Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Say It, Bernie!

Courtesy of Meteor Blades at Daily Kos, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont writes Fight for Our Progressive Vision:

As I look ahead to this coming year, a number of thoughts come to mind.

First and foremost, against an enormous amount of corporate media noise and distraction, it is imperative that we not lose sight of what is most important and the vision that we stand for. We have got to stay focused on those issues that impact the lives of tens of millions of Americans who struggle every day to keep their heads above water economically, and who worry deeply about the kind of future their kids will have.

Yes. We make no apologies in stating that the great moral, economic and political issue of our time is the growing level of income and wealth inequality in our nation. It is a disgrace to everything this country is supposed to stand for when the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and when one family (the Waltons) owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent. No. The economy is not sustainable when the middle class continues to disappear and when 95 percent of all new income generated since the Wall Street crash goes to the top 1 percent. In order to create a vibrant economy, working families need disposable income. That is often not the case today.
Senator Bernie Sanders Connecting the Dots in Waitsfield, VT with 350 Vermont & Friends, May 5, 2012.
Yes. We will continue the fight to have the United States join the rest of the industrialized world in understanding that health care is a human right of all people, not a privilege. We will end the current dysfunctional system in which 40 million Americans remain uninsured, and tens of millions more are underinsured. No. Private insurance companies and drug companies should not be making huge profits which result in the United States spending almost twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation with outcomes that are often not as good.

Yes. We believe that democracy means one person, one vote. It does not mean that the Koch Brothers and other billionaires should be able to buy elections through their ability to spend unlimited sums of money in campaigns. No. We will not accept Citizens United as the law of the land. We will overturn it through a constitutional amendment and move toward public funding of elections.

Yes. We will fight for a budget that ends corporate tax loopholes and demands that the wealthy and special interests begin paying their fair share of taxes. It is absurd that we are losing more than $100 billion a year in tax revenue as corporations and the wealthy stash their profits in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens It is a disgrace that hedge fund managers pay a lower effective tax rate than teachers or truck drivers. No. At a time when the middle class is disappearing and when millions of families have seen significant declines in their incomes, we will not support more austerity against the elderly, the children and working families. We will not accept cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, nutrition or affordable housing.

Yes. We believe that we must rebuild our crumbling infrastructure (roads, bridges, water systems, wastewater plants, rail, airports, older schools, etc.). At a time when real unemployment is 11.4 percent and youth unemployment is almost 18 percent, a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure would create 13 million decent paying jobs. No. We do not believe that we must maintain a bloated military budget which spends almost as much as the rest of the world combined and may lead us to perpetual warfare in the Middle East.

Yes. We believe that quality education should be available to all Americans regardless of their income. We believe that we should be hiring more teachers and pre-school educators, not firing them. No. We do not believe that it makes any sense that hundreds of thousands of bright young people are unable to afford a higher education while millions leave college and graduate school with heavy debts that will burden them for decades. In a highly competitive global economy, we must not fall further and further behind other countries in the education we provide our people.

Yes. We believe that the scientific community is right. Climate change is real, is caused by human activity and is already creating devastating problems in the United States and throughout the world. We believe that the United States can and must lead the world in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy. No. We do not believe that it makes sense to build the Keystone pipeline or other projects which make us more dependent on oil and other fossil fuels.

Let me conclude by relaying to you a simple but important political truth. The Republican right-wing agenda—tax breaks for the rich and large corporations, unfettered free trade, cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, nutrition and virtually every other program that sustains working families and low-income people—is an agenda supported by Fox TV. It is an agenda supported by The Wall Street Journal. It is an agenda supported by Rush Limbaugh and the 95 percent of radio talk show hosts who just happen to be right-wing. It is an agenda supported by the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable and much of corporate America.

It is not an agenda supported by the American people.

By and large, poll after poll shows that the American people support a progressive agenda that addresses income and wealth inequality, that creates the millions of jobs we desperately need, that raises the minimum wage, that ends pay discrimination against women, and that makes sure all Americans can get the quality education they need.

In the year 2015 our job is to gain control over the national debate, stay focused on the issues of real importance to the American people, stand up for our principles, educate and organize. If we do that, I have absolute confidence that we can turn this country around and become the kind of vital, prosperous and fair-minded democracy that so many want.

Friday, December 26, 2014

"Reagan's Radical Rhetoric"

Click here for an article by Michael Lind at Salon entitled "Reagan's Radical Rhetoric." He fleshes out quotations from Reagan such as this excerpt from his keynote address at the 1964 Republican National Convention which nominated Barry Goldwater:

"You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done."

On Vietnam:

"It’s silly talking about how many years we will have to spend in the jungles of Vietnam when we could pave the whole country and put parking stripes on it and still be home by Christmas."

Lind says:
The greatest damage done to American political culture by Reagan’s extremist rhetoric has been its effect on public perception of the legitimacy of government—any government, at any level, in any situation.  It is true that Reagan, after being elected as president, did not seriously try to repeal the New Deal.  It is also true that he reluctantly consented to tax increases when supply-side tax cuts blew a hole in the federal budget.  But his moderation in office had less effect on American society than the decades of vilification of the public sector that he pumped like toxic waste into public discourse.
Here are some Reagan quotes on the subject of government:

In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’

The best minds are not in government. If any were, business would hire them away.

One way to make sure crime doesn’t pay would be to let the government run it.

Today, if you invent a better mousetrap, the government comes along with a better mouse.

Government always finds a need for whatever money it gets.

Government does not solve problems; it subsidizes them.

Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.

No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!

Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

Governments tend not to solve problems, only to rearrange them.

Lind says:
No American president or prominent public figure, including champions of small government like Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, has ever demonized government as consistently and crudely as Ronald Reagan did. In three decades as a commentator, political candidate and politician, Reagan told the American people that government at all levels was a hostile alien force seeking only to steal their money and eradicate their freedom.

50 Million Americans Below The Poverty Line

This is nearly incredible. According to an article posted at Crooks & Liars, 49.7 million Americans are below the poverty line; 80% of the total U.S. population is below or near the poverty line. Last year, food stamps helped 5 million people "barely reach above the poverty line." Poverty rates are 27.8% for Latinos, 25.8% for African-Americans, 16% for Asians, and 10.7% for non-Hispanic whites.

“The primary reason that poverty remains so high,” Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan economist said, “is that the benefits of a growing economy are no longer being shared by all workers as they were in the quarter-century following the end of World War II.”

Click here for the post by Susie Madrak at Crooks & Liars entitled Most of the Population Now Needs Government Assistance to Make Ends Meet.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Gray Lady On Dick Cheney

 Wow. Just -- wow. (Ten years too late, but still ...)

On the heels of the Senate Intelligence Committee's blistering report on the CIA's brutal handling of prisoners after 9/11, the New York Times is calling for a criminal investigation of former Vice President Dick Cheney and other members of the Bush administration for conspiring to commit torture and other crimes prohibited by federal and international laws.

Click here for the NYT story.

You Don't Receive Fox News? Watch This.

I know a lot of people who don't receive and therefore don't watch Fox News, and they don't understand what goes on there. I don't receive it either, and I'm not going to pay extra to get it. But it was part of my cable package when I lived in Singapore, so I know what it's about.

When I first watched it, I knew what to expect from the opinion pieces -- O'Reilly, Hannity, Greta van Sustren. What I didn't realize until I watched it was that Fox News is a 24/7 attack on Obama and his administration.

Here's just an example of Fox & Friends -- Steve Doocy, the blonde, and not-Steve-Doocy -- with a regular Fox contributor, a psychiatrist (?!) named Keith Ablow.

Here's the story from Wonkette (Nasty Vile Little Snark Mob):

Fox News resident Psychopath psychiatrist Keith Ablow has Thoughts on the murder of two policemen in New York City this weekend. (We’re quite certain you were waiting to hear from him before deciding what you think of the horrific killings.)

In addition to calling on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to admit his personal responsibility for the murders, Ablow also insightfully diagnosed calls for police to be equipped with body cameras and to be trained in methods for de-escalating tense situations as signs of a sick society, calling it insulting to the good judgment of Our Protectors, who have done such an excellent job of protecting us from whatever criminals aren’t in blue uniforms.

On Fox & Friends this morning, Ablow called on de Blasio to own up to his crimes of calling for violence against police, explaining that because de Blasio suggested to his son that young black men need to be careful around police officers, he was quite literally stirring up hatred of cops: [The] mayor has to, just out of intellectual honesty, assume responsibility for launching a hate offensive against New York police officers, and, by the way, the judiciary […] And if the mayor says I don’t think I’m responsible in any way for someone that took murderous revenge on officers then it is unbelievable. This guy has to go or the city is in bad hands.

Brian Kilmeade then jumped in, incredulous that de Blasio and police commissioner Bill Bratton had agreed to retrain “the finest police force ever” to try to de-escalate interactions with the public: “What an insult that is,” Kilmeade complained. “The whole policing program with wearing body cameras and the rest of it is an insult to police officers,” Ablow agreed.

Ablow didn’t have time to elaborate on how body cameras — which early studies suggest may lead cops to be less violent and may also prevent unwarranted complaints of police misconduct — are insulting; presumably, the way to show someone respect is to let them bash all the heads they want and then load the grand jury with liars.

We would say a lot more about the weirdness of finding it insulting that cops should learn ways to avoid going to DefCon Four whenever anyone looks at them wrong, but we’re still trying to wrap our minds around Keith Ablow calling on another human being, anywhere in the known universe, to demonstrate “intellectual honesty.”

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Col. Jessup -- Or Dick Cheney?

This passage from A Few Good Men neatly presents Dick Cheney's worldview (except, of course, that Cheney got five deferments and never served in the military; he is just a chickenhawk who sent others' sons and daughters to die for a lie):

Kaffee: I want the truth!

Jessup: You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know, that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives! You don't want the truth, because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall. We use words like "honor", "code", "loyalty". We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said "thank you", and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

George Washington On Torture

“Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any [prisoner]. . . I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause… for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country.” - George Washington, charge to the Northern Expeditionary Force, Sept. 14, 1775.

Seems pretty clear.

He was nothing but a lily-livered coward who didn't understand the nature of an existential threat. We should blast his face from Mt. Rushmore.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Reagan On Torture

"The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the Convention. It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today. The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called 'universal jurisdiction.' Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution." – Ronald Reagan, President of the United States, 1984 Address to the Nation upon signing the UN Convention On Torture

Monday, December 8, 2014

Hockey - Jane Siberry

Part of Charlie Pierce's tribute on the death of Jean Beliveau (his Favorite Canadian).

Winter time and the frozen river
Sunday afternoon
They're playing hockey on the river
He'll have that scar on his chin forever someday his girlfriend will say hey
He might look out the window or not
You skate as fast as you can 'til you hit the snowbank that's how you stop
And you get your sweater from the catalogue
You use your rubber boots for goal posts
Ah walkin' home
Don't let those sunday afternoons
Get away get away get away get away
Break away break away break away break away
This stick was signed by jean belliveau so don't fucking tell me where
To fucking go
On sunday afternoon
Someone's dog just took the puck-he buried it it's in the snowbank your turn
They rioted in the streets of montreal when they benched rocket richard it's
Don't let those sunday afternoons
Get away get away get away get away
Break away break away break away break away
The sun is fading on the frozen river
The wind is dying down
Someone else just got called for dinner
Hmm sunday afternoon

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Gas Prices Are Down? Dodd-Frank!

This is copied-and-pasted from an article at Smirking Chimp. I think it's by wizard2000, but it's hard to tell:

"A couple of weeks ago MSNBC host Chris Hayes had an oil industry expert on as his guest to ask him a simple question, "Why are gasoline prices going down?"

"Haven't you noticed? Fuel prices have dropped quite significantly over the past several months, not as much (yet) as when they plummeted in late 2008 and early 2009 following the crash and disruption in trading on the stock market, but still by a substantial amount. So, Chris Hayes wanted to know why.

"I expected the usual answer, oil glut, refineries up and working at full capacity, etc etc, but I was surprised when Hayes' guest said that certain provisions of Dodd-Frank (passed by Democrats and signed into law by President Obama in 2010) had finally kicked in a couple of months ago (after years of delay by Republicans suing Dodd-Frank in court and right-wing commissioners on the Commodities Futures Trading Commission refusing to enforce Dodd-Frank anti-speculative provisions). And then Hayes's guest said that these long-delayed Dodd-Frank provisions that restricted oil futures trading had caused Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan (and probably Koch Industries, and other speculators in oil futures) to shut down their oil futures trading desks.

"Now, you might ask why restricting oil futures trading would lead to lower oil barrel and gasoline prices? Well, just look at what happened in late 2008. The stock market crash (from an index over 12,000 to about 6,000, with 401-Ks taking a major hit) affected fuel prices (oil barrel prices fell from $150 to about $30 a barrel, while gasoline prices at the pump fell from over $4 to under $2 a gallon). Wow!! And all because trading on Wall Street was disrupted, including oil futures trading by the speculators.

"But I thought oil futures trading on the commodities exchange was primarily for heavy fuel users like airline companies, so they could lock in lower prices due to high volume purchases to keep ticket prices lower? Oh, this was the case until former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX) inserted a speculator-friendly provision into a 1999 bill which deregulated completely oil futures trading, opening the door to billionaire/millionaire speculators. Over the past 15 years, their speculative activity has driven up and kept high the fuel prices hitting hard the middle class in America. Several years back, someone did a study showing that in the 1990s, oil futures trading was 70 percent heavy fuel users (airlines companies, etc) with only about 30 percent of the trading being done by speculators. After Gramm's bill was signed into law, this percentage reversed over the years with over 70 percent of oil futures trading being done by the speculators (J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Koch Industries, etc) leaving the 30 percent or so to the heavy fuel users. In other words, U.S. car drivers and long-haul truckers have been pumping billions of dollars into the pockets of the speculators every time they've pumped gas into their vehicle...just the way the greed-driven speculators planned.

"Dodd-Frank in 2010 (along with other provisions) was meant to address this theft from Americans and America's middle-class by rapacious Republicans, which of course explains why Republicans tried every trick they could think of to stop it from being implemented and enforced, even though the Dodd-Frank restrictions are far less stringent than those in place during the 1990s regarding oil futures trading. This obstruction of Dodd-Frank is the same as Republicans trying to restrict the Affordable Care Act even before it went into effect.

"So, what can we expect from Republicans starting in about a month when they take charge of Capitol Hill? In between numerous House impeach hearings of President Obama (who has hardly done anything approaching "high crimes and misdemeanors," just like President Clinton before him never got close to "high crimes and misdemeanors"), Republican will no doubt try one trick after another to repeal (in part or whole) the Affordable Care Act AND also repeal Dodd-Frank, so that price-gouging Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan and price-gougers like the Koch brothers can return to speculating (rigging) the oil futures trading market like before, artificially driving up fuel costs in the process, making billions more for them and the other insatiable 1 percenters.

"And the Democratic Party better make this the central message of the Democratic Party over the next two years (and beyond), whether addressing rural or urban audiences, because anyone that drives a car has been paying enormous amounts of gas money over the past 15 years to a bunch of anti-American greed-driven thugs, domestic and foreign, with Repubilcan politicians and speculator front groups doing their dirty work. Hey, these Republican politicians and front groups are just another "investment commodity" in the eyes of the insanity insatiable 1 percenters, the best puppets their money can buy.

Frank Serpico

Click here for an article at Politico written by 78-year-old Frank Serpico, entitled The Police Are Still Out Of Control. I Should Know. Some quotes:
Forty-odd years on, my story probably seems like ancient history to most people, layered over with Hollywood legend. For me it’s not, since at the age of 78 I’m still deaf in one ear and I walk with a limp and I carry fragments of the bullet near my brain.
A few years ago, after the New York Police Museum refused my guns and other memorabilia, I loaned them to the Italian-American museum right down street from police headquarters, and they invited me to their annual dinner. I didn’t know it was planned, but the chief of police from Rome, Italy, was there, and he gave me a plaque. The New York City police officers who were there wouldn’t even look at me.
Times have changed. It’s harder to be a venal cop these days. But an even more serious problem — police violence — has probably grown worse, and it’s out of control for the same reason that graft once was: a lack of accountability.
Today the combination of an excess of deadly force and near-total lack of accountability is more dangerous than ever: Most cops today can pull out their weapons and fire without fear that anything will happen to them, even if they shoot someone wrongfully. All a police officer has to say is that he believes his life was in danger, and he’s typically absolved. What do you think that does to their psychology as they patrol the streets—this sense of invulnerability?
In some ways, matters have gotten even worse. The gulf between the police and the communities they serve has grown wider. Mind you, I don’t want to say that police shouldn’t protect themselves and have access to the best equipment. Police officers have the right to defend themselves with maximum force, in cases where, say, they are taking on a barricaded felon armed with an assault weapon. But when you are dealing every day with civilians walking the streets, and you bring in armored vehicles and automatic weapons, it’s all out of proportion. It makes you feel like you’re dealing with some kind of subversive enemy. The automatic weapons and bulletproof vest may protect the officer, but they also insulate him from the very society he’s sworn to protect. All that firepower and armor puts an even greater wall between the police and society, and solidifies that “us-versus-them” feeling.
All a policeman has to say is that “the suspect turned toward me menacingly,” and he does not have to worry about prosecution.
Many white Americans, indoctrinated by the ridiculous number of buddy-cop films and police-themed TV shows that Hollywood has cranked out over the decades—almost all of them portraying police as heroes—may be surprised by the continuing outbursts of anger, the protests in the street against the police that they see in inner-city environments like Ferguson. But they often don’t understand that these minority communities, in many cases, view the police as the enemy. We want to believe that cops are good guys, but let’s face it, any kid in the ghetto knows different. The poor and the disenfranchised in society don’t believe those movies; they see themselves as the victims, and they often are.
As for Barack Obama and his attorney general, Eric Holder, they’re giving speeches now, after Ferguson. But it’s 20 years too late. It’s the same old problem of political power talking, and it doesn’t matter that both the president and his attorney general are African-American. Corruption is color blind. Money and power corrupt, and they are color blind too.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Christopher Walken

As Hook in Peter Pan:

In the Fatboy Slim video, Weapon of Choice:

Friday, December 5, 2014

Strange Fruit (Billie Holiday)

Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

 Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Bernie Sanders For President!

Click here for an article by Heather at Crooks & Liars entitled Sen. Bernie Sanders Unveils 12-Point Economic Plan.