator Obama being "the most liberal member of the Senate", more liberal than Ted Kennedy. Remember?
  • Then, campaign over, 53% of Americans vote for president Obama over John McCain.
  • And then, when all is said and done, we are always reminded that we live in a predominantly conservative country.

[Bullshit alert blares]

Either the American people are smarter than the political strategists that tried to dupe them, and they realized that President Obama was never the raving liberal that Republican strategists made him out to be, or they are not, and therefore we can infer that they are perfectly fine with electing "the most liberal member of the Senate"; ergo, this cannot be a predominantly conservative country.

You can choose, but you can't have it both ways, can you?

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Lost Decade

If you think you are worse off today than when the year 2000 started, well... yeah, you probably are! And 2009 may stand out as the worst year in a pretty shitty decade for the common man.
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