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Monday, April 30, 2012

20 years ago today LA went crazy

by digby

I took my husband to the airport in the morning and we were told that airplanes were having trouble with visibility because of the smoke from the fires all over the city. It was my first clue that things were much worse than I'd thought. I went to work and my office had a bird's eye view of South LA and I watched the number of smoke plumes double, then triple that morning.

I went ahead with a scheduled lunch with our legal team for a planned celebration of the end of a big deal we'd all been working on because it was in West Hollywood and we all figured that the riots were far away. In the middle of our meal the manager came over and told us that they were shutting the restaurant since there were reports of looting in the nearby mall. This turned out to be a rumor but rumors like that were flying fast and furious that afternoon. The city had somehow turned crazy just during the time we were inside the restaurant.

People were driving on the medians and generally acting like fools on the road. I saw someone with a shotgun just casually walking down the street. In Beverly Hills. The mayor came on the radio as I was heading back to the office and told people to go home and stay home, so that's what I did. My normal 30 minute commute was two and half hours that afternoon.

Here's what we saw on the news:

There's a lot to be said about the underlying causes for this conflagration. LA policing has always been problematic, going all the way back to the beginning. I have to say, however, that this article by Dave Zirin in The Nation puts the whole thing in a completely different perspective. He says this particular bomb was armed during the 1984 Olympics. It's a very interesting thesis and one I hadn't heard before.

That night it was helicopters overhead all night long. The National Guard had arrived and was camping out at the Federal Building which wasn't far from where I lived. We could see that there was still major burning and looting all over south LA on television. But the army was there to guard the north and the west --- where all the important (white) people lived.

"He doesn't seem cunning. He seems very genuine."

by digby

This article by Jonathan Chait about Paul Ryan is well worth reading even though most people who frequently read this blog are already familiar with much of it. Since Ryan seems to be the "it boy" this week, it's nice to see it all in one place.

He does explode the myth that Ryan has been the nice "bipartisan" compromiser and responsible fiscal steward everyone in the Village seems desperate to believe he is. His record during the Bush years is astonishing. He was right with him on everything horrible except that he believed that tax cuts were tilted far too much toward the middle class rather than the job-creators and his social security destruction plan was so extreme that even the Bushies had to denounce it.

Chait takes Whitewater stenographer James Stewart apart for his fact-free, credulous Ryan reporting. (This would be in keeping with his entire career. The man has always been a sucker for a sweet talking wingnut.) Chait writes:
It is certainly true, as Stewart argues, that one could reduce tax rates to the levels advocated by Ryan without shifting the burden onto the poor and middle class if you eliminated the lower rate enjoyed by capital-gains income. But Ryan has been crystal clear throughout his career in his opposition to raising capital-gains taxes. An earlier, more explicit version of his tax plan eliminated any tax at all on capital gains. The current version, while refraining from specifics, insists, “Raising taxes on capital is another idea that purports to affect the wealthy but actually hurts all participants in the economy.” I asked Stewart why he believed so strongly that Ryan actually supported such a reform, despite the explicit opposition of his budget. “Maybe he’s being boxed in” by right-wing colleagues, Stewart suggested.

After Obama assailed Ryan’s budget, Stewart wrote a second column insisting that Ryan’s plans were just the sort of goals liberals shared. He quoted Ryan as writing, in his manifesto, “The social safety net is failing society’s most vulnerable citizens.” Stewart is flabbergasted that Democrats could be so partisan as to attack a figure who believes something so uncontroversial. “Does anyone,” Stewart wrote in his follow-up, “Democrat or Republican, seriously disagree?”

The disagreement, I suggested to Stewart, is that Ryan believes the social safety net is failing society’s most vulnerable citizens by spending too much money on them. As Ryan has said, “We don’t want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency”—which is to say, plying the poor with such inducements as food stamps and health insurance for their children has sapped their desire to achieve, a problem Ryan proposes to solve by targeting them for the lion’s share of deficit reduction. Stewart waves away the distinction. “I was pointing out that, at least rhetorically, you can find some common ground,” he says. Stewart, explaining his evaluation of Ryan to me, repeatedly cited the missing details in his plan as a hopeful sign of Ryan’s accommodating aims. “He seems very straightforward,” he tells me. “He doesn’t seem cunning. He seems very genuine.”

Oy vey.

Meanwhile, via the Atlantic's, Elspeth Reeve we find out that Ryan's famous speech is available at the Atlas Society website. You'll recall that just last week Ryan explained that it was just an "urban legend" that he is a fan of Rand's "atheist philosophy". Why he's not for it at all.

And I suppose that could be true. Just because he's spent his entire career legislating a Randian agenda, speaking about it at every turn and forcing his staff to read her entire turgid ouvre that is no reason to assume that believes any of it. Besides it was way back in 2005 that he made the speech featuring the following quotes:
I just want to speak to you a little bit about Ayn Rand and what she meant to me in my life and [in] the fight we’re engaged here in Congress. I grew up on Ayn Rand, that’s what I tell people...you know everybody does their soul-searching, and trying to find out who they are and what they believe, and you learn about yourself.
I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are. It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff. We start with Atlas Shrugged. People tell me I need to start with The Fountainhead then go to Atlas Shrugged [laughter]. There’s a big debate about that. We go to Fountainhead, but then we move on, and we require Mises and Hayek as well.

"I always go back to... Francisco d’Anconia’s speech [in Atlas Shrugged] on money when I think about monetary policy."

But the reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand. And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.

In almost every fight we are involved in here, on Capitol Hill, whether it’s an amendment vote that I’ll take later on this afternoon, or a big piece of policy we’re putting through our Ways and Means Committee, it is a fight that usually comes down to one conflict: individualism vs. collectivism.

And so when you take a look at where we are today, ah, some would say we’re on offense, some would say we’re on defense, I’d say it’s a little bit of both. And when you look at the twentieth-century experiment with collectivism—that Ayn Rand, more than anybody else, did such a good job of articulating the pitfalls of statism and collectivism—you can’t find another thinker or writer who did a better job of describing and laying out the moral case for capitalism than Ayn Rand.

It’s so important that we go back to our roots to look at Ayn Rand’s vision, her writings, to see what our girding, under-grounding [sic] principles are. I always go back to, you know, Francisco d’Anconia’s speech (at Bill Taggart’s wedding) on money when I think about monetary policy. And then I go to the 64-page John Galt speech, you know, on the radio at the end, and go back to a lot of other things that she did, to try and make sure that I can check my premises so that I know that what I’m believing and doing and advancing are square with the key principles of individualism…

Is this an easy fight? Absolutely not…But if we’re going to actually win this we need to make sure that we’re solid on premises, that our principles are well-defended, and if want to go and articulately defend these principles and what they mean to our society, what they mean for the trends that we set internationally, we have to go back to Ayn Rand. Because there is no better place to find the moral case for capitalism and individualism than through Ayn Rand’s writings and works.
Yeah, he's just a casual reader of her hideously overwrought, puerile novels. Which he uses to "check his premises" so that he knows that what he's "believing and doing and advancing are square with the key principles of individualism." Somebody is a major Randroid fanboy and there's no escaping it.


A mass nervous breakdown

by David Atkins

I started writing a post earlier on the "Gateway Sex" bill in Tennessee, but Digby already did a great job with it.

I would add only this: even fifty years ago, no one would have dreamed of enacting a bill banning teenagers from kissing or holding hands. It would have been deemed too bizarre even back then. But then, there's a lot of bizarre behavior going around, whether it be defending torture or a group of people wearing tri-corner hats demanding that the rich pay less than a 35% tax rate.

Modern conservatism isn't just irrational because its policies don't work, or because its base is beset by ignorance of basic realities. It's not even a movement based on a specific set of irrational policy desires.

It's a full-scale collective nervous breakdown of an ideological and demographic faction of America, lashing out in ever more extreme ways simply to get attention and attempt to crack down on behaviors of individuals of which it is losing control.

It would be worth a laugh, except for the fact that the most dangerous animal is a cornered one.

Gateway sex

by digby

Yeah, this should work:

The Tennessee Legislature on Friday sent a bill to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk that, according to the Tennessean, would require sex-ed classes to “exclusively and emphatically” promote abstinence and ban teachers and outside groups from promoting “gateway sexual activity.”

The bill defines “gateway sexual activity” as: “sexual conduct encouraging an individual to engage in a non-abstinent behavior.” The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Jim Gotto, said the bill wouldn’t address things as innocuous as holding hands, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. But critics of the legislation say the offending behavior is not clearly defined. Gotto did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment.

It sounds to me as if somebody watched Footloose and walked out before the rave up ending.

I think these people seriously believe that if kids aren't told about all this dirty stuff, they won't think of doing it. Because teenagers never fool around with sex on their own.

Somebody needs to remind people that sex education wasn't conceived as an instructional program. The kids never needed that --- they were already dong it. It was the discussion of consequences and how to prevent them that was required. "Just don't touch each other" wasn't working.

But hey, lots more teen pregnancy and STDs have never been as problematic for some people as the idea that their little girls and boys might be doing what comes naturally so that's just the price their kids have to pay for their parents' delicate sensibilities.

Alex Castellanos is a creep

by digby

If you have the chance, watch this from about four minutes in for and exchange between Rachel Maddow and the most supercilious, paternalistic, contemptuous piece of work you're likely to see anywhere on TV:

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

It was good of the potted plant by the name of David Gregory to ineffectually grunt from time to time while the interrupting Castellanos was lying and lecturing to Rachel Maddow in tones usually reserved for elderly ladies and small children. how much do they pay him for this again?

Castellanos has a serious problem with women. Recall this little gem:

CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin noted on the May 20 edition of CNN's The Situation Room that "[t]here was a column in The New York Times not too long ago where it talked about some of the humor in the campaign, and the punch line was a line that was -- that Hillary Clinton was a 'white bitch.'

Moments later ... CNN political contributor Alex Castellanos interrupted, asserting, "And some women, by the way, are named that and it's accurate.
I think it's terrific that this sexist creep has such a successful career on television. I'm sure it's impossible to find anyone better.

Schoolyard power-plays are the problem

by digby

Josh Marshall helpfully explains everything I loathe about American politics:

Contemporary American campaigns are much more meta-battles over power, masculinity and dominance, what I once called “bitch-slap politics.” Not pretty perhaps but you’ll never understand campaigns without understanding things through this prism. And that’s very much what’s happening with the Obama campaign’s latest fusillade against Mitt Romney. This isn’t simply - maybe not even mainly — about the actual decision to risk so much to kill bin Laden. It’s a dance to - let’s not run away from what it really is - unman Romney in his contest with the president.

People don’t expect Democrats to make such brash moves on national security politics. It’s been a very long time since a Democratic president has been in a position to do it. It’s aforementioned obviousness aside, it’s garnered a collective gasp from the pundit class. It was a smack right across the face of Mitt Romney right as he’s making a reasonably successful reintroduction of himself to the American people.

The key is less the attack itself than how Romney responds. In this sort of schoolyard power play, if you attack someone and they’re unwilling or unable to defend themselves they become weak, dominated, pathetic. And the perception among voters is much more important than most of the policy minutiae political types focus on. This is what the Swift Boat attacks were really about. I’ve always doubted that many people actually believed the attacks on John Kerry. That wasn’t the point. It was his inability to defend himself that was devastating politically. It made him an object of ridicule and contempt, demoralizing supporters and inspiring opponents. Bush owned Kerry as a result. This is the position that the Obama team is trying to put Romney in.

Earlier in the piece, Josh seems to more or less congratulates Obama for having such a potent example of machismo to brag about. I'm not quite as ecstatic that we have an awesome manly man who can out macho the opposition with tough orders to kill our evil enemies. I tend to think it reinforces some unfortunate characteristics of our politics, which Marshall defines above. Not to mention that I don't know anyone who really believes that Democrats can possibly be masculine enough to win this in the long term. The Party of gays, women and kids is never going to out-macho the Republicans. (They might be able to do it if they commit to totally abandoning those constituencies, so I suppose there's still hope ...) I have no doubt that Barack Obama will be remembered as a very manly president because of his national security policies. But if you're on Team Blue, enjoy it. It's a one-time thing. I doubt very seriously that will mean a thing to any other Democrat running for office now or in the future.

As we were watching some functionary or the other extolling the order to kill Osama bin laden as a unique act of leadership and courage this morning, Mr Digby muttered to me, "they're beating them at their own game." And that's what's wrong with it. It's not that Republicans are uniquely evil people in this regard, obviously. This stuff is very human. It's that the game itself is evil.

I get why the Democrats are doing it. I'm sure it's extremely satisfying to land those punches on the right wing blowhards after all the years of taunting and jeering about liberal cowardice. To be able to say they killed the evil mastermind where the swaggering codpiece failed is probably too much of a temptation for them to pass up. I get it.

But I hate it. I hated it when the Republicans did it and I hate it now. I don't believe the most powerful nation on earth should be running its democracy via schoolyard power plays. This is how we ended up stuck in Vietnam and how we have found ourselves floundering about in Afghanistan and elsewhere. It's why we can't stop spending trillions on useless weapons systems, why we "have" to continue to fund ridiculous programs like Star Wars and why everyone in the political establishment assumes that the only answer to budget problems is to cut the so-called "entitlements."

I know we live in a dangerous world. But this nation is extremely rich and extremely powerful and its most important assets are morality and mystique. I'm not going to argue about the morality of killing Osama bin laden, but it should be remembered that our unilateral wars,torture regimes and insistence on imperial prerogatives have already taken a toll on America's reputation for moral behavior.

As for mystique, well let's just say that schoolyard taunts and manly chest beating doesn't leave much to the imagination. I don't expect the macho worshiping conservatives to ever change this. It's fundamental to their very identity. I was hoping for something a little bit more sophisticated and a little bit more mature from the so-called "reality-based community."

Update: For anyone complaining that I'm not hard enough on the Republicans in this controversy, I wrote about that a few days ago.
Mitt only makes right turns

by digby

The dead tree version of the LA Times has this big headline above the fold: Romney's fight against gay marriage. If you click through you'll see that they changed it to "As governor, Romney faced challenge on gay marriage."

It was a challenge, alright --- a challenge as to how best to position himself as the right wing defender of "traditional marriage" in a state that clearly favored gay marriage. (Why did Massachusetts vote for this guy anyway?)The lesson is that if caused him a lot of trouble with liberals and independents, but he did it anyway.

Romney, now the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, faced one of the biggest challenges of his four years in office. His response would alienate constituencies on both sides and contribute to criticisms that he shifted positions for political gain, a charge renewed in his two bids for the White House. At minimum, Romney's handling of the gay marriage ruling — laid out in interviews with key players and state documents — provides a window into his decision-making style and political tactics.

Romney had vowed while running in Massachusetts to defend and expand the rights of gays and lesbians, although he opposed same-sex marriage and civil unions. When the court ruled, he initially promised to follow its decision, while also seeking a state constitutional amendment to overturn it.

But soon he devoted his attention to trying to block the ruling. Among his moves: resurrecting a 90-year-old state law, aimed in part at preventing interracial marriage, to keep same-sex couples from flocking to Massachusetts for weddings.

The battle served to boost his national profile and conservative credentials in the years leading to his first presidential run in 2008.

To supporters, he emerged as a steadfast defender of traditional marriage. But critics and some onetime allies believe that Romney's national ambitions — and a resulting need to tack to the right — eventually drove the way he dealt with Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health.

One has to assume that a Romney administration would operate the same way. He would forever be looking over his right shoulder. In fact, he's been fooling people his entire career into thinking he's more liberal than he has ever been in practice. It's not as if he's ever taken a right wing position and moved left. It's always the other way.

Self-admitted unpunished torturer admits crime again

by David Atkins

Proud American torturer Jose Rodriguez proudly admitted his crimes on 60 Minutes last night:

Some parts of the transcript:

Lesley Stahl: You had no qualms? We used to consider some of them war crimes.

Jose Rodriguez: We made some al Qaeda terrorists with American blood on their hands uncomfortable for a few days. But we did the right thing for the right reason. And the right reason was to protect the homeland and to protect American lives. So yes, I had no qualms.
As CBS points out, Rodriguez was one of the trainers of the infamous right-wing torture squads in Central America.

Jose Rodriguez: If there was going to be another attack against the U.S., we would have blood on our hands because we would not have been able to extract that information from him. So we started to talk about an alternative set of interrogation procedures.

Lesley Stahl: So you're the one who went looking for something to break this guy.

Jose Rodriguez: Yes. And let me tell you something, you know, because years later the 9/11 Commission accused, or said that 9/11 was a failure of imagination. Well, there was no lack of imagination on the part of the CIA in June 2002. We were looking for different ways of doing this.
Rodriguez went back again and again to the government to ensure that he could engage in the torture he wanted to employ with open legality. Once that was given, he proudly did this:

Jose Rodriguez: We went to the border of legality. We went to the border, but that was within legal bounds.

Lesley Stahl: Even after you got the Justice Department legal office to give you this okay, you kept going back and back, with each thing you did. Over and over.

Jose Rodriguez: We wanted to make sure that the rest of government was with us.

Lesley Stahl: How does the water boarding that you engaged in, how did that work?

Jose Rodriguez: The detainee was strapped to an inclined board with his feet up so that no water would go--

Lesley Stahl: So his head was back.

Jose Rodriguez: So his head was back. And a cloth was placed over the mouth and nose. And water was applied to it.

Lesley Stahl: Oh he couldn't breathe through his nose.

Jose Rodriguez: So when he was saturated, then the air flow would be stopped.

Lesley Stahl: And he'd have the sensation of drowning.

Jose Rodriguez: And he would have the sensation.

Lesley Stahl: And was he naked?

Jose Rodriguez: In many cases, nudity was used extensively. And it worked well.

Lesley Stahl: Why is nudity effective?

Jose Rodriguez: It is effective because a lot of people feel very vulnerable when they're nude. And also because of the culture. Nudity, it is not something that is common...

Lesley Stahl: Was it waterboarding that broke the dam with Abu Zubaydah?

Jose Rodriguez: I think he was more taken aback by the insult slap.

Lesley Stahl: Oh, what's the insult slap?

Jose Rodriguez: It's just slapping somebody with an open hand so that you don't hurt 'em.

Lesley Stahl: By "hurt," you mean you don't break his jaw?

Jose Rodriguez: We don't break his jaw. And the objective is not to inflict pain. The objective is to let him know there's a new sheriff in town, and he better pay attention.
That's torture. By any definition, it's torture. It may not involve hot pokers and fingernail pliers, but it's still torture. And it didn't work, per the inspector general's own frank admission, which Rodriguez blithely dismisses later in the interview. And how does Rodriguez defend all this, beyond wrapping himself in the flag and desecrating the memories of those who lost their lives on 9/11? The "potential ticking time bomb" defense:

Lesley Stahl: Would the plots have been stopped without the harsh interrogation techniques? In other words, could it have happened without waterboarding?

Jose Rodriguez: I can’t answer that question. Perhaps. But the issue here was timing. We needed information and we needed it right away to protect the homeland.

Lesley Stahl: You told us that the whole rationale, justification for the whole interrogation program was to stop an imminent attack. The inspector general says it didn’t stop any imminent attack.

Jose Rodriguez: I submit to you that we don’t know. We don’t know if, for example, al Qaeda would have been able to continue on with their anthrax program or nuclear program or the second wave of attacks or the sleeper agents that they had inside the United States that were working with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to take down the Brooklyn Bridge, for example. So, it’s easy, years later, to say, “Well, you know, no ticking time bomb—nothing was stopped.”
See? The fact that there wasn't an attack proves that there was probably a ticking time bomb that was prevented. Even though no ticking time bomb was ever found. That's totally reasonable.

Not that the ticking time bomb defense ever has merit as a basis for legal precedent. It's one of the most infuriatingly stupid premises ever devised to permit codified totalitarian action. Why? First of all, because the ticking time bomb scenario is incredibly improbable, one only ever seen in cheesy Hollywood movies and right-wing fantasy television shows. But second, because if such a scenario really ever did implausibly happen, that's what prosecutorial discretion is for. It's often said that hard cases make for bad law, and if ever there was a circumstance in which that saying applied, it's this one. In the incredibly unlikely event that a nuclear attack were about to go off in minutes and a suspect in custody had the information to disarm the bomb, I imagine that any number of things would probably be done to attempt compliance and few people would bat an eye--if the truth about what happened ever even came out. Nobody would prosecute the people involved, and few but the most ardent civil libertarians would care.

What one doesn't do under any circumstance is codify torture into law in order to justify an impossibly implausible scenario. And one doesn't engage in torture, "legal" or illegal, on suspects who may or may not have information on a potential attack that may or may not be in process.

This has been probably the most chilling aspect of the new civil liberties regime over the last 12 years: it's not just what has been done in our name--that's bad enough--but that what was done has been justified so openly. It's not as if the American government hasn't since its inception done some truly awful things in its past by people who justified to themselves, like Mr. Rodriguez, that they were doing it all for flag and country. But at least in the past such people had enough shame to know they should at least keep it under wraps and classified. J. Edgar Hoover, terrible as he was, at least knew better than to proudly make public his operations.

But when torture becomes a matter of national public policy and men like Mr. Rodriguez proclaim it proudly on national television rather than from behind cell bars, we have a different order of problem entirely. And the onus for that problem lies not just with our elected officials, but with all of us as a society. After all, once it's on 60 Minutes it's not as if we can turn our heads and pretend we didn't know.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Whose status quo are they protecting?

by digby

As thrilling as it was to see Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann declare that it's all the Republicans' fault, I have to confess that I don't believe it's quite the Village earthquake everyone seems to think it is. After all, it's not like it's the first time they've made this observation. Here's Ornstein in November of 2003:

[F]aced with a series of tough votes and close margins, Republicans have ignored their own standards and adopted a practice that has in fact become frequent during the Bush presidency, of stretching out the vote when they were losing until they could twist enough arms to prevail. On at least a dozen occasions, they have gone well over the 15 minutes, sometimes up to an hour.

The Medicare prescription drug vote--three hours instead of 15 minutes, hours after a clear majority of the House had signaled its will--was the ugliest and most outrageous breach of standards in the modern history of the House. It was made dramatically worse when the speaker violated the longstanding tradition of the House floor's being off limits to lobbying by outsiders (other than former members) by allowing Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson on the floor during the vote to twist arms--another shameful first.

The speaker of the House is the first government official mentioned in the Constitution. The speaker is selected by a vote of the whole House and represents the whole House. Hastert is a good and decent man who loves the House. But when the choice has been put to him, he has too often opted to abandon that role for partisan gain.

Democracy is a fragile web of laws, rules and norms. The norms are just as important to the legitimacy of the system as the rules. Blatant violations of them on a regular basis corrode the system. The ugliness of this one will linger.

That was nine years ago. The Republicans weren't duly chastised then and won't be now.

But what would happen if they were? By that I mean, suppose they all read Mann and Ornstein's bill of indictment and decided that they had gone far enough and it was time to start working with the Democrats again. Can we all see the problem with that? They've moved the so far to the right that they can easily declare a truce tomorrow secure in the knowledge that they've already won.

Here's how Ornstein and Mann characterize today's Democratic Party:

Democrats are hardly blameless, and they have their own extreme wing and their own predilection for hardball politics. But these tendencies do not routinely veer outside the normal bounds of robust politics. If anything, under the presidencies of Clinton and Obama, the Democrats have become more of a status-quo party. They are centrist protectors of government, reluctantly willing to revamp programs and trim retirement and health benefits to maintain its central commitments in the face of fiscal pressures.

So, even as the Republicans have moved hard to the right, the Democrats protect the status quo. Which, with each passing year, has moved farther right. Basically, Republicans enact their agenda and it becomes the status quo. Then the Democrats come along and protect what they've done. That becomes the center. At which point the Republicans call the Democrats communists and move even farther right. The Dems are "hardly blameless" alright.

I'll give you a good example of this working in real time:

At the end of March, a version of the Simpson-Bowles plan was given a vote on the House floor. It was annihilated, 382-38, with Pelosi and most Democrats voting against it.

But Pelosi, the day after the vote, said that she could still support the plan if it stuck more closely to the original version put out by Simpson and Bowles. "I felt fully ready to vote for that myself, thought it was not even a controversial thing ... When we had our briefing with our caucus members, people felt pretty ready to vote for it. Until we saw it in print," she said. "It was more a caricature of Simpson Bowles, and that's why it didn't pass. If it were actually Simpson-Bowles, I would have voted for it."

Yet when the Simpson-Bowles plan had been originally unveiled, Pelosi called it "simply unacceptable."

Within the course of just a few months the Democratic minority leader has moved from saying that Simpson-Bowles was beyond the pale to saying that she would have voted for it. It's now the new center.

I'm sure it makes the DC Democrats proud as punch to be the "grown-ups" in the room and be able to look down their noses at the rambunctious Tea Partiers. But the fact is that the Tea Partiers are all that's keeping the government from codifying a "consensus" that up until about five minutes ago existed only as Grover Norquist's wet dream. As far as I'm concerned they have done us a big favor.

I don't know about you, but I think the "status quo" sucks. I take no pride in being a member of a Party that is "reluctantly willing to revamp programs and trim retirement and health benefits to maintain its central commitments in the face of fiscal pressures" when the entire premise is bullshit. There's enough money. The government simply insists upon allowing millionaires and corporations to escape their responsibilities and we are a global military empire which, as they always do, is sucking the lifeblood out of our polity.

Worried about deficits? Here you go:

When we have adequately addressed our irresponsible tax policies, our obscene military spending and our insane health care system, then I'll be happy to "defend the status quo." Right now the status quo is what's killing us. So before we get all excited about this, it's important to ponder just what will happen if the Republicans decide to take a breather and those who Mann and Ornstein label the Democrats' "extreme wing" try to pull our policies back to what used to be the middle. I think we can all imagine how that will go.

Jousting with the VSPs

by digby

I feel sorry for Krugman having to refrain from throwing up his hands and screaming "what are you people TALKING About??!!!"

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

His actual rsponse:We're doomed

We have a terrible failure of demand — and Carly Fiorina thinks the key problem is excessive taxes on corporations (our effective rate is actually fairly low). Hey, if only we had low rates like Ireland, we could have 14.7 percent unemployment … oh well, never mind.

Meanwhile, Eric Schmidt thinks the problem is a shortage of workers in some high-skill fields. As Dean Baker points out, businesses were saying the same thing in 1935; so were the era’s Very Serious People.

Everything makes David Walker think of the need for entitlement reform. Everything makes George Will think of Ronald Reagan.


I particularly love that they keep featuring Pete Peterson's ventriloquist dummy as a Very Serious Person.

Update: And this ... Jesus H Christ:

WILL: -- is simple. I mean the average length of retirement in the 20th century expanded from two years to 20 years. The system was never designed for this. If we had indexed the retirement age to life expectancy in 1935, the retirement age today would be 74 and we'd have no problem.

When George Will has to work his extra years as a short order cook and his wife is a full-time waitress, maybe we can talk.

I'm with Atrios: why in God's name do "liberals" think they'll ever be able to take Social Security off the table. It will be off the table when the retirement age is 113 and there are only two people collecting.

It was 20 years ago today ...

by digby

...that the Rodney King riots broke out here in Los Angeles. It was a terrible thing, one that should have been predicted by the authorities in the event the police were not held liable for the videotaped beating of Rodney King. Unlike today, we didn't have a lot of home video of police incidents. And the police hadn't developed a whole set of arguments about why you should believe them over your lying eyes. People were stunned.

In case you've forgotten the details, here's the dry account of what happened, via Wikipedia.

On March 3, 1991, Rodney King and two passengers were driving west on the Foothill Freeway (I-210) through the Lake View Terrace neighborhood of Los Angeles. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) attempted to initiate a traffic stop. A high-speed pursuit ensued with speeds estimated at up to 115 mph first over freeways and then through residential neighborhoods. When King came to a stop, CHP Officer Timothy Singer and his wife, CHP Officer Melanie Singer, ordered the occupants under arrest.

After two passengers were placed in the patrol car, five Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers (Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno, and Rolando Solano) attempted to subdue King, who came out of the car last. In a departure from the usual procedure, which is to tackle and cuff a suspect, King was tasered, kicked in the head, beaten with PR-24 batons for over one minute, then tackled and cuffed. The officers claimed that King was under the influence of PCP at the time of arrest, which caused him to be very aggressive and violent towards the officers. The video showed that he was crawling on the ground during the beating and that the police made no attempt to cuff him.

A subsequent test for the presence of PCP turned up negative. The incident was captured on a camcorder by resident George Holliday from his apartment in the vicinity. The tape was roughly ten minutes long. While the case was presented to the court, clips of the incident were not released to the public.

In a later interview, King, who was on parole from prison on a robbery conviction and who had past convictions for assault, battery and robbery, said that, being on parole, he feared apprehension and being returned to prison for parole violations so he decided to resist apprehension.

The footage of King being beaten by police while lying on the ground became a focus for media attention and a rallying point for activists in Los Angeles and around the United States. Coverage was extensive during the initial two weeks after the incident: the Los Angeles Times published forty-three articles about the incident, the New York Times published seventeen articles, and the Chicago Tribune published eleven articles.Eight stories appeared on ABC News, including a sixty-minute special on Primetime Live

Today there are similar beatings and taserings posted on Youtube constantly and when commenters aren't laughing, they're making excuses for the cops, usually telling people that if they don't want a beating or electro-shock they should obey the police. (These are almost always the same people who describe themselves as anti-government, interestingly.) It's not that it didn't happen before, of course. It's just that those of us who weren't commonly subject to this violence never saw it.

In any case, when the police were found not guilty in a trial held in their special enclave of Simi Valley (home of the Reagan Library, fwiw)the authorities were unprepared for what happened.

I happened to be watching TV at work when this unfolded:

The acquittals of the four accused Los Angeles Police Department officers came at 3:15 pm local time. By 3:45, a crowd of more than 300 people had appeared at the Los Angeles County Courthouse protesting the verdicts passed down a half an hour earlier. Between 5 and 6 pm, a group of two dozen officers, commanded by LAPD Lt. Michael Moulin, confronted a growing African-American crowd at the intersection of Florence and Normandie in South Central Los Angeles. Outnumbered, these officers retreated. A new group of protesters appeared at Parker Center, the LAPD's headquarters, by about 6:30 pm.

At approximately 6:45 pm, Reginald Oliver Denny, a white truck driver who stopped at a traffic light at the intersection of Florence and Normandie Avenues, was dragged from his vehicle and severely beaten by a mob of local black residents as a TV news helicopter hovered above, piloted by reporter/pilot Bob Tur, who broadcast live pictures of the attack, including a concrete brick that was thrown by 'Football' Damian Williams that struck Denny in the temple, causing a near-fatal seizure. As Tur continued his reporting, it was clear that local police had deserted the city.

Bob Tur,who filmed the Reginald Denny beating, talked about that day:

The rest is history. I'll revisit the events over the course of the next few days. It was something to live through, I'll say that. I wish I could also say that it couldn't happen again, but it wouldn't be true.

In case you were wondering:

Williams escaped the most serious charges against him of attempted murder, assault and aggravated mayhem and was convicted instead of only four misdemeanors and simple mayhem.

Williams was released after serving four years of his 10-year sentence, but soon found himself back in jail. He was convicted of participating in the 2000 murder of an L.A. drug dealer, and in 2003 was sentenced to 46 years in prison. He is currently serving his sentence at Pelican Bay State Prison, according to California Corrections Department officials.

Update: Newstalgia has the first news report that conveys the shock that people felt at the verdict. It also features the first lame press conference from the Los Angeles authorities. (And I'm reminded of just what an ass Chief Daryl Gates was ...)

*Put some change in the tip jar to keep Newstalgia up and running, if you can.

Poor little Teddy

by digby

So the Nuge is blubbering like a little baby over his concert at an Army base being cancelled due to his threats of violence:

Nugent told The Associated Press this week that his words were not intended as a threat against the president.

"To think that there's a bureaucrat in the United States Army that would consider the use or abuse of First Amendment rights in determining who is going to perform at an Army base is an insult and defiles the sacrifices of those heroes who fought for the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights," Nugent said.

Nugent said he had received messages of support from troops and noted that the Secret Service had met with him and closed its case about the remarks.

"There is nothing in my spoken word or written word that could be even wildly considered by any stretch of the imagination to be a threat to anyone," Nugent said.

Asked to clarify the remarks at the NRA convention, Nugent said: "A whole bunch of us ... believe ... we are in danger of being improperly and criminally jailed – I mean criminally on the part of the government."

Earlier in the week, Nugent pleaded guilty to transporting a black bear he illegally killed in Alaska, saying he was sorry for unwittingly violating the law.
Nugent said the prosecution in U.S. District Court was the result of a "witch hunt" by federal officials over his activism.

"We the people are turning up the heat," he said. "And that's why I'm being singled out by certain fish and game agencies and certain U.S. attorneys."

Typical wingnut, but words but whines and cries when he's held to his own standards. I guess he thinks he has the God given right to threaten and kill whomever and whatever he wants.

It's important that people realize that his last little clown show was far from his first. Maybe he doesn't think this sounded like a threat, but when you combine it with this, it sure sounds like it:

I was in Chicago last week I said, “Hey Obama, you might want to suck on one of these, you punk!” Obama, he’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on one of my machine guns. Let’s hear it for them.

I was in New York and I said, “Hey Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset you worthless bitch.”

Since I’m in California, I’m gonna find Barbara Boxer she might wanna suck on my machine guns. Hey, Dianne Feinstein, ride one of these you worthless whore.

I'm guessing somebody in the US Military was informed of these previous threats and decided it wasn't a good idea to allow him appear on base. It's a common problem when a Democratic president is in office. You'll recall that when Clinton was in office, there were similar issues:

Mr. Helms, a Republican from North Carolina, created a furor by saying that President Clinton was not up to the job of Commander in Chief, he told The News and Observer, a newspaper in Raleigh: "Mr. Clinton better watch out if he comes down here. He'd better have a bodyguard."

Mr. Helms said soldiers disliked President Clinton because he had avoided service during the Vietnam War, supported homosexuals in the military and had reduced military spending.

It's always something.

By the way, if you haven't heard Hannity excusing Nugent's tirade, you should. What a little jerk.

Screwed straight?

by digby

I'm sure that Monica Crowley and the rest of the right wing comedy troupe think this is just another of their hilarious jokes and we should all lighten up, but I think it's horrifying. From Jezebel:

Cleveland radio personality Dominic Dieter, a surely sonorous voice that squawks to every morning to listeners of the Rover's Morning Glory Show on "The Buzzard" 100.7 FM WMMS, gave a father who wrote to the station worrying about whatever to do about catching his daughter kissing another girl some of the worst advice ever, facetious or otherwise. Dieter responded to the letter on-air, telling the father, "You should have one of your friends screw your daughter straight."

I wouldn't call that advice. I'd call it incitement to a criminal act. Which is what it is:

Corrective rape is the use of rape against women who violate social norms regarding human sexuality and gender roles, often lesbians but sometimes gay men, with a goal of punishment of abnormal behavior and reinforcement of societal norms. The crime was first identified in South Africa where it is sometimes supervised by members of the woman's family or local community, and is a major contributor to HIV infection in South African lesbians. Corrective rape has also been known to occur in Thailand, Ecuador, Canada, the United States, and Zimbabwe. Corrective rape and the accompanying violence can result in physical and psychological trauma, mutilation, HIV infection, unwanted pregnancy, and may contribute to suicide.

This is a very specific crime against LGBT people. But I've always gotten a similar feeling from the oft told "joke" about how some woman men don't like "needs to get laid," or "needs a good fucking." You can interpret it as saying that a woman is unhappy because she isn't getting any sexual pleasure, and I'm sure there are those who mean it that way. But far too often there's a coercive, violent tone that sounds an awful lot like she needs to be raped to teach her a lesson of some sort. Maybe you have to have someone say directly to you to get the full effect.

In any case, this radio creep is beyond the pale. Encouraging a man to have one of his friends rape his daughter to stop her from being gay is so wrong on so many levels that I honestly can't see how any decent person could excuse it.

A profile in media courage

by David Atkins

All of Washington D.C. yesterday was obsessed with what has derisively become known as "Nerd Prom": the White House Correspondents Dinner. Unless Stephen Colbert is involved, it's typically a bleak and self-important affair.

But speaking of Stephen Colbert, there was a much funnier and better event, which Digby posted about earlier in the week, the Time 100 dinner. Stephen Colbert had the honor of delivering remarks--and per his usual, he didn't mince words:

Also, Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke is here tonight. Also an instant, instant feminist icon. Famously tested, testified before Congress, that Georgetown, a Catholic institution,should be required to provide insurance coverage for her birth control.

Now, TIME 100 honoree, his eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan disagrees -- sir, lovely to see you again.

Of course, now some, some critics have said in response to this that if the Catholic church's insurance does not cover Sandra Fluke's birth control, it shouldn't cover Cardinal Dolan's Viagra.

Oh, no, no, no. Oh, no, no, no, that's called celibacy plus. That's how the pros do it. Because chastity is one thing, but it shows true commitment to uphold your vows when you are sporting a crook you could hang a miter on. Oh, wow, see you at mass on Sunday, sir?

The best shots were taken at David Koch, who was sitting right there in the front section:

Of course, all of us should be honored to be listed on the TIME 100 alongside the two men who will be slugging it out in the fall: President Obama, and the man who would defeat him, David Koch.
Give it up everybody. David Koch.

Little known fact -- David, nice to see you again, sir.

Little known fact, David's brother Charles Koch is actually even more influential. Charles pledged $40 million to defeat President Obama, David only $20 million. That's kind of cheap, Dave.

Sure, he's all for buying the elections, but when the bill for democracy comes up, Dave's always in the men's room. I'm sorry, I must have left Wisconsin in my other coat.

I was particularly excited to meet David Koch earlier tonight because I have a Super PAC, Colbert Super PAC, and I am -- thank you, thank you -- and I am happy to announce Mr. Koch has pledged $5 million to my Super PAC. And the great thing is, thanks to federal election law, there's no way for you to ever know whether that's a joke.

By the way, if David Koch likes his waiter tonight, he will be your next congressman.

It's been said a million times at this point, but Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart have more courage and honesty than 2/3 of the so-called "liberal" Democratic establishment. They're not afraid of David Koch's or Jamie Dimon's cash, and they're not afraid of not getting invited to cool cocktail parties.

And just for the record, let the conspiracy types who claim that our press cowardice is all the result of corporate media ownership note: Viacom runs Comedy Central, and General Electric Comcast owns MSNBC. Maddow, Stewart and Colbert feel fairly free to do their thing, anyway. There may be nefarious control to a certain extent, but by and large the rest of the traditional press don't get off so lightly. They're simply cowards, "respectable" straight-laced cardboard caricatures humbled at every turn by the brilliance and courage of a couple of comedians and a comparatively neophyte unabashed lesbian TV personality on the 3rd most watched cable news channel.

That should embarrass them. But I guess it doesn't.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday Night At The Movies

Sacred aging man

By Dennis Hartley

Hedging pontiff: We Have a Pope

“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor.”
-Charlie Chaplin

“I now quit public affairs and I lay down my burden.”
-Edward VIII

“Take this job and shove it.”
-Johnny Paycheck

Here’s something you or I will likely never be asked: “Acceptasne electionem de te canonice factam in Summum Pontificem (Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff?).” Now, some of us may have rehearsed an Oscar, or Grammy award acceptance speech, just for fun. Or contemplated a response to: “Do you prefer to receive your Lotto winnings in lump sum, or as annual payments?” Realistically, of course, we are more likely to face queries like “Paper…or plastic?” or “How do you plead to these charges?” However, in the event you have speculated about how the world looks from inside the Popemobile, a Franco-Italian import called We Have a Pope offers a test drive.

Actually, this newly elected Pope, formerly known as Cardinal Melville (Michel Piccoli), is not so eager to leave his gilded cage and flit onto the St. Peter’s Square balcony. His unexpected response to “that question” is to go into a full-blown panic attack. As puzzled speculation amongst the thousands waiting patiently in the Square spins into dark rumor, the pontiff’s handlers brainstorm ways to snap Melville out of his accelerating malaise. They decide to take drastic measures. Loathe as they are to do so, they bring in a (gulp) psychoanalyst (director Nanni Moretti) to see if he can get right to the heart of the matter.

It quickly becomes apparent that the hapless shrink (a non-believer, no less) cannot ply his trade with a flock of handwringing cardinals eavesdropping to make sure he doesn’t ask any “inappropriate” questions. He is chagrinned to learn that Vatican rules dictate that the cardinals are present; even more so when he finds out that he is to be sequestered on the premises until “we have a Pope”. Exasperated, he puts in a plug for his ex-wife, also a psychoanalyst, with a caveat that she is obsessed with “parental deficit”. Melville is whisked off (unbeknownst to the cardinals), incognito for a session with the ex (Margherita Buy). It still doesn’t take. Shortly after the visit, Melville gives his handlers the slip. The rest of the film is divided between following Melville’s misadventures around Rome, and how the boys back at the ranch (OK, the Vatican) are killing time (the chief handler has convinced them that Il papa is resting comfortably up in his apartment).

Moretti has some great ideas here (he also co-wrote, with Francesco Piccolo and Federica Pontremoli), but none of them gel, making his film an uneven and ultimately unsatisfying affair. The setup reminded me of Theodore J. Flicker’s 1967 political satire, The President's Analyst, which likewise framed the narrative by humanizing someone who holds a larger-than-life position of power and responsibility by depicting them to be just as neurotic as anybody else. Moretti seems unsure where he’s going; just when you think he’s delivering a humanist character study, he lurches into silly slapstick (an overlong segment with the cardinals playing “prison volleyball” falls flat). If it is meant to be a satire, the targets are too soft (I’m shocked! I’m shocked to learn that the Holy See is a cloistered world of gossipy, fussy old men, padding around in slippers and funny robes!).

There is one intriguing moment where the psychoanalyst, who has been killing time reading the Bible (the only reading material in his room), holds it up in front of the cardinals and says, “In this book, are all the symptoms of depression: feelings of guilt, weight loss, suicidal thoughts.” Cool, I thought to myself, and settled back for a stimulating “dogma vs. science” debate. But alas, Moretti just throws the idea out there and then abandons it. The film works best when Piccoli is onscreen. His performance is warm, funny and touching, particularly when he takes his Roman Holiday–esque sojourn through the city. In these scenes, his character reminded me of the angel in Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire , who elects to leave a hermetic bubble of rituals and spiritual contemplation to revel in the simple joys of everyday life; to rediscover his humanity. It’s only in these brief moments, that Moretti’s film, and his star, truly shines. That’s because it reminds us that, at the end of the day, the man behind “The Pope” is nothing but a man.

Guilty until proven innocent

by digby

I wrote about this case earlier, but the jury was still out on whether he was going to be compensated. It's now in, and it's good news:

The City Council approved a $250,000 settlement Wednesday to a man mistaken by police as a tagger and was hit with a stun gun over and over.

A jury wanted the city to pay for a police officer using excessive force.

Police took down Dan Halsted while he was just innocently walking home. The officer stunned Halsted five times with a Taser in the back because he thought he sprayed some graffiti.

Halsted was tackled by a Portland police officer in the Northeast Portland neighborhood of Sullivan's Gulch four years ago.

"I was walking home and all of a sudden a flashlight came on in my eyes and I stopped, and I heard a voice say, 'Get him!' And I heard footsteps coming at me, so I turned and I ran."

In the pitch dark, Halsted thought he was being jumped.

"I didn't know what was going on," he said. "I was screaming to call the police the whole time, and I didn't realize this was the police because they never identified themselves at all."

Police had mistaken Halsted for a tagger who hit a nearby building.

"The arresting officer in his police report, he made up a whole other story and said that I had been running down the street with a couple other people."

That's the same thing the officer testified to in court when Halsted sued. In reality Halsted had been with friends at the Rose and Thistle Restaurant and was never charged with any crime.

"The whole event was terrifying, but I think the scariest part was their story afterwards – making me sound like a criminal. I think that was the scariest part," he said.

It's shocking to me that the city actually contested this case, but they did and they lost. Thank goodness.

This should be every American's worst nightmare because it could so easily happen to any of us. You're walking down the street, completely innocent of any wrongdoing, and you get tackled, repeatedly hit with electro-shock and beaten by people you assume are criminals. The more you fight for your life, the worse it gets. And they turn out to be police, who then turn the full force of the state against you to cover their mistake.

We're seeing this sort of thing played out in various ways a lot lately, aren't we? I suppose this fellow should be grateful to be alive. If he weren't, nobody would be the wiser, would they?

Pink Elephants

by digby

Why do I get the feeling that the GOP convention this year is going to be the bizarroworld version of the 2004 Democratic convention?

Recall that it was a flag-waving, drum pounding, martial celebration of epic manly proportions with the rave up ending featuring John Kerry accepting his nomination by saying "reporting for duty." It was, needless to say, an unfortunate display of overcompensation that didn't work.

The Republican “Young Guns” brand is heading into new territory—women.
The YG Network is launching YG “Woman Up,” riffing off of the term “man up,” in an effort to better communicate conservative policies to women...

YG Network Policy Director Mary Anne Carter said the women’s initiative is a good fit for the Young Guns because it is about taking a new approach to issues, including areas like moving to a flexible work-week.

“It’s a new way of looking at things, a fresher approach,” Carter said. “It’s center-right solutions to a broader audience that most certainly would include women.”
This is just the latest initiative by the YG Network, which also recently launched an energy and conservation project.

The new project, YGW, has a six-figure investment for launch and a target budget in the mid-seven figures, according to senior adviser Brad Dayspring. He declined to comment on who put up the funding.

In addition to running issue ads this election cycle, the group plans to have a major presence at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. While the programming is still under development, Carter said they plan to showcase women from across the country.

“There are real women superstars and we want to take advantage of that,” Carter said.

I have a picture in my mind of Mitt Romney striding to the podium to the melodious sound of "I am woman, hear me roar" blasting over the speakers. It should be fun.

Faith-based retirement

by digby

This is an excellent column by Joe Nocera in the NY Times relating his own realization that he will not be able to retire. It's a very familiar tale to me:

Like millions of other aging baby boomers, I first began putting money into a tax-deferred retirement account a few years after they were legislated into existence in the late 1970s. The great bull market, which began in 1982, was just gearing up. As a young journalist, I couldn’t afford to invest a lot of money, but my account grew as the market rose, and the bull market gave me an inflated sense of my investing skills.

I became such an enthusiast of the new investing culture that I wrote my first book, in the mid-1990s, about what I called “the democratization of money.” It was only right, I argued, that the little guy have the same access to the markets as the wealthy. In the book, I didn’t make much of the decline of pensions. After all, we were in the middle of the tech bubble by then. What fun!

The bull market ended with the bursting of that bubble in 2000. My tech-laden portfolio was cut in half. A half-dozen years later, I got divorced, cutting my 401(k) in half again. A few years after that, I bought a house that needed some costly renovations. Since my retirement account was now hopelessly inadequate for actual retirement, I reasoned that I might as well get some use out of the money while I could. So I threw another chunk of my 401(k) at the renovation. That’s where I stand today.

Unlike him, I had periods of unemployment and career changes and some of my friends had health problems that led us to a similar place. But even among professionals and otherwise successful people --- not to mention the middle and working class toilers who never had any money to save in the first place --- this is the story of many of my generation. I'm certain we were all terrible people who should have been much better savers and not made the decisions we made. Looking back I'm sure many of us would do it differently. But it is what it is.

And what it means is that we can't afford to retire. Which is bad. We will be clogging the workforce long after we want to be in it and that's not healthy.

Nocera goes on:

When I related my tale recently to Teresa Ghilarducci, a behavioral economist at The New School who studies retirement and investor behavior, she let out the kind of sigh that made it clear that she had heard it all before. The sad truth, she told me, is that I’m the rule, not the exception. “People have income shock, like divorce or loss of a job or a health crisis,” and those crises tend to drain retirement accounts, she said.

But even putting income shocks aside, she said, most human beings lack the skill and emotional wherewithal to be good investors. Linking investing and retirement has turned out to be a recipe for disaster.

It works out well for some and badly for others. Unfortunately, there are far more for whom it hasn't worked out and who will be working and/or living very meager existences on whatever's left of Social Security until they die. That isn't a good situation for anyone, especially their kids. I'm guessing we're about to see a big spike in elder poverty when the congress inevitably "compromises" and agrees that we must destroy Social Security in order to save it.

I suppose we deserve it for our failures. But I think most people, even the "deserving" rich ones, are surprised by how life unfolds in ways they don't expect. Anything can happen, even to very responsible people. You just don't know.

Royal Pains Redux

by digby

I can't make myself write about the White House Correspondents Dinner again this year. So, I'm just going to reprise my post from last year and leave it at that:

I must admit that I would rather watch this Royal Wedding on a loop for the next three days than spend even one minute watching the political press drool all over reality TV stars and B-list rockers at this pathetic "Nerd Prom" this week-end. Unless Colbert is officiating it is just depressing:

This weekend is the biggest socio-political event of the year in DC. Socializing and politics always go hand in hand here, but this weekend is different. The White House Correspondents' Association annual dinner Saturday night has morphed into a creature all its own, an amalgam of DC, NY and Hollywood elites that has come to dominate the calendar of the Federal City (as distinguished from the non-governmental and more down-to-earth Washington). I'm not sure there's anything else that captures so completely the way the modern DC operates and conceives of itself as this weekend does. A glimpse of WHCA dinners past

Seriously, at least the Brits have the excuse of centuries of history and a long tradition of such pomp and circumstance. And the royals are merely expensive celebrities, they don't have any real power, unlike some of the celebrity reporters and pundits who celebrate themselves at this rather sad yearly event.

Pick your poison: