Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Media dystopia

Big media dysfunction in microcosm...

Dwelling on inconsequentialities such as the little witticisms of a confirmation hearing is no accident. It's how the media avoids taxing its middle-schoolish audience with philosophical conversations about the substance of liberty under law. (Snooze!)

Once CNN is on an inconsequentiality, however, they bring to bear the serious principles of balanced journalism. Lest anyone carp from among the perennial right-wing whiners, CNN offers equal emphasis:

If confirmed, Elena Kagan may or may not turn out to be that intellectual counterweight to conservatives Justice Antonin Scalia or Chief Justice John Roberts.
Except of course that the supposed intellectual depth of conservative ideologues is axiomatic!

CNN can't even omit balance on the mere possession of a sense of humor - can't leave the wingnuts thinking the reporter thinks that being funny is a liberal trait.

To be fair, the members of the court usually labeled liberal - Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, and the retired John Paul Stevens - all display great legal minds but not much sharp-edged humor or the willingness to engage in spirited debate for which Kagan is known. Justice Stephen Breyer is equally smart and he too shares a sense of humor, but that tends to fall on the quirky, self-deprecating side.

On the conservative side, friends of Justice Clarence Thomas - who almost never speaks at arguments - note he has a great wit and a hearty laugh. Colleagues call him the funniest justice you never hear about.

If Robin Williams, referring to the Nazis, asked a German, "Did you ever think maybe you killed all the funny people?", CNN would be obliged to find, yah, haha, a stormtrooper who side-lined in stand-up. You vill laff, and you vill like it!

Meanwhile, they know they have to make excuses for the other empty seat on the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas. His tiny contributions bear out the claims of those who opposed his confirmation. He's a reliable right-wing vote, never mind how great his anonymous friends claim he might be. Is that funny-ha-ha or funny-strange? Maybe funny-uh-oh...

When finally, Bob Mears of CNN makes a brief digression into substance, it's to report about a question from Charles Grassley (R-grasping at cornstalks):

Grassley had asked the nominee about a paper she wrote as a college student that took a critical look at how judges decide cases.

"Is it appropriate for judges to mold and steer the law?" Grassley asked.

Questions about an undergraduate term paper! Can high school be far behind? How about kindergarten? "Ms. Kagan, I am reliably informed that at age five you called a prominent conservative classmate a poopy-head. When did you stop being a red-diaper baby?"

Of course, no CNN reporter will ever observe that some of Kagan's friends say that it's total bullshit to datamine 30-year-old papers written by a 20-year-old for reasons to vote against confirmation of a judge. That would be unbalanced!

Our big media, even more full of shit than the people they cover.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Land of opportunity

Click image for full Matt Bors cartoon.

Gotta be me

Click image for full David Horsey/Seattle Post-Intelligencer cartoon.

Quiet, you pissant

Click image for full August J. Pollak cartoon.

How bigotry works

The Tennessee Highway Patrol raided a cockfight in rural southeast Tennessee. Naturally, the AP doesn't say where in Polk Co., but one look at Benton, TN, the tiny town listed in the dateline, tells me that AP doesn't have a stringer there:

This is really a dog bites man story - happens about once a year. In fact, googling cockfighting benton tennessee shows some signs that this ho-hum news has taken at least a month to travel the 70 miles to Knoxville.

This story is only worthy of comment because of the reflexive bigotry it elicits from at least one commenter on Knoxnews:

Surprised there were no illegal immigrants retained in custody. --ccjs (June 27, 2010 11:24 a.m.)
Yes, many of the Latin American illegals come from cultures that still permit cockfighting, but that may be one thing that makes them feel right at home in East Tennessee. Thirty years ago, I worked for a guy who spent every weekend fighting his "chickens." Word was that he had good sources in local law enforcement, so that he never showed up to a cockpit carrying his stake and his roosters if it was going to be raided.

Good old white boy crime is normal, doesn't call for comment. Brown, broken-English crime, though, that's different!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Look no further for fascism

It's pretty clear that the local authorities in Louisiana are in bed with BP. The federal government should be there enforcing the U.S. Constitution. At gun point, if it's necessary to arrest some of the LEOs for civil rights violations.

Major Malcolm Wolfe of the sheriff's office [of Terrebonne Parish] says the deputy's pulling someone over in his official vehicle while working for a private company is standard and acceptable practice, because Wheelan was acting suspicious and could have been a terrorist.
Update (7/5): I can understand why the local authorities could be bought and paid for many times over by BP, but I don't understand how the Obama administration can find any reason whatsoever to be seen working fist in glove with BP.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Living through it

Click image for full Pat Bagley/Salt Lake Tribune cartoon.

Better living through Internet

The big media whines incessantly about the perils and depredations of the Internet. Even so, they know they have to publish here, and they bring their art departments - if they still have them - to bear to give us traditional newspaper graphics.

Oh, sure, the New York Times pastes up some cool interactive widgets. Many of them go beyond eye candy and are actually informative. They are also well beyond the budgets of ordinary papers.

There are thousands of stories that will never contend for a Pulitzer, for which the Internet provides freely available tools to make those stories better. Any story about a particular place can put the reader there much more effectively with a clip or a link to Google Maps or Microsoft Bing or one of the other mapping sites. Sure, it might be better to send a news photographer out, but that's too heavyweight and expensive for bread and butter stories that fill out a paper.

Here's a pedestrian story about real estate and eminent domain that shrieks for illustration. In five minutes of googling, I found the Newton Assessor's database and this aerial view with approximate bounds shown:

Google Maps gives a better image, sans plot plan, here.

Imagine what I might find if I were a professional journalist! (Yes, I know there are savvy people who are professional journalists. I even know a few. I just don't get why more of their savvy doesn't find the page.)

Sorry, my wallet's in my banker's pants

Scott Brown picks a side. Guess what, he's not your side. Big surprise there!

Because the discipline of the market would have inflicted a world-wide depression, we bailed out the banks and hedge funds, saving them from their own misbehavior. It's only fair that they ante up to pay the bill.

But Brown is a Republican, which means that tax is a dirtier word than cocksucker. Saying it would get him thrown out of the game faster than Crash Davis.

On the other side, Barney Frank:

“It’s a fairly small amount, it’s only for five years,” Frank said. “And it’s probably smaller than their bonus pool for their top executives.”
Yet the teabaggers froth at the mouth about Democrats. Probably because we aren't afraid to say cocksucker figuratively.

FDR, by way of the estimable Digby, gets the last word:
We need enthusiasm, imagination and the ability to face facts, even unpleasant ones, bravely. We need to correct, by drastic means if necessary, the faults in our economic system from which we now suffer.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Copping a drill

Click image for full Pat Bagley/Salt Lake Tribune cartoon.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Still slinging it

McChrystal, fired for insubordinately trying to make his biggest boss look bad, again tries to make President Obama look bad.

Good riddance! Take your fired ass back wherever you'd like to retire.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

More Truman, less Coolidge

McChrystal fired. No "Heckuva job, Stanley." Accountability is a good thing in all administrations.

President Obama just broadened his range. I'd like to see him apply a little more authority to the Gulf - and then to the backside of the always recalcitrant Republicans.

Mr. Reagan, tear down this economy

When I said a couple of weeks ago that there was nothing Republicans wouldn't screw up for sake of private profit, I had no idea it would be so graphically illustrated so soon. Here's one of the graphs - on income inequality:

No one should be surprised by this. It is intentional Republican policy to make rich people richer.

Ronald Reagan made people feel better as a sop for not making them better off. Just say no.

(h/t Susan Gardner on DailyKos)

Straight from the horse's ass

Orrin Hatch sent me a letter on behalf of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). Here's why they want my help:

[The Democrats] oppose all the values and principles you and I share.
I've said many times that Republicans are against the Constitution and the rule of law. I just never thought they'd come right out and say it. And it's flabbergasting that they have finally admitted that they are opposed to women's rights, minority rights, and equality under law irrespective of social class.

What are these radical Republicans running against? Hollywood, labor, environmentalists, and peace activists! Sure, they throw in some derogatory modifiers, but that's their plan:
  • Fascist realist art
  • Corporate dominance
  • Even more ill-advised deregulation
  • War
They are running in favor of:
  • Permanent tax cuts that favor the rich
  • Anything "tough"
  • Ben Tre reform of Social Security and Medicare
Here's part of the NRSC survey:

The highlighted Republican take on the Democratic platform is mostly a tissue of lies.
  • The tax "increase" is allowing the awful Duhbya tax cuts to expire, and the GOP exaggerates the amount because the Dems will keep part those cuts.
  • Cutting the defense budget has to happen at the end of the wars (though I will concede there is some accuracy to this one item).
  • Gay marriage only undermines heterosexual marriage in the fever swamp of the homophobic imagination.
  • Republicans are completely untrustworthy on Social Security. They want to destroy it as a social insurance program and give its revenues to Wall St. They also provide no plan to fill the revenue gap for those who are already receiving payments.
  • It's Republicans who are blocking U.S. energy independence. Democrats are blocking U.S. oil-ocracy.
  • UN control of the war on terrorism? Where do they even get this stuff? Answer: They make shit up to keep their choleric base frothing at the mouth.
Ironically, the letter - which the GOP has cannily kept hidden - accuses the Democrats of dishonesty! Par for the course...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

McChrystal's gambit

You're running a war. It isn't going well. Your troops are trapped in swirling dust populated by hostile Pashtuns around Kandahar. When the local Taliban need to, they can slip easily across the border into the safety of Pakistan.

Worst, you've agreed to a deadline, you've stated in public that you'll be finished with counter-insurgency by summer 2011.

What do you do?

You either need to be fired, in which case it will be President Obama's fault for nicking the indispensable man (heh) on the threshold of success. Or you need to paint the President and other civilian authorities into a corner so that they'll have to acquiesce to grinding more meat in Afghanistan. You care about your place in history and even project it on your government:

“[Ambassador Karl Eikenberry]’s one that covers his flanks for the history books,” General McChrystal is quoted as saying. “Now, if we fail, they can say, ‘I told you so.’ ”
You think Obama can't afford to be a firm manager of the military in the run-up to the difficult 2010 midterms. So you thumb your nose and dare him to fire you.

It's time to reassert civilian control of the military.

Update (6/25): Chan Lowe sees McChrystal's escape too.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Summer of self-reliance

Click image for full Clay Bennett/Chattanooga Times Free Press cartoon.

Leaves less for them

Click image for full Jim Morin/Miami Herald cartoon.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Stopwatch for Democrats

If Duhbya had spent less than an hour in Ohio, the big media would have congratulated him on his punctuality, assuming - and it's a big assumption - that they even noticed the time.

Total war

There is no blow too low for a South Carolina Republican when an election is at stake. Really, it was only a matter of time before the fundies there would attack the religious sincerity of Nimrata "Nikki" Haley.

These politicos are thoroughly tribal. They're not allowed to attack her off-white color any more even in the state that originated the great treason of 1861. She is a convert to Christianity, too conveniently they think, but they know that she's still the other.

It's almost enough to make me root for a wingnut libertarian. Well, maybe not almost - but as close as I get.


With Rand Paul, caveat emptor is not merely an empty phrase. He lives it personally.

Paul's only certification was provided instead by something called the National Board of Ophthalmology, which is very convenient because he operates that organization himself.
If you believe the libertarian bullshit he peddles, he might be able to dig up the title to that bridge he's trying to sell.

Joe Conason nails it:
Libertarian ideology rejects most of the modern regulatory systems that protect consumers, because everyone should be responsible for determining whether the hamburger contains E. coli on his own.
Among other odd beliefs they hide, libertarians such as Paul believe they have every right to lie to you as long as they don't commit the lie inside a contract.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Which side are you on?

Republicans are for the corporation:

"It is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case a $20 billion shakedown."
These so-called conservatives don't give a shit about the damage BP did and is still doing.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Big media blows dead yaks

It is truly incredible how duplicitous big media is with the statements of politicians:

Mondale and Kerry made this list for accurate statements. Reagan, Bush and Bush don’t appear, despite some famous groaners. In fairness, you can’t entirely blame the editors; their recollections faithfully track the culture of the insider press corps over the past forty years. All too often, groaning misstatements by Major Republicans have been ignored, fudged and wished away, eventually lost to history. Accurate statements by major Democrats have been turned into major scandals which linger in insider memory. Outlook is simply recording the era as it actually has unspooled. But during this era, the culture of the insider press has often turned truth on its head.
Democrats get pilloried for telling the truth. Republican skate despite obvious bullshit.

This is the reason our culture is in existential peril. Al Qaeda is the least of it. We don't care what's true any more, only what the conventional wisdom is - no matter how far nor how obviously it departs from reality.

The Daily Howler still got game! After all this time, Bob Somerby is a blogging stud!


Carly Fiorina (R-tonsure) went catty on Barbara Boxer's hair style? When Carly herself wears a nun-boy? And she - I mean, her "friend", whom she was merely quoting - thinks her style is au courant?

Okaaay. We're in middle school...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Joke's on me

Click image for full Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau.


Click image for full Jim Morin/Miami Herald cartoon.

National self-interest

Immigration policy is a minefield of conflicting interests.

Corporations want cheap labor to exploit and to keep citizen labor costs down. Citizens would of course prefer to make better salaries with less competition.

Elites want inexpensive landscapers and house-cleaners. Native born workers need jobs too, especially when unemployment is nearly 10%.

We all want someone to help pay our Social Security, but that assumes illegal immigrants are not being paid under the table. Of course, when I say all of us, I should exclude the open racists who don't want Hispanic immigration because the immigrants are brown.

No one wants the crime of immigrant communities who can't report their criminal elements to the police, though it's not clear that illegal immigrants in general have a higher crime rate than good ol' natural born Murkins. No one wants immigrants to drain welfare funding (well, hardly anyone).

Mostly, immigration policy should be framed, not in moral terms, but in terms of national self-interest. What immigration policy best serves Americans? We clearly both gain and lose by immigration. How do we make our society better by adding new people from outside?

In the case of Eric Balderas, it's hard to see how our national interest would be served by deporting a college kid made good. Especially since he'd be eligible for a student visa in any case...


Exactly where a news story happened is often important. The Arkansas flash flood deaths occurred here. You can see how the hilly terrain could concentrate run-off into a flash flood.

Yet big media seldom pins down location. I don't understand why not. The tools are readily available on the Internet. During the Tennessee floods, I was able to locate the site of a photo in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, which told me how far the flood was out of its banks - a couple of hundred yards - which might be an important fact needed to understand the story.

There's also the back story of Albert Pike, a relatively minor Confederate general. Most non-Southerners would be amazed how many federal government sites in the South are named for Confederates.

Syncronicity: I happened to learn who Albert Pike was because the second National Treasure movie was on in my house, and it mentioned him. Yep, besides being a Confederate, he was a Freemason. Ooooweeooo.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

If other people can say "What Digby said"...

... so can I:

"Deficit reduction" doesn't mean deficit reduction. It means welfare state reduction, period. Military spending is sacred --- like the right to pack heat in church and gas guzzling. It is non-negotiable.
Update (6/18): Yet again, deficit hawks on anything that doesn't benefit their wealthy corporate sponsors...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Of by for

The most incredible thing about John Boehner (R-BP) and the Chamber of Commerce is how openly they side with corporations against the interests of the people. I guess it's the Chamber's job, but Boehner is elected by actual voters.

Then again, they believe in managing incentives so that they get all of them, and there haven't been many consequences at all for corporatists. The media doesn't enforce any, and many Americans are so captive of the pro-corporate narrative that often the voters don't enforce anything.

A good politician could make Republicans pay for their lazy inability to hide their true allegiance.

Update (6/13): Looks as though Boehner wants to walk this one waaay back. Even a corporate hack like him can see the danger of shilling so boldly for BP.

Right to swing your colon

Well, your cow's colon...

I don't worry about the gentle wafting odor of cow shit teasing the scent receptors of my nose, but once your cow's shit starts damaging the commonweal, then you've reached the limit of your freedom and slugged in the nose in a way that matter. You have to clean up, even if you're a walking talking anachronism that romantics who once saw "Witness" fantasize about - just as long as they don't have to give up their cell phones.

The point is that you cannot opt out of society as long as you're interacting with it. All the non-Amish conservatives who plead just to be left alone often want to take what's offered (public roads, schools, criminal justice, a clean environment, common defense, an economy that doesn't crash and burn to the ground every ten years) just as long as they don't have to pay any part of anything they don't use directly.

You can fairly argue about where to draw the line for public actions and the taxes to pay for them. But the radical libertarian position of the likes of Rand Paul is anti-social selfishness, and contrary to Ayn Rand and Gordon Gecko, it doesn't work.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pluck BP

Click image for full Tim Eagan/Press Democrat cartoon.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Nothing the GOP won't screw up for profit

The Gas and Oil Party of two oilmen, Duhbya Bush and Darth Cheney, allowed offshore oil spills to quadruple. You'd expect them to allow child poverty to get worse. Daddy Bush presided over the previous peak of child poverty, and everyone knows they don't give a shit about that. But they let the oil industry get worse too.

Because it's all about the money.

Note: Yeah, I started my day at 5:00 a.m. in a hotel that provided a free copy of McPaper. But vacation's over after a couple of long plane rides, and I'll be back to my usual haunts as soon as time permits at work.

Sample bias

USA Today reports empathy on decline in college students and waxes Chicken-Littlish about technology. My reading of news comment threads tells me that Claire Raines, at the bottom of the story, is right:

Raines says that empathy is declining in all generations...
Traditional liberals are empathetic (by which I mean New Dealers, not the imaginary rugged individualists that excuse-making posers such as Jonah Goldberg call "classical liberals"). Ted Kennedy was empathetic. Neo-liberals are technically and analytically sure that activism from government makes society better - so long as government is not too too active, but they're not strong on empathy. John Kerry...

Reconciling these two threads of liberalism is an important political problem for the coalition of the left of center.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Austerity is just around the corner

Contracting our economy away from prosperity is what the teabaggers want. They'd rather have more of a shrinking pie than to have ... more.

Now international economists are joining them in opposition to economic stimulus:

[T]he conventional wisdom now is that these countries must nonetheless cut — not because the markets are currently demanding it, not because it will make any noticeable difference to their long-run fiscal prospects, but because we think that the markets might demand it (even though they shouldn’t) sometime in the future.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Shooting fish in a bbl

Click image for full John Branch/San Antonio Express-News cartoon.

Some are gone, and some remain

Memo to John Boehner (R-Sinatra):

Conservatives fought rock and roll. They lost.

The Beatles may or may not have been bigger than god, but Sir Paul towers over the pipsqueak likes of you. Deal with it.

By the way, do you really think it's smart to tie yourself and your wretched party back to the hopeless legacy of Duhbya?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Light posting for the next week

Having finally reached the pinnacle of writing the number 1 political blog in Massachusetts, I'm going on vacation. It's great to have recognition, but I have to wonder whether my rank this week came straight out of a random number generator.

Maybe I'll drop by here while on vacation. I do have a couple of ideas simmering, and I'm taking the laptop. But maybe I won't. So don't be surprised if your vast and prolific (hint, hint) comments don't get moderated right away.

Nothing to say

The Gores are separating. Anything I might say about that fact would say more about me than about them.

The media ought to consider what they reveal about themselves before they post any further breathless gossipy adolescent maunderings that pretend to be meditations.