Monday, April 30, 2012

Two to tango?

No, in fact, gridlock and extremism are not bipartisan problems in search of bipartisan solutions.

Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

“Both sides do it” or “There is plenty of blame to go around” are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization. Many self-styled bipartisan groups, in their search for common ground, propose solutions that move both sides to the center, a strategy that is simply untenable when one side is so far out of reach.

It is clear that the center of gravity in the Republican Party has shifted sharply to the right. Its once-legendary moderate and center-right legislators in the House and the Senate — think Bob Michel, Mickey Edwards, John Danforth, Chuck Hagel — are virtually extinct.
I've been saying this for years. It's no more true now that the Washington establishment is finally getting its head out of its ass. But it's very welcome nonetheless.

The 27%

I was watching the History Channel the other night and learned that the Nazis only won 37% of the vote in the 1932 election. From that beachhead in the electorate, they used violence, suppression, and mass media to completely co-opt and dominate what had previously been a civilized nation.

American has its 27-percenters. My point is not that they're Nazis - they aren't - but that leverage on power, even in a democracy, frequently does not require a majority. Look at the Teapublican willingness to drive Congressional agendas, without regard for compromise, by abusing the filibuster. It was intended as a rare power; the GOP uses is now as a minimum required supermajority.

On this day 67 years ago, Adolf Hitler killed himself rather than face an accounting at Nuremberg for his brutal crimes against humanity. Coward.

But Hitler's death is still cause for celebration, even if I wish an American dogface had double-tapped him.

Bullshitting for a living

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

Life terms

The New York Times has long been arrogant. (Wingnuts and I can agree on that.) If you've ever seen executive editor (now emeritus) Bill Keller interviewed, you know he's completely buried in a Timesman's self-importance. The scenes in The Paper where Michael Keaton's tabloid editor interacts with Spalding Gray's thinly disguised Times editor don't seem exaggerated at all.

The Times has long had a reputation as slow to pay stringers, assuming it doesn't merely assign a staff reporter to your story idea for the price of an insincere thank you. This is a paper that has persistently tried to screw its freelancers out of any share whatsoever of the digital rights to their work.

Still, the Times is the best news provider in America, and it's incumbent on me to read it to stay well-informed. I'll still notice the bullshit that Keller would defend to hair-splitting lawyerly exhaustion - say, Judith Miller on Iraq or Jeff Gerth on Whitewater. Even though the brand is more important to management than the truth, the Times still does reporting and finds the truth often enough to be worth reading - assuming you keep your bullshit detector tuned up.

The new attempt to erect a paywall has been a challenge for me. At first, I had enough computers and enough browsers to read all I wanted, but that window is closing. I've long argued - following many others - that subscribers never paid for the news, they only paid for the newsprint, why should we now pay for pixels? Our subscription fees used to pay for printing and distribution costs alone, and those costs on line are drastically smaller now than they were in the dead tree era.

Yet just as the media need to change their business model, I probably need to change my expectations. Ad revenue, the traditional honey pot of journalism, has shrunk due to the Internet. Keller may think blogs are the problem. Instead, print media companies have utterly failed to notice that their competitive advantage is not opinion - blogs do that free and often without the strange taboos and Village fealties of mainstream outlets - but rather factual news reporting. Those of us who want facts, not the latest bullshit from seldom-right but often right-wing pundits, will just have to buy them. God knows the advertisers have no interest in any truth that might possibly inconvenience them in selling their wares.

Facts are hard. Facts take work to unearth. Facts are worth paying for. Opinions? Shit, I've got way too many of my own to need to pay for anyone's. Except for Paul Krugman's.

All in all, the Times has a quality product, and that justifies some of their arrogance.

But the terms of their agreement are onerous and one-sided:

The New York Times reserves the right to modify the content, type and availability of any digital product at any time.
Only one person may use each account or accounts (user name and password) associated with a purchased product, unless we agree otherwise.
There's an adjustment to a new age! No leaving your iPad on the coffee table as if it were a paper edition.

The Times won't even tell you the price up front. You have to start ordering before you can be sure what it costs:
When you purchase a digital product, the price will be made clear during the order process. You agree to pay the price that is stated at the time of your order, as well as any applicable taxes. You also agree to the billing frequency stated at the time of your order.
Your subscription is permanent:
All NYTimes digital subscriptions are renewed automatically. ...
If your credit card expires or your payment method is otherwise invalid, your subscription or product will not automatically be terminated. You will remain responsible for all charges.
You will be responsible for all costs we incur in connection with the collection of unpaid amounts, including court costs, attorneys' fees, collection agency fees and any other associated costs.
You have to call them to terminate. They, of course, accept no obligation to answer the phone.

The Times incurs no obligation whatsoever:
We reserve the right to suspend or terminate your subscription or product for any reason, with or without notice and without further obligation. You will not be entitled to a refund in these circumstances. If any or all of our digital products are temporarily unavailable, you will not receive a refund. We reserve the right to issue refunds or credits at our sole discretion. ...

We reserve the right to make changes to our digital products at any time. If we temporarily reduce or eliminate the charge for content or access that you are currently paying for under different terms, you will not receive a refund.

If any or all of our digital products are temporarily unavailable, you will not receive a refund. We reserve the right to issue refunds or credits at our sole discretion. If we issue a refund or credit, we are under no obligation to issue the same or similar refund in the future.
Included in the terms is a sly attempt to expand copyright protection to prohibit fair use, much as the AP has tried to forbid quoting of their stories:
The Services and Contents are protected by copyright pursuant to U.S. and international copyright laws. You may not modify, publish, transmit, participate in the transfer or sale of, reproduce (except as provided in Section 2.3 of these Terms of Service), create new works from, distribute, perform, display, or in any way exploit, any of the Content or the Services (including software) in whole or in part.
The law guarantees me the right to quote the Times when I comment on it, but the Times wants a more restrictive contract with me. That's legal of course. Let them try to enforce it.

The "privacy" policy requires that you provide information which the Times cannot possibly justify requiring:
Registration for the NYT Services requires that you supply certain personal information, including, in most cases, a unique e-mail address and demographic information (ZIP code, age, sex, household income (optional), job industry and job title) to register. [emphasis added]
And if the corporate structure changes, information about you is an asset - no mention of that asset being constrained to the existing policy:
In the future, we may sell, buy, merge or partner with other companies or businesses. In such transactions, we may include your information among the transferred assets.
The Times is part of the American oligarchy, which permits them to get away with this sort of one-sided, albeit legal, abuse of the legal system. They can hire the sharpest New York intellectual property lawyers to write tens of thousands of words into an adhesion contract that edges right up to unconscionability in its limits on what customers can do with a simple product, when we as individuals can't even sanely read and understand those terms without hours of investment and hiring our own lawyer.

The law is supposed to be even-handed. Obviously, as O.J. Simpson, Wall St. bankers, and the New York Times know, it isn't.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Newtonian attraction and repulsion

Click image for full Mike Keefe cartoon.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

When you reward bullshit

... bullshit is what you'll get:

The dirty little secret about political punditry, that is not actually a secret to anyone who watches and reads it, is that it’s all lies. It requires very little knowledge or skill, and there are no consequences for being wrong. For a major newspaper to fire one of its columnists for getting something wrong would bring down the whole pundit industry, as that logic would necessitate the firing of them all. Every election pundit is wrong about everything, nearly all the time, and there’s usually a direct correlation between a pundit’s frequency of wrongness and his or her status — see the Washington Post’s stable of columnists for a prime example. The entire punditocracy is a sham, but thank you for reading anyway.
I truly wish I could have a well-paid job with no accountability, that I could show up to with tiny preparation, say my piece, and hit the beach. Instead, I'm a junior pundit, a blogger. I steer clear of bullshit predictions for the most part. I try to bring facts and analysis to bear on my subjects. Foolish!

The dire compostability of American punditry cannot possibly be an accident. It's certainly less expensive than the messy business of turning over rocks to find out what's really true in the world. For infotainment executives with column inches or air to fill, cheap is more attractive than accurate is - as long as we keep reading, watching, and listening.

Pundits didn't simply all decide to be media whores because of some conspiracy of contagious stupid. They steered their bullshit freighters into lanes that elicited rewards. First, they got praise, so they extruded more hot steaming drivel. True? Who cares! It was good TV - or radio or print. Then they got to tackle other opportunities to make up bullshit.

For the power elite, the best part of this market dominance in ruminant by-products was that it crowds out the aforementioned turning over of rocks. So there's no accountability for elite crimes - no perp walks to speak of on Wall St. despite a stockyard's worth of excrement all over our economy.

So, the infotainment outfits sell ads, protect their owners and cronies, and keep America in a constant ruckus over faux scandals, while ignoring real and dangerous issues.

Thus every media outlet big enough to try for the journalistic bastardization of balance is guaranteed to have a combination of:
  • allegedly liberal concern trolls who spend their punditry iconoclastically telling us how Democrats ought to be more perfect
  • and wingnut propagandists who follow the Teapublican line better than Pravda followed the Politburo
 Apparently, this is what Americans want to read, hear, and watch. Why, I have no idea. I hate the taste of bullshit.

Monday, April 23, 2012

When bullshitters can't recognize their own bullshit

Social Security is not in trouble and has never been in trouble:

Medicare is in trouble. The only reform ever to substantially bend the cost curve back to horizontal has been Obamacare, and the Teapublican response is to demagogue that fact - "Keep your filthy government hands off my Medicare" - and to then end Medicare in all but name, replacing it with decreasing vouchers that wouldn't purchase what seniors need in their first year.

Schlerotic Teapublican faith-based economics

The shrill Cassandra does it again:

So how did we end up in this state? How did America become a nation that could not rise to the biggest economic challenge in three generations, a nation in which scorched-earth politics and politicized economics created policy paralysis? 
We suggest it was the inequality that did it. Soaring inequality is at the root of our polarized politics, which made us unable to act together in the face of crisis. And because rising incomes at the top have also brought rising power to the wealthiest, our nation’s intellectual life has been warped, with too many economists co-opted into defending economic doctrines that were convenient for the wealthy despite being indefensible on logical and empirical grounds.
This time with co-authors...

I find it weird and flattering that, with relatively little formal training in economics and that colored by what was once called the neo-classical synthesis, I arrived at pretty much all of Paul Krugman's conclusions. Maybe I chose the wrong field.

My bemused vanity aside, it's pretty clear that conservative economists either chose the wrong field or only chose their field in order to monetize their credentials in the service of a pack of lies.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why I don't call myself a progressive

Because I'm a liberal and proud, goddammit!

Blood money

Monday, April 16, 2012

Wingnuts begetting wingnuts

Abstinence doesn't work. Even the fundies have the fire down below. They can't keep it in their pants - too much desire to get into her pants. Or his.

Almost all of the states with the most teen pregnancy are Bible Belt states. The I'm-on-top ten:

  1. Mississippi
  2. New Mexico
  3. Arkansas
  4. Texas
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Louisiana
  7. Kentucky
  8. West Virginia
  9. Alabama
  10. Tennessee
Almost everything Teapublicans tell you is a lie. This one is convenient to sustain the inversion of interests by which so many working class people vote as if they made $250,000 a year.

People who defer parenthood have a chance to get educated, to mature before they have to provide for an infant. This gives them a chance to escape the hidebound system of economic and religious oppression that keeps them reliably voting for plutocrats, when those plutocrats in fact despise them.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Republicans view women

Click image for full David Horsey/LA Times cartoon.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Fox and friends

I've long said that the purpose of right-wing media is to provide cover for indefensible beliefs, rather than to provide information from which to build defensible beliefs. Many studies have borne this out, and Chris Mooney recaps them in Salon:

Fox News is both deceiver and enabler simultaneously. First, its existence creates the opportunity for conservatives to exercise their biases, by selecting into the Fox information stream, and also by imbibing Fox-style arguments and claims that can then fuel biased reasoning about politics, science, and whatever else comes up.
But at the same time, it’s also likely that conservatives, tending to be more closed-minded and more authoritarian, have a stronger emotional need for an outlet like Fox, where they can find affirmation and escape from the belief challenges constantly presented by the “liberal media.” Their psychological need for something affirmative is probably stronger than what’s encountered on the opposite side of the aisle—as is their revulsion towards allegedly liberal (but really centrist) media outlets.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Different from you and me

Seen on Facebook...

Amen to using corporate tools for good.

Still wandering in the wilderness

I wish he knew that since his death we have searched for the soul of this nation. We have begun to ask questions that have never been asked. We have challenged each other in ways that we have yet to do. We yearn for a post-racial America. Aspirational. Not a reality. We know that. We still have much work to do. Soul-searching.
I'm a few days late, but still, go and read this memorial.

Equal justice under lawlessness

Click image for full Gustavo Rodriguez/El Nuevo Herald cartoon.

When Teapublicans say this is a republic, not a democracy

This is what they mean:

Yeah, for them, it's short for they get all the power.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

One hour Martinizing

My racist trolls are sooo not going to find this funny. They are too stunted to have reached the stage of having a sense of humor. Humor for them amounts to outrage posing as irony. See Chuck Asay.

Also, notice how the Fox blatherers are wrongly certain what the world has been like without even bothering to check.

Bodyguard of liars

The conservative establishment and its wingnut foot soldiers have taken Barry Goldwater several steps further: Extremism in defense of ultraconservatism is no vice.

For several years, young conservatives have made a cottage industry of going undercover and trying to goad people working at perceived liberal institutions — like Acorn, NPR and Planned Parenthood — into saying something stupid. Trained by well-financed foundations, these dirty tricksters pose as pimps, sex traffickers and Muslim activists and record conversations surreptitiously. Then they release videos that have often been heavily edited.
Conservative Congressional representatives call for investigations and try to slash financing. In the case of Acorn, some workers did, in fact, give truly stupid advice to the fake prostitutes. That organization went belly up.

These reich-wing provocateurs will lie, cheat, and pretext without conscience or compunction. Politics has figuratively been blood sport for them for generations, but that figurativeness has drastically lessened. They aren't quite yet out to kill us, but they are aiming to destroy all liberal institutions, no matter the cost. They don't want to contest politics as a struggle of ideas. They want a monopoly - like all free marketeers in the dark depths of their avarice.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

New mascot

Click image for full Adam Zyglis/Buffalo News cartoon.

Life imitates legislation

Click image for full Rob Rogers/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cartoon.