Just another Reality-based bubble in the foam of the multiverse.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Conflict of Interest

No surprise why there's a private insurance mandate, with no public insurance option, and single payer- what everyone wanted and all those economically stable chocolate-making countries have had for decades- wasn't even considered.

Brad Jacobson:

While some sunlight has been shed on the hefty sums shoveled into congressional campaign coffers in an effort to influence the Democrats' massive healthcare bill, little attention has been focused on the far larger sums received by President Barack Obama while he was a candidate in 2008.

A new figure, based on an exclusive analysis created for Raw Story by the Center for Responsive Politics, shows that President Obama received a staggering $20,175,303 from the healthcare industry during the 2008 election cycle, nearly three times the amount of his presidential rival John McCain. McCain took in $7,758,289, the Center found...
[tip o'teh tinfoil to Avedon]

Disclosure time: I'm a biomedical scientist, so I work loosely in the healthcare industry too. Most of modern medicine is based on scientific advances that have little to do with anything the industry could have done by itself. Most of modern medicine is based on science funded primarily by the National Institutes of Health since the second world war. You know- from taxpayer supported work funded by the United States government.

Without this work, every teaching hospital, and soon afterwards, every private hospital, would cease to be. Big Pharma and the insurance bank$ters would have no market. Believe it or not, the only sector of the economy relatively untouched by the Great Recession is a supported by socialism already.

Every healthcare professional decrying single payer as socialist is a hypocrite as is the President who planned on gutting this to support the bank$ters who bankrolled him.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Pleasant Dreams

The new solar cycle is beginning.

Extensions into the Upper Solar Atmosphere (January 29, 2010)

With two active regions (brighter areas) in profile almost diametrically apart, SOHO got a good view of the extensive areas above the Sun influenced by the powerful magnetic fields associated with the two regions. This wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light "sees" ionized iron heated to 2 million degrees in the upper solar atmosphere. The hotter the temperature, the higher you look in the solar atmosphere. Although the image is rather diffuse, we can more clearly see in other wavelengths that material is tracing arcs of magnetic field lines looping above the active regions. Just a few months ago, the large-scale solar magnetic field was like that from a bar magnet, and flattened along the Sun's equator. Now, it's not much more complicated in shape, but it's tilted, as seen by the position of these two regions --- a clear giveaway that the rise to solar maximum has begun.

[I'll need to change that link next week, btw]

And, a neat script to compare the size of the universe. Let it load, then press "play". You will like it.

Letting "45" get the feel for the Office

Bruce sent this link:

President Barack Obama hosted a pair of Bushes this morning in the Oval Office: former President George H.W. Bush and his son, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush...

These aren't the 'droids you're looking for. Of course.

"Healthy, natural systems abhor uniformity — just as a healthy society does"

People say the strangest things, but don't worry, Monsanto's bought all the airtime. That will never be said where any Villagers can hear it. Even if it is, no one will take it seriously.

There is science, and there is $cience.

[tip o'teh cornhusk to Atrios]

How to stage a coup d'etat

Some have more practice than others.

Confirming the Conformation

Chris Hedges notes a recent ruling by the $upremes is just the biz of the Empire:

Corporate forces, long before the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, carried out a coup d’√©tat in slow motion. The coup is over. We lost. 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.

The fiction of democracy remains useful, not only for corporations, but for our bankrupt liberal class. If the fiction is seriously challenged, liberals will be forced to consider actual resistance, which will be neither pleasant nor easy. As long as a democratic facade exists, liberals can engage in an empty moral posturing that requires little sacrifice or commitment. They can be the self-appointed scolds of the Democratic Party, acting as if they are part of the debate and feel vindicated by their cries of protest.

Much of the outrage expressed about the court’s ruling is the outrage of those who prefer this choreographed charade. As long as the charade is played, they do not have to consider how to combat what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls our system of “inverted totalitarianism.”

Inverted totalitarianism represents “the political coming of age of corporate power and the political demobilization of the citizenry,” Wolin writes in “Democracy Incorporated.” Inverted totalitarianism differs from classical forms of totalitarianism, which revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader, and finds its expression in the anonymity of the corporate state. The corporate forces behind inverted totalitarianism do not, as classical totalitarian movements do, boast of replacing decaying structures with a new, revolutionary structure. They purport to honor electoral politics, freedom and the Constitution. But they so corrupt and manipulate the levers of power as to make democracy impossible.

Inverted totalitarianism is not conceptualized as an ideology or objectified in public policy. It is furthered by “power-holders and citizens who often seem unaware of the deeper consequences of their actions or inactions,” Wolin writes. But it is as dangerous as classical forms of totalitarianism. In a system of inverted totalitarianism, as this court ruling illustrates, it is not necessary to rewrite the Constitution, as fascist and communist regimes do. It is enough to exploit legitimate power by means of judicial and legislative interpretation. This exploitation ensures that huge corporate campaign contributions are protected speech under the First Amendment. It ensures that heavily financed and organized lobbying by large corporations is interpreted as an application of the people’s right to petition the government. The court again ratified the concept that corporations are persons, except in those cases where the “persons” agree to a “settlement.” Those within corporations who commit crimes can avoid going to prison by paying large sums of money to the government while, according to this twisted judicial reasoning, not “admitting any wrongdoing.” There is a word for this. It is called corruption...

There you go again, using a freedom of speech better designed for the advertisements of your corporate betters.

Words are difficult things, but are bound to get easier to handle now they can price them on the Free Market.

Don't tell the children

Larisa Alexandrovna speaks about the real reasons why the government wants to move the 9/11 "trials" out of New York city.

The reasons aside from the fact that virtually no one in New York believes the official story about what went down that day.

Here is the problem with moving the trial to another venue: there is no other venue because Conservatives do not want KSM to appear in court anywhere in the United States (our rule of law is too dangerous to operate in public, right?). In fact, they and some Democrats in Congress would rather not have the greatest legal system in the world on display whatsoever. Instead, they would prefer to have KSM hidden away -along with the evidence against him and worse, against us- from public viewing...

Link rich, that, so if you want to follow the money you need to go over to Larisa's and see just how far down the rabbit hole goes.

Speaking of peering down rabbit holes, Glen Greenwald is covering how Tony Blair's peers are shining a light down his as well.

Not that the investigation is intended to produce any results other than offically making Bu$hie's poodle squirm. The Brit political system, unlike ours, is designed to allow this, without seriously impeding the Empire. There's nothing like the appearance of democracy to keep the visions of sugarplums dancing in people's heads.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Getting Rid of Nukes by Building Them

You have to believe in Tinkerbell:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration plans to ask Congress to increase spending on the U.S. nuclear arsenal by more than $5 billion over the next five years as part of its strategy to halt the spread of nuclear weapons and eventually rid the world of them...

Yes, indeed, just like giving the bank$ters all the cash the Fed can print will keep them from playing your retirement at the casino.

But lest Bechtel and GE and all the other dogs of war run out of plutonium, Barry's pushing for domestic nukes, too.

The Obama administration moved vigorously on two fronts Friday to promote nuclear power, proposing a tripling of federal loan guarantees for new projects and appointing a high-level commission to study what to do with nuclear waste.

Administration officials confirmed that their 2011 federal budget request next week would raise potential loan guarantees for the projects to more than $54 billion, from $18.5 billion. A new Energy Department panel will examine a vastly expanded list of options for nuclear waste, including a new kind of nuclear reactor that would use some of it.

The current loan guarantees were provided in the 2005 energy act but have not been disbursed because of bureaucratic delays. The Energy Department has said it would start issuing those soon. Because the loan guarantees are supposed to cover 80 percent of construction costs, the current amount of $18.5 billion would cover only about three projects...

Meaning that $54 billion will cover about nine projects.

Yes indeed, Hope for a more effective Bu$h energy plan, and Change your definition of what having a pro-environment Earth-friendly administration really means. Better uses for nuclear waste as, one imagines, ammunition.

Or maybe as packaging for those sports energy drinks that look pretty radioactive already.

In any event, guess who's backing Barry on this one?

...The idea may have more support among Republicans than Democrats, but even opponents of nuclear power concede that the loan guarantees may be necessary to muster enough votes for the kind of measures that many environmentalists favor in a climate and energy bill, like firm national goals for renewable energy and a cap on carbon dioxide emissions...

Yes, even opponents concede they are just going to have to give up all resistance to the rapacious urges of the energy consortiums in order to make them do what they would pretty much have to eventually do anyway in order to keep from running out of fuels completely, poisoning the oceans with carbon dioxide, and returning the world to Mesozoic conditions.

Sounds like a great deal to me, Barry. I'm sure you'll make a bundle on it somewhere.

The more Barry postures to show his resistance to the Republicans and vice versa the more he moves in their direction.

"Don’t blame Mr. Obama."

Sorry, Dr. Krugman.

From the Endless War to the endless behind the scenes business-as-usual, Barry ran for President on a platform of Change.

What we got was more of the $trange. Poppy's Bu$hCo still runs the D.o'D. Health care reform became insurance bank$ter pork. The Wall Street crime cartel that is wrecking the world's economy is still at it and draining the Treasury. To point all this out is to not be taken Seriously by the Village that considers itself our- and the world's- ruling class.

I do in fact blame Barry Obama, because he put himself there. I do not care if he's a prisoner of the $ystem. He locked himself in the bank vault. He is doing his best to stay there without helping the majority of Americans who put him there.

Oh no. Among others, America decidedly blames Barry. When a Republican runs against a Republican, the Republican always wins.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Office of Strategic Deception

Somebody is fooling themselves alright.

Noah Shachtman:

The Defense Department needs to get better at lying and fooling people about its intentions. That’s the conclusion from an influential Pentagon panel, the Defense Science Board (DSB), which recommends that the military and intelligence communities join in a new agency devoted to “strategic surprise/deception.”

...The U.S. can’t wait until it’s at war with a particular country or group before engaging in this strategic trickery, however. “Deception cannot succeed in wartime without developing theory and doctrine in peacetime,” according to the DSB. “In order to mitigate or impart surprise, the United States should [begin] deception planning and action prior to the need for military operations.”

Doing that will not only requires an “understanding the enemy culture, standing beliefs, and intelligence-gathering process and decision cycle, as well as the soundness of its operational and tactical doctrine,” the DSB adds. Deception is also “reliant … on the close control of information, running agents (and double-agents) and creating stories that adversaries will readily believe.”

Such wholesale obfuscation can’t be done on an ad-hoc basis, or by a loose coalition of existing agencies. The DSB writes that ”to be effective, a permanent standing office with strong professional intelligence and operational expertise needs to be established.” I wonder: what would you call that organization? The Military Deception Agency? Or something a bit more … deceptive?

[the original report as a .pdf from a .mil site]

you have no right to have your government obey the law

This is the official stand of the Amerikan legal $ystem in the NSA wiretapping case dismissed last week.

A federal judge is dismissing lawsuits accusing the government of teaming with the nation’s telcos to funnel Americans’ electronic communications to the National Security Agency without warrants.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision was a major blow to the two suits testing warrantless eavesdropping and executive branch powers implemented following the 2001 terror attacks. The San Francisco judge said the courts are not available to the public to mount that challenge.

“A citizen may not gain standing by claiming a right to have the government follow the law,” (.pdf) Walker ruled late Thursday.

He noted that the plaintiffs include most every American connected to the internet or to have used a telephone — meaning the lawsuits boil down to a “general grievance” and are barred. The decision came days after a government audit showed the telecom companies and FBI collaborated for four years, between 2003 and 2007, to violate federal wiretapping laws.

Judge Walker said that the lawsuits, in essence, cannot be brought because they are “citizen suits seeking to employ judicial remedies to punish and bring to heel high-level government officials for the allegedly illegal and unconstitutional warrantless electronic surveillance program or programs now widely, if incompletely, aired in the public forum...”

It's for your own good, so you have no right to question whether or not it's for your own good.

Oh, and by the way, you remember the Enron lobbyist who wrote Big Time Dick's energy policy for him? The classified one that he had put into effect as one of his first acts behind the throne? The one he did for your own good, that whose formulations we still aren't allowed to completely see as a matter of national security? She's back and assimilated into Bernanke's re-confirmation and Fed policy.

But it's for your own good. Trust us.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"...I am not interested in punishing banks..."

No Money Left Behind. Apparently education is like perpetual motion and can be supported even as funding is cut. Apparently,

...we will still face the massive deficit we had when I took office. More importantly, the cost of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will continue to skyrocket...

Of course, taking care of the old and sick is what's breaking the bank. The costs of supporting thousands of military bases world wide, an international force of mercenaries private contractors about the same size as the Armed Forces, endless war on five three two fronts in Afghanistan, an intelligence and national security apparatus whose entire funding is classified, and covert ops worldwide have nothing to do with the status of the national debt.

It's interesting that Barry gives a State of the Union address that might have been given by Commander Codpiece for all it's fuzziness and detail. Like Junior, the same old players- Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security -are asserted to be what are destined to break us all someday. The Empire that robs us all is not, being the real State of the Union.

I'm glad you were able to clear that up, sir. Obviously, resistance is futile. Or so you keep trying to convince us.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Brain Freeze

The Oborg have really shorted it out this time.

WASHINGTON — President Obama will call for a three-year freeze in spending on many domestic programs, and for increases no greater than inflation after that, an initiative intended to signal his seriousness about cutting the budget deficit, administration officials said Monday...

This is getting some good comments that Pravda's actually publishing:

...So, let's see if I have this right. After lavishing trillions of dollars (current and future tax resources) on the banks and the Pentagon, we're now going to freeze spending on any programs that would actually benefit most citizens. Gosh, George Bush or Ronald Reagon couldn't have done it better... "The Audacity of Hype." is it my imagination, or are we getting more airplay of Won't Get Fooled Again on the classic rock stations?

Let's also let Krugman handle this one:

A spending freeze? That’s the brilliant response of the Obama team to their first serious political setback?

It’s appalling on every level.

It’s bad economics, depressing demand when the economy is still suffering from mass unemployment. Jonathan Zasloff writes that Obama seems to have decided to fire Tim Geithner and replace him with “the rotting corpse of Andrew Mellon” (Mellon was Herbert Hoover’s Treasury Secretary, who according to Hoover told him to “liquidate the workers, liquidate the farmers, purge the rottenness”.)

It’s bad long-run fiscal policy, shifting attention away from the essential need to reform health care and focusing on small change instead.

And it’s a betrayal of everything Obama’s supporters thought they were working for. Just like that, Obama has embraced and validated the Republican world-view — and more specifically, he has embraced the policy ideas of the man he defeated in 2008. A correspondent writes, “I feel like an idiot for supporting this guy.”

Now, I still cling to a fantasy: maybe, just possibly, Obama is going to tie his spending freeze to something that would actually help the economy, like an employment tax credit. (No, trivial tax breaks don’t count). There has, however, been no hint of anything like that in the reports so far. Right now, this looks like pure disaster.

Bob Herbert is muttering "liar" under his breath.

...Mr. Obama’s campaign mantra was “change” and most of his supporters took that to mean that he would change the way business was done in Washington and that he would reverse the disastrous economic policies that favored mega-corporations and the very wealthy at the expense of the middle class and the poor.

“Tonight, more Americans are out of work, and more are working harder for less,” said Mr. Obama in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in August 2008. “More of you have lost your homes and even more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can’t afford to drive, credit card bills you can’t afford to pay, and tuition that’s beyond your reach.”

Voters watching the straight-arrow candidate delivering that speech, in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Depression, would not logically have thought that an obsessive focus on health insurance would trump job creation as the top domestic priority of an Obama administration.

But that’s what happened. Moreover, questions were raised about Mr. Obama’s candor when he spoke about health care. In his acceptance speech, for example, candidate Obama took a verbal shot at John McCain, sharply criticizing him for offering “a health care plan that would actually tax people’s benefits.”

Now Mr. Obama favors a plan that would tax at least some people’s benefits. Mr. Obama also repeatedly said that policyholders who were pleased with their plans and happy with their doctors would be able to keep both under his reform proposals.

Well, that wasn’t necessarily so, as the president eventually acknowledged. There would undoubtedly be changes in some people’s coverage as a result of “reform,” and some of those changes would be substantial. At a forum sponsored by ABC News last summer, Mr. Obama backed off of his frequent promise that no changes would occur, saying only that “if you are happy with your plan, and if you are happy with your doctor, we don’t want you to have to change.”

These less-than-candid instances are emblematic of much bigger problems. Mr. Obama promised during the campaign that he would be a different kind of president, one who would preside over a more open, more high-minded administration that would be far more in touch with the economic needs of ordinary working Americans. But no sooner was he elected than he put together an economic team that would protect, above all, the interests of Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, the health insurance companies, and so on.

How can you look out for the interests of working people with Tim Geithner whispering in one ear and Larry Summers in the other?

To be fair, it's not only that Larry and Timmeh have his ears. Petreus Caesar's got him by the short and curly. Greenwald:

...military spending -- all of which is discretionary -- accounts for over 50% of discretionary government spending. Yet it's absolutely forbidden to even contemplate reducing it as a means of reducing our debt or deficit. To the contrary, Obama ran on a platform of increasing military spending, and that is one of the few pledges he is faithfully and enthusiastically filling (while violating his pledge not to use deceitful budgetary tricks to fund our wars)

...In sum, as we cite our debtor status to freeze funding for things such as "air traffic control, farm subsidies, education, nutrition and national parks" -- all programs included in Obama's spending freeze -- our military and other "security-related" spending habits become more bloated every year, completely shielded from any constraints or reality. This, despite the fact that it is virtually impossible for the U.S. to make meaningful progress in debt reduction without serious reductions in our military programs...

Like we really want to do that, anyway. "We" being the only people who matter in Amerika. Bushie and Barry's Ba$e.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Not Just Bipolar Disorder

Robert Parry has fought the long fight against the Reptilicans, and gives you some history for his dysphoria. As far as he can tell it's deja vu all over again, and this time, there is no turning back.

...The United States is now at the very dark terminus of a four-decades-long journey, one in which – at nearly each fateful juncture – the Right made the smart maneuver and the Left mostly hurt itself, most notably by allowing its divisive squabbles over purity vs. pragmatism to destroy the best opportunities for progress...

And he goes on to prove it. It helps to remember when you've lived through these things. But it hurts when you buy into what you're sold, and Robert Parry buys into the Right vs. Left- Democrat vs Republican bipolarity.

Agreed, we've pretty much sold ourselves down the river. Yet, a big part of the problem is that we as Nation insist on seeing our division as Right vs. Left. That isn't our division at all. It's a class warfare, but it's not as clear cut even as rich versus poor. It's where every step up the ladder those that have are doing their best to dump on those that haven't, and trying as hard as they possibly can to pretend they aren't, and the injustice is just part of the normal order of things.

Joe Bageant calls this pretty right:

The Republican Party will beat the living piss out of anybody for a buck. The Democrats will fly the flag of FDR, even as they pirate the public coffers on behalf of Wall Street. Don't think the American people have not noticed these things. After thirty years of pistol whipping and emptying of their wallets, they've started to figure out there just may be a public robbery underway, with both parties as accomplices.

And so Americans at both ends of the political spectrum are finally wising up to the need for a third party. Even if it is a third party within their own party, which is no third party at all, of course. However, for Americans it's all about branding, what you call a thing, that's important. Call a six-ounce block of corn sugar with sunflower seeds and raisins stuck on the outside an "Organic Energy Bar" and by god, you have natural food right there on the 7-Eleven shelf. What a thing is called is how a nation a people carefully bred for consumption will see it, thanks to that advertising arm of American capitalism called the news media...

...When it comes to watching the effect of simple repetition on simple minds, you could not do better than my native stomping grounds of Virginia and West Virginia, and the packed "town hall meetings" there during the health care reform initiative. In Southwest Virginia's Voting District 9, the Town Hall meetings' sponsoring congressman was 14-term Democrat Rick Boucher. 
"Slick Rick," is one of those rightist Democrats never examined by our simplistic, cartoonish media, which treat both parties as if they were uniform in their makeup. Slick Rick is pro Iraq and Afghan war. He is bought and paid for by the utilities and communications companies, and is the tenth most powerful person in Congress.

During the so-called health care debate, a crowd was rounded up to fill his town hall meetings with the sort of screaming, red-faced heartland white folks so loved by news cameras, reviled and therefore watched by urban liberals, both white and several shades darker, and upon which the nightly news depends for ratings and ad revenue. Ruddy overweight working people with neck veins bulging, fists shaking, they made gripping footage for the news hour, even with the sound turned off.

In glaring contrast to to this display of the flow of Aryan blood in the face, sat a lone older black woman. She had come to tell the congressman about her Down syndrome grandchild. The child cannot get the physical and mental care he needs, she said, "because our family can't afford any kind of health care at all ... We are just too poor," she concluded, near tears.

Her touching plea, as ground zero an illustration of our health care non-system as you could hope for, was interrupted by a sheer burst of redneck compassion. A young white man jumped up and screamed, "It's a wonder they didn't abort him!" An angry chorus of mob agreement goes up.

Between that entire sorry assemblage there was not enough combined brainpower to piss, much less ask: Who didn't abort the child? Just whom are we talking about here? And what in the name of heaven does abortion have to have to do with fixing the health care system for 300 million other Americans, at least three-quarters of whom are incapable of ever getting pregnant, either by virtue of age or their plumbing.

The implied villains were -- who else? -- those dirty liberal baby killers. Instantly, abortion rights had become the meeting's main theme. All it took was one well-inculcated hot button word -- abortion. My people, white working class Virginians, had responded right on cue. 
Few of them could be called political types by any stretch -- most of whom would normally have been home stuffing their pie holes and waiting for the winning lottery number on TV. However, they had shown up at the behest of local Republican businessmen, the Chamber of Commerce and fundamentalist pastors, who in turn were orchestrated by health care industry lobbyists and public relations firms. And so by golly, tonight America was gonna hear the genuine, bona fide, straight-from-the-horse's-mouth unadulterated opinion of the common man! Just as soon as they were all instructed as to that opinion.

Many attendees at Town Hall meetings are sufferers of the agitated inchoate anxiety and frustration of the working class. But as many more at the staged health care rallies, and now the staged "Tea Party" anti-tax rallies, are retired or just plain bored people to whom the free bus ride, or the cheap buffet dinner that often comes with the faux protests looks pretty good. Not to mention the spiffs, the free tote bag of goodies -- chocolates, coupons, a neat little pen light key ring. You can dig through this nickel-dime loot while the group's organizer gives you the "orientation" during the bus ride -- dividing up the planted questions among the alphas in the group, giving tips on how to short circuit the opposing side's speaking opportunities, booing on cue, and so on. And sometimes there is even a free trip to Washington D.C. later to do more of the same, if you show enough talent for the cameras. Boucher's attendees had little talent, and not even a gnat's ass worth of understanding of the issue. But they knew the Devil's mark, and the Devil's mark is abortion. So they responded for the cameras just as they have been conditioned to do.

I know a slew of these people all over the nation and I can tell you this: they honestly do not give a tinker's damn about abortion. They really don't. Not one in a hundred. You will never hear any of them mention the word abortion, except when their preachers and self-designated spokespersons or news reporters urge them to. Or when they are expected to offer some kind of political opinion, or show verbal credentials they are one of their crowd. The term abortion is tucked away somewhere in their heads in a file holding the vague lexicon of "stuff I understand that I should believe in." There it remains, a stale unexamined little brain fart until the appropriate hot button word is pressed, until summonsed up by those who instruct them directly or indirectly as to what they should believe. 
And then right on cue, like serially wired blasting caps they are detonated at the Town Hall meetings or Tea Party protests, setting off a chain blasts of "citizen anger."

The sad truth is that the pent up emotion has little to do with feelings about health care, or taxes (when the hell has any working American not been against any kind of taxes?) but a helluva lot to do with all the shitty breaks, insult and degradation that come with being an underclass citizen of the empire. We are conditioned in much the same way a dog is trained to bite on command. It doesn't matter who gets bitten, just that the dog gets the satisfaction of biting somebody for a change, and that his master looks pleased when he does.

There you have it pretty much.

Democracy flatlines when the lizard brain takes over as the frontal lobes atrophy. The heart beats. The lungs and bowels work. The patient may smile, and even ask you if you've seen "American Idol" lately or some such nonsense. There's the only vote the citizen has that's really cared about.

It's not a bipolar disorder the Republic suffers from. It's the senile dementia all Empires decay with as they feed their muscle with the steroid of power.

Doing the DINOcrat Tango

nonny mouse on slow dancing with Diane Feinstein:

'...I can tell you the situation has changed dramatically,' she said. 'And I think it’s a sweep across the country (…) everything is jobs and the economy and education. People are worried about education. You see anger. People are worried. And when they’re worried they don’t want to take on a broad new responsibility.' Like health care reform. Oh, and climate change, too, far too much trouble with the economy in such bad shape. So much for any legislation on capping carbon emissions.

Besides – and this is where I bristled – us poor little ordinary folk aren’t smart enough to understand things like health care reform or climate change. 'It is so big it is beyond their comprehension. (…) In my view when people are earning, when their home is secure, when their children are going to school, and they are relatively satisfied with their life and there’s a problem like health care -- they want it solved. It doesn’t threaten them. The size of this bill threatens them. And that’s one of the problems that’s got to be straightened out.'

Riiiiiight. Lemme see if I’ve got this – the bill for health care reform, which started out with what the vast majority of people on just about any poll you want to name said they wanted, namely single payer, then got bipartisanized and watered-down and added and subtracted and amended and debated and distorted and delayed to satisfy all those lobbyists and Big Pharma and health care insurers by gutless Democrats is now too bloated and complicated for the poor brains of us little people. Dianne, you’re doing my head in.

The Democrats are still not listening. The people (that’s us over here, the little people standing by the ballot boxes) don’t want you to 'slow down' on health care or climate change. Or the economy, or financial regulation of corrupt banks, or reforming oppressive labour laws, or working on solutions for unemployment relief and job creation, or restoring civil liberties, or ending the war in Iraq and Afghanistan or any of those issues you all ran on. That’s what we elected you to do – not to decide what issues are too complicated for voters to ‘understand’. Because we understand all too well when we’re being patronized – something Coakley found out the hard way in Massachusetts.

Us little people might not like what you’ve been doing over the past year, but that doesn’t mean that we want you to not bother doing the job at all. The health care bill may be a piece of crap – because you made it a piece of crap. So, go ahead, scrap the bill. But don’t slow down on health care reform. Wake up and listen to what the people in this country are desperately trying tell you! We’ve had enough of Democrats dragging their feet. We’ve had enough of ‘going slow’. Going slow is killing the country, and is killing the Democrats. The United States is the only western industrialized nation that does not have universal health care for its citizens, the only one – and we’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting for it since 1912. How much slower can we possibly get?

It can’t be that complicated, as Norway has it, and Japan, and the UK, and Sweden, and Italy, and Portugal, and Cyprus, and Spain, and Iceland, and even Kuwait and Bahrain and Brunei and the United Arab Emirates, for crying out loud! It is unconscionable, it is inhumane, it is a dire neglect of duty for Democrats to tell the people who voted them in on the promise of health care reform (among so much else) that America cannot do what Iceland can do. What Spain can do. What the UAE can do.

Slow down? The people of Massachusetts just gave the Democrats the biggest kick up the rear they could and that is the message Feinstein heard? Slow down?

Somehow, I don’t think it’s the little people of this country who are having trouble with issues beyond their comprehension.

The problem is they tend to comprehend despite all the disinformation their betters dish out.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Your world

Keep it well.

Not so easy for critters like us.

[tip o'teh tinfoil to RI]

Nothing to see here

Which is why they classified it.

Vital evidence which could solve the mystery of the death of Government weapons inspector Dr David Kelly will be kept under wraps for up to 70 years.

In a draconian – and highly unusual – order, Lord Hutton, the peer who chaired the controversial inquiry into the Dr Kelly scandal, has secretly barred the release of all medical records, including the results of the post mortem, and unpublished evidence.

The move, which will stoke fresh speculation about the true circumstances of Dr Kelly’s death, comes just days before Tony Blair appears before the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War...

Dr Kelly died after casting doubt on Government claims about Saddam's weapons...

Well said

...If the tea party right and populist left agree on anything, it’s that big bailed-out banks have and will get away with murder while we pay the bill on credit cards — with ever-rising fees...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hot Potato

It's still cookin', and neither the DINOcrats nor the Reptilians get it.

Of course, when your paycheck depends on living a lie, you con like Madoff.

Bob Herbert:

...While the nation was suffering through the worst economy since the Depression, the Democrats wasted a year squabbling like unruly toddlers over health insurance legislation. No one in his or her right mind could have believed that a workable, efficient, cost-effective system could come out of the monstrously ugly plan that finally emerged from the Senate after long months of shady alliances, disgraceful back-room deals, outlandish payoffs and abject capitulation to the insurance companies and giant pharmaceutical outfits.

The public interest? Forget about it.

With the power elite consumed with its incessant, discordant fiddling over health care, the economic plight of ordinary Americans, from the middle class to the very poor, got pathetically short shrift. And there is no evidence, even now, that leaders of either party fully grasp the depth of the crisis, which began long before the official start of the Great Recession in December 2007.

...Democrats in search of clues as to why voters are unhappy may want to take a look at the report. In 2008, a startling 91.6 million people — more than 30 percent of the entire U.S. population — fell below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, which is a meager $21,834 for a family of four.

The question for Democrats is whether there is anything that will wake them up to their obligation to extend a powerful hand to ordinary Americans and help them take the government, including the Supreme Court, back from the big banks, the giant corporations and the myriad other predatory interests that put the value of a dollar high above the value of human beings.

The Democrats still hold the presidency and large majorities in both houses of Congress. The idea that they are not spending every waking hour trying to fix the broken economic system and put suffering Americans back to work is beyond pathetic. Deficit reduction is now the mantra in Washington, which means that new large-scale investments in infrastructure and other measures to ease the employment crisis and jump-start the most promising industries of the 21st century are highly unlikely.

What we’ll get instead is rhetoric. It’s cheap, so we can expect a lot of it.

Those at the bottom of the economic heap seem all but doomed in this environment. The Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston put the matter in stark perspective after analyzing the employment challenges facing young people in Chicago: “Labor market conditions for 16-19 and 20-24-year-olds in the city of Chicago in 2009 are the equivalent of a Great Depression-era, especially for young black men.”

The Republican Party has abandoned any serious approach to the nation’s biggest problems, economic or otherwise. It may be resurgent, but it’s not a serious party. That leaves only the Democrats, a party that once championed working people and the poor, but has long since lost its way.

And all this silliness about a third party? The Company will just see about that.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Reform that Won't Be: a New Glass-Steagall

What is this fight of which you speak?

Nomi Prins: These merged institutions will continue to divert their capital—given to it by mom-and-pop depositors and cheap government money—to trade, before using it to lend.

Seeing Paul Volcker, former Fed Chair and chairman of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board, lord over President Obama yesterday as he made his proposal to limit the scope and size of financial institutions, it was easy to imagine him saying “I told you so.” Volcker, after all, has been a long time advocate of slicing up banks and prohibiting them from the majority of speculative activities.

But as I called around New York and Washington yesterday, it already seems that Wall Street has figured out ways to circumvent the administration’s plan, which centers on “proprietary trading”—risky bets the banks make for their own accounts.

The cliff notes from the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board chief economist Austan Goolsbee on yesterday’s press call were: A mandatory ban to prohibit proprietary trading (but not all trading) by firms that own banks. Regulators would prevent commercial banks from owning hedge or private equity funds, and limit non-client related trading. There would remain no limit on investment banks not designated bank or financial holding companies. Regulators could constrain the size of banks, but not break them up. Most important, there would be no return to Glass-Steagall, which divided commercial and investment banks.

The importance of the latter became clear to me as I talked to DC policy advisers yesterday, who had already gotten an earful from Wall Street lobbyists—touch proprietary trading if you must, and leave everything else alone (i.e., no Glass-Steagall). Prop trading, in other words, would be Wall Street’s sacrificial lamb. For a simple reason: They can get around it.

Banks have mucked up their financial disclosures so much that it’s already near impossible to tell how much banks are making from risky trading, much less how much trading is uniquely “proprietary,” versus how much can be classified as customer-driven or used for hedging purposes, which Obama’s rules would allow. Bank of America, for example, has its fixed income, currency and commodities trading figures merged together, making it impossible to see the contribution of Merrill Lynch’s sizeable trading activities, as well as the line between proprietary and possibly customer-oriented trading. Other banks are even more Byzantine. You can’t limit something that isn’t fully disclosed or can be camouflaged on the books.

Plus, in a crisis, it’s hard enough to price securities, let alone figure out which trading distinction they possess. At last week’s Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, JPM Chase CEO, Jamie Dimon said, “It’s not always possible to evaluate positions…Although we are a proponent of fair value accounting in trading books, we also recognize that market levels resulting from large levels of forced liquidations may not reflect underlying values.”

If “it’s not always possible to evaluate positions,” the notion of evaluating which ones are customer-driven and which are proprietary goes out the window. These firms will just call everything customer driven and alter book distinctions accordingly.

Bringing back Glass-Steagall would force a distinction of commercial banks with access to federal support from those that just call themselves banks, but are in reality Wall Street gambling parlors. Done right, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley would have to give up their commercial bank status to continue doing the trading-oriented business they do. Bank of America might be forced to spin off Merrill and JPM Chase may have to chuck the Bear business and part of its “leading global” investment bank business to adhere to new restrictions.

Without such a move, these merged institutions will continue to divert their capital—given to it by mom-and-pop depositors and cheap government money—to trade, before using it to lend. When the markets go up, trading is more profitable and as we’ve seen in bank earnings reports this year, banks beef up trading activities where they can, to offset consumer and commercial credit losses. And it works in reverse: If their commercial and investment businesses remain intertwined, banks will extract costs, such as the $90 billion over-10-year tax Obama proposed last week, from the customers’ pockets. Banks would still be inclined to use their capital to trade (which is a more capital-intensive endeavor than deposits and lending).

Risk is risk whether it's called propriety trading or comes from the customer-trading business. True systemic risk reduction requires dividing out all trading activities from within a firm that also does deposits and lending. That requires a resurrection of a true Glass-Steagall barrier, not a bunch of stuff that sounds like it gets partly there.

The Sound is all the One is concerned about.

Ready or not

The Corporate States of America

Part 2

Regulate the Bank$ters?

...right...just like He's going to shut down Guantanamo Bay.

How's that working out?

Glen Greenwald:

...all year along, Barack Obama -- even as he called for the closing of Guantanamo -- has been strongly implying that he will retain George Bush's due-process-free system by continuing to imprison detainees without charges of any kind. In his May "civil liberties" speech cynically delivered at the National Archives in front of the U.S. Constitution, Obama announced that he would seek from Congress a law authorizing and governing the President's power to imprison detainees indefinitely and without charges. But in September, the administration announced he changed his mind: rather than seek a law authorizing these detentions, he would instead simply claim that Congress already "implicitly" authorized these powers when it enacted the 2001 AUMF against Al Qaeda -- thereby, as The New York Times put it, "adopting one of the arguments advanced by the Bush administration in years of debates about detention policies."

Today, The New York Times' Charlie Savage reports:

The Obama administration has decided to continue to imprison without trials nearly 50 detainees at the Guant√°namo Bay military prison in Cuba because a high-level task force has concluded that they are too difficult to prosecute but too dangerous to release, an administration official said on Thursday...

The more things Change... the more we appreciate the real nature of the Audacious Hype.

WASHINGTON — Although the FBI has acknowledged it improperly obtained thousands of Americans' phone records for years, the Obama administration continues to assert that the bureau can obtain them without any formal legal process or court oversight.

The FBI revealed this stance in a newly released report, troubling critics who'd hoped the bureau had been chastened enough by its own abuses to drop such a position.

In further support of the legal authority, however, the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel backed the FBI in a written opinion issued this month...

Hope on, Changed One. But try to Hype this:

A Federal judge has dismissed a complaint against the National Security Agency's (NSA) Bush-era warrantless wiretapping programme, prompting suggestions the US government is now able to mount mass surveillance operations unhindered by the courts or constitution.

Five AT&T customers sued the NSA after it emerged it had persuaded the telco to provide a wiretap in a major internet traffic exchange in San Francisco. The five claimed the programme, revealed by an AT&T whistleblower, had violated privacy laws...

Late on Thursday, Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that because the internet traffic of millions of Americans had been caught up in the dragnet, the harm alleged in the complaint was not specific to the plaintiffs, so the case should not proceed.

"The court has determined that neither group of plaintiffs/purported class representatives has alleged an injury that is sufficiently particular to those plaintiffs or to a distinct group to which those plaintiffs belong; rather, the harm alleged is a generalized grievance shared in substantially equal measure by all or a large class of citizens," wrote the Judge.

The government had also argued that the case should be dismissed because it would use its state secrets privilege to withold the necessary evidence, but the court did not rule on whether that was allowed. Barack Obama was criticised by civil liberties groups early in his presidency for authorising his attorney general to use the secrecy privilege, a tactic planned by Bush administration lawyers...

The government says it should be dismissed Because We Say So.

Just More Nails in the Coffin

Who sez we don't have the best Justice money can buy? The $upremes!

The editors at Pravda don't like it... presunably because they know their bosses will get outspent. Or the price of a vote will go up, more likely.

With a single, disastrous 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court has thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century. Disingenuously waving the flag of the First Amendment, the court’s conservative majority has paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding...

As a result of Thursday’s ruling, corporations have been unleashed from the longstanding ban against their spending directly on political campaigns and will be free to spend as much money as they want to elect and defeat candidates. If a member of Congress tries to stand up to a wealthy special interest, its lobbyists can credibly threaten: We’ll spend whatever it takes to defeat you.

The ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission radically reverses well-established law and erodes a wall that has stood for a century between corporations and electoral politics. (The ruling also frees up labor unions to spend, though they have far less money at their disposal.)

The founders of this nation warned about the dangers of corporate influence. The Constitution they wrote mentions many things and assigns them rights and protections — the people, militias, the press, religions. But it does not mention corporations.

In 1907, as corporations reached new heights of wealth and power, Congress made its views of the relationship between corporations and campaigning clear: It banned them from contributing to candidates. At midcentury, it enacted the broader ban on spending that was repeatedly reaffirmed over the decades until it was struck down on Thursday.

...The majority is deeply wrong on the law. Most wrongheaded of all is its insistence that corporations are just like people and entitled to the same First Amendment rights. It is an odd claim since companies are creations of the state that exist to make money. They are given special privileges, including different tax rates, to do just that. It was a fundamental misreading of the Constitution to say that these artificial legal constructs have the same right to spend money on politics as ordinary Americans have to speak out in support of a candidate.

The majority also makes the nonsensical claim that, unlike campaign contributions, which are still prohibited, independent expenditures by corporations “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” If Wall Street bankers told members of Congress that they would spend millions of dollars to defeat anyone who opposed their bailout, and then did so, it would certainly look corrupt...

Ah yes, appearances. Mustn't let the children see what's going on. Perhaps this as much as anything upsets those that own Pravda.

But on a lighter note:

...Congress and members of the public who care about fair elections and clean government need to mobilize right away, a cause President Obama has said he would join. Congress should repair the presidential public finance system and create another one for Congressional elections to help ordinary Americans contribute to campaigns. It should also enact a law requiring publicly traded corporations to get the approval of their shareholders before spending on political campaigns.

These would be important steps, but they would not be enough. The real solution lies in getting the court’s ruling overturned. The four dissenters made an eloquent case for why the decision was wrong on the law and dangerous. With one more vote, they could rescue democracy.

What a relief. I thought they were serious.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


As if they weren't before.

So for the first time in close to a century, Katie bar the door, 'cause if you don't no one will.

...President Obama issued a statement calling on Congress to “develop a forceful response to this decision.”

“With its ruling today,” he said, “the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

After all, it's not the Preznit's job to do anything other than pretend he's a liberal and posture.

Pot, meet kettle.

It Couldn't Fail to Fail

Given the choice of a Republican and a Republican, the Republicans always win.

I predict the One will increase his level of populist posturing while increasing his level of corporatist action. His center right administration will move further to the right, while loudly proclaiming its leftist goals. It can't help but succeed in producing preznit Jeb Bush in 2012.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Nobody could have predicted that it really is the Economy, $tupid

Vintage Village Pravda

WASHINGTON — With Democrats reeling from the Republican victory in the Massachusetts special Senate election, President Obama on Wednesday signaled that he might be willing to set aside his goal of achieving near-universal health coverage for all Americans in favor of a stripped-down measure with bipartisan support...

Here's an appropriate response:

Yes, the people hate the health care bill because it doesn't f*ck them enough and is too stingy to the kind insurance companies. This is what happens when you have a media that belongs to the right-wing.

[tip o'teh tinfoil to Avedon]

Digby, who also predicted this reaction, notes:

...Howard Dean goes on Hardball today and points out that today's DFA poll shows that of all the people who voted for both Obama and Brown, three out of five voted for Brown because they had wanted a public option and of the Obama voters who stayed home, 80% wanted a public option...

Somebody really should tell the Villagers that there is no public option in the current health care bill, only a mandate that forces everyone to buy into cheap coverage, and a tax on policies that provide decent care. The net effect of the tax would be to lower the quality of coverage per dollar spent. So nobody wants the bill to pass, and not because of the public option.

But that would be telling, wouldn't it? The main$tream has no intention of listening to people like Dean. It's not how they make their money.

Robert Scheer:

The president got creamed in Massachusetts. No amount of blaming this disastrous outcome on the weaknesses of the local Democratic candidate or her Republican opponent’s strengths can gainsay that fact. Obama’s opportunistic search for win-win solutions to our health care concerns and our larger economic problems is leading to a lose-lose outcome for the president and the country.

The two issues that mattered on Election Day were the economy, which Obama has sold out to Wall Street—as quite a few disgruntled voters pointed out—and his plea to save health care reform, which the voters who had backed him for the presidency with a huge majority now spurned. It is significant that it was the voters of Massachusetts who have now derailed the Democrats’ efforts to revamp the country’s health care system by denying them the necessary 60th vote in the Senate, for these voters know the subject well.

The federal proposal is based on their own state’s model requiring people to obtain health insurance without the state doing anything to effectively control costs through an alternative to the private insurance corporations. Lacking a public option, the cost of health care in Massachusetts, already the highest in the nation at the time of the plan’s implementation, has spiraled upward. Services have been curtailed, and many, particularly younger people, feel they are being forced to sacrifice to pay for a system that doesn’t work.

Instead of blindly following the failed Massachusetts model, Obama should have insisted on an extension of the Medicare program to all who are willing to pay for it...

But you see, that would have worked, and the goal was not to really do anything about health care, any more than Obama really wants to do anything about the economy. The goal is to make a whole lot of money for the bank$ters. How would giving people jobs and keeping them healthy enough to work make the Right people any richer?

Timothy Egan:

...While the filibuster-proof margin is gone, the Democrats still have a 58 seats in the Senate — perhaps 59, depending on Joe Lieberman’s loyalty of the hour. This huge majority, as America’s most astute political observer, Jon Stewart, pointed out, is far more than George W. Bush ever had, and he used it to do whatever he wanted to with the country.

Critics will say: listen to the people, the voters don’t want health care. But in fact, when you break out the major points on reform — getting rid of policies that deny coverage for preexisting conditions, expanding care and choice, forcing insurers to put more money into treatment and less in their pockets – there is strong support. Majorities also back a public option, but that’s off the table, for now. See Lieberman, Traitor Joe.

What people are against is “the bill” — this radioactive product of arcane deal-making. They even tried to keep C-Span out! What is there to hide? Who knows. But most people believe it will add to the deficit, instead of reduce costs as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said.

Democrats swept the land in 2008 by running on a couple of things: not being George Bush, change in the economy, health care and getting rid of a lobbyist-rich culture in Washington that seemed to work only for those on the inside. The voters, as in Massachusetts on Tuesday, knew what they doing.

If Democrats were to waste this majority, and have nothing to show for it but bailouts of the biggest banks, auto companies and insurers, they deserve to be returned to minority status in the fall.

Who are they governing for? They can cowboy up, pass health care that helps right the major wrongs of the system and then explain what they’re doing. One way to start is to point to the bottom line, the market, and ask who gets rich when nothing changes.

In deciphering motivation, Occam's razor is an amazingly effective tool once you simply assume it's greed and start to follow the money. Follow the money. It works every time.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Complacency of Hype

It's the Economy, stupid.

If the One can't give people employment, people will vote for someone, any one, even the wrong one they think might.

Oh, and by the way, Barry: tell the Rahmmer to shove it where the jobs don't shine.

Shocking, isn't it?

It's the doctrine:

...Haiti's vulnerability to natural disasters, its food shortages, poverty, deforestation and lack of infrastructure, are not accidental. To say that it is the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere is to miss the point; Haiti was made poor--by France, the United States, Great Britain, other Western powers and by the IMF and the World Bank.

Now, in its attempts to help Haiti, the IMF is pursuing the same kinds of policies that made Haiti a geography of precariousness even before the quake. To great fanfare, the IMF announced a new $100 million loan to Haiti on Thursday. In one crucial way, the loan is a good thing; Haiti is in dire straits and needs a massive cash infusion. But the new loan was made through the IMF's extended credit facility, to which Haiti already has $165 million in debt. Debt relief activists tell me that these loans came with conditions, including raising prices for electricity, refusing pay increases to all public employees except those making minimum wage and keeping inflation low. They say that the new loans would impose these same conditions. In other words, in the face of this latest tragedy, the IMF is still using crisis and debt as leverage to compel neoliberal reforms...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Santizing the Dump

NPR has been furiously working to scrub the bubble about why the Haitians want to loot their banks instead of co-operate with the rescuers.

Matthew Murrey:

...So how was NPR's coverage of Haiti's history?

* On Wednesday, January 13, 2010 Morning Edition Deborah Amos interviewed Miami Herald writer Jacqueline Charles about how great the past year was for progress in Haiti: "I've been reporting on this country for years now and in the last couple of years...in the last two or three years, the country has been enjoying relative stability. I just recently wrote a story about how it was going to get its first international hotel franchise in a decade because investors were starting to feel confident, both Haitians and non-Haitians alike." Ah yes, investors have brought such wonderful benefits to Haiti over the years.

* On Thursday, January 14, 2010 All Thing Considered NPR turns to Johanna Mendelson Forman - stalwart of the US foreign policy and military establishment - to sing the praises of the UN's role in Haiti. Michelle Kellemen tells us that "she said the U.N. mission in Haiti had a lot of successes in recent years, ....everybody was looking at a 2010 that was going to have a much more significant investment future, a greater opportunity for jobs." That's an interesting take on the UN, because as Peter Hallward notes in the Guardian/UK, after the US-backed coup against Aristide in 2004, "The UN has subsequently maintained a large and enormously expensive stabilisation and pacification force in the country....[and] the same countries scrambling to send emergency help to Haiti now, however, have during the last five years consistently voted against any extension of the UN mission's mandate beyond its immediate military purpose."

* Also on Thursday's January 14, 2010 ATC Bob Siegel lets the current IMF chief claim that the IMF is going to help Haiti in a big way. Of course, Siegel doesn't bring up any unpleasant reminders about the IMF's role in trashing Haiti - Got Rice?

* On Friday January 15, 2010 ME Deborah Amos had a friendly chat with former US ambassador to Haiti, Timothy Carney - a fellow with a sordid track record in Haiti. With Amos' able assistance Carney gets away with turning history completely on its head. He tells Amos that, along with aid money, the international community "has to have some expectations of Haitians... an end to the sterile politics of group and gang, with an eye on personal advantage, that has dominated the politics of Haiti for, since its independence." Yes, indeed, groups and gangs (French and US) have definitely been sucking the blood and money out of Haiti since its independence.

* On Friday January 15, 2010 ATC NPR goes looking for a Haitian willing to carve up history, and so heads over to the cynically named right-wing Haiti Democracy Project [which the above Timothy Carney once chaired - surprise!]. NPR finds Arielle Jean-Baptiste who -guess what? - blames Haitians for their disastrous history: "They resign themselves to what they have. They don't demand accountability from their government....So it is frustrating because there is a certain mindset in Haiti where they get together to get rid of a bad government, but they are unable to get themselves together to build." Her answer to "fix" Haiti? Got a guess? "We [the international community] should get more involved in agro industry in Haiti and economic growth." Just like the good old days, I guess. (NPR obviously knows just how unbiased [hee, hee] this "marching with the President Aristide's opposition" Jean-Baptiste character is.)

If the scale of this assault on memory and historical accuracy weren't such a potent weapon for continuing the US-led predations on countries like Haiti, the nonsense and myth that passes for coverage on NPR would be humorous. But as it is, this kind of aggressive rewriting of the past has consequences that are as deadly and tragic as the natural disaster it is supposedly trying to explain.

[tip o'teh tinfoil to Mytwords]

Under the Sands of Mars

...There is a vast region of sand dunes at high northern latitudes on Mars. In the winter, a layer of carbon dioxide ice covers the dunes, and in the spring as the sun warms the ice it evaporates. This is a very active process, and sand dislodged from the crests of the dunes cascades down, forming dark streaks...

There is no life, we are told. It only looks that way.

On the other hand, there is a quiet riot going on in NASA labs right now:

...Final proof that Mars has bred life will be confirmed this year, leading NASA experts believe. The historic discovery will come not on Mars itself but from chunks of the red planet here on Earth.

David McKay, chief of astrobiology at NASA's Johnson Space Centre in Houston, says powerful new microscopes and other instruments will establish whether features in martian meteorites are alien fossils.

He says evidence for life in the space rocks could have been claimed by the UK if British scientists had used readily-available electron microscopes. Instead, images of colonies of martian bacteria were collected by American scientists.

The NASA team is already convinced that colonies of micro-organisms are visible inside three martian rocks that landed on Earth. If so, this would have profound implications for our understanding of life in the universe.

Two of the meteorites - ALH84001 and Yamato 593 - were found in the Antarctic by American and Japanese scientists after they lay in the icy desert for thousands of years.

But of special interest is a meteorite that fell in many chunks at Nakhla, Egypt, in 1911. Most of the fragments ended up in London's Natural History Museum.

The stones are known to be from Mars because gases trapped inside them match those in rocks examined by probes on the red planet. They were blasted out of its surface by asteroid impacts and then drifted around the solar system for millions of years before falling to earth...

Whether or not the meteorites hail from Mars, they are a watershed for human understanding. They seem further evidence for an old biological hypothesis that's scandalized the sanctimonious since the first Bible was thumped. Whatever forces created this bubble of the multiverse, under the right conditions, life is a property of matter.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Honesty is not Company policy

...unless, of course there's a profit in it greater good to be acheived.

Greenwald calls foul on the Oborg in the process of assimilating Krugman into the Collective.

Asymmetric proaction

Lambert realizes the name of the beast.

But, the Company has a major bug in its program.

If organizations are subject to infiltration and assimilation by policy, then disorganization could be the way to short their circuits.

Asymmetric warfare, the Generals call it.

They hate it, too, because it works.

A short history of Haiti


Piecetime Precedent

Digby and others are very upset that a tea bagger is poised to upset the Senatorial seat of Ted Kennedy.

Rightly so. If there is anything more destructive than intelligent corrupt idiots running things, it is clueless corrupt idiots running things. See for example the record of George W. Bush.

But Digby should know by now this is part of the plan. Feign a shift to left to produce a much greater shift to the right. Consider how difficult it would have been for the banksters and the Pentagon if Cheney had taken over the presidency from his figurehead. Cheney, Addington, and that cabal did not understand the village collective hive mind.

The idea is slow simmering world war profiting the families that would own the world, not the rush to Empire that the Cheney cabal lusts for.

Friday, January 15, 2010

"...That would require, at a bare minumum, a repeal of the First Amendment. .."

Greenwald lets Cass Sunstein have it with both barrels, in the face, and points out with multiple linkage that disinformation with infiltration is precisely what Bu$hCo did. Of course, the Democrats thought that criminal.

...Sunstein advocates that the Government's stealth infiltration should be accomplished by sending covert agents into "chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups." He also proposes that the Government make secret payments to so-called "independent" credible voices to bolster the Government's messaging (on the ground that those who don't believe government sources will be more inclined to listen to those who appear independent while secretly acting on behalf of the Government). This program would target those advocating false "conspiracy theories," which they define to mean: "an attempt to explain an event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role..."

Initially, note how similar Sunstein's proposal is to multiple, controversial stealth efforts by the Bush administration to secretly influence and shape our political debates. The Bush Pentagon employed teams of former Generals to pose as "independent analysts" in the media while secretly coordinating their talking points and messaging about wars and detention policies with the Pentagon. Bush officials secretly paid supposedly "independent" voices, such as Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher, to advocate pro-Bush policies while failing to disclose their contracts. In Iraq, the Bush Pentagon hired a company, Lincoln Park, which paid newspapers to plant pro-U.S. articles while pretending it came from Iraqi citizens. In response to all of this, Democrats typically accused the Bush administration of engaging in government-sponsored propaganda -- and when it was done domestically, suggested this was illegal propaganda. Indeed, there is a very strong case to make that what Sunstein is advocating is itself illegal under long-standing statutes prohibiting government "propaganda" within the U.S., aimed at American citizens...

...He acknowledges that some "conspiracy theories" previously dismissed as insane and fringe have turned out to be entirely true (his examples: the CIA really did secretly administer LSD in "mind control" experiments; the DOD really did plot the commission of terrorist acts inside the U.S. with the intent to blame Castro; the Nixon White House really did bug the DNC headquarters). Given that history, how could it possibly be justified for the U.S. Government to institute covert programs designed to undermine anti-government "conspiracy theories," discredit government critics, and increase faith and trust in government pronouncements? Because, says Sunstein, such powers are warranted only when wielded by truly well-intentioned government officials who want to spread The Truth and Do Good -- i.e., when used by people like Cass Sunstein and Barack Obama...

What is most odious and revealing about Sunstein's worldview is his condescending, self-loving belief that "false conspiracy theories" are largely the province of fringe, ignorant Internet masses and the Muslim world. That, he claims, is where these conspiracy theories thrive most vibrantly, and he focuses on various 9/11 theories -- both domestically and in Muslim countries -- as his prime example...

Who is it who relentlessly spread "false conspiracy theories" of Saddam-engineered anthrax attacks and Iraq-created mushroom clouds and a Ba'athist/Al-Qaeda alliance -- the most destructive conspiracy theories of the last generation? And who is it who demonized as "conspiracy-mongers" people who warned that the U.S. Government was illegally spying on its citizens, systematically torturing people, attempting to establish permanent bases in the Middle East, or engineering massive bailout plans to transfer extreme wealth to the industries which own the Government? The most chronic and dangerous purveyors of "conspiracy theory" games are the very people Sunstein thinks should be empowered to control our political debates through deceit and government resources: namely, the Government itself and the Enlightened Elite like him.

It is this history of government deceit and wrongdoing that renders Sunstein's desire to use covert propaganda to "undermine" anti-government speech so repugnant. The reason conspiracy theories resonate so much is precisely that people have learned -- rationally -- to distrust government actions and statements. Sunstein's proposed covert propaganda scheme is a perfect illustration of why that is. In other words, people don't trust the Government and "conspiracy theories" are so pervasive precisely because government is typically filled with people like Cass Sunstein, who think that systematic deceit and government-sponsored manipulation are justified by their own Goodness and Superior Wisdom...

...Ironically, this is the same administration that recently announced a new regulation dictating that "bloggers who review products must disclose any connection with advertisers, including, in most cases, the receipt of free products and whether or not they were paid in any way by advertisers, as occurs frequently." Without such disclosure, the administration reasoned, the public may not be aware of important hidden incentives (h/t pasquin). Yet the same administration pays an MIT analyst hundreds of thousands of dollars to advocate their most controversial proposed program while they hold him out as "objective," and selects as their Chief Regulator someone who wants government agents to covertly mold political discussions "anonymously or even with false identities."

Just to get a sense for what an extremist Cass Sunstein is (which itself is ironic, given that his paper calls for "cognitive infiltration of extremist groups," as the Abstract puts it), marvel at this paragraph:

So Sunstein isn't calling right now for proposals (1) and (2) -- having Government "ban conspiracy theorizing" or "impose some kind of tax on those who" do it -- but he says "each will have a place under imaginable conditions." I'd love to know the "conditions" under which the government-enforced banning of conspiracy theories or the imposition of taxes on those who advocate them will "have a place." That would require, at a bare minumum, a repeal of the First Amendment. Anyone who believes this should, for that reason alone, be barred from any meaningful government position.

Good luck with that. Is there anyone in Washington of either party who wouldn't engage in this kind of manipulation? If so, they are far from the center of power.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Because paranoids need to be watched

I can't imagine this backfiring at all:

In a 2008 academic paper, President Barack Obama's appointee to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs advocated "cognitive infiltration" of groups that advocate "conspiracy theories" like the ones surrounding 9/11.

Cass Sunstein, a Harvard law professor, co-wrote an academic article entitled "Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures," in which he argued that the government should stealthily infiltrate groups that pose alternative theories on historical events via "chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine" those groups.

For their own good, of course.

...As head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Sunstein is in charge of "overseeing policies relating to privacy, information quality, and statistical programs," according to the White House Web site...

Another Oborg policy with no possibility of backfiring, just like surgin' in Afghanistan, except right here at home.

Dr. Sunstein has some catching up to do with programs the DHS, the D.o'D., the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA already have running.

But that would be conspiracy theory, wouldn't it?

Money Means You Never Have to Say You're Sorry

Go read Peter Hallward:

...The noble "international community" which is currently scrambling to send its "humanitarian aid" to Haiti is largely responsible for the extent of the suffering it now aims to reduce. Ever since the US invaded and occupied the country in 1915, every serious political attempt to allow Haiti's people to move (in former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's phrase) "from absolute misery to a dignified poverty" has been violently and deliberately blocked by the US government and some of its allies.

Aristide's own government (elected by some 75% of the electorate) was the latest victim of such interference, when it was overthrown by an internationally sponsored coup in 2004 that killed several thousand people and left much of the population smouldering in resentment. The UN has subsequently maintained a large and enormously expensive stabilisation and pacification force in the country.

Haiti is now a country where, according to the best available study, around 75% of the population "lives on less than $2 per day, and 56% – four and a half million people – live on less than $1 per day". Decades of neoliberal "adjustment" and neo-imperial intervention have robbed its government of any significant capacity to invest in its people or to regulate its economy. Punitive international trade and financial arrangements ensure that such destitution and impotence will remain a structural fact of Haitian life for the foreseeable future.

It is this poverty and powerlessness that account for the full scale of the horror in Port-au-Prince today. Since the late 1970s, relentless neoliberal assault on Haiti's agrarian economy has forced tens of thousands of small farmers into overcrowded urban slums. Although there are no reliable statistics, hundreds of thousands of Port-au-Prince residents now live in desperately sub-standard informal housing, often perched precariously on the side of deforested ravines. The selection of the people living in such places and conditions is itself no more "natural" or accidental than the extent of the injuries they have suffered...

Then go read Chris Floyd.

"I have certain rules I live by. My first rule: I don't believe anything the government tells me."

...You know how I define the economic and social classes in this country? The upper class keeps all of the money, pays none of the taxes. The middle class pays all of the taxes, does all of the work. The poor are there... just to scare the shit out of the middle class. Keep 'em showing up at those jobs.

Military intelligence. Political integrity. Carlin the Great saw it all.

So does Glenn Greenwald:

...the rugged individualist Harold Ford -- who inherited his father's Congressional seat at the age of 26 -- is a self-proclaimed "capitalist" who believes that people "should lose" if they don't do well: unless, that is, the people who "don't do well" are his funders and controllers on Wall Street, in which case they should be propped up by the U.S. Government with bailouts and loans and Federal Reserve tricks until such time that they can pay themselves tens of millions of dollars in bonuses, at which point they should be left alone in the name of "free market capitalism" and keeping the Government out of the affairs of industry and away from their "rewards." What Ford is advocating, of course, is the exact opposite of free market capitalism: it's risk-free crony "capitalism," warped corporatism, the essence of decaying emerging-market nations in crisis, in which the coercive power of the Government is harnessed by a corrupt financial elite for its own benefit and at everyone else's expense, to ensure that people like Harold Ford can maintain their chauffeurs and weekly pedicures and helicopter rides he strangely boasted of enjoying.

...Americans have been taught for so long that the Joys of Capitalism are unchallengeable even when they result in great disparities, and that those who enjoy its fruits do so because they deserve it. As Ford said: "I believe that people take risk, and there are rewards if they do well." That would be all well and good if that were actually what was happening. But it isn't. The people who own the Government operate without risk and with the full protection of the coercive political power they have come to own. The rules are rigged completely in their favor, and (with some rare exceptions) the obscene rewards of today are anything but well-earned, anything but the by-product of "risky" entrepreneurialism. It's obviously possible to sell some pretty blatant lies to an apathetic and passive public, but the one that Ford and his funders are peddling here -- these huge Wall Street bonuses are the joyous by-product of fair and rugged "capitalism" -- seems a bit too blatant to be sustained.

...most national politicians are so desperate for the petty perks of power that they're willing to publicly humiliate themselves by making it clear that they believe in nothing and are willing to recite whatever will please those around them and those funding them. It's creepy and ugly and explains a lot about our political class...

Just remember: they lie, or they wouldn't be able to govern you.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Organized Dysfunctionality

If chaos is the plan, consider the Company the engine of its implementation.

Chris Hedges:

Corporations, which control the levers of power in government and finance, promote and empower the psychologically maimed. Those who lack the capacity for empathy and who embrace the goals of the corporation—personal power and wealth—as the highest good succeed. Those who possess moral autonomy and individuality do not. And these corporate heads, isolated from the mass of Americans by insular corporate structures and vast personal fortunes, are no more attuned to the misery, rage and pain they cause than were the courtiers and perfumed fops who populated Versailles on the eve of the French Revolution. They play their games of high finance as if the rest of us do not exist. And it is a game that will kill us.

These companies exist in a pathological world where identity and personal worth are determined solely by the perverted code of the corporation. The corporation decides who has value and who does not, who advances and who is left behind. It rewards the most compliant, craven and manipulative, and discards the losers who can’t play the game, those who do not accumulate wealth or status fast enough, or who fail to fully subsume their individuality into the corporate collective. It dominates the internal and external lives of its employees, leaving them without time for family or solitude—without time for self-reflection—and drives them into a state of perpetual nervous exhaustion. It breaks them down, especially in their early years in the firm, a period in which they are humiliated and pressured to work such long hours that many will sleep under their desks. This hazing process, one that is common at corporate newspapers where I worked, including The New York Times, eliminates from the system most of those with backbone, fortitude and dignity.

No one thinks in groups. And this is the point. The employees who advance are vacant and supine. They are skilled drones, often possessed of a peculiar kind of analytical intelligence and drive, but morally, emotionally and creatively crippled. Their intellect is narrow and inhibited. They rely on the corporation, as they once relied on their high-priced elite universities and their SAT scores, for validation. They demand that they not be treated as individuals but as members of the great collective of Goldman Sachs or AIG or Citibank. They talk together. They exchange information. They make deals. They compromise. They debate. But they do not think. They do not create. All capacity for intuition, for unstructured thought, for questions of meaning deemed impractical or frivolous by the firm, the qualities that always precede discovery and creation, are banished, as William H. Whyte observed in his book “The Organization Man.” The iron goals of greater and greater profit, order and corporate conformity dominate their squalid belief systems. And by the time these corporate automatons are managing partners or government bureaucrats they cannot distinguish between right and wrong. They are deaf, dumb and blind to the common good.

These deeply stunted and maladjusted individuals, from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to Robert Rubin to Lawrence Summers to the heads of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America, hold the fate of the nation in their hands. They have access to trillions of taxpayer dollars and are looting the U.S. Treasury to sustain reckless speculation. The financial and corporate system alone validates them. It defines them. It must be served. This is why e-mails from the New York Fed to AIG, telling the bailed-out insurer not to make public the overpaying of Wall Street firms with taxpayer money, were sent when Geithner was in charge of the government agency. These criminals sold the public investments they knew to be trash. They used campaign contributions and lobbyists to turn elected officials into stooges and gut oversight and regulation. They took over retirement savings and pensions and wiped them out. And then they seized some $13 trillion in taxpayer money so they could lend it to us with interest. It is circular theft. This is why we will endure another catastrophic financial collapse. This is why firms like Goldman Sachs are more dangerous to the nation than al-Qaida...

It is inevitable. It is planned.

Pot Meets Kettle, Calls It Black

BEIJING — Google’s declaration that it would stop cooperating with Chinese Internet censorship and consider shutting down its operations in the country ricocheted around the world Wednesday. But in China itself, the news was heavily censored.

Some big Chinese news portals initially carried a short dispatch on Google’s announcement, but that account soon tumbled from the headlines, and later reports omitted Google’s references to “free speech” and “surveillance.”

The only government response came later in the day from Xinhua, the official news agency, which ran a brief item quoting an anonymous official who was “seeking more information on Google’s statement that it could quit China.”

Google linked its decision to sophisticated cyberattacks on its computer systems that it suspected originated in China and that were aimed, at least in part, at the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists...

I am sure at least in part that Google's good buddies in the NSA might have a little better idea what the other part of the cyberattacks were all about.

Oh yes, it is a black kettle there, indeed.

One would never speculate that Google might help keep a tab on what those commie pinkos are doing, and those commie pinkos would retaliate by trying to figure out what Google knew. That is totally unfounded speculation. After all, they would ever do that to Americans, now, would they?

Sure is a black kettle, isn't it?