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Wednesday News

Good Morning Conflucians!!

Barack Obama had an op-ed piece in yesterday’s WSJ. In it he says we need to balance regulation with businesses need to create jobs and, well, make lots of money. For example:

Sometimes, those rules have gotten out of balance, placing unreasonable burdens on business—burdens that have stifled innovation and have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs. At other times, we have failed to meet our basic responsibility to protect the public interest, leading to disastrous consequences. Such was the case in the run-up to the financial crisis from which we are still recovering. There, a lack of proper oversight and transparency nearly led to the collapse of the financial markets and a full-scale Depression.

Over the past two years, the goal of my administration has been to strike the right balance. And today, I am signing an executive order that makes clear that this is the operating principle of our government.

This order requires that federal agencies ensure that regulations protect our safety, health and environment while promoting economic growth. And it orders a government-wide review of the rules already on the books to remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive. It’s a review that will help bring order to regulations that have become a patchwork of overlapping rules, the result of tinkering by administrations and legislators of both parties and the influence of special interests in Washington over decades.

Note that this move is right as Republican’s take over the House and have increased numbers in the Senate, with momentum at their back. So as we see and have seen before, Obama is moving to compromise and move to the right even before debate begins on the topic. That is of course not surprising to us as we’ve noticed his right leanings from before the primaries. This problem is also noticed at Salon:

But on the day before House Republicans are expected to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, primarily on the specious grounds that it is a “job-killing” regulatory Frankenstein, the White House’s decision to suddenly be concerned about the right balance between public safety and commerce is strange and discomfiting. The big battles of the next two years are going to be all about defending the regulatory achievements of the Obama administration — healthcare reform and bank reform — in addition to ensuring that the Environmental Protection Agency isn’t hamstrung by Republican opposition as it carries out its Supreme Court mandate to treat greenhouse gases as pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

The Salon article goes on to make the case that this is a terrible fumble by Obama:

The strategy is unfathomable, and the notion that we must now seek to strike the “proper” balance — as if the proponents of greater regulation had been carrying the day in recent years — is just plain nutty.

Here we go again. Why do they keep being deluded with example after example, with signal after signal, with appointment after appointment? Deluded that Obama is left leaning? That he’s even liberal? Other than a few speeches, just words, what in his past would lead them to think this? Haven’t they noticed who funded him, who basically created him? Why do we keep having these perfect examples, perfect demonstrations of who Obama really is only to have places like Salon or HuffPo or others gasp, act surprised, and shake their heads thinking he’s made a mistake or is getting bad advice.

No, it’s not a mistake. It’s not nutty. It’s not a fumble. This is who Obama is. It’s who he has always been. How many more examples do you people need? Have you bothered to read the health care bill or noticed who wrote it? Did you not notice the tax cut for the very wealthy. Did you not notice the lack of regulations or strings attached with the financial bailouts. This stuff has been from day 1 people.


In related news, we’re going to see a new tone as the Republicans make noises like they want to repeal the health insurance lobbies hard fought victory represented by the Obamacare bill:

Obama issued a statement late Tuesday said he is “willing and eager to work with both Democrats and Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act. But we can’t go backward.”

Republicans largely ignored an attempt by Democrats to rename the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act” to temper the language following the Arizona shooting this month that killed six and injured 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).

But Republicans now mainly refer to the “job-destroying” health care law.

“Obviously there are strong feelings on both sides of the bill and we expect the debate to ensue along policy lines,” said Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the majority leader. “We are going to be about decency here and engage and promote an active debate on policy.”

Of course what they want to do is repeal any good parts of the bill. And there may even be a few good parts stuck in there against the wishes of the lobbyists who wrote most of the bill. Republicans don’t really have the numbers to do anything in this round of kabuki theater. So this show is about setting the stage for later “compromises” and possible defunding efforts. Which sadly Obama will likely to all to wiling to go along with.


Another front in the battle Republicans are waging against the working class should be of no surprise. Obama set up Elizabeth Warren in a pseudo position just for the purpose of giving the Republicans something to knock down. And that process looks to be starting soon:

The chairman of a financial services oversight panel sent a letter to Elizabeth Warren, head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, saying he is skeptical of the new bureau’s very existence and demanded details about how it will operate.

Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), who chairs an oversight panel of the Financial Services Committee, said in the letter sent Tuesday that he thinks Warren is “tasked with executing a fatally flawed plan.”

He then asked Warren to answer three pages worth of questions about the new bureau. Some of the queries are operational, including how Warren will staff and organize the agency. Others are more broad, inviting her to explain how Congress should best perform its oversight role, given the body is not funded through the traditional appropriations process.

Neugenbauer also wants details on meetings Warren has held with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Reserve, and other financial regulatory agencies.

“What policies are in place to avoid potential duplicative, conflicting or overlapping rulemaking that are currently underway, but will ultimately be under the regulatory authority of the CFPB?” he asked.

He concludes asking Warren to explain how she plans to “avoid the kind of over-regulation that might stifle innovation.”

And so it begins. The only hope we have of some sanity in consumer protection and financial regulations is about to be taken out. And it appears to have been planned this way from the beginning.


As mentioned last night, Joe Lieberman has announced he won’t run for a fifth term. Which means he’ll server two more years. Does that mean he’s planning on running for President? Does that mean he’ll join whoever the Republican party bosses select for their presidential candidate on the ticket as VP? Or maybe he’ll just head over to K-street and collect is rewards.

Also mentioned last night, Sargent Shriver died at age 95. And Don Kirshner died at age 77.


In strange political news, “Baby Doc” Duvalier decided to return to Haiti – never a good idea if you stole nearly 1B. And now he has been arrested and charged with corruption:

Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier was charged with corruption and the theft of his country’s meagre funds last night after the former Haitian dictator was hauled before a judge in Port-au-Prince

Two days after his return to the country he left following a brutal 15-year rule, a noisy crowd of his supporters protested outside the state prosecutor’s office while he was questioned over accusations that he stole public funds and committed human rights abuses after taking over as president from his father in 1971.

“His fate is now in the hands of the investigating judge. We have brought charges against him,” said Port-au-Prince’s chief prosecutor, Aristidas Auguste.

He said his office had filed charges against Duvalier, 59, of corruption, theft, misappropriation of funds and other alleged crimes committed during his period in power.

What was he thinking?


After Goldman Sachs invested gobs of money in Facebook with the intent to offer investment opportunities here and abroad, they’ve decided not here. Mostly to skirt around some SEC requirements. You know, being the upstanding corporate citizens that they are:

There was another question about the planned Facebook stock offering that went beyond whether the social media leader is a good investment now or if it’s overpriced. A more serious issue was how investment banker Goldman Sachs was structuring a “private placement” deal to skirt U.S. securities law.

Now it seems Goldman Sachs has decided that “intense media attention” no longer made it worthwhile to go forward with offering a piece of Facebook in the U.S.

Does that mean the deal is over? Does it mean that Facebook will do a deal in the U.S. with proper financial disclosure?

Unfortunately, neither. Instead, the Wall Street Journal is reporting today that Facebook will go ahead with its private stock sale but exclude U.S. investors from the deal.

“In a statement provided to The Wall Street Journal, Goldman said the move came after officials at the New York securities firm ‘concluded the level of media attention might not be consistent with the proper completion of a U.S. private placement under U.S. law,’ ” Aaron Lucchetti reports for the Wall Street Journal.

Under the planned offering, only wealthy clients of the investment firm would have been allowed to purchase a piece of Facebook. The arrangement sounded fairly complex; but basically, the idea was to put all the Goldman investors into a single fund and then count that fund as “one” investor. Why? By doing so, they would get around required public financial disclosures for any company with 500 or more investors. (There was more money coming in from another investment firm in Russia.)

Money for nothing and the clicks are free. Yea, I just made that up. TM by DT. So we the taxpayers make all this possible because they have our money backing them up allowing them to make riskier deals, and the deals they make are not just risky, but they’re fashioned only around the wealthiest clients. And the funny part here, it looks like it’s going to make suckers and losers out of these wealthy clients because they may be making yet another bubble with what they’re doing, that will just pop down the road. Time will tell.

And speaking of Facebook, they were planning on opening up users phone numbers and addresses to third parties, but have backed down, for now, after some complaints:

Just before the weekend, Facebook announced that it had expanded the information users are able to share with external websites and applications, to include home addresses and mobile phone numbers.

This enables developers of e.g. an ecommerce site to more easily fetch the address and phone number of a potential customer to streamline the checkout process.

For the record: users needed to explicitly opt to share this data before any application or website could access it, and they were evidently not able to share their friends’ addresses or mobile phone numbers with applications.

Sure enough, the dialog box (see below) wasn’t super clear about that, so Facebook was unequivocally opening itself up for a new sh*tshorm to hit the deck.

This morning, Facebook announced that it has temporarily disabled the sharing feature, looking to relaunch it in the next few weeks after making some changes.

Facebook dubs these future changes ‘improvements’ repeatedly, but of course the company is responding to the wave of criticism it has received for quietly releasing the new sharing feature, on a Friday evening no less.

I suspect they’ll enable it. But perhaps just add a bit more complexity to the privacy settings systems so there is an additional way to opt out. If you can figure it out of course.

That’s a bit of what’s in the news this morning. Chime in with what you’re reading.

Wednesday News

Good Morning Conflucians!!!

First up in weird news, in case you’re not already getting that apocalyptic vibe from earlier this week, more birds have suddenly died, this time not in Arkansas, but in Louisiana:

Birds dropping dead from the skies and rivers flowing with tens of thousands of dead fish sounds like a cheesy Hollywood movie about the Apocalypse. Or the ravings of a Revelation-obsessed street preacher.

But residents of several US states are coping with the reality of mystery mass wildlife deaths, which have left officials scratching their heads and jumpy members of the public joking (nervously) about the end of the world.

Today it emerged that about 500 red-winged blackbirds and starlings had been found dead in Louisiana. Their tiny corpses littered a short stretch of highway near the city of Labarre after apparently falling dead from the sky.

That would be spooky enough. But the Louisiana bird die-off came just a few days after up to 5,000 blackbirds fell to earth in neighbouring Arkansas in the small town of Beebe. Residents there had reported stumbling upon the bodies littering the ground and even being hit by them as they fell. One woman said she was struck while walking a dog. Another avian corpse bounced off a police car.

In even more grim news, anglers and other members of the public reported that more than 80,000 drum fish had suddenly died in the state’s Arkansas river, about 100 miles west of Beebe. The silvery bodies of the fish floated in the river and washed up on its sides having died at roughly the same time. In another incident, hundreds of miles away on the Maryland coast of Chesapeake Bay, tens of thousands of dead fish also washed up on the shore.

Yea, that’s what I said. WTF? I’ve got rosary beads, incense, a statue of Sheba, among a few other things. What are you holding onto for dear life? What was the name of the other horseman anyway?


In a related news, Goldman Sachs and some Russian group invested nearly 1/2 billion in Facebook. That’s right, those two know everything there is to know about a whole hell of a lot of people now. Wonder if their joint bank account number is 666 by any chance. Note to self, get more statues of other religious figures. Here’s some coverage:

The “great vampire squid” of finance, Goldman Sachs, has invested $450 million in the emerging great vampire squid of cyberspace, Facebook. As the New York Times’ DealBook reported, the deal is gives Goldman a leg up on the huge fees investment banks will get when the social-networking company eventually sells shares to the public. And as the Times and Wall Street Journal also report, Goldman will also haul in huge fees from those clients who want to invest themselves.

Meanwhile, Facebook gets the capital to keep buying talent and startups, and to fuel its expansion in all kinds of other ways — and it gets to sell stock in what amounts to a shadow stock market that’s growing faster than regulators seem willing or able to understand, much less deal with.

This looks like a better deal for Facebook than its investor, putting Facebook’s value at $50 billion, which makes sense in today’s increasingly bubble-like market. Silicon Valley is going a bit wild again– not as crazy as the late 1990s, mind you, but there’s a froth element to the local economy.

Given a deal of this size and importance, there should be some SEC scrutiny. Yea right. But some report that there might be:

Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s plan to offer clients up to $1.5 billion in Facebook Inc. equity may invite U.S. regulators to take a closer look at whether the owner of the world’s most popular social-networking site is circumventing disclosure rules, securities lawyers said.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, whose rules require any company with more than 499 investors to disclose financial information, is already scrutinizing the market for trading shares of closely held companies including Facebook, according to a person familiar with the inquiry, who declined to be identified because the matter isn’t public

Goldman Sachs invested $450 million in Facebook and is planning to create a special purpose vehicle for its clients to make additional investments worth as much as $1.5 billion, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal is private. Some private companies avoid crossing the disclosure threshold when investors’ funds are channeled through a single entity, such as a private equity firm or hedge fund.

“The real question is, what are the details of this special purpose vehicle?” said James Angel, a finance professor at Georgetown University’s business school in Washington. If the investment is designed to circumvent the rule, “the SEC should be looking very closely at it.”

Good thing we have a Democratic president that is looking out for us and will do what’s right. Oh wait, no we don’t, she was tossed under the bus. Instead we have an empty suit actually owned by Goldman Sachs. Oh yea. Why is this feeling even more biblical all of the sudden? Maybe we could have some leaks about all these things, about how Goldman Sachs helped fund an unknown candidate, about the Banks and their shady deals, about corruption in government at many levels. No, instead we get none of those useful leaks, but instead leaks that lead us to more wars in the middle east. Nice distraction.


Let’s see what our grand congress has in store for us this session. First we have this from Slate about how the Dems sound like Repubs and the Repubs sound like Dems:

The parties have switched not only offices but arguments. Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Republicans were going to spend “countless hours trying to repeal health care reform rather than focusing on jobs, the economy and deficit reduction. Every minute wasted on trying to repeal health care reform fruitlessly is one less minute the Republicans will spend on job creation and turning this economy around.” If that sentiment sounds familiar, it’s because it was a Republican refrain during the House’s debate over health care in 2009 and 2010.

Sometimes this required the Democrats to contradict themselves. They complained that the GOP House effort to repeal health care was a meaningless show because the Democratic Senate will never allow such a measure to proceed. But when defending their record on economic issues from the last session, they pointed to bills they passed that they knew would never get past a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

Democrats also complained that the Republicans were adding to the deficit and have shut them out of the legislative process. Next week, when the House votes to repeal health care (or, “job-killing health care,” as they call it), Democrats will not be allowed to add amendments. They were also not allowed to participate in writing the rules under which the measure will be considered. Democrats did this kind of thing when they were in power, of course, but they say Republicans had pledged to be more open and transparent.

Oh dear. WaPo has more coverage on the upcoming battle over health care insurance bailout. Expect this to be a lot of noise and distraction for a while. Such theater. A Republican bill written by the health insurance lobby where the Repubs (and insurance companies) pretend to hate it and Dems (sadly actually) like it. And the working class are screwed again. As usual.


It looks like there will be some turnover from both the WH staff and the VP staff. There’s some noise about Gibbs possibly leaving. And now we’re hearing that Biden’s CoS is stepping down. Along with that, LATimes has a few more rumors:

The White House staff reshuffle continued Tuesday with Vice President Joe Biden announcing that his chief of staff is leaving, while speculation swirled that the president may appoint a well-connected Chicagoan to a top post.

Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, is resigning to become president of Case Holdings, the holding company of AOL cofounder Steve Case. Over the last two years, Klain helped position Biden as an influential figure in the White House while assisting in the confirmation of a pair of Supreme Court nominees: Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

His departure surprised even some members of Biden’s staff. Klain had been mentioned as a possible candidate for President Obama’s chief of staff, but the president may be opting for someone with a higher profile.

After Rahm Emanuel quit to run for mayor of Chicago, Obama appointed longtime aide Peter Rouse to the chief of staff job on an interim basis.

Now, Obama is considering William Daley for a senior position, possibly chief of staff. Daley is the brother of outgoing Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, and he served as Commerce secretary under President Clinton.

As the great David Bowie once said: “Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes.” Something tells me none of these changes are going to be for the better. Any bets?


In some rather funny, in a macabre sort of way, news, a murderer was found guilty in part because of his google search history:

Julie Jensen died as a result of ethylene glycol in her system, an ingredient found in antifreeze. On the morning of her death, someone attempted to “double-delete” (apparently unsuccessfully) the computer’s browsing history, which included a search for “ethylene glycol poisoning.”

Jensen was found guilty of first-degree homicide in 2008 based on this and other incriminating evidence, including a letter written by his wife before her death. He appealed the conviction, arguing for one that the warrantless police search of his computer violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals did not agree as he had signed a consent form.

As the article humorously mentions, does that mean we’ll be getting a CSI Internet Division spin-off?


In sort of related news, CA Supreme Court ruled that police can search your cell phone without a warrant when you’re under arrest:

The California Supreme Court ruled Monday that police do not need a warrant to search a cell phone carried by someone under arrest.

The justices determined a Ventura County deputy had the right to conduct a warrantless search of the text messages of a man he had arrested on suspicion of participating in a drug deal.

The state court ruled 5-2 that U.S. Supreme Court precedent affirms that police can search items found on defendants when they are arrested.

I understand this in terms of searching your pockets, etc. But the problem with this ruling is one of not keeping up with technology. With smartphones these says, searching what’s in your very powerful large computer (in a small space) that can include pretty much every important document found in your house, bank, accountant, etc. That is, all of your personal records of note could actually be on your phone. This can also provide full access to all of your email, all of your social media accounts, and all of your history of communication of every sort for years. It’s possible that your smartphone could easily be the equivalent of raiding your home, your lawyers office, your doctors office, etc. I hope this issue is revisited with those issues in mind sometime soon. In the mean time, I’ll suggest some privacy protection ideas in a later post.

In other court news, CA Prop 8 is heading directly to the state Supreme Court and bypassing the 9th circuit (more accurately, the 9th circuit just punted):

Instead of resolving a thorny “standing” issue itself, and thus launching the appeal on its way to the United States Supreme Court, a three-judge panel instead first asked the Supreme Court of California for guidance on whether the private litigants who appealed the August 2010 ruling striking down the same-sex marriage ban had the legal right to do so.

The 9th Circuit just acted, to be sure, but not even the most conservative legal scholar can dare call this an instance of “judicial activism.” Instead, the tactical punt from one San Francisco court to another is consistent with a centuries-old judicial concept: never decide what you don’t really have to decide, especially when you have a plausible excuse for not deciding it. Here, the 9th Circuit blamed the not-completely-unexpected detour on the lack of “controlling state precedent” on the question of what to do with an appeal where, as here, both the sitting governor (the since-departed Arnold Schwarzenegger) and the sitting attorney general (the since made-governor Jerry Brown) refused to carry it out.

By diverting the case away from the federal courts and toward the state supreme court, by asking for clarification of state law by and from the state’s highest court, the 9th Circuit has almost certainly delayed a substantive ruling on the merits of the case for at least a year and likely longer. The standing issue will likely have to be briefed all over again before the state high court, and a new oral argument date will likely have to be set, and then a new vigil will begin for people all over the world who are waiting for final word from the courts on whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.  All of this will take six to nine months, at least.


In news of the “is that news?” department, many people are obsessing and perplexed that Sarah Palin re-tweeted a pro DADT tweet. Yes, you got that right, just by Palin re-tweeting something (with no extra quote), people are actually spending time trying to figure out what she might have meant. I kid you not:

Online pundits are trying to interpret Sarah Palin’s stance on “don’t ask, don’t tell” after she echoed an Internet post by a conservative lesbian commentator who slammed the opposition to the policy’s repeal.

Tammy Bruce wrote Monday on Twitter that “this hypocrisy is just truly too much. Enuf already – the more someone complains about the homos the more we should look under their bed.”

Palin’s retweet of the post raised questions about her own stance on the military’s policy, which was repealed by Congress late last year. The former 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee hasn’t spoken about the policy except to say last February that she was surprised at President Barack Obama’s support for a repeal because it was not a priority at the time.

Palin representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday, but Politico said the retweet is a hint that Palin supports the repeal. Gawker said Palin is not “in the context of her party, rabidly homophobic,” then wondered if perhaps she didn’t understand the tweet or pushed the wrong button.

Now our pundits are reading tea leaves. Oh wait, that’s what they’ve always done. They really should get out more.

That’s a bit of what’s in the news. Chime in with what you’re reading.

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.

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