Saturday, March 05, 2005

Saturday Blogging: A Return To "Normalcy?" 

Because every day can't be P-niss blogging day, or it would cease to be so special.

But just to ease you into our return to our regularly scheduled programing, think of this one as another of those There And Back Again, Again recommended reading thingees.

Here's a thoroughly pleasurable instance of a politician and office-holder daring to stand up to Condi and ask a few pointed questions; unfortunately, it's a Canadian former politician and former office-holder, but this open letter to our Secretary of State, whom I heard described this evening on that hotbed of critical analysis, "Washington Week In Review," as being on a role roll," an open letter signed by Lloyd Axworthy, (no, I didn't make up that name),currently the President of the University of Winnipeg and former Canadian foreign minister one that I think you'll find immensely satisfying. (Note: I saw this link in some comments thread,I think, but can't remember where, hence am unable to give credit where credit is due)

I love it when bloggers do stuff like this, document the atrocity; granted, in a world where Darfurs continue, atrocity might be a bit thick as a label for what Michael at "Here's What's Left," does, but if truth-telling is still a value, and deliberate lies, i.e., slander, still a sin, if not an easily proved civil crime, then atrocity fits the bill, and this kind of documenting of it is damned brilliant blogging. What think you? (BTW, while there, don't miss this Friday Night Wicket Blogging (Jeff Gannon edition)," dangerously close to P-Nuss blogging, though it is)

RDF left a link to an appreciation of Hunter Thompson by George McGovern, and just to make it easier for all of you to access it, I thought I'd move it here, the better for you to click on it. It's a delight, and well worth that simple gesture. (I'll have more to say about McGovern over the weekend, so check back.) On the same subject, but employing an entirely different tone, William Rivers Pitt says goodbye to HST and reinspires, all in the same fine piece of writing at Truth-Out.

And finally, from The Raw Story, this story of increasing Republican evil madness, and this one of Democrats actually starting to get a clue.

Well, that should see you through your morning coffee. Have a nice day. I have this strong feeling that next week is going to be a whole lot better.

The Culture of Celebrity 

As someone who writes about popular culture in the nineteenth century, nothing is more bizarre than examining current popular culture. I have been absolutely appalled at the events of the last week.

Last Sunday, nothing was stranger than watching CNN spend hours on the purses and dresses of the actresses at the Academy Awards while running the news of the deadliest terrorist attack in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in the crawler at the bottom of the screen.

Holy cow, is that really all that such an important event merits? It's an afterthought in comparison the earthshattering importance of Hilary Swank's cleavage? And the folks at CNN wonder why their ratings are dropping? Are you kidding me?

And then there was the surreal experience last night of watching the hours of live coverage of Martha Stewart's release from federal prison. Surely there's something more important, right? Hell, I can't think of few things that are more important than that non-story!!!

Now, don't get me wrong, I think Martha may have gotten a raw deal in a world in which Ken Lay still wanders the earth free and unencumbered. Martha's story is really not that bloody important in the grand scheme of things. I mean, hell folks, if there's ever a nuclear attack it will be the roaches and Martha Stewart that will still be with us.

Have we really reached the point that purses, dresses, and Martha are more important than genuine news stories these days?

I suspect our children will judge us rather harshly when looking back at this time period. Our media mavens slept while so many important things (the collapse of Iraq, the hijacking of Social Security, the Halliburton scandal) were happening.

I no longer wonder why and how the Vietnam War happened. Judging from what I'm seeing in the media I'm just amazed that we didn't all perish in an enormous mushroom cloud about September of 1958.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Goodnight, moon 

Farmer raises an interesting... No, wrong connotation.

It's hard to imagine ... Nope, wrong connotations there, too.

The point of it ... Putting up stiff opposition ... Coming to grips with ... Taking these matters in hand ... Bringing to a head ... Penetrating insight ... The thrust of my remarks ... Swing states ... Hanging, um, chads ...

It's like walking through a minefield! At any moment, something might explode ... Oh, dammit.

Look. I've got sympathy for farmer in his travails and especially for Pete the Deer, but I've got troubles of my own. The tiny room under the stairs is tiny relative to something, know what I mean?

Freedom on the march, in the form of marching powder 

Well, it turns out Bush had no plan to win the peace in Afghanistan either—except to turn the country over to narcotics dealing warlords.

More than three years after installing a pro-U.S. government, Afghanistan (news - web sites) has been unable to contain opium poppy production and is on the verge of becoming a narcotics state, a presidential report said Friday.

The report said the area in Afghanistan devoted to poppy cultivation last year set a record of more than 510,000 acres, more than triple the figure for 2003. Opium poppy is the raw material for heroin.
(via AP)

Let's just hope the CIA isn't selling heroin to the troops in Iraq, like they did in VietNam.

Tinfoil Hat Time: Hunter Thompson's suicide apparent suicide? 

Via, of all places, the New York Post—I found a copy tonight on the train; please don't think I bought it—we get this, from the sober grey pages of the Toronto Globe and Mail. The reporter, Paul William Roberts, writes:

Hunter telephoned me on Feb. 19, the night before his death. He sounded scared. It wasn't always easy to understand what he said, particularly over the phone, he mumbled, yet when there was something he really wanted you to understand, you did. He'd been working on a story about the World Trade Center attacks and had stumbled across what he felt was hard evidence showing the towers had been brought down not by the airplanes that flew into them but by explosive charges set off in their foundations. Now he thought someone was out to stop him publishing it: "They're gonna make it look like suicide," he said. "I know how these bastards think . . ."

And there they leave us hanging! The rest of the story is available to subscribers only....

But the Post does give us a few details on why Thompson's suicide might be an apparent suicide. To begin with, can anyone really imagine The Good Doctor not leaving a note? But there's more:

And in his report, Deputy Ron Ryan noted the semi-automatic Smith & Wesson 645 found next to Thompson's body was in an unusual condition. There was a spent shell casing, but although there were six bullets left in the gun's clip, there was no bullet in the firing chamber, as there should have been under normal circumstances.

Nicht and Nabel? Of course, they would never do that, but it would be nice to put the story to rest....


I'd love to be able to post fair use excerpts from the rest of the Globe and Mail story. Any Canadians among us with an "Insider Edition" subscription?

Lessee, was that "One if by Land..." 

and two if by Sea?" Yeah..

and I on the opposite shore shall be,
ready to ride to give the alarm to every Middlesex village and farm....

...okay, I'll stop now. A shame the age of heroic poetry (which told a story, and inspired the heart, and illuminated good examples of virtuous behavior, and which goddam rhymed so it was easily read aloud and memorized, even by children) has passed from current fashion, because we may be needing it again very soon.

Or spirituals--"Follow the Drinkin' Gourd" for instance contains explicit instructions on escaping hostile territory to safer ground in the north. From the same time period we have examples of codes built into quilts, or even color codes for laundry hung out to dry which a fugitive could "read" to find safe havens and avoid dangers. Hobos in more recent periods had an elaborate system of markings to indicate who would give a handout to a man down on his luck, who would feed you in exchange for some chores, and who would greet you with a shotgun.

This discussion of amateur, handcrafted, homemade codecraft brought to you as a leadin to this interesting bit of cutting-edge socio/techno repression:

(via NYT if yer already registered or
NYT RSS if not:

For many China watchers, the holding of a National People's Congress beginning this weekend is an ideal occasion for gleaning the inner workings of this country's closed political system. For specialists in China's Internet controls, though, the gathering of legislators and top political leaders offers a chance to measure the state of the art of Web censorship.

The authorities set the tone earlier this week, summoning the managers of the country's main Internet providers, major portals and Internet cafe chains and warning them against allowing "subversive content" to appear online.

"Some messages on the Internet are sent by those with ulterior motives," Qin Rui, the deputy director of the Public Information and Internet Security Supervision Bureau, was quoted as saying in The Shanghai Daily.

Stern instructions like those are in keeping with a trend aimed at assigning greater responsibility to Internet providers to assist the government and its army of as many as 50,000 Internet police, who enforce limits on what can be seen and said.

According to Amnesty International, arrests for the dissemination of information or beliefs via the Internet have been increasing rapidly in China, snaring students, political dissidents and practitioners of the banned spiritual movement Falun Gong, but also many writers, lawyers, teachers and ordinary workers.

Newer technologies allow the authorities to search e-mail messages in real time, trawling through the body of a message for sensitive material and instantaneously blocking delivery or pinpointing the offender. Other technologies sometimes redirect Internet searches from companies like Google to copycat sites operated by the government, serving up sanitized search results.

[snip]As with the policing efforts, the evasion techniques range from the sly and simple - aliases and deliberate misspellings to trick key-word monitors and thinly veiled sarcastic praise of abhorrent acts by the government on Web forums that seem to confound the censors - to so-called proxy servers, encryption and burying of sensitive comments in image files, which for now elude real-time searches.
"Burying information in image files" eh? I'm picturing a quilt for some reason.

The Last Bastion of Freedom 

O, shit. Another one to add to the list:

In a case with implications for the freedom to blog, a San Jose judge tentatively ruled Thursday that Apple Computer can force three online publishers to surrender the names of confidential sources who disclosed information about the company's upcoming products… Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg refused to extend to the Web sites a protection that shields journalists from revealing the names of unidentified sources or turning over unpublished material…The case raises issues about whether those who write for online publications are entitled to the same constitutional protections as their counterparts in more traditional print and broadcast news organizations.

via Apple wins victory in blogger sources dispute

They Get Letters (tres) 

I'm working on a draft letter to send. What did I forget to add to the lists? (Alert reader desertswine noted my lack of environmental concerns; that is now fixed by adding #9. Thank you. Alert reader Bob McGuire notices I left out NCLB and related foolishness; fixed that with #10. Thanks. Damn thing's turning into a manifesto.)

Dear (congresscritter):

I am writing today to let you know that I am watching very closely how you vote during this session.

If you vote for, support or remain "neutral" on any of the following:

1. The credit card company/corporate giveaway currently posing as a bankruptcy bill

2. Judicial appointees whose track record indicates that they will make decisions that erode civil rights, liberty and justice for all

3. Ruining social security under the guise of “reform”

4. Foreign policy that costs lives for no purpose

5. Any extensions of the “PATRIOT” act

6. Cutting social programs in favor of military programs

7. Continuing to fund corporate giveaway contracts (e.g., Halliburton in Iraq)

8. Making ruinous tax cuts for the rich permanent

9. Bills or orders that promote the spoiling of our land, water and air and those that live on them (especially if in the guise of "energy needs")

10. Continuation of the de-souling of the educational process in America through NCLB, vouchers and suchlike

I will make it my personal pet project to do the following:

1. Let everyone I can know how you voted and what the probable consequences are

2. See to it that you are defeated should you have the temerity to run for reelection

3. Mount and/or join protests and demonstrations that name you as a supporter of these measures in your (city, district, state)

Very sincerely,

(outraged citizen)

Speaking of Balls 

Unsurprisingly, Krugman takes on Greenspan, and with that wonderful clarity and passion that has become Krugman's standard, (I've never understood how anyone who is literate could ever call his columns "shrill") he exposes the man's withered balls, heart, mind, and conscience.
Four years ago, Alan Greenspan urged Congress to cut taxes, asserting that the federal government was in imminent danger of paying off too much debt.

On Wednesday the Fed chairman warned Congress of the opposite fiscal danger: he asserted that there would be large budget deficits for the foreseeable future, leading to an unsustainable rise in federal debt. But he counseled against reversing the tax cuts, calling instead for cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Does anyone still take Mr. Greenspan's pose as a nonpartisan font of wisdom seriously?
There it is, most everything you need to know in three paragraphs.

Somewhat more surprising, but increasingly less so as we are once again taught a lesson we should stop forgetting but probably won't, the size of a man's balls have nothing to do with the softness of his voice, or the mildness of his demeanor, Harry Reid also takes on Greenspan, with similar results.
Reid ripped Greenspan during an interview on CNN's "Inside Politics." He said the Fed chairman has given President Bush a pass on deficits that have built up in the past four years and should be challenging Republicans on their fiscal policies, rather than promoting Bush's plan to introduce personal accounts into Social Security.

Not bad, eh? Let Harry and your own Senators and Representatives know that, please Sir, we'd like some more. Here's a website that makes doing that easy; bookmark it if you haven't already.

Go read the rest of both and become energized. There's a lot of work to be done.

(If I sound like I'm trying to sound ballsy, I am, so please don't take offense, just sort of...uh...roll with it?)

P-Niss Blogging Friday: The Personal Is The Political 

Turns out those of us who grew up proudly in the sixties were more right than anyone has ever allowed.

To those of you who are tempted to shrug off the Farmer's meditation below, as personal and possibly drug-induced, take a gander at what our President is actually saying when he brings his masculine persona to American venues, large and small, hither and yon.
I've touched it. I touched it in 2000, when I campaigned here and around the country; I touched it in 2004; and I really touched it at the State of the Union, because I believe we have a problem. And I want to talk to you about the problem.
Now who really believes that he's talking about touching that third rail of American politics, Social Security reform? At best, it's a multi-layered message. Or a double-entendred layered message. It's even clearer when you listen to him

And this morning, somewhere in New Jersey, in the midst of one of those potemkin village town meetings of Rove's, I heard the Prez acknowledge that Social Security has been an important safety net for Seniors, but that the safety net has "a hole" in it, followed by a smirking chuckle. Ask yourself what that "hole" imagery is all about.

I ain't just kidding around, folks. The clearest way to take this guy down is to metaphorically, and please remember I said metaphorically, to neuter him. Democrats need to show that they can stop him cold. Wear that damn cloak of obstructionist proudly. Twirl it in his face. This President has hooked his balls to the notion of being "effective." Getting things done. No matter that they may be terrible things that hurt the vast majority of Americans. Castrate the bastard, damnit. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

P-Niss Blogging Friday 

Boy what a shitty fucking week this has been. I'm glad it's Friday. What is it that they say? TGIFF, "thank god its fucking friday?" Yeah, I think that's it. Anyway, it's also Cat Blogging Friday. Or Feline Curiosa Friday. Or whatever it's called. But you all knew that anyway didn't you?

Which begs the question "Who needs cat blogging anyway?" Who the fuck cares. Furthermore, who needs a cat for christ's sake? Especially if you have a penis! Please, let me explain:

I don't need a cat because I have a penis. I know many of you don't have a penis and that's ok too, you probably can't help yourselves, and that is why you have a cat. But, if I were you, I'd get a penis instead. If that is within your means. And no, this isn't about sex or anything alarming like that. It's about "friendship". Or "companionship". Or just having some jerkoff to fuck around with. Or some variety of oversold petshop claptrap like that.

First of all having a penis is a lot like having a cat. I have a penis. Most of you probably suspected so much. You are a highly observant bunch who know a dick - i mean a penis! - a penis, when you see one. And you know what? I've had a penis a lot longer than I ever had a cat. Yes, I used to have a cat until it died and I buried her beneath a carpet of flowering forget-me-nots aside a shady woodlot, and you can read all about it right here if you really have any interest this kind of thing.

But I really want to talk to you about my Penis, if you don't mind, since it is Penis Blogging Friday, and because having a Penis is a lot like having a pussy. I mean a cat! Forgive me...

For instance: My Penis just lays around in my lap just like a kitty cat would do. No problem. I can pet Penis whenever I like and Penis won't even get up and run away. Actually Penis can't run away, thank god, if ya know what I mean.

Mostly my Penis will just lay right there in my lap purring happily away in fantasyland day after day after day. Even if I buy Penis one of those racy NASCAR magazines with pictures of wild country chicks in spandex and sunglasses and high heels wearing one of those vinyl jackets advertising Valvoline motor oil products and leaning against a tatooed Sharpie Ford Taurus my Penis won't scamper out of my lap and cack up a gooey hairball on the cover of the magazine the way kitty cat would. Never happen. And I wouldn't let it happen because both I and Penis have traditional conservative "red state" value respect for pussy, i mean women! I mean...oh boy, lets just move along...

Sure, sometimes Penis will wake up at funny hours and want to take a pee. But that's no problem. I just walk Penis out the back door and let him pee on a shrub, or that stupid annoying yard work thing that you wind a garden hose up in, and then I come right back inside. Its not like Penis is going to break free and chase a passing car up the road or go bounding into the underbrush after a June bug or anything like that. And there is no smelly stinking sandbox to change and maintain with Penis. Penis gave up playing in the sandbox a long time ago. Unlike kitty cats who insist on splashing around in boxes of sand until they inhale their last dying dusty litter-choked breath.

And Penis is loyal and doesn't ask for much attention. Sometimes Penis will simply wake up, stretch out, give me that faraway pleading look as if to say, "I'm here if you need me," or to simply make sure I'm still there for him if he ever needs me. Or something like that. In any case I will give him a gentle pat on the head as a fond reminder of our friendship and he will go back to sleep. Never fails.

Having your own penis is much less traumatic than having a cat. Your Penis won't filet the arm of your favorite sofa or nibble at stuff that you leave lying around on the utility sink in the basement. Or spend hours sitting in a corner of the dining room with some crazy look in it's eye staring at some poor doomed thing caught in a spider web. Kinda like how Alan Colmes does that too... you know... Or sit perched on a counter behaving in a sinister fashion while staring at you as if you were a large brainless snack. Your penis won't throw up all over the top of your VCR either. Unless your penis is a real fucking weirdo or something. But in most cases penises are pretty lazy and stupid and satisfied with just laying around in your lap waiting and hoping for a painless bloated death or one last shot at some long lost and mostly forgotten thrill which for the most part would probably at best cost a lot of money and at the least land Penis in a penal colony. But mostly, as I mentioned earlier, Penis just requires that you take him out to pee when needed. Unless you can afford to hire someone to take Penis out to pee. Now we're talking. Unfortunately most of us can't afford such domestic "help." So forget it.

Your penis won't run around batting holiday ornaments off your Christmas tree either. Well, maybe, occasionally, but I don't want to get into it if you don't mind. Years ago Mrs farmer would even take penis out for some frisky excursions and other interesting "family" occasions. As I said, once upon a time. Back when Mrs farmer gave a flying fuck about such things. Mrs farmer would even kiss penis goodnight on the head and tell him stories about how much he reminded her of "Mr. Snake" or on special occasions let him stay up late and play "charm the cobra" with Mrs pussy. Mrs farmer had a pussy. I mean a cat. In case you were wondering about that. That was before Mrs farmer ran off with SOME FUCKING DICKHEAD SON-OF-A-BITCH FROM.....oh, holy shit, sorry, I'm getting a little excited... Just forget that part too.

Where was I? Oh yeah, my Penis. My Penis pretty much follows me around wherever I go, and, unlike nervous kitty cats, doesn't mind riding in cars. Although occasionally, on torpid summer evenings, when the wind is calm and the mist hangs heavy on the night air and the rumble of a distant train can be heard in the valley, Penis thinks back to those days when Penis couldn't wait to leap like a wild peckerwood into the back seat of a town and country station wagon with imitation vinyl roof to flounce around with a bouncy pom-pom and behave in a generally uruly way. Them were the days. Sure beats sitting in the front seat on a late February afternoon listening to Neal Conan on NPR. Lemme tell ya.

I could take a picture of my Penis for you right now and post it here and call it Penis blogging Friday. But that would be disturbing wouldn't it? No? It wouldn't? Well in that case.... assuming I can wake Penis up... would you prefer a picture of Penis relaxing on a terricloth robe? Penis curled up in a furry ball on the sofa? Penis in the yard stalking a wiley titmouse? Penis riding on the back of Kitty Deer? Ooo yeah baby. Just don't tell Pete about that. Or Rick Santorum! Pleeeeze! I don't need that kind of trouble. I'm already in trouble for taking promiscuous photos of my friend Harry Woodpeckers old lady as she bent over to snatch a sunflower seed from the window box buffet. Really. I'm not kidding. I had to beg em both not to flee to Connecticut after that one. Yeesh.

And fortunately, unlike kitty cat, Penis isn't much stirred to homicidal passions by the sight of my friend Harry Woodpecker's partner Mrs Harry Woodpecker. Which, to be frank (whoever he is), comes as a great relief to both Harry and Mrs Harry Woodpecker. As a matter of fact I'd be willing to bet'cha that I could wake Penis up right now, sling a little ball of peanut butter and oats and rendered suet around his shaft, I mean neck!, sorry, and have him stand outside in the snow like a frozen popsicle and before you could say "kweek kweek kweek iik iik iik" Harry Woodpecker and Mrs Harry Woodpecker and the crazy Nuthatch twins would be all over him like a Screech Owl on a one legged dew drunk shrew.

Well, its time to go now. This conversation has been very refreshing. At least for me. Many of you are probably less refreshed. Perhaps you even feel a little slimy. Can't say I don't blame you for that but it's probably because you have a pussy, I mean a cat! A nice friendly little pussy cat. Sure. In any event - I have to go take a shower with Penis now.

Hey, that's another thing. Try to take a shower with your damned cat! Ha ha, yeah sure.... let me know how that fiasco turns out. Take a picture for me will ya, post it to your blog. Assuming you can get a shot off before you bleed to death on the bathroom floor like a shredded mackerel!

Like I said, its been a rough week. But I hope Penis Blogging Friday becomes a cherished blogosphere family tradition. Possibly outliving other such cherished traditions as the St Patrick's Day Parade and Easter egg hunts and killer Spring tornadoes. TGIPBF!



Goodnight, moon 

1500 dead, and Whack drops off the front pages. Did the purple fingers make it all worthwhile?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

MaKe ThE MiNiMUm PAymEnt AnD NoBoDY GeTS HuRT 

Following up on Leah’s great post below, I post these snips from Molly Ivins, who manages, as usual, to put this bankruptcy bill (read "corporate giveaway") in terms even Bobo can understand. And she mentions Prof. Warren’s testimony before congress, too:

Gross! How to take a horrible bill and make it genuinely loathsome. Look at this -- look at what they are doing with this bankruptcy bill…

…So, who are these feckless, irresponsible moochers using bankruptcy to avoid paying legitimate debts? Why, look at this: The New York Times reports "legal specialists say the proposed law leaves open an increasingly popular loophole that lets wealthy people protect substantial assets from creditors even after filing for bankruptcy."

…What, our Republican Congress passing a bill that favors rich people at the expense of "honest Americans who play by the rules and have to foot the bill"? If you have a lot of money (most people filing for bankruptcy don't have this problem), you just put it in an asset protection trust and walk away. You don't even have to set up the trust offshore anymore -- five states have made it legal to set them up in their borders, and you don't even have to live in any of the five to do it...

…Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor, pointed out in testimony before Congress that the bill assumes everyone is in bankruptcy because they're spendthrifts. "A family driven to bankruptcy by the increased cost of caring for an elderly parent with Alzheimer's disease is treated the same as someone who maxed out his credit cards at a casino. A person who had a heart attack is treated the same as someone who had a spending spree at the shopping mall. A mother who works two jobs and who cannot manage the prescription drugs needed for a child with diabetes is treated the same as someone who charged a bunch of credit cards with only a vague intent to repay."

The whole thing’s over at Bad to worse courtesy of Working for Change. Share it with your friends who are drowning in credit card debt. Maybe it’ll stir them to action.

How big? 


Well, I don't know how big it was, but I'm starting to think it's smaller now.

The slowly-but-surely more impressive Harry Reid had this to say (AP buried it under the headline "Republicans Trying to Get on Same Social Security Page; Democrats Target Ads"):

Appearing on CNN's "Inside Politics," Reid denounced Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who on Wednesday endorsed the private retirement accounts [speaking, as a Kossack, but not AP, notes, as a private citizen, not Fed chair] and pressed Congress to address the looming shortages in programs for the elderly.

"I'm not a big Greenspan fan. I voted against him the last two times," Reid said. "I think [Greenspan]'s one of the biggest political hacks we have in Washington."
(via AP)

Is nothing sacred?!

As the Zen masters ask: What is the sound of a lame duck quacking? For Bush, it's his tanking numbers on Social Security and winger feverdreams.

Ditto for Greenspan—except the numbers he has to worry about are the Asian bondholders. If they haven't dumped their holdings now, it's because they know that Greenspan's plan to default on the Social Security bonds and screw the Asian widows and orphans who bought them will never, ever happen.

Can't we impeach Greenspan now? What's the remedy when the supposedly independent Federal Reserve chair acts like a partisan hack? Besides trying to orchestrate the heist of the century? (Krugman explains the ol' bait and switch)

UPDATE Damn, I never understood bonds. Can somebody besides alert reader CMike straighten me out on that part of this rant? I can't understand what he's saying either. Thanks!

Which Side Are You On? 

That's the chorus to a famous union song, as most of you probably know, but in case not, here are a couple of the verses from it:

They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there
You'll either be a union man
Or a thug for J.H. Blair

Oh, workers can you stand it?
Oh, tell me how you can
Will you be a lousy scab
Or will you be a man?

In my previous post, I made a plea for a more complex awareness of how individual Democratic office-holders can fail to come down on our side on a particular issue, but still retain their importance, and their integrity.

Ever the good liberal, I shall now take the other side of the argument. Well, not entirely. But in the next several weeks there are three issues surfacing in the Congress which represent acid tests for the Democratic Party: the Bankruptcy Bill, which is a horror for middle and working-class families, the backdoor-of-the-Budget ruse about to be used by Republicans to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to exploration for oil, and the re-submission by the President of candidates for the Federal bench already rejected by the Senate. Each of these has litmus potential. On each of these three issues, the Democrats sucessfully fought back, sometimes using the filibuster. But, like those slippery poltergiests, they're back.

Today, let's look at that confounded revision of our current bankruptcy laws. But, first, a look at what's at stake in terms of the political viability of the Democratic Party. Since I can't say it any better than this excellent discussion at "Liberal Oasis," please click on the link and read the post carefully. What I like about Bill's take here is its combination of a temperate tone in a discussion that doesn't hesitate to cut close to the bone. Helpfully, Bill's previous post deals with some of the same issues, but focused entirely on the question of the bankrupcy bill. Again, do yourself a favor, click here and read carefully.

When both The Nation and The New Republic call for Dems to go to the mat, you’d think they’d go to the mat.

But based on their past voting records, there aren’t nearly enough Dems in outright opposition to filibuster on the merits.
Does that enrage me? Damn right it does. But that said, we're stuck with the reality that neither the Green Party or any other third party is in a position to do a damn thing about stopping this thing, no matter the purity of their point of view on it. Bill provides a lot of links to the facts of the case, and the only viable option left open to us - get up of our asses and call, write, email the Democrats, and maybe even what few moderate Republicans remain and read them some form of the riot act.

Also helpful is this discussion in the excellent Progress Report of Feb 28th, also replete with links.

Most of you probably know who Dr. Elizabeth Warren is, currently the resident scholar on the role of bankruptcy in the lives of the majority of Americans. Here's a transcript of an interview that Bill Moyers did with Dr. Warren on Now that is highly informative and relevant to this discussion. (scroll down just a bit and you'll pick it up)

Political candidates take note — we're not making this up — there's an invisible crisis building out there. By the end of this decade, says a new book, nearly one of every seven families in America with children may have declared itself flat broke. This year alone, more people will end up bankrupt than will suffer a heart attack. And more people will file for bankruptcy than will graduate from college.

For desperate Americans, it's scary. Look what happened in the Washington, DC area this week when WKYS, a hip-hop/R&B radio station, ran a contest offering to pay the winners' overdue bills.

DJ: I'm just payin' bills! Throwing them all over the place.

MOYERS: More than 20-thousand people sent in their bills: mortgage, gas, tuition, child care bills. The station had to replace its fax machine three times to cope with the flood of paper.

DJ JEANNIE JONES: This contest proves that folks are still in a lot of pain. They're scraping up everything they have to survive day by day.

MOYERS: Even though unemployment figures improved slightly last month, 8.3 million Americans are still on the rolls, and many families today are just one lay-off away from economic collapse. That is not our opinion.

This is the book I mentioned, THE TWO INCOME-TRAP: WHY MIDDLE-CLASS MOTHERS AND FATHERS ARE GOING BROKE. Elizabeth Warren is one of the co-authors. She's a leading expert on bankruptcy, debt, and the middle class. Cited five years ago as one of the fifty most influential women lawyers in America, she teaches at Harvard Law School. Elizabeth Warren wrote this book with her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi.

Welcome to NOW.

You say in here that every 15 seconds some American is filing for bankruptcy?

WARREN: That's exactly right. That's 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. In fact, this year, more children will live through their parent's bankruptcy than will live through their parents' divorce.

MOYERS: Well, what are we to make of that?

WARREN: I think what we're to make of it is the middle class has been pushed right to the edge. They are on a cliff. And increasing numbers are falling off every single day. Families live in a much more dangerous economic world than they did a generation ago

They tried to deal with it by sending both mom and dad to work. You know, a generation ago, early 1970s, the median earning family had one person at work.

And today, just 30 years later, the median earning family has two people at work, and now here comes the zinger. Even though they're making 75 percent more money in inflation-adjusted dollars, because now they've got those two incomes, by the time they pay the mortgage payment, health insurance, a second car, because they're further out in the suburbs and mom needs to get to work, and pay for their pre-school and daycare, they actually have less money to spend than their one income parents had a generation ago.

And what we found was that well over 90 percent of the families who file for bankruptcy, when you look at the enduring criteria, are middle class families.

They're moms and dads who worked hard, played by the rules. They went to college. They bought a house. They had kids. And then they ended up in financial collapse.

Also, I need to make clear here bankruptcy's just a little piece of that iceberg. Not only will 1.6 million families file for bankruptcy this year, but in addition to that, we've got 9 million families who are in credit counseling already.

Okay, you may know most of that, or else are living it out yourself. But here's a bit I found especially interesting:

MOYERS: The popular notion is that families are spending too much, buying things they don't need. What did you find out?

WARREN: I thought I was gonna write a book about overspending. I thought this is it. I got it. This book is gonna be about too many trips to the mall, too many Game Boys, too many…

MOYERS: That's been done. AFFLUENZA. Remember that book? That…

WARREN: I do remember that book. Exactly. I thought, "This is the book I'm gonna write." I mean, I can't get a parking place at the mall. Right? That had to be the problem. So what we did is we got old, unpublished, government data. It turns out the government's been collecting this for a long time about how families actually spend their money.

And we look at mom, dad and two kids 30 years ago, and mom, dad and two kids today. And remember, today, they've got two incomes. You know what we discovered about… Let's start with clothing. How much more are they spending today on clothing than they spent a generation ago? All those designer clothes. All those $200 sneakers. You want to know the answer?

Twenty-two percent less than they spent a generation ago. Less. Okay, food. They're eating out today, right?


WARREN: Mom's not there in the household. She's not cooking those meals at home. So when you add up all that they're spending on food, all the designer water, all the fancy things they're buying, all the pre-prepared food, all the eating out, how much more is today's mom, dad and two kids spending on food than they spent a generation ago? Answer: 21 percent less.


WARREN: Appliances. Hey, they have microwaves, and nobody had a microwave a generation ago. They have espresso machines today, right? Fancy popcorn poppers. The answer is today's family is spending 44 percent less on appliances than they spent a generation ago.

MOYERS: So, where's the money going?

WARREN: It's going to the mortgage. It's going to the health insurance.

Daycare, childcare, nursery school. Something to take care of the little ones. And a second car, so that mom can get to work. Those four expenses have more than eaten up all of mom's income that she's brought into the game, and eroded what dad earned.

MOYERS: I want people to read the book, because they'll get the full answer to this. But give me a quick summary of why this has happened.

No, I'm not going to quote that part. Click on the link above and read the whole thing.

All I'll add is that much of what Warren has to say applies equally to working-class families who are less affluent but for whom being able to file bankruptcy can save all the years of investment they've made in owning a home, or a car, or a set of tools upon which employment itself often depends.

Some months later, David Brancaccio did another interview with Warrne that's also worth looking at, which you can find by clicking here.

Read, think, let us know what you're willing to do, or any thoughts on how to get others to do something. We don't have a lot of time on this one.

Henry David Thoreau Lives! 

The Associated Press notes that some religious folk take their peace and justice roles seriously:

A nun who spent the past 18 months in prison for defacing a missile site in a peace protest is scheduled to be released Friday, but she may face another confrontation with prosecutors for refusing to pay $3,000 in restitution.

Jackie Marie Hudson, 70, was convicted in April 2003 of obstructing national defense and damaging government property. She and two other nuns had poured blood on a Minuteman III silo in northern Colorado in October 2002, hit nearby railroad tracks with a hammer and then sat down to await arrest.

In a letter posted on a Web site devoted to nonviolence and religious activism, Hudson wrote that she refuses "to pay money to this morally bereft government which presently spends over one billion dollars a day to slaughter or in planning the slaughter of millions of innocent persons."

And she’s 70. I guess we can’t claim inaction because of advancing age any more. Of course, she doesn’t have family to support, job to go to, and so forth, but still… a fine role model.

Senator Byrd, National Embarrassment? 

Yesterday on Fox's "The Newhour with Brit Hume," one of the news items was the announcement that Senator Byrd, Democrat from West Virginia, in a speech delivered on the floor of the Senate, had compared the congressional Republicans to Adolph Hitler.

This incident is typical of what passes for news judgment at the Fair and Balanced Fox News Network. A discussion of what the Senator had said in full might have been a reasonable item to cover, although if Fox had chosen not to say anything about the speech, that would have been defensible. To pretend that the entirety of the news value of the speech lay in the supposed comparison that was featured, is not. However, it was perfectly predictable, as was the crescendo of scorn and derision that washed over a small subset of the words the Senator had actually spoken on the floor of the Senate.

So, let's look at a fair and balanced sampling of typical reactions to the mention of Hitler in a critique aimed at anything other than Nazi Germany.

At Obsidian Wings, Sebastian Holsclaw, under the title, "Speaking of the Judiciary," introduces three short paragraphs from Senator Byrd's speech thusly:
In the vein of hatred is a poison, Democratic Senator Byrd goes off the deep end:
And then offers this conclusion:
There has got to be some sort of irony god laughing when a former member of the Klan, who personally used the fillibuster to try to block the Civil Rights Act, is giving insulting lectures comparing his opponents to the Nazis for trying to limit fillibusters in a very specific case.
The post generates a large comments thread, well worth reading, in which Senator Byrd gets a lot of support, as well as attacks which continue and expand that of the original post: herewith a sampling of the latter:

As for Byrd, the only sign I can see that anyone, anywhere takes him seriously is that he continues to be reelected by his constituency. Anyone here going to stand up for Byrd?


If you can't find anything mildly humorous or even amusingly ironic about a former Klan kleagle warning about the perils of fascism, I suggest that perhaps baggage claim has misplaced your sense of humor.

Posted by: Slartibartfast | March 2, 2005 08:56 AM

A post that mocks hyperbolic language on a serious issue, while ignoring the issue -- trivial.

The issue? You mean that the Senate Democrats--who are facing virtual irrelevance if the nuclear option is invoked--have chosen to let a borderline senile fool with a checkered past and a tendency to stick his foot in his mouth be their most visible spokesperson in opposition to the plan that threatens them? This is like letting that nutty Republican Congressman who wants to nuke Syria have control of the Republican floor time for a debate about the defense budget. Good grief, you've got eloquent speakers on your side--Biden or Obama could easily go out there and make their point without sounding like a deranged escapee from a rest home. If this was my party being this ill-served by its elected representatives on an important issue, I'd be rather ticked off.

Of course, this is the age of Dean--perhaps Robert "KKK" Byrd is considered the kinder and gentler voice for the new order of the Democratic Party.

Posted by: M. Scott Eiland | March 2, 2005 01:07 PM

On the other hand, in the House, there is much less respect for seniority, which is why the Republicans can keep their crazies under wraps and why it was the House that moved to impeach Clinton and why it was the Republican leadership of the Senate that neutered that.

I'd say that the two-thirds requirement for removal did the neutering--there was a lot less incentive to vote for removal when the Democrats had decided en masse to play at being the O.J. jury.

Posted by: M. Scott Eiland | March 2, 2005 01:21 PM

The mouth of at least one Irony God must be twitching toward a smile at that comparison of the charges against President Clinton with those against O. J. Simpson, not to mention the assumption the O.J. jury made their judgment solely and brazenly on the basis of racial solidarity, without reference to facts or ideas, in other words, stupidly, which then becomes an implied aspect of their race.

But the critique isn't my focus. Senator Byrd's actual words is. Read the speech for yourself in this small, PDF file, which at five pages is completely manageable.

You'll note that Senator Byrd begins, brilliantly, with that 1939 Frank Capra, good governance is the highest patriotism, classic, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," and quotes from a "moving" 1942 review of the film from the Hollywood Reporter, cited by Capra himself in his autobiography.

Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, chosen by French Theaters as the final English language film to be shown before the recent Nazi-orderedcountrywide ban on American and British films went into effect, was roundly cheered...

Storms of spontaneous applause broke out at the sequence when, under the Abraham Lincoln monument in the Capital, the word, Liberty, appeared on the screen and the Stars and Stripes began fluttering over the head of the great Emancipator in the cause of liberty.

Similarly cheers and acclamation punctuated the famous speech of the young senator on man's rights and dignity. It was... as though the joys, suffering, love and hatred, the hopes and wishes of an entire people who value freedom above everything, found expression for the last time....

For those who may not have seen it, Mr. Smith is the fictional story of one young Senator's crusade against forces of corruption, and his lengthy filibuster for the values he holds dear.

My, how times have changed. These days Smith would be called an obstructionist. Rumor has it that there is a plot afoot in the Senate to curtail the right of extended debate in this hallowed chamber, not in accordance with its rules, mind you, but by fiat from theChair.

The so-called nuclear option purports to be directed solely at the Senate's advice and consent prerogatives regarding federal judges. But, the claim that no right exists to filibuster judges aims an arrow straight at the heart of the Senate's long tradition of unlimited debate.

Senator Byrd proceeds with a short constitutional history of the filibuster, including specific examples of its use at various junctures of our history.

Here's how the discussion of what happened in Germany in the early to mid-thirties is framed in the Senator's speech:

Free and open debate on the Senate floor ensures citizens a say in their government. The American people are heard, through their Senator, before their money is spent, before their civil liberties are curtailed, or before a judicial nominee is confirmed for a lifetime appointment. We are the guardians, the stewards, the protectors of our people. Our voices are their voices. If we restrain debate on judges today, what will be next: the rights of the elderly to receive social security; the rights of the handicapped to be treated fairly; the rights of the poor to obtain a decent education? Will all debate soon fall before majority rule?

edit (It should be noted that this excluded paragraph contains examples of conservatives issues to which a majority could give short shirft were the nuclear option to become settled practice.)

Many times in our history we have taken up arms to protect a minority against the tyrannical majority in other lands. We, unlike Nazi Germany or Mussolini's Italy, have never stopped being a nation of laws, not of men.

But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends.

Historian Alan Bullock writes that Hitler's dictatorship rested on the constitutional foundation of a single law, the Enabling Law. Hitler needed a two-thirds vote to pass that law, and he cajoled his opposition in the Reichstag to support it. Bullock writes that Hitler was prepared to promise anything to get his bill through, with the appearances of legality preserved intact. And he succeeded.

Shocking? No, I don't think so either. In fact, the Senator is not making a direct comparison between Republicans and "Nazis," he's focusing on Alan Bullock's historical perception that...
Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality; he recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side. Instead, he turned the law inside out and made illegality legal.
And here is how Senator Byrd finds that relevant to what is threatened by Senator Frist, for one, even in a country that views itself, rightly thus far, as being a nation of laws, not of men.
And that is what the nuclear option seeks to do to Rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate. It seeks to alter the rules by sidestepping the rules, thus making the impermissible the rule. Employing the nuclear option, engaging a pernicious, procedural maneuver to serve immediate partisan goals, risks violating our nation's core democratic values and poisoning the Senate's deliberative process.
Ask yourself, does that really sound like "a borderline senile fool with a checkered past and a tendency to stick his foot in his mouth?" No, I don't think so either. Which brings us to the question of whether or not it is possible to believe that the three critics quoted above could really have read the text of Senator Byrd's remarks before they made their comments. And that will leave open the question of whether or not it is more angering and depressing if they did, or if they didn't? We report, you decide.

What is inarguable, it seems to me, is that the approach of Byrd's critics is typical of the approach of our ruling party, from its propagandists who blog, right up to its very topmost reaches that control the Presidency and the Congress, and have a majority on the Supreme Court, to opinions that differ from their own. Mis-state, deride, mis-label, and accuse, the more outrageous the accusation, the better.

Senator Byrd offers another, more important lesson for those of us on the liberal, Democratic, left. He's recently become a hero to most of us, rightly so. But it is also true that he began as a defender of the racist South. And more recently, Senator Byrd took a singular, and I think wrong stance on an aspect of the events surrounding the impeachment of President Clinton. If you remember, he spoke out angrily, passionately, and as always, eloquently against what had happened after the articles of impeachment were voted out of the House, when almost the entire Democratic caucus in the House organized themselves to show their support for the President by going en masse to the White House to stand next to Clinton when he announced his intention to answer the charges against him.

Senator Byrd was appalled by what he saw as a spectacle. His response got immediate, intense, and approving coverage from the SCLM; they couldn't get enough of Senator Byrd spewing disgust at his fellow Democrats, and especially at President Clinton. Not only did I think that Senator Byrd was dead wrong, I could feel my ire rising everytime I saw him interviewed hither and non, which was often and regularly.

In fact, I thought it was one of Richard Gebhardt's finest moments. He understood that the entire series of moves toward impeachment, on the part of Republicans, was aimed primarily at getting Clinton to resign. That weekend after the actual impeachment was ratified by the House would be Clinton's most vulnerable moment. Gebhardt understood that the entire impeachment was an insult to the Constitution itself, and an attempt to turn the law and tradition inside out, which for him, and the rest of the House Democrats was more important than Clinton's personal fate.

Though it pained me that Senator Byrd didn't see it that way, and though I believed that he had injured the Democratic Party in interview after interview, I also believed that he would ultimately vote against impeachment, which he did, and I remembered the many times in the past that the Senator had been on the correct side, from my point of view, of difficult, controversial issues, like whether or not Clarence Thomas belonged on the Supreme Court. I remembered, in other words, that Senator Byrd is a complicated human being, who had not suddenly lost his mind, or suddenly become spineless. I remembered that he might well become a hero again, who I would be happy to have on my side again. I'm glad I did.

Speaking of B.S. 

I think the guy on this interview show is really full of it. What do you think?

(You'll need Windows Media Player to play this.)

UPDATE Okay, okay, if you can't listen to it, here's the webpage of the program involved.

On Bullshit 

Kevin Drumpoints to Harry Frankfurt's masterwork, with which I was unfamiliar.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Goodnight, moon 

Yes, I actually bought a copy of Dante's Inferno today (the Mandelbaum translation).

I need to figure out which circle of Hell to confine Allen Greenspan to, for taking trillions out of our paychecks since 1983, ostensibly for our own retirements, then trying the transfer those same trillions from us to the rich. Just because a heist takes 20 years to play out, doesn't make it any less of a heist.

Whack: Trudy Rubin's Willful Blindness 

Leah got me to read Trudy Rubin's Willful Blindness, and I think it's terrific. I'll have more to say as I work my way through it; for now, suffice to say that if you want a comprehensive look at the runup to the war, the war, and the war's aftermath, from someone with thirty year's experience in the Middle East, this is the book for you.

Here's some detail about what it means to be a reporter in Iraq:

I've always based my columns on reporting from the field, and this was especially important when writing about Iraq. ... One key to operating in Iraq is to have a translator and a driver whom you can trust, and who are street savvy and willing to risk working with the Americans, which can get them killed.

There is a constant risk of being kidnapped or shot by insurgents, and it is much more difficult to move about freely now than it was in 2003. There is also the random danger of being caught by a car bomb or roadside explosive or in a crossfire. I remember coming out of a quiet Internet café in Mosul and walking into a firefight between insurgents on an overpass and an American humvee.
(Appendix C)


1. We do tend to revile the SCLM—deservedly so (see, e.g., Leah, back).

But we need to remember there are individuals who are still doing great work. Trudy Rubin is one of them.

2. Being a real reporter—as opposed to a pundit or a media whore Paid Policy advocate—takes real courage; more courage than I have, certainly more courage than Jonah "White Feather" Goldberg has, and more courage than the 101st Fighting Keyboarders combined.

I mean, when I walk out of my Internet café, I don't place my life at risk; Trudy Rubin does, to cover the story.

More to come.

Senator Byrd utters the F-word 

And the Piranha brothers try to nail Byrd's head to the floor.

Anyhow, here's what Byrd said. It seems pretty innocuous to me. What are the Republicans so defensive about?

Sen. Robert Byrd on Tuesday compared Republican threats to change Senate rules to outlaw procedural hurdles that have blocked 10 of President Bush's judicial candidates to Hitler jamming legislation through the German Reichstag.

"Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality; he recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side," the Democrat from West Virginia said. "Instead, he turned the law inside out and made illegality legal."
(via Reuters)

Seems to me it's a simple issue of historical fact. Yes, the Nazis never did abandon the cloak of legality (at least until they came to power, and made Hitler's word law).

But, yeah, the comparison to Hitler is just as inexcusable as the Piranha Brothers say it is—because Bush has thrown aside even the cloak of legality. After all, Inerrant Boy's male enabler, Alberto Gonzales, has argued that Bush has the "inherent authority" (back) to set aside the law entirely.

So what's the big deal here? Byrd wasn't politically correct?

WPS in action! 

"Jeff Gannon" calls Helen Thomas a whore.

If that isn't WPS (Winger Projection Syndrome, back) then nothing is.

TCBH - issue #1 - March 2005 


issue number one now available. John McKay (current host, and founder, of The Carnival) has the lowdown on issue number 1's contents. I'm still reading the new contributions myself so I'll leave it at that for now.

You too can also contribute to future issues of The Carnival. See submission and participation guidelines at The Carnival of Bad History

Again, John McKay at archy has a brief summary of issue #1. Read all about it right here: Carnival of Bad History issue #1


Woo Woo! 

Hey, maybe today’s gonna be better. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a piece of good news. Maybe I can spare my liver and my living partners from another morose night of listening to the blues and playing along in between slashes of whiskey. Maybe tonight I can cuddle up with a mug of chamomile and a snoring dog and reflect on this, taking a drink not to forget but to remember that there’s still a way to make voices heard:

NORWICH, Vt. -- The resolution calling for the return of U.S. troops from Iraq was the 31st item on the town meeting agenda here in the white-walled gymnasium they use for square dances and thrift sales. After a day of balloting, it passed…

…Town Meeting Day, a New England tradition that dates to the 17th century, has been hailed as a paradigm of representative democracy. On Tuesday, voters in 56 Vermont towns, more than one-fifth of the state's 246 municipalities, became perhaps the first in the country to participate in a formal referendum on U.S. involvement in Iraq.

…By Tuesday evening -- it snowed all day long -- 39 of the towns had passed a version of a resolution that asked state legislators to study the local impact of National Guard deployments, the congressional delegation to reassert state authority over Guard units, and the federal government to bring U.S. troops home from the war.

I am, today, calling some of the local party folks to see if we can do something like this vote in Colorado or New Mexico. Non-binding, sure, but a powerful message to the chickenhawks, one might hope. There's still a little of the optimist in me, after all.

Larry David Finds His Inner "Nature Boy" 

If you haven't taken a look at "Campus Progress," the collegiate offshoot of The Center For American Progress, you should. Lots of good and interesting stuff there. Especially, an enticing essay by Larry David, about how he got religion, at least about the environment.

Before you take a look, though, refresh your memory from this Digby post about Tony Blankley's take on the meaning of the Larry David character Larry David plays in "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Unfortunately, the link to the actual LA Times op ed is no longer hot, but this quote Digby provides gives some indication of how utterly lame is the right wing ability to fathom anything that does not partake of its own propagandistic frame of mind. Now, I'm sure that Blankley laughs at "Curb Your Enthusiasm," it's a consistently, insanely funny show, but apparently he's never really understood what makes that "Larry David" so funny. Imagining that the real Larry David might be like the Larry David he plays in the series, Blankely imagines that Larry David is really his kind of guy. See what you think.
But if he is anything like his character, he is, at heart, a conservative: He refuses to put up with nonsense; he's remorselessly politically incorrect, and he is fundamentally sensible. If he'll just listen, I'll expose his mind to the sensible conservative explanations for the great issues of the day. He'll be my first convert deep in the belly of the liberal Hollywood beast.
That's almost as funny as anything on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," except Blankely has no idea why it's funny, as opposed to being the clever, witty riff he assumes it to be.

If you have any doubts about the fact that Larry David knows exactly what's funny about both Larry Davids, the character whose enthusiasm is always in the process of being curbed, and the writer/actor who created him, read the latter's essay at College Progress.

"Nature Boy" Larry David

By Larry David

I am pleased to announce that after a lifetime of indifference to man and nature, I have changed. I am now only indifferent to man. Yes, my friends, I’ve become “Nature Boy” Larry, committed activist. Fighting the good fight. Walking the walk . . . or is it talking the talk? I’m pretty sure it’s some combination of walking and talking.

How could such a transformation take place? How did I go from being Larry David, radical narcissist, to Larry David, radical environmentalist? Let me give you some background.

I grew up in Brooklyn. Of all the wonders and pleasures that Mother Earth has bestowed upon us, none of them could be found in Brooklyn. The only grass I ever saw was on the divider of the Belt Parkway. There were no flowers. Just artificial ones. Every apartment had artificial flowers. People took great pride in their artificial flowers—and fruit. Let’s not leave out the fruit. Anything fake. We loved good, fake things. The greatest compliment you could give somebody was to mistakenly pick up a piece of their artificial fruit and try to take a bite out of it. That made their day.

But I couldn’t smell a real flower anyway. I was born with the ability to smell only disgusting things. I never smell anything pleasant. Ever. You can shove a lilac up my nose, and I wouldn’t smell it, but urine and BO I can smell from three blocks away. And Brooklyn was not wanting for disgusting odors. Bus fumes, garbage, cigarette smoke. Everybody in Brooklyn smoked. Even nine-year-olds. You walk into someone’s house, you’re greeted with smoke in the face. The whole borough was hacking and coughing and spitting. There was phlegm everywhere. It was flying at you from every direction. Out of windows, cars. Anywhere you walked, you had to keep ducking so you wouldn’t get hit. It was like a shooting gallery.

And of course, needless to say, there were no animals in my life. My mother hated animals. All of them. If she had her way, she would kill every living animal on the planet. She looked at extinction as a good thing. When an animal was put on the endangered-species list, she went out and got drunk. “Let ‘em all die. Who needs ‘em? What good are they doing?”

There's a lot more, and it's all just as funny.

Tony Blankely, self-described "Radical narcissist." Works for me.

Nice to see Bush condemn the assassination of a Federal judge's family 

The details:

The mother and husband of a federal judge were brutally killed execution style, according to a newspaper report. The judge was once the target of a murder plot by a white nationalist, and postings praising the slayings on supremacist Web sites were accompanied by "RAHOWA!", meaning "racial holy war."

It appeared that Michael Lefkow, 64, remained alive briefly and tried to move, according to the report. The judge's mother, Donna Humphrey, 89, was apparently forced to the basement without the two walking canes she required to get around. Investigators also found a shoe print in blood, the sources said.
(via CBS)


Oh, wait...

A Federal judge's family gets assassinated, and Bush hasn't issued any kind of statement at all? No compassion for the survivors? No condemnation of the killers?

Why would that be, I wonder?

Lefkow has presided over a variety of cases since she was nominated to the District Court bench by President Clinton in 2000.

Oh, OK. She must have been on the White House blacklist for the ungodly. Or something.

Is The SCLM Even More Brazenly Rotten Than It Was? 

Call me naive, but is not this story something truly special in the annals of our broken free press?

A Boston Globe reporter posts numerous anti-Kerry screeds all over the blogisphere, and that's supposed to be all right?

Media Matters For America has the story. Read it with wonderment, and then weep, and then get good and mad, then use that anger to fuel taking some kind of positive action; here are three options: that damned, rotten, bankruptcy bill, or on Anwar, or in opposition to those re-submitted judges, (scroll down).

And speaking of Anwar, A.H at Althippo has posted a wonderful series on Anwar, complete with an inspiring picture of what we're in danger of losing. This is first-rate blogging, done with style and wit. You can start here, with some choice Hippo thoughts about Gale Norton., and then scroll upwards, or click here to go direct to the first Anwar post, complete with picture, then proceed to this related discussion, wherein The Hippo argues with The Moose, and beautifully quotes Teddy Roosevelt, and then to "The Elephants Of Anwar: An Introduction," and then, you know what, why don't you just keep scrolling upwards: The Hippo is well worth your attention, and not only about Anwar.

GET MAD AND GET EVEN! Keep reading blogs, and get inspired to do something.

How Is The US Economy Like Donald Trump? 

No, the question is not some variation of a bad hair, awful comb-over joke. On the other hand, remember when Trump's empire started to crumble, in the eighties, I believe, and the big banks who floated his various deals couldn't let him sink, because he owed them too much to let that happen, so they loaned him more money?

Is it possible that the ice the Bush administration has steered this economy onto is thinner than we think, and the only thing that is keeping us from cracking through to the icey water beneath is that we're so damn big that those rising economies in Asia still think they can afford to let us submerge ourselves without pulling them down, too. And at what point, do they say to themselves, oh hell, this behemoth is more trouble than it's worth?

You'll find some answers at Daily Kos in this fascinating post by "Bonddad" which is all about how Asian banks are preparing for a currency crises, and how, increasingly, our brutish indifference not merely to our own national solvency, but to how it affects international markets is causing these newer economies to dance on the head of a pin. Apparently, cute budgeting tricks like excluding the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan in the current budget doesn't fly as well overseas as it does with a lot of Americans.

Bush Administration: Color Them Opaque 

So much for government transparency. Yes, we know, 9/11 and all that. Still, isn't justifying this a reach?

Courtesy of MaxSpeak: The supersized economist with the elfin sense of humor juxtaposes two items; an online American Prospect expose of the strange activities of a Bush appointed Social Security Commissioner, who is moonlighting on behalf of a privatized SS, with how much it can cost to find out information about your tax dollars at work. Don't pass up the pdf file he's archived in which the government explains what will be the costs of an FOIA request by the AFL-CIO; you won't believe either the final tally, or the way it's arrived at. Wonder how much it cost to the taxpayers for the letter outlining the punitive price of information when sought by citizens about their own government, or put another way, when did 49 percent of the American electorate stop being of the people, by the people and for the people? Have we perished from this earth? Or is it that kind of government which has?

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Goodnight, moon 

Dunno if it's a downward spiral, but it's definitely a spiral.

I've been listening to The Clash a lot, lately, I can't imagine why. Very loud. Now that's a tight band!

If it quacks like a lame duck... 

Good news:

After a week sampling public sentiment, Republican congressional leaders stressed support Tuesday for President Bush's plans to remake Social Security but conceded final action may not be possible this year.
(via AP)

"Stressed support"... Why does this sound to me like the famous "vote of confidence" that a baseball owner gives a losing manager—just before giving him the ol' heave-ho?

Inerrant Boy won't listen, of course, which gives us all the more chance to hang the stinkin' corpse of Social Security privatization round his neck, and the necks as many Republicans as possible.

Hey, how's that 9-year-old doing? Rove pimped him on FUX yet?

Downward Spiral 

Riggsveda’s right. It’s been a depressing day. Time to crack the seal on a bottle. These broke the camel’s back for me:

Suspect in plot to kill Bush admits guilt

Wounds from torture said to be healing nicely.

Official: Pentagon must stop Iraq blasts

General sez DoD not trying hard enough to stop roadside bombers. Why are we there, again?

U.S. says Syria terrorists bombed Tel Aviv

So, it’s a wrap. Syria’s next.

Colin Powell: 'I'm very sore'

Wherein Powell defends iWaq and his role, but claims to be “sore” about having to appear before the UN.

AND bankruptcy caving by the Dems. Holy shit. I’m outta here. Tomorrow must be better.


What makes the "moderate," "centrist," [cough] "responsible" [for what, except sending their own party down the tubes] Dems think they can deal with the Republicans? Remember Max Cleland?

So what do the Beltway Dems do on the latest piece of Republican viciousness, the bankruptcy bill? (RDF) The bill that treats the credit card debt of a shopaholic and the hospital debt of someone with a catastrophic illness exactly the same? The one that makes people who live on a paycheck go the way of the buffalo?

They try to tinker round the edges! They try to make it little better!

But as they say in the Navy: You can't buff a turd!

Here's an idea! Instead of buffing the turd, why don't the Dems just say it's a turd? Why not oppose?

It's like the Dems are still trying to triangulate—but since the Republicans control all three points that make the triangle, their efforts are futile and ridiculous.

C'mon, Beltway Dems! Oppose! The truth will make you free!

Spinal Tap? 

The Associated Press tells us the bad news. The Dem spine is in meltdown again, as they cave to fatcats, credit card moguls and banks:

WASHINGTON - Senate Democrats on Tuesday offered a plan they said would shield military personnel from some proposed changes in bankruptcy laws that would make it harder to shed debts.

With supporters predicting victory soon after nearly eight years of congressional gridlock, the bill would raise the threshold for erasing credit card and other consumer debts in bankruptcy court by setting a new income test for applicants.

I'm sure they'll be raising the threshold for corporations to go bankrupt real soon, too. Not. Raise holy hell now, please, with your congresscritters. Shield ALL of us from these greedy bastards, not just military poor.

Corporations are doing to the working poor what was done to the buffalo (see farmer's excellent post below). And the Dems are caving on the last resort, bankruptcy. Fuckers. I wonder how many of them have had to go bankrupt behind a loss of job and no health insurance and so forth. If they let this one pass, I hope some find out. But, no--they have golden parachutes, I forgot.


Kill'em all, let the bone pickers sort 'em out 

"Maybe," he recalled, "we runners served our purpose in helping abolish the buffalo; maybe it was our ruthless harvesting of him which telescoped the control of the Indian by a decade or more. Or maybe I am just rationalizing. Maybe we were just a greedy lot who wanted to get ours, and to hell with posterity, the buffalo, or anyone else, just so we kept our scalps on and our money pouches filled. I think maybe that is the way it was."

RDF wrote:
So, he says then, what has to happen is, we gotta stop giving away our water to the Indian tribes. And the other fella said, there’s treaties that say it’s their water, not ours. And he said, but they’ve got plenty. ~ For full context see earlier post here: Pay it Forward (To Me)

What follows below might stand as a good analogy, reminder at least, of what passes today for a good deal of the grab and grub designs of the much ballyhooed social security privatization swindle being offered up by the Bush administration and its noisy panoply of toot-hill palace guard. Or even, in a larger panoramic sense, of the woosie salutaire fantastica that so often accompanies so much talk of unregulated laissez faire "free" market romanticism in general.

From The West; An Illustrated History, by Geoffrey C. Ward:

Frank Mayer and his competitors called themselves buffalo "runners," not hunters, but they avoided running - or even riding - after buffalo as much as possible. For efficiency's sake, the mounted chase had long since given way to a technique called "the stand." Mayer remembered:

The thing we had to have, we businessmen with rifles, was one-shot-kills. We based our success on...the overwhelming stupidity of the buffalo, unquestionably the stupidest game animal in the world...If you wounded the leader, didn't kill her outright, the rest of her herd, whether it was three or thirty, would gather around her and stupidly "mill"...[A]ll you had to do...was pick them off one by one, making sure you make a dropping kill at every shot, until you wiped out the entire herd...I once took 269 hides with 300 cartridges...

In the East, improved rifles were specially manufactured for the trade, capable of bringing down a buffalo at better than six hundred yards. It 'shoots today," one astonished bystander said, "and kills tomorrow." Individual hunters recorded kills of one hundred, then two hundred, from a single stand, pausing only to cool their overheated rifle barrels with canteens of water. When the water ran out, they urinated down the barrel and kept shooting. Orlando A. Bond, nicknamed "Brick" by his friends, killed 300 animals in a single day and 5,855 in one two-month outing, so many that he was permanently deafened by the sound of his own rifle.

Frank Mayer's favorite rifle, a Sharps, cost him $125, secondhand. It weighed twelve pounds, its barrel was nearly three feet long, and its telescopic sight was manufactured in Germany. "I was proud of that first Sharps of mine," he said. "It killed quicker...and it added 10 to 30 percent efficiency to my shooting." On a bet, he fired at a buffalo a half mile away with it, and when it dropped from the shot, won a three-gallon keg of "Three Roses" whiskey.

"Where there were myriads of buffalo the year before," the commander at Fort Dodge remembered, "there were now myriads of carcasses. The air was foul with a sickening stench, and the vast plain, which only a short twelve months before teemed with animal life, was a dead, solitary, putrid desert." The buffalo hunters themselves, working day after day with rotting flesh, were distinctly gamey. They "didn't wash," Teddy Blue Abbott remembered, "and looked like animals. They dressed in strong, heavy warm clothes and never changed them. You would see three or four of them walk up to a bar, reach down inside their clothes and see who could catch the first louse for the drinks. They were lousy and proud of it."

All across western Kansas, the slaughter went on - an estimated 1.5 to 3 million buffalo killed in a little over two years. Buffalo skeletons, bleached by the sun, soon covered the prairies - and started still more industries. Newly arrived homesteaders augmented their income by harvesting bones. Crews of professional "bone pickers" gathered the skeletons and brought them by wagon to railroad sidings. Buffalo horns were turned into buttons, combs, knife handles. Hooves became glue. Bones were ground into fertilizer. Thirty-two million pounds of buffalo meat made their way from the Plains to eastern factories in just three years.

Some Americans grew alarmed at the extent of the slaughter, and Congress passed a bill in 1874 making it illegal for anyone to kill more buffalo than could be used for food. But President Grant allowed the law to die without his signature. Meanwhile, hunters began to talk of moving south of Kansas, onto the hunting grounds reserved for the Indians. What would the government do if they shifted there? a delegation asked the commander at Fort Dodge.

"Boys," he answered, "if I were a buffalo hunter, I would hunt where the buffalo are."

They swarmed into the Texas panhandle to harvest the southern herd, where the Indians sensed, Frank Mayer remembered, "that we were taking away their birthright and that with every boom of a buffalo rifle their tenure on their homeland became weakened and that eventually they would have no homeland and no buffalo. So they did what you and I would do if our existence were jeopardized: they fought.... They fought by stealth. They fought openly. They murdered if they had the chance. They stole whenever they could." In the summer of 1874, the Kiowa, Comanche, Arapaho, and southern Cheyenne rose up and drove out the hunters - and any other whites they came across. In response, Sheridan ordered a massive campaign against them, deploying five columns of troops to pursue the Indians relentlessly, depriving them of rest, or the opportunity to hunt. By the next spring, virtually all of the resisting bands on the southern Plains - desperate now for food - had come in to the agencies.

The buffalo hunters went back to work until both the northern and the southern herds had all but disappeared. Then, "one by one," Frank Mayer recalled, "we runners put up our buffalo rifles, sold them, gave them away, or kept them for other hunting, and left the ranges. And there settled over them a vast quiet...The buffalo was gone." For his years as a buffalo runner, Frank Mayer had his wagon and outfit free and clear, and several thousand dollars in the bank. He left the Plains, married a girl in Denver, and took a job in the Rocky Mountains - hunting game to feed the miners of Leadville.

"Maybe," he recalled,

"we runners served our purpose in helping abolish the buffalo; maybe it was our ruthless harvesting of him which telescoped the control of the Indian by a decade or more. Or maybe I am just rationalizing. Maybe we were just a greedy lot who wanted to get ours, and to hell with posterity, the buffalo, or anyone else, just so we kept our scalps on and our money pouches filled. I think maybe that is the way it was."


Old Lady Horse remembered a story that circulated among her desperate people, the Kiowa:

The buffalo saw that their day was over. They could protect their people no longer. Sadly, the last remnant of the great herd gathered in council, and decided what they would do.

The Kiowas were camped on the north side of Mount Scott, those of them who were still free to camp. One young woman got up very early...and...peering through the haze, saw the last buffalo herd appear like in a spirit dream.

Straight to Mount Scott the leader of the herd walked. Behind him came the cows and their calves, and the few young males who had survived. As the woman watched, the face of the mountain opened. Inside Mount Scott the world was green and fresh, as it had been when she was a girl. The rivers ran clear, not red. The wild plums were in blossom, chasing the red buds up the inside slopes. Into this world of beauty the buffalo walked, never to be seen again.

I'm gonna go out on limb here and guess that "Old Lady Horse" probably wasn't properly familiarized with her Francois Quesnay or post Theory of Moral Sentiments style Adam Smithian hoo-hah or whatever economic mumbo-jumbo it is that usually gets all the laissez faireian moonshine runners all hot in the pocket. And I'll bet she wasn't much impressed with all them free-bootin' shoot-em' from the hip "businessmen with rifles", exercising their fundamental human nature by virtue of some theoretical higher natural law, or whatever cockamamie financial alchemy it is that the so called "libertarian" college boy wonder-doods is always pulling on their dorks about these days. I'm gonna guess that Old Lady Horse, and her Kiowa people, saw it all too for what it really was: a greedy lot out to get theirs. And to hell with posterity.


Judging Judges, Part One; 

Today, the US Supreme Court pulled the plug on the execution of teenagers.

Here's the shocker. The decision was only five to four.

Think about that for a moment. Can you guess who dissented? Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas, of course; the fourth? Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. I say "of course" to Scalia and Thomas, despite the fact that both can, on occasion, surprise one. But those are usually "free speech" cases. Rehnquist is also not entirely predictable. But when it comes to state control over the physical bodies of its citizens, all three are depressingly predictable. I wonder what part of "secure in their persons" they don't understand. Oh yes, the constitution does appear to explicitly allow the death penalty, as it does lopping off an arm or a leg as punishment, but would any Justice claim, were a state to start removing the hand or hands of a thief that it was not a punishment both cruel and unusual? As to Justice O'Connor? Can't figure out how anyone who has raised children would think it okay to execute someone who'd committed however terrible a crime at the age of sixteen or seventeen.

Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion which makes it unconstitutional to execute anyone whose crime was committed before they were eighteen. The Court had previously made it unconstitutional to execute anyone whose crime was committed at fifteen or younger. The decision affects 19 states where it is legal to execute someone for a crime committed when they were under the age at which they can legally vote, buy a pack of cigarettes or have an alcoholic drink; there are seventy of such master criminals on death rows in those states. From Reuters:

"The U was the only country openly admitting and claiming for itself the right to do this. So the fact that the U.S. has now ended it by this ruling really is a huge step toward global abolition for the death penalty for children," said Amnesty International researcher Rob Freer in London.

He said the United States had carried out 19 of the 39 executions of child offenders that Amnesty has recorded world wide since 1990.

The other countries that carried out such executions were Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of Congo. But Freer said even those countries now consider the practice illegal, although they have not all succeeded in halting it.

Using the death penalty against offenders who were under 18 when they committed a crime is explicitly banned by the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by 192 countries -- every country in the world except the United States and Somalia.

"But Somalia has no recognized government. The United States certainly has a recognized government," Freer said.

"It's one of the clearest principles around, which is why it is so shocking that the U.S. has until this time refused to do it," he added.

Thirty eight U.S. states and the federal government have the death penalty, of which 19 and the federal government have an age minimum of 18 for capital punishment, the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment, said.

It said the other 19 states allow the death penalty for juvenile offenders, with five states setting age 17 as the minimum and with 14 states using age 16 as the minimum. In 1988, the Supreme Court barred the death penalty for those 15 or younger at the time of their crime.

The group said 22 inmates have been executed for murders committed at ages 16 or 17 since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. These executions make up about 2 percent of the total number of executions.

The justices agreed to revisit the juvenile death penalty after the Missouri Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional.

You can read the minimal gist of both the majority and minority opinions here.

I wonder if President Bush is pleased? He should be. If he wants to lead a world wide campaign on behalf of human rights, he should be, because democracy, liberty, and freedom are nowhere more absent around the world than among its children. But then, President Bush isn't really talking about human rights. That would mean recognizing, even just rhetorically, that an international movement on behalf of human rights movement existed well before President Bush's ideas on the subject were born in the molten horror of 9/11. (more on this in a subsequent post)

Take the time to read those little snippets of the dissenting opinion linked to above; they'll tell you a lot about the inability of a certain judicial cast of conservative mind to think in terms of broad principles. I know that is suppose to be their strong suit. I would argue otherwise. For them, to acknowledge that we know enough about human psychology to know that sixteen and seventeen year old kids still have minds that operate differently from those of adults is not enough upon which to stand on principle, they still want juries and judges to have the right to decide if any particular sixteen or seventeen year old might not qualify as sufficiently vicious and/or adult to be sentenced to death.

It's significant that Amnesty refers to the affected defendants as "children." That will undoubtedly give ammunition to those on the right who will rail against activist judges. That's why I used the word "teens." They'll still rail, I know, and teens are part of the larger category of "children," so don't take this as a criticism of Amnesty or any other human rights workers. I just think we're better off, as citizen advocates, trying to speak a language that doesn't provide as many easy bullseyes for those who are making those counter arguments, often to the same set of other citizens that we hope to influence. And this post is the first in what I hope will be a series devoted to developing a way to talk about judges, courts, and judicial appointments that begins to take back more of the argument for our side.

It's not as if we have all that much time. Coming up fast - the first of those re-submitted judicial candidates that the Democrats successfully filibustered. And he's a pip, a veritable Platonic ideal of someone unfit for a federal appellate appointment.

Meet William J Myers. In Salon, where you will learn of the intense and expensive campaign planned by industrial and business interests on behalf of Mr. Myers, who used to lobby on behalf of industrial and business interests, and against advocates of the environment. (Mr. Myers appears to have never met an environment that couldn't be improved by the addition of a little industrial something here and there): In The Progress Report from CAP: (scroll down)

The Senate is scheduled tomorrow to hold a hearing on the nomination of "anti-environmental activist" William G. Myers III to a seat on the 9th Circuit of the federal judiciary. Conservatives are calling efforts to block this nomination "obstructionist." In reality, Myers is an unqualified choice with a long record of hostility toward environmental protections. Myers has drawn opposition from nearly every corner; last year his nomination was blocked after 180 different groups – civil rights, labor, Native American and virtually every environmental organization across the board – came out against his appointment. Here's a look at the Myers activist record:

THE HOSTILE ACTIVIST: Myers has made numerous public statements regarding his philosophy on the federal government's role in protecting the environment. He also attacked the 1994 California Desert Protection Act, which set aside land for two national parks and protected millions of acres of wilderness, as "an example of legislative hubris." In 1996, he also charged that federal management of public lands was comparable with "'the tyrannical actions of King George in levying taxes' on American colonists." He has said there's "no constitutional basis" to protect wetlands. He also railed that "environmentalists are mountain biking to the courthouse as never before, bent on stopping human activity whenever it may promote health, safety and welfare." The cases he was talking about "involved logging on national forests, racial discrimination in the placement of waste treatment plants and protection of irrigation canals from toxic chemicals."

Note that here's a potential appellate judge who doesn't even believe that legislatures have the right to legislate on behalf of the American polity when a tiny sub-section of that polity decides they'd like to do something like deposit industrial waste in the mighty Hudson, which turned out not to be all that mighty, you may remember.

As always, you'll find lots more links there. And for a great analysis of Mr. Myers burnished credentials, you can't do better than this Grist profile from last year, when Myers' first nomination came up, by Amanda Griscom.

Read, think, prepare for action. Bush's assault on the Federal Judiciary is more wide-spread and profound than anything FDR ever dreamed about. So come back again, and let's start the dialogue about how to talk about judging judges.

Next installment: let's talk about the Bork nomination; have liberals forgotten we won that one, or have they been beaten into submission by the SCLM and accepted the ridiculous idea that winning on Bork was somehow an embarrassment?

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