Monday, March 16, 2009

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #6119

Like the man said: History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. "Well, enough stopping to smell the roses. Time to go break up Oasis."
(Image originally uploaded by Siren Fay; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Happy Ides of March

Yeah, Obama's good, but today, enjoy the greatest political speech ever.

Good friends, sweet friends, let me not stir you up
To such a sudden flood of mutiny.
They that have done this deed are honourable:
What private griefs they have, alas, I know not,
That made them do it: they are wise and honourable,
And will, no doubt, with reasons answer you.
I come not, friends, to steal away your hearts:
I am no orator, as Brutus is;
But, as you know me all, a plain blunt man,
That love my friend; and that they know full well
That gave me public leave to speak of him:
For I have neither wit, nor words, nor worth,
Action, nor utterance, nor the power of speech,
To stir men's blood: I only speak right on;
I tell you that which you yourselves do know;
Show you sweet Caesar's wounds, poor poor dumb mouths,
And bid them speak for me: but were I Brutus,
And Brutus Antony, there were an Antony
Would ruffle up your spirits and put a tongue
In every wound of Caesar that should move
The stones of Rome to rise and mutiny.
Or try it Brando-style.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #5190

Koblenz Castle: Come for the history. Stay for the Cinnabon.
(Image originally uploaded by david_urvine_uk; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Thousands of Words and Then Some

Via the magic of RSS, I'm trying to keep up more with the ever-insightful Sam Smith at Progressive Review, not least because he often passes along undernoticed treasures like this: a powerful photo essay on the Great Depression (warning: graphics-heavy).

Speaking of great photos, the good Generik has been getting noticed, oh yes he has. And well he should. I still haven't had one of his pop up in my Daily Random Flickr Blogging results, but I eagerly await the day. (It's funny how there are certain people you see all the time on page one of random Flickr results: this guy, for example, and this one, and this one. I have a hunch that Generik'll be on that list before long.)

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #9787

Almost caught up. For yesterday:

There's a famous recipe that calls for Pandalus melancholicus, saddest of shrimps, but beware: it's like a dozen Morrissey albums—in étoufée form.
(Image originally uploaded by Karol Glimos; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Blood on the Hacks

I have not yet had a chance to watch any of last week's Daily Show bits, so, though I've been reading about Jon Stewart's evisceration of Jim Cramer all over the place, I have yet to see it with my own two eyes.

It's good to have something to look forward to.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #2211

Still catchin' up. For last Friday.

Pat Buchanan's black-sheep brother Mike once filled in for him on Crossfire.


(Image originally uploaded by Captain Smurf; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


One-Man Wrecking Crew

Dean Baker is often at his most devastating when it comes to the economics reporting in the Washington Post—he bats them around like a cat preparing to consume a particularly mangy mouse—but here, he delivers a nice smackdown to the Wall Street Journal instead:

Okay, let's see if we can teach the Wall Street Journal something this morning. In an article reporting on the prospects for the Employee Free Choice Act in the Senate the WSJ told readers that: "the bill would allow unions to organize workers without a secret ballot, giving employees the power to organize by simply signing cards agreeing to join."

Wrong! The current law already allows workers to organize by majority sign-up. They can also have a union de-certified by majority sign-up. The difference is that under current law it is the employer's option to accept majority sign-up or to demand an NLRB election. Employers who wish to prevent unionization can demand an election. They can then delay the actual election for several years. They can use time to require workers to attend mandatory anti-union propaganda sessions. They can also fire the key organizers, thereby undermining the organizing drive and intimidating workers.

The main change in the law under the Employee Free Choice Act is that workers, not employers, would decide the method for union certification. The WSJ should be able to get this one right.

Oof. So clear, so brief, so brutally true. We'll spot him the awkward use of a colon after that, the mensch.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #5153

Catchin' up. For last Thursday. Mrrrrow.

Product of an unspeakable ménage à trois between Irma Vep, The Avengers, and Miller's Crossing.
(Image originally uploaded by Trav28; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


A Proud Legacy of Kill Fees

AlterNet has an interesting story about a new book that features some 320 illustrations that editors at the New York Times commissioned but then decided (sometimes at the last minute) not to run for various reasons: too scathing, too offensive, too risqué, too much Henry Kissinger's ass, etc. Some of 'em really quite good—and the decisions not to run 'em, inexplicable. Worth a look!

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #7183

OK, catchin' up some more. For last Wednesday.

Thanks entirely to the most dedicated members of the Senior Kiwi Cross Country Club, The Lord of the Rings became the first film franchise in history to have to take out jogger insurance. "And...ACTION!...Cut! Oh, God, not those old buggers again. OK, get the guy from Lloyd's on the phone and tell him he's got a deal after all. And hurry! or we'll never get the orcs back from the break truck before we lose light."
(Image originally uploaded by Dave Pinnington Photography; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Piano Men

OK, let's do a bit more DRFB catching up. But first, let's give a tip o' the hat to Sam Smith for passing along this seven-minute wonder: Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Fats Domino on piano(s), accompanied by luminaries including Ron Wood and Carl Perkins, all superintended by an impish Paul Shaffer. Great balls of Georgia on my blueberry hill!

Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis
Uploaded by Hanvak

(Just go here if the embedded thingy won't work.)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #4561

Catchin' up. For last Tuesday. More soon, probably tomorrow. Happy Friday the 13th!

As he calmly and competently recited the telepromptered remarks about the gay pride parade, ace news anchor Chet Weber slowly realized that someone had spliced in the wrong footage—and that he'd take his life in his hands if he ever set foot in Gunther's Schnitzelhaus again.
(Image originally uploaded by Chris Breeze; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Speaking of Unspeakable Menageries

Quite possibly the most disturbing headline I have ever seen:

Right wing talk show host begs for the Coulter/Limbaugh baby
Film franchise at 11.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #9693

Catchin' up. For last Monday.

After he went emeritus from the philosophy department, Professor Sanchez took his expertise in ontology to the streets. "Real."


Two-Dimensional Man

I finally had a chance to see Jesus Camp—fine little film!—and I must say, this segment where the camp counselors drag out a cardboard cutout of George W. Bush and have the children pray with it (to it? for it?), touch it, talk in tongues at it, etc. had me just howling with laughter:

To be honest, I'm not sure how much of it was the liberating laughter of incongruity and how much was the deranged laughter of Delilah in "Tombstone Blues," but it felt good at any rate.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #6325

Catchin' up. For last Sunday.

In the latest annoying internet phenomenon, users following a set of GPS coordinates unexpectedly find themselves arriving at Rick Astley's house.
(Image originally uploaded by Q4RadioGuy; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


A Great Question

Attaturk asks one: "Why is the road to ruin always paved with stones bearing the image of Milton Friedman?"

This is apropropos of Michael Lewis's excellent article on the financial madness that gripped—and then destroyed—Iceland. Speaking of Friedman, though, Sam Smith recently reposted his nonlaudatory obit ("You'd never guess it from the sycophantic obituaries, but Milton Friedman did more damage to American democracy and culture than just about any figure in the 20th century"), and more and more I find myself thinking we should all tattoo it on our bodies like that guy from Memento so we won't make the same mistakes again:

Further, one of the best kept secrets of economics is that there are lots of systems that work provided, that is, you don't care who they work for. Feudalism, for example, was great if you were a lord, not so efficient a marketplace is you were merely a serf. And each system works differently depending on the culture in which it operates, which is why communism in the Soviet Union, China and Italy meant such different things. In the end, the real test of an economy is not its math but its social, financial and moral effect on its culture and those who live there.

This is why the commentaries on Friedman were so consistently wrong. They treated economics as though it was a cold science when, in a mind as distorted as Friedman's, it was really just a sort of creationism myth applied to money.


But for the most part both public figures and the media bought Friedman's mythology, never stopping to look critically at the effect it had on America. Here are a just few things that have happened since America's elite swallowed the Friedman myth:

- Real income down
- Real manufacturing wages down
- Top one percent's share of wealth up
- Income gap between rich and poor up
- Family indebtedness up
- Bottom forty percent's share of wealth down
- CEO pay as a percent of average workers' pay up
- Workers covered by pensions down
- Workers covered by health plans down
- Age at which one can receive Social Security down
- Personal bankruptcies up
- Housing foreclosures up
- Median rent up

But the worst damage of Friedman economics is not fiscal but what it has done to the social and moral principles that made America what it was before the greedsters of neo-capitalism began taking it apart. The underlying principle of laissez faire economics is that power is intrinsically good and decency intrinsically irrelevant.

No society can long function on such a lie. It is essentially that of the Mafia with the exception being that you don't have to always ignore the law to get what you want; often, with the help of your lobbyists and purchased politicians, you can just change it to fit your needs.


We have paid a terrible price for this corruption of our culture by the new robber barons egged on by Friedman and his ilk. We so accept their foul standards that we don't even discuss or debate them. We have become prisoners of their lie.


Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #6131

Catchin' up again. This is for last Saturday.

Amazing Simpsons Fun Fact #133: Among the segments unfortunately cut from "A Star is Burns" was The Crazy Cat Lady's remake of Alien.
(Image originally uploaded by escapedtowisconsin; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


What We Need is a Shamodex

OK: It's been a busy week, but now it's time to do some catching up on the blog. I was also catching up with some backed-up Media Matters posts recently and saw that good old still-not-out-of-the-rolodex Bernard Goldberg—who is apparently having a second life as Bill O'Reilly's new BFF—revived another long-debunked old smear back in February:

Amid attacks against Media Matters for America -- for highlighting Factor host Bill O'Reilly's comparison of Hearst Newspapers columnist Helen Thomas to "the Wicked Witch of the East" -- Goldberg claimed that "left-wingers ... didn't say a word when their fellow left-wingers ... threw Oreo cookies at Michael Steele, because he had the nerve to be a conservative black man."
Except, you know, eyewitnesses to the incident deny seeing any rain of Oreos, etc. And this has all been known for some time. And self-professed media critic Bernard Goldberg has to be aware of this. And yet he goes on Bill O'Reilly's show and repeats the same old story. There's a word for people like that.

And there's a substance and/or product that such a person himself deserves to be pelted with when he ventures out in public, but I'm having a hard time choosing the most appropriate one from the ontologically cornucopious variety of candidates. Help me out here.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #6329

For last Friday. I have no idea where this came from.

Abel Ferrara's Bad Snowman. "Hey, c'mere, ya #%$@. Lemme show ya where else ya can put that carrot."
(Image originally uploaded by josh.brasted; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


My Heart Bleeds, v. 2.0

Hey, now former Cheney aide and lawless terror-state architect David Addington is having trouble finding a job.

All together now:


Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #4096

Catchin' up. For last Thursday.

The complex aerobatic maneuver known as "Who Gets the Check?"
(Image originally uploaded by tomdotcom88; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Behold! I Am Become Fact, Destroyer of Pundits

Sorry: I've been busy as heck the last few days; time to do some catching up while I can.

I finally had a chance to watch last week's already legendary Daily Show takedown of corporate-media financial reporting in general, CNBC in particular ("reasoned financial reporting that combines the raw speed of fast money with the intelligence of a box of parrots"), and Rick Santelli in particular particular. I can't say I'm surprised that CNBC has chosen to stay mum about the whole affair; I don't know what they could possibly say. The most devastating part of the CNBC segment features tape of various cable flacks making claims about the health of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, AIG, etc.—each followed by a note on what actually happened, and it's always pretty much the opposite of what the cable flack said. (E.g., Bank of America is "going to 60 in a heartbeat"! But it's now trading under $4.) All The Daily Show had to do, really, was to splice the damning testimonials together with the damning facts. The big question, I suppose, is why, among all the outlets in the corporate media, it took a comedy show to do that.

Why anyone watches or trusts CNBC, I don't know. But it wasn't long after John Stewart's infamous appearance on Crossfire that that show died a quiet, unlamented death. Wouldn't it be nice if CNBC died with a whimper as well?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #5715

It's Buster's world. We just scoop in it.
(Image originally uploaded by baconthedog; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


"I Welcome Their Hatred"

Now that we're slouching toward a Great Depression of our own after decades of oligarchic misrule, those are rapidly becoming my favorite words ever from a president. FDR:

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.

I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.

I'll admit that I have a hard time imagining Obama talking like this—but give him another few months' worth of know-nothing Republican obstructionism and hysterical "CLASS WAR!" screeching in the media and we'll see.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #0213

Sorry, busy yesterday. Difficult pickings on Flickr this week, so it's time for Cheap Shot Theater.

November, 1978. All across America, viewers react to the Star Wars Holiday Special.
(Image originally uploaded by Erik Mallinson; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)

P.S. I got the DVDs, jules—thanks! --nash


Monday, March 02, 2009

Something About Harry

Today's Howler does a great job using close, careful reading to calm some of the hubbub over Bobby Jindal's Katrina-related remarks during his painful response to Obama's big speech last week—it's sad that some in the Actual Liberal Media resort to the same fast-and-loose-with-the-facts approach that characterizes so much of the So-Called Liberal Media—but I have to disagree when the Howler says at the end that "this was never worth discussing." It seems to me that all the epistemological attention to the details of Jindal's anecdote is distracting attention from its rhetorical aspects. Let's not forget who former Jefferson Parish sheriff Harry Lee was, after all. From an NPR profile less than a year before he died:

For 26 years, Lee has been the top cop and chief taxing authority of the booming jurisdiction of nearly half a million people, and because of peculiar state law, there's little oversight.

"The sheriff of [Jefferson Parish] is the closest thing there is to being a king in the U.S. I have no unions, I don't have civil service, I hire and fire at will. I don't have to go to council and propose a budget. I approve the budget. I'm the head of the law-enforcement district, and the law-enforcement district only has one vote, which is me," he says.

Columnist James Gill of the Times-Picayune in New Orleans has written often over the years about the sheriff.

"He's a great character, everyone likes him. Some people fear him. He can be sheriff of Jefferson Parish for as long as he wants. Harry Lee has always been a law unto himself," Gill says.

And let's not forget what he's famous for:
Twenty years ago, after a rash of robberies by black men of white residents in their driveways, Lee vowed to stop and question blacks driving "rinky-dink cars" in white neighborhoods. The NAACP called on him to resign. Lee called a press conference the next day and said his plan was a mistake.

Late last month, it happened again. An offhand comment to a TV reporter created a new controversy.

"We know the crime is in the black community. Why should I waste time in the white community?" Lee was quoted as saying.

I don't know how many of you out there recognized the name "Harry Lee" at all when Jindal uttered it, but I did; I knew right away that he was referring to the infamous Chinese-American good-old-boy sheriff with rather, ahem, forthright views on race and crime that I'd heard about from a Louisiana girlfriend years ago. But wait—let's look more closely at that incident courtesy of the Times-Picayune's obit:
A year later, however, after a series of Metairie robberies in which white shoppers were followed to their homes and held up at gunpoint in their driveways by African-American men, Mr. Lee made the statement that either almost ended or saved his career, depending on who judges it. "If there are some young blacks driving a car late at night in a predominantly white neighborhood, they will be stopped. .¤.¤. There's a pretty good chance they're up to no good. It's obvious two young blacks driving a rinky-dink car in a predominantly white neighborhood -- I'm not talking about on the main thoroughfare, but if they're on one of the side streets and they're cruising around -- they'll be stopped."
I'm generous enough to suggest that the "side streets" remark helps him a little bit, but still—let's not forget where we're talking about (emphases added):
Since Hurricane Katrina, murders in Jefferson Parish have doubled, the majority of them black-on-black killings. The sheriff tried, in vain, to explain his intended get-tough tactics the next day at a press conference inside his gray, fortress-like headquarters.

"We know where the problem areas are. If we see some black guys on the corner milling around, we would confront them," he said.

The president of the regional NAACP, Donatus King, wasn't buying it.

"Confronting a group of black people on the street corner merely because they're black and milling around is a form of racial profiling. The NAACP opposes that tactic," King said.

Under pressure, the sheriff said his deputies would not be indiscriminately frisking African-American males.

A few days later, the Times-Picayune ran an unscientific poll. The phone calls ran 22 for the NAACP, 789 for Harry Lee.

More recently, Lee says he wants to patrol dangerous neighborhoods in armored vehicles.

Jefferson Parish is overwhelmingly white. In 1989, the parish elected David Duke — the former Ku Klux Klan leader — to be its state representative.

I think that Jindal's much-chewed-upon Katrina anecdote was intended as nothing more than a clever rhetorical threefer. Look again at what he said:
During Katrina, I visited Sheriff Harry Lee, a Democrat and a good friend of mine. When I walked into his makeshift office I'd never seen him so angry. He was yelling into the phone: 'Well, I'm the Sheriff and if you don't like it you can come and arrest me!' I asked him: 'Sheriff, what's got you so mad?' He told me that he had put out a call for volunteers to come with their boats to rescue people who were trapped on their rooftops by the floodwaters. The boats were all lined up ready to go - when some bureaucrat showed up and told them they couldn't go out on the water unless they had proof of insurance and registration. I told him, 'Sheriff, that's ridiculous.' And before I knew it, he was yelling into the phone: 'Congressman Jindal is here, and he says you can come and arrest him too!' Harry just told the boaters to ignore the bureaucrats and start rescuing people.
Jindal manages to do three things here:
  1. He says something nice about a Democrat. Bipartisanship, dontcha know.
  2. He reinforces the "government bureaucrat = bad, local authoritarian = good" motif that has been the lifeblood of mass-market Republicanism since at least Reagan's governor days.
  3. He publicly lauds a race-baiter hero and thereby shores up his cred with a certain sizable chunk of the Republican base—and with no small number of Democrats, too. Remember, just 'cause some of us can't hear a dog whistle doesn't mean it ain't blowing.
Not bad for one quick anecdote in a lackluster speech. I'm sorry, but if we've learned anything from the last 30-50 years, it's to pay closer attention when Republicans tell too-convenient stories like this. The Howler is indeed right that we should not garble the facts when we do; however, we should also beware of assuming that concern for the facts is foremost in the mind of a politician who tells such a story in the first place.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #1807

For tomorrow, lest I be offline.

The difficulty of ever finding anything in the Escher house led to many caustic remarks by Mrs. Escher about M.C.'s "impossible junk drawer."
(Image originally uploaded by rustchic; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Stamp Out, Ostracize, Punish

It's hard not to notice a certain, um, similarity of theme and tone in many of the remarks from CPAC.

Purity of Essence—the other white meat.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #0233

Wow—the Partridge Family is way off course.
(Image originally uploaded by Sergio Conti; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Count the Spoons

I was catching up with the White House blog's RSS feed and ran across a photo gallery of moments from the effort to craft and pass the economic recovery package. This shot of President Obama meeting with the Democratic Blue Dog Coalition leapt right out at me:

"What am I saying? Before the cock crows thrice, all of you shall betray me."

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #7137

For yesterday, sorry. Brrrr.

"Dear Mom: How are you? I hope this finds you well. I am fine, except the heater's still on the fritz."
(Image originally uploaded by llanp; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


I Come Not to Praise Paul Harvey

Though I'll admit that I used to enjoy running into him on the radio during long cross-country drives across the South—his distinctive voice and quirky delivery made for a welcome contrast with the high-gloss country, Top 40, and classic rock that otherwise filled up the airwaves—I haven't been able to think of him the same way since FAIR made me aware of the bizarre 2005 screed in which he lamented the wussification underlying America's unwillingness to use nuclear and biological weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Even now we're standing there dying, daring to do nothing decisive, because we’ve declared ourselves to be better than our terrorist enemies--more moral, more civilized.

Our image is at stake, we insist.

But we didn’t come this far because we’re made of sugar candy.

Once upon a time, we elbowed our way onto and across this continent by giving smallpox-infected blankets to Native Americans. That was biological warfare. And we used every other weapon we could get our hands on to grab this land from whomever.

And we grew prosperous. And yes, we greased the skids with the sweat of slaves.

So it goes with most great nation-states, which--feeling guilty about their savage pasts--eventually civilize themselves out of business and wind up invaded and ultimately dominated by the lean, hungry up-and-coming who are not made of sugar candy.


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