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Thursday: overslept


You may have to jump

“If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.”
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Just sayin’.  You can discover more about Dietrich Bonhoeffer at this Speaking of Faith podcast.

Right to Lifer gunman kills two at Boston abortion clinics.  Time to take matters into your own hands, ladies and get government out of your uterus.  Go underground.

Tennessee Guerilla Women posted this movie trailer the other day about what women face in this country.  Funny how you tend to get used to this crap.

500 years, eh?  Well. *that* sucks.  What we need is a woman starting her OWN network, delivering the news in a gender neutral fashion, you know someone like Oprah.

Oh wait, she was the one who gave us Obama.  Nevermind.

The New York Times reports that the nomination of the next Republican candidate for president may be out of the party’s hands.  Yeah, and I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn.  Are you kidding me?  Republicans are the ultimate control freaks.  I take that back.  The 2008 DEMOCRATS were the ultimate control freaks.  If Hillary had been running in the Republican primaries in 2008, she would have had the whole thing sewn up on superdupertuesday and Obama would have spent the next four years in the Senatorial obscurity he was showing such a talent for.

Tom Watson has a review of the book “You Are Not a Gadget” by Jaron Lanier.  Watson argues that Lanier’s point is that social networking technology has the capacity to dehumanize us and makes us vulnerable to those who seek power.  I would argue that that has already happened (see quote at top of page).  Here’s the money quote from Watson’s review:

Lanier’s point is that by reducing personality and the wide sweep of human thought into chunks that can fit easily into databases and digested through clever widely-popular front end designs, the possibility for horrific “crowd-sourced” activity is that much greater. To put it simply, the good guys don’t always win. Throughout history, they’ve often been shouted down by crowds. While it’s impossible to argue with the sunny opening lines of the introduction to Yochai Benkler’s seminal Internet text The Wealth of Networks – “Information, knowledge and culture are central to human freedom and human development” – and to sympathize with a point of view that argues that great access to those qualities improves the lot of mankind, Lanier’s warnings also seem in tune with the times.

It’s not crazy to worry that, with millions of people connected through a medium that sometimes brings out their worst tendencies, massive, fascist-style mobs could rise up suddenly. I worry about the next generation of young people around the world growing up with internet-based technology that emphasizes crowd aggregation, as is the current fad. Will they be more likely to succumb to pack dynamics when they come of age?

That kind of thinking flies in the face of a more utopian view of free information, embodied in hacker philosopher Richard Stallman’s famous ’90s proclamation that when “information is generally useful, redistributing it makes humanity wealthier no matter who is distributing and no matter who is receiving.” I’d naturally ask “what does generally useful mean?” and Lanier goes a step further, noting that the free flow of information also brings large-scale vitriol to arguments between semi-anonymous actors on the Net. “What’s to prevent the acrimony from scaling up? Unfortunately, history tells us that collectivist ideas can mushroom into large-scale social disasters.”

My question is how do we alert the general public to let the Tweeter beware?

Mecca is becoming the Las Vegas of Saudi Arabia.  High on tacky kitsch, low on fun?  There won’t be any commercials with the tag line, “What happens on Hajj, stays in Mecca”.

E. J. Dionne is running down the corridor as he tries to rehabilitate Obama in Rekindling Hope in Liberalism.  He uses the standard whiny reason:

For the president’s loyalists, of course, this indictment is profoundly unfair. He inherited a mess at home and abroad. The economic downturn began on Bush’s watch, but its bitter fruits were harvested after Obama took office. By contrast, Franklin Roosevelt took power after Herbert Hoover had presided over three of the most miserable years in American economic history. Blame was firmly fixed on Hoover by the time FDR showed up with his jaunty smile and contagious optimism.

And, yes, there is the small issue of Obama’s real achievements, the health care law above all. If insuring 32 million more Americans is not an enormous social reform, then nothing can be said to count as change. The now well-rehearsed list of additional accomplishments — from Wall Street and student loan reform to the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” to the simple fact that the economy’s catastrophic slide was halted and reversed — would, in the abstract, do any administration proud.

I would have written that first line of the second paragraph as “And, yes, there is the real issue of Obama’s small achievements…” E. J. is still clinging to the idea that no one could have known how bad it was going to be so it was perfectly reasonable to nominate the candidate with the least practical experience in our lifetimes to become president.  I simply can’t take this reasoning seriously when the poor performance was avoidable.  But the E.J. goes one better and has the nerve to lecture *us*:

And both the liberals and Obama need to escape the bubbles of legislative and narrowly ideological politics and re-engage the country on what can only be called a spiritual level. Modern American liberalism is not some abstract and alien creed. At its best, it marries a practical, get-things-done approach to government with a devotion to fairness, justice and compassion. These sentiments are grounded in the nation’s religious traditions and also in our commitment to community-building that Alexis de Tocqueville so appreciated.

Stop laughing.  Yes, he really said this.  E.J. needs to get out of his own bubble.  The “achievements” aren’t.  By practical standards, the health care reform bill was a bomb.  The mandate was an outrage in the absence of competition.  If you have stagnant wages and fear that you’re going to lose your job, the last thing you need is yet another expense you can’t afford that doesn’t result in something better than you already had.  The TARP bills rescued the banks and left everyone else hold the bag.  The stimulus bill was too small.  HAMP is almost criminal.

I don’t know who the hell E.J. has been talking to but from a practical, non-abstract, working class POV, this president has been an abject failure.  You don’t have to be a liberal to realize that but liberals have every reason to have expected better than this.  I don’t believe in the self-esteem movement where everyone gets a gold star for trying.  I believe you have no right to think you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread until you’ve proven yourself. Republicans aren’t becoming suddenly sexy again because regular Americans are crazy about conservatism .  There are two reasons why Republicans are winning: 1.) Americans don’t buy the boosterism of the current administration.  No one believes in Recovery Summer or Recovery Fall or Recovery Winter or whatever nonsense they’re spouting this week.  They’re believing their lying eyes. and 2.) When your base stays home in disgust, that leaves the  Fox News viewers who have been emotionalized by Glenn Beck and abortion as the motivated voters who actually go to the polls.

You can’t reason the Democrats’ failures away by blaming the voters’ perceptions, E.J.  What the Democrats need to do if they want to recapture the public is to start acting more like Democrats.  Ooops!  Too late, they’ve lost the House and they’re preemptively capitulating before the Republicans even officially take over.  Don’t think the public doesn’t notice.

What the public *might* notice is Ed Rendell. Yeah, I think the idea of football being played in a blizzard is sort of stupid too.  But this is Philadelphia.  It’s not a city of wusses.  And Ed Rendell may be the rough and tough, unibrowed Democrat the party needs to man up.  BTW, that’s just a figure of speech.  Apparently, Ed Rendell plucks his brows.  And this is not an endorsement.  It’s just an idle speculation.

But I do take issue with some of this articles’ points.  For example, Ed probably did say  “that his state was full of “conservative whites” who were “probably not ready to vote for an African- American candidate.”  This is true.  There are a lot of areas in the middle of the state that fly confederate flags on their porches.  HOWEVER, those porches belong to Republicans.  How do I know that?  I talked to the canvassers who visited those areas.  They had the party affiliation sheets with the addresses.  The Democrats that I spoke to while phone banking in Harrisburg were of the opinion that they wanted an experienced person in the White House.  They were hurt that people were calling them bigots and they said they were willing to vote for Obama some time down the road.  So, Ed really needs to be clear about who his constituents are and what they are thinking.

Things to keep your eye on:  Senator Bernie Sanders, of filibernie fame, will be on Thom Hartmann’s show today to discuss the year in review.  The schedule thingy looks a little chaotic to me so check back periodically for the stream.

Thursday News: Downwind

That's right, lower that gas mask

We didn’t start the fire but we wouldn’t mind being downwind of one of the biggest marijuana bonfires the world has ever known.  134 tons of confiscated weed were set ablaze in Mexico yesterday.  We’re a little puzzled over the draconian steps to eradicate the pot before it makes its way across the border.  What this country needs right now is some tasty weed or a batch of brownies.  What a waste.

New Jersey Cablevision customers are downwind of a nasty dispute between their cable provider and News Corp, the company that shoves Fox down our throats.  For the last 5 days, Cablevision customers have been without Fox programming including Glee, House, and some major league baseball and football games.  I can’t find any evidence that Fox News was pulled, however, which is a shame.  News Corp is doubling the subscription fees for retransmission of Fox programming for Cablevision.  That’s $150,000,000 for Cablevision alone.  It looks like Cablevision customers who just get the broadband service were also affected.  They were unable to download programming from Hulu for a period of time but that seems to be restored.

News Corp is going up against Dish at the end of the month.  As a Dish customer, I’d like to encourage management to take a hard line with News Corp.  Take it all off the Dish lineup, including Fox News.  It’s extortion but maybe this latest move is a good thing. The more we can contain the Fox News contagion, the better.  I’ll download Glee from iTunes.  But more than that, this is just another example of a corporation thinking that the average Joe has unlimited disposable income.  We don’t.  The fees for every damn little thing are skyrocketing.  Enough already.  Try to make due with the billions you already have.

On the mortgages/foreclosure fiasco, the rule of law appears to be downwind of some very sketchy bank tactics for seizing what might not be theirs and throwing families out of their houses.  Atrios has been doing a really good job finding more and more evidence of bankster fraud.  In the latest article on the mess, Battle Lines Forming in Clash over Foreclosures, the New York Times reports:

Now those missing and possibly fraudulent documents are at the center of a potentially seismic legal clash that pits big lenders against homeowners and their advocates concerned that the lenders’ rush to foreclose flouts private property rights.

That clash — expected to be played out in courtrooms across the country and scrutinized by law enforcement officials investigating possible wrongdoing by big lenders — leaped to the forefront of the mortgage crisis this week as big lenders began lifting their freezes on foreclosures and insisted the worst was behind them.

Federal officials meeting in Washington on Wednesday indicated that a government review of the problems would not be complete until the end of the year.

“The misbehavior is clear: they lied to the courts,” she said. “The fact that they are saying no one was harmed, they are missing the point. They did actual harm to the court system, to the rule of law. We don’t say, ‘You can perjure yourself on the stand because the jury will come to the right verdict anyway.’ That’s what they are saying.”

Robert Willens, a tax expert, said that documentation issues had created potentially severe tax problems for investors in mortgage securities and that “there is enough of a question here that the courts might well have to resolve the issue.”

Ah, yes, the poor investor will have to sort through all of the tax issues.  So sad.  It’s so much worse for investors than the families that lose everything including the roof over their heads just because the documentation is screwed up.  I guess it never occurred to anyone that lowering the principle on some of the loans would allow some homeowners to stay in their houses and pay their mortgages.  At least the investors would get *something* for their investments.  Or investors could take it up with the banks who always seem to be in the middle of all these messes.  But banks seem to make money off of of foreclosures.  Hmmm, if I had been a congressman, I might have made foreclosure a lot less attractive for banks and avoided much of this mess.  Oh, well!  Not my problem.

It does appear to be a problem for those congresspersons, however, who appear to be downwind of voter anger over Congress’s complacency with the economy.  In A National Election, Like it or Not, E.J. Dionne reports on the experience of Democratic Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy from Ohio, who mistakenly keeps trying to tell her voters about the “accomplishments” of the last two years.  For some stupid reason, the voters aren’t paying any attention to the half assed Lily Ledbetter law or Health Care Reform or the financial bailout:

Kilroy recalls encountering a voter who told her: “I’ve voted for you throughout your career, but I’m not voting for you this year because I don’t have a job.”

She spoke to her constituent about what Congress had accomplished, and also about how the tied-up-in-knots U.S. Senate had blocked other House initiatives.

To which the voter replied: “Do you think I care they’re stuck in the Senate? I don’t have a job.”

Stivers, who lost to Kilroy in 2008 by just 2,312 votes, has had much happier doorstep experiences. “People were mad at George Bush two years ago and they were going to take it out on anyone with an ‘R’ after their name,” he said. This time, they’re eager to talk about — you guessed it — “the debt and jobs.”

Yep, it’s a mystery.

As Greg Sargent reports in The Enthusiasm Gap Remains just Awful for Dems:

But still, the enthusiasm deficit remains enormous, even though Dems have tried everything to turn this around: They’ve chanted Bush’s name in unison for months. They’ve raised the specter of foreign money rigging our elections. They’ve floated the possibility of GOP investigations that will make the 1990s look like a latter-day Era of Good Feelings. And they’ve relentlessly elevated the craziest of Tea Party crazies to iconic status. Yet Dems still aren’t goosed up about this election in anywhere near the numbers they need to be — mainly because the GOP enthusiasm levels are essentially steroidal at this point.

It’s like that Far Side cartoon where Einstein can’t figure out the famous relativity equation until his cleaning lady starts straightening up his desk.  “All squared away” The Democrats have tried everything but the stuff that actually works.  Denigrating the stupid hicks who join the Tea Party doesn’t work, Greg.  And I know a lot of Democrats don’t want to hear this but if the closest you’re going to get to having a liberal in the White House is Hillary Clinton, then you might just want to elect Hillary Clinton.  There’s no way in God’s green earth that Kucinich is ever going to get there.  Get squared away already.

Here’s a hint, Mary Jo and all you Democratic Congresspeople:  Congress didn’t do enough for the working class.  The best you can do is say, “I’m sorry.  I get it now. I’ll put pressure on Obama to kill the Catfood Commission.  Please don’t vote for Republicans.  They’ll only make it worse, er, faster than we will.”

Ed Potosnak can balance an equation and gets my vote.

And that goes for all the rest of you Democrats sending stupid emails to me, assuming I’m some low information, irrationally angry voter who doesn’t know what the heck is going on.  The destruction that ongoing layoffs have had on my friends and family is devastating.  I really don’t want to hear about some half assed health care reform bill or some lame Ledbetter bill that doesn’t guarantee me equal pay- now, this very moment without any legal hassles.  I want to hear about how you’re going to save my retirement and my job.  I guess it’s just irrational to want to be able to maintain my base caloric and shelter requirements.  As it happens, I have a Democrat , Ed Potasnak, to vote for this November but I’m not supporting a party that seems incapable of getting its act together when it had every possible advantage in the past two years.

And finally, Juan Williams is downwind of someone at NPR who has some scruples. Last night, NPR fired him.  After years of being the not-so-secret conservative mole at NPR, Juan finally took things too far on his other gig at Fox:

NPR has terminated its contract with Juan Williams, one of its senior news analysts, after he made comments about Muslims on the Fox News Channel.

NPR said in a statement that it gave Mr. Williams notice of his termination on Wednesday night.

The move came after Mr. Williams, who is also a Fox News political analyst, appeared on the “The O’Reilly Factor” on Monday. On the show, the host, Bill O’Reilly, asked him to respond to the notion that the United States was facing a “Muslim dilemma.” Mr. O’Reilly said, “The cold truth is that in the world today jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet.”

Mr. Williams said he concurred with Mr. O’Reilly.

He continued: “I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

I’ve been disappointed with NPR since the Bush administration when it went from National Public Radio to Nice Polite Republicans.  The consensus reality/perception bending by Williams, Mara Liason and Steve Inskeep got to be too much for me to take in the mornings.  It was nauseating to hear it on the program I had listened to faithfully since I was in college.  I’m glad that Williams got the boot because his remarks were designed to mislead viewers like my mother into believing that Muslims are going to go all jihad on helpless Americans.  The purpose of those remarks are to terrify people who will short circuit their risk assessment thought processes.  And studies have shown (damn, where is that reference?) that voters who are fearful of their own mortality will vote for conservative politicians who promise to protect them.  Those viewers of Juan Williams on Fox will not think about how most Muslim Americans have families and jobs and don’t have time to do terrorist activities.  They’ve got PTA meetings and shopping to do.  Besides, they’re so small in number, how the heck are they going to get away?  It’s a big country. Don’t get me started.  I have to deprogram my mom of this stuff every time I see her.

Yeah, Juan Williams is one of the bad guys and he’s been sitting on NPR like some big ugly insect that the NPR listeners are just supposed to ignore.  We’re supposed to believe that Williams was an unbiased journalist who just coincidentally has this other job on Fox News where he’s allowed to spew nonsense and deceive people.  But none of that could ever possibly spill over into Morning Edition.  Riiiiight.

Now, get rid of Liason and Inskeep and I’ll come back.  Maybe I’ll even write a check.

Your Breakfast Read: Tweedly-deedly-dee!

The ominous clouds still hover over New Jersey.  It’s less than a week from the summer solstice and I am still wearing flannels.  It’s a balmy 62 degrees.  Brrrrrrrr!  What I wouldn’t give to be somewhere else.  Like…

Breakfast on Santorini

Breakfast on Santorini

Grab a seat, er, a chair.

On the newsfront, Hillary says she don’t know nothin’ about Twitter (she’s being coy), but apparently it’s very important to young people.  Er, I guess that would be us, the middle aged, uneducated womenfolk and guys of The Confluence.  Ok, at the risk of sounding like a Hillary groupie, which I could very well be, I just have to point out something that she says a lot but which seems to go over the Obots’ heads: she always grounds her reasons for doing or supporting things in some principle.  In the case of twitter and the Iran election:

Clinton said she considered it important to keep “that line of communication open and enabling people to share information, particularly at a time when there [were] not many other sources of information. . . . It is a fundamental right for people to be able to communicate.”

Making a decision is so much easier when you know what you stand for.  Obama should try it sometime.

Oh and check this out.

What a lovely shade of green.  She’s also a proponent of having votes counted (you have to wait til the very end).  Who knew?

By the way, Hillary broke her elbow on her way to the WH yesterday.  She will need surgery in the upcoming week to fix it properly.  Having broken my wrist in three places a couple of years ago, I sympathize.  The pain and swelling isn’t pleasant.  We hope it’s of short duration.

E.J. Dionne asks a very good question: “Where did we get the idea that the only good health care bill is a bipartisan bill?” I was wondering when someone in Versailles would start to snap out of it.  Bipartisanship in itself is not a goal.  Affordable, universal healthcare is the goal.  And once you figure that out, you also quickly realize that Republicans don’t really want affordable, universal healthcare.  Way to go, E.J.!  He can be taught.  Give him a biscuit.

The NYTimes reports that Ayatollah Khamenei blinks again.  Iran’s Guardian Council is offering to meet with the opposition candidates to discuss their grievances.  I like the way Moussavi, Karoubi and others are handling the uprising but this meeting could be tricky.  The Guardian Council appears to be offering an olive branch with the expectation that the protestors will get sick of waiting and go back to work.   The meetings are scheduled for next week or Saturday at the earliest.  Why wait?  Why not today? Let’s get down to business. The disruption in telecommunications must be doing a number on day to day business.  It’s a showdown.  Stay tuned.

For the parents out there who think the world has gone mad trying to keep kids ultra safe, check out one of my new favorite blogs by Lenore Skenazy called Free Range Kids.  Some of the stories she has assembled make you scratch your head and say WTF???  Yes, you really can overdo the safety thing.  Let’s give back childhood to our kids and quit micromanaging their lives.  (She says as she quietly commits her daughter to 5 weeks of intense algebra)

Podcasts du Jour: Paul Krugman gave a series of lectures in London last week and he has made them available for the rest of us via podcast.  I listened to parts 1 and 2 yesterday.  Sometimes, he gets a bit geeky and I’m no economist so some of it goes over head.  But you should be able to follow along pretty well and get the gist of it.  Krugman’s style is, well, a bit geeky.  It take a little getting used to but he’s got some charming antedotes and appreciates Monty Python and finds CD players in cars newfangled innovations.  Highly recommended.


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