Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Last Call

Doug at Balloon Juice nails my thoughts on the passing of David Broder:

I went through a long stage of disliking David Broder for being an establishment dispenser of Beltway conventional wisdom. Why he couldn’t he be smarter and more fact-based, like, say, Paul Krugman?

Then I realized that was the wrong comparison. There is not much place for smart, fact- based argument in our system. Broder should be praised for having been smarter and more diligent than Cokie Roberts and Richard Cohen.

The problem with the Village was never David Broder, it was the system that made somebody like David Broder the "Dean of the Washington press corps" and treated him as its high priest for 45 years.  It's the same system that views John McCain as a serious policy wonk, Paul Ryan as an economic genius, and always rewards access, access, access.

Broder appeared on Meet The Press some 401 times in his career.  That's close to eight years of consecutive Sundays' worth, or once a month every month for 34 years, which is pretty much what he did.  And yes, the fairest thing I can say about him is he was better than Cokie Roberts.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

The lesson from today's resignation of NPR CEO Vivian Schiller over a departing fundraiser getting caught telling the truth about conservatives?  If you lie, you win.  If you tell the truth, you lose.

NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller has resigned, NPR just announced.

This follows yesterday's news that then-NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller (no relation) was videotaped slamming conservatives and questioning whether NPR needs federal funding during a lunch with men posing as members of a Muslim organization (they were working with political activist James O'Keefe on a "sting.")

Vivian Schiller quickly condemned Ron Schiller's comments, and he moved up an already-announced decision to leave NPR and resigned effective immediately. But Ron Schiller's gaffe followed last fall's dismissal of NPR political analyst Juan Williams, for which Vivian Schiller came under harsh criticism and NPR's top news executive, Ellen Weiss, resigned.

Schiller fell on her sword to try to save public broadcasting funding.  Republicans immediately responded with "Screw you, we will burn you to the ground."

The issue about taxpayers funding public broadcasting isn't about who gets hired or fired, it's about two simple facts: we can't afford it and they don't need it. We're facing a $1.5 trillion deficit and spending hundreds of millions on public broadcasting makes no sense today when they are raising millions from private donors and Americans already have thousands of media choices.

Oh, and the fundraiser exec who was leaving NPR anyway for a job with a think tank?  Lost his new job too.  Meanwhile, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh continue to lie on a near daily basis with zero consequences.  To recap, a known professional liar with zero journalistic credibility on a crusade to destroy the institution has all but decapitated NPR.

Anyone to the left of FOX News must be annihilated.  Don't think it will stop with public broadcasting, either.

No Hope For Newt Doesn't Mean He's Not Dangerous

Josh Marshall is quick to dismiss Newt Gingrich as having any real shot in 2012 at the GOP nomination for President.

Let's remember, Newt famously dumped wife #1 for wife #2 while wife #1 was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery. As in literally went to the hospital to present her with divorce papers while she was recovering from surgery for uterine cancer.

He eventually dumped wife #2 for wife #3 shortly after wife #2 was diagnosed with MS back in 1999. And he was having the affair on wife #2 with wife #3 while he was turning the country upside down trying to drive Bill Clinton from office over his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

There are so many reasons why Gingrich is the lead balloon of presidential politics, but Frum really has this right that the infidelity thing is just something he cannot survive. Not because voters won't tolerate infidelity -- in many circumstances they will -- but because the pattern with Gingrich shows a level of hypocrisy, cruelty and emotional immaturity that most people won't accept in a president

Bullcrap.  One word for you, Josh.


He got elected and re-elected.  Newtie, like Moose Lady and the No Fun Bowdlerization Bunch along with her, are all about hypocrisy, cruelty and emotional immaturity.  That's what Republicans friggin do these days, 24/7. 

Everything's about baldfaced hypocritical lies that Democrats are doing X destroying the country when Republicans pushed the same thing under Reagan-Bush.  Everything's about being completely cruel to women, minorities, unions, government employees, intellectuals, scientists, anyone who's not a Fortune 5000 CEO is a "moocher" who needs to be eliminated from American society as one of "them", and the daily Perpetual Outrage Machine is prima facie evidence that emotional immaturity is the key to the hypocrisy and cruelty parts of the equation.

By that yardstick, Newt is the perfect 2012 candidate.  Don't dismiss him out of hand, he's still dangerous because frankly all the Republicans mentioned for a run against Obama are guilty of the same circus nonsense.  And anyone who survives the GOP primaries will have perfected all three of those.

Be afraid.

The Netflix Conundrum, Part 2

Bon The Geek noted back in December that Netflix climbed to the top in the video rental business by giving customers what they wanted:  convenience of delivery.  She's right...and the model has worked so well that there's a new player in town who wants a piece of that success.  Is the new guy big enough to tangle with the Big Red Envelope?

I'd say so.  It's none other than Facebook.

Movie rentals are coming to Facebook. Warner Bros. says it is testing a service that will offer select movies for purchase or rental through the public pages of these movies on the world's largest online social network.

Starting Tuesday, Facebook users who visit the official page of "Batman: The Dark Knight" can click a "watch" icon and pay 30 Facebook credits, or $3, to watch the movie. The movie is streamed through a Facebook application.

Renters have access to a movie for 48 hours and can replay it as many times as they like. Warner Bros. said it will add other movies in coming months but did not say what those would be.

That choking sound you heard yesterday was Netflix stock taking a shot to the gonads.

"While officially dubbed a test, we expect to see more studios get behind the effort given the large platform and higher price point," wrote Jefferies analyst Youssef H. Squali in a note to investors. He added that he sees the Facebook-Warner Bros. deal as "yet another caution sign" against movie rental company Netflix Inc.'s high stock value.

Netflix lost $11.95, or 5.8 percent, to close at $195.45. Time Warner Inc., which owns Warner Bros., fell 35 cents to close at $36.43.

"With Facebook's entry, the competitive playing field is getting crowded," the analyst said. "We expect this competition to curtail Netflix's subscriber growth and drive higher content costs, impacting revenue growth and (profit) margins over time."

Yeah, Facebook's 100 million plus US users can do that.  If even one percent of Facebook users decide to use the service, that's a big ol' chunk of Netflix's revenue that goes away.  The streaming movie war is officially on, folks.

Stay tuned.

What's In A Name?

LAUREL,Md. - Instead of reporting to school each morning, 15-year-old Byron Preston is reporting for work in his father's barber shop and nail salon. Byron was expelled from Laurel High School three months ago. He was found with a device called a "tattoo gun" in his possession.
A tattoo gun fires no bullets or other projectiles. Like a solder gun or a caulking gun, it is a tool.

"They said it was a weapon because it could inflict bodily harm," explained the high school sophomore, who added he had no intention of tattooing himself or anyone else. Byron said he just wanted to practice tattooing on pieces of fruit.

The school wasn't even offended that the tool is used to give tattoos.  Because it has the word gun in it, the school has recommended that Byron be expelled.  Meanwhile, the art lab should hide their glue guns, and shop class should steer clear of staple guns, because you never know what might happen.

Preventable Stupidity

Markeda Oyeyinka was said to have been a normal, healthy infant before she was rushed to the emergency room at Cook County Hospital in September 1993.

She had suffered multiple injuries and was diagnosed with shaken baby syndrome. For the rest of her life, she would suffer severe health and developmental problems.

Markeda died on March 7, at the age of 17.  Every minute that she suffered could have been prevented. Shaken baby syndrome (or abusive head trauma) is the leading cause of deaths among abused children.  I have worked with mentally disabled kids for years. I have been to group homes, both good and bad, and worked with kids who never had a chance.  Almost every long-term care facility had at least one child who did have a chance in this world, but it was taken away by someone else.  Someone who couldn't control their temper and took it out on a little child.

If you see an adult who is out of control around a small child, please report it.  You could save a life.  You could set an example.  And you can prevent a lifetime of suffering.

Detainment Entertainment

You'd figure with President Obama's executive order reinstating military tribunals over Gitmo terror suspects and codifying indefinite detention without trial into law would cause the GOP to yell FASCIST really, really loudly and for them to oppose it, because Obama is doing something, so Republicans must do the opposite.  But Republicans apparently love the idea of the military being able to declare anyone a terrorist and detain them indefinitely so much that they're fighting to remove Eric Holder and the Department of Justice from having any oversight over terrorist detainees whatsoever.

And guess who's leading the charge?  That's right, Mean Old Yelling Man and Huckleberry Hound.

Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are teaming up with Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee to write legislation that would take decisions about trying detainees out of the attorney general's hands and hand that power to the secretary of defense.

In the wake of the White House's new executive order allowing Guantanamo detainees to be held indefinitely, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) unveiled legislation that would, among other things, affirm the military's right to detain, hold and interrogate detainees at its discretion without Department of Justice or Attorney General Eric Holder involvement.

McKeon said he was working with McCain and Graham to craft a bill that would try to gain traction in both chambers.

Such legislation could attract significant Democratic support, considering Democrats' willingness to buck Obama's attempts to shutter Guantanamo Bay and Holder's decision to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed in civilian court in New York City, a decision that was later reversed after prominent Democrats, including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) vigorously opposed the move.

In a striking move late last year when Democrats still controlled the House majority, they attached a provision to a $1.1 trillion resolution to keep the government funded next year that would prevent Obama from spending any funds to try terrorism suspects in civilian court instead of military commissions.

"Our military, not the Department of Justice, should be leading on law of war issues," Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL), a reservist in the Army's Judge Advocate General program who serves on the Armed Services panel, told reporters Tuesday afternoon. 

So Republicans are not only completely okay with our military declaring people to be terrorists, detaining them indefinitely without due process, possibly subjecting them to military tribunals and then removing any oversight from the Justice Department, they're actively changing the law to do this.

Double G had this one pegged on Twitter yesterday.

GOP wants to empower military to detain people without involvement of AG - uh, that's called "military dictatorship"

Pretty much.  Republicans love freedom and law and order and the Constitution, unless Scary Mooslim Supervillians from the Legion of Doom show up and we have to throw all that away in a frenzy of pissing ourselves or else Lex Luthor and Magneto will show up and break them out of superjail.

Hey, plenty of Democrats will go along with this crap too.  I think they might be able to use this as a poison pill on the debt ceiling or the budget and force a shutdown scenario, or hell they might have enough Democrats go along to get a veto-proof margin on this.  Keep an eye on this one.

Possibly The Wrong Guys To Frak With

Our government really didn't seem to care too much one way or another about hacker group Anonymous as they went to bat for Julian Assange against MasterCard and against HBGary.  But taking on the Pentagon over Bradley Manning?  That's a whole new level of "Oh no you did not."

The Pentagon said Tuesday it had requested an investigation into a hacker group's reported cyber threat against a military base that is being used to hold a US soldier suspected of giving documents to WikiLeaks.

Pentagon spokesman Colonel David Lapan said the probe was requested after news that the hacker group called Anonymous was seeking to disrupt online activities at the Quantico, Virginia, base where Private Bradley Manning is incarcerated.

"The base at Quantico, including the brig, are aware of that and they have made law enforcement agencies aware of that as well," Lapan said.

The Financial Times reported that hackers known as "Anonymous," which had claimed credit for attacks supporting WikiLeaks in recent months, was seeking to disrupt communications at the US Marine base.

Manning, 23, has been held at the prison since July under a maximum security regimen because authorities say his escape would pose a risk to national security.

The army private faces numerous charges of stealing classified files and is suspected as the source of a trove of secret documents published on the WikiLeaks website in recent months, which have infuriated and embarrassed US officials.

US military authorities brought additional charges against Manning last week, accusing him of illegally downloading vast numbers of secret government files and "aiding the enemy."

His defense lawyers have filed a legal complaint over the conditions of his detention at Quantico, which include a "prevention of injury" watch, which his lawyer said includes being forced to sleep naked.

His supporters say the regimen is inhumane and has been deemed unnecessary by psychiatric experts.

I've stayed out of the Manning story because I don't know all the facts.  I don't agree with the harsh treatment, but the guy is military, and the guy is accused of giving a crapload of government secrets to Wikileaks.   The "aiding the enemy" charge does seem rather trumped up.  But Anonymous isn't helping by trying to screw with the Pentagon, those guys take cyber threats seriously...deadly seriously.

This just got escalated to a whole new level of engagement, and I don't think anything good will come from it.

Waging War On The Idea Of Government

The right's Perpetual Outrage Machine is blaring over this John Melloy CNBC article stating government outlays now make up some 35% of wages in America.

Even as the economy has recovered, social welfare benefits make up 35 percent of wages and salaries this year, up from 21 percent in 2000 and 10 percent in 1960, according to TrimTabs Investment Research using Bureau of Economic Analysis data.

“The U.S. economy has become alarmingly dependent on government stimulus,” said Madeline Schnapp, director of Macroeconomic Research at TrimTabs, in a note to clients. “Consumption supported by wages and salaries is a much stronger foundation for economic growth than consumption based on social welfare benefits.”

The economist gives the country two stark choices. In order to get welfare back to its pre-recession ratio of 26 percent of pay, “either wages and salaries would have to increase $2.3 trillion, or 35 percent, to $8.8 trillion, or social welfare benefits would have to decline $500 billion, or 23 percent, to $1.7 trillion,” she said.

OK, so what counts as "welfare" these days?  Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance by far make up the largest chunk of that 35%, that last one, unemployment insurance, has certainly increased dramatically over the last two years.

But there's another contributing factor:  a decrease in wages and salaries over the last two years as millions of Americans have taken pay cuts, layoffs, furloughs, hourly cuts, and had their jobs eliminated completely and replaced with lower-paying service sector jobs and increasingly temp and contract jobs.  Even Melloy admits the government needed to intervene.

Social welfare benefits have increased by $514 billion over the last two years, according to TrimTabs figures, in part because of measures implemented to fight the financial crisis. Government spending normally takes on a larger part of the spending pie during economic calamities but how can the country change this make-up with the root of the crisis (housing) still on shaky ground, benchmark interest rates already cut to zero, and a demographic shift that calls for an increase in subsidies?

And I'll freely admit Melloy's right about the root cause being the housing depression.  Yet here he is asking for the government to do something about that, too.

Meanwhile, the right is going nuts.

If there's anything the last half-century of failed Leftist policies have taught us, it's this: when you reward sloth, you get more sloth. When you reward hard work, you get more hard work.

Funny, I could have sworn Republican presidents were mostly in charge over the last 50 years, signing their names to budget bills.  The guy who ended up with a surplus?  Clinton.  Yeah, he really ran up that debt, huh.  Gosh, I had no idea Obama was in charge of the country during the Greenspan housing bubble that necessitated this government intervention, either.

Guy must hate Reagan and the Bushes then.  Ol' Ronnie tripled our national debt, something glossed over time and time again.


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