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Friday, December 31, 2010

Bye 2010

by digby

On behalf of Dennis, tristero and all the other fine contributors to this blog over the years -- HNY!

Update: And happy blogiversary to Gary Farber who's been keeping it real for nine long years.

Update II: Here's a fun 2010 quiz for all you news junkies from Michael Tomasky. I was fairly shocked at how badly I did. I guess it means I have to read even more news in 2011.

I'll give up sleeping.

Bread and Circuses

by digby

I was struggling with a worthwhile year-end post when my favorite correspondent Bill sent me this piece by Will Bunch from last May. I couldn't have said it better myself (and Lord knows, I've tried):

People forget that the whole justification for police to get Tasers in the first place was to subdue potentially violent suspects in cases in the past in which they might have been tempted to use lethal force. But the notion that the cops would have pulled a gun and shot 17-year-old field jumper Steve Consalvi is absurd, which means the rationale for tasing him is...what? There's something oddly funny about zapping a fellow human for some reason, but Tasers are no joke to the loved ones of the estimated 50 people who died because of their use.

Consalvi didn't have the risk factors of most of those killed or injured -- he is young, health, and wasn't drunk or on drugs. But he still -- while committing a misdemeanor, let's remember -- was subjected to the brief, intense pain of 50,000 volts of electricty. There was a simpler, quainter time when causing pain to another person was called...violence.

I guess that quaint time was America before 9/11 -- after which for some reason we lost all sense of proportionality on how to respond to various levels of wrongdoing. After my low-key blog suggestion that Tasering a mildly lawbreaking fan wasn't a great idea, I got an email from a reader. He said, in part: "Were you there last night? I was. Idiots like that are unpredictable at best! The days of “Morgana (sic) the kissing bandit” are gone. We live in a post 911 world." I don't mean to be harsh to the emailer -- he actually made some decent points about security entering Citizens Bank Park.

But I also had to wonder: Must we see every single act of wrongdoing, even minor ones, through the prism of 9/11? Is a fan running on a field in the same ballpark with killing nearly 3,000 people? What has happened to us in this country. Did anyone call for stun-gunning "Morganna the kissing bandit" in the 1970s because we lived in "a post-JFK assassination world" and that maybe she had a concealed weapon inside of those, um. concealed weapons. Of course not. Americans have changed..and not for the better.

Make no mistake -- the 9/11 attacks were the most cowardly acts of pure evil ever committed on U.S. soil -- but the American ideals of civil liberties should be so sacrosanct they should not have been unduly violated even for the people who planned and executed 9/11, but of course they were at Guantanamo and with the John Yoo-justified torture regime that was expanded to many people who had nothing to do with 9/11 and eventually to people who were innocent of any crime altogether.

But even more damaging is the way that attitude -- that any kind of lawbreaking or even potential lawbreaking requires the harshest possible response, with no regard to more than 200 years of momentum toward basic civil liberties and human rights -- is filtering down to other aspects of American life.

read on ...

Bunch hit on one of the main reasons why I find tasering to be such an important issue. It's not just the use of the device itself which is awful enough. It's what it symbolizes --- the unraveling of 200 years of accumulated progress toward civil liberties and human rights. This instrument of pain is being used on everything from kids to bed-ridden grandmothers without regard to guilt or innocence or danger to the populace and the police. And many of our fellow Americans see it as a form of entertainment.

There have always been pendulum swings, but this last ten years with the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the economic downturn seem to have precipitated a wilder swing than usual --- and a hardening of our culture in ways that I think may be going past the usual boundaries. The recent legalization of torture and indefinite detention normalizes behaviors that our leaders would have been much too afraid to admit to doing in the past. The president's startling assertion that he has a right to order the assassination of American citizens --- and the recent calls from public figures for the same against a variety of suspected miscreants isn't something I've seen before in my lifetime. While they insist that they must be allowed to hide all manner of secrets from the people, they seem to be willing to proclaim to the world that they have previously unenumerated powers to kill and imprison without due process.

And now we are seeing this ugly attitude spill over to the unemployed and the sick and the poor as they struggle to maintain some sort of footing in this rapidly shifting economy. The rich are complaining that they aren't properly worshiped, with demands that the rest of us contribute more to keep them in their splendor even as they blithely demand tax cuts and insist that their wealth alone proves their superiority to the rest of us.

Meanwhile, hate radio is calling for the death of liberalism, the tea partiers are screaming about death panels, and their standard bearer has a TV show in which she is seen giggling as she clubs a fish and shoots caribou on camera to prove her macho bonafides to people who are convinced that progressives and Islamic fundamentalists are allies in the War Against Everything They Care About. When you add it all up, the infliction of the terrible pain of the taser on a teen aged prankster to the great amusement of people in a stadium seems much closer to ancient Roman circuses than anything resembling justice. It would appear that the American Empire isn't so exceptional after all.

Is This A Great Country (For Rich People) Or What: New Year Edition

by digby

It was a very good decade ... for the very rich:

The gap between the rich and the middle class is larger than it has ever been due to the bursting of the housing bubble.

The richest 1% of U.S. households had a net worth 225 times greater than that of the average American household in 2009, according to analysis conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank. That's up from the previous record of 190 times greater, which was set in 2004.

The top 1% household's average net worth is 14 million --- the average American's 61k.

But average Americans don't have enough "skin in the game" so they are going to have to learn to sacrifice. At least that's what the upper one percent keep telling us when they aren't demanding lower taxes.

Timothy Noah at Slate did an excellent series this year on income inequality if you feel like spending a few minutes reminding yourself of the reasons why this matters:

In 1915, a statistician at the University of Wisconsin named Willford I. King published The Wealth and Income of the People of the United States, the most comprehensive study of its kind to date. The United States was displacing Great Britain as the world's wealthiest nation, but detailed information about its economy was not yet readily available; the federal government wouldn't start collecting such data in any systematic way until the 1930s. One of King's purposes was to reassure the public that all Americans were sharing in the country's newfound wealth.

King was somewhat troubled to find that the richest 1 percent possessed about 15 percent of the nation's income. (A more authoritative subsequent calculation puts the figure slightly higher, at about 18 percent.)

This was the era in which the accumulated wealth of America's richest families—the Rockefellers, the Vanderbilts, the Carnegies—helped prompt creation of the modern income tax, lest disparities in wealth turn the United States into a European-style aristocracy. The socialist movement was at its historic peak, a wave of anarchist bombings was terrorizing the nation's industrialists, and President Woodrow Wilson's attorney general, Alexander Palmer, would soon stage brutal raids on radicals of every stripe. In American history, there has never been a time when class warfare seemed more imminent.

That was when the richest 1 percent accounted for 18 percent of the nation's income. Today, the richest 1 percent account for 24 percent of the nation's income. What caused this to happen? Over the next two weeks, I'll try to answer that question by looking at all potential explanations—race, gender, the computer revolution, immigration, trade, government policies, the decline of labor, compensation policies on Wall Street and in executive suites, and education. Then I'll explain why people who say we don't need to worry about income inequality (there aren't many of them) are wrong.

Income inequality in the United States has not worsened steadily since 1915. It dropped a bit in the late teens, then started climbing again in the 1920s, reaching its peak just before the 1929 crash. The trend then reversed itself. Incomes started to become more equal in the 1930s and then became dramatically more equal in the 1940s. Income distribution remained roughly stable through the postwar economic boom of the 1950s and 1960s. Economic historians Claudia Goldin and Robert Margo have termed this midcentury era the "Great Compression." The deep nostalgia for that period felt by the World War II generation—the era of Life magazine and the bowling league—reflects something more than mere sentimentality. Assuming you were white, not of draft age, and Christian, there probably was no better time to belong to America's middle class.

The Great Compression ended in the 1970s. Wages stagnated, inflation raged, and by the decade's end, income inequality had started to rise. Income inequality grew through the 1980s, slackened briefly at the end of the 1990s, and then resumed with a vengeance in the aughts. In his 2007 book The Conscience of a Liberal, the Nobel laureate, Princeton economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman labeled the post-1979 epoch the "Great Divergence."

And it's getting worse as the wealthy further buy off the political system (with the help of their servants on the Supreme Court) force the average taxpayers to bear more and more of the financial burden of running the country ("skin in the game") and then raid the treasury for their own use. If you don't believe me, just read Krugman today, to see what they're up to next.

That Dhimmi Kid

by digby

I think this story perfectly sums up America in the year 2010:

Andy Sullivan, a construction worker and Brooklyn native, has been one of the loudest opponents of Park51, the planned mosque and community center near ground zero. Founder of the 9/11 Hard Hat Pledge -- under which construction workers vow not to work at the mosque site -- Sullivan has been a regular presence on television, known for wearing his signature American flag hard hat and talking tough about radical Muslims.

So it was quite a surprise this month to read that Sullivan has set his sights on a new target: Canadian teen pop superstar Justin Bieber.

Mosque foes recently started a boycott of Bieber after he made comments in support of the mosque project in an interview with Tiger Beat, a teen fan magazine, Sullivan told WYNC earlier this month. Now, his 8-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son have been banned from attending Bieber performances.

"I informed them, 'Hey guys, guess what? Justin Bieber spoke out for the ground zero mosque," Sullivan explained to Salon in an interview. "My little girl took down his poster and said she didn't want to have nothing to do with him anymore. These are my kids. They're living this thing."

A Facebook page has been set up by an ally of Sullivan publicizing the boycott of Bieber and several other pro-mosque celebrities. It has attracted nearly 500 fans.

Who knew that Justin Bieber would throw himself into a volatile political issue like this. What's next? The Jonas Brothers join Wikileaks?

But alas, much to everyone's shock, it turns out that it isn't true. Instead, it's the work of a satirical (sort of) celebrity site that makes stuff up:

There is, however, a post on the website CelebJihad.com purporting to describe a Tiger Beat interview. It reads in part:

In an interview with Tiger Beat, the pop sensation stressed that freedom of religion is what makes America great, and went on to say that those who oppose the Mosque are motivated by bigotry.

“Muslims should be allowed to build a mosque anywhere they want,” the singer said. “Coming from Canada, I’m not used to this level of intolerance, eh.”

Bieber went on to say that Muslims are “super cool,” Christians are “lame-o-rama,” and that the mosque will help “start a dialogue” with all religions about which Justin Bieber song is the most awesome.

“I was like seven when September 11th went down, and frankly I’m surprised people are still going on about it. Move on, already!”

It sounds so real!

Undeterred by the fact that it's a hoax, Bieber is now in the crosshairs of the brave defenders of America:

Cynthia Bloemer: That stupid dhimmi kid spoke out for the Mosque. Idiot kid!

Megan Alpert: That's crazy Cynthia. I totally missed that all together.

Administrator: Justin took an adult position and spoke out in support of the mosque in tigar beat magazine. He one of the most influential teen sensations, reaching millions of impressionable kids. If he is going to play like the big boys he better expect some back lash...

Megan Alpert: Well then he is leading all the young teens into a funny way of thinking. He was just a baby when the attack came upon us. He has no clue what we are up against. He is very lost.

Walter H Steinlauf: Justin Beiber is "fishing in DEEP water" now. I eat people like that for breakfast.

Ignorant right wingers threatening manufactured teen-idols based on fake news. I think that says it all.

The worst of the worst

by digby

There are a lot of year-end lists out there today, but this one from The Week has got to be the most inane. It purports to list the "seven key questions to be answered" in 2011:

1. Who will emerge as the favorite to win the 2012 GOP nomination?

2. Will Afghanistan stabilize?

3. Will there be an NFL lockout?

4. Will health-care reform be hobbled?

5. Can Obama bounce back?

6. Will unemployment finally start to fall?

7. Will the Verizon iPhone live up to the hype?

Yep. Those are the "key" questions facing us in the next year. I don't know why they included that dumb one about unemployment, but the rest are solid. I'm certainly on pins and needles about that Verizon iPhone thing.

Sadly, I think this may be a fairly decent overview of the media's agenda for 2011. Depending on Palin of course.

Update: Dean Baker offers up a year-end dream. Maybe if we all dream it together, it will come true.


by digby

CBS News did something really, really unusual for a major news organization. It published an article about what Wikileaks has revealed. Evidently, CBS is not of the opinion that their job is to conceal these things from the public, which is fairly unique.

Ask yourself why it is that our governing institutions and major corporations believe they have a right to keep all this from you.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Crimes Against Inanity

by digby

This Ralph Peters review of a new book featuring interviews with 30 famous conservatives has to be one of the creepiest I've ever read. It starts out by saying that "the left" wants to kill all the interview subjects in a murderous rage:

If our extreme left maintained a kill-or-capture list for the morning after the revolution (before they started arresting and executing each other), the 30 subjects interviewed in "Showdown with Evil" would fill out the top of its roster. In the left's view, the conservative and stubbornly independent voices captured in this book's rapid-fire chapters are guilty of crimes against inanity on two counts: Not only are they boldly, proudly and deliciously politically incorrect, but – far worse – their positions are based on facts, common sense and a positive view of the United States of America.

The left's problem with Guantanamo has never been what it is – leftists adore a good prison camp – but with who we put in it. The campus thought-police would love to round up and incarcerate these interviewees, who range from the courageous (Brigitte Gabriel, for example), through the venerable (Norman Podhoretz and the late William F. Buckley, Jr.), to the magnificently outrageous (Christopher Hitchens, an independent thinker of ferocious integrity). Elliot Abrams, Natan Sharansky, Richard Pipes, David Horowitz and dozens more. Dr. Glazov has gathered the most impressive collection of thinkers-in-freedom's-cause available in a single volume

It's interesting that Peters believes that he can see into the souls of the exterminationist American "left" to such an extent that he knows it wants to put conservative intellectuals in concentration camps. But then he (and the interview subjects in the book apparently) seem to be convinced that "the left" is the United States' greatest enemy, at least as bad as Al Qaeda, and far more violent and dangerous (if not for their cowardice and sloth):

Today's irresponsible leftists have more in common with the bloodthirsty French mob that alarmed Edmund Burke than with the theoreticians who, all good intentions and willful ignorance, destroyed the black American family with the cultural heroin of the Great Society. Of course, we may all be grateful that, unlike the mobs in the Place de la Concorde in the early 1790s, today's campus leftists are physical cowards: Given a choice between manning the barricades and seeking tenure, they will always choose the latter. Nor do they protest the "hegemony" of big banks by refusing to pay their mortgages.

Still, the left's rhetoric is sufficiently hateful (and self-adoring) to encourage nihilists, fascists and terrorists everywhere. Horowitz understands full well the cult-like thrall to which leftists enthusiastically submit, aggrandizing their own imaginary moral splendor by blaming others for all the world's ills: "Their dementia is to believe that if only enough Israelis/Christians/neo-conservatives are eliminated, the world will become a livable and just place." Of course, there will always be another "enemy of the people," no matter how many are shot in the back of the head or starved to death...

Or, as William F. Buckley Jr., succinctly puts it in a capstone interview: "The left has priorities, and the priority this time around is to damage the United States."

The mind reels.

I'm sure there are some Americans of all political stripes who have these violent fantasies, but the only people who seem to turn a profit by writing them down and sharing them with others in vivid detail are these right wingers.

And you have to just laugh at the final line:

In compiling this "greatest hits" volume from the countless splendid and valuable interviews he has conducted over the years, Jamie Glazov has revealed his own priority: The defense of intellectual, religious and physical freedom.

I don't know anyone who's agitating for the government to stop these people from publishing their paranoid tracts (or putting them in concentration camps) but I do know that they wouldn't be able to sell them without the mass delusion that they are under siege from a fantasy leftism that only exists in their turgid imaginations. They remind me of those children who had their minds implanted with false molestation memories by crackpot police psychologists. It wasn't true, but it didn't matter --- the kids "remembered" it as if it were.

[Note: Newer posts below]

Holiday Cheer

by digby

Thank you all so much for your generosity. It's a wonderful affirmation and incentive to keep going.

Onward to the new year which, hopefully, will be one of clarity and purpose. Or not. But what ever it is, we can always gather here and talk about it and that's something.



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The Year In Crazy

by digby

You must read This Modern World's "The year in crazy." You just must.

Here's a sample:

Read on ..
Mutually Beneficial Propaganda

by digby

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

A reader alerted me to this clip of Matt Taibbi with Sam Seder who was guest hosting on Countdown last night. They were discussing the sensitive bankers and their delicate feelings and Taibbi posited that this is mutually advantageous to the President and the bankers because it makes Obama looks like the scourge of Wall Street to his base when he really isn't and it allows the bankers to have more leverage over Obama. He even speculated that the White House or the bankers may have planted the story for mutually advantageous propaganda.

I think there is some truth to this. The bankers don't want to give an inch because they are making out like bandits. So, they are keeping the pressure on the White House in whatever way they can, most especially with the implied threat that they will withhold campaign donations. (Wall Street was the Obama campaign's single largest sector donor after all.)

However, contrary to what Taibbi thinks, I also think they sincerely feel put-upon and wrongly demonized for doing what they consider to be "God's work" by being "productive" and making it possible for the little parasites to live their meager, useless lives in the comfort they provide. They expect worshipful gratitude for being selfish scum and they aren't getting it.

Certainly the Obama administration does benefit from being seen as an enemy of Wall Street even as they deal with the sensitive whiners with an extremely light hand. He has a high approval rating from Democrats so you have to assume that's working for him. The problem is that the policies aren't good and are likely to result in an anemic economy going in to 2012. It's hard to see how that benefits him or the Democratic party which will bear the brunt of the blame after four years.

"Die Quickly"

by digby

Alan Grayson took a lot of grief for saying that the Republican health care plan was "Don't get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly." But he was right.

Here's Gene Lyons, who begins his essay with the sad tale of having to euthanize his sick horse because it would be too expensive to keep him alive:

Long introduction, brief polemical point: Observing Republicans gear up to try to undo "Obamacare," I suspect the only thing that will satisfy some is to make medical care in the United States work like veterinary care. You get what you can pay for. Otherwise, tough luck.

Who would have thought that after Sarah Palin’s imaginary "death panels" -- chosen by Politifacts.com, the fact-checking website, as its 2009 "Lie of the Year" -- Arizona Republicans would be denying heart, lung and liver transplants to Medicaid patients because Gov. Jan Brewer says the state can’t afford them?

To save a lousy $1.4 million (out of a $9 billion budget), Arizona’s Health Care Cost Containment System has decreed an end to organ transplants. Maybe the bitterest irony is that the inhumane policy won’t actually save any money. One of the roughly 100 citizens affected explained to Arizona Republic columnist E.J. Montini:

"I can’t work anymore, and we ran out of (insurance) coverage a while back," he said. "It’s terrible needing help. It’s not what I wanted. But when you run out of money, what can you do? If I don’t get a transplant, I guess the state won’t have to pay for me or worry about me until I walk into an emergency room close to dying. They can’t turn me away then."

No, they can’t. Human hospitals can’t refuse patients for lack of cash. Meanwhile, not a peep of protest from Palin, Rep. John Boehner or any of the Republicans who waxed hysterical over the absurd allegation that "Obamacare" would lead to government-sponsored euthanasia.

But if people die for lack money, that’s the GOP way.

That's correct. And his piece draws attention to one of the most problematic aspects of a private insurance system --- when you get sick and can't work, you can't pay your premiums. The way we deal with this now is to require that people lose everything they have so they can apply for public assistance --- which puts them at the mercy of Jan Brewer and her death panels.

The new health care reform will mitigate this by keeping the premiums somewhat stable, but being unable to work is going to make many sick people poor no matter what and with Medicaid ("medical welfare") funding at the mercy of yearly appropriations battles, it's hard to believe that the same people who face these issues today won't be facing them tomorrow. And the sad fact is that many of the people who are screaming about death panels are among those who will face it.

Of course their own misfortune will just prove in their minds that government doesn't work and motivate them to cut it even more...)

Update: In case you missed it, this report on the Newshour about California's early implementation of the health care reforms in quite interesting. This is a state that's actually trying to get it done and it's very difficult. I can't imagine what kind of roadblocks are being put up in the Republican strongholds.

We're A Plutocracy, In Case You Didn't Notice

by tristero

A chart from this article illustrating the dramatic increase since the 30's in the percentage of American income hoovered up by the wealthiest Americans:

I usually don't like what Fukuyama has to say (The End of History was one of those classic Big Ideas that explains nothing concrete but still had the potential to generate lots of very real mischief ), but this is spot on. Writing about Plutocracy, the theme of the latest issue of The American Interest hes says:
This is not, however, what this issue of The American Interest means by plutocracy. We mean not just rule by the rich, but rule by and for the rich. We mean, in other words, a state of affairs in which the rich influence government in such a way as to protect and expand their own wealth and influence, often at the expense of others. As the introductory essay to this issue shows, this influence may be exercised in four basic ways: lobbying to shift regulatory costs and other burdens away from corporations and onto the public at large; lobbying to affect the tax code so that the wealthy pay less; lobbying to allow the fullest possible use of corporate money in political campaigns; and, above all, lobbying to enable lobbying to go on with the fewest restrictions. Of these, the second has perhaps the deepest historical legacy.
This isn't too bad, either:
Scandalous as it may sound to the ears of Republicans schooled in Reaganomics, one critical measure of the health of a modern democracy is its ability to legitimately extract taxes from its own elites. The most dysfunctional societies in the developing world are those whose elites succeed either in legally exempting themselves from taxation, or in taking advantage of lax enforcement to evade them, thereby shifting the burden of public expenditure onto the rest of society.
h/t, Why Evolution Is True.
Housekeeping Note

by digby

Miracle of miracles, I think I've converted the comment threads back to oldest first, chronological order. Many thanks to Atrios, who remembered how he did it on his blog and sent me a note.


Blinking Red Light

by digby

Michael Scherer at TIME Magazine seem to think Mitch McConnell "blinked" when he agreed to extend the tax cuts for the middle class and unemployment insurance in exchange for the tax cuts for the wealthy.

I don't think Michael Scherer understands what "blinking" is.

He believes that McConnell and the president have formed a sort of partnership and will be able to work on two specific areas together. The first is energy, which will not include any kind of climate change component. The other is on entitlement and spending issues. Norah O'Donnell and Scherer both agree that the big showdown is going to be on the debt ceiling and the question is whether or not the president will be willing to cut "sacred cows" like social security and whether the Republicans will agree to "reform" the tax code.

Boy I sure hope McConnell doesn't "blink" on any of these or we're really screwed.

What's In Store

by digby

If the delicate bankers have their feelings hurt now, just wait. If they succeed in inflicting Irish austerity on America, they might find themselves greeted with scenes like this:

See all the pics here.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Beck's Good Old Days

by digby

Ryan Grimm and Arthur Delaney have written a must-read essay about what the world that Glenn Beck wants to recapture was really like --- they go back to the 1890s and revisit stories of how people lived before social security:

The woman "could not give street and number, but could 'fotch' the agent to her place," according to a case study labeled "Aunt Winnie" in one of the organization's annual reports from near the turn of the century. "Old age, with a heavy load on top and a strong wind blowing, made the walk a trying one. At last the 8x10 cabin was reached. In it was a stove in many pieces held together with wire, a bedstead with rags for mattress and rags for covering. From the leaky roof the floor was wet through and through."

Aunt Winnie, the report said, had no income save the 50 cents she made every two weeks for taking in the wash. In summertime she raised herbs and greens, but in winter she "suffered for food and fuel." Her children had all been sold away to slavery, and a nearby niece was too poor to offer any support. Her neighbors helped, providing money for the stove and cot, and a "colored friendly visitor was found to carry broth and other comforts to her." The neighborly charity wasn't enough to persuade the agent, who was essentially a private sector version of a social worker, that the old woman should be on her own.


Aunt Winnie, whose story is preserved in the archives of the Historical Society of Washington, had been sent to an American institution that was by then some 300 years old and went by a variety of names: the county farm, the poor farm, the almshouse or, most often, simply the poorhouse. She would probably have been surprised to learn that more than a hundred years later, after the virtual eradication of elderly poverty, a powerful political movement would materialize with the mission of returning to the hands-off social policies that made the poorhouse the nation's only refuge for the jobless, the aged, the infirm and the disabled.

That movement's most outspoken proponent is Fox News host Glenn Beck, who doesn't merely pine for the pre-New Deal era in general, but regularly prevails upon his audience to recognize the particular genius of some of the period's presidents, whose ideologies of inaction he holds up as the American ideal.

Democratic President Grover Cleveland is one such hero. When Beck and guest Joseph Lehman were discussing the proper roles of welfare and charity this summer, Lehman noted that one "extreme [position] is, you've got welfare only as a last resort and all assistance is private."

It wasn't too extreme for Beck. "And this is where we actually were a hundred years ago," Beck said, rightly thinking -- or not -- of people in Aunt Winnie's situation.

"We used to be here. In fact, Grover Cleveland has this excellent statement. In 1887, President Cleveland said, 'Though the people may support their government, the government shall not support the people,'" Lehman responded.

"That's great," said Beck.

Please read the whole article. It's vastly important that people understand just what "austerity" really means. Elderly Americans used to know all about it. And then we became civilized. At least for a while.

I realize that I will be flayed for being hyperbolic by even linking to this. There is no chance that the US will ever revert to that level of poverty, right? It's unthinkable. But people live with that level of poverty in many parts of the world right alongside a smug upper class which manages quite easily to ignore them. There is nothing to say that it can't happen here. In fact, compared to the rest of the industrialized world, it already has

Update: Dday's thoughtful post on this piece is also worth reading:

During the Great Recession, we’re sadly seeing a slow return to those Gilded Age, pre-New Deal policies, as what remains of the safety net staggers along. Social Security is under attack from deficit frauds like Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles. Unemployment insurance, food stamps and welfare have weathered blows for years, especially as their costs rose when demand for their services increased. A new Republican Congress will demand more cuts, squarely on these and other social programs, or will threaten to destroy the full faith and credit of the US government.

It’s important to look to history to see the inevitable consequence of these backslides. If Democrats follow Republicans down the deficit rabbit hole, especially if they break faith on the bedrock promise of Social Security, we’re sure to see a return of the poorhouse, and the cruel belief that the people contained therein are somehow inferior, somehow given to rejecting self-sufficiency, somehow lazy, somehow defective. That belief has already crept into discussions about the 99ers, or the long-term unemployed.

Wiki, Wired and Glenzilla

by digby

There are many accusations flying between Greenwald and Wired magazine over whether or not the magazine should release the copies of the chat logs between accused leaker Bradley Manning and the man who turned him in, Adrian Lamo. I'm not going to get into the details of all this since you can read the pieces for yourself. But the crux of the issue couldn't be more clear to me: is the government's primary source, Adrian Lamo, the man who turned Bradley Manning in and gave Wired a copy of the chat logs that implicated him, credible? We know that he is lying to the news media about something because his stories about what is in those logs are inconsistent. What we don't know is what, if any of it, is true. Wired could easily clear that up by either releasing the logs or simply writing a story about what the logs show.

I realize that journalistic ethics require that sources be protected, but the idea that they must be protected when they are lying strikes me as equally unethical.If Wired knows the facts,which they clearly do since they have the logs and can check Lamo's claims, then they should have an ethical obligation to the truth, not to their agreement with Lamo. I say should because as we've seen with The New York Times and journalists like Judy Miller (lately of Newsmax) the contract between journalist and source doesn't seem to require that the source be honest. But that doesn't make it right. There is no good reason that Wired shouldn't clear this up.

(And I find the excuse that the press has an obligation to protect Manning's privacy laughable since this is the first time I can remember the press doing such a thing for an accused criminal. In any case, while it's very kind of them to want to protect Manning's personal musings, that doesn't mean they can't independently verify the truth of their source's public statements about documents they have in their possession. I honestly can't see what one has to do with the other.)


Well well well:

Wired.com's Kevin Poulsen and Evan Hansen have confirmed key details concerning unpublished chat logs between whistleblower Bradley Manning and informant Adrian Lamo. Responding to questions on Twitter, Poulsen wrote that the unpublished portion of the chats contain no further reference to 'private' upload servers for Manning, while Hansen indicated that they contain no further reference to the relationship between Manning and Wikileaks chief Julian Assange.

U.S. Army Pvt. Manning, who allegedly sent 250,000 diplomatic cables and other secrets to Wikileaks, awaits trial in Quantico, Virginia. Wikileaks, working with newspapers in Europe, has so far published about 2,000 of the cables, with minor redactions.

U.S. prosecutors are said to be building a case against Assange. Such a case would, according to legal analysts, have to prove he actively helped Manning leak classified information rather than act merely as a journalist working with a source.

There is already discussion in the already-published part of the logs of a hypothetical secure FTP server. But public statements by Lamo suggested that such a server may in fact have been provided for Manning to upload classified documents, leading to intense debate over the unpublished part of the chat logs. Wikileaks supporters—most notably Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald—urged Wired to reveal more information. Wired balked, citing journalistic privilege and the need to protect the privacy of sources and subjects.

Poulsen's comment appears to suggest Lamo's claims cannot be sourced to the remaining chat logs, only to the published sections or other communications. Along with Hansen's tweet, that leaves no new smoking guns in the unpublished portion or the logs, and little to suggest the degree of collaboration between Pvt. Manning and Wikileaks that prosecutors may need to pursue charges. Assange, who is neither a U.S. citizen nor resident there, is currently on bail in London, where he faces extradition to Sweden on unrelated charges.

See how easy that was? Is there any reason why it had to take Glenn Greenwald going after them with a rhetorical chainsaw to get them to do it?

The Marie Files: part XXIV

by digby

David Gergen just made up a huge pile of nonsense on CNN about debt and the deficit. (Did you know that US Treasuries are simultaneously worthless and highly coveted by the cunning Chinese communists who are buying them up like they're going out of style? This also means they have us over a barrel for some reason...)

But the real problem is the deficit which means that "we" are all living beyond "our" means:

"We have to bring these numbers down. We have to live in a more sane way, frankly a more frugal way."

Well, except for the wealthy who need every last penny or the world will come to an end:

GERGEN: I just want to come back to one point Anderson. For the last two days we’ve been hearing about protecting the middle class… protecting the middle class. When we get serious about deficit reduction, you know who’s really going to get hit hard? It’s going to be the middle class. A lot of the mortgage deductions are going to get trimmed back. A lot of those things are going to get trimmed back and you know, I think that Washington is not being straight with people.

Yes we’ve got this… we have a need to get these tax cuts extended. It has to be done and so forth and so on, but trouble is coming for the middle class and the sooner the president and the Congress full level with the American people, the better

Is David Gergen going to be eating cat food after we "bring those numbers down?" I don't think so. But Gergen, like all wealthy Villager believes he's just another middle class working stiff who has the same "skin in the game" as anyone else when, in fact, the extent of David Gergen's sacrifice will be to have to put up with sick, old people lying on the sidewalk to get to his limousine. (And what hell that will be for for him.)

Marie Antoinette at least had the excuse of being a wealthy, cloistered royal in a world she knew little about. What's Gergen's excuse? oh wait ...

Oh Come On

by digby

Business Insider:

A story headlined "Tired Gay succumbs to Dix in 200 meters" was the most popular story on Reuters.com this year, Reuters insiders Ernest Scheyder and Ken Li say on Twitter.

I find this rather hard to believe, actually. But it's a funny thought.

Sounds Like Moral Relativism To Me

by digby

The Vatican has come up with some thin explanations for their molestation scandal, but this one by the pope himself last week is a real doozy:

Victims of clerical sex abuse have reacted furiously to Pope Benedict's claim yesterday that paedophilia wasn't considered an “absolute evil” as recently as the 1970s.

In his traditional Christmas address yesterday to cardinals and officials working in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI also claimed that child pornography was increasingly considered “normal” by society.

“In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorised as something fully in conformity with man and even with children,” the Pope said.

“It was maintained — even within the realm of Catholic theology — that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a ‘better than' and a ‘worse than'. Nothing is good or bad in itself.”

The Pope said abuse revelations in 2010 reached “an unimaginable dimension” which brought “humiliation” on the Church.

Asking how abuse exploded within the Church, the Pontiff called on senior clerics “to repair as much as possible the injustices that occurred” and to help victims heal through a better presentation of the Christian message.

“We cannot remain silent about the context of these times in which these events have come to light,” he said, citing the growth of child pornography “that seems in some way to be considered more and more normal by society” he said.


I'm fairly sure that pedophilia was considered an absolute evil in the 1970s. It was just covered up --- mostly because of institutions like the Church which made even the thought of sex so shameful that even innocent victims of abuse were afraid to admit it. But whatever "context" he's thinking of, in normal society sexual exploitation of children wasn't part of it except on society's fringe (just as it is today among certain fundamentalist sects.)

I know the Pope is infallible and all, but you can only conclude from these comments that he still has not come to grips with what happened in his Church and neither has the institution.

There are many examples of our leadership and elite institutions and leadership failing, but I think this one is the best example. When even the Church that has made human sexuality a purely procreative necessity within sanctioned marriage is making excuses for pedophilia among its priests because of "the times" then it's fairly clear that any institution can be thoroughly corrupted to its very core. It tends to create just a little mistrust among the people.

Cliche Turnover

by digby

Walter Shapiro has written a piece I wish I'd written: he's compiled a list of the most shopworn political cliches and explained their origins:

According to my rough calculations, our political tongue -- the language of campaigns, elections and, yes, governing -- is sustained by an army of maybe 10,000 professional babblers. They are the Quoted (White House officials, members of Congress and big-time candidates), the Quote Creators (speechwriters and press-release purveyors) and the Quote Users (reporters, columnists and TV correspondents).

And taken as a group -- with some notable exceptions -- they display all the originality of second-graders telling knock-knock jokes.

Think I am exaggerating?

read on ... I particularly like this one:

Maverick: John McCain's only lasting accomplishment since the 2008 election has been single-handedly to destroy this great 19th century American word that honored Thomas Maverick's refusal to brand his cattle. William Safire in his indispensable "Safire's New Political Dictionary" defined a maverick as "one who is unorthodox in his political views and disdainful of party loyalty, who bears no man's brand."
During his 2000 presidential primary campaign, McCain appeared to be the personification of such a maverick as he challenged Republican orthodoxy on tax cuts, campaign reform and the divine right of George W. Bush to the GOP nomination. A Google search of book references shows much greater use of the word maverick when McCain was running for president than when "Maverick" starring James Garner was a hit 1950s TV Western. A NEXIS search unearthed 1,088 media references describing McCain as a maverick in 2000 alone.

The media mob (myself included) stuck with this sobriquet far too long as McCain morphed into an off-the-rack Republican senator. Even when McCain claimed in a Newsweek interview before this year's Arizona GOP primary, "I never considered myself a maverick," the magazine insisted on using as its subhead: "A maverick fights for his political life -- and his soul." McCain's amnesiac denial of his unbranded political history (a 2008 McCain campaign ad proclaimed him -- you can guess what's coming -- "the original maverick") makes a mockery of the political legacy of Tom Maverick.

The next time a national political figure shimmers with party-be-damned independence, we should dust off that other evocative 19th century political coinage -- mugwump. Derived from an Algonquin word, mugwumps were originally Republicans who bolted the GOP in 1884 to protest the nomination of James Blaine for the presidency. Mugwump will become a particularly useful term in 2012 if the Republican Party fractures over the presidential candidacy of Sarah Palin -- McCain's other enduring contribution.

Now, I like a good cliche. At times they can be very useful ways of communicating something quickly and evocatively. And I think the blogosphere is doing a lot to modernize the political cliche. But if I hear Gloria Borger thespit out the word "pork" one more time I'm going to scream.

And let's not even get started on the sports metaphors...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


by digby


State legislators in 25 states (see list below) planned to introduce SB 1070 clones in upcoming legislative sessions, according to Immigration Impact. Of course, not all — or even most — of these laws will pass. However, Republicans picked up the most seats in the modern era of state legislatures in 2010 — more than Republicans did in 1994 or Democrats in the post-Watergate wave of 1974. Republicans hold both houses and the governorship in fifteen states (sixteen including Nebraska’s unicameral legislature).

Florida elected Republican Rick Scott — who ran ads against his primary opponent for his opposition to Arizona’s law — for governor along with Republican supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature. Scott supports “measures like the Arizona law.” When asked by Wolf Blitzer of CNN whether he would push the legislature to bring a bill to him, he said, “I don’t have to, the legislature’s already focused on it.”

Both House and Senate versions of immigration enforcement bills in Florida require aliens to carry documentation with them or risk being incarcerated and fined. Both bills state that nothing may prohibit local officials from “sending, receiving, or maintaining information relating to the immigration status of an individual.” If local officials do not comply, then the state attorney general may sue those officials. The Florida legislative session begins in March.

Legislators in Tennessee — which now has a Republican governor, House and Senate — plan to introduce a SB 1070-like bill in the upcoming session. The Tennessean reported that State Sen. Bill Ketron is drafting a bill that would criminalize illegal immigration, but attorneys are working to make sure the bill conforms with the state constitution. Ketron — like Arizona legislators — received help in drafting the bill from the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group that writes conservative “model legislation” for states.

Colorado is a good example of a state where a SB 1070-like bill stands no chance of passing. State Senator-elect Ken Lambert (R) said he would introduce a bill into the legislature next session. “I don’t care if it is litigated,” he said. “It is clearly something the people want. The will of the people has been ignored by Democrats for too long.” However, the Democratic governor-elect, John Hickenlooper, opposes the measure; incidentally, he defeated Tom Tancredo — who gained a national profile for his vehement opposition to illegal immigration — in the general election.[...]

If states don’t take up SB 1070-like bills, in-state tuition — or even admission to public universities — for illegal immigrants is likely to be a big issue, especially after the failure of the DREAM Act during the recent lame-duck session of the U.S. Congress.

But if the DREAM Act — allowing a path to citizenship for children brought to the U.S. illegally with their parents after completing two years of college or military service — cannot pass, it remains highly unlikely that Congress will pass any immigration reform in the near future. Which means many Republican-controlled states, unburdened by divided government, may fill in the gap.


States with SB 1070-like legislation in the works: (PDF)

Most likely to pass: Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina
Maybe: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia
Less Likely: Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island

I consider it a triumph of our new found tolerance and diversity that it's taken so long to get into full-on, hysterical xenophobia. Believe it or not, that's progress.

I'd just note that contrary to popular myth about the Tea Partiers being only concerned with fiscal matters, this issue is very big.

Doing Something Right

by digby

Besides the fact that he's a super-smart Nobel Prize winner, this is why I like Paul Krugman:

If you’re following some of the comments here — and you should see my mail — something about the season is really bringing out the vitriol. I haven’t gotten this much personal abuse since the worst of the Bush years.

I must be doing something right.

That's the best way to look at things in Bizarroworld USA. Indeed, it will keep you sane. If more liberals took that attitude instead of seeking the good opinion of the Very Serious People and the villagers, we'd all be better off.

Good News For The Animal Lovers

by digby


I saw that footage yesterday in passing with the sound off and thought it was a horrible tragedy. I was so relieved to find out that they had actually saved the little guy. Who says TV news good for nothing?

(Un) Intended Consequences

by digby

I just want to thank all the Democrats who were so desperate to find "common ground" with the anti-abortion fanatics that they signed on to "partial birth abortion" ban demagoguery and lies, giving it a bipartisan sheen for the court to rely upon in their ruling and moving the goalposts even further down the field. It's worked out very well for the anti-choice zealots who, like all social conservatives, will take a mile if you give an inch and rightly saw it as an opening for further restrictions:

The 5 to 4 decision in Gonzales v. Carhart turned away Carhart's challenge to the federal ban on "partial birth" abortion and appeared to mark a significant change in the high court's balancing of a woman's right with the government's interest.

The ruling was a key moment in the emerging identity of the court headed by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who marked his fifth anniversary on the court this fall.

Roberts and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., also nominated by President George W. Bush in 2005, have become part of a conservative majority willing to reconsider the court's position on social and political issues. Race, campaign finance and the ability of plaintiffs to sue are some of the issues touched by the court's changing jurisprudence.

But since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, no social issue has been as entwined with the court than abortion, nor as dependent on its nuance and shifting views.

That's what made the 2007 decision so important to both sides of the issue.

"Many in the pro-life movement have become very pragmatic when it comes to the court: 'Can you count to five?' " said Mary Spaulding Balch, director of state legislation for the National Right to Life Committee. "With the Gonzales decision, we were happy to see that we could."

The justices have not revisited the issue of abortion since, but the decision has emboldened state legislators to pass an increasing number and variety of restrictions in hopes that a changed court will uphold them.

"I believe the decision was like planting a bunch of seeds, and we're just starting to see the shoots popping out of the ground," said Roger Evans, whois in charge of litigation for Planned Parenthood of America.

The Center for Reproductive Rights concluded that in 2010, state legislatures "considered and enacted some of the most extreme restrictions on abortion in recent memory, as well as passing laws creating dozens of other significant new hurdles."

Read on. They're trying every cruel and useless trick they can think of to deter women from exercising their rights in the wake of this ruling, fully expecting that the Roberts Court will hear any cases and likely rule in their favor. And while that's happening many, many women are suffering for it.

There is a real price to be paid for sacrificing fundamental human rights in the name of compromise. Unfortunately, the price is rarely paid by those who are doing the compromising.

There's No Crying In Galt's Gulch

by digby

I don't know if these people are emotionally stunted adolescents or if they are crudely playing the refs, but this is just pathetic:

On the mental list of slights and outrages that just about every major figure on Wall Street is believed to keep on President Barack Obama, add this one: When he met recently with a group of CEOs at Blair House, there was no representative from any of the six biggest banks in America.

Not one!

"If they don't hate us anymore, why weren't any of us there?" a senior executive at one of the Big Six banks said recently in trying to explain his hostility toward the president.

"It's not so much just this one thing,” he said. “Who cares about one event? It's just the pattern where they tell you things are going to change, that they appreciate what we do, that capital markets are important, but then the actions are different and they continue to want to score political points on us."

Still, the executive understands that it makes political sense for the White House to stiff-arm Wall Street, if not bash it with a massive sledge hammer.

After all, polls suggest most Americans believe Obama has handled the titans of Wall Street with an exceedingly light touch. He supported the deeply unpopular $700-billion bank bailout, pushed a financial reform package that stopped short of breaking up the biggest behemoths and, just this month, signed off on tax cuts for the wealthiest and continued low rates on capital gains and dividends.

And, of course, big-time bonuses at bailed-out banks are back, even as average Americans continue to get tossed out of their homes, corporate America has turned in its most profitable quarter in history and the stock market is at a two-year high.

Yet the executive dislikes Obama with, what seems like, an almost irrational passion. And he is not alone.

Along the gilded corridors of Manhattan's largest banks, hedge funds and private equity firms and inside Washington's financial lobby shops, Obama and the rest of his administration are regarded with a disdain so thick it often blurs to naked loathing, a fact that has significant implications for the president's reelection campaign and his ability to operate over the next two years.

In an effort to understand such animus POLITICO interviewed a dozen senior Wall Street denizens, including C-suite executives, investment bankers, traders and financial lobbyists, who were promised anonymity in return.

Their complaints fell along similar lines: Obama and the White House don't understand how capital markets work, don't like people who make a lot of money and relish using Wall Street as a whipping boy to score points with the left.

"He whipped everyone into a frenzy against us," said one banker.

"It's a bunch of academic lefties down there," said another.

"You say something to them and it just goes into a black hole," said a lobbyist.

I think this tells you more about what's wrong with our economy than any number of graphs and papers. The Master of the Universe are a big bunch of blubbering babies. I honestly couldn't respect them less at this point.

The article must be read in its entirely to get the full picture of the simpering, pouting millionaires and billionaires hysterically lamenting about how mean the big bad pwesident is to them, even as they admit that their big bonuses are back, they got their obscenely low tax rates extended and the markets are roaring. Nobody liiiikes them and they just won't have it!

But here's the sad part:

There’s a precedent for this kind of antagonism – former President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

"You would really have to go back to 1934 to find a time when Wall Street was this angry at an administration following a crisis that was largely of Wall Street's own making," said Charles Geisst, a financial historian and professor at Manhattan College. "Back then, Wall Street basically went on strike and would not issue bonds for corporations. They stomped their feet like little kids. The same thing is happening now."

But, as Geisst noted, this is not 1934. Not even close. Big banks are not getting broken up. Nothing Obama has done equates to having created the Securities and Exchange Commission.

You know the old saying "if you're going to blamed for it anyway ...."

There are many pathetic sniffles and plaintive wails in this story, but this has to be the most pathetic of all:

But despite recent White House efforts to reach out to Wall Street, bankers believe Obama is much more worried about perceptions on the left.

As evidence, bankers point to recent White House meetings with labor leaders, Geithner's dinner with the heads of progressive groups and Vice President Joe Biden's recent pledge to fight the top-rate tax cuts again in two years.

And it is this, as much as anything, that gets under Wall Street's collective skin.

"All that people in this White House seem to worry about is what The Huffington Post is going to say if they do something, anything, remotely probusiness," one financial executive said. "They really don't care what we think at all."

Imagine that! A politician being more concerned about silly old voters than the few hundred sensitive millionaires whose vast sums of money can't buy them love. Oh the humanity.

I've been writing about this sickening spectacle of Wall Street millionaires and their serious emotional and psychological problems since the beginning of the meltdown. It's one of the most interesting sociological stories of this era and it reveals that far from being the macho, swashbuckling Galtian heroes of Wall Street myth, these Masters of the Universe and nothing more than spoiled little rich boys who throw tantrums when they aren't treated like pampered little princes.

And it finally explains one of the most puzzling aspects of the meltdown: why were the petulant little miscreants so blind that they would kill their golden goose for short term gain? It turns out that it's because they knew that mummy and daddy would buy them another one. But they also think that mummy and daddy should kiss them on the forehead and tell them that they are good little boys and that they can do no wrong. Even the slightest hint that they may not have behaved perfectly is met with spittling rage.

The servants, however, see that Little Lords Goldman and Chase are sociopaths whose killing of the golden goose may be a very disturbing precursor to something much, much worse. But who listens to the help?

Update: And then there's Paul Ryan

The Press Rejects Its Reason For Being

by digby

Greenwald has a good post up this morning about his appearance on CNN yesterday and what it and the rest of the media's reaction to Wikileaks has to say about journalism. There are many fine points in the piece, but he mentions one zombie lie I'd really love to kill --- the one that all of these so-called reporters seem to have absorbed as if it's the received word of God --- the one that says Wikileaks dumped 260,000 cables indiscriminately on the internet.

Here's the truth, from an AP news report from December 3, 2010. There's no excuse for journalists not to know this by this point:

Respected news outlets collaborate with WikiLeaks

By The Associated Press

The diplomatic records exposed on WikiLeaks this week reveal not only secret government communications, but also an extraordinary collaboration between some of the world’s most respected news-media outlets and a website that is facing increasing pressure and criticism from governments worldwide.

Unlike earlier disclosures by WikiLeaks of tens of thousands of secret government military records, the group is releasing only a trickle of documents at a time from a trove of a quarter-million, and only after considering advice from five news organizations with which it chose to share all of the material.

“They are releasing the documents we selected,” Le Monde’s managing editor, Sylvie Kauffmann, said in an interview at the newspaper’s Paris headquarters.

WikiLeaks turned over all of the classified U.S. State Department cables it obtained to Le Monde, El Pais in Spain, The Guardian in Britain and Der Spiegel in Germany. The Guardian shared the material with The New York Times, and the five news organizations have been working together to plan the timing of their reports.

They also have been advising WikiLeaks on which documents to release publicly and what redactions to make to those documents, Kauffmann and others involved in the arrangement said.

Each publication suggested a way to remove names and details considered too sensitive, and “I suppose WikiLeaks chooses the one it likes,” El Pais Editor-in-Chief Javier Moreno said in a telephone interview from his Madrid office.

As stories are published, WikiLeaks uses its website to release the related cables. For example, The Guardian published an article yesterday based on diplomatic cables discussing the assassination of former Russian security officer Alexander Litvinenko by radiation poisoning, and WikiLeaks quickly posted three cables on the same subject.

WikiLeaks, however, struggled to stay online today as corporations and governments moved to cut its access to the Internet. The site is essentially being chased around the Internet by hackers and government pressure. For now, it’s one step ahead of the opposition, but the site has been brought down numerous times over the course of a week.

EveryDNS — a Manchester, N.H.-based company that had been directing traffic to the website wikileaks.org — stopped late yesterday after cyber attacks threatened the rest of its network. WikiLeaks responded by moving to a Swiss domain name, wikileaks.ch — and calling on activists for support. Two companies host the Swiss domain name, one of which is in France. The other is in Sweden.

Officials in France moved to ban WikiLeaks from servers there, with Industry Minister Eric Besson calling it unacceptable to host a site that “violates the secret of diplomatic relations and puts people protected by diplomatic secret in danger.”

The close arrangement between the website and the newspapers is unusual because it ties the news-media outlets more closely to WikiLeaks and reveals an unusual collaboration with a group facing intense international scrutiny, including a U.S. criminal investigation.

“In this case, what you have is news organizations partnering with an organization that very clearly has a different set of values,” said Kelly McBride, a journalism ethics professor at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla.

But McBride notes that the unique collaboration also forces some degree of journalistic standards on WikiLeaks, which in the past has released documents without removing information considered sensitive.

New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller told readers in an online exchange that the newspaper had suggested to its media partners and to WikiLeaks what information it believed should be withheld.

“We agree wholeheartedly that transparency is not an absolute good,” Keller wrote. “Freedom of the press includes freedom not to publish, and that is a freedom we exercise with some regularity.”

Days before releasing any of the latest documents, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appealed to the U.S. ambassador in London, asking the U.S. government to confidentially help him determine what needed to be redacted from the cables before they were publicly released. The ambassador refused, telling Assange to hand over stolen property. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley called Assange’s offer “a half-hearted gesture to have some sort of conversation.”

U.S. officials submitted suggestions to the Times, which asked government officials to weigh in on some of the documents the newspaper and its partners wanted to publish.

“The other news organizations supported these redactions,” Keller wrote. “WikiLeaks has indicated that it intends to do likewise. And as a matter of news interest, we will watch their website to see what they do.”

Although Keller has emphasized to readers that the Times is “not a ‘media partner’” of WikiLeaks and that it did not receive the State Department documents from WikiLeaks, his public comments describe a working relationship with the group on the release of the material and decisions to withhold certain information.

Keller told the AP in an e-mail yesterday that advising WikiLeaks about removing names and other sensitive details was the responsible thing to do.

“We have no way of knowing what WikiLeaks will do, no clear idea what they make of our redactions, but if this to any degree prevents WikiLeaks from carelessly getting someone killed, I’m happy to do it,” he said. “I’d be interested to hear the arguments in favor of having WikiLeaks post its material unredacted.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said this week there was “an active, ongoing, criminal investigation” into WikiLeaks’ release of the material. He said the release jeopardized national security, diplomatic efforts and U.S. relationships around the world. He declined to equate WikiLeaks to traditional news organizations that enjoy certain free-press protections.

“I think one can compare the way in which the various news organizations that have been involved in this have acted, as opposed to the way in which WikiLeaks has,” Holder said. He did not elaborate on the distinction he sees between WikiLeaks and the publications.

The WikiLeaks documents have been compared to the Pentagon Papers, an internal government study of U.S. involvement in Vietnam that was completed in 1967. The documents were leaked in 1971 by former Defense Department aide Daniel Ellsberg and included many damaging revelations, including a memo that stated the reason for fighting in Vietnam was based far more on preserving U.S. prestige than preventing communism or helping the Vietnamese.

Princeton University historian Sean Wilentz rejects similaries between WikiLeaks and the Pentagon Papers.

“It’s not as if we’re still up against the Vietnam War; and everybody has a right — no, a duty, to play Daniel Ellsberg,” said Wilentz, whose books include The Rise of American Democracy and The Age of Reagan.

“But this is extremely dangerous, given the imperatives of diplomacy. Is there some profound deception of the American people and the world going on which, as with Ellsberg, requires an insider to, in effect, blow the whistle? I don’t get that sense. I get the sense that there are people out there, like the WikiLeaks people, who have a simpleminded idea of secrecy and transparency, who are simply offended by any state actions that are cloaked.”

But Ellsberg believes there are parallels to the documents he leaked nearly 40 years ago. He says that while early media reports about WikiLeaks focused on gossip and personalities, memos are now emerging that show greater U.S. involvement in Pakistan than the government acknowledged, a pattern revealed by the Pentagon Papers about Vietnam.

“This means the Obama administration is on a path that is as dangerous as can be,” Ellsberg says, noting Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities. “I think the press did a disservice by leading with so much gossip, which isn’t terribly important.”

Gabriel Schoenfeld, a former senior editor at Commentary magazine and author of Necessary Secrets: National Security, the Media, and the Rule of Law, says WikiLeaks will have a “huge downside for historians” because it will encourage more secrecy. But he says he also wishes he had the chance to include WikiLeaks in his book and examine how a “nonstate actor” could “challenge frontally the U.S. security system.”

John Dower, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Embracing Defeat and the National Book Award finalist Cultures of War, praised WikiLeaks. Embracing Defeat, a history of Japan after World War II, and Cultures of War, a comparison between the George W. Bush administration and the Japanese leadership before Pearl Harbor, are both books about understanding how one’s foes think and the dangers of unchallenged opinions.

“The public benefits by understanding what’s going on,” Dower says. “The government is bending over backward to be secretive. We need to understand what is taking place and how we are perceived by others. In recent years, we’ve had failure of intelligence and failures of imagination. We don’t understand the other side. We don’t know why people are being drawn to the terrorists.”

“I don’t see any reason to be worried about WikiLeaks. The government has all kinds of secrets, secrets that no leaker will ever get close to,” said Seymour Hersh, the author and Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter known for uncovering the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War and for his reports on the planning for the war in Iraq and the alleged torture of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison.

“There will always be a struggle between what the government knows and what the public can find out. That’s the reporter’s job, to find out. What’s happening now is about free expression. It’s the First Amendment. It’s the First Amendment. It’s the First Amendment.”

In the month since this was written, the newspapers have duly redacted and released nearly 2000 documents. Wikileaks has released exactly the same redacted documents on their own website --- and those documents only. There has been no indiscriminate release of documents.

The funny thing about all this is that Wikileaks decided to do this release this way for two reasons. The first was in response to criticism of their earlier releases of raw material which were feared to potentially put people in danger (something which has thankfully not come to pass.) But the other reason should be of intense interest to journalists (asking a lot, since they seem not to be interested in even the basic facts) because it shows that they are still necessary. Here's how Julian Assange explained their thinking on this:

Our initial idea, which never got… our initial idea was “look at all those people editing wikipedia”. Look at all the junk they are working on. Certainly if you give them a fresh classified document on the human rights atrocities in Fallujah, that the rest of the world has not seen before, you know it’s a secret document. Certainly all those people working on articles in art history, maths, and so on, and all those bloggers who are busy pontificating on the human rights disasters… who are complaining they can only respond to the NY times because they don’t have sources of their own. Surely those people will step forward, given fresh source material, and do something.

No, it’s all bullshit. All bullshit. In fact, people write about things in general, if it’s not part of their career, because they want to display their values to their peers who are already in the same group. Actually they don’t give a fuck about the material, that’s the reality. So we understood from very early on that we would have to at least give summaries of the material we were releasing. At least summaries to get people to pick it up, to get them to dig deeper. And if we didn’t have a summery to put the thing in context, it would just fall into the gutter. And in cases where the material is more complex especially military material which has lots of acronyms. It’s not enough to do a summery. You have to do an article, or liaise with other journalists on an exclusive or semi exclusive basis, to get them to extract it into semi understandable human readable form.

They originally thought there would be thousands of Marcy Wheelers combing through the documents and creating a narrative of events but found out that there were very few people of her caliber doing that kind of work and getting noticed. What they needed was professional journalism. And so they collaborated with newspapers and observed the rules they mutually agreed upon. Yet most journalists are still heaping them with scorn and accusing them of heinous crimes. It's almost as if they're afraid they might have to actually do something other than kow-tow to power so they're rejecting the most powerful validation of their purpose and necessity in the internet age.

This is the saddest day for journalism since their guileless acceptance of the WMD boogeyman and giddy cheerleading for the Iraq war. It turns out that journalism is important, but most of these "professional" practitioners of the field are not only failing to practice it, they are hostile to the idea that they should practice it. It's very revealing.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Macaca Tea

by digby

Apparently the tea partiers are on the hunt for the perfect candidates for 2012. According to Right Wing Watch, they find Virginia's George "Macaca" Allen, with a 92.3 lifetime conservative rating, to be something of a socialist hippie.

Jamie Ratdke, who recently stepped down as chairwoman of the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation in order to explore a Senate bid, said she began to consider a run for the Senate after attending a Tea Party convention that featured Rick Santorum, Lou Dobbs, and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinnelli as speakers:

Radtke said that she had considered running for the state Senate next year but that she began thinking about the U.S. Senate instead after Virginia's first tea party convention, which drew an estimated 2,800 people to Richmond in October.

Radtke, who worked for Allen for a year when he was governor and she was right out of college, said it's time for a new candidate. She said that Allen was part of "George Bush's expansion of government" when he was senator and that she was concerned about some of his stances on abortion.

Allen has said that abortions should be legal in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is endangered, and he owned stock in the manufacturer of the morning-after pill.

If George Allen is deemed not conservative enough for the Republican Party, then expect many more extremist candidates like Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell to win contested GOP primaries. Allen hurt his chances by supporting healthcare and education initiatives that were backed by President Bush and the Republican leadership, and is also deemed too moderate because he voted to include sexual orientation under hate crimes protections and believes in exceptions under a ban on abortion.

I keep hearing that these Tea Partiers don't care about social issues. I don't know why people think that.

Update: Scott Brown is having some similar problems with a group that headlines its dispatch: Pro-family Group Posts Detailed Expose On Brown In Bed With Gays

And this:

"I think that there will be a primary challenge,'' said Christen Varley, president of the Greater Boston Tea Party. "There's enough of an underground movement in the Tea Party movement as seeing him as not being conservative enough. There probably will be multiple people who attempt to run against him.''

Evidently, there are only about 15,000 registered Republicans in the state, so he could get the Mike Castle primary treatment. It remains to be seen if the Tea party remains a force in the GOP, but with Obama in the White House, I think they'll stay relevant for a while. We'll see if the establishment continues to fund them.

The Revolving Door Is Whirling Like A Top

by digby

The incoming GOP majority is staffing up:

McKee is currently a lobbyist working for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s division dedicated to deregulating complex derivatives products. In her new role working for Lucas, McKee will be liaising with regulators in charge of implementing new rules under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law to overhaul the over-the-counter derivatives market.

As ThinkProgress reported, the Chamber, which is funded by AIG, JP Morgan, CitiGroup, and other financial interests, took the lead role in fighting to defeat Wall Street reform efforts. Last year, the Chamber organized a conference call with other financial industry lobby groups and bank lobbyists to coordinate their efforts. As Tim Fernholz reported, McKee made clear that she was fighting to “kill” financial reform:

“We want to make sure that we hold all the Republicans and are able to influence enough Democrats to have a working majority to kill this thing outright or modify it to the point where it’s palatable to the business community,” Jason Matthews, the Chamber’s director of congressional affairs, told the callers. Ryan McKee, a senior director at the Chamber’s Center for Capital Markets, was even more direct in response to a question from an caller: “We’re fundamentally trying to kill this,” she said.

This news brought to mind this post discussing Thomas Franks' book The Wrecking Crew and it's chapter about the revolving door:

Frank argues that in addition to big business-worship, a qualification for traversing this revolving door was the ability to injure, if not destroy, the institution in which the recruit was placed. Federal agencies were the main target, and some combination of the recruit's hostility to government institutions and/or the recruit's incompetence, either of which would weaken government to businesses' benefit (the theory says), was desired.

I stood on one side of that door for that era's final five years and worked with some of its travelers. As such, I was decently-positioned to observe some of the phenomena set forth in the book.


The firm was, in addition, well-known for its prestigious practice defending and advancing business interests in the courts and agencies of government. Throw in a PR group that relished opportunities to trumpet high-profile departures and returns (and was so generally adept it once got a national legal rag to portray a cadre of forty-something-year-old authoritarian dweebs as rebellious "Young Guns") and the firm was fertile ground for the furnishing of the sons (and once or twice, daughters) of The Wrecking Crew into high legal places.

Those recruited fell roughly into three groups:

The Good: One fellow left as an associate to work in the front office of the Department of Justice's ("DOJ's") Natural Resources Division, and returned a partner a few years later. A legal genius, great advocate, and fine human being, he simply was not one to bend rules or wrongly shade arguments for our business clients during our work together, regardless of the fact that he was a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. I have little knowledge of the substance of his service, yet ethics tend to travel well.

It hurts a bit to write of another relative youngster who left to become an Assistant Solicitor General. While, hands down, the most affected person I have ever encountered, his arguments before the Supreme Court were impressive, as was his record. A worthy public servant.

The Bad: Another young associate left to work for the Provisional Authority in Iraq, set up following "Mission Accomplished." There are obvious elements of sacrifice worth acknowledging, but his job, helping write Iraq's new Constitution, condemns the selection. Setting aside that era's outlandish and doomed arrogance, signified by the shipment of a gaggle of young Federalists to an ancient Muslim country to write for it its own Constitution, it does not besmirch this fellow much to say he wasn't a James Madison, and could only be sent to be one by an administration blinded by ideology and check-box credentials.

A junior partner left for a senior position in the DOJ's Antitrust Division. This surprised many as this fellow wasn't particularly known as an antitruster. He later jumped from DOJ to become General Counsel at a major federal agency. These appointments and the performance of these entities support Frank's theories: the DOJ's Antitrust Section, outside of criminal price fixing, was notoriously lax in the Bush years, virtually ignoring the Sherman Act's prohibition on monopolization and the Clayton Act's merger provisions. The other federal agency, like many in the Bush years, was criticized for failure to enforce existing law and abide by its legislative mandates.

The Ugly: After Jack Goldsmith left as head of DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel ("OLC") because he refused to sign off on the shoddy legal analysis of his predecessor, a firm partner was tapped to take his place (and presumably give his imprimatur to the now-condemned analysis). OLC is a small elite group within DOJ that generally advises the Executive on the constitutionality of proposed legislative and executive acts. OLC attained infamy during the Bush II era for its work on warrantless eavesdropping and "enhanced interrogation methods." "Just a guy," it was said of this fellow, at the time of the appointment, he played a part in some of the historically venerated Justice Department's darkest days.

A number of other firm folks passed through the revolving door during that time, particularly in less senior positions in the OLC. One appeared to fit Frank's portrayal of the flunky-conservative's ultimate government actor: the ideological incompetent. Indeed, as the controversy over the DOJ's torture memos blew up, and some condemning their legal analysis suggested the work was so deficient it must have been deliberately so, I remember thinking "not so fast."

In the main, then, Frank's analysis is spot on, even if occasionally it sweeps in too much. As his analysis is more historical and political, it is worth supplying the legal basis for condemning a mode of government that elevates ideology above all else, including law. Those laws enacted by Congress and, to a lesser extent, rules promulgated by agencies, constitute, in theory, the will of the people, and democracy in action. They are worthy of enforcement, and indeed, demand enforcement, by the executive branch. That is not to say the legislative and regulatory regimes are perfect. They are not close. But there are legitimate ways to challenge and change them.

When a collection of individuals works instead to subvert our system of representative government, our nation ceases to be one of laws, and becomes one of men instead.

For some reason that sounds almost quaint. Aren't we really just talking about which men at this point?