Archive for National

Dec
17

Colbert: Going out on a slab?

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It’s been great fun watching the last episodes of the “Colbert Report.” Stephen Colbert’s interview with Smaug the dragon was a tour de force.

Rumor has it that Colbert has secured another rock-star celebrity for his last show:

For nine years, Stephen Colbert has relentlessly maintained his pompous, deeply ridiculous but consistently appealing conservative blowhard character on his late-night show, “The Colbert Report” — so much so that when he puts the character to rest for good on Thursday night, he may have to resort to comicide. The Grim Reaper is his last guest.

The New York Times wonders whether Colbert plans to go out on a slab. Other late-night hosts give Colbert kudos for staying relentlessly in character for so many years. Jimmy Fallon is one:

Like other competitors, Mr. Fallon professed unabashed awe that Mr. Colbert could sustain this performance at such a high level for so long. “Before he won the Emmy, I had been preaching that people had to recognize what he was doing: He’s faking a person,” Mr. Fallon said. “I was one of those who said, ‘He’ll do it for six months and then he’ll move on.’ Imagine if you were still trying to do the Coneheads on ‘Saturday Night Live.’ It’s gets old. But not this. He’s a genius.”

And former vice-president Dick Cheney is not. He’s been faking a person for decades, but nobody laughs.

Mr. [Conan] O’Brien commended Mr. Colbert for breaking what he called the American tradition. “Our system is, if there’s another nickel to be found in it, you keep playing that character,” he said, “just beat it to death — and then do it another 10 years.”

As we saw just last week, Cheney is still playing his Torquemada character even though his show went off the air in early 2009. But then he’s comfortable with beating things to death. Maybe his act would go over better in The Hague. Ten years would be a start.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.}

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Dec
16

Mr. Hurts So Good

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I so want to overdub Cheney with Pee Wee Herman repeatedly saying, “I know what you are, but what am I?”

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Categories : National, Torture
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Dec
15

You: Wall Street’s human shield

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During a similar period of prolonged, public face-palming over Washington idiocy, somebody asked: Where’s Tom Lehrer when you really need him? Well at 86, the singer-satirist is no longer performing. Thankfully, we have Matt Taibbi, back at Rolling Stone.

Taibbi gives the Citigroup provision in the “Cromnibus” budget bill a bit of the “vampire squid” treatment. Senator Elizabeth Warren made headlines on Friday night when the Massachusetts Democrat read aloud the title of the Dodd-Frank rule the Citigroup-sponsored provision aimed to repeal: “PROHIBITION AGAINST FEDERAL GOVERNMENT BAILOUTS OF SWAPS ENTITIES.” And then proceeded to vivisect it in her speech on the Senate floor, warning that passage means more corporate welfare in the form of taxpayer-funded bailouts. It is a provision neither Republicans nor Democrats would own up to inserting, neither would defend, yet would not stand up in numbers to remove lest it precipitate a government shutdown. Neither will the White House veto it.

Taibbi writes (emphasis mine):

There’s no logical argument against the provision. The banks only want it because they want to use your bank accounts as a human shield to protect their dangerous gambling activities.

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Categories : Corruption, National, News
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Dec
13

A 21st-century lynching?

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Neely Ferry1Neely Ferry2Neely Ferry3Questions surrounding the August hanging death of Lennon Lacy, 17, of Bladenboro, NC have been percolating since the summer. With fall election campaigns and higher-profile deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police, the black teenager’s hanging death, quickly ruled a suicide, went largely unnoticed outside North Carolina. But Lacy’s family did not accept the official conclusion that the youth killed himself. Lacy was found hanging by a dog leash wearing someone else’s shoes. Two sizes too small:

Days after he was buried, Lennon’s grave was defiled – an act of vandalism that Lennon’s family believes supports their claim that he was killed in a racially-motivated homicide.

After calls from the North Carolina NAACP and Lacy’s family, the FBI has stepped in:

The FBI will investigate the case of Lennon Lacy, the black teenager found hanging in August from a swing set in North Carolina, whose parents have disputed the official ruling that he killed himself and asked whether his death amounted to a modern-day lynching.

It was confirmed on Friday that a federal agent has been assigned to investigate what happened to Lacy, 17, a budding high-school football prospect found hanging in the middle of a predominantly white trailer park in Bladenboro, North Carolina, on 29 August. The move follows a formal request from the Lacy family and from the North Carolina branch of the NAACP to the US attorney asking for the federal authorities to throw their weight behind the investigation.

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Categories : News, North Carolina, Race
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Dec
12

Alas, Babylon

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Daniel 5:27 (KJV)

TEKEL, thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.

This morning the estimable teacherken weighs his leaders in the balances and finds them wanting. Having watched the release of the torture report this week and the budget vote in the House last night, he is sickened:

Tom Harkin is supposed to be a Liberal. Then why in Hell has he moved to pay off education loan lenders by cutting funding for Pell Grants?

If Obama is opposed to torture, why are not there criminal investigations of the CIA, starting with the destruction of the waterboarding tapes, a destruction that was NOT properly authorized even within the CIA?

If this administration and the Democratic leadership of the House is in theory committed to the environment, why agree to a bill that slashes even further funding for environmental initiatives?

If this administration and the Democratic leadership of the House believes in real fiscal responsibility, why agree to a bill that slashes the enforcement budget of the Internal Revenue Service?

I refuse to watch TV right now.

If the Liberal and Progressive Senators will not filibuster this bill, then they have succumbed to the terrorism of Wall Street and the Tea Party. The Republicans not only take hostages, they get Democrats to acquiesce in their slaughter.

You have to wonder how much longer oligarchs can continue to strip America to the walls to enrich themselves before the walls collapse on them. Wikipedia’s explanation of “the hand writing on the wall” from the Book of Daniel is a negative event “easily predictable based on the current situation.” Teacherken wonders whether we are seeing “the last gasp of an Ancien Regime before the guillotines made their appearance.”

This week we watched good, “churchgoing” neighbors defend morally abhorrent, clearly illegal practices contrary to everything they learned at their parents’ knees and everything their faith declaims. We watched as politicians and “good men of business” voted for relaxed rules that Sen. Elizabeth Warren warned will guarantee more bank failures requiring taxpayer bailouts of the very same banks We the People bailed out last time. Whatever happened to moral hazard? teacherken wonders.

But I wonder something else. What are the long-term effects on the psyche of spending 40-60 hours per week for decades on end working within an economic system that values the interests of amoral artificial persons above those of flesh-and-blood ones? Has anyone done a study on that? (Not that anyone of means would pay for it.) Do we really think a few hours in church each week provide a counterbalance? I submit instead we are breeding “persons” who would sell you the air you breathe if they could control how it gets to your nose. And if you cannot afford to buy “their” air? You should have worked harder, planned better, and saved more.

“The thing is,” Ken says of events this week, “when I get sickened I get determined.”

Cynics find it easy to sit on the sidelines and not get their nice, white vinyl souls besmirched by contact with either of the major parties. When such people ask why I do what I do, I tell them if I’m not in the fight I feel like roadkill. And I don’t like feeling like roadkill. I may still get run over, but I don’t feel like roadkill. Not terribly idealistic, but there it is.

I used to be a victim. I’m not anymore.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : National, Parties, Strategy
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Dec
10

“Enough is enough”

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After #TortureTuesday, I needed a break from thinking about rectal rehydration.

Here’s a link to video of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s keynote address to the “Managing the Economy” conference this week in Washington, D.C. The event was sponsored by Americans for Financial Reform, the Economic Policy Institute, and the Roosevelt Institute. (sorry, no embed; transcript here)

The speech is being called Warren’s sharpest rebuke to date of President Obama’s nomination of investment banker Antonio Weiss for Treasury’s undersecretary of domestic finance. It is another example of “the revolving door at its most dangerous” between Washington and Wall Street, Warren believes, and for a nominee unqualified for the job and from an industry already overrepresented in Washington. The Boston Globe cites an unnamed Treasury official as being unaware of “any prominent Wall Street officials currently serving at the department.”

While Warren spoke alone, she cited her own exprts.

Georgetown law professor Adam Levitin on Weiss’ qualifications:

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Categories : National, News
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Image Public Domain, by And all this time I thought regulatory capture of the Supreme Court just had to do with the sitting justices. Reuters’ lengthy, 3-part series on the attorneys who appear most frequently before the Supreme Court is titled, “The Echo Chamber.” Really, though, these lawyers need their own “Lifestyles of” show. (An overwhelmingly white-male cast, of course.)

A Reuters examination of nine years of cases shows that 66 of the 17,000 lawyers who petitioned the Supreme Court succeeded at getting their clients’ appeals heard at a remarkable rate. Their appeals were at least six times more likely to be accepted by the court than were all others filed by private lawyers during that period.

They represent less than 1 percent of lawyers who file appeals to the Supreme Court, yet appear in 43 percent of the cases the court heard from 2004 through 2012. Fifty-one of the 66 represent firms whose work is primarily for corporations. “It’s the nature of the business,” Ashley Parrish, a partner at King & Spalding told reporters. Which is why firms avoid individuals’ cases against current or prospective corporate clients. Pro bono First Amendment and criminal cases that don’t conflict with moneyed clients’ interests are the exception.

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Categories : National, News
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Dec
09

The Decree

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Obama does the Colbert Report’s The Word Decree.

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So, by now you know that the New York grand jury we wrote about on Tuesday returned its decision yesterday not to indict NYPD’s Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the July 17 chokehold death of Eric Garner. The 43 year-old black man died gasping “I can’t breathe” while in the custody of white officers outside a Staten Island convenience store after being accused of selling untaxed, loose cigarettes. The death was ruled a homicide by a New York medical examiner in August.

Oh, but the grand jury did indict the man who videoed the whole thing on his cellphone, so there’s that.

Protests broke out over the grand jury’s non-indictment, as expected, disrupting the Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Plaza. Police made about 30 arrests.

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Categories : News, Race
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Dec
03

Bracing for Thursday

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This is getting to be a Buffalo Springfield kind of thing, ain’t it?

Fast food workers in at least 150 cities nationwide will walk off the job on Dec. 4, demanding an industry-wide base wage of $15 per hour and the right to form a union. Workers unanimously voted on the date for the new strike during a Nov. 25 conference call, held shortly before the second anniversary of the movement’s first strike.

The first of the recent fast food strikes took place on Nov. 29, 2012, in New York City. Two hundred workers from various fast food restaurants around the city participated in that strike, making it the largest work stoppage to ever hit the fast food industry. Since then, the size of the movement has ballooned several times over: With the backing of the powerful service sector labor union SEIU, the campaign has come to include thousands of workers in the U.S.

Laura Clawson for Daily Kos Labor:

The fast food strikes and other actions by low-wage workers have been a major source of momentum behind increasing the minimum wage. No one was talking about $15 an hour until fast food workers started fighting for it in late 2012. The Democratic proposal of a $10.10 federal minimum was generally portrayed in the media as a reach, the grounds for a compromise to something lower. $15 sounded impossible, yet now two major American cities—Seattle and San Francisco—are on their way there, while Chicago is about to pass a $13 an hour minimum wage, Oakland has approved a $12.25 wage, Washington, DC, and neighboring counties in Maryland are on their way to $11.50, and Massachusetts is going to $11. Doubtless some or all of these cities and states would have done something about the minimum wage without this level of worker organizing, but there’s no way we’d be seeing so many places going above $10.10.

Chicago passed its $13 an hour measure yesterday.

Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and Moral Mondays organizer, spoke on the conference call, saying, “The battle for fair wages is as critical as the battle that young people waged in the 1960s when they came into the sit-in movement.”

San Diego Free Press:

The particulars of these events are not as important as what they represent: a growing sense of frustration with economic and social conditions. These actions are symbolic, intended to break through the “everybody knows” noise generated by the mass media.

Philly.com:

Millions of people make $8 to $10 an hour working as cashiers or in restaurants, or providing elder or child care – a far cry from a living wage. Despite working hard, many of these people live in poverty or on the edge of poverty.

This isn’t what America is about, and it can’t be reconciled with political rhetoric that says if you work hard and play by the rules, you will succeed in the United States.

In a season when the western world empathizes with Bob Cratchit’s struggles – with no heat for his office – to feed his fictional family, real families working for miserly wages and hours must choose between buying food and heating their homes. Food banks are sorely taxed. With every succeeding year, Dickens’ morality tale looks more and more like a quintessentially American story.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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