Friday, July 30, 2010


The Midterm Election race has been joined today, as President Barack Obama visited Detroit with a particularly powerful speech at a Chrysler plant. Key quote: "I want the 'just say no' crowd to look you in the eye and say you were a bad investment." Watch for yourself -- the Prez at his best, with something to crow about, appearing to have saved the U.S. auto industry, now on its first upswing since the recession started:

More goodness with the link above, particularly the tear-filled signing of the Tribal Law and Order Act, benefiting Native American communities.

Mark my words: the GOP won't know what hit them this November. Or maybe they will: a President Obama leading America out of recession and into the future...and a Tea Party dragging them down.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Corruption is an equal opportunity employer. For example, Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-NY):
The House ethics committee on Thursday laid out 13 charges of ethical violations committed by Representative Charles B. Rangel, accusing him of a pattern of “indifference and disregard” for the law and the rules of the House.

In the 40-page report, the committee said it substantiated the major charges that had been hanging over Mr. Rangel for two years: that he improperly used his office to solicit donations for a school to be named in his honor; failed to pay taxes on and report rental income from his Dominican villa; filed incomplete financial disclosure forms; and improperly accepted from a Manhattan developer rent-stabilized apartments, one of which he used as a campaign office.

But while those alleged infractions had been widely reported, the committee unearthed new details about Mr. Rangel’s conduct. The committee said Mr. Rangel not only reached out to corporate executives seeking contributions to the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College, but he also personally sought donations from registered lobbyists whose corporations had business before Congress. In some cases, Mr. Rangel asked for contributions of as much as $30 million from businesses with issues before the Ways and Means Committee, of which he was the chairman until March.

Then there's heavy Republican donors (in the million$), the billionaire Wyly Bros:

Famed Dallas billionaire investors Sam and Charles Wyly made $550 million in undisclosed profits through 13 years of insider trading in the shares of companies on whose boards they served, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit filed Thursday.

In a 78-page complaint filed in a Manhattan federal court in New York, the SEC said the Wylys held and traded tens of millions of securities in the companies and "defrauded the investing public" by misrepresenting the Wylys' ownership and trading of those shares.

"The apparatus of the fraud was an elaborate sham system of trusts and subsidiary companies located in the Isle of Man and the Cayman Islands ... created by and at the direction of the Wylys," the SEC complaint stated.

Using this offshore system, the Wylys were able to sell stock worth more than $750 million in four public companies where they served as corporate directors. They also committed an insider trading violation at one of the companies that resulted in an unlawful gain of over $31.7 million, according to the complaint.

Coincidentally, the number thirteen figures in both stories. For Rep. Rangel, that's thirteen charges of ethical violations. For the Wylys, thirteen years of insider trading.

Thirteen for good luck.

Financial Matters

It didn't start under Obama, but according to two economists, one of whom worked with McCain:
In a new paper, the economists argue that without the Wall Street bailout, the bank stress tests, the emergency lending and asset purchases by the Federal Reserve, and the Obama administration’s fiscal stimulus program, the nation’s gross domestic product would be about 6.5 percent lower this year.

In addition, there would be about 8.5 million fewer jobs, on top of the more than 8 million already lost; and the economy would be experiencing deflation, instead of low inflation.

The paper, by Alan S. Blinder, a Princeton professor and former vice chairman of the Fed, and Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, represents a first stab at comprehensively estimating the effects of the economic policy responses of the last few years.

As for the Obama stimulus, it's not all public sector:Link

States are putting hundreds of thousands of people directly into jobs through programs reminiscent of the more ambitious work projects of the Great Depression

But the new efforts have a twist: While the wages are being paid by the government, most of the participants are working for private companies

The opportunity to simultaneously benefit struggling workers and small businesses has helped these job subsidies gain support from liberals and conservatives. Congress is now considering whether to extend the subsidy, which would expire in September, for an additional year. A House vote is expected on Thursday or Friday.

Despite questions about whether the programs displace existing workers, many economists have argued that direct job Linkcreation programs are a more cost-effective way to put some of the nation’s 14.6 million unemployed back to work than indirect alternatives like tax credits and construction projects.

So which is it? In any case, Obama is trying to help small businesses as well:

The battle was on full display on Wednesday as Senate Democrats pushed ahead with efforts to pass a bill that would increase lending to small businesses and provide tax breaks, and President Obama visited the Tastee Sub Shop in Edison, N.J., where he ordered a “super sub with everything,” to highlight his party’s small-business agenda.

The two sides agree that the nation’s 27 million small businesses will be a big factor in the economic recovery. Beyond that, however, the gloves come off, as Democrats say Republicans are stalling the small-business bill and Republicans say that Democrats will strangle small businesses with higher taxes and heavy-handed regulation — though Mr. Obama, in New Jersey, emphasized that he had cut taxes for small businesses eight times.

At the sandwich shop, Mr. Obama said there should be no argument. “Surely, Democrats and Republicans ought to be able to agree on this bill,” he said. “Helping small businesses, cutting taxes, making credit available. This is as American as apple pie. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. They are central to our identity as a nation. They are going to lead this recovery.”

One last question. We know that George Bush Jr. used "fuzzy math." But is it systematic that Republicans have trouble with numbers?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More Spew

There's more to killing the Gulf of Mexico than Deepwater Horizon:

NEW ORLEANS - (AP) Oil is spewing from a damaged well north of a bay where officials have been fighting the spill from the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Coast Guard says a tow boat called Pere Ana C. hit the wellhead near Mud Lake early Tuesday. No injuries were reported.

The Coast Guard did not know who owns the small well or how much oil has leaked. But a sheen has been spotted in the lake. Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts says oil is spewing from the wellhead.

And there's more to killing our ecosystem with oil than just the Gulf of Mexico:
MARSHALL TOWNSHIP -- A leaking pipeline spilled about 840,000 gallons of oil into a creek leading to the Kalamazoo River on Monday, according to estimates from Enbridge Energy Partners, the company taking responsibility for the spill.

The leak resulted from a pipeline malfunction that was still under investigation Monday, said Tom Fridel, general manager for Enbridge Liquids Pipelines in Chicago. The 30-inch pipeline carries about 8 million gallons of oil per day from Griffith, Indiana, to Sarnia, Ontario, according to Enbridge.

The leak originated at the Enbridge site, at 16000 Division Drive near the border of Marshall and Fredonia townships. The oil spilled into Talmadge Creek, which flows northwest into the Kalamazoo River.

Should we start a new slogan, "Extinction in 100" as in human species wiped out within one hundred years?

We can do it, people!

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Yes, the throbbing trombone theme is sure to signal future parodies. Sure, Writer/Director Christopher Nolan can be accused of making mazes without enough movie emotion, as was Stanley Kubrick. And yep, a definitive interpretation may be so hard to come by that many give up.

That said, Inception is quite a ride, certainly the most ambitious Hollywood movie so far this year, a fine way to spend that clout built up from the worldwide blockbuster success of The Dark Knight and possessing a haunting, disturbing core that naysayers will trivialize to ill effect.

Since Nettertainment doesn't do reviews so much as analysis, since I've only seen this movie once and since to discuss it in any real depth is to drop spoilers galore, a real shame for anyone who has yet to see the movie, lets me offer a briefer post, one where instead of investigation and conclusion I simply drop some hints that might lead the viewer towards my own interpretation(s) of the film.

Respecting that these may function as SPOILERS no matter how oblique, take this as fair WARNING, enjoy the trailer below, and if you haven't seen the movie or want to be sure your experience isn't even tinted by these clues, please avoid reading the text following.

Here's my thoughts:

There's a misapprehension regarding the genre of Inception, that it is simply a "mind-fuck" movie, or an existential heist movie. Remember that, at his core, Christopher Nolan makes doomed man movies, with the potential exception of Batman Begins. And even that has a doomed element regarding Bruce Wayne's decision and the effect on his great romance. From his first no-budget calling card, Following..., through the perpetual forgetting machine man of Memento, the sleepless protagonist of Insomnia, the exponentially doomed man (men?) of The Prestige and, most recently, The Dark Knight who is a fugitive taking the heat for Harvey Dent at the end of that movie, every single one of his protagonists is ultimately revealed to be as doomed as the ultimate film noir loser in the low-budget quickie classic, Detour.

Once you understand this about Nolan's oeuvre, you remove that shred of cinematic hope that may be keeping you tethered to the most optimistic interpretation of the movie, and lead you to some extremely dark places, including questions like: Who's dreaming? Who's right? And, the most pretzeldelic question of all, Who's really being "incepted?"

The second clue is very simple: water. Plenty of movies use water as a resonant visual theme, notably Chinatown and Jaws, but here it is explicitly offered as a hint to explain the levels within levels. The level of a glass of water, a chase through rain-drenched streets, walls bursting in, a fall into a bathtub, the crystallization of water into a snowy/icy world replete with avalanche and, perhaps most tellingly, the waves crashing against a desolate beach echoing From Here to Eternity replete with sin, albeit of death rather than adultery.

It's the loose ends that are disturbing, that resonate like our daily lives in this age of anxiety. Nolan doesn't tie them up. After all, Cobb is interrupted by Saito in the middle of the movie when he tries to spin the top.

And, opening up a question instantly linking Inception to the final chapter of James Joyce's literary touchstone, Ulysses:

Who's top is it anyway?

WikiLeaks: Afghanistan

I leave it up to Nettertainment's readers to determine for themselves whether this leaking of 90,000 military records regarding Afghanistan to the WikiLeaks site is tantamount to treason or a public service similar to the leaking of The Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg back when the Vietnam War was being propped up with horrendous lies, but it seems like something of a bombshell being covered by major newspapers as well as throughout the blogosphere. One thing The New York Times focuses on in their lead story is how the documents reveal Pakistan aiding the Afghanistan insurgency:
The documents, made available by an organization called WikiLeaks, suggest that Pakistan, an ostensible ally of the United States, allows representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.

Taken together, the reports indicate that American soldiers on the ground are inundated with accounts of a network of Pakistani assets and collaborators that runs from the Pakistani tribal belt along the Afghan border, through southern Afghanistan, and all the way to the capital, Kabul.

Much of the information — raw intelligence and threat assessments gathered from the field in Afghanistan— cannot be verified and likely comes from sources aligned with Afghan intelligence, which considers Pakistan an enemy, and paid informants. Some describe plots for attacks that do not appear to have taken place.

But many of the reports rely on sources that the military rated as reliable.

England's The Guardian is digging deeply into these logs, and their coverage of this hour-by-hour account of the war is accompanied by an explanation of why WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange posted these logs:

Clearly the ability to keep governmental secrets is diminished, if not demolished, in our brave new Internet age. Is the answer greater fortresses of secrecy or, as I suspect will happen, markedly less guile in the future. This can cut both ways, with a country that commits to war doing without apology, damned the torpedoes.

And, of course, these documents are going to force consideration of the key question to it all:

Is it (well-past) time for our United States to get out of Afghanistan?

Friday, July 23, 2010

In Defense of Comic-Con

I posted this on a blog I read daily, Jeffrey Wells' excellent Hollywood Elsewhere. While I don't always agree with Jeffrey, I do most of the time, and he provides an open forum in this post comments for readers to disagree with him, or each other.

Jeffrey did a blanket put-down of Comic-con which has some basis in fact but is really the Hollywood view of the show even in his negativity, no real feel for why the convention was so good in the years leading up to now or that the good core survives. Ditto for the first few comments I saw, snarky (though not noticeably witty) chime-ins agreeing with Wells.

So I felt it my duty, after attending yesterday and having a successful, life-affirming trip:

I have to put in a few words of defense of Comic-Con.

I go for a single day each year, mainly for business but also because I love the creative community that's the backbone of Comic-Con. I attend maybe one panel a year, prefer lesser-attended events, think the lines are for fans or chumps. I like that Comic-Con taught H'wood that they had to bring the talent close to the fans, that if they're going to make stupor-hero movies that they actually consider the fans now (unlike, say the first Star Trek movie), I like that the artists old and young, publishers big and tiny, are in the same huge room with movie studios, TV networks, videogame publishers and toymakers.

I love the huge explosion of creativity and available new-old art, books, comics, videos, etc., like the two Harvey Pekar graphic books gifted to me by the publisher, one on The Beats, the other on the Students for a Democratic Society. I like talking to independent publishers, creators, even smart people working for the big corporations who actually care.

I love that at its core Comic-Con is about the low barrier to entry to create a potentially huge IP, just pen and ink, good ideas, wit and talent.

And I adore that there were three anti-homosexual protesters across the street and everyone at the convention was laughing, shaking their heads and taking pictures like they were cosplay attendees instead of grumpy/smug middle-aged women with offensive "God Hates Fags" signs.

The core community that comes together at Comic-Con is an accepting bunch, who know the misfit in themselves and have made community.

Google pix of the con here.

Lying Sacks

Rachel Maddow makes it plain:

We all know that FNC isn't really a news organization but a propaganda organ. But per Kevin Drum, it may be Satan's mouthpiece:
There have been three big conservative outrages that have choked the airwaves over the past couple of weeks. #1 was about a bunch of scary black men, the New Black Panther Party. #2 was about a bunch of scary Muslims who want to build a triumphal mosque on the sacred soil of Ground Zero. #3 was about a vindictive black woman who works for the government and screws the white people she deals with. The running theme here is not just a coincidence.

It's not a coincidence. It's called the GOP's Southern Strategy and it's been around since 1968, courtesy of Richard Milhous Nixon. And, of course, one of his key campaign operatives, Head of Television, was Roger Ailes -- President of Fox News:

Now let's see the mainstream media call him out.

Tip: Don't hold your breath.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Robert Gibbs, sincerely apologetic, showed class:

Tom Vilsack, rightly ashamed, showed class:

Andrew Breitbart, self-righteous and dangerous, showed ass:

Shirley Sherrod is correct:

"To have people say that I was such a racist was unbelievable," she said of the fallout from the video and Fox coverage. "My whole life, if you look into what I have done, my father was murdered in 1965. If you look at all of us, we all hurt with that and we got involved into the movement and channeled our effort into good, instead of hating.

"I am getting hate calls and e-mails at this point. I got one call last night at my house at 12:30 a.m. that said 'you lost your job, good for you' and 'bitch' There are people out there who will believe that I am a racist person, even though the story is getting out there."

She said her husband, Charles, and her two children, who also live nearby in Athens, Ga., were surprised, but have been toughened by years of seeing her work in the civil rights movement: "They had to grow up in the movement so they have had to deal with stuff like this through the years. We did not always take the easy road. They have some thick skin as a result."

Welcome to post-racial America.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Costly Lies

The Fox News stoking of reverse-racism fears have reached a new benchmark today. Last week it seemed to peak with a wildly overblown "new Black Panthers" story that the teabagger/Fox watchers loved for how it seemed to neutralize their own racist elements, another extension of the vile Glenn Beck lie that President Obama (half-white) is some sort of reverse racist. Which circle of hell does Beck want to end up in, anyway?

This kind of blood libel leads to blood-letting, but today it led to the firing of a fine civil servant, thanks to a misleadingly edited video propagated, if not actually edited, by evil angry white winger Andrew Breitbart. A known liar, Breitbart's posting led to a Fox News noise storm, and ultimate to the firing of Shirley Sherrod, Agriculture Department's director of rural development in Georgia, by a completely fearful and moronic Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture.

The story is essentially that Sherrod was telling the story about how she realized her own racism in an experience over twenty years ago when called upon in another position to help some white farmers, and learned to correct her own behavior. The edited version leaves out the realization part, making Sherrod look like she's admitting that she's an unrepentant racist.

The whole charade fell apart when the farmer couple, now older but still alive, came forward to defend Sherrod as having actually been responsible for saving their farm. It's one of those movie-type moments that make you love America and want to stand up and cheer...and hiss outright villains like Breitbart, Fox News and, yes, knee-jerk Tom Vilsack.

Vilsack has to stop defending his decision, which he made without allowing a real investigation, similar to the Fox News campaign that led to the resignation of environmental leader Van Jones from the Obama White House. The Obama Administration has to start standing up to Fox News and the rightwing lie machine again, and definitively. Stop letting them set the agenda. Stop looking like wimps for doing as they say. Fight the hell back -- that's what we want from our leaders anyway.

And, per many commentators now, Sherrod sure as hell better be reinstated. Fast.

Maddow has the story and POV, of course:

Monday, July 19, 2010


Great piece by Joshua Green in The Atlantic today, Has the GOP Hit a Wall?, that basically argues that the Party, which last week had all but declared victory in the House even though November is more than three months away, has no place to go but down in the polls:
When a single party holds power, that party appropriately tends to be the focus of attention. But when the possibility that the other party might take over becomes real--and we're certainly at that point--the attention starts to shift. This always struck me as a potential problem. I don't really imagine that Republicans plan to repeal health care or the new financial regulations (although, who knows?). But they haven't offered up much in the way of a compelling alternative agenda.

Case in point, National Republican Congressional Committee chair, Rep. Pete Session (R-TX), could not even remotely answer the normally milquetoast David Gregory on Sunday morning when asked what hard decisions the GOP were prepared to make, as policy, to make good on all their grandstanding. It truly is something to behold:

Zero. As in, great big. Add to it that Sessions "thought" to articulate that America is somehow nostalgic for the policies of George W. Bush...well, hilarity ensues, including the walk-back. Not before the Dems pounced -- sure, let's make this election a referendum on the President who ended up losing millions of jobs, creating a bubble, crashing the markets, bailing out the banks, not to mention starting two wars (and, I'd add, failing to deal seriously with the intelligence foretelling the 9/11 attacks):

"We need to go back to the exact same agenda that is empowering the free enterprise system rather than diminishing it," said NRCC chairman Pete Sessions on "Meet the Press" Sunday morning.

For Democrats, the comment was a gift -- one that they plan to use repeatedly between now and the fall.

"We could not have made the case any clearer than Pete Sessions did that Republicans only want to go back to the failed policies of President Bush," said DCCC spokesman Ryan Rudominer.

It's a daring strategy for Republicans -- one which includes explicit arguments for Social Security cuts, deregulation, and the repeal of a broadly popular Wall Street reform bill. And it's one they hope they can ride to victory.

Added a GOP colleague of Sessions:

"Look, I think President Bush's stock has gone up a lot since he left office," Cornyn said. "People appreciate his resolve and commitment in the face of a national security threat like 9/11. He had his challenges no doubt. We have learned a lot about things we could have done better as Republicans in terms of fiscal responsibility...I think a lot of people are looking back with a little more -- with more fondness on President Bush's administration, and I think history will treat him well."

I think not. In any case there's two new items that point to Joshua Green being correct.

First, President Obama appears to have put together the votes he needs in the Senate to extend unemployment benefits to help keep alive those left jobless by the Bush/GOP policies of the previous eight years, shaming the Republican obstructionists in the process.

Second, for the first time since generic ballots in the fall races have been polled, the Dems are on the rebound.

Can you say...surge?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Who Wants to Help the Rich Get Richer?

The plain fact is that the disparity of wealth in America is higher than it has ever been in history, per Robert Reich:
Consider: in 1928 the richest 1 percent of Americans received 23.9 percent of the nation's total income. After that, the share going to the richest 1 percent steadily declined. New Deal reforms, followed by World War II, the GI Bill and the Great Society expanded the circle of prosperity. By the late 1970s the top 1 percent raked in only 8 to 9 percent of America's total annual income. But after that, inequality began to widen again, and income reconcentrated at the top. By 2007 the richest 1 percent were back to where they were in 1928—with 23.5 percent of the total.

Each of America's two biggest economic crashes occurred in the year immediately following these twin peaks—in 1929 and 2008. This is no mere coincidence. When most of the gains from economic growth go to a small sliver of Americans at the top, the rest don't have enough purchasing power to buy what the economy is capable of producing. America's median wage, adjusted for inflation, has barely budged for decades. Between 2000 and 2007 it actually dropped. Under these circumstances the only way the middle class can boost its purchasing power is to borrow, as it did with gusto. As housing prices rose, Americans turned their homes into ATMs. But such borrowing has its limits. When the debt bubble finally burst, vast numbers of people couldn't pay their bills, and banks couldn't collect.

So who's on the side of the middle class? Not Sen. Mike Pence (R-IN):
"Republicans, me included, have supported numerous extensions of unemployment benefits and we're anxious to do so again," the Indiana Republican told interviewer Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday." "The deficit this year is a trillion dollars for the second year in a row ... The American people have had it with runaway federal spending, deficits and debt, and they want to see men and women in Washington, D.C. make the hard choices."

After all, Pence is making his Party's hard choices like this:
"The reality is that as you study -- when President Kennedy cut marginal tax rates, when Ronald Reagan cut marginal tax rates, when President Bush imposed those tax cuts, they actually generated economic growth, they expand the economy, they expand tax revenue," Pence said. "The point is we've got to get this economy moving again and we can't go back to the tax-and-spend policies of the Democrats or the tax-cut-and-spend policies of the prior administration."

Study? As in studying the catastrophic failure of Bush's tax cuts on the rich?
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) explained on Wallace's show last week that "you do need to offset the cost of increased spending, and that's what Republicans object to. But you should never have to offset cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans."

And the GOP didn't, hence our current deficit.

Maybe "maver-ick" Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has feelings for those other than, say, rich military contractors?
On the issue of unemployment benefits, of course we Republicans in the Senate under the leadership of Mitch McConnell and Jon Kyl who’s doing a fantastic job, we want to extend unemployment benefits, but we want them paid for, because there are so many things that the Democrats lard onto it, whether it be for hiring new teachers or other programs, so they keep adding onto it to force us to vote yes.

Those darn teachers! That's pork to McCain, money better spent elsewhere:
I would tell the corporations which are very important, like Intel and Raytheon and others in our state, we’ll cut the corporate tax rates so that you won’t have to send jobs overseas. We’ll continue… I’ll continue to support the military and our bases and the men and women who are there and the thousands of employees, including our people over in Mesa that make the Apache helicopter and down at Raytheon that make these wonderful missiles and Intel that’s doing such a great job in employing so many people that I’ve supported for so many years.

No wonder McCain wants open-ended military commitments across the board. Otherwise, too much of that military funding would go not for "wonderful missiles" (oxymoron?) but for keeping schools like those here in SoCal from slashing teachers and loading up classrooms.

I guess you need that military money to keep those corporate leaders' kids in private school.

You know, with the lower class sizes.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


A good friend of mine has taken to heavily criticizing President Barack Obama on her Facebook page, torn the Obama sticker from her car and coined the phrase, "Blowbama," which is funny. Her opinion is that the BP killing of the Gulf is so critical to our species that Obama should have quit everything and moved his operations down to Louisiana, focusing almost exclusively on fixing the hole. When I challenged her on it she claimed that from the five major news sources she reads everyday, he didn't seem to be doing anything else.

This is where I wrote:
Clearly not true that it's the only thing that matters. He's about to pass a form of financial reform (that the GOP is already campaigning to repeal), dealing with Afghanistan, North Korea, Mideast Peace, trying to get unemployment extensions passed (which the GOP is opposing), trying to get more stimulus (which the get the idea), working on an overall climate bill, G20 meeting, nominating and shepherding a Supreme Court nominee, passing PTSD benefits for veterans, plus whatever threats and future projects that we do not yet know about are going on.

If you're reading those five sources and not seeing at least some of this, I question the sources or what you're focusing on.

You need to get off your Obama-hate. There's a Tea Party for that. Fine to try on influence/pressure him, that's a good thing to do, but this type of thinking is what got Ralph Nader his support in 2000 and led to 8 ruinous years of George Bush...that Obama is still trying to dig the country out of.

(And added:)

He did get a team of scientists together, perhaps why the cap today. And he's being criticized from the right for the group he put together to study BP fault and report - no oil industry flacks on it!

Since the time I wrote this the financial reform bill, whether you think it goes far enough or not (or are a Republican opposed for those political or ideological reasons to any such regulation at all) has passed the Senate. The BP lesion has been capped and the President has rightly pointed out that, while good news, there is so much more ahead, the problem is far from over thanks to the mega-damage done. And it might leak again.

However, elections have consequences and here's what you get if you keep taking the anti-Obama side, keep Dem enthusiasm low for November and let the GOP take the House or Senate - per Paul Krugman, who hasn't been shy about criticizing the current Administration himself:
Republicans are feeling good about the midterms — so good that they’ve started saying what they really think. This week the party’s Senate leadership stopped pretending that it cares about deficits, stating explicitly that while we can’t afford to aid the unemployed or prevent mass layoffs of schoolteachers, cost is literally no object when it comes to tax cuts for the affluent.

And that’s one reason — there are others — why you should fear the consequences if the G.O.P. actually does as well in November as it hopes.

But this past Monday Jon Kyl of Arizona, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, was asked the obvious question: if deficits are so worrisome, what about the budgetary cost of extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, which the Obama administration wants to let expire but Republicans want to make permanent? What should replace $650 billion or more in lost revenue over the next decade?

His answer was breathtaking: “You do need to offset the cost of increased spending. And that’s what Republicans object to. But you should never have to offset the cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans.” So $30 billion in aid to the unemployed is unaffordable, but 20 times that much in tax cuts for the rich doesn’t count.


Of course, flirting with crisis is arguably part of the plan. There has always been a sense in which voodoo economics was a cover story for the real doctrine, which was “starve the beast”: slash revenue with tax cuts, then demand spending cuts to close the resulting budget gap. The point is that starve the beast basically amounts to deliberately creating a fiscal crisis, in the belief that the crisis can be used to push through unpopular policies, like dismantling Social Security.

And this -- remember the Clinton years of GOP noise, misdirection and obstruction:

Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California has hounded President Obama all year about the apparent job offers the White House made to certain Democratic Senate candidates this election season -- and if Republicans win control of the House this November, Issa intends to significantly ratchet up his inquiries into what he sees as potential administration wrongdoing.

As the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Issa would become chairman of the committee if Republicans managed to win the majority this fall. If he became chairman, Issa has said he would double his staff from 40 to between 70 and 80, Politico reports. As chairman, he would also have the power to subpoena White House officials to appear before the committee under oath.

Here's their plan to curtail regulations. Here's their new Tea Party Caucus in Congress itself, led by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN). Here's how the GOP (along with a few Blue Dog Dems) are obstructing economic stimulus to keep us from falling deeper again.

So when I read this Blowbama stuff, I just ask that everyone remember, this kind of thinking is what got Ralph Nader enough votes to keep Al Gore from becoming President, opening the door for eight-count-'em-eight years of George Bush, an unprovoked war against Iraq, economic collapse and the relaxation of energy regulations (thanks to Dick Cheney) that brought us the Gulf.

So if Obama isn't the progressive demigod who would likely end up a Jimmy Carter and end up less effective than he is by following the type of "camp out in the Gulf" directives above, if you didn't follow his campaign and learn that he's more of a conservative-progressive, no-drama, not the scary black man President that the Tea Partiers still believe is driving us to a socialist-fascist slave state, then you're missing the point of how politics really works. With everything that Obama is up against, his list of achievements thus far is astonishing.

I guarantee that once Obama is out of office, whether in two years or six, just as with Bill Clinton those on the Left who complain about him now will look back with fondness and think about how much of a better direction this country was moving in before President Huckabee or Gingrich or Daniels or Thune or Pawlenty or Romney.

Or President Palin.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

F the FCC

A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down a government policy that can lead to broadcasters being fined for allowing even a single curse word on live television, saying it is unconstitutionally vague and threatens speech "at the heart of the First Amendment."

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan threw out the 2004 Federal Communications Commission policy, which said that profanity referring to sex or excrement is always indecent.

"By prohibiting all `patently offensive' references to sex, sexual organs and excretion without giving adequate guidance as to what `patently offensive' means, the FCC effectively chills speech, because broadcasters have no way of knowing what the FCC will find offensive," the court wrote.

Exactly. A priori censorship based on very subjective guidelines based on the antiquated notion of pre-cable three-network broadcast television with outrageous fines when a network broadcasting live may not have the ability to know what performers will say, unevenly enforced.

That said, it'd be nice if performers like Bono could control their language when on a national stage. That's just manners. Better for society to enforce through common propriety than ex post facto punishment.

It's called personal responsibility -- not nanny state-ism.

To quote our conservative friends.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Harvey Legend

It's all over now, the voice of Cleveland, Harvey Pekar has passed on at age 70. His sarcastically named autobiographical comic book series, American Splendor, which he wrote and had a variety of artists starting with the world-famous R. Crumb illustrate, entered the mass culture with the hilarious, inventive, reality-fiction mixing movie version released in 2008, starring Paul Giamatti as Pekar and Hope Davis as his wife, Joyce. Per Giamatti today:
"Harvey was one of the most compassionate and empathetic human beings I've ever met," Giamatti said in a statement. "He had a huge brain and an even bigger soul. And he was hilarious. He was a great artist, a true American poet, and there is no one to replace him."

The obits above are well-worth reading, as is his perhaps most notable work, Our Cancer Year, about his struggle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was also famous for his guest spots on David Letterman, until he went on to tirade against NBC owner General Electric's labor practices and got himself banned from the show, also well-documented in the movie.

For all his success, here's where Pekar netted out:
Success did not seem to ease Mr. Pekar’s existential predicament. “Of course I don’t think I have it made by any means,” his alter ego said in a cartoon in Entertainment Weekly in 2003. “I’m too insecure, obsessive and paranoid for that.”

Now that this great American original has gone to the great comic book store in the sky (the afterlife being something he surely never believed in), he's now American legend. I predict a long afterlife for the fine works he left behind, even as he has changed the perception of comic books forever and inspired others who have already followed in his path.

Nice job, Harvey.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Debt Threat

Inflation is what makes debt manageable. Deflation is what Paul Krugman seems to be predicting.

Friday, July 09, 2010

When GOPpers Turn

I saw Stephen Colbert attempting to give the "Colbert Bump" to Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC) a few weeks ago, but it didn't work and Inglis, a staunch but not insane conservative incumbent lost his GOP nomination to a teabagger due to having actually worked on legislation with Dems to get things done.

Well, a GOPper scorned is one who tells the truth:

He cited a claim made famous by Palin that the Democratic health care bill would create "death panels" to decide whether elderly or sick people should get care.

"There were no death panels in the bill ... and to encourage that kind of fear is just the lowest form of political leadership. It's not leadership. It's demagoguery," said Inglis, one of three Republican incumbents who have lost their seats in Congress to primary and state party convention challengers this year.

Inglis said voters eventually will discover that you're "preying on their fears" and turn away.

"I think we have a lot of leaders that are following those (television and talk radio) personalities and not leading," he said. "What it takes to lead is to say, 'You know, that's just not right.'"

Nice -- free to go up against Evil Sarah. Equally free to go after the inherent racism of so much enmity towards our first (half) African-American President:

Inglis, 50, who calls himself a Jack Kemp disciple because he has emphasized outreach to minorities as the late Republican congressman did, thinks racism is a part of the vitriol directed at President Barack Obama.

"I love the South. I'm a Southerner. But I can feel it," he said.

Wow, Bob Inglis, dare I say...morphing into the type of Republican I could vote for?

Too bad the extremists, charlatans and revival tent hucksters are leading his party now.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

You Say It's His Birthday

It was a Beatle's birthday party last night at Radio City Music Hall as drummer Ringo Starr turned 70. Surprise guest: Sir Paul McCartney:

Gotta say, Ringo looks terrific for 70, especially as an alcoholic in recovery. It's all that upper torso cardio -- drumming has huge lifespan benefits.

The video is obviously on the fly and the sound is what it is, but what pure joy. And the closest thing possible these days to a Beatles reunion.

Happy Birthday to you, Ringo.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Ah, Mitt. Mitt, Mitt, Mitt.

In another attempt to appear Presidential, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Republican, published an op-ed in the Washington Post decrying President Obama's new arms control initiative with Russia. Per Democratic Strategist, Romney needs this to burnish his fatally flawed Conservative credentials:

Mitt, we know, is vulnerable on his right flank, partially because the GOP has decisively moved in a more conservative direction since Romney posed as the "true conservative" candidate in 2008, and partially because his sponsorship of a Massachusetts health reform initiative that's hard to distinguish from the hated ObamaCare is going to be a constant problem for him in 2012.

So you read Mitt's op-ed and maybe laugh at the extraordinary retro feeling of it all--you know, all the Cold War hostility to the godless Russkies--and note the many right-wing boxes he checked off, from the ancient conservative pet rock of missile defense, to the ill-repressed desire for war with North Korea and Iran, to the ritual denunciations of Obama for his alleged fecklessness in negotiating with bad people. But initially, few if any Democrats had anything to say about it.

Usually Dems et al let slide the kind of misstatements and macho posturing from old-school Cold Warriors like Romney appears to be reaching to be. Not this time -- with Sen. John Kerry responding a scant day later:

Let's examine the key objections: Romney says that New START impedes our ability to build missile defenses against attack from rogue countries. This is a myth. The treaty will have no impact on our ability to build ballistic missile defenses against Iran, North Korea or other threats from other regions. The Obama administration is free to proceed with missile defense plans it announced last year.

Like others unfamiliar with previous arms control agreements, Romney warns that Russia could use language in the treaty's preamble as a pretext for withdrawal if the United States builds up its missile defense. In a word, baloney. The preamble is not legally binding. Every arms control treaty since the Kennedy administration has allowed either party to withdraw if it felt its national interests were jeopardized. Surely Romney would not want to give up that right.

Similarly, Romney is flat wrong in claiming that the Bilateral Consultative Commission is broadly empowered to amend the treaty with regard to missile defense. The language is clear that any amendment proposed by the commission would have to be ratified just like a new treaty.

He goes on to list more errors in Romney's sophomoric screed and goes on to note Republican support for the new treaty, including former Secretary of State under Nixon and Ford, Henry Kissinger. But the conclusion is the best, calling out the emperor for missing his clothes:

I have nothing against Massachusetts politicians running for president. But the world's most important elected office carries responsibilities, including the duty to check your facts even if you're in a footrace to the right against Sarah Palin. More than that, you need to understand that when it comes to nuclear danger, the nation's security is more important than scoring cheap political points.

Yep, I expect "Word-Salad Sarah," mistress of smug condescension, to run as well.

Fred Kaplan at Slate nails Mittney as well, frisking the editorial line-by-line. Kaplan'sconclusion:

"By all indications, the Obama administration has been badly out-negotiated."

On the contrary, by all indications, Romney has been badly advised. Next time he speaks out on nuclear weapons, he should read up a little bit. At the very least, he should learn the difference between an ICBM and a bomber.

And if this is the best the Republicans can do to beat down the New START treaty, well, that's just sad.

Yep, the Party of No, i.e. no ideas, no progress, no help for the unemployment, no compassion, know-nothing is once again looking to make things worse in a desperate attempt to improve their electoral fortunes.

They're so no, they're not even showing up in their campaigns, lest they actually face un-fixed questioning about their "policies." From a reader at Talking Points Memo:
With the Vitter and Angle stories running side-by-side today, they bring up a question that has to be answered. Paul and Kirk went into hiding--in fact, it seems, all Republican candidates outside South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama seem to be hiding. Rubio has been quiet. Perry wants no debates, if he can get away with it. The theme seems to be that most Republican candidates want to win incognito...

...I've never seen anything like this. Maybe one or two candidates that try to duck reporters, but the entire party??

Run, children, run.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

More Spread

Tarballs have reached the shores of Texas. BP oil has seeped into New Orleans' Lake Pontchartrain. Unmitigated, growing, (human) life-threatening disaster with an exponentially growing dead zone.

Scientists want to take measurements but aren't get the money or access they need from BP or our government. My theory is that it is all much, much worse than anyone is saying, even the harshest projections. We're seeing rapid demolition of nature in the Amazon, the Polar Ice Caps, our oceans. We are literally choking ourselves to death with civilization. It's a viral that denudes the earth in search of comfort, speed, pleasure, self.

Yep, the President needs to do more, like letting the scientists in, like maybe going military on BP. Rather than closing the hole, BP is being allowed to harvest whatever oil they can. It's all about their investment.

And while I want Obama to do more, let's not forget who's protecting BP in the Senate:

Unleash the subpoenas. Because even the recovery effort is a lie.

Monday, July 05, 2010

War Lines

The lines are being drawn in the upcoming November election battle -- and the battle for this nation's soul.

You've got Sharon Angle in Nevada threatening to sue Harry Reid for keeping a record of her previous unscrubbed website as if accountability is liable (really!).

You've got Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), presumably one of those "small government" guys like his party advertises suing the local fire department for not saving enough of the trees and groundcover damaged on land he and his wife purchased for development.

You've got Minnesota state Rep. Tom Emmer, the presumptive Republican nominee for governor, putting forth a policy to lower the minimum wage so that waiters/waitresses have to rely more on tips, because we all know how huge those tips grow in a down economy. Class warfare, anyone?

Or how about this for class warfare: the GOP in the Senate went home for the holiday break without extending unemployment benefits, which directly affects at least one person I know. Because in a down economy where there are 6.5 people looking for every one job opening, it's that safety net-level unemployment benefit that really demotivates the family losing their house anyway. Per Paul Krugman, those unemployment benefits help the economy, and not extending them is only good for Republicans seeking to create turmoil:
One main reason there aren’t enough jobs right now is weak consumer demand. Helping the unemployed, by putting money in the pockets of people who badly need it, helps support consumer spending. That’s why the Congressional Budget Office rates aid to the unemployed as a highly cost-effective form of economic stimulus. And unlike, say, large infrastructure projects, aid to the unemployed creates jobs quickly — while allowing that aid to lapse, which is what is happening right now, is a recipe for even weaker job growth, not in the distant future but over the next few months.
This at a time when, per Canadian citizens advocacy expert and water rights activist Maude Barlow, "The World Has Divided into Rich and Poor as at No Time in History."

Hell, one GOP Rep. has introduced legislation to limit the President's ability, held since Theodore Roosevelt just over 100 years ago, to preserve precious lands as National Monuments. Says Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), "We don't need any more monuments, but that's the Linkproblem. They want to do it." And Nunes wants to sell out this nation's precious natural resources and unspoiled lands to his corporate masters.

Then there's blaming Obama for illegal immigrants...Photoshopping photos of him to create a worse (lie) image...the list is endless.

So it's war, and while a number of folks I know on the Left are disgruntled that hope and change hasn't been as fast or easy or complete as they wish, they had better realize that there is a difference here. If the GOP takes the House or the Senate, you'll see the end of all progressive change, even the sometimes incremental sort they decry. You'll see Obama up for impeachment by some teapartying baggers and know-nothings claiming they're the real Americans. You'll see Fox News back in the henhouse.

If you think the Bush years were bad, if you think they may have critically damaged our economy and environment...just let Congress flip and you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Something in the Tea

What are they lacing that tea with? And why are the 'bagger candidates trying to hide their own views?

Maybe to try and actually get elected?

Chris Matthews calls out Alabama Congressional 'bagger candidate Rick Barber, picking up on his lying "metaphor" defense of his inflammatory insurrectionist ad:

But Matthews also grilled Barber on the language used in his campaign ad, during which he references taxation "without representation" and a George Washington character says "gather your armies."

When Matthews asked who Barber intended to gather his armies against, the candidate claimed it was a metaphor for "political armies."

"He's wearing a military uniform and says 'gather your armies' and you're saying that's a metaphor?" Matthews asked.

"Chris, do you know what a metaphor is? Do you know what hyperbole is?" Barber shot back.

"Are you a metaphor for a guy running for office?" Matthews asked. "Or are you a real candidate?"

Also speaking metaphorically is Rand Paul, 'bagger candidate for Senate in Kentucky:

"In the latter days of Rome, the economy was crumbling, the emperor ... would placate the mob with bread and circus - food and entertainment to placate them since the economy was in shambles and dwindling around them," Paul told several hundred people gathered for the rally in a Bullitt County park.

"Now in our country, as our economy is in shambles, they give us Cash for Clunkers and a stimulus check and they tell us to go to the mall and spend your money and everything will be OK ... That's not how you become prosperous as an individual or a country," he told the crowd of supporters.


Following the 14-minute speech, he brushed past a gaggle of television and print reporters and climbed into a sport-utility vehicle without answering questions - except to acknowledge that despite his call for term limits, he would not voluntarily impose one on himself.

His campaign manager, Jesse Benton, said he had to get back to Bowling Green for a family birthday party.

Benton said Paul uses the fall of Rome as an analogy to explain the country's current economic situation.

"Rand is deeply concerned about the debt and unsustainable overspending in our country," Benton said in a statement. "He uses Rome as a metaphor to show that great nations can fall if they are not vigilant in protecting their traditions. He believes that millions of Kentuckians share that same concern."

So helping out the auto industry in a time of like letting lose Christians in an arena to fight lions?

Then there's Sharon Angle, who beat that chicken lady to run against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as the 'bagger candidate in Nevada. Angle, often the lone dissenting vote in otherwise unanimous votes in the state assembly, has publicly called for the elimination of both the federal Department of Education and Department of Energy, the complete privatization or elimination of Social Security, and any offshore drilling regulations. In an attempt to keep her from sounding like a total moron, while making her a stealth 'baggercandidate, her website has been scrubbed and either outright contradictions of her opinions or...metaphors?...added instead:

Asked about the website alterations, the National Republican Senatorial Committee said that it was a normal upgrade for any candidate transitioning into a general election.

"Many campaigns revamp and re-launch enhanced websites over the course of an election season," said NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh. "Sharron Angle's positions have not changed though and she remains committed to reversing the economically disastrous policies of Harry Reid while offering Nevada the fiscally responsible leadership they deserve."

But even if the revisions offered to Angle's record don't represent position changes (though with respect to offshore drilling, a clear change was made), they do reflect a decidedly tone-downed candidate. No longer does her bio list the endorsement from the "birther" organization, "Declaration Alliance PAC." Gone, likewise, is her call for "free market alternatives" to Social Security as that system is "transitioned out." In its place is a short section that calls for the country to "keep the promise" of Social Security and redeem the IOUs.

There are other obvious changes that, under normal circumstances, would seem like drastic attempts to dilute a legislative platform. Angle no longer refers to a cap and trade proposal as "unscientific hysteria over the man-caused global warming hoax" that stepped "over the constitutional boundaries of the federal government and is merely another way to tax the people."

As for her reference to the United Nations as an institution "captured by the far left and has become ineffective and costly," that's gone too.

Her new website does not, like the old one, call for abolishing the "67,000-pages of IRS code," or for making the "death tax cuts permanent." Nor does it mention her proposal to require that a "supermajority two-thirds requirement" be instituted for passing tax increases.

It's even scarier that they're covering it up...imagine if she gets in.

Interestingly enough, a Republican who I never before considered "moderate" but who has been heckled by 'baggers, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has come out with some truth likely to get him in further hot water:
In a previous conversation, Graham told me: "The problem with the Tea Party, I think it's just unsustainable because they can never come up with a coherent vision for governing the country. It will die out." Now he said, in a tone of casual lament: "We don't have a lot of Reagan-type leaders in our party. Remember Ronald Reagan Democrats? I want a Republican that can attract Democrats." Chortling, he added, "Ronald Reagan would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican today."

Next thing you know, those tea hunters will have bagged him as prey.

Ahead of Everyone

As good as it gets (1936):

And better (1940):