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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Speech

by digby

The troops were awesome, America is awesome, we saved Iraq, we're saving Afghanistan, now everybody needs to turn the page on all those unpleasant differences we had over the wars and work together like awesome soldiers to fix the economy. Oh, and the troops are really awesome.

Did that cover it?

First impressions: David Gergen says he was perplexed, Zakaria called it workmanlike, Peter Bergen says that nobody knows what's happening about Afghanistan.

Gloria Borger says that he was telling Democrats to STFU about Iraq. John King says he doesn't speak with enough emphasis and so people around the world don't know how to interpret it.

On Fox Monica Crowley PhD is spitting nails that he didn't give Junior Bush a blow job, saying that "this guy's" completely lost the faith of the American people. He was trying to look presidential and he didn't succeed. Alan Colmes said he kept a campaign promise, that we will save money, he sold Afghanistan, and that he established himself as Commander in Chief. Bill O'Reilly wondered why he was so boring.

I didn't bother with MSNBC but I hear somebody's getting thrills up the leg about his nicey nice to Bush.

So there you have it. I don't know why this was an oval office speech. It seems like something you'd do before troops somewhere, but I guess it's a legacy/milestone thing.

Oh, and I don't think I'll be turning the page any time soon on this one and this is why. Trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives wasted and ruined for nothing doesn't seem like something to be swept under the rug. But then I'm very big on putting out the trash and looking in the rear view mirror and reading the page before I turn it, so maybe that's just me.

Simpson's Veterans Benefits: Die Quickly

by digby
Good news everybody. We don't have to let those Bush tax cuts for millionaires expire after all. Alan Simpson has found the money for it:

The system that automatically awards disability benefits to some veterans because of concerns about Agent Orange seems contrary to efforts to control federal spending, the Republican co-chairman of President Barack Obama's deficit commission said Tuesday.

Former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson's comments came a day after The Associated Press reported that diabetes has become the most frequently compensated ailment among Vietnam veterans, even though decades of research has failed to find more than a possible link between the defoliant Agent Orange and diabetes.

"The irony (is) that the veterans who saved this country are now, in a way, not helping us to save the country in this fiscal mess," said Simpson, an Army veteran who was once chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has also allowed Vietnam veterans to get money for ailments such as lung cancer and prostate cancer, and the agency finalized a proposal Tuesday to grant payments for heart disease -- the nation's leading cause of death.

All those Iraq war vets had better shape up or ship out too. We can't afford to keep supporting people with brain injuries and lost limbs forever. Get a job or be a man and relieve us of the burden of your care. (Oh right, there are no jobs. Well then I guess the decision's been made, hasn't it?)

Seriously, if poor, old, and sick people across the board would just do the right thing and die, we could reform the hell out all the "entitlements." Their selfishness is really brings down the country.

The good news is that the pumpkin hued future Speaker has a plan to cut billions of dollars out of the veterans' budget so if these so-called "wounded warriors" persist in sucking from the public tit, so if they refuse to "do the right thing" they're going to have a rude awakening.

Their country is calling them once again to sacrifice their lives. And this time they mean it.

Bjorn Again Epiphany

by digby

Oh my goodness. It looks like the dreamy lead singer of the boy band called "Global Warming Deniers" has left the band.

I think John Stossel's going to have to stock up on Dreyer's slow churned (no Ben and Jerry's for him) and take to his bed to catch up on that overdue Netflicks collection of Penn and Teller's "Bullshit." It's a sad day for the fanboys.

Tennessee Burning

by digby

Josh Marshall reports that the Tennessee mosque had been receiving threats before it was hit with arson and quotes a local college professor:

Sbenaty expressed shock over the atmosphere in a town he's lived in for 30 years. For most of that time, he said, the community has been extremely supportive and welcoming. Even after Sept. 11, 2001, he said, neighbors came up to him and said, "Please do not feel scared. We know your religion has nothing to do with this."

"It's a wide shift, and a shock," he told TPM. "It's just mind-boggling."

Can someone explain to me what the Muslim community has done since 9/11 to suddenly engender this hostility? The only thing that points in this direction is that we elected a Democratic African American president who these people all think is a closet Muslim.

But let's unpack this a little bit. Until recently these people had no problems with Muslims in their community. And there hasn't been a new terrorist attack to inspire new fear and anger. So, that means it's not about Islam at all. It's about the African American Democrat.

Now I would be the last one to say that just being a Democrat isn't enough to make any right winger go nuts. They simply don't believe that a Democrat can legitimately be president. But their need to turn Obama into a Muslim, despite the purely nonsensical nature of the charge, stems from a need to rationalize their baser motives for hating him. America's loathed enemy of 9/11 is the only group they feel free to hate openly in the way that fully expresses their feelings. Therefore, Obama became a Muslim.

In the 1960s they burned black churches. Now it's mosques. But it comes from exactly the same impulse.

* Check out the comment section to the article from a local Tennessee paper I just linked about the Mosque burning. It will surprise you. Of course, there are quite a few of these, but it's not monolithic:

I find this editorial to be offensive since it shows a clear lack of understanding of the real issue at hand. The ugly attempts to turn the tables and replot the players is a horrible tactic. The DNJ is trying to make the aggressors and terrorists sound like the victims and make the victims sound like the aggressors and terrorists. To compare someone attempting to protect themselves from being attacked as a member of the KKK is so sad. Is the DNJ also calling George W. a member of the KKK? Has every one forgotten the reason that we launched a war against Islam? It was for two reasons, number one was in defense of war being declared on us by Islam (defensive, not KKK) and the second reason was to root out the atrocities and inhumane actions of the Islam people. What this commentary fails to recognize is that the issue is NOT about religion, but rather it is about a civil war that has been brought into our country be our aggressors who are attacking us from within.

Most of the commenters take quite a different view, which is heartening.

Searching For Meaning And Unleashing The Beast

by digby

Sam Sedar did some interviews at the Beck Rally on Saturday. This one is particularly interesting because of the conflation of Obama being a Muslim and his adherence to Jeremiah Wright's ideology. I suppose there might be something other than race that informs her conclusions, but it's hard to see what it is.

She's a likable person actually, easy smile and laugh, and I'm sure she is. As with so many of the tea partiers, the impression I get is that they are inspired and energized by the solidarity they feel with others there as much as anything else. They are searching for fellowship and meaning beyond the normal religious and political realm. (In some ways they remind me of the fervent Obama followers of the summer of 2008.) And let's face it, what she says about the two party's failing and political corruption could have been said by any one of us. The problem is that the ties that bind her to her fellows are toxic know-nothingism and reflexive tribal identity based upon race, religion and fear and loathing of those who would stake an equal claim to America. It's a dark vision, although I'm sure they don't see it that way --- their lack of self-awareness, as that woman showed in that video, is intellectually incapacitating. And their willingness to listen to demagogues hypnotically reinforcing their insular worldview is apparently limitless. (You'd think they'd get bored at some point.)

I know people like that lady. In every respect but the political they are often good people. But this movement is giving voice to her demons, the bad place in her psyche that mistrusts anyone who is different, the fearful place that feels like she is losing her natural born position in the world, that lonely place where she feels as if she's on her own while others less deserving are getting all the attention. And these billionaire tea party financiers and opportunistic hucksters are manipulating her dark side, giving it permission to take over, releasing the beast that resides in all of us but which civilization, morality and reason usually keeps in check.

But like Obamamania (which made the opposite pitch -- "hope and change") these fleeting political obsessions in American life can't live up to the huge expectations that are poured into them. This woman is going to be very disillusioned. Her idols are plastic action figures manufactured by millionaires. They can't do this job either. In fact, politics isn't really the proper arena for any of this yearning, something which Glenn Beck may have come to finally understand, as so many demagogues have before him.

She has agency, so I don't feel particularly sorry for her. She is an adult, with the freedom to travel and the capacity to figure out what's wrong with the picture before her. It's not as if there aren't choices. But I understand what she's looking for. America is a soulless place these days, over-ridden with consumerism, greed and shallow entertainment values. Her religion has failed her by fueling the flock with hate instead of the affirmation of life it advertises. She yearns for meaning and Rupert Murdoch and Glenn Beck and the tea party are giving it to her in a nice recognizable package. But it's empty.

And once the human beast is unleashed there's no telling what it will do. These billionaires and their hired demagogues are playing with fire, assuming that they can control all this --- the anger, the fear, the ultimate disillusionment. But what if they can't?

"Bloodbath" Is Just About Right

by tristero

This is exactly what happens when top Democrats, including the president, are obsessed with appeasing Republicans - who can't be appeased - and take liberal support for granted. As Krugman says:
, [With Republicans in charge of the House, i]t will be an ugly scene, and it will be dangerous, too. The 1990s were a time of peace and prosperity; this is a time of neither. In particular, we’re still suffering the after-effects of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, and we can’t afford to have a federal government paralyzed by an opposition with no interest in helping the president govern. But that’s what we’re likely to get.

If I were President Obama, I’d be doing all I could to head off this prospect, offering some major new initiatives on the economic front in particular, if only to shake up the political dynamic. But my guess is that the president will continue to play it safe, all the way into catastrophe.
I don't believe that's hyperpole. Republicans have, according to Jane Mayer's essential New Yorker article on the Koch brothers, convinced 55% of all Americans that Obama is a socialist. They've been working on that meme, hammering at it day after day, since the 2008 campaign, if not long before. Saving America from socialism is a holy cause for the extreme right. They will do whatever it takes to thwart and destroy him.

And remember, Krugman's talking only about a House takeover. With, possibly, the Senate in the hands of the far right, well... it will get very, very ugly indeed.

h/t, Duncan

UPDATE: What Digby says. While I'm not in a frenzy, nor am I drooling and quivering (I save drooling and quivering for sightings of this), I am very, very worried about what this country will look like a year hence, because I see not a single hint that any major Democrat will heed Digby's or Krugman's (or little old me's) advice.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Caption Contest

by digby

h/t to @pourmecoffee

by digby

Somehow I don't think he'd think this was ok:

As kids head back to school, conservative Christian media ministry Focus on the Family perceives a bully on the playground: national gay-advocacy groups.

School officials allow these outside groups to introduce policies, curriculum and library books under the guise of diversity, safety or bullying-prevention initiatives, said Focus on the Family education expert Candi Cushman.

"We feel more and more that activists are being deceptive in using anti-bullying rhetoric to introduce their viewpoints, while the viewpoint of Christian students and parents are increasingly belittled," Cushman said.

Public schools increasingly convey that homosexuality is normal and should be accepted, Cushman said, while opposing viewpoints by conservative Christians are portrayed as bigotry.

Eliza Byard, executive director of the national Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, agrees with a big part of that statement.

"Yes, we want LGBT students afforded full respect," she said.

GLSEN says its agenda is to ensure safe schools and acceptance for all students, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, race, national origin or ability.

That's nice. But why should homos get even more "special rights" even if they are just kids?

About 30 percent of American sixth-to- 10th-graders report being involved in bullying — either as a victim or bully, according to a 2008 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It's three times more common if you're gay, Byard said. GLSEN's 2007 National School Climate Survey found that almost nine out of 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender students experienced harassment. Almost 61 percent felt unsafe in school. And 22 percent reported being physically assaulted in schools.

But then, they deserve it. If they'd follow God's word this wouldn't happen.

"The word 'faggot' is not part of any religious creed," Byard said.

Don't be too sure about that ...

Dealing With The Devil Redux

by digby

That's that:

Tommy Christopher: Thanks, Robert. I have three quick questions. First, does the President have any reaction to renewed calls for Alan Simpson to be removed from the deficit commission, based on an email that he sent to the president of the OWL, comparing America to a –

MR. GIBBS: Senator Simpson sent an email that he’s now apologized for. We regret that he sent that email. We don’t condone those comments. But Senator Simpson has and will continue to serve on the commission.

It's fairly clear they will keep Simpson on the panel. The question is why. I think it's a pretty good guess that he's a guy they can "do business" with. And if you pay attention to what he's saying that's fairly alarming.

I just want to say to all the young people who read this blog that I'm really sorry about all this. I'm old and I'll probably get most of my social security. You, on the other hand, are going to face a vastly more insecure old age if this happens. Right now you don't think much about it. You figure you'll make a lot of money someday or you'll at least be well compensated enough to be self-sufficient. And it all seems so far away that you can't even relate it to yourself at all. I remember. It seems like only yesterday I was arguing with my Dad about how I knew SS wasn't going to be there for me so I wasn't planning on it anyway.

The thing is that you just don't know what might happen. If you're lucky and work hard you'll probably live a long and prosperous life. But life throws you curve balls. You might not have your dreams work out the way you planned. Social Security is one of those things you don't think about until you get to be about my age and you're staring into the abyss, a decade or two away and you suddenly wake up knowing that you aren't likely to be wealthy in your old age no matter how hard you work between now and then. You've watched your parents become geriatric. Your own health is getting a bit compromised. You're beginning to feel what being old is going to be like. And you realize then that you're going to need that money.

I hope for your sake that when you get to that point you've made your millions. If the Democrats fail this time to protect the safety net and the Teabaggers take over the government you're going to need them. They're just getting started. And I'm sorry about that. You can't expect young people to understand how important this is for all the reasons I just stated. It's our job to leave the next generation at least as well off as we were and I'm not at all confident that we're going to do it.

Fight or Die

by digby

The whole Village is working itself into a frenzy, drooling and quivering over this new Gallup poll:

The GOP now holds a 10-point lead on Gallup's generic ballot, the largest advantage the party has sported in the poll in a midterm election year since Gallup began tracking the question in 1942.

GOPers lead Dems, 51% to 41%, among registered voters interviewed Aug. 23-29 as part of Gallup's daily tracking poll. This is the fifth consecutive week the GOP has led the generic ballot, and the wide gap points to "significant gains" this Nov. for the party, according to Gallup Editor-in-Chief Frank Newport.

Just last week, Dems had cut the GOP lead to 3 points. That was down from leads of 7 and 6 points the previous two weeks, respectively.

GOPers are also more excited about voting this year, with 50% describing themselves as "very enthusiastic." Just 25% of Dems say they're "very enthusiastic," and only 28% of indies match that excitement level.

Oh gosh. What to do?

I don't know about you, but it seems to me that if you want to get people enthusiastic you might want to pick a big old fight right about now instead of trying desperately to avoid controversy (also known as "kerfuffles".) In case the Democrats don't realize it, Republicans and right leaning Independents aren't going to vote for them no matter what they do. Even if they open up those FEMA camps and start rounding up every Muslim and Mexican looking person they see, it won't work. Neither will rolling over and playing dead.

Bedding Down With Billionaires and Pitchforks

by digby

Don't miss this must read post by Adele Stan at Alternet about the billionaires funding the tea parties.

This conclusion just breaks my heart though, since it shows how badly the Democrats have fumbled the populist moment:

If there were any missteps made in the execution of the billionaires' weekend events, it may have been the appearance of Koch himself at his Americans For Prosperity Foundation banquet and the selection of George Will to receive the organization's George Washington award.

As I composed a blog post in the hotel lobby after the event, I overheard an attendee talking to her friends. "Michele Bachmann, now she's real," the woman said, speaking with a Southern accent. "You would never know that she's an attorney. But George Will and that other guy -- these people have never had real jobs. They don't know what it's like to sit in a broken office chair because your job can't afford for you to put in for a new one."

She seemed unaware that "that other guy" was the one who was going to get her to the big rally, and rake in a windfall -- likely at her expense -- if the agenda she signed onto through her activism ever came to pass.

Of course she was unaware. Nobody bothered to tell her.

This is, of course, the natural outgrowth of continued DLC influence in Democratic politics, as Howie devastatingly lays out here. They made their pact with the devil and don't know how to do anything else. So, there's no one left to tell the people.

If They Were All I Knew Of Liberals, I'd Hate Them Too

by digby

In case you ever wondered why everyone hates liberals so much, this would be it:

Dana Milbank, who has been writing the "Washington Sketch" feature for nearly six years, is moving to the editorial page, where he will be free to opine at will. But Milbank says his writing will still be rooted in reporting and observation.

"Anybody reading my column would make an informed judgment that I'm left-of-center, and I wouldn't quarrel with that," he says. "But strongly ideological people on the left do not recognize me as one of their own."

Well thank God for that. Otherwise he'd be unemployable.

The fact is that we don't recognize him because he's not center, left or left of center -- he's just a snotty, condescending Villager who sees himself as above this silly political fray. Unfortunately, the Washington Post is selling him as a liberal, just as they sell Richard Cohen as a liberal and just as Fox sells Pat Caddel as a liberal and the NY Times sells Maureen Dowd as a liberal. In other words, they balance out their doctrinaire conservatives like Krauthammer and Kristol with Villager assholes who nobody outside the beltway can stand. Hence, nobody likes liberals.

It's one of the most frustrating aspects of the Villager mentality. Liberals are misrepresented terribly in the media and it's glacially slow in changing. I'm hopeful that it is happening, but the social and professional structure of organizations are very difficult to change without a consciousness of the problems. And I don't see much media consciousness of this problem. And to the extent they understand it, they are misapplying the lessons.

Wacky Today, Law Tomorrow

by digby

Paul Ryan is a Randian nutjob but he's considered quite the up and comer. Therefore, it stands to reason that other up and comer nutjobs are glomming onto his nutjob ideas, particularly the NRCC "young guns" who pride themselves on being nuttier than their nutty grandpas. Amanda Terkel has compiled a full list of the top tier candidates who have endorsed Ryan's "roadmap." Here's just one of them:

- Martha Roby, AL-2: On June 4, Roby put out a statement criticizing Democrats for refusing to move forward with a budget proposal. "The American people deserve better. They deserve solutions," said Roby. "Conservative leaders like Rep. Paul Ryan are offering real solutions to cut wasteful spending, such as canceling unspent TARP and stimulus funds, cutting non-defense spending back to 2008 levels, and reducing the government workforce. I endorse these solutions and other common sense approaches to start getting our fiscal house back in order." Roby is one of the National Republican Campaign Committee's "Young Guns," the party's top new prospects.
They all sound like kooks, to be sure. But I would remind everyone that we spent nearly 20 years battling back privatization (and still are) because a previous "Young Gun" pushed it, even though it sounded completely crazy at the time, as I pointed out a few weeks ago:
There's a lot of chatter this morning about this article in the WaPo about Paul Ryan and how much heartburn his economic plans are causing the Republicans. I was immediately reminded of a famous article about Newt Gingrich back in 1988 which featured this observation:

His recognition and his gathering power were not the result of the legislation he drafted or helped to pass, which, in fact, was negligible. And he was scorned by detractors for some of his wackier notions –which ranged from the off-the-wall (plans for statehood in outer space) to potential political dynamite (he once proposed abolishing Social Security and replacing it with mandatory I.R.A.’s).

The latter “wacky notion” was, of course, eventually adopted by the entire GOP establishment as “privatization,” which the last administration made a very serious attempt to implement. Paul Ryan still pushes it, even in the face of the recent Wall Street meltdown and as a member of President Obama’s deficit commission, will undoubtedly be proposing “reforms” which may include some elements of that plan once again. What was once a wacky notion is now a zombie article of faith on the right, just waiting for the opportune moment to rise again.

It may help the Democrats in this election to depict these people as nuts, and it has the benefit of being true. But they should not do what they usually do and rest on their laurels if they manage to pull it off. Ryan's roadmap is going to be GOP boilerplate for a long time to come. Pretending that one election can vanquish it is as nutty as he is.

Past Lives Reincarnated

by tristero

The New York Times this Sunday had a long article about a creepy trend: shrinks who believe in past lives. I was gonna write something about it but Jerry Coyne saved me the trouble.

Keeping an open mind is not the same as wasting time over stupidities. No, 75% of the oil BP spewed into the Gulf did not magically disappear. No, Rand Paul's libertarianism is neither workable nor desirable. And no, you never were Queen Elizabeth I unless. of course, you were Queen Elizabeth I, in which case you would be in no condition to be reading this.

Trust me on this: People have not had past lives, never have, never will. That is a fact. How do I know? Simple. I consulted the I Ching, and its answer was unequivocal... well, as unequivocal as the I Ching gets. And yes, all you doubters, I didn't just toss the coins, I threw the yarrow sticks which everyone knows gives a far more accurate reading.

Sheesh! What an untrusting, narrow-minded bunch.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Do you know about Howie?

by digby

I was doing some googling earlier and realized that some of my readers might not know the story of my good pal Howie Klein, Blue America partner in activism, scourge of Blue Dogs everywhere. You all undoubtedly know him as the author of Down With Tyranny.

But for anyone who's even mildly familiar with the music industry, he's a legend. This short article written upon his departure from Warner Brothers a few years ago will fill you in:

A Champion Of Punk Rides Off Into The Sunset

Neumu's Michael Goldberg writes: He was the champion of punk rock, back in '76 when no one quite knew what to make of it. He helped The Ramones and Blondie play a San Francisco club, showed The Clash and the Sex Pistols around when they hit town, introduced Romeo Void, Translator and Wire Train to the world and brought Lou Reed to the White House. For the past six years he's been president of Reprise Records, the AOL Time Warner label with such credible artists as Neil Young, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave, Green Day, Chris Isaak and Wilco. Next Friday is his last day at Reprise. His name is Howie Klein, and for the music business, his departure is not a good thing. As far as I know Howie, who will be a "consultant" to the Warner Music Group, has no plans to run another label.

My sense though I could be wrong is that he's had his fill of the music business. Howie is a friend of mine. We first met in 1975, as I recall, when he was working as a publicist, promoting an experimental album by former Monkee Mike Nesmith. We became friends then, and 26 years later we're still friends. To see Howie now, you might not realize that he's the guy who played singles by Crime and The Nuns on the punk radio show "The Outcaste Hour," which he once hosted on San Francisco radio station KSAN (back in the day when KSAN was a pretty good "progressive" rock station). When KSAN went country, Howie headed for college radio; at KUSF he continued to play punk singles. In 1978 he co-founded 415 Records, ran it out of his 16th Street apartment (the one my wife and I passed on to him when we moved), and managed against all odds to score a hit with Romeo Void's "Never Say Never." He was an unmistakable figure on the San Francisco scene in the late '70s with his shaved head, shades and black leather jacket. You'd find him hanging at the Mabuhay Gardens, talking it up with Sally Mutant or Avengers singer Penelope Houston (who he signed to a Reprise contract as a solo artist two decades later).

Based on the success of Romeo Void, Columbia Records did a deal with 415, and suddenly Romeo Void, Translator, the Red Rockers and Wire Train had a real shot at success. That's when Howie got his first taste of working with the corporate music business. If working the business is an art, Howie is a master artist, because even though none of the 415 acts broke through in a big way, by the time the Columbia/415 deal had run its course, Howie was seen as one of the key rising young record guys. He soon had a new job as General Manager at the very cool Sire Records, the label that had signed Talking Heads, The Ramones, Depeche Mode, Echo and the Bunnymen, the Dead Boys, the Flamin' Groovies and others. At one point Howie and I, plus Neumu's Cinematronic editor Michael Snyder, collaborated on a Flamin' Groovies compilation CD, Groovies Greatest Grooves, which remains (in my very biased opinion) the single best representation of the Groovies' genius. Howie was one of the few people in the established music business who recognized the importance of the Internet, and he was unequivocally supportive when I came to him in 1994 and told him about a new thing I was going to start, an online magazine called Addicted To Noise. He immediately said he'd advertise, and proceeded to run an ad in ATN every month for the next two years until I sold the company.

One time when Neil Young was playing this bar just north of Half Moon Bay called the Old Princeton Landing, Howie flew up from L.A. and brought me along. There's nothing quite like seeing Neil Young and Crazy Horse rock a bar that holds maybe 100 people. I know it was particularly meaningful for Howie having Lou Reed on Reprise; Howie was a Velvet Underground fan going back to the '60s, when the Velvets' first albums were released. Howie was also a journalist for a time, in the mid-'70s, and he remains an excellent writer. In fact, he wrote a record review column for me in the early '80s, when I was managing editor of a city magazine called Boulevards.

When Joey Ramone died earlier this year, Howie sent out an email to express his grief, but also because he didn't want anyone to forget the import of The Ramones. This is what Howie wrote, and I think it says a lot about him, and the faith in the power of music that he's maintained through all his years in the business: "I can't overemphasize the importance of Joey Ramone in the history of rock 'n' roll. He was, in the truest sense of the term, a genuine revolutionary. By the time The Ramones stormed the music scene, the fun and meaning had been wrung out of rock 'n' roll. The excitement and courageousness of teenage angst and rebellion had given way to 'professionalism' and to a quantifiably controllable corporate assembly line. To pick up a guitar in front of an audience you had to try to be as good as Jeff Beck; you had to have been an 'expert' and a veteran virtuoso. Or you needed to cede all creativity to a proven producer. The idealism [and] excitement of FM Radio had already turned into complete shit all it had come into existence to defeat. And suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, The Ramones were causing a tremendously noisy stir on the NYC Bowery. Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy made it OK for fun-loving fans to get onstage again. Rock 'n' roll was being re-born again. And everywhere The Ramones went they were like the Johnny Appleseeds of the punk rock movement In the wake of a Ramones tour bands would pop everywhere. In many ways they were as important to Popular Music as Elvis, the Beatles and the Stones. That important."

During those years Howie was spinning discs at KSAN, my blog contributor Dennis Hartley and I were hanging out in Dennis' apartment at 9th and Irving, listening avidly, and spending every spare nickel watching bands in the those same clubs. Not that I knew Howie. But I knew of him and we may have rubbed shoulders (or slammed into each other, more likely.) He changed music then and now he's changing politics. Some people just have the shining.


by digby

Jonathan Alter has written a long article on the right wing lies about Obama and tells us that to counter it they're going to have him talk about Jesus and appear on The View more often. Yeah, that'll work.

This is evidently how they see it:

For Axelrod, the challenge is to choreograph adept responses to media feeding frenzies but not confuse them with something deeply important and lasting: “So much of governing in this hair-trigger media environment is not chasing rabbits down a hole. We have to react to the kerfuffle of the moment but not buy into the hysterical notion that every story is a defining event, because they’re not.” The BP oil spill, for instance, while still serious, has not turned out to be “Obama’s Katrina.” Health-care reform was seen by many cable chatterers as shaping the outcome of the November midterm elections but almost certainly won’t. Nor will the flap over the planned mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero. To make sure, Obama defended the constitutional principle at stake, but backed off on the specific siting. Why get tied down by another hot-button distraction, especially one that keeps the Muslim story alive in ways that help no one but the media? The collapse of the Greek economy, by contrast, is an example of something real, not hyped by cable news, whose reverberations first spoiled Obama’s PR plan for a “Recovery Summer” and now could sink the Democrats in the midterms.

You know, I get that all the DC yuppies just loved the "no drama Obama" thing and find him to be unalterably cool and awesome but this is just nuts.(Alter writes at the end: But at least the president is keeping his legendary cool... It’s a measure of the very otherness that harms him that Barack Obama is not “any person” and that he remains consistently sane as he works this fall to paint himself out of his corner.) Get a room.

Axelrod's problem is that he fails to understand that these "kerfuffles" are symbols of much bigger cultural and social fault lines --- and the damage they inflict have cumulative effect. Does he actually think that the health care battle was just a kerfuffle? Is this spreading hatred towards Muslims, blacks and Hispanics a kerfuffle? (Meanwhile, Alter says the Greek crisis ruined Recovery Summer. Oy vey ...)

The country is going to hell in a frigging handbasket because of bad decisions piled upon bad decisions, years in the making, and the White House acts like the country's various expressions of its fear and angst are inconvenient side trips that they just have to avoid or barrel through on the way to reelection. There's a very real sense that they just don't get it, which is, in my view, the thing that's making people very, very nervous. One person's cool under pressure is another's cold and indifferent.

Michael Tomasky approached this question in his column on Friday, posing several possible reasons for the disconnect between the campaign and the governance. I'll let you read it and consider whether any of them are reasonable. (Number six for me. I've always thought they were highly overrated.) But regardless of the reasons, I think Tomasky hits the nail on the head with this:

I did expect much more out of these people. I still think Obama can be an accomplished president. Maybe a great one. Way too early to write him off. But the political thinking in that White House is just way off right now.

Rudy Crew, a former New York City schools chancellor, once described a really interesting image to me. I asked him what the job felt like. He came to New York from Tacoma, Washington, maybe 1/30th the size.

He paused. Then he started talking: Imagine you're on a moving walkway, like at the airport. And it's fine, it's nice. But then it starts moving faster. Then, a few arrows start coming at you. Then the walkway goes faster and faster and faster, and the arrows start coming faster and faster and faster. That's what nearly every day is like.

I'm sure that's what nearly every day is like. But you have get off the walkway and reflect and plan. It's hard, but you have to. I don't see them doing that, from the Potus on down.

During the first year I remember having a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I saw that Obama promo for The George Lopez show. I could see the arrows flying, but it seemed as though they thought they were made of armor. From what Axelrod said above, I'm not sure they still don't think so.

Bitching about how much the modern media enables criticism isn't going to do it, btw. Rebut, refute, confront or agree with the criticism. But whining about it is weak.

Beck and the Cross

by digby

I have mentioned before that a couple of months ago I appeared on a panel about the Tea Party and the far right and afterward was chatting with Sarah Posner and Adele Stan, who both pointed out to me that we had completely omitted the Religious Right from the discussion. And we had.

People who are well informed about the right wing commonly missed the thread that binds the Beck teabaggers, even as we confidently proclaimed that this far-right movement was nothing new. I think it's because Beck speaks as much in modern language of pycho-babble and recovery than traditional religious talk. But with the exception of writers like Posner and Stan, who follow the religious right closely, I think most of us assumed the tea party was a far more secular movement than it actually is. As we've been piecing together over the past few months, it's actually an amalgam of John Bircherism, crude Libertarianism, neo-confederatism and Christian Reconstructionism --- the creepiest marriage of far right ideology imaginable.

Alternet's Peter Montgomery has put together a convenient primer on all the religious fanatics who appeared at yesterday's Triumph of the Wingnut rally. They may have sounded bland and predictable on that stage yesterday, but scratch a little deeper and you have an epic collection of far right religious kooks that will make your hair stand on end.

My favorite:
David Barton was Beck’s co-host. Barton is the Religious Right’s favorite pseudo historian and Beck’s new favorite person. After decades of plying his “Christian nation” history through books and evangelical churches, Barton has a huge new national audience thanks to Beck’s patronage.

Barton did what he does, which is to show off his collection of old speeches and sermons that in his telling prove America was based on Christian principles and was never meant to be a secular nation. Barton’s message was partly to the pastors in attendance, telling them that early American preachers were better at preaching on the news of the day. Beck told the pastors in attendance that the event was meant to stiffen their spines, because the church had “gone soft.”

Suppressing November

by digby

I've written reams about rightwing voter suppression efforts over the years, and like other single subjects (like tasers) I get a fair amount of blowback from people who say "enough already, we get it." Still it's worth reminding even those in the know, if only to establish a record all over the internet that some archeologist may someday find in the virtual ether.

It's important to be aware of this especially now that we have a an energized and batshit insane right wing ready to pull out all the stops. (We've already seen their capabilities with the destruction of ACORN.)The following story from Glenn Smith who's been following this from the trenches in Texas for a long time sounds the alarm:

TrueTheVote's video is well produced. Participants speak in calm and knowing tones, disguising the racist agenda behind their project. We don't yet know where the group's money comes from. But they have money.

As I've said before, right-wing voter suppression campaigns are the most under-reported political scandal of the last 50-100 years. But there's never been anything like the criminal destruction of all the voting machines in the nation's fourth largest city. You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to suspect the machines in Houston were destroyed by an arsonist. Warehouses don't regularly and spontaneously combust at four in the morning, especially warehouses containing all the voting tools in a pivotal city in a pivotal election.

In other details, the suppression campaigns follow a familiar pattern: raise suspicions of widespread voter fraud. Accuse "others" of stealing elections from us (read: white people). Threaten would-be voters with criminal charges. Limit polling locations in poor and minority precincts. Distribute spurious "felon lists" that disenfranchise legal voters who happen to share a name with a felon. Staff phone banks that make election calls to minority and poor voters giving incorrect polling locations and dates. Dress up vigilantes in cop clothes to intimidate would-be voters.

Regular Huffington Post contributor Greg Mitchell wrote one of the best accounts of such a suppression and intimidation campaign in his book about the 1934 California governor's race, The Campaign of the Century. At least since then, voter suppression has been a part of nearly every election cycle.

Here's the slick video:

It's important to keep a special eye on Hispanic precincts and border areas. I have a feeling we are going to see quite a few reports of "illegals" voting this time out.


by digby

I learned something new today from Rick Perlstein and it's very, very interesting. It's a theory called Palingenetic ultranationalism (and no, it was not coined for Sarah Palin.) But it could have been:

Palingenetic ultranationalism is a theory concerning generic fascism formulated by British political theorist Roger Griffin. The key elements are that fascism can be defined by its core myth, namely that of "national rebirth" — palingenesis. Griffin argues that the unique synthesis of palingenesis and ultra-nationalism differentiates fascism from para-fascism and other revolutionary ideologies. This is what he calls the "fascist minimum" without which there is no fascism.

It's the "rebirth" theme along with the flag-waving that characterized the Beck Rally yesterday. The religious rhetoric is the common vocabulary of the American radical right and the talk of exceptionalism and the Black Robed Regiment, with its combination of Calvinism and the Founders, is a perfect American rendering of rebirth and ultra-nationalism.

If you haven't seen this movie in a while, you should. If you can get past the frightening symbols you'll see that the "rebirth" theme is central. (The ultra-nationalism we already knew.)

Update: Dave Neiwert has more on palingenesis.

Wingnut Email of the Day

by digby

"The unions, the racebaiters and the welfare recipients may be in the minority but they are an active minority."

Please watch this 7 minute video and stop Evil Obama and the Democrats from ruining America anymore.

Commie Racists Obama has Racists Attorney General Eric Holder in his hip pocket and has Commie Control over our Justice Department.

These guys are evil devils and must be voted out!

I guess we're supposed to want civic engagement, but after watching this, I'm not sure it's such a good idea after all.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saturday Night At The Movies

From crayons to perfume: Top 10 school flicks

By Dennis Hartley

It’s a funny thing. I know that this is supremely silly (I’m over 50, fergawdsake)- but as soon as September rolls around and retailers start touting their “back to school” sales, I still get that familiar twinge of dread. How do I best describe it? It’s a vague sensation of social anxiety, coupled with a melancholy resignation to the fact that from now until next June, I have to go to bed early. BTW, now that I’m allowed to stay up with the grownups, why do I drift off in my chair at 8pm every night? It’s another one of life’s cruel ironies.

At any rate, since it is “that time of the year”, I thought I would share my Top 10 show-and-tell picks for homeroom. As per usual, I must point out this is a completely subjective list of personal favorites; I am not proclaiming these selections to be The Most Beloved School Movies Ever (in case you’re wondering where I stashed Mr. Chips). So please grade my list on a curve. Also, please keep both hands away from the keyboard (on top of your desk where I can see them) and don’t start snarking until you have thoroughly read and understood this lesson plan completely. Wait a minute (sniff)-is somebody out there eating pizza? Put it down, and pay attention. In alphabetical order:

Blackboard Jungle-I always like to refer to this searing 1955 drama as the anti-Happy Days. An idealistic English teacher (Glenn Ford) takes on an inner-city classroom full of leather-jacketed malcontents who would much rather steal hubcaps and break windows than, say, study the construct of iambic pentameter. Considered a hard-hitting “social issue” film at the time, it still retains considerable power, despite some dated trappings. Vic Morrow and Sidney Poitier are appropriately surly and unpredictable as the alpha “toughs” in the classroom. The impressive supporting cast includes Richard Kiley, Anne Francis and Louis Calhern. Director Richard Brooks co-scripted with Evan Hunter, from his novel (Hunter is more widely known by his nom de plume, Ed McBain). The film also had a hand in making Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock” a monster hit.

Dazed & Confused-I will admit upfront that my attachment to Richard Linklater’s amazingly vivid 1993 recreation of a “day in the life” high school milieu circa 1976 has almost everything to do with the sentimental chord it touches within me (I graduated from high school in 1974). The clothing, the hairstyles, the lingo, the social behaviors and (perhaps most importantly) the music is so spot on that I was transported into a total-immersion sense memory the first time I saw the film (no, I wasn’t high-grow up!). Perhaps the first wave of boomers a decade or so ahead of me were similarly affected when they first watched American Graffiti (anyone?). At any rate, I knew all these people! Not necessarily a goofy teen comedy; while there are a lot of laughs (mostly of recognition), the sharply written screenplay offers some inspired moments of keen observation and even genuine poignancy at times. Linklater certainly wouldn’t be able to reassemble this bright, energetic young cast at the same bargain rates nowadays: Matthew McConaughey, Parker Posey, Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Adam Goldberg, Rory Cochrane, Joey Lauren Adams and Nicky Katt, to name but a few. Two power bongs up!

Election-Writer-director Alexander Payne and his stalwart writing partner Jim Taylor (Sideways , About Schmidt) followed up their noteworthy 1995 feature film debut, Citizen Ruth, with this biting socio-political satire, thinly cloaked as a teen comedy (which it decidedly is not). Reese Witherspoon delivers a pitch perfect performance as the psychotically perky, overachieving Tracy Flick, who makes life a special hell for her brooding civics teacher, Mr. McAllister (Matthew Broderick). Payne’s film is very funny at times, yet it never pulls its punches; there are some painful truths about the dark underbelly of suburbia bubbling beneath the veneer (quite similar to American Beauty, which interestingly came out the same year). Also notable for Matthew Broderick finally proving that he could lay the Ferris Bueller persona to rest and play an unlikable bastard.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High -Amy Heckerling’s 1982 coming-of-age dramedy is another film that introduced a bevy of new talent to movie audiences: Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates, Eric Stoltz, Nicholas Cage, Anthony Edwards, and of course Sean Penn as the quintessential stoned surfer dude, who seems to enjoy elevating the blood pressure of his history teacher (a marvelously dry Ray Walston). In the good ol’ days of VHS, I can remember searching in vain for a rental copy that didn’t suffer from extensive “freeze frame” damage at right about that moment where Cates reveals her, erm, hidden talents. Heckerling later returned to the same California high school milieu (updated for the 90s) for her hit Clueless. Rolling Stone reporter (and soon-to-be film director) Cameron Crowe scripted from his book, which was based on his experiences “embedded” at a San Diego high school (thanks to his youthful appearance, Crowe had successfully passed himself off as a student for a year).Gregory's Girl- Scottish writer-director Bill Forsyth’s delightful examination of puppy love crosses over from one of my previous Top Ten lists. Gawky teenager Gregory (John Gordon Sinclair) goes gaga for Dorothy (Dee Hepburn), a fellow soccer player on the school team. Gregory receives love advice from an unlikely mentor, his little sister (Allison Forster). His male classmates offer advice as well, but of course they are just as clueless as he is (although they put on airs of having deep insight on the subject of girls, naturally). In fact, Forsyth gets a lot of mileage out of that most basic truth about adolescence-the girls are usually light years ahead of the boys when it comes to the mysteries of love. Not as precious as you might think, as Forsyth is a master of low-key anarchy and understated irony. You may have trouble navigating the thick Scottish accents, but it’s worth it. Also with Clare Grogan, whom music fans may recall as lead singer of Altered Images, and Red Dwarf fans may recognize as “Kristine Kochanski”.

Massacre at Central High- I know I’m going to get some arched eyebrows with this selection. Despite the title, this is not a slasher movie; it’s more of a social satire/political allegory. You've seen the setup before-a gang of alpha high school bullies are terrorizing and intimidating their classmates at will, until the "new kid" rolls in and changes the status quo, Yojimbo style. The film veers into Lord Of The Flies territory, with allusions to class struggle, fascist politics and what-would-happen-if-there-were-no-adults-around anarchy. Don't get me wrong, this ain’t exactly Animal Farm; after all, the film stars Robert Carradine and Andrew "direct-to-video" Stevens, but for its budget and its genre, it’s oddly compelling. A U.S. production, but director Rene Raalder hails from Holland.

National Lampoon's Animal House- “Thank you sir. May I have another?” The twisted brain trust behind the National Lampoon produced this riotously vulgar and slyly subversive ode to college frat house culture, which became a surprise box-office smash in 1978. The film kicked off a lucrative Hollywood franchise for the magazine, and (building on the groundwork that was established by M*A*S*H and Blazing Saddles) opened the floodgates for a whole new genre of raunchy, uninhibited and politically incorrect movie comedy. The film is also notable for launching the fruitful careers of director John Landis and future director Harold Ramis (who co-wrote with Doug Kenney and Chris Miller). And what a brilliant ensemble cast: Tom Hulce, Tim Matheson, Peter Riegert, Karen Allen and Kevin Bacon (all unknowns at the time) along with screen vets Donald Sutherland and John Vernon. And no, I haven’t forgotten the guy who steals the show! I’m usually not a fan of physical comedy, but for some reason, everything John Belushi does in this movie, whether it’s falling off a ladder, smashing a guitar, crushing a beer can on his forehead, or simply arching his eyebrow-puts me in complete hysterics.

Rock 'N' Roll High School-As far as guilty pleasures go, this goofy bit of anarchy from the stable of legendary low-budget producer Roger Corman rates pretty high (and one suspects the creators of the film were, erm, “pretty high” when they dreamed it all up). Director Alan Arkush invokes the spirit of all those late 50s rock’n’roll exploitation movies (right down to having 27 year-old actors portraying “students”), substituting The Ramones for the usual clean-cut teen idols who inevitably pop up at the school dance. To this day, I’m still helplessly in love with P.J. Soles, who plays Vince Lombardi High School’s most devoted Ramones fan, Riff Randell. The great cast of B-movie troupers includes the late Paul Bartel (who directed several of his own cult classics under Corman’s tutelage) and his frequent screen partner Mary Waronov (as the uptight, iron-fisted principal). Although no one’s ever copped to it, I’m fairly sure this film inspired Square Pegs, the short-lived cult TV series from 1982. R.I.P. Joey, Dee Dee and Johnny.

To Sir, With Love-A decade after he co-starred in Blackboard Jungle, Sidney Poitier traded the switchblade and the bad attitude for a nice suit and an earnest lesson plan; it was his turn to play the mentor. This well-acted 1967 drama offered a bold twist on the usual formula (for its time). Movie audiences were accustomed to watching an idealistic white teacher struggling to tame the wild (and usually “ethnic”) inner city students; in this case, you had an idealistic black teacher trying to relate to a classroom chockablock with citizens of the unruly, white British working class. It’s a tour de force for director James Clavell, who also wrote and produced. Culture clash is a dominant theme in many of Clavell’s novels and films; most famously in Shogun. The film is a great “swinging 60s” time capsule-thanks to a spunky performance of the memorable theme song by Lulu, and a brief appearance by the Mindbenders (don’t blink or you’ll miss future 10cc co-founder Eric Stewart). Co-stars include Judy Geeson (delivering a poignant performance) and future rocker Michael Des Barres (vocalist for Silverhead, Detective, Power Station).

Twenty-Four Eyes-This naturalistic, tremendously moving drama from Keisuke Kinoshita could very well be the ultimate “inspirational teacher” movie. Set in an isolated, sparsely populated village on the ruggedly beautiful coast of Japan’s Shodoshima island, the story begins in 1928 and ends just after WW 2. This is a deceptively simple yet deeply resonant tale about a long term mentorship that develops between a compassionate, nurturing teacher (Hideko Takamine) and her 12 students, from grade school through adulthood. Many of the cast members are non-actors, but you would never guess it from the uniformly wonderful performances. Kinoshita enlisted sets of siblings to portray the students as they “age”, giving the story a heightened sense of realism. The film, originally released in 1954, was hugely popular in Japan; a revival some years later enabled it to be discovered by Western audiences, who warmed to its humanist stance and undercurrent of anti-war sentiments. Keep a box of Kleenex nearby.

Extra credit (10 more)-The Class , Rushmore, Flirting
The History Boys, Welcome to the Dollhouse, Heathers, Four Friends, 400 Blows, The Browning Version, If...

Class dismissed!

Black Robed Vita-Meat-A Vegemin

by digby

For those of you wondering about Beck's ranting about a new "Black Robed Regiment" today, recall that our friends at the Donkey Edge attended Glenn Beck U and reported this back:

[M]y right-wing funhouse soon turned into a house of horrors, as I was treated to an approximately 30-minute lecture (presumably the outer limits of a wing-nut’s attention span) that covered our Founding Fathers and the birth of our nation. I had clearly picked the wrong day to give up drinking.

What unfolded was a “lecture” about the so-called “Black-Robed Regiment” – apparently a band of Evangelical Christian preachers that invoked from the Bible the political and moral underpinnings upon which the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were based and that single-handedly defeated the British at the battles of Concord, Lexington, and Bunker Hill. Ever heard of the “Black-Robed Regiment”? Me neither. It sounds like an obscure 1990s Steven Seagal film.

You can hear the clip from the lecture ">here.

A little googling shows that this is a major wingnut theocratic theme. (There are so many ...)The basic concept is that it wasn't the Enlightenment that informed the founders, it was fundamentalist preaching. Therefore, America was conceived as an "exceptional" Christian Theocracy.

Here's the Beck U "professor" giving his lecture on YouTube, which is probably where Beck found it late one night while searching for that rare live versions of "Jim Dandy To The Rescue"

Beck is obviously just peddling far right nonsense in all its forms and this happens to be one of his little hobby horses. But among many right wingers, this is apparently an article of faith (no pun intended.)

Inconceivably Ugly

by diogby

You remember that nice group of anti-Muslim English boys that Pam Geller joined up with last year? The one's she insists aren't violent fascists (is there any other kind?)

Joshua Holland at Alternet:

Apparently it’s Right-Wing Freak Protest Day in the UK as well:

About 700 protesters from a far-right group have clashed with hundreds of riot police in northern England.

The English Defense League activists threw bottles, rocks and a smoke bomb at the riot police after the authorities penned in the protesters to keep them away from an opposing demonstration by a leftist group, United Against Fascism.

According to Spencer and Geller, all good, free people should stand with these guys against the “spread of sharia.”

After watching the somnolent Triumph of the Wingnut rally, *brought to you by Cialis, it's hard to believe things could get violent here in the US, if only because of the rheumatism and reflux problems among the warriors. But these things can take on a life of their own when times are bad and people think that nobody's doing anything about it. As David Neiwert observed:

Glenn Beck's eyes certainly weren't dry. He started weeping while telling the crowd that somewhere out there was "the next George Washington".

Dunno about you, but when I saw pan shots of the crowd -- which was one of the whitest crowds in D.C. in recent memory -- I mostly thought I saw "the next Timothy McVeigh." But your mileage may vary.

Krugman captures my feeling well:

I’m finding it hard to read about politics these days. I still don’t think people in the administration understand the magnitude of the catastrophe their excessive caution has created. I keep waiting for Obama to do something, something, to shake things up; but it never seems to happen.

Here’s what I wrote in February 2009. It’s pretty rich that now the usual suspects are accusing me of having shared the administration’s optimism. But that’s a trivial point; the important thing is that all signs are that the next few years will be a combination of economic stagnation and political witch-hunt.

This is going to be almost inconceivably ugly.

They Never Stop Whining

by digby

This scares the Democrats more than Glenn Beck ever could:

At a black-tie dinner in April, a politically influential hedge fund manager named Paul Singer offered a blistering critique of the “terrible path” he said Washington politicians were charting on economic issues.

Mr. Singer, professorial and soft-spoken, used a gathering of business and government leaders at the conservative Manhattan Institute to lash out at “indiscriminate attacks by political leaders against anything that moves in the world of finance.” Government efforts to “take over and run” the economy through more regulations, he warned, threatened to ruin the United States’ standing as the world leader in finance.

As the head of a $17 billion hedge fund, Mr. Singer, a self-described Barry Goldwater conservative who is 66, is using his financial might to try to change those policies. He has become one of the biggest bankrollers of Republican causes, giving more than $4 million of his money and raising millions more through fund-raisers he hosts for like-minded candidates who often share his distaste for what they view as governmental over-meddling in the financial industry.

The same day in June that the House gave final approval to the sweeping overhaul of financial regulations, Mr. Singer had a fund-raiser at his Central Park West apartment, netting more than $1 million for seven Republican Senate candidates who had opposed the bill. His hedge fund, Elliott Management, is the biggest source of money to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

You'll notice that these whining little infants never cop to the fact that they nearly destroyed the whole fucking system with their stupidity, malfeasance and sheer greed. Evidently, the world is supposed to sit back and let these rich assholes play in their sandbox and then eat the dirt when they screw up.

Aside from the fact that these greedy bastards are still raking in millions while everyone else suffers, what bothers me the most is this incessant bitching and moaning and whining about how terribly they are being treated. Little Lord Fauntleroy had more dignity.

Of course, they are putting their money where their pouty little mouths are so the Dems are scared to death that they are losing all their filthy lucre. I suppose I understand on some level how difficult it makes it for them to compete (and land cushy gigs as lobbyists and board members when they leave office) but I honestly don't care. They need to figure it out. Republicans have always been all in and will never change. Catering to these asshat oligarchs is going to kill us all and the Democrats are all we've got to stop them. Gawd help us.

Weak Teabag

by digby

Speaking of Dick Armey. Here's a little sign of some trouble in Teabag land:

For weeks, various grassroots leaders of tea parties have been asking NumbersUSA if there is anything to the rumors that former Congressman Dick Armey is soft on amnesty and the costs of illegal immigration. If he were, that would be an unsettling situation for the vast majority of people at tea party events who oppose both vehemently.

Well, today, Dick Armey settled the question. No need for rumors now.

Mr. Armey -- labeled as the "uber-organizer of the tea party movement" by a reporter today -- seems to have labeled as "goofy" most of the grassroots citizens attending tea party events.

Armey showed his disdain in a speech at the National Press Club for all those who oppose comprehensive amnesties for millions of illegal aliens and who oppose importing millions of foreign workers during a time of high unemployment.

But this is in keeping with his record in Congress. (See below for a thorough analysis.)

During his time in Congress (1985-2002), Mr. Armey's positions on immigration almost always appeared to be much more shaped by the desires of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for low-wage labor subsidized by taxpayers than by the needs of the average taxpayer and worker.


Floating around YouTube are videos of Armey's interesting take on illegal immigration where he compares illegal aliens with a parent running a red light in the middle of the night to get a sick child to the hospital. Sometimes taking care of your family is more important than obeying the law, he says:

These are very good people trying to feed their babies.

-- Dick Armey explaining in 2007 that the problem of illegal immigration is that the feds aren't issuing greencards fast enough.

So the family values crowd now believes that taking care of your family isn't more important than obeying the law? Or is it just non-American families?(We decent patriots always put God and family first, right? Or is it God and country? I can never remember.)

Anyway, Dick's not the only Teabagger with a cheap labor portfolio. I suppose for now, as long as he hates "Muslims" (and everyone they can tar with that new epithet) he'll slide. But this is a big weakness in the teabag that's just waiting to burst.

Bad Trip

by digby

It has often been rumored that Dick Armey is a falling down drunk and his behavior on TV certainly suggests that he's on something. I'm guessing it's acid:

One of the things that we see as we look at Glenn Beck's work that's been fascinating to me, is we see a more true and accurate history of the United States, and we see it documented at levels of rigor that, in fact, one would expect out of Ph.D. dissertations — it is serious, scholarly work....[Liberal critics] don’t have to argue with Glenn Beck. They have to argue with his documentation and they can’t match that level of rigor.

As Kevin Drum points out, Armey has a PhD from the University of Oklahoma. So much for the value of higher education.

Triumph of the Wingnut

by digby

The Triumph of the Wingnut rally appears to be a big success. It's a beautiful day, the all white audience is in lawn chairs clapping politely as they give out medals to people of color on the stage. The faithful seem a little bit bored, but you can't blame them. They're looking for inspiration and this isn't the kind of thing that inspired these folks. I assume the red meat is yet to come.

There is a mesmerizing quality to this program. It's more religious than political at this point. In fact, I just realized that Beck doesn't talk nonsense and gibberish after all. He speaks in tongues.

I just keep thinking that I sure hope all these very pink skinned, middle aged folks are wearing sun screen.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Take The Quiz

by digby

Stuff Alan Simpson Says

See if you can tell which nutty, outlandish comments are his and which ones are made up. I'll bet you can't ...

Koch: I'd Like To Buy The World

by digby

Dave Weigel reports on David Koch's appearance at the American's For Prosperity summit. Koch is very much a connoisseur of fine whine:

"When my brother and I provided the funds and the concept for the Americans for Prosperity foundation six and a half years ago," says Koch, "never in my wildest drems could I have participated it would grow to the size it is today." He wavers a little over the podium." We have over one million activists who have participated in town hall meetings and demonstrations over the last year. Never would I have dreamed it would become as influential and effective as it has. It is getting stronger and stronger and becoming more and more successful. I feel that this organization could provide a key role in the November elections, and I feel there is an extraordinary groundswell of hostility in this country towards the socialization of so many aspects of our lives -- health care, financial regulations. Many, many different areas that I think that government has involved itself, uh, way too much -- excessively."

Koch, haltingly, broaches the subject of his media image. "I've been attacked nonstop, and my brother, as well as AFP, and our company, and our company, Koch Industries, by the liberal media," he says. "These attacks do not intimidate me. In fact, they inspire me!" The room of activists, who have been listening politely, break into applause. "In my opinion our whole way of life, our whole economic system is at risk from the radicals in the Congress who want to hurt the whole system we have, the, uh, free enterprise system, capitalistic system."

I'm sure everyone realizes that the dangers of corporatism weren't just discovered on the internet in the last decade. The wealthy funders of the right have been doing this same work for as long as I can remember. Interestingly, they really picked up the pace at about the same time that the modern conservative movement ascended in American politics.

Future Supreme Court justice Lewis Powell made the clarion call 40 years ago:

DATE: August 23, 1971
TO: Mr. Eugene B. Sydnor, Jr., Chairman, Education Committee, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
FROM: Lewis F. Powell, Jr.

This memorandum is submitted at your request as a basis for the discussion on August 24 with Mr. Booth (executive vice president) and others at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The purpose is to identify the problem, and suggest possible avenues of action for further consideration.

No thoughtful person can question that the American economic system is under broad attack. This varies in scope, intensity, in the techniques employed, and in the level of visibility.

There always have been some who opposed the American system, and preferred socialism or some form of statism (communism or fascism). Also, there always have been critics of the system, whose criticism has been wholesome and constructive so long as the objective was to improve rather than to subvert or destroy.

But what now concerns us is quite new in the history of America. We are not dealing with sporadic or isolated attacks from a relatively few extremists or even from the minority socialist cadre. Rather, the assault on the enterprise system is broadly based and consistently pursued. It is gaining momentum and converts

The sources are varied and diffused. They include, not unexpectedly, the Communists, New Leftists and other revolutionaries who would destroy the entire system, both political and economic. These extremists of the left are far more numerous, better financed, and increasingly are more welcomed and encouraged by other elements of society, than ever before in our history. But they remain a small minority, and are not yet the principal cause for concern.

The most disquieting voices joining the chorus of criticism come from perfectly respectable elements of society: from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians. In most of these groups the movement against the system is participated in only by minorities. Yet, these often are the most articulate, the most vocal, the most prolific in their writing and speaking.

Moreover, much of the media-for varying motives and in varying degrees-either voluntarily accords unique publicity to these "attackers," or at least allows them to exploit the media for their purposes. This is especially true of television, which now plays such a predominant role in shaping the thinking, attitudes and emotions of our people.

One of the bewildering paradoxes of our time is the extent to which the enterprise system tolerates, if not participates in, its own destruction.

The campuses from which much of the criticism emanates are supported by (i) tax funds generated largely from American business, and (ii) contributions from capital funds controlled or generated by American business. The boards of trustees of our universities overwhelmingly are composed of men and women who are leaders in the system.

Most of the media, including the national TV systems, are owned and theoretically controlled by corporations which depend upon profits, and the enterprise system to survive.

Tone of the Attack

This memorandum is not the place to document in detail the tone, character, or intensity of the attack. The following quotations will suffice to give one a general idea:

William Kunstler, warmly welcomed on campuses and listed in a recent student poll as the "American lawyer most admired," incites audiences as follows:
"You must learn to fight in the streets, to revolt, to shoot guns. We will learn to do all of the things that property owners fear."2 The New Leftists who heed Kunstler's advice increasingly are beginning to act -- not just against military recruiting offices and manufacturers of munitions, but against a variety of businesses: "Since February, 1970, branches (of Bank of America) have been attacked 39 times, 22 times with explosive devices and 17 times with fire bombs or by arsonists."3 Although New Leftist spokesmen are succeeding in radicalizing thousands of the young, the greater cause for concern is the hostility of respectable liberals and social reformers. It is the sum total of their views and influence which could indeed fatally weaken or destroy the system.

A chilling description of what is being taught on many of our campuses was written by Stewart Alsop:

"Yale, like every other major college, is graduating scores of bright young men who are practitioners of 'the politics of despair.' These young men despise the American political and economic system . . . (their) minds seem to be wholly closed. They live, not by rational discussion, but by mindless slogans." A recent poll of students on 12 representative campuses reported that: "Almost half the students favored socialization of basic U.S. industries."

A visiting professor from England at Rockford College gave a series of lectures entitled "The Ideological War Against Western Society," in which he documents the extent to which members of the intellectual community are waging ideological warfare against the enterprise system and the values of western society. In a foreword to these lectures, famed Dr. Milton Friedman of Chicago warned: "It (is) crystal clear that the foundations of our free society are under wide-ranging and powerful attack -- not by Communist or any other conspiracy but by misguided individuals parroting one another and unwittingly serving ends they would never intentionally promote."

Perhaps the single most effective antagonist of American business is Ralph Nader, who -- thanks largely to the media -- has become a legend in his own time and an idol of millions of Americans. A recent article in Fortune speaks of Nader as follows:
"The passion that rules in him -- and he is a passionate man -- is aimed at smashing utterly the target of his hatred, which is corporate power. He thinks, and says quite bluntly, that a great many corporate executives belong in prison -- for defrauding the consumer with shoddy merchandise, poisoning the food supply with chemical additives, and willfully manufacturing unsafe products that will maim or kill the buyer. He emphasizes that he is not talking just about 'fly-by-night hucksters' but the top management of blue chip business."

A frontal assault was made on our government, our system of justice, and the free enterprise system by Yale Professor Charles Reich in his widely publicized book: "The Greening of America," published last winter.

The foregoing references illustrate the broad, shotgun attack on the system itself. There are countless examples of rifle shots which undermine confidence and confuse the public. Favorite current targets are proposals for tax incentives through changes in depreciation rates and investment credits. These are usually described in the media as "tax breaks," "loop holes" or "tax benefits" for the benefit of business. * As viewed by a columnist in the Post, such tax measures would benefit "only the rich, the owners of big companies."

It is dismaying that many politicians make the same argument that tax measures of this kind benefit only "business," without benefit to "the poor." The fact that this is either political demagoguery or economic illiteracy is of slight comfort. This setting of the "rich" against the "poor," of business against the people, is the cheapest and most dangerous kind of politics.

Does any of that sound familiar? This time all it took was the election of a nice establishment neo-liberal who happens to be black to drive them into a frenzy. One must remember, however, that they felt the same way about John F. Kennedy when he was in office, even though they've since taken him as one of their own. (And they attempted a coup on Roosevelt, so ...)

He went on to lay out a framework for business to change higher education and media to more favorably reflect their interests. I would suggest they were very successful at dealing with the latter, and slightly less successful at changing higher education, although it must be noted that the kind of radical youth movements which characterized that period have not been seen again.

This was his discussion of government:

The Neglected Political Arena

In the final analysis, the payoff -- short-of revolution -- is what government does. Business has been the favorite whipping-boy of many politicians for many years. But the measure of how far this has gone is perhaps best found in the anti-business views now being expressed by several leading candidates for President of the United States.

It is still Marxist doctrine that the "capitalist" countries are controlled by big business. This doctrine, consistently a part of leftist propaganda all over the world, has a wide public following among Americans.

Yet, as every business executive knows, few elements of American society today have as little influence in government as the American businessman, the corporation, or even the millions of corporate stockholders. If one doubts this, let him undertake the role of "lobbyist" for the business point of view before Congressional committees. The same situation obtains in the legislative halls of most states and major cities. One does not exaggerate to say that, in terms of political influence with respect to the course of legislation and government action, the American business executive is truly the "forgotten man."

Current examples of the impotency of business, and of the near-contempt with which businessmen's views are held, are the stampedes by politicians to support almost any legislation related to "consumerism" or to the "environment."

Politicians reflect what they believe to be majority views of their constituents. It is thus evident that most politicians are making the judgment that the public has little sympathy for the businessman or his viewpoint.

The educational programs suggested above would be designed to enlighten public thinking -- not so much about the businessman and his individual role as about the system which he administers, and which provides the goods, services and jobs on which our country depends.

But one should not postpone more direct political action, while awaiting the gradual change in public opinion to be effected through education and information. Business must learn the lesson, long ago learned by labor and other self-interest groups. This is the lesson that political power is necessary; that such power must be assidously (sic) cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination -- without embarrassment and without the reluctance which has been so characteristic of American business.

As unwelcome as it may be to the Chamber, it should consider assuming a broader and more vigorous role in the political arena.

Neglected Opportunity in the Courts

American business and the enterprise system have been affected as much by the courts as by the executive and legislative branches of government. Under our constitutional system, especially with an activist-minded Supreme Court, the judiciary may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change.

Other organizations and groups, recognizing this, have been far more astute in exploiting judicial action than American business. Perhaps the most active exploiters of the judicial system have been groups ranging in political orientation from "liberal" to the far left.

The American Civil Liberties Union is one example. It initiates or intervenes in scores of cases each year, and it files briefs amicus curiae in the Supreme Court in a number of cases during each term of that court. Labor unions, civil rights groups and now the public interest law firms are extremely active in the judicial arena. Their success, often at business' expense, has not been inconsequential.

This is a vast area of opportunity for the Chamber, if it is willing to undertake the role of spokesman for American business and if, in turn, business is willing to provide the funds.

As with respect to scholars and speakers, the Chamber would need a highly competent staff of lawyers. In special situations it should be authorized to engage, to appear as counsel amicus in the Supreme Court, lawyers of national standing and reputation. The greatest care should be exercised in selecting the cases in which to participate, or the suits to institute. But the opportunity merits the necessary effort.

Their judicial revolution is only now coming to fruition and I would suggest it's been a rousing success so far. Not that they will admit it since claiming victimization at the hands of the courts is habitual (and lucrative.)

He wrote more about how business executive needed to become involved and discussed the costs of doing this. And then he made the pitch we all know so well by now:

Relationship to Freedom

The threat to the enterprise system is not merely a matter of economics. It also is a threat to individual freedom.

It is this great truth -- now so submerged by the rhetoric of the New Left and of many liberals -- that must be re-affirmed if this program is to be meaningful.

There seems to be little awareness that the only alternatives to free enterprise are varying degrees of bureaucratic regulation of individual freedom -- ranging from that under moderate socialism to the iron heel of the leftist or rightist dictatorship.

We in America already have moved very far indeed toward some aspects of state socialism, as the needs and complexities of a vast urban society require types of regulation and control that were quite unnecessary in earlier times. In some areas, such regulation and control already have seriously impaired the freedom of both business and labor, and indeed of the public generally. But most of the essential freedoms remain: private ownership, private profit, labor unions, collective bargaining, consumer choice, and a market economy in which competition largely determines price, quality and variety of the goods and services provided the consumer.

In addition to the ideological attack on the system itself (discussed in this memorandum), its essentials also are threatened by inequitable taxation, and -- more recently -- by an inflation which has seemed uncontrollable. But whatever the causes of diminishing economic freedom may be, the truth is that freedom as a concept is indivisible. As the experience of the socialist and totalitarian states demonstrates, the contraction and denial of economic freedom is followed inevitably by governmental restrictions on other cherished rights. It is this message, above all others, that must be carried home to the American people.

It's interesting to note that at the time labor unions and collective bargaining were considered hallmarks of freedom, even by men like this. They've certainly moved right in that regard --- mostly as a result of the necesities of spower politics. (They also don't even give lip service to right wing dictators anymore. They just call them liberal fascists and carry on.)

If you haven't read the whole memo recently, it's worth looking over again. This is a long term source of contention in American society which has been confronted by both sides before with varying degrees of success. It's useful to to look at the past and try to glean what worked and what didn't and see what lesson we can apply to the present circumstances.

And it really should be noted that this story has gone virtually unreported for 40 years by the mainstream press. It's a shocking example of journalistic malpractice, particularly when you think about the snotty derisiveness of corporate tools like the late Tim Russert at Hillary Clinton's characterization of a Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. They either knew or they were felony stupid. Either way, it's no excuse.

Now it's at least seeping out and maybe we can have an adult discussion about it. Maybe.