Saturday, April 25, 2009

Weekend Keeper

h/t Andrew Sullivan
Andrew used to work for this publication, whose unflinching support of the Iraq War angered people like me. But this analysis, in language even a non-wonk like me can understand, is crucial to understanding our present. And past. And President.
... if it works, Obama will have truly found the Third Way Clinton grasped for a decade ago.
...It is essential that we be reminded of the context of this stuff, because most of the daily media says nothing about history. And when they do, it's usually grossly simplified and therefore inaccurate. In the meantime, who was paying attention back then? I need to be reminded.

Before long, the economy was creating jobs at a dizzying clip--ten million between 1993 and 1997, another eight million between 1997 and 2000. Rising productivity was driving up wages across the income spectrum. By some measures, poverty was the lowest since the government had begun keeping track. It really did look like shrinking deficits had triggered lower interest rates and unleashed a wave of private investment that was powering the economy to new heights.
It's what came next that darkens the narrative. Amid all the new economy triumphalism, the Clintonites deregulated the telecommunications industry and repealed New Deal-era restrictions on bank consolidation. In 1997, Clinton even signed a bill lowering the capital-gains tax rate, that perennial GOP fetish. Having begun their administration grudgingly appeasing Greenspan, the Clintonites gradually embraced his view that, in many cases, government could do no better than step aside.

Krugman O' Teh Day

I've given up following the economics of it all, so much like a 10-ring circus.
But Krugman apparently doesn't get dizzy.
So Citigroup is profitable because investors think it’s failing, while Morgan Stanley is losing money because investors think it will survive. I am not making this up.

Women And Art

My friend AB sends tidbits like this along and I pass the pleasure when I can.

NB Link fixed, thanks puzzled.

Friday, April 24, 2009

F**** Copyright

So once in a while I Google myself and every time I'm further and further down the list of fellow julimacs as my former public persona disappears down the rabbit hole of internet history.
First up this time was a pretty good column on my old newspaper's Web site.
Circa 1997. I don't know what a 386 is and don't remember owning one. I remember an old, clunky HP laptop and a newer HP. Oh, maybe that's the dead thing in what I laughingly call my office.
(Nope, that's not it. I bought that with my daughter's help. I remember distinctly.)
Since 2007, I've been out here at the kitchen counter where I can monitor the feeder birds and answer the land line.

Fear of physics, technology and other bloodless, sapless thing s

I am a technophobe.
It's partly because of Crazy Alice, the girls' counselor at Omaha North High School, 1960-1962, not to mention many earlier decades.
I had my junior year all planned out so eighth period was open and I could sign up for gym.
That way, in the spring I could run around in blue shorts in the late afternoon sun and tease the boys' baseball team or sneak out early to sit in a car and smoke cigarettes with my boyfriend, who was a senior and had eighth period free because he didn't play sports.
Crazy Alice signed me up for her health class instead.
I learned how to sing the words deoxyribonucleic acid in order to remember it for the final (What is DNA?). And I think someone in the class did a highly interesting project on venereal disease.
I don't remember learning anything about how my body worked, or why, although I'm sure somewhere in there were the four major food groups, tourniquets and germs.
Senior year I figured I'd get the same perks everybody else did who was heading to college or otherwise favored. I could avoid an eighth-period class altogether, meet my boyfriend and still get to my job at the drugstore a half hour early.
Crazy Alice signed me up for physics instead.
It was taught by Mr. Dally, a pear-shaped innocent with whom she was rumored to have been in love in prehistoric times. Of course he was called Mr. Dillydally.
I sat next to my boyfriend's brother by the window, which in the spring overlooked the boys' baseball team. He got me through experiments intended to demonstrate electricity, radio waves, magnets and other stuff.
Outside of letting Shelley Hessler (who later moved to Portugal and speaks the language fluently) copy off my Spanish exams, physics was the only class in which I ever cheated.
I managed to pull a D.
It wasn't that I couldn't learn, I didn't want to learn.
How inanimate things work is of no interest to me, things with no souls, no blood, no sap. Also, theoretical things, invisible things like atoms and quarks and black holes whose existence I don't doubt but whose applications in my life I leave to others.
They're frightening things, when you consider that we have reached the stage of understanding that it's entirely likely there are no laws of nature. You know, the Tao of Physics and all that.
At best, technical knowledge is a tool. I have no quarrel with tools like hammers, saws and egg timers whose use is self-evident in their design.
I have an aversion to tools that require me to concentrate and spend hours learning how they work before I can get something done.
Like computers. They're nice tools. It was no great leap from typewriters for me, and I would never choose to leap back.
But I don't want to know, nor do I see why I should know, what a server is. Or a microchip for that matter. Or how they work, or why.
Some of my interests are literature, gardening, human behavior, truth, justice, beauty, love and Italy.
I can use computers to write about those things, and to learn about them, but I don't need to know DOS to do so.
Which is why the gloriously cheap 386 clone I bought more than a month ago from our presentation desk editor still sits in its box on the floor in my home ""office.""
I will have to spend hours learning how to use it, I just know it.
And thanks to Crazy Alice, I really resent that.
Now, of course, I actually know what a server is. But I wish I didn't.
DOS. Heh.

Hey, I'll Take Some Of That

Lenders offer Chrysler 46% loan reduction.

Susan Boyle, We Hardly Knew Ye

The stereotyped, frowsy "spinster" who caused a world sensation when gems flew out of her singing mouth during a Britain's Got Talent segment has had her hair and eyebrows done, bought a leather jacket and posed in non-spinster attitude. I would, too.
But according to "some," it's all Madonna's fault.
Another Friviality Friday entry.
Before Madonna, you just had to have talent," she said. "Now, it's the whole package."

Commenter Anonymous makes a good point:

Go, Susan. It is amazing the difference clothes can make, actually. She shouldn't have to stay the same, as if she were in costume.

Friviality Friday

Why don't I own Ghostbusters and watch it every month? Why hasn't Bill Murray done anything as good since? Writing, that's why.
Reading the script reminds me of the Marx Brothers. Almost as good as the movie.

Personal Finance In Hard Times

I'm an expert at flushing money down the toilet, so take this for what it's worth.
If you're reviewing your expenditures for possible savings, I can declare myself a personally extremely satisfied customer of Vonage, which will get you unlimited long distance calling — and local, of course — for $25 a month ($10 for the first three now that they're trying harder). It's internet service. When I started working from home and needed to give my sources a local number to call, the IT guys set me up with Vonage. I kept it long past my needs (I hardly ever call l.d. and still have 700 minutes on my phone card) because I naively thought I might start a business.
Second, I know one person who is satisfied with the "good guy" cell phone company Credo.
You'll have to do your own research on this because Contrarienne is just a blog, not a salaried employee of the major media.
Just passing it along in the For What It's Worth Dept.

P.S. No, nobody pays me for this. I am paid to be old only.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Comment O' Teh Day

TMP cites reader MM, who says:
Last week, conservatives were complaining Obama was establishing a socialistic fascist dictatorship.
This week, conservatives are complaining Obama does not want to torture his opponents.

R.I.P. Alyssa Peterson

Army interrogator Alyssa Peterson couldn't stomach torture of prisoners. So she killed herself. Another woman, Katya Williams, equally bothered survived, but is "haunted."
"Peterson objected to the interrogation techniques used on prisoners. She refused to participate after only two nights working in the unit known as the cage. Army spokespersons for her unit have refused to describe the interrogation techniques Alyssa objected to. They say all records of those techniques have now been destroyed."
BTW, the story was unearhed by a public radio reporter filing FOIAs (Freedom of Information Requests.)

Barbie Turns 50

All That Waterboarding

was about their need to prove a connection between Iraq and AQ. From McClatchy, which will probably go under soon. RIP good journalism.
McClatchy reports that, "for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were...demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq...(former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi" and these techniques were seen as the quickest way to make the connection.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cow Fart Controversy

You didn't know there was one, right? Hey, I read 'em so you don't have to. But in case you want to.

This Torture Stuff

seems to building momentum for prosecution with a DOJ report pending in a couple of weeks that Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse says could be "devastating."
So the chatter among lefties is that the attorneys who authored the authorizations will be the ones to pay. Some jump to the conclusion that Bush/Cheney/Addington et al will skate. But Cheney's not acting that way, he's out there being defensive and challenging the administration to release the results of the 183 times one prisoner was waterboarded. Probably because he knows such documents would be saved for a prosecutor's evidence and not released beforehand.

Anyway, I'm kinda hopeful we may actually go after our own bad guys. It's a sunny, warm day after all. Why not take some cheer?

It will be bad, exceedingly bad…worse even than Caligula but they have to have the whole terrible truth about just how bad it can be before they come to their senses. Let all of the poisons that lurk in the mud, hatch out."
i Claudius, Robert Graves
From TPM commenter Johnny2bad

Sullivan uses a photo from Abu Grab to remind us what we're talking about here. (Okay, I haven't seen anybody say the CIA used dogs. Or that they didn't. There were no known images from the CIA's work, they destroyed the video tapes.)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Obama Shakes Hands With Mexican Dog!

And bows down to him, too. Who says he's a Muslim. Clearly, he's an animist.

Little Flap About Israeli Connections

Sometimes the curtain gets blown back a little bit and you get a dim inkling of just how things actually get done. There's a new story about Calif. Rep. Jane Harman's supposed ties to the Israel lobby out in Congressional Quarterly.
(I'm not linking, just sythesizing. If you want the originals, Google is your friend, but I figured it's too trivial in the general scheme of things to bother contrariennes with and, besides, I haven't had my second cuppa yet).
If the term Israel lobby doesn't ring a bell, it basically means AIPAC, the American Israeli blah-blah something, which is purportedly the most powerful lobby in D.C. (Remember Israel gets the largest kick in foreign aid from us, most of it for defense AND AIPAC's job is to keep it coming. You can't get elected in either party without kissing their ass, which Obama and Clinton both did last year.)
Anyway, supposedly Harman was promised some heavy-duty lobbing with Pelosi for her to be made chair of the House Intel or Foreign Relations Committee or something in return for her weighing in with the Department of Justice to try to kill its prosecution of two AIPAC employees for spying. Yes, Israeli agents spying in America. Imagine. I'm shocked, shocked I tell you.
Well, supposedly a phone conversation about this little deal between Harman and somebody maybe an Israeli agent was wiretapped by NASA — big issue here re: tapping congressional phones — but Gonzo intervened and she wasn't investigated for it, supposedly because the admin. needed her on their side during the DOJ scandal flap, or maybe the torture. Hard to keep it all straight. No, wait, it was over the authorization for widespread wiretapping of American citizens and the cooperation of most of the major carriers. Who said the age of irony is dead?
Are you with me so far? Who makes this stuff up, anyway?
Anyway, in the end Harman didn't get the job. Speculation at the time was that she and Pelosi hate each other. Harman's husband benefits from a lot of govt programs, maybe defense related, I think. Another thing I can't quite remember and am not looking up. This is a blog, not the New York Times. If it were the New York Times, I would be ignoring the story entirely and having chummy lunches in D.C. on AIPAC's dime.
Oh, the point, the point.
If the "Israeli agent" Harman talked to (she's on tape saying "this conversation never happened") is not a U.S. citizen, she's in legal trouble. If he is a citizen, she's not.
That's how it works. Oh, and coincidentally, this three-year-old story is being rehashed just days before the two Israeli agents are due to go to trial, so the reason for sources bringing it up again are a bit suspicious.
The guy most associated as the likely agent is a Hollywood type and big Israel supporter, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Israel who created the Mighty Morphin Rangers. Honest. Tom Clancy, eat your heart out.
Harman didn't get the job, by the way. Sylvester Reyes from N.M. did. He's a bit of an embarrassment, as are many of our elected officials.
Correction: Wiretapped by NSA, the National Security Agency, not NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Agency. Heh.

Women I Love To Hate Dept.

Currently underpopulated. I just don't read Maureen Dowd anymore, Phyllis Schlafly is too old and Monica Goodling and that other DOJ attorney from Minnesota are long gone.
So, Peggy, you're at the top of the list today. If you've never seen Noonan milling about with the other talking heads on Sunday mornings, you may not know that the former Reagan speech writer is considered a moderate. Brian Williams actually said she deserves a Pulitzer. For stuff like this?:
"Some things in life need to be mysterious ... Sometimes you need to just keep walking," - Peggy Noonan on how to respond to incontrovertible evidence that the president of the United States committed war crimes.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Another Myth

down the toilet.
Remember how the talking heads were always announcing the good news of more productivity gains in the good old USA?
Well, not so much.
I've got my toe in the water on this whole financial industry debacle, but I can't bring myself to even go ankle deep. That water's cold, baby!

In short, how much of the apparent US productivity miracle, a miracle not shared by Europe, was a statistical illusion created by our bloated finance industry?
Dean Baker has argued for some time that, properly measured, the productivity gap between America and Europe never happened. I’m becoming more sympathetic to his point of view.

Without Death

there would be no Poetry.
Not sure I like the terms of the bargain, but I was not consulted.

User's Guide to Physical Debilitation
 by Paul Guest

        Should the painful condition of irreversible paralysis
last longer than forever or at least until
your death by bowling ball or illegal lawn dart
or the culture of death, which really has it out
for whoever has seen better days
but still enjoys bruising marathons of bird watching,
you, or your beleaguered caregiver
stirring dark witch's brews of resentment
inside what had been her happy life,
should turn to page seven where you can learn,
assuming higher cognitive functions
were not pureed by your selfish misfortune,
how to leave the house for the first time in two years.
An important first step,
with apologies for the thoughtlessly thoughtless metaphor.
When not an outright impossibility
or form of neurological science fiction,
sexual congress will either be with
tourists in the kingdom of your tragedy,
performing an act of sadistic charity;
with the curious, for whom you will be beguilingly blank canvas;
or with someone blindly feeling their way
through an extended power outage
caused by summer storms you once thought romantic.
Page twelve instructs you how best
to be inspiring to Magnus next door
as he throws old Volkswagens into orbit
above Alberta. And to Betty
in her dark charm confiding a misery,
whatever it is, that to her seems equivalent to yours.
The curl of her hair that her finger knows
better and beyond what you will,
even in the hypothesis of heaven
when you sleep. This guide is intended
to prepare you for falling down
and declaring d├ętente with gravity,
else you reach the inevitable end
of scaring small children by your presence alone.
Someone once said of crushing
helplessness: it is a good idea to avoid that.
We agree with that wisdom
but gleaming motorcycles are hard
to turn down or safely stop
at speeds which melt aluminum. Of special note
are sections regarding faith
healing, self-loathing, abstract hobbies
like theoretical spelunking and extreme atrophy,
and what to say to loved ones
who won't stop shrieking
at Christmas dinner. New to this edition
is an index of important terms
such as catheter, pain, blackout,
pathological deltoid obsession, escort service,
magnetic resonance imaging,
loss of friends due to superstitious fear,
and, of course, amputation
above the knee due to pernicious gangrene.
It is our hope that this guide
will be a valuable resource
during this long stretch of boredom and dread
and that it may be of some help,
however small, to cope with your new life
and the gradual, bittersweet loss
of every God damned thing you ever loved.