Saturday, September 5, 2009

Weak In Review

Coercing Corporate Citizens

Bill Moyers' Jornal devoted most of its September 4 program to the issue of corporate influence on politics.

Culture of Cruelty

September 4, 2009
BILL MOYERS: The editors of THE ECONOMIST magazine say America's health care debate has become a touch delirious, with people accusing each other of being evil-mongers, dealers in death, and un-American.

Well, that's charitable.

I would say it's more deranged than delirious, and definitely not un-American.

Those crackpots on the right praying for Obama to die and be sent to hell — they're the warp and woof of home-grown nuttiness. So is the creature from the Second Amendment who showed up at the President's rally armed to the teeth. He's certainly one of us. Red, white, and blue kooks are as American as apple pie and conspiracy theories.

Bill Maher asked me on his show last week if America is still a great nation. I should have said it's the greatest show on earth. Forget what you learned in civics about the Founding Fathers — we're the children of Barnum and Bailey, our founding con men. Their freak show was the forerunner of today's talk radio.

Speaking of which: we've posted on our website an essay by the media scholar Henry Giroux. He describes the growing domination of hate radio as one of the crucial elements in a "culture of cruelty" increasingly marked by overt racism, hostility and disdain for others, coupled with a simmering threat of mob violence toward any political figure who believes health care reform is the most vital of safety nets, especially now that the central issue of life and politics is no longer about working to get ahead, but struggling simply to survive.

So here we are, wallowing in our dysfunction. Governed — if you listen to the rabble rousers — by a black nationalist from Kenya smuggled into the United States to kill Sarah Palin's baby. And yes, I could almost buy their belief that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, only I think he shipped them to Washington, where they've been recycled as lobbyists and trained in the alchemy of money laundering, which turns an old-fashioned bribe into a First Amendment right.

Only in a fantasy capital like Washington could Sunday morning talk shows become the high church of conventional wisdom, with partisan shills treated as holy men whose gospel of prosperity always seems to boil down to lower taxes for the rich.

Poor Obama. He came to town preaching the religion of nice. But every time he bows politely, the harder the Republicans kick him.

No one's ever conquered Washington politics by constantly saying "pretty please" to the guys trying to cut your throat.

Let's get on with it, Mr. President. We're up the proverbial creek with spaghetti as our paddle. This health care thing could have been the crossing of the Delaware, the turning point in the next American Revolution — the moment we put the mercenaries to rout, as General Washington did the Hessians at Trenton. We could have stamped our victory "Made in the USA." We could have said to the world, "Look what we did!" And we could have turned to each other and said, "Thank you."

As it is, we're about to get health care reform that measures human beings only in corporate terms of a cost-benefit analysis. I mean this is topsy-turvy — we should be treating health as a condition, not a commodity.

As we speak, Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker, has been fined a record $2.3 billion dollars as a civil and criminal — yes, that's criminal, as in fraud — penalty for promoting prescription drugs with the subtlety of the Russian mafia. It's the fourth time in a decade Pfizer's been called on the carpet. And these are the people into whose tender mercies Congress and the White House would deliver us?

Come on, Mr. President. Show us America is more than a circus or a market. Remind us of our greatness as a democracy. When you speak to Congress next week, just come out and say it. We thought we heard you say during the campaign last year that you want a government run insurance plan alongside private insurance — mostly premium-based, with subsidies for low-and-moderate income people. Open to all individuals and employees who want to join and with everyone free to choose the doctors we want. We thought you said Uncle Sam would sign on as our tough, cost-minded negotiator standing up to the cartel of drug and insurance companies and Wall Street investors whose only interest is a company's share price and profits.

Here's a suggestion, Mr. President: ask Josh Marshall to draft your speech. Josh is the founder of the website He's a journalist and historian, not a politician. He doesn't split things down the middle and call it a victory for the masses. He's offered the simplest and most accurate description yet of a public insurance plan — one that essentially asks people: would you like the option — the voluntary option — of buying into Medicare before you're 65? Check it out, Mr. President.

This health care thing is make or break for your leadership, but for us, it's life and death. No more Mr. Nice Guy, Mr. President. We need a fighter.
From Bill Moyers Journal on PBS, September 4

Fans & Funds

Mark Wahlberg in a forgettable role.Wanna be a rock star?

With the music industry in crisis because of digital sharing, signing with a major record label is getting harder and harder to do these days. So, more and more musicians are turning to their fans for financial support to record and distribute their work. And they are courting them in some ingenuous ways.

Producer Christopher Blagg looks at the emerging trend of fan-funded music.

Audio: BBC, PRI & WBUR's Here & Now. Host: Robin Young.


Accidentally On Purpose

Season Premiere Monday, Sept. 21 8:30pm ET/PT

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy wrote that he accepted the finding that a lone gunman assassinated his brother President John F. Kennedy, that Jack's death threatened Bobby's mental health & in turn, that RFK's death lead to heavy drinking in the year which preceeded his driving off a bridge at Chappaquiddick and the resultant death of Mary Jo Kopechne in 1969.

The Senator confesses his actions were inexcusable, and his remorse unrelenting, in a memoir, "True Compass," to be published posthumously on Sept. 14. The 532-page book was obtained early by The New York Times.

Both the publisher and family have objected strongly to the content and timing of early coverage.

Scarborough 2012

From one hour in the evening, Joe Scarborough expanded his audience to three hours of morning TV, two more on radio as a Limbaugh lead in and in writing "The Last Best Hope: Restoring Conservatism and America's Promise," he issued a political manifesto characteristic of politicians with higher ambitions... Although the book was probably way over the heads of most of the "Republican Base," far more familiar with designing woman Delta Burke than political theorist Edmund Burke.

On air he shifts seamlessly, and shamelessly, between political analyst and political operative, and although he was ready with some snappy lines for this on-air phone call, he wasn't ready on the set in time for the start of "Morning Joe."

Willie Geist has wake-up calls as a daily feature of "Way To Early."

Evolution of God

Author Robert Wright on science, faith, morality & human nature:

NASA Photo: The Helix Nebula, aka 'The Eye of God'
Midge Ure was Bob Geldoff's partner in organizing 1984's 'Band Aid' African Famine relief project

Facebook Friends?

Molecular Microscope

Winter Weather

Prosecutor's Perspective

Gone Wild, Gone Wrong

Mercenary Contractors Put the "Whack" in Wackenhut
Military Commander Presents Revised Strategy

Picture of Palin

And you thought the unretouched Newsweek cover was creepy...

The Revenge of Levi New York Times

Instant Movie: Million $ Baby


It's not easier with practice.

Stanford University’s Communication Between Humans and Interactive Media Lab published a study which found that those who multitask most, are actually the worst at it. Lead author, Eyal Ophir, explains.

Audio: BBC, PRI & WBUR's Here & Now. Host: Deborah Becker.

Big Bang Theory

Season premiere: Monday September 21st at 9:30pm.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mortal Combat

Corporal Sarah Bryant, KIA, Afghanistan, June 2008Women are banned from serving in frontline combat positions in the US Army, but the demands of the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan mean those ground rules are breaking down. So far more than 100 American and British women have died in the two wars.

The BBC’s Lucy Williamson joins Army Reserve Major Paula Broadwell, a West Point graduate, now at the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Broadwell’s recent op-ed in the Boston Globe argues that regardless of the policy, women are already in combat roles.

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Audio: BBC, PRI & WBUR's Here & Now. Host: Deborah Becker.


R.J. Matson, The New York Observer 8/28/09
Time to Get Out of Afghanistan
By George F. Will
Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"Yesterday," reads the e-mail from Allen, a Marine in Afghanistan, "I gave blood because a Marine, while out on patrol, stepped on a [mine's] pressure plate and lost both legs." Then "another Marine with a bullet wound to the head was brought in. Both Marines died this morning."

"I'm sorry about the drama," writes Allen, an enthusiastic infantryman willing to die "so that each of you may grow old." He says: "I put everything in God's hands." And: "Semper Fi!"

Allen and others of America's finest are also in Washington's hands. This city should keep faith with them by rapidly reversing the trajectory of America's involvement in Afghanistan, where, says the Dutch commander of coalition forces in a southern province, walking through the region is "like walking through the Old Testament."

U.S. strategy -- protecting the population -- is increasingly troop-intensive while Americans are increasingly impatient about "deteriorating" (says Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) conditions. The war already is nearly 50 percent longer than the combined U.S. involvements in two world wars, and NATO assistance is reluctant and often risible.

The U.S. strategy is "clear, hold and build." Clear? Taliban forces can evaporate and then return, confident that U.S. forces will forever be too few to hold gains. Hence nation-building would be impossible even if we knew how, and even if Afghanistan were not the second-worst place to try: The Brookings Institution ranks Somalia as the only nation with a weaker state.

Military historian Max Hastings says Kabul controls only about a third of the country -- "control" is an elastic concept -- and " 'our' Afghans may prove no more viable than were 'our' Vietnamese, the Saigon regime." Just 4,000 Marines are contesting control of Helmand province, which is the size of West Virginia. The New York Times reports a Helmand official saying he has only "police officers who steal and a small group of Afghan soldiers who say they are here for 'vacation.' " Afghanistan's $23 billion gross domestic product is the size of Boise's. Counterinsurgency doctrine teaches, not very helpfully, that development depends on security, and that security depends on development. Three-quarters of Afghanistan's poppy production for opium comes from Helmand. In what should be called Operation Sisyphus, U.S. officials are urging farmers to grow other crops. Endive, perhaps?

Even though violence exploded across Iraq after, and partly because of, three elections, Afghanistan's recent elections were called "crucial." To what? They came, they went, they altered no fundamentals, all of which militate against American "success," whatever that might mean. Creation of an effective central government? Afghanistan has never had one. U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry hopes for a "renewal of trust" of the Afghan people in the government, but the Economist describes President Hamid Karzai's government -- his vice presidential running mate is a drug trafficker -- as so "inept, corrupt and predatory" that people sometimes yearn for restoration of the warlords, "who were less venal and less brutal than Mr. Karzai's lot."

Mullen speaks of combating Afghanistan's "culture of poverty." But that took decades in just a few square miles of the South Bronx. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, thinks jobs programs and local government services might entice many "accidental guerrillas" to leave the Taliban. But before launching New Deal 2.0 in Afghanistan, the Obama administration should ask itself: If U.S. forces are there to prevent reestablishment of al-Qaeda bases -- evidently there are none now -- must there be nation-building invasions of Somalia, Yemen and other sovereignty vacuums?

U.S. forces are being increased by 21,000, to 68,000, bringing the coalition total to 110,000. About 9,000 are from Britain, where support for the war is waning. Counterinsurgency theory concerning the time and the ratio of forces required to protect the population indicates that, nationwide, Afghanistan would need hundreds of thousands of coalition troops, perhaps for a decade or more. That is inconceivable.

So, instead, forces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent Special Forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters.

Genius, said de Gaulle, recalling Bismarck's decision to halt German forces short of Paris in 1870, sometimes consists of knowing when to stop. Genius is not required to recognize that in Afghanistan, when means now, before more American valor, such as Allen's, is squandered.


Car Wash

Indigo Girls - Galileo

Indigo Girls - Galileo from KFOG on Vimeo.

How I Met Your Mother

Season Premiere Monday, Sept. 21 8:00 ET/PT

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


SI cover: January 21, 2005/Photographed by: Damian StrohmeyerHe retired August 31 after 13 years in the NFL... All of them for New England. But despite calling the defensive signals throughout 8 Pro Bowl seasons, including three Super Bowl victories, his most remarkable season was 2005... The year in which Tedy Bruschi suffered a stroke following a Pro Bowl appearance, battled back within 8 months to retake the field & achieve "Comeback Player of the Year." And established a team of his own:


Chris Hayes article in The Nation.

Jeremy Scahill's book on Blackwater.



The Critic

Photo from
"The old place was better."

His judgement was swift and final... Although he had more to say.

"They used to have a gambler's breakfast for only a dollar."

The equivalent was on the late night menu, but he had opted for an open faced turkey sandwich with mashed and gravy. He couldn't have ordered it at 3 A.M. 5 years before.

His companion stared down at the table top, not listening.

I was listening as the review continued, looking across the room at decor transformed from his late-lamented greasy spoon.

"And those seats," turning his gaze to a feature more typical of lobbies than cafes, hexagonal and ringed by small tables, "Can you imagine having to sit beside a stranger while you eat?"

He wore an old promo t-shirt from a casino down the street... Torn around the neck... Straining to cover middle-aged spread, like his comb-over struggled with his scalp.

"You used to be able to get in & out in 20 minutes at the counter."

You mean sitting shoulder to shoulder with a stranger while you eat?

"The old place was better."

His food arrived. Open faced turkey sandwich with mashed and gravy... Disappearing rapidly.

He could still make it in 20 minutes.

4 Billion $ Comic Book

By Johnnie L Roberts, Newsweek 8/31/09
Finally, Snow White can ditch those seven dwarfs for some tough guys--Spider-Man, Iron Man and the X-Men. Dopey, Grumpy, Doc, Happy, Bashful, Sneezy and Sleepy got some new competition today as Disney announced a $4-billion deal to acquire Marvel Comics. But Disney's princesses can live on in their fantasy world without fear of any of Marvel's 5,000 tough characters. There's a simple reason they'll coexist peacefully: Bob Iger, who began his tenure as Disney CEO with the acquisition of Pixar, knows his way around the world of animation.

Cartoon by Daeyl Cagle 8/31/09

Property Values

As seen by Yourself:

As seen by your Potential Buyer:

As seen by your Mortgage Holder:

As seen by your Re-finance Appraiser:

As seen by your Municipal Property Tax Assessor:

A matter of perspective circulating since 2007, relayed by Ken Morgan.