Monday, January 31, 2011

Egyptian Military "Will Not Shoot at Civilians"

So says several reports mentioned in the Guardian liveblog.

That's going to narrow Mubarak's options a wee bit.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Horrifying Thought From Nicolas Kristoff

From his twitter: "Fabulous, giddy mood at Tahrir. Love the campfires. But 1 troubling thought: Tiananmen was the same before the shooting."

Yeah. Speaking of repressive regimes that everybody kind of avoids talking about...

Chaos Strategy in Egypt?

It's looking more and more possible that the Mubarak regime is deliberately trying to make Egypt look more chaotic than would otherwise exist thanks to the uprising. There is consistent talk about "thugs" that are responsible for the lion's share of the looting and violence. There are also disturbing reports from journalists like Mona Eltahawy and activists like Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch that these "thugs" are a combination the secret police and hardened prison escapees.

(Who may have been deliberately set loose by the regime, though nobody's sure of that.)

So what would they have to gain from this? An excuse. If this is seen as a popular uprising, repression simply won't be acceptable in the eyes of the Egyptian public or world leaders. Public opinion everywhere will viciously turn against Mubarak in a flash if he becomes any more repressive than he already is. He's already probably done, but THAT will be the end of him in short order.

If it's "chaos", though, then that's a different matter. Then repression can be treated as simple imposition of order. Sure, most people will realize that it's nonsense, but it'll be enough of a fig leaf for Mubarak to hide behind. Everybody else who kind of prefers the idea of a convenient strongman in Egypt will rally to his cause as well: the neoconservatives who hate the idea of a democracy not imposed by American hands, the realists who are uncomfortable with third-world democracies in general, the market fundamentalists and business mavens who must be sweating at the thought of a middle east in the hand of Bolivian-style leftists...ALL of them probably want this to quietly go away.

(And that's not even getting into Bibi's lot.)

Seems like it won't work, though. Eltahawy figured this out very quickly, and made an impassioned plea for organizations like CNN to avoid the use of the word "chaos" to describe this popular uprising. It worked. CNN changed how they're describing it, and I can only hope that other organizations will follow their lead.

(By the by, Eltahawy's Twitter feed is a good tool for understanding what's going on from someone who's in a position to know and has a passion for the country. Highly recommended.)

Saturday, January 29, 2011


It's gotten nasty.

The president's attempt to mollify the demonstrators by sacking his government 24 hours earlier had failed and the leader of the largest Arab nation was facing an ignoble and violent end to his 30 years in power. The streets rang out with anti-government slogans and the cry "Mubarak, your plane is ready"...
...Last night, even as the death toll from confrontations between the security forces and the protesters reached 100 and hospitals were overwhelmed with casualties, there were even more people on the streets of the country's major cities after dark, defying an army-backed curfew. Small-arms fire was heard throughout the night.

The chief of staff of Egypt's armed forces, Lieutenant General Sami Hafez Enan, cut short a visit to meet the American joint chiefs of staffs as news spread that some troops were refusing to open fire on unarmed protesters.

"There's a lot of uncertainty about where the army stands right now," said Karim Ennarah, who was taking part in protests in Cairo. "They are telling people that the tanks have moved in to protect them, and people are showing great warmth in return, dancing on tanks and hugging and kissing soldiers. It looks as if the soldiers are unwilling to launch attacks on the crowds, although senior officers are pleading with protesters to respect the curfew and go home."
It looks like the army is really unwilling to step in to aid Mubarak; unsurprising considering that Egyptian troops have never fired on Egyptian civilians. To the extent that the security forces are, it only underscores the weakness of the regime.  I don't see how the regime can survive now, barring the sort of repression that would leave Egypt an international and regional pariah.
(And even that may not work, if it forces the army's hand in confronting the security forces.)

Mubarak was rocked by the resignation of a senior member of his ruling party, Ahmed Ezz, a close friend of his son. Further pressure was heaped on him by the Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, who said Mubarak should step down and set a framework for transition of power as the only way to end unrest. The former head of the UN nuclear watchdog told al-Jazeera that Mubarak's speech, in which he said he would form a new government, was "disappointing" for Egyptians.
No doubt.

David Cameron spoke to Mubarak last night to express his "grave concern" about violence against anti-government protesters in Egypt. The prime minister urged the embattled leader to "take bold steps to accelerate political reform and build democratic legitimacy" rather than attempt to repress dissent, according to Downing Street.

In a joint statement with President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, Cameron added: "The Egyptian people have legitimate grievances and a longing for a just and better future. We urge President Mubarak to embark on a process of transformation which should be reflected in a broad-based government and in free and fair elections."
And this shows just how conflicted and out-of-touch the various western governments are. Cameron, Sarkozy, and Merkel cannot possibly believe that "a process of transformation" is going to be enough. The process of transformation is going on right now, and it's one that is like to see Mubarak out on his ear at the very best.  But, as some wags have said, those governments hands are tied: the arabs that are revolting are the ones in the countries whose dictators they liked, and it's vanishingly unlikely that a democratic Tunisia, Egypt, or Algeria is going to be as useful from a geopolitical point of view.
Nasty business for the western right as well. This is the sort of thing they've always cheered on. Certainly the neoconservatives have been yammering on about this sort of thing. But this is almost a nightmare scenario for them, because it's a popular uprising that includes
 the Muslim Brotherhood, without being by and for the Muslim Brotherhood. The idea that groups like the Brotherhood could be part of a broadly progressive and secular coalition is antithetical to their very ideology, since they see the entire world as a conflict between "democracy" and totalitarian "Islamists". What happens when the "Islamists" agree to share power with a broad popular coalition?

Worse yet, what if said broad popular coalition includes leftists as well? The unions were key to the Tunisian uprising, and these protests are heavily driven by dissatisfaction with the very sort of rich-get-richer-poor-get-poorer economics that the right adores so much. Mubarak brought in western-style economists, and they arguably made things WORSE.

Forget Iran: what if the future of Egypt is Bolivia? What if the Egyptians adopt the kind of socialist and social-democratic government that makes Goldman Sachs partners and Republican strategists wake up in a cold sweat at night? Nobody predicted that, but it's eminently possible. (Or possibly imminent.)

This is all speculation, of course. The future of Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, and all the rest are ultimately in the hands of their people. But it is clear that popular uprisings will not be on the Republicans' terms, or on American terms in general. They will be on ARAB terms. Nobody else's.

Edit: Gawker has a piece about how Egyptian football fans may be playing a big role. Not surprised a bit. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Obama Speech

Not much there. More stuff about safety, said that he had talked with Mubarak about this, wants people to work together for reform, etc.  But nothing substantial.

It might be that he can't really do much more than that. If the Americans get too involved, groups within Egypt will denounce their counterparts as being American catspaws. (That happened in Iran, even though the Americans were distant-at-best during that crisis.)

What was really missing was an acknowledgment that this is not just about Egypt. Just a few days ago, this was in Tunisia. Then Algeria. Now Egypt. It's starting to move into Yemen, and the Syrians are already starting to get nervous. This is a much broader uprising than is being acknowledged. If they don't recognize that and address it publicly, things are only going to become more extreme as time goes on. Ignoring it won't make it go away.

Kerry on Egypt

He isn't going to win any friends with this nonsense, that's for sure. Babbling about "violence" isn't going to cut it.

Ah, and here's Obama...

Slideshow of Egypt on ForPol Website

The magazine ain't what it used to be, but I'll give Foreign Policy's website credit for an excellent series of photos of the situation on the ground in Egypt.

Muslim Brotherhood: Not a Bad Thing?

So, yeah, the Usual Suspects are still banging on about how the Muslim Brotherhood is behind the Egyptian protests. Seems a bit unlikely considering the stories going around on Twitter about how Christians and Muslims are working together during the protests.

Regardless, there was a good piece in the Daily Beast talking about how the rise of the Brotherhood in Egypt might not be a bad thing:

The Egyptian Brotherhood renounced violence years ago, but its relative moderation has made it the target of extreme vilification by more radical Islamists. Al Qaeda’s leaders, Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri, started their political lives affiliated with the Brotherhood but both have denounced it for decades as too soft and a cat’s paw of Mubarak and America.

Egypt’s new opposition leader, former International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei, has formed a loose alliance with the Brotherhood because he knows it is the only opposition group that can mobilize masses of Egyptians, especially the poor. He says he can work with it to change Egypt. Many scholars of political Islam also judge the Brotherhood is the most reasonable face of Islamic politics in the Arab world today. Skeptics fear ElBaradei will be swept along by more radical forces...

...They should not be afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood. Living with it won’t be easy but it should not be seen as inevitably our enemy. We need not demonize it nor endorse it. In any case, Egyptians now will decide their fate and the role they want the Ikhwan to play in their future.
No doubt. The point is not to completely suppress groups like the Brotherhood. It won't work, and will only enrage the populace. No, the point is to encourage all groups of society in Egypt to have a say in Egypt's future, and do what's possible to ensure that one single group doesn't exploit the opportunity to seize power. That's what happened in Iran, where a wide-spread revolution was co-opted by the Mullahs to seize control, and nobody wants to see it happen again.

Mubarak Decries "Looting", Calls For People to "Stand for Egyptian Public"

He also went on about how the protests were examples of freedom of expression in Egypt, which is sort of comical. He's making noises about "chaos", too, which is ominous.

Most of the speech, though, appears to center on economics. He talks about "not leaving economics to the economists"—which also makes him sound clever—and help Egyptians with the widespread unemployment and poverty.

...Okay, he's saying that he's going to "designate a new government", will "not be lax or tolerant...will take all the steps to safeguard security and safety of Egypt". That's FAR more ominous.

Anonymous Playing a Role in Egypt/Tunisia?

Well, now, THIS I hadn't expected. But, according to the Guardian, the notorious "hacktivist" group Anonymous are playing a role in the Tunisian/Egyptian/Algerian crises, by providing anonymization tools to in-country protesters and unleashing DDoS attacks on various governmental networks and websites. There's more detail here.

It reminds me a bit of the problem (and promise) of WikiLeaks. The organization is far from perfect, and governments are constantly complaining that the very organizations that demand their transparency are utterly secretive and anonymous themselves. But, honestly, they kind of have to be. Egypt's riots aside, there is still an enormous difference in power between regular people and the state. Anonymity and secrecy may be the only way that any sort of check on state power can possibly function.


It's telling that somebody like Melanie Phillips cannot conceive of the idea that the Palestinian Authority might not serve as a good representation of "Palestinian" belief and thought.

One wonders how she'd handle what's going on in Egypt right now.

(Yeah, yeah, it's the Spectator and therefore almost completely worthless. But they had a good piece by Alex Massie about the Egyptian situation, and I needed to remind myself that it was, indeed, the Spectator I was reading.)

AJ: Tanks at NDP Headquarters, Cairo Museum

Museum bit isn't surprising, pretty much everybody (including the protesters) don't want the fire spread to that museum. NDP headquarters is a bit more of a mystery, considering that it's empty and burning merrily. They might bring in fire equipment, but commentator on AJ is saying "it'd only be a shell, it's already gutted".

They're talking about ElBaradai as a possible replacement. Makes sense. It makes his house arrest that much more ominous, though.

Business Elite in Egypt Bail Out

AJ: "They got on a jet and left".

Shit just got realer.

Latest on AJ

Tanks sent in to deal with protesters. End up giving them free rides instead.

Also finally seeing footage from Suez. Crowds of protesters are pushing riot cops back.

Gibbs Presser

It couldn't be any more obvious that the Obama Administration hasn't the faintest idea how to approach this. They're preaching "peace" and how "the Egyptian people need to resolve this themselves", but you're already getting angry Egyptians talking about how the gas canisters the police are shooting at them are labeled "made in the USA".

America cannot remain neutral, but it's almost certain that they really, really want to keep a reliable ally in Egypt. Democratic governments are rarely "reliable" in that sense. Especially considering America's track record in the region is, ah, somewhat weak. But they don't want to be on the wrong side of a future government, and don't want the heat from being seen as anti-Democratic.

(And, honestly, I suspect many in the Administration aren't big fans of dictatorial governments in the first place. Barry et al have their issues, but these aren't Republicans we're talking about.)

Hoo Boy

And now the Usual Suspects are, apparently, starting to see Islamists lurking behind every door in Egypt. This despite the fact that all and sundry within the country are saying that this is a secular uprising.

Not surprising. Egypt's dictatorial government was very, very convenient for a lot of states and non-state actors around the world. They do NOT like the idea of having to re-negotiate their relationship with any new government that arises. So why not try to discredit these people by calling them terrists?

If You Aren't Watching AJ, Do So

Yeah, yeah, Al-Jazeera loves Osama and Saddam and all that rot, none of it matters: the best coverage of Egypt's growing rebellion/revolution is definitely on AJ.

Military's in Alexandria and Suez

How does the phrase go? Ah, yes. This shit just got real.

The government's losing control. As they're saying on AJ right now, the government's trying to make concessions, but the demonstrators aren't buying it. They want SERIOUS change. And while one could argue that Tunisia was only a minor regional player, Egypt is about as major as you can get without being either Israel, Iran, or Saudi Arabia.

And, making this more complex, Egypt's an American ally. It's easy to cheer on democratic revolutions in places where you don't like the government. It's far more difficult when it's in countries like Egypt whose leadership is corrupt-but-convenient. Certainly there must be a lot of panicky conversations in Jerusalem right now, too, as they try to sort out what any future Egyptian government might look like and how it'll behave towards the quote-unquote "zionist entity".

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Juan Cole on Tunisia

Prof. Cole points out that this is the first popular revolution since 1979, and is notable not just because of that, but because it's being spearheaded by labor unions, net activists, and rural farmers instead of Islamic fundamentalists:

It's spread to Egypt and, now, Yemen.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I'm mostly with Krugman. "Meh". Not bad as speeches go, but if there's one thing we've learned about this president, it's that you can't ever assume that his speeches really MEAN much. He'll talk about something, but he won't ever go to the wall for it.

What struck me about it, mostly, is how the Overton effect is holding sway. The country has swung to the right, and it's swung to the right mostly because of a president that—like Clinton—is triangulating between his own quite moderate positions and wherever the Republicans happen to be. We know for a fact, now, that the Republicans opposed him because they wanted to deny him the imprimatur of "bipartisanship" that he so desperately craved, and reaped the reward of a president that hurtled rightward in the vain attempt to bring them on board. He, and the American media, were quick to pay close attention to every right-wing nutball while ignoring anything progressives had to say.

(I mean, for God's sake, they actually gave television time to the Tea Partiers through Bachmann. She's an idiot, and her "movement" cost the Republicans seats. They don't deserve a bully pulpit, but damned if they weren't given one.)

How on earth could the country NOT move to the right in that sort of environment? Same thing happened in Imperial Japan: leftist voices were ruthlessly suppressed, so anybody who wasn't happy with the status quo had little choice but to move rightward. The "center" of the discourse moves rightward and, well, here we are.

Yes, yes, there was some stuff about public investment in the speech. Whoopie. Bush talked about Mars, too, but nothing ever came of that. This is clearly going to be the Democrats' starting point, not the final destination. The Republicans are going to carve up anything that even remotely smacks of public investment. Nothing like the high-speed rail and Internet access is going to happen while they control the House.

Sure, Obama and the Senate Dems are going to shake their heads sorrowfully, in order to try to keep us "pinkos" complacent. But, rest assured, they'll go along with it in the spirit of the only sort of "bipartisanship" that the Republicans accept: Democrats doing whatever the hell the Republicans tell them to do.

And, rest assured, when it happens, you'll have Jonathan Chait and Ed Kilgore babbling about how smart they are, about how America is "center-right", and a whole bunch of other things that really boil down to "I wish the progressives who question my knee-jerk center-right opinions would just go away."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tunisian Protests Spread to Egypt

So apparently Facebook isn't quite as establishment-reinforcing as previously thought. Egyptian radicals, spurred by Tunisia's successful social-media-intermediated uprising, have started using Facebook and Twitter to coordinate their own protests as well.

Not that it's really about social media. I don't think that's fair to the people who are risking their lives on the streets of Tunis and Cairo. I also still maintain that Malcolm Gladwell had a point when he talked about how low-effort e-protesting just isn't going to accomplish much. What's different here is that it's serving as a complement to real, out-in-the-street protest, instead of as a substitute.

There's still no substitute for getting your hands dirty. You still have to get out there and make some noise. You still need to march in the street, carry those signs, wield the megaphone, and everything else that comes with struggling for change. You also still have to  engage in the simple, repetitive, low-key but absolutely vital political work of doorknocking, phone canvassing, leaflet dropping and the like. And, yes, you still need to actually mail your governmental representatives, since that carries far more weight than email does.

But social networking tools do have a place as a means of bringing people together, getting them organized, and channeling their passions in a productive direction. It's not as sexy as supposed "twitter revolutions". Even so, it's still important and necessary.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The "Palestine Papers"

Haven't had much of a chance to look at the so-called "Palestine Papers" yet. When I first saw the news, though, my first thought was "huh. I though WikiLeaks was gearing up towards releasing bank info, not this." Imagine my surprise when I discovered that this had nothing to do with WikiLeaks. It's all Al Jazeera and the Guardian.

I'd read a number of comments that suggested that shutting down WikiLeaks wouldn't work. Now I know it's true. WikiLeaks has changed the game. It's changed how we even THINK of this sort of material. Big leaks are, apparently, becoming the standard, and even if WikiLeaks were to get finally shut down tomorrow, somehow, we can rest assured that others would pick up the slack.

And damned if that isn't the best news that I've gotten in a long time.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Refreshingly Simple Answers

Why are the Republicans calling the Affordable Care Act a "Job-killing law", even when it's been endlessly proven that that's a lie?

Well, Jay Bookman called it: they're doing it because they know that it doesn't matter if it's a lie. The point is repetition and association. They know that even people who don't believe you will tend to assume that you must have a point if you saying something over, and over, and over again. They also know that the most important thing to Americans is unemployment, that the media will give "equal time" to them no matter how much of a mountain of shit they're peddling, and that Obama will "meet them halfway" no matter how out to lunch they are.

So they're going to keep lying and everything the don't like a "job killer" over and over again. Because truth is meaningless when repetition will hold the day.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Jon Stewart Needs to Get the Hell Over It

Jon, I'm a big fan. Really, I am. You're one of the savviest critics of modern newsmedia out there.

But that said, Digby's right. Just because the Nazis came up with the "Big Lie" technique does NOT mean that using the label is somehow out of bounds. That's like saying that modern communists can't exist because they aren't Soviets, or that nobody lives in a yurt because they're not ancient mongols. It's absolutely ludicrous.

In fact, it absolutely plays into the very concept of the Big Lie. The whole point of the Big Lie is that it's a lie that is so egregious that people believe that it cannot possibly be false because nobody would ever say it if it weren't true.  You believe that a lie of that magnitude cannot exist, so you believe it must be true. But the same is true here. You're claiming that since nobody can possibly be as bad as the Nazis, nobody could possibly be credibly employing their propaganda techniques, and therefore must not be using those techniques. That's also absolutely ludicrous.

Look, however you want to call it, that's what the Republicans have done. They've lied over, and over, and over again, in every way and form and degree imaginable. They've lied about policies, they've lied about individuals, and they've lied about entire peoples, creeds, and religions. The public clearly believes that anybody in that sort of position of power couldn't possibly get away with it, so they assume there must be a grain of truth, even if embellished. And because of that, they get horribly manipulated over, and over, and over again by a pack of absolute bastards.

They've hit the point where they have absolutely no idea what Obama's even doing, or what the words "conservative" and "liberal" really mean anymore. They think Obama's death doctors are going to gun their parents and grandparents down in the streets, and that Obama's taxed them to within an inch of their lives when he reduced their taxes. But how can they possibly believe otherwise? The volume and size of the lies—not to mention the complicity of the media—makes it impossible!

Yes, Jon, that is the Big Lie technique. Maybe digby's right. Maybe it needs a new name. But that's what it is. And while I'm sure you enjoyed taking potshots at Steve Cohen, HE WAS RIGHT.

(Oh, and while I'm at it, the DC thing was ridiculously unhelpful, but that's an issue for another day that was covered quite well elsewhere.)

Obama's Chief Economic Advisor? Big Outsourcing Fan.

Obama's not even trying to convince people that he gives a rat's ass about domestic employment and worker's wages, is he? As long as the Powers That Be maximize their share value, and he can push people to accept minimum wage work at McWalMart, I suppose he'll count it as a win.
Immelt's appointment raises fresh questions about Obama's courtship and future policy proposals. Firms like GE say good jobs will come from lower taxes and less regulation. Immelt told analysts Friday that he'll focus on tax policy and regulation, among other topics. "A clear problem in the recovery is that it's been a much stronger recovery for business in terms of their profit and earnings than for those folks who work and earn a living in the U.S.," said Gary Burtless, a former Labor Department economist and now a fellow at the Brookings Institution, a research and policy organization in Washington.

Burtless said Immelt was likely hired to reassure corporate America. Political opponents have cast the Obama administration as unfriendly to business interests, and the administration has had difficulty rebutting that theme. Immelt's hiring was yet another step in that direction.

"It's a significant piece of outreach to the business community," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office and top economic adviser to Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. The appointment could mean business has a "genuine liaison" at the White House, Holtz-Eakin said.
Oh, good. Because Lord knows that the Obama administration has been terrible for America's plutocrats. If it were any worse, they'd collapse under the huge mounds of cash they have to carry around everywhere.

Edit: The worst part is that this useless hump is replacing Paul Fucking Volcker, who was one of only reasons why one could believe that Barry 'n Co. were getting any decent economic advice whatsoever.  So much for that.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Jonathan Chait sez "I don't link to lefties because I don't agree with them"

Makes sense. But it does raise the question of why he links to right-wing douchebags so much.

Is there something Mr. Chait isn't telling us?

(Aside from WHY he doesn't like liberalism without the "neo", that is?)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Oh Hey, Joe Lieberman's Retiring?

To paraphrase the Simpsons: "Why now? Why not five years ago?"

Sure, he went to bat for ending DADT. But he also singlehandedly killed the Medicare extension and helped ruin the Dems' chances in 2010 by playing the Rotating Villain of the Week on health care.  Connecticut could have had a REAL Dem in there years ago, had his ego not stood in the way. Oh, and he's part of the reason middle east policy is so screwed up, too.

No, there won't be a single tear shed in this corner of the Net over the retirement. Except that it took too goddamned long.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It's About Linking and Money

I don't have as much time or ability to comment on The Blindspot, by Freddie deBoer, as I would like. I've already praised it; it doesn't need more, and I'll have to limit my comments to two short points.

First, the comments saying "Klein has beliefs! Yglesias has beliefs! They just focus on the policies that are possible!" are a bit wrongheaded.  Those things are undoubtedly true. Where the problem lies is that neoliberals like Klein and Yglesias only really pay attention to arguments coming from the center-left and the right. They don't link to anybody who's really to their left, they don't discuss anybody to their left, and therefore they don't acknowledge the existence of anybody to their left. This has been a constant problem online that has everything to do with the sheer multitude of voices. You can't read it all, and you can't even read most of it; so it becomes too easy to focus on a few quick, convenient sources.

That isn't even necessarily a problem. If those sources are doing a good job of being curators of opinion—which is the ultimate role of the vast majority of political bloggers—then they'll be exposed to a variety of opinions simply because of the nature of the network. The problem comes when all the big voices are all paying attention to the same voices, and rarely (if ever) venture outside of that reservation to see what everybody else is saying. This is not a recent phenomenon. In fact, it's the oldest problem with blogging, and has only been exacerbated by the rise of social networking tools as blogging substitutes. Echo chambers are a constant menace.

Secondly, you can't understand this issue without having also read The Rise of the New Global Elite. Money is speech. The Supreme Court ruled it so, it has reaffirmed it over and over again, and it's almost certainly going to keep doing so. In a country—and on a planet—hurtling headlong towards a plutonomy where the vast majority of wealth and income are in the hands of an ever-shrinking minority of the ultra-wealthy, that is naturally going to mean that speech is in the hands of that tiny minority as well.

deBoer hits on this when he talks about market fundamentalist libertarians and their outsized influence, but it isn't the thrust of the article and I think that misses the point. People who sell their ability to write and speak as their stock in trade—people like Klein and Yglesias, to get back to them—are almost inevitably going to have to sell that ability to the beneficiaries of the plutonomy because there's nobody else to sell it to. Speech is money, and we all know who has the money.

That sharply curtails their flexibility. Sure, they can advocate for progressive social policy and maybe even slightly progressive economic and taxation policy. But an out-and-out assault on the economic foundations of America? Hell no. Even acknowledging that such a thing is advocated could dry up the money spigots, and get you replaced by people whose morals, ethics, or lack of such more perfectly serve the interests of the guy who's ponying up the dough.  Sure, deBoers points out the outsized influence of outlets like Reason has to do with the money behind them, but he never brings up the fact that the money behind them is in the hands of self-interested, self-serving billionaires.

This isn't "libertarians" buying speech; this is the plutonomy perpetuating its interests by showering convenient people with money. And, yes, that is harmful to the American public discourse. But since the American members of that "global elite" demonstrated that they couldn't give a rat's ass about their fellow Americans at gunpoint, I doubt that matters much to them. Money is speech no matter where you're from.

deBoer did a follow-up entry that said he was being deliberately provocative. Fine. That's the OTHER, non-curatorial job of the blogger. But there's one thing that I did want to actually quote and response to.

I am sorry, though, for the Twitter ugliness. To put it succinctly, some conservatives were taking gratuitous swipes at the post on public Twitter feeds. I responded in an update to the post. Some people felt, for some odd reason, that this was out of bounds. But, look-- people were talking trash on public Twitter feeds. So I talked back. If you don't protect your tweets, they're public. Twitter is a public forum. It's not passing notes in biology class. I understand why people get bent out of shape about this, and it's why I fucking hate Twitter: it turns everybody cliquey. It's public, but gated through the following system, and it encourages a situation where people look to their in group to back them up in a kind of weird public/private fusion.
I wholeheartedly agree. Twittering is a form of blogging. It's public. You can dial up anybody's Twitter page and read the lot of it. The fact that's short-form blogging doesn't change that.  That's one of the reasons I get a bit annoyed with all that "death of blogging" nonsense. Blogging never went away. It's just that, for many, it got shorter and faster.
For many people, that's an improvement. But sometimes you need something beefier, and I still believe that Freddie deBoer's work demonstrates just how important it is.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Blindspot

This piece by  Freddie deBoer on the milquetoast, capitulation-happy people who dominate the "left" in blogging today, and how its membership excludes opinions that are actually leftist, isn't just good. It isn't just great. It's ASTONISHING. Even if you disagree with it, it's one of the best pieces of long-form personal essay-writing I've read this year.  It's a rich, meaty smack in the face to those who argue that "blogging is dead" by reminding people what the hell it was always about.

I may have more to say later. But I'll tell you two things: Freddie is going on the blogroll RIGHT NOW,  and I don't have the faintest clue what the hell happened to Matthew Yglesias, either.

Friday, January 14, 2011

"A Mob Intent on Violence" and the Second Amendment Solution

Here's Bob Filner:

Yep, that describes the Republicans pretty well.

Oh, perhaps you were expecting me to say "the Tea Party"? HELL with that. The Republicans embraced the Tea Party throughout the election and continued to do so right until it became inconvenient now that they've been reminded that violent nutballs are not just volunteers, donors, and convenient campaign props but are actually violent nutballs.

Here's the thing: it doesn't matter whether the Arizona shootings were inspired by "left-wing" grievances, "right-wing" grievances, both, or neither.  Everybody has issues. Everybody has grievances. You're never going to achieve consensus. What matters is how the Republicans and their pet Teabaggers advocate the resolution of those grievances.

No, what's fucked up about the Rebaggers, what makes them dangerous, is their method of conflict resolution. They don't care about democratic activism, or rhetoric, or debate. That shit's for pansies. No, they're doing everything but out-and-out telling America that the solution is to grab a gun, the biggest clip you can find, lock 'n load, and start airing out anybody who gets in your way. Good ol' "Second Amendment solutions", as they put it.

So you get crazed mobs like this. You get people who can't accept that their chosen candidate was beaten by a filthy lieberal Jew Democrat, and who are told (according to Filner) by various psychotic right-wing blogs that "democracy has failed them" and that it's time to grab the AKs and go to town.

You get people like Loughner, who was deluded into thinking that he could resolve his grievances (real or imagined) with Rep. Giffords at the point of a gun.

You get self-described "foot soldiers" like Scott Roeder, who decides to resolve his grievances against abortion providers through first degree murder. 

You get ex-felons like Byron Williams who do their damnedest to kill every member of the ACLU and Tides Foundation that he can lay his hands on because Glenn Beck all but told him to.

And you get people like Jim David Adkisson, who slaughtered 3 people in a Unitarian church in Knoxville because "all liberals should be killed because they're ruining the country".

That's what you get when you have an entire party, an entire movement, that is built upon telling people that the only thing between them and prosperity, safety, security and happiness is firing as many rounds as they can into the Other.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bob Herbert STILL on a Tear

Shorter Herbert: "Nobody gives a shit about the poor any more".

The politicians and the media behave as if the poor don’t exist. But with jobs still absurdly scarce and the bottom falling out of the middle class, the poor are becoming an ever more significant and increasingly desperate segment of the population...

...The poor, who have been hurt more than anyone else in this recession, don’t stand a heartbeat’s chance in this political environment. The movers and shakers in government don’t even give a thought to being on the side of the angels anymore — they’re on the side of the millionaires and billionaires.

Nearly 44 million people were living in poverty in 2009, which was more than 14 percent of the American population and a jump of four million from the previous year. Anyone who thinks things are much better now is delirious. More than 15 million children are poor — one of every five kids in the United States. More than a quarter of all blacks and a similar percentage of Hispanics are poor.

Are we doing anything about this? No. Our government officials, from the president on down, are too busy kissing the bejeweled fingers of the megarich.
Shorter Demosthenes: "Damned straight".

It Takes a Whole Lotta Dumb to Make Whatzisname Right, But It Looks Like Somebody Managed It

You'd think it wasn't the Censorship McGee writing this, but yeah, Whatzisname actually has a legit point here about some Young Liberal in Canada named John Lennard who is babbling on and on about The Great American Republican Revolution and how the Liberals need to make themselves over in the Republicans image.

Kinsella brings up the hoary old "given the choice between a real Republican and a fake Republican, they'll choose the real one every time" bit, which is a pretty fair cop in a country where the right-wing party isn't as seemingly (and scarily) wedded to murderous eliminationism as its American counterpart.

But more importantly, this Lennard character misses the point that nobody gives a shit about the deficit and SHOULDN'T give a shit about public debt. No, really, John, they don't. That's not why the Republicans won, and you're deeply misinformed if you think otherwise.

The Republicans won because people are pissed that the Dems didn't seem to give a shit that they don't have jobs, because Obama turned out to be about as interested in serious change as the executive board of Goldman-Sachs, because the health care bill was a prime example of the Dems giving away the store before negotiations even began, and because the wealth of corporate America was poured into making damned well ensuring that the Republicans won.

(Which is the thing that always seems to get ignored by people like Lennard. Probably don't like the implications much.)

The Liberals can't really capitalize on this. The Libs don't have a fraction of the money that the Conservatives do. They won't have the job thing, because most of the places where things ARE bad in Canada are already held by the Liberals. The Liberals simply aren't going to be able to successfully run to the Conservatives' right, and especially not on economic matters. And as for "change", where the hell is the "change" in focusing on issues like public debt that only register to the powerful and plutocratic when you're a party being CONSTANTLY derided as only caring about the issues of said plutocrats?

The saddest part is that Lennard doesn't seem to know what "progressive" means. Look at this:

Liberals must call for an immediate, across-the-board 3% cut to the operating budgets of every federal department, agency and Crown Corporation.

Families have had to tighten their belts in recent years. Now it's the government's turn. If we use recent budget figures as a guide, a modest 3% cut in administrative costs could save upwards of $1.5-billion a year...

...By getting back to the basics, Mr. Ignatieff has the opportunity to boldly usher in a new progressive agenda, one based on building strong core institutions and respecting taxpayers' hard-earned money.
Excuse some salty language, but can this Lennard character explain to me WHAT IN THE BLOODY BLUE BLAZES IS SUPPOSED TO BE "PROGRESSIVE" ABOUT ACROSS-THE-FUCKING-BOARD CUTS TO GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS? Buddy, that's not a "progressive" agenda. That's not "strong core institutions" either, since you don't something stronger by starving it. That's Republicanism. Republicanism at its worst.

Edit: Ah. The boy's working at an elite law firm now. Well, that makes a bit more sense then. I can see why the issues of plutocrats would hit center stage, and other issues like collapsing productivity, growing poverty, the collapse of the middle class and record-high income inequality would seem quaintly unimportant.

After all, it looks like our boy Lennard isn't going to have to worry about being a "have-not" any time soon.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ross Douthat is a Pathetic, Pathetic Man

The man is so desperate to try to create some sort of association between the Arizona shooter and "leftists"—and so inept at doing so—that he has written an article about political violence that doesn't mention word one about Timothy McVeigh.

Sure, he mentions the Black Panthers, the Weathermen, and other leftist boogiemen. But when it comes to actual, horrific, politically-driven violence? Not a goddamned word. Doesn't even dodge around it or try to change the subject. Just ignores it entirely.

Yes, he also engages in a fair bit of good ol' fashioned false equivalence. He babbles (there is no better word) about how Democrats supposedly use "crosshairs" and "targets" as well, and does it while conveniently ignoring how the Republicans and their Tea Party buddies pair it with the sort of violent, eliminationist, hateful rhetoric that you'd normally expect to find on Stormfront instead of on the websites of the "mainstream" right. THAT, you'd expect from a water-carrier like Douthat.

But seriously? Not a single word about McVeigh?

That's just plain pathetic.

Monday, January 10, 2011

More on Arizona

Wee bit more in the Times about Loughner.

Don Coorough, 58, who sat two desks in front of Mr. Loughner in a poetry class last semester, described him as a “troubled young man” and “emotionally underdeveloped.” After another student read a poem about getting an abortion, Mr. Loughner compared the young woman to a “terrorist for killing the baby.”

“No one in that class would even sit next to him,” Mr. Coorough said. Another fellow student said that he found Mr. Loughner’s behavior so eccentric — including inappropriate remarks and unusual outbursts — that he wondered if he might be on hallucinogens. Mr. Loughner grew up in Tucson and was an unremarkable student at Mountain View High School, classmates said.
And yet, by all accounts, he wasn't terribly religious.

I think we can safely retire the whole "he's a leftist" thing. Leftists don't call young women "terrorists" for having an abortion.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Jeffrey Goldberg Full of It On Arizona Shootings

...which, admittedly, isn't exactly a rare thing.

But why on earth would he try to claim this?

Imagine if the Ft. Hood shooting had been covered the same way as the Giffords shooting? During Ft. Hood, commentators and politicians were falling over themselves to preemptively announce that Nidal Hasan's religious faith had nothing to do with the shooting.
Which commentators would those be? Because I happen to recall rather a lot of blather about the extent to which this guy's religious faith had EVERYTHING to do with the shooting, especially once it came out that he wasn't happy about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Goldberg either doesn't get it, or won't admit it. It may be unseemly to tie together the act of a lone nut and the right's incredible and disgusting eliminationist attitude towards anybody more liberal than Glenn Beck. But I haven't the slightest doubt that, were the guy to turn out to be progressive, liberal, or leftist, the right would be up in arms about it?

And do you know how I know? BECAUSE THEY'RE ALREADY DOING IT.

No links, because to hell with those guys, but we're already seeing wingnuts seize on the brief impressions of a few twitterers who knew the guy 3 or 4 years ago to try to blame progressives for what happened. We've already got delusional asshats trying to tie together a DailyKos commentator who said "Giffords is dead to me" and the killer, despite the simple fact that the communications we do see from the man are nowhere near as lucid as the posts that are supposedly from him.

The conservative movement and its various hangers-on are always, ALWAYS purely instrumental when it comes to their outrage over things like this. If it's one of theirs, they'll apologize their asses off, and do whatever they can to shift the blame. If it's not one of theirs, they'll scream to the heavens about the evils of the liberal-progressive-socialist-leftist-whatevers that were (naturally) entirely responsible for this.

Those of us who are disgusted and repelled by said movement need not adopt these tactics. At least, not necessarily, though damned if they don't work like a charm on the Usual Suspects in the media. But we should never, EVER forget what's going on, and why. NEVER give them the benefit of the doubt.

Because if you do, they'll just grab it, pocket it, and scream that much louder about how repulsively evil you are.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Eliminationist Rhetoric

There is no reason to believe that Jared Lee Loughner, the shooter in the horrific attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others today, identifies with any sort of specific political ideology. He supposedly identified The Communist Manifesto as an influence, but he also indicated Mein Kampf and To Kill a Mockingbird as well, and certainly his YouTube channel suggests a troubled mind more than a specific ideology.*

That said.

I think this is the point where we can settle on one thing: there is no room in America for the sort of eliminationist rhetoric that we've been hearing from the right over the years, including from prominent people like Sarah Palin.

It's not right. It's not just. It's not safe. And the danger IS real.

*(No, I'm not linking to his YouTube channel. Find it yourselves.)

Edit: And, no, saying someone "is dead to you" is not eliminationist. Pathetic attempts to try to link DailyKOS to all this notwithstanding.

(That's just projection aimed at muddying the waters and convincing the press to cover it as a "he said/she said", "pox on both your houses" story instead of what it actually is. But even so.)

Friday, January 07, 2011

Punch Some More Hippies, Barry

If the White House were half as eager to take shots at Republicans and conservatives as they are their own base, they might have not got their asses kicked last November.

Edit: Hah, I didn't even make the connection. His new chief of staff is a Daley. If anybody knows about beating the holy hell out of dirty liberal hippies, it's the Daleys.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Senate Filibuster Reform

Not perfect, but a damned sight better than what's there right now.

My only concern is that the ConservaDems will come down on it because it diminishes their importance and power. Remember, the Republicans weren't the problem once Franken was finally seated. It was recalcitrant Democrats.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Bob Herbert on a Tear

Oh, now THIS I like. Bob Herbert's ripping up the Reps, saying "Get Ready for a [Rep] Rerun":

You just can’t close the door on this crowd. The party that brought us the worst economy since the Great Depression, that led us into Iraq and the worst foreign policy disaster in American history, that would like to take a hammer to Social Security and a chisel to Medicare, is back in control of the House of Representatives with the expressed mission of undermining all things Obama...
...Maybe the voters missed the entertainment value of the hard-hearted, compulsively destructive G.O.P. headliners. Maybe they viewed them the way audiences saw the larger-than-life villains in old-time melodramas. It must be something like that because it’s awfully hard to miss the actual policies of a gang that almost wrecked the country.
Good lead paragraph, but I think that second bit is slightly off. What motivated the public is fear, resignation, and rage.
There was fear from the still-employed lower-and-middle class about whether or not they'd lose their jobs and what little wealth they had left. Fear, suspicions, and isolation is ever the friend of the Republican.

There was resignation from progressives, liberals, and youth. They (we?) have lost all faith in the ability of Obama and the Democrats to actually enact positive change. The fact that a sixty-seat majority in the Senate couldn't get anything done was devastating, and the spectacle of Obama being perfectly willing to arm-twist progressive Dems but NOT conservative Dems or wingnut Reps was even more so. Obama's thorough abandonment of his base and supporters and repeated "hippy-bashing" was just final blow. So they just didn't bother to donate, campaign or vote.

But more than anything, there was rage. Americans know they've gotten a raw deal. They know they're being exploited. They know that the "Masters of the Universe" fucked things up, and got ordinary Americans like them to shoulder the burden. They're pissed that they got castigated for wanting to own a home in a nice neighbourhood and then finding out they got fleeced by the lying banks and mortgage houses. They're incandescent with fury over the lack of jobs. And they know it's all because the people that got paid the big bucks because they were supposedly the most talented, skilled, and thoughtful people in America were actually a pack of asshats mostly concerned with lining their pockets and those of their friends. It isn't about the "socialist Democrats"; bankers aren't socialists and the public absolutely despises that gang. It's about the Powers That Be and their utter betrayal of America's trust.

But what follows, well...Herbert really surprised me.
The mantra for Mr. Issa and the rest of the newly empowered Republicans in the House, including the new Budget Committee chairman, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, is to cut spending and shrink government. But what’s really coming are patented G.O.P. efforts to spread misery beyond Mr. Obama and the Democrats to ordinary Americans struggling in what are still very difficult times.

It was ever thus. The fundamental mission of the G.O.P. is to shovel ever more money to those who are already rich. That’s why you got all that disgracefully phony rhetoric from Republicans about attacking budget deficits and embracing austerity while at the same time they were fighting like mad people to pile up the better part of a trillion dollars in new debt by extending the Bush tax cuts.

This is a party that has mastered the art of taking from the poor and the middle class and giving to the rich. We should at least be clear about this and stop being repeatedly hoodwinked — like Charlie Brown trying to kick Lucy’s football — by G.O.P. claims of fiscal responsibility.

There’s a reason the G.O.P. reveres Ronald Reagan and it’s not because of his fiscal probity. As Garry Wills wrote in “Reagan’s America”:

“Reagan nearly tripled the deficit in his eight years, and never made a realistic proposal for cutting it. As the biographer Lou Cannon noted, it was unfair for critics to say that Reagan was trying to balance the budget on the backs of the poor, since ‘he never seriously attempted to balance the budget at all.’ ”

We’ll see and hear a lot of populist foolishness from the Republicans as 2011 and 2012 unfold, but their underlying motivation is always the same. They are about making the rich richer. Thus it was not at all surprising to read on Politico that the new head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Fred Upton of Michigan, had hired a former big-time lobbyist for the hospital and pharmaceuticals industries to oversee health care issues.
This is almost astonishing. Sure, a blogger can say such things. But a New York Times columnist isn't supposed to write comments that are so, well...classist. You're allowed to call the Republicans out-of-touch, or zealots, or zombies, or whatnot. But to actually call it as it is? To say that they're just there as agents for the cash-soaked bastards who screwed things up so badly in the first place?


I wonder if they'll make him write a retraction.

"Haves" and "Have Nots"

Well, you'd think that anybody using THAT line would be a progressive, or even a liberal, right? Nope. Republican.Scott Walker, come on down:
“We can no longer live in a society where the public employees are the haves and taxpayers who foot the bills are the have-nots,” Mr. Walker, a Republican, said in a speech. “The bottom line is that we are going to look at every legal means we have to try to put that balance more on the side of taxpayers.”
Scott Walker is governor of Wisconsin.


A state where the gap between the rich and the middle class, once so low that the state prided itself on its relative equality, has yawned ever wider over the last few decades, as the top fifth decile's income rises 36% since 1990, while the poor's income barely budges despite the enormous growth in productivity. (And remember, if it follows American trends, Wisconsin's wealthiest 5% would have had their income go up by sixty percent.)

THAT is "haves" vs. "have nots". It has nothing to do with public sector unions.

Well, okay, that's false. It absolutely does. Unions, and especially the public sector unions, are just about the last thing that is protecting the middle class from utter annihilation by the modern robber barons and their various mouthpieces and hirelings. The prospect of a nasty strike is the only thing stopping corporate executive management from getting rid of pensions, health care, and anything approaching a decent salary for their employees. And since that's who Republicans work for...

Makes sense that they'd be pushing now. After all, America has what the Marxists always referred to as a "reserve army of the unemployed", including a lot of highly-skilled young college grads so desperate for work that they'll work for free and call it an "internship" if you dangle the prospect of a job in their face. And they're the lucky ones. If you're older, or uneducated, or (god forbid) black, you're just straight-out screwed.

It must be frustrating not being able to take advantage of this situation by slamming wages and salaries into the ground as hard as you possibly can. Certainly the shareholders—who are principally members of the same hyper-wealthy fraction of Americans that executive management belongs to—are going to want them to do it. Their job is to to "maximize shareholder value", is it not? That's how you do it these days. Innovation and market development is for chumps. Screwing the employees on one side and customers on the other: that's the ticket these days.

So, yes, looking at it through that light, it makes sense. Scott Walker knows that his job as a Republican governor is also to "maximize shareholder value". It shouldn't be. His job should be to help the people of Wisconsin. But in this zombie-ruled world, that just ain't happening.

Hey, Bill Kristol: (Plus: State of the Union and Onion Panels)

America already has health care rationing, you twit. It's just that it's rationed on the basis of wealth.

I realize that may not bother you much, being the wealthy son of a wealthy, well-connected man. But that's small comfort to the poor kids whose share of health care resources you 
got to gobble up because you won the lucky sperm contest however many years ago it was.

C&L notes, quite rightly, that the insurance companies are the agents of rationing. But, really, it comes down to money.

(Well, that, and the process of demolishing any sort of public-spiritedness left in America by making people so terrified of the future that they work seventy-hour weeks for inadequate pay and hoard gold like fantasy dragons in case their kids get sick. But that's about money, too. Terrified workers don't buck for better pay.)

Edit: And while you're watching C&L and getting annoyed, here's Chris Matthew's panel sounding like an Onion New Network parody of themselves.  It'd be nice if even Andrew Sullivan had said "uh, actually the Dems got shellacked because of the weak job situation and because the base stayed home, it has nothing to do with this 'center' bullshit". But, as per usual, there were no real progressives on there. Just conservative Villagers, babbling the same old bullshit and punching the same old hippies.

I suspect that the State of the Union tomorrow will, in the eyes of historians fifty years from now, be cited as the moment when America completely lost its shit and the zombie conservativism that caused so much damage finally came back and finished it off. I don't think it'll be the election, since the election was basically a primal scream against the serial fuckups of the wealthy lackwits that these panelists are apologizing for. I think it'll be when said lackwits deliberately misinterpreted the message to finally rip away what little comforts the poor and (soon-to-be-extinct) middle class had left.