September 03, 2010

Rupert Murdoch: Spying on Her Majesty's secret sons

In case you missed it, News of the World, a Murdoch tabloid, hacked Prince William's and Harry's cell phones. At question is not only that, but Scotland Yard's investigation. Or, lack thereof to remain cozy with the sleazy Chez Murdoch British media empire, as the NYT Magazine amply documents:
“There was simply no enthusiasm among Scotland Yard to go beyond the cases involving Mulcaire and Goodman,” said John Whittingdale, the chairman of a parliamentary committee that has twice investigated the phone hacking. “To start exposing widespread tawdry practices in that newsroom was a heavy stone that they didn’t want to try to lift.” Several investigators said in interviews that Scotland Yard was reluctant to conduct a wider inquiry in part because of its close relationship with News of the World.

How serious is this?

Murdoch has already paid $1.6M on settling suits on this.

All while fighting to keep the settlements secret.

And, News of the World's chief lying about the whole affair, as The Guardian continues to smack down the Murdoch empire.

So, what is Fox News doing in the US?

China: Engage or confront?

The Nation has a very good article on China's future economic development and how we should act and react to it.

Confrontation or acceptance? While there's shades of gray in the middle, nonetheless, I think we can confront more. Sure, China holds a lot of government debt, but it's still less than a majority, or even close to it. And, our debt is like a Tar Baby to China; there's only so much they can do at once in response, anyway.

So, I agree with James Mann, referenced on page 3:
The bible for many of those who believe that China isn't about to change is James Mann's 2007 book The China Fantasy. Mann, a former Los Angeles Times reporter now at the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies, argues that China is unlikely to disintegrate or democratize. Instead, he says, it's most likely that decades from now China will be both superrich and undemocratic, and he says those who believe in the possibility of democratization are "hopelessly gullible." China, he says, "is still a Leninist regime, run by a Communist Party governed, in hierarchical ascending circles, by a Central Committee, a Politburo, and a Standing Committee of the Politburo."

I'm not sure about decades in the plural, but a decade from now? I'm sure Mann will be right on the continuing undemocratic nature of a still-unified China. Now, given that the Uighurs of the far west probably pay little attention to the state's one-child policy, disintegration may happen at some future point, true.

As for strikes at Foxconn and elsewhere? If not government-condoned, and therefore government-controlled, they wouldn't be happening. So, let's not claim that China is undergoing some massive liberalization of labor law. It ain't.

Why does Obama hate liberals?

Why does Obama hate liberal principles? What, you don't think he does? Well, Glenn Greenwald gives you a handy roundup, from his anti-Social Security debt commission through an anti-union chief of staff to presidential foot-dragging on gay rights and beyond.

September 02, 2010

The meanness and shallowness of Sarah Palin, detailed

Anybody in the center or farther left of American voters who honestly listens to Sarah Palin, aka The Quitter with a Twitter™, knows she's not that smart. But, not all of said people may yet realize how pretentious she is. How emotionally and psychologically, as well as intellectually, shallow she is. How "entitled" she can be, including in how she treats the "ordinarly people" she claims to represent.

Well now, thanks to Vanity Fair, you need be ignorant no longer.

Pettiness:
A onetime gubernatorial aide to Palin says, "The people who have worked for her--they're broken, used, stepped on, down in the dust."


Cheapness and meanness toward the ordinary people:
Palin does not always treat those ordinary people well, however—it depends on who is watching. Of the many famous people who have stayed at the Hyatt in Wichita (Cher, Reba McEntire, Neil Young), Sarah Palin ranks as the all-time worst tipper: $5 for seven bags. But the bellhops had it good in Kansas, compared with the bellman at another midwestern hotel who waited up until past midnight for Palin and her entourage to check in—and then got no tip at all for 10 bags. He was stiffed again at checkout time. The same went for the maids who cleaned Palin’s rooms in both places—no tip whatsoever. The only time I heard of Palin giving a generous tip was in St. Joseph, Michigan, after the owner of Kilwin’s chocolate shop, on State Street, sent a CARE package to Palin’s suite, and Palin walked to the store to say thank you. She also wanted to buy more boxes of candy to take home. When the owner would not accept her money, Palin, encircled by the crowd that had jammed the store to get a glimpse of her, pressed a hundred-dollar bill into the woman’s hand, saying, “This is for the staff.” That Ben Franklin was the talk of State Street the whole rest of the day.


Facebook, ghostwriting, etc.:
Palin’s most unconventional hire is a novice media consultant, Rebecca Mansour, a 36-year-old Los Angeles resident who has been identified in news stories as a screenwriter. Mansour has said that she volunteered for Obama early in the 2008 campaign and then became disillusioned. Not long after the election, with Joseph Russo, a then 23-year-old college student from New Jersey, who would also go to work for Palin, she co-founded the most popular pro-Palin blog, Conservatives4Palin, known informally as C4P (and not to be confused with the “adult swingers” Web site of that name). C4P functions as a hybrid news service, discussion board, and field headquarters for a virtual army of Palin supporters, who pride themselves on brute devotion. ...

As late as April 2009, Palin’s press spokesperson contended that C4P was “not affiliated in any way with the governor.” Mansour’s reaction to that statement suggested otherwise. The next day on C4P, she wrote, “Some readers have wondered if I felt tire tracks on my back this morning,” and went on to say, “I understand” why Palin’s spokesperson denied any connection, adding, “I’m not hurt … much.” Twelve days later she told a reporter for a McClatchy newspaper a different story: Sarah Palin, Mansour said, “has nothing at all, whatsoever, to do with any of what we’re doing here.” In early July, Mansour made a trip to Alaska to meet with Palin, according to a source in Anchorage. By mid-August, her byline, long the most prominent one on C4P, had vanished from the site.

But her voice, or at least a voice that sounds much like hers, was about to turn up in another venue.

When it was first set up, in January 2009, Palin’s Facebook page might as well have been a file cabinet for official press releases written mostly in a stiff, third-person form. The same was true of her Twitter feed, which went live in April.

After Mansour’s voice disappeared on C4P, however, Palin’s voice on Facebook and Twitter started sounding increasingly provocative and irascible.

September 01, 2010

Bjorn Lomborg ... change of heart or a hypocrite?

OK, I earlier blogged about Danish climate change denialist extraordinaire Bjorn Lomborg has apparently repented of his earlier ideas.
(I)n a new book to be published next month, Lomborg will call for tens of billions of dollars a year to be invested in tackling climate change. "Investing $100bn annually would mean that we could essentially resolve the climate change problem by the end of this century," the book concludes.

Examining eight methods to reduce or stop global warming, Lomborg and his fellow economists recommend pouring money into researching and developing clean energy sources such as wind, wave, solar and nuclear power, and more work on climate engineering ideas such as "cloud whitening" to reflect the sun's heat back into the outer atmosphere.

OK, that's the part that scares me.

Having reread the Guardian story, let me say that I'm leery of his emphasis on climate engineering. Through importation of species, Homo sapiens has done a horrendous job of biome engineering in the past. Any native of the U.S. Southwest knows about salt cedars/tamarisks. When I read ideas about deliberate "sooting" of the upper atmosphere (which Lomberg doesn't specifically name, but is a highly-discussed climate engineering idea, I cringe.)

Then, there's the fact that he's still a wee bit ... uhh, hypocritical:
Lomborg denies he has performed a volte face, pointing out that even in his first book he accepted the existence of man-made global warming. "The point I've always been making is it's not the end of the world," he told the Guardian. "That's why we should be measuring up to what everybody else says, which is we should be spending our money well."

Uhh, that's so less than true, as far as the spirit of accuracy.

Technically, sir, maybe you didn't deny the human element; but you minimized it damn near to the point of denial. Add in the fact that the Guardian interview coincides with the launch of a new book, the fact that big industries that may have previously been in denial could profit most from climate engineering, that you could profit from being their consultant, and I'm starting to say ...

Something is indeed rotten in the state of Denmark.

Bjorn Lomborg "repents" of climate change quasi-denialism

No, this is NOT, not an environmentalist April Fool's Day joke.

Danish climate change denialist extraordinaire Bjorn Lomborg has apparently repented.
(I)n a new book to be published next month, Lomborg will call for tens of billions of dollars a year to be invested in tackling climate change. "Investing $100bn annually would mean that we could essentially resolve the climate change problem by the end of this century," the book concludes.

Examining eight methods to reduce or stop global warming, Lomborg and his fellow economists recommend pouring money into researching and developing clean energy sources such as wind, wave, solar and nuclear power, and more work on climate engineering ideas such as "cloud whitening" to reflect the sun's heat back into the outer atmosphere.

In a Guardian interview, he said he would finance investment through a tax on carbon emissions that would also raise $50bn to mitigate the effect of climate change, for example by building better sea defences, and $100bn for global healthcare.

Now, in part as pointed out by a friend (thanks, Leo) I do note Lomborg is selling a new book. And, the Guardian interview happened to be timely.

And, having reread the Guardian story, let me say that I'm leery of his emphasis on climate engineering. Through importation of species, Homo sapiens has done a horrendous job of biome engineering in the past. Any native of the U.S. Southwest knows about salt cedars/tamarisks. When I read ideas about deliberate "sooting" of the upper atmosphere (which Lomberg doesn't specifically name, but is a highly-discussed climate engineering idea, I cringe.)

Why TPM will always be an Obamiac blog

Here's the skinny on Talking Points Memo publisher Josh Marshall's latest case of Obama suck-up-itis:

(O)nce you get past the simple fact that the terrible unemployment rate has a lot to do with the Dems' awful electoral prospects, it's very hard to make any definitive statements about why they're struggling. There are numerous theories, many of which are plausible, but very few of which have a really solid factual basis behind them. So everybody picks the theory that validates their assumptions.

Dems and Obama's poll numbers are so bad because ...

Republicans: Terrible policies and he's probably a Muslim.

Right Democrats: No CEOs in the administration. And why does he keep getting into the black thing?

Down-the-Line Obamaites: Economy's bad. Nothing he could do. Give it a rest.

Left Democrats: He wasn't liberal or tough enough and me and my eight friends are deeply disillusioned.

To his credit, Marshall has posted one reader's e-mail response. Nonetheless, this level of flippancy from a man who continues to post White House slide shows and who, like the mainstream media, relies on anonymous administration sources, isn't surprising.

Now, also to be fair, TPM won't be 100 percent Obamiac. And, it may not even be as Obamiac as Washington Monthly under Steve Benen. But, it will remain enough that way, no, too much that way.

Did ayatollahs, not CIA, overthrow Mossadegh?

The traditional story has been that Iran's 1953 prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh, was overthrown by a CIA coup after beginning to nationalize foreign oil companies.

Not so fast. In Iran and the CIA: The Fall of Mosaddeq Revisited,
Darioush Bayandor says Shi'ite clerics, including the mentor of the future Ayatollah Ruhollah Khoumeni, were responsible.
On August 15, 1953, the CIA did, indeed, stage a coup to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadeq. But that coup failed. By August 16, the agency had acknowledged its failure and the State Department had already ordered rapprochement with Mossadeq. Three days later, however, a few powerful clerics led by Ayatollah Borujerdi, among whose disciples was a junior cleric named Ruhollah Khomeini, orchestrated major unrest. This unrest, spurred by the clergy who felt threatened by Mossadeq’s promise of a secular democracy, facilitated the coup for which the CIA has been credited, and vilified, all these years.

Bayandor does not exonerate the CIA. Nor does he rule out the possibility that the failed first coup contributed to the instability that ultimately brought about the success of the subsequent one. But the irony of Iran and the CIA is that it shows, among other things, both the agency’s incompetence and, to a large degree, its irrelevance to the events of 1953. Indeed, Fazlollah Zahedi, the purged army general with whom the CIA had been dealing, proves to play only a marginal role in the ordeal. It is ultimately a handful of clergy—awakened from years of dormancy imposed by the Iranian Constitutional Revolution of 1905—who make history for Iran, and who step into the political limelight once more after the coup they themselves helped foment.

At the least, we should genuflect to Iranian "sensibilities" less than we do. It seems that, at the least, the ayatollahs didn't find Mossadegh pliable enough and so were ready to abandon him. Shades of 1979!

August 30, 2010

Salon's Joan Walsh agrees: Obama is self-delusional

Going far beyond Paul Krugman's most recent column, Joan Walsh lays it on the line:
The Obama team seems to think 2012 will take care of itself, as long as they burnish that shining Obama "brand," which requires reaching out to Republicans and independents and ignoring the pesky left, with its old culture-war grudges and its subversive demand for greater economic fairness. I've heard some smart folks speculate that the White House may even welcome a Republican takeover, the better to "let Obama be Obama," and continue to play out his fantasy of being a Democratic Ronald Reagan, creating a generation of what he used to call "Obamacans" and realigning politics for his lifetime.

If anyone in the White House still believes that, they are delusional.

Sadly, Joan, Mayor McCheese himself still believes it, and that's the problem.

Beyond that, Walsh also notes he "doesn't get" the other side:
Apart from accepting too many Republican prescriptions for the economy, Obama also waxes vague and platitudinous when asked about the extreme forces he's up against, like birthers, Beck and Limbaugh.

Progressives: Stop enabling Obama

As if I didn’t already have about 228 reasons to vote Green in 2012, and to tell other people on FB, my blog, etc. to do that, the fact that Social Security hater Alan Simpson will remain cochair of Obama's debt commission is just another.


Second, the Democratic co-chair, Bowles, also wanted to partially privatize Social Security when he was the Slickster's chief of staff. Look at the other commissioners. Paul (nutbar) Ryan, for example. Obama's stacked the deck on this issue, folks, including stacking the deck on this commission.

When will "liberal" blogs, or even allegedly progressive mags, like The Nation stop being apologetic for him?

It took more than two decades of third-party votes, even to the point of winning electoral votes and Congressional seats, in the late 1800s, before progressivism of any sort entered the political mainstream.

Real liberals and progressives must stop “enabling” neolibs.

Hopefully, by laying it on the line, Salon's Joan Walsh will encourage the anti-enabling:
The Obama team seems to think 2012 will take care of itself, as long as they burnish that shining Obama "brand," which requires reaching out to Republicans and independents and ignoring the pesky left, with its old culture-war grudges and its subversive demand for greater economic fairness. I've heard some smart folks speculate that the White House may even welcome a Republican takeover, the better to "let Obama be Obama," and continue to play out his fantasy of being a Democratic Ronald Reagan, creating a generation of what he used to call "Obamacans" and realigning politics for his lifetime.

If anyone in the White House still believes that, they are delusional.

Sadly, Joan, Mayor McCheese himself still believes it, and that's the problem.

Beyond that, Walsh also notes he "doesn't get" the other side:
Apart from accepting too many Republican prescriptions for the economy, Obama also waxes vague and platitudinous when asked about the extreme forces he's up against, like birthers, Beck and Limbaugh.

Obama - playing it safe to catastrophe

The nut graf of Paul Krugman's latest column isn't at the start, or even close to it; it's buried at the bottom:
If I were President Obama, I’d be doing all I could to head off this prospect, offering some major new initiatives on the economic front in particular, if only to shake up the political dynamic. But my guess is that the president will continue to play it safe, all the way into catastrophe.

I think a lot of disillusioned liberals, as well as left-liberals like me who were never illusioned by Obama in the first place, recognize this is the bottom line.

But why?

The man only really spent two years in the Senate, back when it was under GOP control. He was running for president by 2007. So, he never saw, up close and in person, even a fraction of how obstructionist the GOP can be in the Senate.

Along with that, I sincerely believe the man still thinks he can charm Republicans by the suasion of his voice. In other words, he's still too illusioned of himself. Hey, Barry, Prez Kumbaya, it ain't happening.

Second, the man either never learned the art of political strategy in the Illinois Senate, or else, related to the above, has abandoned it. Especially with the stimulus, when he and/or Rahm Emanuel decided it couldn't come in over $1 trillion, they negotiated that, so to speak, in advance of any actual negotiations. $999 billion should have been the final number. Even that would be too small, but not as much too small as what we got.

Third, he refuses to be Machiavellian, play hardball, or whatever. He could be taking a page out of Harry Truman's playbook and calling Congress into special session. With the current all-the-time election cycle, etc., this would crap on obstructionists of both parties; especially, it would keep "safe" GOP senators from campaigning for GOP challengers. (And, I have already thought of far m ore Machiavellian ideas, like threatening to free up time for 535 FBI agents to assist Members of Congress with Patriot Act "protection."

Meanwhile, going far beyond Krugman's most recent column, Joan Walsh lays it on the line:
The Obama team seems to think 2012 will take care of itself, as long as they burnish that shining Obama "brand," which requires reaching out to Republicans and independents and ignoring the pesky left, with its old culture-war grudges and its subversive demand for greater economic fairness. I've heard some smart folks speculate that the White House may even welcome a Republican takeover, the better to "let Obama be Obama," and continue to play out his fantasy of being a Democratic Ronald Reagan, creating a generation of what he used to call "Obamacans" and realigning politics for his lifetime.

If anyone in the White House still believes that, they are delusional.

Sadly, Joan, Mayor McCheese himself still believes it, and that's the problem.

Beyond that, Walsh also notes he "doesn't get" the other side:
Apart from accepting too many Republican prescriptions for the economy, Obama also waxes vague and platitudinous when asked about the extreme forces he's up against, like birthers, Beck and Limbaugh.

August 29, 2010

Ambinder right on cons, wrong on libs

Mark Ambinder rues the increasing purity demands of hardcore conservatives, and the lack of party discipline, unity and message. But, he then totally spoils his column with some crazy counservative-liberal, Republican-Democratic equivalency claim on this issue.

Seriously. The never-before-elected Joe Miller, a fringe Palinite, is the same as three-term House veteran Joe Sestak? And, no, I'm not joking:
Democrats, too, have had their share of bickering. Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter — galvanized by the state’s labor unions — challenged Senator Blanche Lincoln; she barely won the June runoff. In Colorado, when Senator Michael Bennet was not responsive enough to party liberals, the state’s former House speaker Andrew Romanoff decided to challenge him. Mr. Romanoff sold his house to pay for his campaign and might have won the Aug. 10 vote were it not for strategic mistakes he made late in the campaign.

In May in Pennsylvania, Representative Joe Sestak would not let the Democratic establishment coronate Senator Arlen Specter — who had just been persuaded to switch parties by the White House after conservatives made it impossible for him to win the Republican primary. These anti-party forces are not likely to wane.

Indeed, conservatives and liberals alike will continue to insist on nominating unadulterated candidates and will become more successful in doing so. And those candidates are likely to distrust their own establishments as much as they ideologically oppose the people at the other end of the political spectrum.

Neither Romanoff nor Halter nor Sestak was an ideologue.

Even if Bernie Sanders, in Vermont, were to decide to become a Democrat and run against Pat Leahy, even HE wouldn't be Joe Miller and Ambinder's "equivalency" would still be untrue.

Also, contra claims Ambinder makes elsewhere in the column, there's no well of left-liberal funding anything like the Koch brothers and others.

Finally, so far at least, the tea party challenge has done fairly little to dissolve GOP party discipline. Of course, we'll have to wait not just until the end of the primary season, but until after midterm elections in November to test this, for various reasons. We'll need to see how many nutbars win, and how that affects the GOP with them inside the electoral tent. We'll also need to see how many nutbars lose, and how much that affects sniping at the GOP "establishment."

But, Dems, without even Bernie Sanders types, let alone, say, Alexander Cockburn types, challenging on their left, continue to be more fractious than Republicans. Blame Rahm Emanuel for the Blue Dog Congressional candidates he recruited. Blame President Kumbaya for not cracking a whip on party discipline, which his predecessor did. In other words, Obama needs Rahmbo to be Rove, and he's not pushing Rahmbo to do that, in that way.

Praying Glenn Beck doesn't know his Bible or Jesus

At his "Reinventing Himself" rally Saturday, among other inanities, monstrosities and pomposities, Glenn Beck exhorted the crowd to:
Recognize your place to the creator. Realize that he is our king. He is the one who guides and directs our life and protects us." He asked his audience to pray more. "I ask, not only if you would pray on your knees, but pray on your knees but with your door open for your children to see.

Just one problem.

Whereas Jesus said ...
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. ... When you pray, go into the room, close your door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. ... And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans.
So, there you have it, from Jesus' mouth to your ears. Glenn Beck is a hypocrite.