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Thursday, September 18, 2014

"Compassionate conservatism" is definitely out of fashion

by digby

Arkansas is number 13 out of 50 states in food stamp participation, with 16.5% of the population needing them.

But, you know, to hell with those people.

Are we ready to grapple with the truth?

by digby

If you read nothing else today, read this piece by Matt Stoller about the untold history of our foreign policy in the Middle East. Since we seem to have finally been reduced to an almost cartoon-like campaign leading into this latest round, it's vital that at least some people start looking at this from another angle and grapple with what we're really involved in. (I flagged this piece in the New Yorker the other day about the still classified 28 pages of the 9/11 report. Somebody needs to leak those pages.)

We are facing a real existential crisis with climate change. And it's being driven by greenhouse gasses and our addiction to oil. So is our foreign policy and the 23 year war we've been involved in in Iraq. This is all of a piece. Stoller says that we must discount the propaganda and stop the censorship (which is the right word to describe our insane classification system.) He concludes his piece on an optimistic note:
Adopting a realistic policy on ISIS means a mass understanding who our allies actually are and what they want, as well as their leverage points against us and our leverage points on them. I believe Americans are ready for an adult conversation about our role in the world and the nature of the fraying American order, rather than more absurd and hollow bromides about American exceptionalism.

Until that happens, Americans will not be willing to pay any price for a foreign policy, and rightfully so. Fool me once, shame on you. And so forth.

Unwinding the classified state, and beginning the adult conversation put off for seventy years about the nature of American power, is the predicate for building a global order that can drain the swampy brutal corners of the world that allow groups like ISIS to grow and thrive. To make that unwinding happen, we need to start demanding the truth, not what ‘national security’ tells us we need to know. The Constitution does not mention the words ‘national security’, it says ‘common defense.’ And that means that Americans should be getting accurate information about what exactly we are defending.

I couldn't agree more. Earlier in the piece, Matt references Rick Perlstein's observation in Invisible Bridge that we were at that moment in the mid-70s and lost our nerve. We succumbed to the cheery delusions offered up by Ronald Reagan in order to feel better and avoid facing the hard work of reckoning with our power and responsibility. I hope he's right that people are ready now to grapple with it. We'd better be.

Update: Also too, this
What's all this I hear about that silly bad flu bug?

by digby

My piece in Salon this morning takes a look at the fear scale --- and wonders why the right wing is hysterical over ISIS and thinks the president is wasting time and money trying to stop Ebola:
It certainly seems as though there have been a lot of fearful events over this long hot summer of 2014. Yahoos with too much firepower are blowing airliners out of the sky, terrorists are videotaping themselves beheading journalists, and police are shooting unarmed kids down in the streets of America, just to name a few incidents of the past few months. But it’s hard to imagine anything more scary than a rapidly mutating contagious killer disease pandemic that features all the worst symptoms of the flu until it culminates in bleeding from the eyes, ears, nose, mouth and rectum, the eyes swell shut, your genitals swell up, all of your skin hurts and you have a blood-filled rash all over your body. And then you die. In the panoply of things to be afraid of you’d think everyone could acknowledge that this is the big one.
Here's just one of the idiotic rightwing pundits:
“I’m just getting very confused about the nature of this enemy. Is it those scary little worms that Drudge always has on the Drudge Report? The scary little Ebola worms? Is that the real threat to national security?”

That's Laura Ingraham. The Ivy Leaguer.

I didn't mention in the piece that there is one right wing pundit who seems to get why the president might be a tad concerned aboutthis disease. He happens to have gone to medical school:

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Look, I applaud what the president is doing. This is America at its best. Our armed forces are essentially the biggest NGO on the planet for helping people, the way we did in the tsunami, the way we do in Haiti. It is organized to go and to establish institutions and structures, and that's what it's going to do.

Now, the reason that we are doing this is, a, this could destroy West Africa. In other words, it could destroy all of the existing social structures rapidly, because it's now in urban areas, which has never happened with Ebola.

The other thing, which is unstated because you don't want to start a panic, is that it is possible, extremely unlikely, but possible that the virus mutates and becomes more easy to transmit, perhaps even by respiratory means. If it does, it becomes like the flu of 1918. So it's because of that remote possibility, which we don't even speak about because it is sort of impossible to imagine, that we want to make sure that it stays in West Africa, and deploying the military and all of our resources is a good thing to do. It's humanitarian and it's protective.

But hey it's nothing to the imminent threat of ISIS Ninjas sneaking across the border and killing us all in our beds. So, let's be sure to keep our priorities straight.


Changing everything

by Tom Sullivan

Naomi Klein appeared last night on All In with Chris Hayes to discuss her new book, "This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate." Extending arguments from her earlier work, Klein calls for a reevaluation of "the values that govern our society." She writes that, “our economic system and our planetary system are now at war ... there are policies that can lower emissions quickly, and successful models all over the world for doing so. The biggest problem is that we have governments that don’t believe in governing.”

I haven't read it yet, but I wanted to comment on the backlash we are sure to see.

Klein believes trying to address climate alone -- as the environmental movement has -- gets the issue wrong. As the Guardian put it, "[I]t’s about capitalism – not carbon – the extreme anti-regulatory version that has seized global economies since the 1980s and has set us on a course of destruction and deepening inequality." Klein told Chris Hayes, "It's not the end of the world. It's just the end of that highly individualistic, zero-sum game kind of thinking."

This, of course, will set lots of hair on fire on the right. In fact, Hayes led off the segment with a few choice quotes from some spokesmen on the right who believe climate change is a left-wing conspiracy to threaten mom and apple pie. Rush Limbaugh: "That's what global warming is. It's merely a platform to advance communism."

Please. I was born during the second Red Scare. I was a tot when they launched Sputnik. I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. That was half a century ago.

A quarter of a century after that, the Berlin Wall fell and American conservatives declared that Saint Ronald of Reagan had slain the Evil Empire and won the Cold War. And a quarter of a century after that, they’re still looking for commies in woodpiles and for Reds under their beds before they cower beneath the sheets.

Last year, even Forbes gave communism all the relevance of a Renaissance festival.

Not even the Chinese are communists anymore. Have you seen Shanghai lately? China has about cornered the free market in glass-and-steel skyscrapers and the cranes and concrete to build them. They sure as hell cornered a chunk of investment by Republican donors.

It took most of the 1990s, but with the former Soviet Pacific fleet rusting away at the docks in Vladivostok, even the Pentagon figured out communism wasn’t the Red Menace anymore. It took Russia less than a decade after the Wall fell to revert to the oligarchy it was before the Bolshevik Revolution – peasants and plutocrats. Which is where we're headed, if you haven't noticed.

If conservatives' would-be leaders are so worried about the U.S. emulating the Roosskies, they might want to stop licking the boots of our domestic plutocrats. They might want to get their heads out of their anti-communism and join the rest of us in addressing the challenges of the twenty-first century.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Crumbling under the pressure?

by digby

Somebody get this guy a valium:

Speaking at a party at Downing Street, British Prime Minister David Cameron reportedly said he’s had enough. “I have to say that after the events I’ve been facing over the past few days, assassination would be a welcome release.”

Good lord, I hope he's just talking about the Scottish referendum and not something else ...

The Great Debate

by digby

I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked:
There was precious little suspense about today's House vote on an amendment to include funds for the training of Syrian rebels in the CR. The debate was heated, sure, but these debates are always slanted toward the people who want to talk. The pro-funding side was so confident that Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Iraq veteran and leadership ally, took to the floor to mock the people who had not wanted this funding sooner.

"I don’t remember these colleagues stepping forward a month ago," he said. "By many, I was called a warmonger or a guy who wanted to start a war in Iraq."
That's because when the president wants to go to war you can depend on the congress to rubber stamp it. It's a very rare instance when they don't. But hey, let's keep pretending that the real problem is the separation of powers not being properly observed instead of the fact that we are a military empire and very few people in the government (or the country) are concerned with that fundamental reality:
Kinzger won his gloating rights when the House voted 273 to 156 for the Syria amendment. That number was not far off, actually, from the 296-133 vote twelve years ago that kicked off the Iraq War. But the Iraq War vote almost suceeded with the votes of Republicans alone, 214 of their 222 members voting "aye." This time, only 159 Republicans voted for the funds, and 114 voted against them. Democrats were narrowly with the "no" side, splitting 85-71 against the funds.
That's right. This time more Republicans voted no and more Democrats voted yes. I can guarantee you that the vote would be the other way if the president were a Republican. (Go back to the Kosovo "debates" to see just how these things swing back and forth on a partisan basis.)

There are more Democrats who are consistently anti-war than there are Republicans. They are in a minority in the congress but they do exist. They voted against the Iraq war and they voted against this weird plan today. Good for them.


A throwdown between oracles

by digby

Is there some reason anyone should care whether one election forecasting model is superior to the other?  I don't see how these models that aggregate polls to predict whether one party or the other will have a majority are anything more than a parlor game.(Or maybe a way for Vegas gamblers to lay odds...)

They're fun.  I enjoy them because I'm a political junkie. But this "fight" between two of the top forecasters seems rather insubstantial to me. After all, political pros rely on their own polling in individual races to determine strategy --- these aggregate poll models really have no bearing on anything as far as I know.  If they didn't do what they're doing --- however accurate they might be --- and disappeared from the scene tomorrow, would it make a difference?

But hey, maybe I'm missing something about the importance of these forecasts. It certainly seems to have the political establishment up in arms.

It looks like somebody's clean money is touching somebody's dirty money after all.

by digby

I haven't seen many people comment on this so maybe I'm off base. But it seems to me that this is going to cause trouble:
It was one of the trickiest issues when lawmakers were debating Obamacare, in the end, the Affordable Care Act squeaked through congress after lawmakers crafted a compromise about abortion coverage. Customers who wanted to purchase a health plan that covers abortion services would be required to send a separate check to their insurers for that coverage. That way, no taxpayer money would be used to subsidize abortion.

But a new study by the federal Government Accountability Office surveyed 18 insurers.

"All but three insurers indicated that the benefit is not subject to any restrictions, limitations or exclusions," the GAO reports.

That means the federal government could have been subsidizing plans that pay for abortion.

The administration says it's done nothing wrong, but will provide guidance in the coming days.
Maybe it's no big deal and nobody will care. I hope that's how it goes. But considering what we went through during the health care debate on this issue, I'm having a hard time believing that the anti-abortion zealots are going to let this pass.

In case you don't recall what went down, here's a little reminder. You'll recall that it was pro-life Democrats, led by Bart Stupak in the House who threatened to tank the health care reforms unless the President agreed to insure that the federal government didn't cover abortion in the bill.  The compromise was to make sure that the money of someone who opposes abortion would never even touch the money of someone who wants to buy insurance to cover the procedure thus keeping the taint of Satan from your personal balance sheet.

Recall this also from (the now former) congressman Stupak after the fact. (He wasn't very bright.)

Michigan congressman Bart Stupak, who played a pivotal role in the passage of the health care bill, said there is something worse than the hatred – including death threats and angry calls to his house – he experienced because of his support for the legislation.

“Ultimately, what stings the most isn’t the hatred,” wrote Stupak in a column posted on the Newsweek magazine’s website. “It’s that people tried to use abortion as a tool to stop health-care reform, even after protections were added.”

The pro-life Democrat said in the column for the magazine’s May 17 issue that he has “two longstanding personal convictions”: that health care is a right and federal funds should not pay for abortions.

He maintained that President Obama’s executive order sufficiently safeguards against the use of federal money to pay for abortions in health care reform. Obama had assured him that the executive order is “ironclad,” he said.

President Obama, Stupak and his group of pro-life Democrats worked out a last minute deal in March that exchanged the congressmen’s votes in favor of the health care bill for an executive order stating that no tax dollars be used for abortions.

Stupak argued that at that point the health care bill would have passed even if they voted against it. He said his coalition’s agreement with the president was meant to “add pro-life protections” on the legislation.

Pro-life groups, however, denounced the deal, arguing that an executive order does not have the force of law and that Stupak betrayed the movement at the most critical time.

“We need statutory law,” Stupak recalled the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops telling him after hearing about the deal.

The Michigan lawmaker, who has served in Congress for nearly two decades, told the USCCB that President Abraham Lincoln used an executive order to free the slaves and President George W. Bush used one to block embryonic stem cell research.

Maybe nobody in the anti-abortion crowd has gotten the memo on this yet. (If not, don't say anything ...) But I'll admit I'm a little bit surprised that there hasn't yet been an outcry over this (as far as I know.)  It was a huge fight that left everyone unsatisfied.



by digby

My piece for Salon today is about the Republican who's polling at number one in Iowa right now.  No, not Jindahl, not Christie not Ryan, Paul or Cruz.  It's Mike Huckabee and he's ahead by a mile:
Byron York reported that Huckabee called reporters together yesterday for a wide-ranging conversation about the Middle East (he’s very concerned) and a possible presidential run and it looks like he’s getting back in the saddle. York observes that unlike his run in 2008 where he lamented all the chatter about Iraq, he’s going straight at foreign policy as the focus of his campaign, rather than domestic issues, which would appear to signal that the GOP is getting back in its comfortable groove. (Not that this should come as a surprise — Benghazi!™ was a pretty good first clue.)

Some of this reticence to put their hopes and dreams once again in the other man from Hope is understandable. After all, he declined to join the losing GOP clown show in 2012 after having made a fairly decent showing in 2008. (What most people would call having good political instincts is often seen among the faithful as a sign of disloyalty.) In that race, Rick Santorum was left to carry the banner for the Christian right pretty much by himself and while he did a surprisingly respectable job of sticking it out to the bitter end, there’s really nobody in the world who can see him sitting in the Oval Office, not even his own voters. Huckabee, on the other hand, has long been seen as a serious contender and for good reason. Nobody else in the Republican game today has his particular combination of political gifts. Why they’re almost, dare I say it, Reaganesque.

Read on for some fun Huck quotes and a bonus Youtube of him playing Cat scratch fever with Ted Nugent.

Seriously, I think the guy in underrated and if he does get in, assuming he can raise money, I think he has the potential to successfully weave together the GOP's various strands. (Of course, if we're at war anyone with an R after his name can do that simply by waving the flag and displaying America's big swinging manhood.)

"You can't feed a family with GDP"

by digby

That's Neil Irwin's line in the piece that accompanies this rather stunning chart:

The census numbers on what American families made last year are as mediocre as they are predictable. We now know that if your household brought in $51,939 in income last year, you were right at the 50th percentile, with half of households doing better and half doing worse. In inflation-adjusted terms, that is up a mere 0.3 percent from 2012. If you’re counting, that’s an extra $180 in annual real income for a middle-income American family. Don’t spend your extra $3.46 a week all in one place.

Going back a little further, the numbers are even gloomier. The 2013 median income remained a whopping 8 percent — about $4,500 per year — below where it was in 2007. The 2008 recession depressed wages for middle-income Americans, and they haven’t recovered in any meaningful way. And 2007 household incomes were actually below the 1999 peak.

But hey, it's nothing a little war won't fix, amirite? That is our preferred way of stimulating the economy after all. Keeps us from getting soft.

On the other hand we had a little incident in 2001 and a subsequent war and look at that chart. It doesn't seem to be working anymore.

QOTD: John Boehner

by digby

“You might notice I have a few knuckleheads in my conference.”

Everyone knows this is a negotiating tool as much as anything, right? Boehner *says to the Democrats, "Hey, I'd love to help you out here. We want the same things. But the knuckleheads in my caucus just won't stand for it. I can't control them, you know that. And I've got a lot of good people in these deep conservative districts who could be targeted if they don't toe the line. If you need our votes you're going to have to give a lot more than you've given or we just can't get there. What can I do?"

Update: *Note:  to be clear this is how I am guessing it works when they are behind closed doors. The quote linked above saying "you might notice ...." he did say today however.

Old warhorses

by Tom Sullivan

Hear that melody? Sen. Lindsey Graham is conducting the Village Symphony Orchestra in one of Republicans' favorite warhorses. You've heard it before. You'll hear it again.

"Republicans mount their warhorses" sits atop the WaPo's online Opinion section this morning. (If you arrived late, music lovers, the VSO just began the ISIS movement.)

The sudden desire for a ground war is a bit suspect, both because many Republicans adopted this view only after Obama came around to their previous view and because many Republicans oppose even the modest funding Obama has requested to train Syrian fighters. (Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she opposed “giving even more money to the so-called vetted moderates who aren’t moderate at all.”)

It may be that Republicans embraced the boots-on-the-ground position because Obama rejected it. Whatever the cause, the militancy is spreading — even though polls indicate that while Americans favor military action against the Islamic State, they aren’t keen on ground troops.

Of course, whatever the Kenyan Pretender wants is not enough for Graham and the VSO. Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) wants "all-out-war." Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) doesn't want another "half-pregnant war." As Dana Milbank observes, the rest of the VSO (or is it the Very Serious Orchestra?) oppose anything less than a new ground war in the Middle East. And soon, because they want to hurry back to their districts to campaign for reelection wearing new campaign ribbons. And hoping war hysteria might distract voters from quizzing them on what they haven't done in Washington to earn their paychecks.

Maybe I missed the act of war ISIS committed against the United States of America that justifies the war into which (with their new trailer) ISIS wants to goad us. Or has America just gone so far down the rabbit hole that we'll launch another war because -- when in doubt -- it's the one thing this aging empire does by default? Like the clueless civilian Buster Keaton plays in "The General," who, finding himself in the middle of a Civil War battle, brandishes a discarded saber to rally troops whenever he doesn't know what else to do?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


by digby

 Yes it's all one big assault on our freedoms. Like making insurance pay for contraception. Or firing those Duck Dynasty guys.


You haven't seen me in a while. Here's why.

by David Atkins

It's been a humbling and awesome experience writing here at Hullabaloo for the last three years. You haven't seen me around for the last little while, and I just wanted to explain why. I'll be back after Election Day, but now for the first time in over three years I'm taking a sabbatical from writing, because I'm plowing 14 hours a day into the biggest fight against Big Oil in the entire country, as campaign manager for Measure P in Santa Barbara County. I've managed and been field director on a bunch of campaigns before, including a recent hotly contested supervisor race, an Assembly race, and a bunch of local races. But none of them have had the wide-reaching national consequences of this one.

As you may know, California is sitting on some of the nastiest, dirtiest oil deposits in the country. The only way to get at them is by fracking them, acidizing them, or pumping billions of gallons of steam into them (cyclic steam injection). These techniques waste and pollute huge amounts of water during a drought, put human health and the environment at risk, and generate massive carbon emissions.

Some of us have been trying to get a statewide fracking ban passed, but without success so far. So activists in a few counties are taking it upon themselves to try to pass local bans, including in Santa Barbara County--where local oil companies are planning to drill over 7,700 new wells, generating a million cars' a year worth of carbon emissions just to drill the wells alone. Big Oil knows that if they can stop these local fracking bans, they'll have a much better chance of blunting momentum toward a statewide moratorium on fracking in California and elsewhere.

That's why Chevron and other oil companies have already dumped almost $2 million into the campaign to defeat Measure P. This is the same Chevron that was responsible for the famous 1969 oil spill off the Santa Barbara coast that many credit as the birth of the environmental movement.

The oil companies are telling the same lies they always do in these sorts of campaigns: that banning fracking and acidizing will stop all oil production everywhere, that thousands of jobs will be lost, that the county will be at risk of lawsuits, etc. None of it is true, of course, but the truth doesn't matter. The press dutifully stenographs the arguments of each side, and because Chevron and their pals have the money, they have the megaphone. They've got the slick TV ads, the paid social media, the gigantic mail campaign. All so they can keep on fracking and acidizing without even paying an extraction tax.

What we have is people power. Using a lean and mean campaign operation that pays no consultant commissions, we've already made over 100,000 phone calls and knocked on over 5,000 doors. We've got a fantastic and inexpensive mail program, and a great comms team handling earned media. We've got a good Facebook team. But unless something changes we're still probably going to be outspent by almost 20 to 1 by Big Oil.

Every poll and all our field numbers tell us that the race will be incredibly close. So we're putting everything we've got into our field efforts. I'm just worried it won't be enough. Right now we don't have the money for bilingual mail pieces or Spanish-language radio to the very communities who will be most affected by toxic dumping of drilling byproducts. We don't have the money for local cable buys on TV. To do all of that would take another $50,000 we just don't have.

Big Oil is counting on low voter turnout and apathy, and they're counting us being outgunned. I'm doing all I can to stretch every cent, but I could sure use your help.

We need folks to help with remote phonebanks (we have an awesome predictive dialer you can run from home), and we above all need money. We don't need the millions of dollars other campaigns do, but even just a few thousand more would make the difference between being able to reach various communities where they live, get our message out and respond to their lies, and not being able to.

Thanks, and I'll be seeing you around the blogs when this crucial election is all over.
No such thing as an undue burden?

by digby

Jeffrey Toobin has written an informative piece in the New Yorker about the disappearing "undue burden" standard for access to abortion in the federal courts.  He gives a useful recent history of cases that have challenged the concept all the way up to the most recent in Texas in which is looks as thought the conservative 5th Circuit will whittle it away to nothing.  As he writes:

[T]he members of the Fifth Circuit panel seem to believe that anything short of a nationwide ban on abortion does not amount to an undue burden on women’s rights. This is the argument that will soon be heading to the Supreme Court. Will the Court’s conservatives—who appear to have, with the addition of Anthony Kennedy, a one-vote majority on this issue—define the “undue burden” test into meaninglessness? Or will they junk the test altogether and give states an even freer hand to restrict abortion rights?

The good news is that liberals are winning the culture war so I'm quite sure this could never happen. Right? After all, once a right has been secured --- as reproductive rights have been for the past 40 years --- there's no going back.


It's getting hot in here

by digby

I realize that we often have heat waves in LA at this time of year.  But this one is way worse than usual:
Following an excessive heat warning, the Los Angeles Unified School District cancelled outdoor sporting activities for Monday and Tuesday, while over 100 schools in San Diego had shortened days to protect students from high temperatures. Around 120 schools in the San Diego Unified School District do not have fully implemented air conditioning. The LAUSD’s decision to cancel all outdoor athletics could continue into Wednesday. [...] 
San Diego does not usually have a need for air conditioning. Neither does Santa Monica. But I have sure wished I had some this past week.
These decisions are the result of a heat wave that has gripped Southern California since last week. Due to high levels of humidity, Tuesday’s heat value index is between 100 and 110 degrees. Over the weekend, temperatures in Los Angeles reached the high 90s and went up to the low 100s in the surrounding San Fernando Valley, while temperatures in the San Diego area also reached into the 100s. 
On Monday, the temperature in the San Fernando Valley hit 106, while downtown Los Angeles and San Diego were 93 and 97 degrees, respectively. The average temperature for September in Los Angeles is around 73 degrees. 
On Monday, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said that consumers set a record for energy use and are expecting the record to be broken again today. The previous largest energy demand on a single day in Los Angeles was in September 2010 when temperatures in downtown Los Angeles reached 113 degrees. On Monday, temperatures only reached 98 degrees. Through Sunday and Monday, the LADWP said that over 6,000 residents lost power, due to overheated equipment. The LADWP general manager, Marcie Edwards, said that consumers need to conserve their energy use through actions like avoiding the use of large appliances and setting air conditioning to 78 degrees. 
Brett Albright, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said that the current temperatures in Los Angeles are about 15 degrees higher than average. He said that autumn heat waves are not unheard of in the region; temperatures in October and November have reached 100 degrees in the past. While heat waves are common in Los Angeles, temperatures throughout the state have been climbing. 
Earlier this week, climate scientists announced that January-August 2014 were California’s warmest first eight months of a year since data collection began in 1895. The average temperature for the 8 month period, 62.6 degrees, was four degrees warmer than the 20th century average for the same span of time. California’s increased temperatures, and the drought that has been accompanying them, have been linked to global warming. 
Climate scientist Jonathan Overpeck said that higher temperatures could cause more and longer droughts, including possibly a decade-long “megadrought.”
About that drought --- it's not just about me sweltering while I blog.  Everyone will be affected:


Toon 'o the week

by digby

Yes.  But not to worry, that's all over now.

Well, maybe not.

Going past the VSPs

by digby

Dean Baker gave a talk the other day.  And it was a scathing take-down of all the Very Serious People (especially deficit hawks) who nobody should listen to. But what is sure to make them very angry is the fact that people went around them and thwarted their plans by taking the issue directly to ... average citizens.

If people working outside of the mainstream of the profession are going to have any impact on economic policy debates in the United States it is essential that they understand the forum in which the debate is taking place. This is not a contest of ideas where the best arguments and evidence win out. If we are talking about a debate within the economics profession, think of debating the morality of abortion with the pope in front of the College of Cardinals. That is pretty much what it is like to try to challenge any of the main precepts of economics within the economics profession.

The route for making progress is to get outside of the profession. For this it is necessary to appeal to people in policy positions, to reporters, to the general public, or to people who might follow economic debates, but don’t have extensive backgrounds in economics. And it is important to recognize what you are asking these people to do. You are asking these people to accept your claims over the claims of the most prominent economists in the profession.

Read the whole thing to see the examples he provides. You won't be sorry.


Astro-Fracking North Carolina

by Tom Sullivan

Courtesy of its GOP-led legislature, the great state of North Carolina is exploring fracking Triassic Basin shale deposits in the center of the state. Gov. Pat McCrory this summer lifted the moratorium on the practice in place since 2012. The bill he signed also made revealing the chemical components of fracking fluids a misdemeanor (an earlier draft made it a felony). A friend already has a T-shirt listing fracking chemicals on the back. The front reads, "This T-shirt is illegal in North Carolina."

The Mining and Energy Commission is taking public comment on fracking in the state, naturally. Last week, they held their last public meeting in the mountains at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. About 550 people attended. Opponents, mostly, and a few astroturf fracking supporters.

Few pro-fracking supporters made themselves visible. People favoring the drilling technology were booed and hissed at during previous fracking hearings. There were some, however. Three or four from America’s Energy Forum and N.C. Energy Forum, groups that receive financial support from American Petroleum Institute. And there was Winston-Salem resident Christian Bradshaw, who said he made the three-hour trip to support “energy-creating jobs” for North Carolina.

According to news reports (and friends who were there), about 18 men arrived wearing “Shale Yes” T-shirts, but seemed unaware of what fracking is. At least one had come from a Winston-Salem homeless shelter because "he had been told it would help the environment." As a friend described it, once the Army veteran realized he'd been duped, he couldn't believe he'd sold out for a sandwich.

“The energy industry keeps claiming that there is support for fracking in WNC. What they fail to mention is that they have to bus the clueless ‘supporters’ in,” said Betsy Ashby, who helped organize Jackson County Coalition Against Fracking.
One of the men apologized to Ashby, saying "I didn't know they were trying to do this to me." Another indicated he had just done it for the money.

"They're being exploited seven ways to Sunday," Ashby told reporters.

Whether the issue is women's health, school funding, Medicaid expansion, or preserving voting rights and the environment -- the Moral Monday Movement's fusion agenda -- that's pretty much how it goes. Among the tens of thousands of Moral Monday protesters, a thousand were willing to be arrested to oppose the NCGOP's radical agenda. The Koch brothers, Art Pope, and the rest of the Midas cult have to buy support. Boy howdy, can they afford to. And even then, they are exploiting people.

(h/t Ashevegas)

Monday, September 15, 2014

What if everybody misses?

by digby

I love hearing Americans moralize about barbarism among people in other cuntries.  Because we are so civilized.For instance, in Wyoming they just voted to bring back the firing squad due to all the unpleasantness surrounding killing people with lethal injection lately.  Here's an example of the superior moral framework we operate under here in the US:
State Rep. Stephen Watt (R) was one of the lawmakers who voted against the firing squad bill last week. He was shot and seriously wounded while serving with the Wyoming Highway Patrol and said his opposition was based on his personal experience. 
"We're all operating under the assumption that this is going to be instantaneous death," Watt said, according to the AP. "What happens if everybody misses?"
It could be very messy. Of course, it would be very messy anyway with the bullets tearing into the person's flesh and pieces of their body flying all over the place and all that blood. But hey, here in American we're used to that. Gunfire is actually pretty common and the carnage it creates is considered to be the price we pay for our freedom to carry deadly weapons anywhere we choose.

Honestly, if the big question about the death penalty by firing squad is "what if everybody misses" I'm pretty sure everybody has already missed the point.,

"He didn't drop one tear"

by digby

Oh dear lord, this makes me feel like crying:

There are pictures of this little boy at the link --- he's a baby really, only 4 years old --- with bloody cuts all over his thighs.

Adrian Peterson released a statement saying that he is not a child abuser. But it's quite clear from that text message in which he is proud that his horrible beating did not produce any tears from his tiny little son (as well as the somewhat depraved act of forcing leaves into his son's mouth as he whipped him with a piece of wood) show that he is, even if he's never thought to define himself that way. It's a sick power trip that would make a 6'1 inch 220 pound professional athlete draw blood on a 4 year old as a punishment, regardless of how he rationalizes his intention.

I understand that there's a chance he's so damaged himself that he truly didn't know any better. But that doesn't mitigate the essential cruelty of his act or his attitude about it.

That poor little guy couldn't even let himself cry.

Update:  This by Will Saletan


Just don't call them a rubber stamp

by digby

So here's our grand congressional debate and respect for the separation of powers that everyone's been clamoring for. I'm sure you'll be shocked to know that they'll ok the operation, after all. They just want the president to file some reports on a regular basis to keep them in the loop:
House Republicans expect to unveil legislation Monday evening that would give President Obama the authority to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels, but with some limits on that authority.

The House Armed Services Committee is drafting the bill in consultation with the administration. It is expected to take the form of an amendment to a stopgap-spending bill that would keep the government funded through Dec. 11, according to a senior committee aide.

Votes on the spending bill and the Syrian aid could come as soon as Wednesday.

The measure includes several provisions intended to satisfy Republicans and Democrats worried about giving the administration blanket authority to arm and train rebel groups, who would be used in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

It would require Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to submit the administration's plan for training the moderate opposition 15 days before the commencement of any such activities, the aide said. That requirement was put forward by the administration, the aide added.

After that, Hagel would have to submit an update to lawmakers every 90 days.

Members want to “keep tabs” on the number of Syrian rebel troops trained and deployed, as well as how effective they are on the battlefield and what's happened to the equipment they've used, the aide explained.

I guess they told the president what was what. Glad we have the congress fully engaged on this important matter of war and peace.

Oh, and by the way, if there's one thing on which these congressional over-seers do disagree with the president it's his unwillingness to put boots on the ground.

Republicans like war.  Most Democrats do too. If the polls say the people are for it you had better bet they will be too.


It sure is a good thing we're past all that messy race stuff

by digby

This is depressing but not unexpected when you consider what we've found out about the political and law enforcement system in the area:

A new public opinion survey of St. Louis County residents shows the public perception of the death 18-year-old Michael Brown and its aftermath is sharply divided along racial lines.

The survey, released Monday morning by the Kansas City-based Remington Research Group, found that 65 percent of African-American county residents believe that Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson acted unjustly when he ended Brown's life Aug. 9 on a Ferguson street.

Conversely, 62 percent of the white residents surveyed by Remington believe the shooting death of Brown was justified.

The fissure broke even wider when surveyors asked if Wilson should be "arrested and charged with a crime" with 71 percent of African American residents responding "yes" opposed to the 71 percent of white survey-takers who believe the police officer should not be held liable.

This is, naturally, a result that proves African Americans are reverse racists.

It's disillusioning to see this since the media has been all over this story and has exposed a lot of the systemic racial biases in the county. I can see how decent people in their everyday lives might not have been aware of it before. But they should be now.

But then it's probable that the numbers were even more starkly divided before ...

Kris Kobach: a man with a mission

by digby

My piece for Salon today tackles yet another "vote fraud" fraud --- the Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach:
Following up on my post on Friday about the long illustrious history of conservative vote suppression it’s interesting that one of the nation’s foremost activists in the field should be in the spotlight going into the November election. Indeed, he’s right in the middle of one of the most interesting races in the country.

I’m referring to Kris Kobach, the Republican Kansas Secretary of State who was sued last week by the former Democratic candidate for the Senate who dropped out of the race in favor of an independent. If you haven’t heard about this wild turn of events, in a nutshell, the Kansas GOP is imploding under the disastrous leadership of the ultra-conservative Governor Sam Brownback. It’s so bad that GOP leaders in the state are defecting from the party and it looks as though a former Democrat-turned-independent may just unseat long term Republican incumbent Pat Roberts. Seeing the opening for an upset, the Democrats in the state persuaded their candidate to drop out and he agreed to do it. He followed all the rules for withdrawal but Kobach’s office says no dice: you’re staying on the ballot whether you want to run or not.

Koback is a real piece of work --- the guy who helped the notorious Russell Pierce draft Arizona's AB 1070. Needless to say he's doing everything in his power to insure that the Kansas GOP's rebellion isn't successful. He's just the kin of Republican a lot of these folks are getting tired of.


Looks like Rand Paul's a thumbs up on war

by digby

But he's adamant, damn it, that the congress should vote to keep it going more often than it has in the past. Here's the king of the process dodge brushing over the fact that he's going to vote for war by pretending that it's more important that he insures that the congress keeps rubber stamping it:

Appearing on CBS “This Morning,” the Kentucky Republican conceded that he has shifted his views in some areas, including on what is an appropriate U.S. response to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. “As world events change, obviously you change your analysis. Five years ago, ISIS wasn’t a threat,” he said, using an alternate name for the terrorist group that has mobilized across much of northern and central Iraq.

Paul acknowledged that his thought process on ISIL has been “influenced” by ISIL’s recent beheadings of U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and British aid worker David Haines.
Paul said on Fox News on Monday that because opinions change over time, depending on circumstances, if a vote of whether to go to war against ISIL would make it to Congress, he would vote to “limit the authorization to a time period.”

“I would try to sunset the provision,” Paul said. “I’ve been upset that we voted 15 years ago and people are still using a vote from 15 years ago, so I think if we authorize force or declare war, it should sunset at the end of the year and we should vote again, because I don’t like the idea that one generation can vote to bind another generation to war forever.”

Notice he doesn't say he will vote against it. Indeed, it's fairly clear that he's on board. You see, the really upsetting part of the 15 year war we've been waging is the authorization procedures. The war itself? Not a problem, apparently.

Oh well, there's always Justin Amash.

*It must be pointed out that the DNC is portraying Paul's wavering as proof that he's insufficiently hawkish, so he has that going for him.
The conservative id speaks

by digby

Out of the mouth of Russell Pearce, vice chair of the Arizona Republican party and the mover and shaker behind Arizona's odious SB 1070:
“You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I’d do is get Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations. Then, we’ll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job.”
They actually made him resign. Finally. Apparently you can go too far even for Arizona Republicans to tolerate.

But as Bryce Covert at Think Progress points out, these sentiments have been informing conservative and centrist policy on this for decades:

The Nixon administration pushed through funding for serializations in the 1970s aimed mostly a low-income people, usually women of color, and many were done involuntarily. And while it may sound like long-ago history, the practice of sterilizing low-income women hasn’t been entirely done away with. Between 2005 and 2013, 39 tubal ligations were given to women in California’s prison system without full consent. The majority of those were performed by Dr. James Heinrich, who has said of the practice, “Over a ten-year period, that isn’t a huge amount of money compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children — as they procreated more.” The state is now considering banning inmate sterilization.

In the absence of outright sterilization, there are other policies that rely on the ugly idea that low-income women need to be stopped from having children. While in most states, families receive more welfare benefits when they have additional children, 16 have family caps that ban any extra money for new children if someone in the household is already receiving aid. There’s no evidence that these policies keep women from having more children, as they are intended to do, but there is evidence that they push people further into poverty and can lead to higher death rates.

You have to love the fact that conservatives who are now arguing against birth control (all the way up to the Supreme Court) and want to ban abortion for everyone are also people who want to require contraception or forcibly sterilize poor women. It kind of shines a light on their real intentions doesn't it?

Of course it isn't just Republicans. Democrats made a whole lot of noise about "welfare reform" during the 90s, with the sub-text always being that women on welfare we being encouraged to have "too many children" and they needed to "go to work." They shouldn't be let off the hook. It was as opportunistic in its way as the Southern Strategy was for Republicans.



Peek-a-boo, we spy you

by Tom Sullivan

Why don't the spy agencies just give their next eavesdropping program a name like "Big Brother" and be done with it? Der Spiegel began its weekend report on the hacking of Deutsche Telekom with the cutsey names British and American spooks give to various Internet snooping programs: "Evil Olive" or "Egoistic Giraffe." Or the Johnny Depp-ish "Treasure Map," with a logo featuring a skull with glowing eye holes. [Emphasis mine.]

Treasure Map is anything but harmless entertainment. Rather, it is the mandate for a massive raid on the digital world. It aims to map the Internet, and not just the large traffic channels, such as telecommunications cables. It also seeks to identify the devices across which our data flows, so-called routers.

Furthermore, every single end device that is connected to the Internet somewhere in the world -- every smartphone, tablet and computer -- is to be made visible. Such a map doesn't just reveal one treasure. There are millions of them.

Soon, they'll teach your smartphone to bark out commands and lead you in morning calisthenics:

"Smith! 6079 Smith W.! Yes, you! Bend lower, please! You can do better than that. You're not trying. Lower, please! That's better, comrade."

But before getting to that, according documents from Britain's GCHQ leaked by Edward Snowden, the plan is to map out the entire geography of the worldwide Internet. And not just the hardware.

Treasure Map allows for the creation of an "interactive map of the global Internet" in "near real-time," the document notes. Employees of the so-called "FiveEyes" intelligence agencies from Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which cooperate closely with the American agency NSA, can install and use the program on their own computers. One can imagine it as a kind of Google Earth for global data traffic, a bird's eye view of the planet's digital arteries.

Unless your are Angela Merkel, the spying revealed by Snowden has, for the most part, always seemed abstract, theoretical. Here, it gets personal. Der Spiegel reviewed some of the Snowden documents with staff from a German telecom, Stellar. In Der Spiegel's video (watch it here), we see the engineers "visibly shocked" as they realize not only have their systems been hacked and client passwords compromised, but key engineers sitting in the room have been "tasked" for surveillance because of their level of access to the network. Pointing to a name in one of the Treasure Map documents, the reporter says, "That's you," to the stunned guy sitting across the table. The security breach, the engineer explains, would allow the spy agency to remotely see "the exact point on the globe that a customer is located."

Don't you feel safer knowing you're paying the salaries of the Americans doing the same? That they work for you?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Aggressive kinetic action

by digby

This, from the NY Times, struck me as funny --- in a dark, depressing sort of way:

“There have been offers both to Centcom and to the Iraqis of Arab countries taking more aggressive kinetic action,” said one of the officials, who used the acronym for the United States Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East.

I think it's great that they explain that Centcom stands or US Central Command. But it probably would have been even more helpful if they explained that "aggressive kinetic action" means --- war.

"This idea that we’re never going to have boots on the ground in Syria is fantasy."

by digby

I think he means it:
“This idea that we’re never going to have boots on the ground in Syria is fantasy. All this has come home to roost after the last three years of incompetent decisions,” Graham said on “Fox News Sunday.” “It’s delusional in the way they approach this.”

“I will not let this president suggest to the American people we can outsource our security and this is not about our safety!” he said.
Remember, most villagers consider Graham a moderate. Really.

Here's the clip:

You know who's trying to kill American children? (Hint: it isn't terrorists.)

by digby

So Fox news is having a hissy fit over this, naturally. (Sorry didn't mean to offend by using the word "natural.")

Vermont Bans Brownies, Turns Kids On To Kale, Gluten-Free Paleo Lemon Bars

It’s a best-seller at bake sales, a king of American confections, even a mandatory munchie of marijuana users. But the iconic chocolate brownie, that perfect blend of cake and cookie, is banned in Vermont schools.

In its place are new hoped-for kid favorites like fruit shish kebab, kale and even gluten-free paleo lemon bars.

The switch stems from nutrition mandates required under the new Smart-Snacks-in-Schools program in effect for public schools.

“The new school lunch pattern has low-fat, leaner proteins, greater variety and larger portions of fruits and vegetables; the grains have to be 100 percent whole-grain rich,” Laurie Colgan, child nutrition program director at the Agency of Education, told Vermont Watchdog.

The article goes on to explain that the rules only apply to fundraising held between midnight and half and hour after school and that it doesn't ban brownies, just the disgusting masses of chemical glop that most people call brownies.

You see, it's perfectly possible to make a brownie from something other than a box. And if you do that you can control the ingredients and make the brownies comply with the guidelines. Oh, and the kids will still like them, I guarantee it. In fact once upon a time people used to make all kinds of treats from scratch to sell at school bake sales. And they didn't have fancy food processors and mixers to help. They tasted good. Really good.

Being a little smarmy and nannyish with kids is an adult's responsibility. Sure, if you want to eat bowls full of raw brownie mix that's made from plastic, as an adult that's your right. But when did we decide that kids have some God-given or constitutional right to eat as much junk food as they want to and anyone who says otherwise is some kind of commie? It's just weird.

I guess these right wingers are the real believers in the "if it feels good, do it" school, and don't want their children to be deprived of even the tiniest bit of sugary, transfat laden garbage or exhorted to eat something green that isn't called a Shamrock shake. Party on dudes.

QOTD: The Pope

by digby

Isn't this guy supposed to have a direct line to God? Isn't he supposed to know stuff we don't know?

"Humanity needs to weep, and this is the time to weep. Even today, after the second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a third war, one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction..."
Now that's dark. Is the Rapture really happening? If not, maybe some of these world leaders might think about being a little less apocalyptic lest these prophesies become self-fulfilling.


Nice little rights you have there... BASIAHTT

by digby

I'm a coward so if the police ask me for ID I'm going to give it to them even though in California it's not legally required if they have no good reason to ask. (When you're driving you do have to.) Until recently I didn't even carry my ID if I was walking at the beach, as I do every night. But my husband was stopped a while back by LAPD on the Venice boardwalk and got detained for an hour and rousted pretty rudely because he didn't have his driver's license on him. (There was a report of a middle aged homeless man sleeping in someone's garage in the neighborhood who was wearing jeans and a blue hoodie --- like my husband. Like a thousand other people on the boardwalk that day ...)

Anyway, since then, I've always carried my ID with me. And it irks me that I have to. I wish I was brave enough to face down armed police and assert my rights but I'm not. I'm not brave enough argue with an armed gang member either and the hostile, aggressive way these interactions happen feel very similar. The smart move in both cases is to keep your head down, do as you're told and hope you get out of there unscathed because if either cops or gang members want to exercise their power over you they can mess up your life --- even take it. (Of course police are just as likely to use a little electro-shock ultra violence on you to make sure you comply, but you won't die from that. Probably.)

Here's someone who took the more difficult path and got herself handcuffed and harrassed. Why? She was a black woman kissing her white boyfriend, fully clothed, in their car:

A Django Unchained actress is claiming she was 'handcuffed and detained' by police after being mistaken for a prostitute as she kissed her white husband.

Daniele Watts, who played slave CoCo in the award-winning film, posted the news on her Facebook page on 2 September and said her arm was cut when she was handcuffed.

Watts and her husband Brian James Lucas claim that they were kissing on a Hollywood street when police were called and they were asked to show their ID card to which Watts refused.

Watts wrote on her Facebook page: 'Today I was handcuffed and detained by 2 police officers from the Studio City Police Department after refusing to agree that I had done something wrong by showing affection, fully clothed, in a public place.'

She also posted a photo of crying as she stood in the street wearing patterned shorts, a t-shirt with 'New York' written on it and running shoes with a policeman next to her.

Watts, who plays Martin Lawrence's daughter on the new FX comedy Partners, continued: 'When the officer arrived, I was standing on the sidewalk by a tree.

'I was talking to my father on my cell phone.

'I knew that I had done nothing wrong, that I wasn't harming anyone, so I walked away.

'A few minutes later, I was still talking to my dad when 2 different police officers accosted me and forced me into handcuffs.

'As I was sitting in the back of the police car, I remembered the countless times my father came home frustrated or humiliated by the cops when he had done nothing wrong.

'I allowed myself to be honest about my anger, frustration, and rage as tears flowed from my eyes.

'The tears I cry for a country that calls itself 'the land of the free and the home of the brave' and yet detains people for claiming that very right.

Separately her chef husband posted on his Facebook page that he thought that the person who called the police had decided they looked like a prostitute and a client.

He wrote: 'From the questions that he asked me as D was already on her phone with her dad, I could tell that whoever called on us (including the officers), saw a tatted RAWKer white boy and a hot bootie shorted black girl and thought we were a H* (prostitute) & a TRICK (client).
'What an assumption to make!!!Because of my past experience with the law, I gave him my ID knowing we did nothing wrong and when they asked D for hers, she refused to give it because they had no right to do so.

'So they handcuffed her and threw her roughly into the back of the cop car until they could figure out who she was. In the process of handcuffing her, they cut her wrist, which was truly NOT COOL!!!'

An LAPD public information officer said there was no record of the incident as Watts was not arrested or brought into the station for questioning, according to the Chicago Tribune.

There are pictures, so it happened. The question is why the police needed to do anything in that situation? Once they talked to both of them it should have been clear that no law was being broken. Her refusing to give her ID was irrelevant at that stage. They simply decided they needed to know who she was --- just in case there was some reason they needed to know who she was. That's not legal.

Anyway, the.story made me embarrassed. Here I am a privileged older white woman being afraid to challenge police. I can't imagine how much courage it takes to be African American and do it. My God that's brave. My hat's off to her and others who are willing to take a stand. That's real patriotism in my book.

The "idea" of America

by digby

I think this is a nice video( from Matthew Modine, whose heart is in the right place. The "idea" of America is an egalitarian, multi-cultural, democratic society where everyone is free to pursue their happiness --- at least for many people.  Let's not forget that there are also Americans who believe this is an explicitly Christian country or those who think that our culture is being polluted by immigrants. Among other things.) We are a varied people, to be sure, but it's not all a bed of roses.

But the real problem here is that to an awful lot of people in the middle east America is this:

And this:

I'm not suggesting that the idea Modine expresses isn't real.  It is.  It's real to me. But you can't ignore the reality that for all of our highminded "ideas" about what we are, we are most definitely  are also a globally dominant military empire, something which is bound to provoke hostility among at least some people on this planet.  And that would happen even if we were a completely benevolent and perfect empire, which we clearly are not. (Can empires even be perfect?)

I'm all for the "idea" of The New Colossus being the one that Emma Lazarus intended:

  But I'm afraid that much of the rest of the world we look like the old one:



Piece of crap

by Tom Sullivan

In a lead Sunday op-ed, I once slammed local planners for wanting to develop a former factory site into yet another strip mall anchored by big-box stores. Low prices, low wages. Just what unemployed factory workers need, right? I couldn’t believe the editors allowed it to run with the line about stores selling “cheap, plastic crap from China.”

Now this from the WaPo: The Postal Service is losing millions a year to help you buy cheap stuff from China

Via an arcane treaty mechanism, the U.S. Postal Service delivers small packages from Chinese merchants to destinations in the U.S. at below its cost. The inspector general’s office estimated that foreign “ePacket” treaty mail cost the USPS $79 million in 2013 and another $5 billion last year.

But this has still been a money sink for the Postal Service. In 2012, USPS was paid only 94 cents on average for each piece of Chinese ePacket mail, according to a February report from the Postal Service’s inspector general’s office. That report estimated that the Postal Service was losing about a dollar on each incoming item, adding up to a $29.4 million net loss in 2012.

Forums on eBay are filled with angry notes about ePacket. “I must say that it is simply an economic disaster for US Sellers,” one person wrote. “One product that we sell for 2.00 with 2.50 shipping a chinese company is selling for .99 with free shipping,” another complained. The person added, “Too much work no money here anymore. Let the Chinese have it.”

The irony? writes Jeff Guo, "In a way, those who mail stuff abroad are helping to pay for other Americans to get cheap shipping on purchases from China." And this on top of the retirement fund requirement imposed by Congress.

Our local USPS mail processing facility is slated for closure. So a little Sunday Morning Music.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Saturday Night at the Movies

The twee of life

by Dennis Hartley

I love Scottish pop: God Help the Girl

As far as plotless yet pleasingly pastoral Scottish musicals centering on mentally unstable young female protagonists yearning to become pop stars go, I suppose you could do worse than God Help the Girl. Sort of an oddball cross between Alan Moyle's manic-depressive 1980 music biz drama Times Square and Gillian Armstrong's kooky, sunny-side-up 1982 new wave musical, Starstruck, the film (written, directed and scored by Belle & Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch) stars Emily Browning as Eve, a clinically depressed young Glaswegian with musical inclinations...and the soul of a poet. Oh, and a cool beret.

When we first meet her, Eve is in hospital for psychiatric counseling and treatment for an eating disorder. She has a habit of sneaking out to hit the live music clubs when no one is looking. During one of these excursions, Eve Meets Cute with a bespectacled, nebbish-y singer-guitarist named James (Olly Alexander), but not before witnessing the onstage dissolution of his band (an argument over volume levels results in show-stopping fisticuffs with his drummer during their opening number). James quickly intuits that Eve has a decent voice, a unique charisma and a natural gift for songwriting. He introduces Eve to his friend Cassie (Hannah Murray), an aspiring singer. Guess what happens next...

There’s not much of a “story” to speak of, but Murdoch does sustain a kind of baroque mood throughout; an impressionistic rendering of a bittersweet, youthful summer idyll informed by Browning and Murray’s dreamy, airy, vocal performances and Murdoch’s lovely chamber pop-influenced melodies (and he’s not afraid to wear his influences on his sleeve...in one of the music sequences, he has Browning hold up a 45 RPM copy of “Pretty Ballerina” by the Left Banke). I found the baroque vibe pleasantly invocative of Paul McCartney’s Give My Regards to Broad Street (yes, I’m one of those contrarians who actually dug Sir Paul’s dreaded “vanity film”). While the jury is still out on whether this is a rock’n’roll fable aspiring to be a musical, or a musical aspiring to be a rock’n’roll fable, if you accept it as a collection of endearing music videos interstitially linked by a (very) loosely constructed narrative, you just might get away with calling it entertaining.

(In limited release and on PPV)

Previous posts with related themes:

We Are the Best
Top 10 Rock Musicals

Saturday Night at the Movies review archives 

P.S. No, seriously. I really do love Scottish pop:

Let's drop some bombs

by digby

It'll make us feel better:
Optimism about National Economy Remains Limited

Public Sees Weak Economic Recovery

Only Those with Incomes Over $75,000 Feel They’re At Least ‘Staying Even’

Little Change Post-Recession in Numbers Experiencing Financial Hardships

Who Has Experienced Financial Problems?

Yep, this economy continues to suck. How can that be when we are the greatest country the world has ever known?


And now a word from our isolationist libertarian Republican leadership

by digby

In case anyone was wondering if Rand Paul would be as consistent a libertarian on matters of national security and war as he is on denying health care to sick people and lowering taxes on the rich, I think you have your answer:
Rand Paul's views on war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria continue to evolve. Speaking to reporters on the campaign trail Friday afternoon, the Kentucky senator didn't rule out supporting the deployment of U.S. combat troops on the ground in Iraq.

"Senator Rubio this week said that combat troops on the ground--American combat troops--could be a possibility if the current strategy doesn't work," one reporter said after a campaign event featuring Paul and New Hampshire senatorial candidate Scott Brown. "Senator Paul, would you support such a move?"

"I think some of it depends on what the events are. So events do change over time," Paul replied. "I'm a stickler for the Constitution, and the Constitution says Congress needs to determine these things." Back in June, Paul wrote in the Wall Street Journal that "we should not put any U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq, unless it is to secure or evacuate U.S. personnel and diplomatic facilities."
Yes, there's the good old process dodge. We need a vote! Ok Senator, but how would you vote? Uhm. We need a vote! (Also ,I need to be able to properly calculate the politics and how it would impact my presidential chances ...important stuff like that.)
Paul also told reporters that it would be legal for the U.S. military to target U.S. citizens with lethal force in Iraq and Syria if they are engaged in battle--a position consistent with his past statements. But Paul declined to say if it would be legal to kill a U.S. citizen and ISIS member who is only plotting a terrorist attack in Iraq and Syria.

"If you are engaged with battle against the United States, you really do not get due process on the battlefield. If you want to fight against the United States, you’re a target. Already, I think two Americans have been killed," Paul said.

Did I miss the constitutionally required vote to declare war Rand? Some stickler ...

Paul has been very critical of the Obama administration's decision to kill U.S. citizen and al Qaeda operative Anwar Awlaki in Yemen with a drone strike. The issue prompted him to wage a 13-hour filibuster with the sole purpose of getting the president to promise not to kill Americans with a drone strike "in a cafe in San Francisco" or anywhere else on American soil.

Earlier this year, Paul objected to the nomination of a judge over the issue. Paul wrote in the New York Times that he couldn't support a nominee without "fully understanding that person’s views concerning the extrajudicial killing of American citizens."

"Under our Constitution, [Awlaki] should have been tried — in absentia, if necessary — and allowed a legal defense," Paul wrote. "The Obama administration has established a legal justification that applies to every American citizen, whether in Yemen, Germany or Canada."
I asked Paul twice if it would be legal to target a U.S. citizen in Iraq or Syria who was in a similar situation to Awlaki's, but the senator didn't directly answer the quest
I asked Paul again if he could answer the question, reminding him of his 13-hour filibuster on the issue, but he was escorted out of the room by his press aides without answering the question.

This was the second press conference that Paul had abruptly ended on Friday. Earlier that morning, following a New Hampshire GOP unity breakfast in Manchester, Paul acknowledged for the first time that his views about going to war with ISIS have changed. But the senator, apparently displeased with the questions, ended the media availability after just two minutes and six seconds.

"Five years ago, if you asked me about ISIS, I would have said well you don’t need to do anything. So I mean obviously, the events do change your opinion. And your opinion of when a vital interest is being threatened is influenced by, you know, the beheading of two Americans," Paul said.

So there you have it. If anyone was counting on Paul to stand tall in the GOP and fight against their hawkish impulses, I think we can see how that's going to go. No, he won't be John McCain. But he won't be Ron Paul either. He can't be. Republicans are libertarian up to the point at which it requires Ameria to relinquish its status as a military empire. No modern Republican Senator, certainly not one from the South with its proud martial culture and heritage, can be an isolationist.

But then I suspect that most libertarians (the majority of whom are younger white males) are fine with that. Just don't make any laws and regulations that curtail their personal freedom or require them to pay money for something they don't immediately and directly benefit. That's where the real line is drawn.

War? Well, let's just say it's very convenient that the warmongers always say they're "protecting our freedom" regardless of whether our freedom is in any way at stake.

The good news for Republicans is that Senate hopeful Scott Brown was unequivocal:

"Let me jump in on that," Scott Brown interjected. "When people are in ISIS, then they’ve left their citizenship at the door."

"I agree with Senator Cruz," said Brown, a former Massachusetts senator, who had just been endorsed that day by Rand Paul. "I’m glad [Senator Cruz] filed the bill that I filed twice already to strip them of that citizenship. They should not be able to hide behind the rights and privileges guaranteed by the Constitution, especially when they’re looking to hurt and kill our citizens."

But what if these Americans are just planning attacks, not immediately fighting? "It doesn’t matter," Brown said. "They’ve left their citizenship at the door."

And we'll "know" who they are and what they're doing because ... how? Whatever. We just will.

Interesting that someone running statewide in New Hampshire feels good about evoking the name of Ted Cruz. He's quite the role model.

So they aren't more dangerous to us than al Qaeda after all? Why would they have said that?

by digby

Ok, wait a minute.  The last I heard ISIS was so uniquely evil that they were even worse than al-Qaeda. In fact, they were so bad that al-Qaeda kicked them out of the gang because of their brutality.

So, what do we make of this?
While the Islamic State group is getting the most attention now, another band of extremists in Syria — a mix of hardened jihadis from Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Europe — poses a more direct and imminent threat to the United States, working with Yemeni bomb-makers to target U.S. aviation, American officials say.

At the center is a cell known as the Khorasan group, a cadre of veteran al-Qaida fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan who traveled to Syria to link up with the al-Qaida affiliate there, the Nusra Front.

But the Khorasan militants did not go to Syria principally to fight the government of President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials say. Instead, they were sent by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to recruit Europeans and Americans whose passports allow them to board a U.S.-bound airliner with less scrutiny from security officials.

In addition, according to classified U.S. intelligence assessments, the Khorasan militants have been working with bomb-makers from al-Qaida's Yemen affiliate to test new ways to slip explosives past airport security. The fear is that the Khorasan militants will provide these sophisticated explosives to their Western recruits who could sneak them onto U.S.-bound flights.

The Obama administration has said that the Islamic State group, the target of more than 150 U.S. airstrikes in recent weeks, does not pose an imminent threat to the continental U.S. The Khorasan group, which has not been subject to American military action, is considered the more immediate threat.

So al Qaeda is actually the group that we must keep from killing us all in our beds, not ISIS? Just like we've been keeping them from killing us in our beds for 13 years?

Huh ...

I'm being facetious and it's probably inappropriate. But many of us have been pointing out for months the reason Al Qaeda split with ISIS was because it was being too brutal to fellow Muslims when al Qaeda's mission was to take on the Great Satan --- just as it has been for a decade and a half. In other words, little had changed for Americans in the threat department. Al Qaeda still wants to kill us but we've been pretty successful at keeping them from doing that. For some reason we needed a new boogeyman. I wonder why?

We've spent trillions on Homeland Security, outfitted every Barney Fife in the nation with robo-cop gear and allowed the government to spy on Americans at will.  I don't know about you but I kind of expect that all of that should actually be worth something. If we're going to run around tearing our hair out every time somebody puts out a scary video maybe it's time to re-evaluate that strategy.

This is not to say that there isn't a threat for the people in the Middle East and there is a legitimate argument to be made that it requires intervention from outside the region lest the whole place blows up even further. (I'm not sure we won't make things worse --- we usually do -- but I understand the arguments for it.) What is galling is the fact that they continue to treat us like children and tell us spooky bedtime stories so they can scare us into supporting their commercial/geopolitical goals. Maybe those goals are worth pursuing but we'll never know because we're chasing evil Ninjas who are allegedly coming over the border to unleash mushroom clouds on American cities.

I'm serious. This is what Fox News reporter Todd Starnes said on Hannity last night:

And frankly, I'm almost as disgusted that the American people continue to be thrilled at the prospect of kicking ass over some trumped up threat --- and yes, I do believe that a whole lot of us are anxious to get back to the business of ass-kicking. It's much more exciting than thinking about the wealthy elites stealing more and more of your meager earnings. But it's a dangerous and nasty way to entertain ourselves out of a nasty malaise.

Al Qaeda has a strategy to create dramatic terrorist attacks on the West.  We've known this for a long, long time. That has not changed.  ISIS is a different problem. The fact that the war hawks pimped this line about ISIS being worse than Al Qaeda should make everyone skeptical of what they are hearing about this whole thing --- and skeptical of the motivations behind it.  How many times do we have to be lied to?

Tim Russert's heir tells us the future. (No not Luke ...)

by digby

As so many Villagers love to do, Chuck Todd appeared with right winger Hugh Hewitt the other day. They chit-chatted about this and that, but I thought this conclusion was particularly fascinating

HH:  ... I want to ask you the Politico question. In today’s Politico, Robert C. O’Brien and I write an article called Romney 3.0, Third Time’s A Charm. What do you think? Is it possible he’s going to get in? 
CT: I think he only gets in if he’s drafted. I feel like that that’s the hint he’s been saying, and I’ve talked to some folks who know him very well. He is not going to go through a grueling primary campaign. He is not going to sit here and defend his conservative credentials again, go through schlepping around, allowing all these guys to take pot shots on him. I think he is open to this if it’s a draft movement, and if it’s sort of like everybody else doesn’t fit. 
Now here’s why I think Mitt Romney, it’s funny you bring this up, because I think the reason why Romney 3.0 has gotten traction is less about Romney, and more about the current issues of the day. I think the Republican 2016 field as we thought we knew it, think Scott Walker, think Chris Christie, think Marco Rubio, think Bobby Jindal, you know, throw those names in. I think if you have issues like national security front and center, that’s an incredibly shrinking, I feel like all of those guys are suddenly shrinking in stature. None of them, if the chief criticism of Barack Obama by a lot of people is you know what, he just wasn’t experienced enough, he just didn’t have a grasp of everything you needed to know to be able to be commander-in-chief, right?
HH: Yeah. 
CT: That’s among, particularly among the conservative criticisms. Well then, how does Scott Walker fit into that? How does Chris Christie? How does Bobby Jindal? How does Marco Rubio? You know, they don’t, and so suddenly, Mitt Romney, while not having a lot of experience on foreign policy, certainly running for president and certainly now he can go back and say hey, I made these points against the President, and I look a little more prescient today than maybe some people thought three years ago. 
So I think that’s why he seems to look larger right now in stature because of the issues of the day that are front and center, and if you look at the rest of this Republican field. They don’t seem as if they have the resume to reassure hawks in the party. 
HH: Prescient as always. Chuck Todd, we’ll be watching Sunday for Jim Baker. Thanks for joining us.
Todd's absolutely correct. All of these ex-Governors with no foreign policy experience don't look all that exciting when the focus is on foreign policy. That's why Mitt Romney, the ex-Governor with no foreign policy experience, is such an intriguing prospect. He's run for president twice and lost which is almost the same thing as being Commander in Chief.  Plus he can say I told you so, which is always a reassuring appeal.

Really, is there any other choice?

Prescient as always.

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