Friday, April 15, 2011

Ever Wonder How Your Tax Dollars Are Spent?


Not That You Needed A Time Waster, But...

...this PacMan game ought to take you a few decades.

Beam Me Up, Scotty!


I Hope You're Looking Down And Having A Good Laugh At The World

It's been ten years too long since we've heard you.
Rock on, old friend, rock on...I miss you.

Ooooh, That's Going To Leave A Mark!

The early reviews for "Atlas Shrugged" are in.
Note the deep disparity between the professional reviews and the "audience" reviews. Freeped poll, anyone?

You Know Who Can't Run In Arizona After They Passed That Idiotic Law Yesterday?


Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) Today is Tax Day.
Yes, I know, your Federal return is not due until Monday at midnight but every state return is due today, which is pretty silly since every state return relies on the Federal return and they cross-confirm numbers, but it is what it is.
2) one could have forseen this coming.
3) What is it with conservatives? They don't trust government, which is accountable to the people. They don't trust unions, which protect people from predatory businesses. Yet they'll trust corporations, whose primary motive in existence is to rape people's bank accounts to maximize profit?
4) Speaking of not trusting government, Oklahoma? You're fired! As long as we're at it, you too, Arizona! You're fired!
5) The rubber meets the road starting today. Obama's speech may have been the flag raising, but this is the first broadside.
6) A surefire way to attract a man..."Mmmmmmmmmmmmm, honey, you smell like bacon"....
7) Um, USPS? Ur doin' it rong.
8) At least this one will have books harder than "The Pet Goat."
9) So languages are more complex than we imagined...clearly, this guy tried studying Finnish and failed.
10) Show us the long form, Mrs. Palin!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Boener Seeks Dems

Hm, I don't recall the last time a House Speaker needed members of the opposition to get a bill thru...

What? The?


Today's Non-Surprise

Capitalism doesn't work for workers.

Apparently, The New York Times Reads Simply Left Behind


OK, This Is Stretching For A Joke

Photo submitted without much comment, but the clue is on the coffee cup.
Let me just say that Star Trek did the generations thing better and without product placement.

Verizon Guy Speaks Out

Really. It's a fascinating interview.

Silly Teabaggers!

I hear there's a princess in Nigeria who would gladly send nasty e-mails, too!

*Rubbing Hands In Glee - Redux*

Oh boy, this is going to be GREAT!

We Have A Contender!

Can Michele Bachmann beat back a challenge from this Teabagger for the title of World's Dumbest Congressperson? Stay tuned!

Okkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkay, Then.....


Secretary LaHood, Take My Advice


Taint So, Rick!

You'll never win, and you're wasting everyone's time.


I don't usually delve into celebrity gossip, but I have to confess that this took me by surprise.

Good Job, Mr President

I thought Obama's speech yesterday was truly courageous, particularly as the Republicans had to sit there and listen to themselves be lectured.
He mentioned David Stockman's criticism of Paul Ryan's fantasy budget, talked about not only raising taxes on the wealthy but left Republicans an out by talking about loopholes, and he even got Max Baucus to stand up with him, quite an accomplishment from the faux-Dem. 
He kicked off his re-election campaign in earnest, but one wonders why he couldn't have started that campaign on January 21, 2009? 

Interesting Vote

I can't wait to see if Boener can keep his members straight

Yea, There's No Need For Government Oversight In The Markets

They can hash things out all by schoolkids on a playground!

Why Not?

Barry Bonds was convicted of felony lying yesterday.
If only Goldman Sachs had been doing steroids, maybe Congress would launch a witch hunt, too:

Goldman Sachs misled clients and Congress about the firm’s bets on securities tied to the housing market, the chairman of the U.S. Senate panel that investigated the causes of the financial crisis said...

The Michigan Democrat also said federal prosecutors should review whether to bring perjury charges against Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein and other current and former employees who testified in Congress last year. Levin said they denied under oath that Goldman Sachs took a financial position against the mortgage market solely for its own profit, statements the senator said were untrue.

“In my judgment, Goldman clearly misled their clients and they misled the Congress,” Levin said at a press briefing yesterday where he and Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, discussed the 640-page report from the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

It does puzzle me, and Obama ought to be called to account for this, why no one has gone to jail over the wild speculation and gambling that created the economic collapse of 2008. Even the junk bond fiasco of the 80s and the S&L bailout of the 90s saw SOMEone suffer consequences.

This time around, the only acknowledgement that there was any wrongdoing was in the breach. Jamie Dimon is hailed as a genius for steering JPMorgan Chase clear of the trouble...yet the only SEC investigation out of the debacle will focus on two low-level JPMorgan Chase executives!

I'm not sure why there's no anger in the Federal government over this. I can understand Republicans kowtowing to their corporate masters, and even to some degree why Democrats would genuflect to the banksters, but really? 9% unemployment and millions of foreclosures later and no one is saying, "Maybe we ought to get tougher with the folks who marketed these loans and then bet against the American family?"

Well, except Carl Levin, and maybe Chuck Schumer when he lifts his head out of the Citicorp troughs.



Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Privatized Fascism

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in his book "Crimes Against Nature," defines fascism as "a system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership together with belligerent nationalism."
Any good political science teacher will tell you that a democractic society with a free market economy will gravitate towards fascism.
Ironic, because fascism itself is anti-democratic. Indeed, it's anti-capitalist too, altho that distinction is much more subtle.
It works like this: because democracy is a majority rule society, winner take all, power resides within the electorate until the electorate give that power over to someone to rule over them. In a vacuum, that makes sense. You don't want society to have to make every single decision, so you select representatives to make decisions for the people. It would be too cumbersome to ask the people to vote on, say, how often garbage should be collected, and so on.
The level of that republicanism depends on the society's agreement as to what it can be arsed to chime in on.
Some societies, like America, turn into full-blown republics. Some societies maintain a level of democratization where individuals can still make decisions that affect the common good. California's ballot initiatives are a decent example of this.
Similarly, capitalism makes a lot of sense in theory, if you follow Adam Smith's warnings. No business combinations, companies should not incorporate, which forces individual owners to accept the responsibilities for their products and services, and businesses should be taxed to compensate for the use of the natural resources that belong to all of us.
It's an extremely efficient system and when it's under society's control, most people will do well enough under it to live a good life without much want. They'll get by and a little more, if they're lucky.
In a vacuum, again, it makes sense.
Here's the thing: power attracts money. Money creates power. That vacuum no longer exists, and society must be vigilant, eternally so, against that slop-over. As we see, the combination of business and government is a most dangerous one. It creates fascism.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: a free society is a three-legged stool: government, the people, business. Any one of those legs gets chopped down, and the stool tips over. In fascism, the government and business carry axes. The people do not, precisely because of the regimentation and conformity that is imposed.
Naomi Wolf offers these ten signs of impending fascism. I've signaled those signs that have come to America:
  1. Create and/or wildly exaggerate an enemy of the people. (Islamists: check)
  2. Set up a secret extra judicial justice system. (sort of, with the military tribunals and the FISA court)
  3. Set up a paramilitary force, armed thugs if you will. (Blackwater/Xe, which not only "assists" the US Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also was involved in bringing "security" to New Orleans after Katrina, so: check)
  4. A surveillance apparatus set up to watch the people. (The Patriot Act: check)
  5. Harass citizens groups. (sort of, but this has been going on for a while now)
  6. Arbitrary detention and release. (Gitmo: check)
  7. Target key individuals. (sort of, again)
  8. Control the press. (Only five corporations own the media: check)
  9. Dissent = Treason. ("Why do you hate America so?" under Bush: semi-check)
  10. Martial law. (not yet...maybe)
Here's the downside of democracy: by allowing a majority voice to determine the policies and futre of a nation, you allow for the manipulation of public opinion to sway people from facts, analysis and truth. That means the majority opinion can be wildly wrong.
When this nation had true democracy, the majority expressed the opinion that women should not vote, blacks should be kept as slaves, and only the landed gentry should have any say in what goes on in this country. After all, they stood to lose the most.
Remember, if you define democracy as free people choosing their path, this was "freedom" at its most abstract and its most extreme. And it didn't work for everyone.
Even in Athens, the very model of "democracy," slavery existed. Hell, it thrived, since it seems likely that every free citizen had at least one slave!
In order to bring freedom to America, in order to expand democracy to all its citizens, the freedoms of those who most enjoyed the benefits of "old democracy" had to have their "rights" curtailed. Freedom had to be reapportioned amongst all people. Women had to secure the right to vote, slaves had to be freed and made full citizens.
I don't think any rational human being alive today would disagree this was a good thing for America. I don't think any rational human being alive today would argue that hogging rights is a good thing.
American society worked to extend freedom and rights to all its people for all its existence, the feeling that freedom was owed to everyone in the nation. This meant reinterpreting and amending our Constitution to reflect this enlightenment, to codify what we believed the Founders would have said if they could see the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries in a crystal ball.
Somewhere along the way, some idiot realized this was the perfect opportunity to secure "rights" for the corporatocracy. Rather than limit freedom to the people, the natural born citizenry who would fight and die for this nation's freedoms, some moron decided that if there was just SOMEway to make a corporation a person, business could really take off, because it would get a say in what goes on around it.
And there's a certain logic to this: business makes money which pays the people who pay taxes which support the government, so why not give corporations the right to shape the future? To do otherwise is to enslave business under society's rule.
Remember how money creates power and power attracts money? Here's where the line between business and government began to blur. Money flowed from businesses to politicians who held or could hold power, who in turn washed the backs of their corporate masters as much as possible.
After all, no business is going to make an unprofitable investment. If I am IBM, and I give you a million bucks, I expect a return for that money, or else I'm going to invest it where I can make a return. It's really that simple a decision. And that dangerous. It amounts to extortion.
"Nice office you got here, Congressman. Sure would be a shame if someone else took it from you."
None of this is in any way antithetical to human nature, which is the scary part. None of this is psychopathy. Sociopathic, perhaps, but our society is gamed such that the individual human natures will collectively "benefit" society at large. Sociopathy is us.
When fascism has been imposed in the past, in nations like Italy (where it was born) and Nazi Germany, it came from the government.
Here in America, it's been creeping in through the corporatocracy, aided and abetted by the government and the Brownshirt thugs who support the cause.
This is why the signs of fascism, as plain as day, are ignored by many people, who have been indoctrinated that free enterprise is their ally and government is the enemy, when in fact government is the sole bulwark against the encroaching fascist state.
Why? Because nominally it's still responsible to the voter. Nominally, and that erodes daily, especially as stories flow out of Wisconsin about voting fraud and rigged counts.
Getting back to the Quislings of America, it's people like Jonah Goldberg who are the tools of the corporatocracy and when fascism in America is recounted in history books, perhaps they'll devote a few paragraphs to Goldberg, who attempted to smear liberal thought as "fascist".
Fascism comes from power. Liberals most assuredly do not have that power in America. Fascism is the centralization of power. Liberals would prefer to liberate that power and return it to the people themselves, understanding that there must be a firewall between government and the corporate sector.
In tandem with this extension of rights to corporate America that has endangered the nation, we started to see the contraction of rights for the individual, but not to the benefit of groups of disenfranchised Americans (who ended up being scapegoated anyway) but a contraction of all our rights.
The first real notice I had of it was under the Clinton administration, when it was determined that the Fourth Amendment no longer mattered when it came to cases where a drug dealer was involved: his property could be seized and held as material evidence in any criminal case, then disposed of by the state as they saw fit.
But in truth, the contraction of rights occured earlier than this. One can point to Reagan disbanding PATCO, thus eliminating a right to form a more perfect union to protect individuals from bureaucracy and politicization. Or Nixon and his "enemies list," aided by both the FBI and CIA. Or McCarthy. Or...
You see, it blurs. The "good" contraction of rights for some blurred in with the bad contraction that affects and impacts us all.
And that's the scary part, because it requires intellect and insight to discern between the two.
It's inefficient. And inefficiencies are what capitalism exploits. The second the business sector was allowed to participate fully in the political process, America was doomed to fascism.
Again, not because the government is fascistic. Some administrations are more fascistic than others, to be sure, but all administrations now have to use the tools of fascism to run the country. This is what the corporatocracy has extorted from government.
If the government was imposing fascism, if it was American troops sitting on the border of Mexico instead of Blackwater/Xe, we'd all be shouting in unison "posse comitatus" and the troops would disappear. But Xe doesn't have to abide by that law.
If it was the federal government who owned NBC/Universal and all its myriad subnetworks, or Fox and those outlets, or Viacom or ABC/Disney, we'd all be screaming about state-run radio. But it's not.
If it was the Federal government who was on our TVs day and night hyperventilating about this threat or that, we'd all be looking around for someone else to take the reins. But it's not.
And it is. None of this is going on without some tacit assistance from the government, which is being extorted and exhorted to participate. Why else the bailouts of banks that turned almost immediately wildly profitable again?
We live in a fascist state and history will write us as a lesson for the future.
And the lesson will not be learned.
(ed note: all this was generated from watching fifteen minutes of "The Warning" on LinkTV this morning. Go read up on it, and then donate to Link. They've earned your assistance.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeea! Not Happening

I read this article with some interest. More after the jump:
 A former Huffington Post blogger has filed a $105-million class-action lawsuit against AOL and the Huffington Post media Web site on behalf of fellow unpaid bloggers whom he characterized as "modern-day slaves on Arianna Huffington's plantation."

Jonathon Tasini filed the suit Tuesday on behalf of more than 9,000 bloggers in a New York federal court. Tasini blogged for the Huffington Post from late 2005 to Feb. 10 of this year, just a few days after AOL announced it was acquiring the Web site for $315 million.

Effectively, Tasini's claim is that he provided Huffington Post with articles for free, with no promise of royalties or payment as far as I know.

Tasini was part of a successful lawsuit against the New York Times, which was, and still is, a profitable operation and should have been paying from day one.

While I understand and appreciate Tasini's sentiment and the correctness of his point that the unpaid bloggers at Huffington did significantly contribute to the success of the site such that Huffington was able to sell the site to AOL for some $315 million, Tasini's suit gets bogged down in a detail: no written contract promised him or anyone else royalties should the site become successful.

The interest I have in this is not that I blogged at HuffPo. I was never invited, even tho I'm smarter and funnier than many of the writers there. No, it's that I get approached fairly regularly by large commercial, for-profit sites to submit articles to them.

I just turned down one very attractive offer this week, in fact. I was asked by a certain Internet service to join their staff, in exchange for a share of whatever ad revenues my blog would earn. This is a site that has thousands of bloggers writing for them, each with their own advertising account, each a ready-made source of revenue for both.

In exchange, my audience would have been bigger there than here.

Here's the thing, tho: when I logged in, I was confronted with a confounding interface, the need to do all my own coding in addition to my own writing, I had to promise "first run" articles (meaning I couldn't simply copy my stuff from here and drop it there), and create my own links to advertising!

All this, and do my own editing and provide images to go along with every piece I wrote, which had to be hosted on their servers. I couldn't even post a link to a photo (meaning my own photos would be making someone else money, despite the fact that I was using them over my own words).

In short, I'd be a little fish in a big sea, only slightly less big than the one I post here in. My chances of making any money there were only slightly higher than making any more here, plus I'd have to give them a cut off the top.

Um, no.

Tasini, likewise, probably had no reason to expect HuffPo to pay him anything, and in exchange he got the chance of exposure to thousands of people hourly. Now, it may be that HuffPo has to pony up some money, but I really doubt this lawsuit stands a chance in hell of succeeding.



One way Republicans will stop Mitt Romney is to tie him closely to Obama.

I'll Take Twelve


This May Be Worth A Closer Look

A vibrating corset to play video games in....

The Reason The Debt Ceiling Debate Is Political Noh Theatre


The End Of The Birthers

He doesn't even need his birth certificate to be President...

Fighting Fat?


I May Need To Take Some Pot-Graduate Courses. I mean, Post-Graduate

Legally learn to grow medical marijuana

We Should Go Back And Finish The Job

If the first Gulf War taught us anything, when you have an enemy down, you ought to emasculate him so he can't rise again.

Cowards Of The Country

It's intriguing whenever the legislative process works late into the night, especially unexpectedly:

CBS News Congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes reports that legislation that reflects the deal made between Republicans and Democrats was posted online at 1:30 this morning.

Members of Congress are going to be getting their first real look of the deal Tuesday, and Republicans in particular are sure to express frustration that so many of the cuts in the deal aren't exactly cuts at all.

In other words, rather than face the music over the weekend from the Teabaggers, Boener decided that he would slink off into this week and marshall some sort of defensible position, spinning over the 72 hours or so what the GOP got out of the deal.

Among the cuts:

  • $700 million from clean and safe drinking water programs;
  • $390 million from heating subsidies;
  • $276 million from pandemic flu prevention programs; and
  • $1.5 billion from the president's new $8 billion initiative to spur high-speed rail development.

Many of the cuts appear to have been cuts in name only, because they came from programs that had unspent funds.

Now, admittedly, it's a continuing resolution and the first place you're going to look for immediate cuts is in money that hasn't been spent. By definition, since the resolution is not binding, you can't cut money already spent (say by pushing the cuts into the following year, thus advancing that budget to this year).

On the whole, the cuts seem to hurt both sides, which is the very definition of a consensus compromise. And yet, ol' Boener has said that he is married to the Teabaggers.

He couldn't be that cynical....could he?


Monday, April 11, 2011

If You're A Conservative Budgeteer....

...and you lose David Stockman, he of the trickle-down theory, you've lost the game.

High Art

Really. Anyone who watched Walter Lantz's cartoons knew this, at least subconsciously.

Wisconsin Is Broke! Broke, I Say!

Errrrrrrrrrrm, not so much, you know?

The Other Uncle

National Review's other token, Kevin Williamson, did a Stepin Fetchit routine today:
The numbers generally cited in support of this argument do not actually tell us much about what has happened to the incomes of wealthy households over time. That’s because the people who are in the top bracket today are not the people who were in the top bracket last year. There’s a good deal of socioeconomic mobility in the United States — more than you’d think. Our dear, dear friends at the IRS keep track of actual households (boy, do they ever!), and sometimes the Treasury publishes data about what has happened to them. For instance, among those who in 1996 were in the very highest income group isolated for study — the top 0.01 percent — 75 percent were in a lower income group by 2005. The median real income of super-rich households went down, not up. The rich got poorer. Among actual households, income grew proportionally more for those who started off in the low-income groups than those that began in high-income groups.
About the only thing he didn't do was credit the minimum wage increases and offer to shine K-Lo's shoes....

Coming To A Theater Near You

"Going Galt," the musical.
Well, not quite, but something almost as shitty.
Seriously, I half expected to hear Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder were the producers...

War's A-Coming


Romneycare Is On The March

From now on, anytime a rightwinger calls it "Obamacare," I think we should call it "Romneycare"

Boener Must Read My Blog

No sooner do I point out that the GOP has all but rolled over on the debt ceiling, here he comes claiming there's no capitulation...
You keep fucking that chicken, John!

*Rubbing Hands With Glee*

This couldn't be breaking any better for Obama than if he had orchestrated the whole "Trump For President" movement himself!

"More power to him." Those were the words of Sarah Palin on Saturday during an appearance on Fox News, saying that she "appreciated" Donal Trump's efforts to look into the authenticity of President Obama being born in Hawaii. "He's not just throwing stones from the sidelines, he's digging in, he's paying for researchers to find out why President Obama would have spent $2 million to not show his birth certificate," Palin continued.

Effectively, Palin has now put herself squarely in the birther camp with her own words.

In fact, this is working out so well that this statement by David Plouffe lends credence to my still-forming belief that perhaps Obama put Trump up to this. This statement can only egg Trump on to double down on this trope. That ties Palin even tighter to the radical nutwing of the nation.

Perfect! Especially since to release the birth certificate would break the law!

But, just in case, you might want to tuck this article in your back pocket for next year.

The Zen Way To Publishing Success

Write nothing.

An Illustrative Example

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Bankers are notoriously vengeful, but here's a situation where the governments stepped in to make up the shortfall and they're the ones asking for compensation.
Icelanders have refused, so far, citing that it should be the banks repaying the governments who covered their losses, and not Iceland.

At What Price?

Gas is arcing towards $4 a gallon already, and it's barely April.
At what price will Americans stop driving? $5? $6?
Any ideas?

I Wish Matt Taibbi Would Be A Little Less Shy

Paul Ryan, the Republican Party’s latest entrant in the seemingly endless series of young, prickish, over-coiffed, anal-retentive deficit Robespierres they’ve sent to the political center stage in the last decade or so, has come out with his new budget plan. All of these smug little jerks look alike to me – from Ralph Reed to Eric Cantor to Jeb Hensarling to Rand Paul and now to Ryan, they all look like overgrown kids who got nipple-twisted in the halls in high school, worked as Applebee’s shift managers in college, and are now taking revenge on the world as grownups by defunding hospice care and student loans and Sesame Street. They all look like they sleep with their ties on, and keep their feet in dress socks when doing their bi-monthly duty with their wives.

The Real Fight

The drums have been beating for months over this fight, ever since the GOP took back the House in November. This week, they get much louder. The time is at hand:

"Obviously, we need to look at all corners of government," said Obama senior adviser David Plouffe in announcing the speech on NBC's Meet The Press. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., on Fox News Sunday, said, "we've had to bring this president kicking and screaming to the table to cut spending."

Obama's forthcoming plan to reduce the government's red ink will also re-frame a variety of budget-related political battles.

Cantor's comment is particularly irritating, since Obama's original budget proposal cut $33 billion dollars, which is eerily close to what Boener caved in on for the continuing budget resolution.

But I digress...

What this week's battle will really be about is the debt ceiling. Approve it, and the nation can go on and try to get a handle on the bills. Turn it down, and the nation will instantaneously lose any and all credibility in the world, becoming no better than Uganda or Zimbabwe or Myanmar or Greece or Portugal, or any number of nations who have repudiated or otherwise abrogated their responsibilities to the world.

Like those other nations, we will have sold out to tyrannical dictators, only ours won't be in office, only the men behind the curtains.

The Republicans have already signaled they will agree to the raise, but in exchange they want spending cuts.

Um, duh. Then ur doin et rong, if you're going to play brinksmanship without the very real threat you'll go over the edge. After all, what's the thrill in seeing someone swim in the Niagara River if he's tied by a rope to the mainland? It just amounts to an exercise in exhaustion.

What this really amounts to is the Bush tax cuts, which will expire next year after an 2010.     Allowing these to expire would of course immediately cut the deficit and the growth of the debt, but it would also inflict pain on the uberrich and the corporatocracy.

Pain, in this case, being defined as the bite of the mite that sits on the gnat that's piggybacking on the mosquito on the collective butt.

The rest of the debate is really just smoke and noise and amounts to next to nothing in terms of one seriously thinks Paul Ryan's plan is worth the paper it's printed on...and really is just the GOP saving face from the charge of being the Party of No.

Which they are. You really ought to embrace your inner hater, boys.