Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mark Fiore Blows One

So, uh, Mark? I know you're probably proud of that little cartoon you made—though I hope no kiddies see it, since that's apparently an issue—but you ARE aware that Kagan and Sotomayor and two other justices signed on with Scalia's opinion, right?

If you're going to go after Scalia for shitty decisions, you have loads of better choices than the one that crossed party and ideological lines.

Edit: Oh, and a columbine reference? REALLY? Mark Halperin just called, and he said "dick move, bro."

Mark Halperin Called the President of the United States "A Dick"

Don't believe me? Here's the little toad himself.

This is the state of America in 2011, folks. This is the state of the world.
He even joked about it. He said "do we have a seven second delay?" He thought about this. This wasn't a stupid outburst, this was PLANNED.

Mark Halperin, you just outed yourself as a fucking prick. Good job, asshat. I hope this suspension you got is permanent.

Edit: And while Greg Sargent is right that the problem is less the use of the word "dick" and more why he used the word "dick", it's part-and-parcel with a press corps that carries Republicans' water and treats Democrats with nothing but contempt. It's occasionally amiable contempt, sure, like they had for the Pelosi House and for the Clinton White House. But there's rarely any respect there, and never the sort of pants-wetting fear that they have of the Republicans and their various creatures.

I don't care that he used swears. He can call people dicks all day long. He's an asshat, they do that. What earned the suspension is the CONTEMPT.

Re-Edit: And here's David Axelrod earning the contempt, by saying all these nice things about a man who called his boss a dick.

David, he called your boss a dick. You're allowed to be mean to him. You're allowed to withhold your forgiveness, at least for a time. You're allowed to not act like his friend, because he is most assuredly NOT yours.

For once in your administration's life, treat the gutter hacks the way they deserve to be treated.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Jonathan Chait Carrying Republicans' Water??

Who'd have thunk it?

Keep in mind that the Chait-Lieberman-Coburn proposal would not only raise the age of Medicare, and not only force vulnerable seniors into a co-payment at the very point when Social Security is under assult, but would inevitably serve as starting point for the Republicans to negotiate away from. They would just pocket the advantage and scream for more, as they ALWAYS do.

Then again, should we expect anything else from someone who responded to an Evan Bayh tantrum by agreeing that "I hate a lot of left bloggers too?" One who responded to Jonah Goldberg's ludicrous whinging by pointing out all the times that he attacked (supposed) fellow progressives, so many that he (in his own words) "stopped copying links because my wrist got tired?"

(And then there's this destructive babble.)

You'd think he'd know better about trying to appease or support Republicans, or Republicans-lite like Lieberman. It doesn't matter how much he says that he hates "lefties", he's still going to get lumped in with them and attacked by the wingnuts he's trying so desperately to ingratiate himself with. It will NEVER be enough. But, hell, he'll keep on trying.

How could he not? He's with TNR. That's what they do.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Kos Sez It'll Be Bachmann

Kos did a whole thing about "Why Michele Bachmann will be the GOP nominee"

Michele Bachmann will be the GOP nominee.

Yeah, yeah—this could be wishful thinking. Bachmann would gift Obama a second term and would lead to another Democratic wave election in the House. And yeah, this assumes that Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin don't get into the race. But this is the age of Christine O'Donnell and Ken Buck. Republican primary voters don't give a damn about electability, but about casting a vote for the purest candidate.

Currently, there are three real candidates in the race—Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, and Mitt Romney. Newt Gingrich is history, Rick Santorum is yesterday's news, Ron Paul is a niche product, John Hunstman has six supporters, and Herman Cain exists only to allow Republicans to say, "Some of my best friends are black!"

Of the three credible candidates, Bachmann easily wins the purity test. Romney has been on the other side of pretty much every issue of current importance to Republicans, while Pawlenty supported the individual mandate. They're toast.

But it's not just policy substance. The early GOP nomination calendar clearly favors Bachmann...
Kos then goes on to talk about the various early states and how they favor Bachmann. No idea if this will actually pan out, but it's plausible enough.

I'm very, very skeptical about Kos' declaration that this will be a gimme for Obama, though. Yes, Obama's clearly a more serious, sane candidate and certainly preferable to someone like Bachmann. But as I mentioned with the LulzSec thing, America's going through some very strange times right now. The whole reason why the GOP is acting this way is because there are a lot of rank-and-file Americans that are very angry with what's going on in their country—but whose ideology is preventing them from accepting the truth about exactly why their lives are so fucked up. It's not going away. It's only getting worse.

That anger, and that mistake, could spread all over the place. It was already responsible for the ridiculous GOP House takeover in 2010. It hasn't peaked. So why would Obama and his party be the beneficiaries? What if Bachmann strikes a chord?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Lulzsec and the Internet of Old

The hacker group Lulzsec, the ones that took down Sony, Nintendo, EVE Online, and the Senate's website, have just revealed what they're all about.

Dear Internets,

This is Lulz Security, better known as those evil bastards from twitter. We just hit 1000 tweets, and as such we thought it best to have a little chit-chat with our friends (and foes).

For the past month and a bit, we've been causing mayhem and chaos throughout the Internet, attacking several targets including PBS, Sony, Fox, porn websites, FBI, CIA, the U.S. government, Sony some more, online gaming servers (by request of callers, not by our own choice), Sony again, and of course our good friend Sony.

While we've gained many, many supporters, we do have a mass of enemies, albeit mainly gamers. The main anti-LulzSec argument suggests that we're going to bring down more Internet laws by continuing our public shenanigans, and that our actions are causing clowns with pens to write new rules for you. But what if we just hadn't released anything? What if we were silent? That would mean we would be secretly inside FBI affiliates right now, inside PBS, inside Sony... watching... abusing...

Do you think every hacker announces everything they've hacked? We certainly haven't, and we're damn sure others are playing the silent game. Do you feel safe with your Facebook accounts, your Google Mail accounts, your Skype accounts? What makes you think a hacker isn't silently sitting inside all of these right now, sniping out individual people, or perhaps selling them off? You are a peon to these people. A toy. A string of characters with a value.

This is what you should be fearful of, not us releasing things publicly, but the fact that someone hasn't released something publicly. We're sitting on 200,000 Brink users right now that we never gave out. It might make you feel safe knowing we told you, so that Brink users may change their passwords. What if we hadn't told you? No one would be aware of this theft, and we'd have a fresh 200,000 peons to abuse, completely unaware of a breach.

Yes, yes, there's always the argument that releasing everything in full is just as evil, what with accounts being stolen and abused, but welcome to 2011. This is the lulz lizard era, where we do things just because we find it entertaining. Watching someone's Facebook picture turn into a penis and seeing their sister's shocked response is priceless. Receiving angry emails from the man you just sent 10 dildos to because he can't secure his Amazon password is priceless. You find it funny to watch havoc unfold, and we find it funny to cause it. We release personal data so that equally evil people can entertain us with what they do with it.

Most of you reading this love the idea of wrecking someone else's online experience anonymously. It's appealing and unique, there are no two account hijackings that are the same, no two suddenly enraged girlfriends with the same expression when you admit to killing prostitutes from her boyfriend's recently stolen MSN account, and there's certainly no limit to the lulz lizardry that we all partake in on some level.

And that's all there is to it, that's what appeals to our Internet generation. We're attracted to fast-changing scenarios, we can't stand repetitiveness, and we want our shot of entertainment or we just go and browse something else, like an unimpressed zombie. Nyan-nyan-nyan-nyan-nyan-nyan-nyan-nyan, anyway...

Nobody is truly causing the Internet to slip one way or the other, it's an inevitable outcome for us humans. We find, we nom nom nom, we move onto something else that's yummier. We've been entertaining you 1000 times with 140 characters or less, and we'll continue creating things that are exciting and new until we're brought to justice, which we might well be. But you know, we just don't give a living fuck at this point - you'll forget about us in 3 months' time when there's a new scandal to gawk at, or a new shiny thing to click on via your 2D light-filled rectangle. People who can make things work better within this rectangle have power over others; the whitehats who charge $10,000 for something we could teach you how to do over the course of a weekend, providing you aren't mentally disabled.

This is the Internet, where we screw each other over for a jolt of satisfaction. There are peons and lulz lizards; trolls and victims. There's losers that post shit they think matters, and other losers telling them their shit does not matter. In this situation, we are both of these parties, because we're fully aware that every single person that reached this final sentence just wasted a few moments of their time.

Thank you, bitches.

Lulz Security
So they're basically Ledger's Joker, attempting to "introduce a little anarchy" as an "agent of chaos".They're highlighting just how insecure people really are online; how their information is being bought, sold, traded and used without their knowledge. They're also getting a bunch of cheap laffs in the process.

But, honestly, what they really seem to be doing is bringing the OLD INTERNET back. The one you warned your kids about and protected them from. The one where you'd be nuts to give personal information online. The one where you needed to keep your identity under wraps. Where you only did online shopping if you were absolutely confident in it. Where you had to be aware that there were Bad People out there who would mess with you for the sheer joy of it.

That Internet never really went away. It was just carefully obscured. You still aren't really safe. You still have to be careful with your credit card info. You still have to supervise your kids' activities online. You should still keep personal things off the Internet unless its necessary. You should still trust Zuckerberg's whole operation about as far as you can throw it.  You should still consider using pseudonyms unless using your real name is necessary.

I don't condone this. It isn't even close to ethical. Like the Joker, though, I'm not convinced that they care. If this shows people that they need to be a lot more careful online, it might end up doing some good.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The American Worker's Depression

Here's a chart from Talking Points Memo. It shows the American worker's share of national income.

The rebound in workers' income share after the early 2000s recession simply never materialized. As a result, this figure is now at by far its lowest level since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began keeping track of it in 1947.
There isn't much to add, is there? This is probably why Obama Admin people think that there's a recovery while regular joes think that America's going into a depression. For them, it has.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Krugman and the Rentiers

Sometimes, it's just better to quote.

The latest economic data have dashed any hope of a quick end to America’s job drought, which has already gone on so long that the average unemployed American has been out of work for almost 40 weeks. Yet there is no political will to do anything about the situation. Far from being ready to spend more on job creation, both parties agree that it’s time to slash spending — destroying jobs in the process — with the only difference being one of degree.

Nor is the Federal Reserve riding to the rescue. On Tuesday, Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, acknowledged the grimness of the economic picture but indicated that he will do nothing about it.

And debt relief for homeowners — which could have done a lot to promote overall economic recovery — has simply dropped off the agenda. The existing program for mortgage relief has been a bust, spending only a tiny fraction of the funds allocated, but there seems to be no interest in revamping and restarting the effort.

The situation is similar in Europe, but arguably even worse. In particular, the European Central Bank’s hard-money, anti-debt-relief rhetoric makes Mr. Bernanke sound like William Jennings Bryan.

What lies behind this trans-Atlantic policy paralysis? I’m increasingly convinced that it’s a response to interest-group pressure. Consciously or not, policy makers are catering almost exclusively to the interests of rentiers — those who derive lots of income from assets, who lent large sums of money in the past, often unwisely, but are now being protected from loss at everyone else’s expense.

Of course, that’s not the way what I call the Pain Caucus makes its case. Instead, the argument against helping the unemployed is framed in terms of economic risks: Do anything to create jobs and interest rates will soar, runaway inflation will break out, and so on. But these risks keep not materializing. Interest rates remain near historic lows, while inflation outside the price of oil — which is determined by world markets and events, not U.S. policy — remains low.

And against these hypothetical risks one must set the reality of an economy that remains deeply depressed, at great cost both to today’s workers and to our nation’s future. After all, how can we expect to prosper two decades from now when millions of young graduates are, in effect, being denied the chance to get started on their careers?

Ask for a coherent theory behind the abandonment of the unemployed and you won’t get an answer. Instead, members of the Pain Caucus seem to be making it up as they go along, inventing ever-changing rationales for their never-changing policy prescriptions.

While the ostensible reasons for inflicting pain keep changing, however, the policy prescriptions of the Pain Caucus all have one thing in common: They protect the interests of creditors, no matter the cost. Deficit spending could put the unemployed to work — but it might hurt the interests of existing bondholders. More aggressive action by the Fed could help boost us out of this slump — in fact, even Republican economists have argued that a bit of inflation might be exactly what the doctor ordered — but deflation, not inflation, serves the interests of creditors. And, of course, there’s fierce opposition to anything smacking of debt relief.

Who are these creditors I’m talking about? Not hard-working, thrifty small business owners and workers, although it serves the interests of the big players to pretend that it’s all about protecting little guys who play by the rules. The reality is that both small businesses and workers are hurt far more by the weak economy than they would be by, say, modest inflation that helps promote recovery.

No, the only real beneficiaries of Pain Caucus policies (aside from the Chinese government) are the rentiers: bankers and wealthy individuals with lots of bonds in their portfolios.

And that explains why creditor interests bulk so large in policy; not only is this the class that makes big campaign contributions, it’s the class that has personal access to policy makers — many of whom go to work for these people when they exit government through the revolving door. The process of influence doesn’t have to involve raw corruption (although that happens, too). All it requires is the tendency to assume that what’s good for the people you hang out with, the people who seem so impressive in meetings — hey, they’re rich, they’re smart, and they have great tailors — must be good for the economy as a whole.

But the reality is just the opposite: creditor-friendly policies are crippling the economy. This is a negative-sum game, in which the attempt to protect the rentiers from any losses is inflicting much larger losses on everyone else. And the only way to get a real recovery is to stop playing that game.
All I can add to this at the moment is to remind people that when Republicans and their lot talk about "job creators" and "spurring investment" and the like, they're really talking about policies that benefit these Rentiers. The problem, as Krugman exhaustively showed, is that these people DON'T necessarily create jobs. They can plow money into investments that create jobs, yes, but they can also plow it into arcane financial instruments, real estate bubbles, and (now) food and commodities. That doesn't benefit anybody except them; and to the extent that it hurts the economy, it doesn't even benefit them, not really.

The other stunning thing about this article is that it shows just how radicalized basically-moderate economists like Prof. Krugman have become. He's not the only example of a scientist driven to radicalism in the face of the state's capture by its most short-sighted and least competent members—climatologists are becoming more radical by the day as well—but it's rather shocking when you compare it to his old "dismal science" articles. He's all but admitting that the old lines about economic self interest are falling apart in the face of classism and cronyism.

That doesn't invalidate him. Far from it. A bit of radicalism is the only sane response in these mad times. It shows, instead, just how far his compatriots have fallen. If they're going along with these apocalyptically stupid and destructive policies, what does it say about them

Edit: He also points to the solution: if you want to get sorted out, follow Iceland's lead and default, instead of following Ireland's lead of austerity.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

By the 1%

Good piece by Joe Stiglitz about income inequality in last month's Vanity Fair . Hadn't highlighted it then, but would like to do so now.

Its last paragraph makes a point worth repeating:

Alexis de Tocqueville once described what he saw as a chief part of the peculiar genius of American society—something he called “self-interest properly understood.” The last two words were the key. Everyone possesses self-interest in a narrow sense: I want what’s good for me right now! Self-interest “properly understood” is different. It means appreciating that paying attention to everyone else’s self-interest—in other words, the common welfare—is in fact a precondition for one’s own ultimate well-being. Tocqueville was not suggesting that there was anything noble or idealistic about this outlook—in fact, he was suggesting the opposite. It was a mark of American pragmatism. Those canny Americans understood a basic fact: looking out for the other guy isn’t just good for the soul—it’s good for business.

The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.
Well put. One of the problems with America's (and the world's) growing inequality is that the elite forget that their fate is bound up in the fate of everybody else. To be altruistic isn't solely self-interest, as some economists seem to pretend, but you'd have to be pretending really hard not to realize that a certain level of community-consciousness is a smart move for even the wealthiest American.

Then again, considering their money appears to mostly go towards a mixture of lobbying and bubble-inflation, perhaps I'm giving them too much credit.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Republicans Want to Cause a Bond Panic....

...just so that they can gut what remains of America's social safety net, and by extension its middle class.

And, as digby points out, along with Stan Collander,  the Dems appear to be perfectly willing to go along with it.
He says that just because the Republicans get their wish for a failure of a clean vote, it does not necessarily follow that they would vote for a "dirty" one either. He feels this vote is entirely a kabuki dance that's necessary (because of the polls saying people don't want to raise the debt ceiling) for the Republicans to record a "no" vote no matter what's in it.

So basically, the Democrats are sacrificing their position so that Republicans can be comfortable voting to raise the ceiling with spending cuts in a couple of months. If Collander is right, the Democrats are even stupider than usual. It's a twisted good cop/bad cop scene where the Republican base applauds its leaders for being tough guys and the Democratic base hand theirs a hankie and commiserates with their powerlessness. (And then the leadership goes out and has a cup of coffee and a donut, or in more common parlance -- Tipnronnie have a drink together.)
Digby has a point. That seems fits both bases quite nicely. The Republican base gets to celebrate a Republican victory, whereas the Democratic base gets to mourn one.
Collander does allude to an end game that seems to be making its way into the beltway ether:
Many Members publicly insist that a big “no” vote on a clean bill will have little to no effect on financial markets. But here’s another dirty little secret: There is a growing suspicion that, like what happened the day after the House rejected the Troubled Asset Relief Program in September 2008 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by almost 7 percent, such a vote could quickly change market perceptions of the situation and have a substantial negative effect on interest rates and equity prices.

It’s even possible that’s part of the plan. Former Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag said last week that it is going to be difficult to get Members of Congress to agree to increase the debt ceiling without some kind of “turbulence” in the bond market. A big “no” vote on a debt ceiling increase bill could easily accelerate that type of disturbance in the financial force. Indeed, it might be what’s needed to precipitate it and the leadership may be counting on that happening.It’s even possible that’s part of the plan. Former Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag said last week that it is going to be difficult to get Members of Congress to agree to increase the debt ceiling without some kind of “turbulence” in the bond market. A big “no” vote on a debt ceiling increase bill could easily accelerate that type of disturbance in the financial force. Indeed, it might be what’s needed to precipitate it and the leadership may be counting on that happening.
 So that's where it stands. After all the bullshit about building confidence by cutting spending, we now have a Republican party that's preparing to DEMOLISH confidence by cutting spending.  Notice the common theme, there? It isn't about building a strong economy. It's about driving taxes to zero for their ultra-monied friends and clientele, while simultaneously driving wages to rock-bottom by making people so desperate that they'll accept absolutely anything.

Digby again:

I don't know what kind of sick nihilism makes a scenario like that remotely possible, but again, I don't believe it. We are talking about Big Money here and there are a lot of things that aren't working right in this country right now, but the greed mechanism isn't one of them. I don't believe "the markets" are going along with that plan. And I don't think even the Republicans are going to take that kind of risk going into an election year.

But if these people are actually planning a financial panic in order to destroy the safety net, can someone explain to me just how it is they can possibly be considered anything but criminals? This isn't a joke. Panics have a way of getting out of hand --- it's not like you can wave a magic wand and it stops. At the very least can we at least admit that every single sentence they've ever uttered about the desperate need for market "confidence" and "uncertainty" was unadulterated rubbish? (If this happens keep an eye on the short sellers because somebody's going to make money on it and you have to assume the people who caused it are among them ...)

The Democrats can turn this clean vote against the Republicans if they want to. The polls may say that the people don't want the debt ceiling raised, but they also don't want the government shut down, Medicare to get privatized and the economy to get worse. If the Democrats have even a modicum of guts they'll relentlessly hammer this vote home for the next two months as a sign of the Republicans' willingness to do anything to destroy Medicare, even destroy the economy. There are several months of negotiations ahead and they could tie this albatross around their necks right along with the dead Ryan plan if they want to. The real question is whether they want to.
Well, that's the rub, isn't it? I disagree with digby that this is implausible. It's extraordinarily plausible, and will pay off big for the Republicans and their buddies. Going along with this program of tax cuts WILL mean that the Democrats will get punished. The Republicans will get away with selling the cuts by lying about their economic impact and because they'll retain the support of their deluded base. The Dems will watch as their base simply doesn't bother to vote. The "swing" voters won't help the Dems, either; they'll go to whichever party can promise that they won't be homeless in two years, and the Republicans will be more than happy to swoop in with supply-side horseshit about how this engineered panic will ultimately help "job creators".

It's a lie, of course.  the whole POINT of this thing is to demolish the middle class and loot the wreckage left behind for every nickel. The middle-class will be poor, the poor will be destitute, and America's income distribution will look like something out of the third world. But, hey, that's what Republicans are ABOUT, now, isn't it?

Digby's right in saying that the Dems could turn this around. The Republicans are taking it on the chin for this anti-Medicare bullshit of theirs. The Dems could absolutely savage the Republicans for using this sort of game to threaten America's economy. They probably won't do it, though. If they had THAT sort of sense, they wouldn't have gotten their asses kicked last year after a recession which should have discredited the Republicans once and for all.

Edit: And, yes, the Republicans are probably gunning for a bond panic.  They've been hoping for one for years, because rising interest rates would give them the cover they need to insist that America's turning into Zimbabwe. When the current situation just isn't supporting your story, why not create the situation yourself?