October 24, 2014
Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?

As always, the fix is in. Yves spells it all out for you in the post from which this comes:

Raw Story interviewed the whistleblower attorney who approached Kim after she made her charges of gross mismanagement and waste of resources. Her letter presumably represents the meatiest of his cases. He describes how the agency has been captured by large corporations:

…the private sector lawyer and ex-IRS attorney explained that since 1998, IRS restructuring has focused on bringing in “outside people.” This led to the employment of an extra layer of executives who were previously “partners from big accounting firms.” Citing active IRS criminal agents, the ex-IRS attorney said: “Almost every large firm or corporation has a person inside the IRS. It’s a revolving door, with the top two or three management layers all from big accounting and law firms, and this is why they won’t work big billion-dollar cases criminally. Private bar attorneys are, in effect, controlling the IRS. It’s a type of corruption – that’s the word used by one IRS agent I’m in touch with whose case was shut down by higher ups without cause.”

The incumbent IRS chief counsel, William Wilkins, was previously a lobbyist at the WilmerHale firm where for 21 years he represented and lobbied on behalf of private sector clients including the Swiss Bankers Association. Swiss banks UBS and Credit Suisse have faced penalties, hearings and convictions for helping wealthy Americans illegally conceal billions of dollars of taxable income.

Attorney James Henry, former chief economist at financial consultancy McKinsey, said that Wilkins’ firm “continued to represent the Swiss Banking Association throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s. Now Wilkins gets appointed chief counsel of the IRS in 2009, and he’s presiding over these whistleblower cases.”

So while we have Treasury attempting to defuse public ire over the latest high-profile form of corporate tax gaming, inversions, by relocating their headquarters overseas to a lower-tax domicile while not changing their US business, we have billions uncollected as a result of the IRS becoming a big-corporate crony.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:05 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
America is Doomed | Class Warriors | Economics and Society | Graft, Corruption and Malfeasance | Weakening America
October 23, 2014
Snus to Me

I really don’t know what to say about this except…snus?

Reynolds American, the maker of Camel cigarettes, is barring smoking in its offices and buildings. Beginning next year, the use of cigarettes, cigars or pipes will no longer be permitted in the company’s offices, conference rooms and elevators. Smoking is already prohibited on factory floors and in cafeterias. A spokesman, David Howard, said that Reynolds would still allow the use of smokeless tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, moist snuff and pouches of tobacco called snus. “We’re just better aligning our tobacco use policies with the realities of what you’re seeing in society today,” Mr. Howard said. Reynolds plans to build indoor smoking areas for those who still want to light up indoors. The policy will go into effect once those are built. Through its subsidiaries, Reynolds also makes Pall Mall cigarettes, Grizzly smokeless tobacco and Vuse-branded electronic cigarettes.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:23 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Good Eats | Health and Aging | Reveling in the Weird
Getting Away With Murder

The grownups have decided not to tell the children. We’re too little to understand. From McClatchyDC:

WASHINGTON — A soon-to-be released Senate report on the CIA doesn’t assess the responsibility of former President George W. Bush or his top aides for any of the abuses of the agency’s detention and interrogation program, avoiding a full public accounting of one of the darkest chapters of the war on terror.

“This report is not about the White House. It’s not about the president. It’s not about criminal liability. It’s about the CIA’s actions or inactions,” said a person familiar with the document, who asked not to be further identified because the executive summary – the only part that will be made public – still is in the final stages of declassification…

“There are more than 35,000 footnotes in the report,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., declared after the panel approved the final draft of the report in December 2012. “I believe it to be one of the most significant oversight efforts in the history of the United States Senate, and by far the most important oversight activity ever conducted by this committee…”

Even so, the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report doesn’t examine the responsibility of Bush and his top advisers for abuses committed while the program was in operation from 2002 to 2006, according to several people familiar with the 500-page document.

Their comments are bolstered by the report’s 20 main conclusions, which do not point to any wrongdoing outside of the CIA…

Along with being handicapped by the political considerations, the panel confronted two prior Justice Department investigations that declined to assign criminal liability to any officials involved in the program. One probe was conducted under the Bush administration and the second under President Barack Obama.

Moreover, Obama opposed any further inquiry. Although he signed an executive order banning waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques soon after taking office, he also ruled out future prosecutions of those who participated in the program.

Can we at least read the footnotes, mommy? Please? Pretty please? Daddy?


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:00 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
October 14, 2014
Please, Somebody, Keep Me Safe!

Whether you find it amusing that Republicans are suggesting ISIL terrorists are crossing the southern US border, or alarming that they don’t even acknowledge the facts when the Homeland Security folks completely trash their theory, it helps to have some idea of where they’re coming from. Here’s Ed Kilgore’s theory.

Now it may just be, as Kevin Drum has suggested, that this is just word-salad-mixing whereby candidates toss out combinations of words that excite “the base” or upset low-information voters. But there’s another and more obvious way to look at it: Republicans are appealing to an atavistic tendency to think of “the border” as a barrier against all the terrible things in the world Out There, in the benighted lands beyond America. “Sealing” the border — a laughable concept when you think about it — will somehow restore Fortress America, and all the terrorists and diseases and free-loaders and non-English-speakers and socialists and atheists will be kept out the way God intended it. And the crazier and more dangerous the “outside world” becomes, the more making it all go away seems appealing.

I would add to this the tendency of some, especially the more fundamentalist, Christians to identify with stories of persecution from New Testament times, and to imagine themselves as persecuted in the current day. Nowadays, of course, that persecution consists in being prevented from enforcing their particular sense of morality on the rest of us. But this kind of feeling comes more from internal circumstances than external ones. For some people it’s preferable to feel persecuted because that removes them from power and thus makes them not responsible for all the terrible things that happen around them. The problem is, it also makes them not responsible for the good things, leaving them helpless. And if you feel helpless you’re ripe for exploitation.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 10:17 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Political Commentary
October 08, 2014
Who Needs Code Words?

Here’s William Greider in The Nation:

The Republican Party has not given up on racism. It has developed new ways to play the “race card” without ever mentioning race. With Obama in the White House, the GOP does not need to run TV ads featuring “black hands” taking jobs from “white hands” or the one that shows Willie Horton, the black rapist. Obama’s own face on television is sufficient. It reminds hard-core supporters why they hate the man.
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:24 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Political Commentary | Race | Republicans
October 06, 2014
Who Knew?

Just in case they missed this one, I pass it on as a service to Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, and the rest of the gang. From the New York Times:

A second misconception is that pedophilia is a choice. Recent research, while often limited to sex offenders — because of the stigma of pedophilia — suggests that the disorder may have neurological origins. Pedophilia could result from a failure in the brain to identify which environmental stimuli should provoke a sexual response. M.R.I.s of sex offenders with pedophilia show fewer of the neural pathways known as white matter in their brains. Men with pedophilia are three times more likely to be left-handed or ambidextrous, a finding that strongly suggests a neurological cause. Some findings also suggest that disturbances in neurodevelopment in utero or early childhood increase the risk of pedophilia. Studies have also shown that men with pedophilia have, on average, lower scores on tests of visual-spatial ability and verbal memory.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 3:33 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Reveling in the Weird
October 04, 2014
Ebola! ISIS! Sharks!

Okay, so you’ve probably read enough ridicule of the amped-up fear, much of it on the rightward end of the political spectrum, about Ebola substituting for Lindsay Graham’s terrorists and coming here to kill us all. But Andrew O’Hehir’s take at Salon is still by turns funny, depressing, and clarifying. After comparing the likelihood of an American here at home dying from Ebola to that of being attacked by a great white shark, he claims that the underlying dynamic is pre-conscious, though he doesn’t use that precise wording. Humans are wired, he thinks, to fear large predators and plague, and it’s easy to see the survival value of those fears.

I’d suggest that Ebola-panic (like shark-panic) is shaped and informed by fictional thrillers — in this case, yarns about civilization-destroying plagues and the zombie apocalypse and so forth. It also taps into our cultural narcissism and xenophobia, into the paranoid imperial perception that American civilization is the center of the world and also that it’s precariously balanced, and constantly under attack from dangerous outsiders. All it takes is a handful of African visitors with cardboard suitcases and undiagnosed infections, and next thing you know the cable goes out at Mom’s house and we have to eat the neighbors.

You might think it can’t get sillier, but you’d be wrong.

I was going to wonder, half-facetiously, when somebody on the right-wing fringe would suggest that Ebola was actually a terrorist weapon, invented by jihadis to bring America to its knees. But you can never outrun the paranoid imagination: A site called National Report revealed a few days ago that ISIS suicide bombers have infected themselves with Ebola and are planning to “synchronize their self-detonations in the populated areas of American cities,” thereby splattering passers-by with infectious bodily goo. (In other news: You will soon need a passport to use Twitter, and Officer Darren Wilson, the Ferguson shooter, is distantly related to Vlad the Impaler.)

Of course there’s another part of it too, the guilt and fear of what used to be called in polite company the Dark Continent. For many white Americans people whose skin color is darker tend to bring up subconscious ideas about racial interactions in the US that can put us on edge, and I mean people on both sides of those interactions. What about racism in America, which white folks deny and black folks experience every day? Will the other person see me through the lens of my skin color? Can I see them fully or am I stuck at their skin? Though we don’t consciously have these thoughts most of the time, they lurk just under the surface of consciousness and subtly influence how we interpret events. Thus many white, especially older, Americans fear and distrust African Americans on sight, and of course anyone who regularly encountered such attitudes would quickly learn to fear and distrust in response, especially since those white Americans are the ones with privilege and the power that goes with it.

Those who argue that we should shut down immigration and visa travel from all African nations to halt the spread of disease are the same people who’d like to do that anyway, for any number of unrelated reasons or just on general xenophobic principle. A disease that has killed thousands of ordinary people in Africa — but is highly unlikely to do so in America, given reasonable precautions — becomes just another cynical, poisoned term in the cynical, poisoned vocabulary of politics. In much the same way, the crimes of ISIS, which we didn’t notice until they started beheading Westerners, become an excuse for undead neocons to restart a war they never wanted to end in the first place. As it happens, there were no fatal shark attacks on America’s beaches this summer, so they couldn’t be blamed on terrorism or immigration or Obama or all three at once. But just you wait: The Ebola-stuffed ISIS sharknado is almost here.


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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 3:28 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (5)
News/Current Events
October 03, 2014
Coalition of the Semi-willing

Here’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott:

Abbott refused to put a time frame on Australia’s involvement in Iraq.

“I want to stress that only Iraq can defeat ISIL, but Iraq shouldn’t be alone and as far as Australia and our allies are concerned, Iraq won’t be alone,” he said. “I have to warn that this deployment to Iraq could be quite lengthy, certainly months rather than weeks.”

“I want to reassure the Australian people that it will be as long as it needs to be, but as short as it possibly can be,” the prime minister said.

Know what’s really short, Tony, and perfectly possible? Zero.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 1:33 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Our Longest National Nightmare Ever | The Fall of the Roman American Empire | War on "Terror" | Warmongers | Weakening America
October 02, 2014
The Short Form Generation

Want to be really frightened for the future? Check this out. Warning, though: It’s really really long. Seven paragraphs. Not words. Paragraphs.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:51 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (6)
America is Doomed | Education
October 01, 2014
Keep Your Government Hands Off My Medicare

Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce tries to make sense of the curious fact that so many Americans so reliably vote not only against their own interests but counter to their own actual beliefs. Turns out it’s not so much about ideology. It’s mostly about filling the political vacuums in millions of heads, and that ain’t cheap. Read it all here.

Citizens United — and its ungodly spawn, McCutcheon — have sent our politics into refraction. Nothing is what it appears to be any more. Chozick is right to point out that the result of the decision has been to create candidates drifting ever closer to the ideal of Nashville’s Hal Phillip Walker, who campaigns through that film only as a voice from a sound truck. Thanks to John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy, we now have candidates who campaign primarily as characters in television commercials, like Flo from Progressive Insurance, or the two people in the bathtubs for Cialis.

Moreover, the flood of money now flows so swiftly and powerfully, and so far underground, that the best you can do is guess what effect it is having on the process. Then, after it’s over, ideology gets credit for what money has purchased. The new world of unregulated political money has given an even deeper sense of unreality to the way we govern ourselves. Nothing is as it seems to be. Nothing can be reckoned fully to be genuine. Not the polls. Not the campaigns. Not the candidates. Not even the results, truth be told. Unregulated political money has worked as an accelerant to all the worst aspects of modern political campaigns. More than ever before, our elections have become design contests.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 6:46 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Elections | Political Commentary | US Supreme Court
September 29, 2014
Canned Hunts? Tattooed Lips?

Each day brings new wonders in my search for the perfect asshole. I had heard neither of canned hunts nor of a specimen named Ted Nugent. Now that I have, my lack of faith in the human race is powerfully reinforced:

In most canned hunts tame or semi-tame game species, reared in captivity, are placed in enclosures of varying sizes, and the gate is opened for the client, who has been issued a guarantee of success. Canned hunts are great for folks on tight schedules or who lack energy or outdoor skills. Microchip transponder implants for game not immediately visible are available for the proprietor whose clients are on really tight schedules. And because trophies are plied with drugs, minerals, vitamins, specially processed feeds, and sometimes growth hormones, they are way bigger than anything available in the wild. Often the animals have names, and you pay in advance for the one you’d like to kill, selecting your trophy from a photo or directly from its cage. For example, Rachel, Bathsheba, Paul, John, and Matthew were pet African lions that would stroll over and lick their keepers’ hands before they were shot in Texas…

“If we don’t protect our image, we may not have a heritage,” says the Colorado Wildlife Federation’s treasurer and board member, Kent Ingram, a leader in the recent well-fought but failed battle to ban canned hunts in the state. He reports that he was informed by a Denver taxidermist that half the elk coming in to be mounted had tattooed lips, which identify captives. Ingram also said he had reliable information that one canned-hunt customer had flown into Colorado and paid $40,000 to kill a Minnesota-raised bull that had been trucked in for the one-day shoot.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 5:36 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
American Heroes | Animal blogging | Idiots | Reveling in the Weird
September 28, 2014
If Only Congress…

…were this grown-up:

Yet something curious has happened in the 18 months since the property directly opposite the Westboro church was purchased by a peace-loving charity and, in one of the more entrepreneurial acts against a hate group, transformed into a multi-coloured haven for peace, equality and gay pride. Despite appearances, the two opposing neighbours have developed a surprisingly cordial, even amiable detente.

“I go out jogging in the morning, and they’re taking out the trash, and we have small talk,” said Hammet. “Like, ‘Hey, it’s a beautiful day outside’ or ‘This damn snow: I wish I could get warm’. Just basic things that you say to neighbours.”

Occupants of the Westboro church and Equality House have even exchanged phone numbers. Recently, when someone took all of the Equality House gay pride flags and, without their knowledge, deposited them in Westboro’s yard, Hammet’s phone beeped with a text message. “It said something like: ‘A criminal has taken your flags and put them in our yard. We have put them in your mailbox. We would like to return them to you.’”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:56 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Hope for the Future | Religion and Society
September 25, 2014
Here We Go Again Again Again Again…

Couldn’t have said it better myself, so I won’t. Here’s Frank Rich on Obama’s idiotic descent into the Big Muddy:

In truth, we already have boots on the ground in the form of “special forces” and “advisers.” The moment they start returning to America in body bags, or are seen being slaughtered in ISIS videos, is the moment when the recent polling uptick in support for this war will evaporate. That support is an inch deep, and Congress knows it, which is why members of both parties fled Washington for the campaign trail last week rather than debate Obama’s war plan. As Paul Kane of The Washington Post pointed out, the Senate could not even fill up the scant allotted time (five hours) for debating the war, and “so at one point a senator devoted time to praising the Baltimore Orioles for their successful baseball season.” Next to this abdication of duty, Congress’s disastrous rush to authorize war in Iraq in 2002 looks like a wise and deliberate execution of checks-and-balances.

Almost everything that is happening now suggests this will end badly. We’ve failed to curb ISIS in Iraq because, for all the happy talk about its inclusive new government, Sunni Iraqis have yet to rally behind their new Shiite prime minister Haider al-Abadi any more enthusiastically than they did behind the despised Nouri al-Maliki. As for our expansion into Syria, even if we can find and train 5,000 Syrian “moderates” to fight the Islamic State, it will take a year to do so, according to our own government’s no doubt optimistic estimate. And they’ll still be outnumbered by ISIS forces by at least four-to-one. Nor do we know all the unintended consequences that will multiply throughout the region — as they have in every other American intervention in the Muslim world — with each passing month.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:06 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (4)
America is Doomed | Historical Perspectives | Our Longest National Nightmare Ever | War on "Terror" | Warmongers | Weakening America
September 24, 2014
Notes from the Gilded Age, Part I

From Social Problems by Henry George, published in 1883:

Great wealth always supports the party in power, no matter how corrupt it may be. It never exerts itself for reform, for it instinctively fears change. It never struggles against misgovernment. When frightened by the holders of political power it does not agitate nor appeal to the people; it buys them off. It is in this way, no less than by direct interference, that aggregated wealth corrupts government, and helps to make politics a trade. Our organized lobbies, both legislative and Congressional, rely as much upon the fears as upon the hopes of moneyed interests. When “business” is dull, their resource is to get up a bill which some moneyed interest will pay them to beat. So, too, these large moneyed interests will subscribe to political funds, on the principle of keeping on the right side of those in power, just as the railroads deadhead President Arthur when he goes to Florida to fish.

The more corrupt a government, the easier wealth can use it. Where legislation is to be bought, the rich make the laws; where justice is to be purchased, the rich have the ear of the courts… A community composed of very rich and very poor falls an easy prey to whoever can seize power. The very poor have not spirit and intelligence enough to resist; the very rich have too much at stake.

The rise in the United States of monstrous fortunes, the aggregation of enormous wealth in the hands of corporations, necessarily implies the loss by the people of governmental control. Democratic forms may be maintained, but there can be as much tyranny land misgovernment under democratic forms as any other — in fact they lend themselves most readily to tyranny and misgovernment. Forms count for little…

This at least is certain: Democratic government in more than name can exist only where wealth is distributed with something like equality — where the great mass of citizens are personally free and independent, neither fettered by their poverty nor made subject by their wealth.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 6:48 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Class Warriors | Congress | Economics and Society | Historical Perspectives | Past Progressive
September 23, 2014
If It’s Good Enough for Massa…

Here’s Richard Rhodes, in Why They Kill:

“The South, statistically the most violent region of the country, combines poverty, enthusiasm for military service, conservative Christian values and social segregation as well. Indeed, so-called black violence may well be a subset of Southern violence, since African American culture derives directly from the southern culture in which it was originally embedded before the great migration of African Americans to northern cities.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 6:03 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Historical Perspectives | Psychology and Society | Race | Weakening America
September 20, 2014
Your Daily Anus

Today’s award is shared equally between Judge Thomas Keith in Peoria, Illinois, and that city’s mayor, Jim Ardis. In 140 words:

A Swat team burst into Elliott’s house in Peoria looking for the source of a parody Twitter feed that had upset the town’s mayor by poking fun at him. “My identity as mayor was stolen,” he said after he dispatched the police… A Peoria judge ruled that the police were entitled to raid the house under the town’s “false personation” law which makes it illegal to pass yourself off as a public official. Judge Thomas Keith found that police had probable cause to believe they would find materials relevant to the Twitter feed such as computers or flash drives used to create it. It is not known whether he now regrets his decision to send in the Swat team. One measure of its success is that there is no longer one parody feed ridiculing Ardis on Twitter — there are 15.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:52 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Civil Liberties | Idiots | Legal Absurdities | Police State | Reveling in the Weird
September 18, 2014
Think of Your Customer as Peter Pan

From the New York Times:

Things like grab bars and anti-slip mats installed for older homeowners won’t appeal to most people. “Today’s buyers aren’t attracted to things like that,” said Corinne Pulitzer, an associate broker at Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Manhattan, explaining that someone else’s fixtures make it more difficult for buyers to imagine themselves living there.

“I would highly recommend removing them,” she said, “because they’re easily removed, and it just eliminates a distraction and a conversation you don’t want to have.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:35 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (4)
Better Too Late Than Never?

From the New York Times:

The Justice Department has countered that crisis-era wrongdoing often amounted to reckless or risky behavior, but not criminal misconduct. Senior executives were far removed from the front lines of fraud, the department has argued.

In recent months, however, the Justice Department has pursued actions against bank employees suspected of manipulating foreign currencies. Those cases are expected to conclude in the coming months.

“Corporations do not act criminally, but for the actions of individuals,” Mr. Miller said in the speech, adding, “The criminal division intends to prosecute those individuals, whether they’re sitting on a sales desk or in a corporate suite.”


Somewhere Jamie Dimon is laughing. As are Angelo Mozilo, Lloyd Blankfein, Vikram Pandit, John Thain, Don Blankenship, and… but what the hell, who’s counting?


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 1:53 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
American Heroes | Economics and Society | Graft, Corruption and Malfeasance | Legal Absurdities | Rich White Trash | Weakening America
September 16, 2014
The King is Dead

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., who was the son of two prominent members of Congress and yet, as a pioneer of the capital’s lobbying and fund-raising industry, was the one who came to be called “King of the Hill,” died on Monday at his home in Chevy Chase, Md…

Starting a small company with a partner, Jim Patton, Mr. Boggs used his familiarity with both the levers of power and the intricacies of policy to build the firm Patton Boggs into a giant that became synonymous with Washington lobbying and represented some of the nation’s largest corporations and trade associations.

Mr. Boggs had a notable success as a behind-the-scenes architect of the federal government’s 1979 bailout of Chrysler, his client. He was well known for battling on behalf of trial lawyers to block changes to tort law that threatened to make it harder for people to sue for damages, and for lobbying for free trade, a priority of his father’s, in Congress.

De mortuis nil nisi bonum and all that, but what comes to my mind is that old graffiti, “A man’s ambition must be small, to write his name on a toilet wall.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 5:25 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
American Heroes | Snark
Your Daily Dipshit

From the New York Times:

On Fox News on Monday, a county sheriff in Texas said he had received reports that Qurans and Muslim clothing had been found on smuggling routes. He said that was evidence that Muslims had been smuggled into the United States.

“If they show their ugly head in our area, we’ll send them to hell,” said the sheriff, Gary Painter, of Midland County. “I would like for them to hit them so hard and so often that every time they hear a propeller on a plane or a jet aircraft engine that they urinate down both legs. When you do that, then you’ve accomplished a lot.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 5:05 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
Fascism in America | Idiots | Police State
September 13, 2014
The Magnificent Lunacy of Paul Ryan

THE SET-UP:

To understand The Paul Ryan and his hapless plans to save America (the latest one, under discussion here, is a doozie), we need to start with The Ronald — just as to get the idea of silly putty you ought to have some idea of what putty is.

Ever since President Reagan uttered his most notorious Zen koan — “Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem” — conservatives of the heartless type (the neoconservatives) have been running around trying to convince the unwashed, the gullible, and the angry old white men and women of a myth: that if government is shrunk, then the nation, its young and old, its rich and poor, will soar to ever-higher prosperity. National and international greatness will soar in step.

Soar, that is, if and only if: costly government-run social “entitlement” programs (what a wretched label!) are cut back or eliminated; certain taxes shrunk or eliminated; union extortion of free-enterprise, job-creating heroes is blocked; and certain (note that word again) government regulatory powers are neutered or eliminated. Then and only then will riches and happiness pour down along the Laffer Curve and spray upon the rabble.

Of course, Reagan’s principle, so sweeping and unmodified, is for that very reason empty of rational support, either empirical or deductive — another way of saying that it is rubbish. But constitutionally harmful rubbish. Cloaked in the drama of the Immense and Immediate Danger of the “runaway” national deficit, this approach of favoring wealth and the wealthy served Ronald and Nancy well politically during their ascension and reign in the 1980s.

Unfortunately, it undermines attention to what our Constitution refers to centrally as “the common welfare,” which one would have thought comprises the welfare of all our people — welfare of many kinds and in many shapes. Hey, Willard and Grover and “Dick,” we live here too! Are we really supposed to mope around in the national sump waiting for scraps of largesse to trickle down upon us?

Governments everywhere are established in order to … govern. The Reagan principle, as if the excited impulse of a child, blatantly ignores the raft of things our national government, in particular, does that everyone seems to like. This is a looong list, such as getting a man on the moon, researching medical applications (which are then usually handed over to Big Pharma), providing disaster relief, building the Interstate Highway System, making sure airplanes don’t crash into each other, bringing aid to people suffering from massive disasters, making sure the economically marginal elderly have food and get medical care, and — oops, better be careful here — invading countries that are not imminent threats to us, with 100% of routine congressional Republican support…

…Read on

Posted by A. David Tucker at 4:56 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Class Warriors | Congress | Political Commentary | Republicans
Peenalty Kicks

Son Ted sends this:

We are right in the middle of a superfun family long weekend in Toronto, had lunch yesterday at what turned out to be a terrific pub called The Queen and Beaver. They have a room for watching sports like soccer, and this is what Wyatt and I found in the rest room.

We were ROTFLMAO.

The ball hangs on a thread.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:53 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Sports
September 11, 2014
Just So…

From Andrew Sullivan at The Dish:

What I under-estimated was the media’s ability to generate mass panic and hysteria and the Beltway elite’s instant recourse to the language of war. I believed that Obama was stronger than this, that he could actually resist this kind of emotional spasm and speak to us like grown-ups about what we can and cannot do about a long, religious war in the Middle East, that doesn’t threaten us directly. But he spoke to us like children last night, assuming the mantle of the protective daddy we had sought in Bush and Cheney, evoking the rhetoric he was elected to dispel.

What the president doesn’t seem to understand is that this dramatic U-turn isn’t just foolish on its own national security terms; it is devastating to him politically. He is now playing on Cheney’s turf, not his own. His core supporters, like yours truly, regarded our evolution from that Cheney mindset one of Obama’s key achievements — and he tossed it away last night almost casually. He committed himself and us to a victory we cannot achieve in two countries we cannot control with the aid of allies we cannot trust. And, worse, he has done so by evading the key Constitutional requirement that a declaration of war be made by the Congress. He is actually relying on the post-9/11 authorization of military force against al Qaeda in Afghanistan to wage war in Syria (in violation of international law) and in Iraq.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:27 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (5)
News/Current Events | Our Longest National Nightmare Ever | Weakening America | World Affairs
Hope Springs?

Oddness is breaking out here and there in American politics. Look at this by Nat Stoller on Naked Capitalism. Tiny cracks in the bipartisan military-industrial-congressional complex appear. Could there be hope?

Selections:

To put it another way, Cuomo paid roughly $48 for every vote he got, where Zephyr paid roughly $2.70 (UPDATE: Philip Bump has a more accurate count, and calculated that it’s $60.62 for Cuomo to $1.57 for Zephyr, though all the data isn’t in yet). That’s a very big differential, in terms of the power of the messaging. If Zephyr had had a bit more money, she could have easily won…

Zephyr’s base bloc isn’t enough to win a primary, but it is part of a potential coalition that could do so. It’s the Occupy voter bloc, perhaps what Howard Dean had from 2002–2004 but infused with an economic justice frame. It is the only organized voting group that is able to sit outside the political establishment…

Zephyr Teachout consistently drew her biggest applause line with “It’s time for some good old fashioned trust-busting.” She made a point of saying that big cable is too big, and that Amazon is a threat to open markets. Zephyr often said she is an old school Democrat. What she meant is not just that she backs more funding for schools, but that she believes in a redesigned relationship between powerful private actors and the state similar to the one implemented by FDR. This is first and foremost about a strong antitrust agenda…

Micah wrote: What I find most intriguing about this is the way some tech VCs and entrepreneurs really seem to understand their success as tied to (or born up from) the open Internet and how we may link that to open politics or open democracy (defined as a system where the little guy can enter and compete on an open playing field, rather than one dominated by political and economic monopolists and duopolists). In other words, Comcast and Verizon are to the 21st century economy what the Democrats and the Republicans are to the political system.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:56 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Class Warriors | Elections | Glimmers of Sanity | Hope for the Future | Political Commentary
September 10, 2014
Decadence


ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: from French décadence, from medieval Latin decadentia; related to decay.

From the New York Times:

The million-dollar parking spots will be offered on a first-come-first-served basis to buyers at the 10-unit luxury apartment building being developed by Atlas Capital Group at Broome and Crosby Streets, itself the former site of a parking lot. At $250,000 a tire, the parking spaces in the underground garage cost more than four times the national median sales price for a home, which is $217,800, according to Zillow.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:49 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
September 08, 2014
Aversion Therapy

Friendly old Microsoft, as I learned over the weekend, has made it not quite impossible but inexcusably difficult to open a 1995 Word document. While I was messing around with this I came across a short story which I will now rescue from oblivion because why not. I have no recollection at all of having written the piece or why, or what if anything became of it. Tom Bethany is the protagonist of the six mysteries I wrote back in the Not So Gay Nineties; Hope Edwards is his married lover. Anyway, here goes:


AVERSION THERAPY

They were rowing a double scull on the Potomac just after dawn, the water flat and smooth as paint in a can. Both women moving up the slide to the catch, then drive, finish, release, and then all over again, two bodies with one brain. So Hope Edwards in the stern knew something was wrong even before Julie Holcomb in the bow began to cry.

The water strider tracks they had been making on the river, two perfect lines of neat puddles disappearing behind them, weren’t so perfect anymore. The blades of Julie’s oars weren’t slipping up out of the water quite so quietly on the release. At the catch, Hope could hear the tiny back splashes Julie was making, and feel the barely perceptible they made in the boat’s forward passage. There was a change in the deep rhythm of Julie’s breathing, just a hitch at first and then a small sound forced out of her as she drove into the stroke. A sob? A sob.

Hope Edwards eased off, and so Julie eased off behind her, too, and the boat whispered along through the water on its own momentum. “Julie?” Hope said. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” Julie said.

The racing shell ran along until its momentum gave out, and then drifted.

“Go ahead,” Hope said. “Tell me.”

When Julie was finished, Hope said, “A friend of mine named Tom Bethany happens to be coming down from Cambridge tomorrow. This is just the kind of problem he loves.”

“One of your friends from law school?”

“Actually no. Tom’s sort of the opposite of a lawyer.”

***

…Read on

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 5:26 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
American Heroes | Arts and Literature | Crime Fiction
September 05, 2014
A Question of Ethics

A golden oldie from Matt Stoller:

These systems interrelate, and inefficiency in one impacts the other. This became very obvious to me when I went to Kenya last summer, and saw how a semi-competent telecom and banking system could work. Kenya has the world’s most innovative mobile payments system, called M-Pesa. M-Pesa is a cell phone based cash remittance system based on text messages. Unlike Chase’s Quickpay system, M-Pesa just works, and works well.

You load your SIM card with money at any number of street stalls, telecom stores, beauty shops, or anywhere else someone has decided to set up a Safaricom outlet. Transfers happen via text message, and they cost 0.5 – 4% of the cost of the transaction, which is cost effective for a country where so few people have access to banks. Withdrawals can happen at any Safaricom outlet. If your phone is stolen, that’s ok, the cash is loaded onto your SIM card and you have a unique password. And everyone uses it. It’s like Paypal, only it’s not terrible.

This isn’t just a problem of monopolistic behavior or excessive market power. Safaricom is a very powerful company in Kenya, and there is basically no competition to what they do. Yet they have produced a terrific system that companies all over the world are trying to replicate. Cell service on volcanos where no one lives except zebras and lions is more reliable than cell service on Fifth Avenue in New York.

What seems to have happened is that American corporate executives are now more focused on financial engineering, which is essentially the extraction of capital from their enterprises and from the public, than they are at selling improved goods and services. For example, GE just got a tax break extended which added $3 billion a year in annual profit in the latest fiscal cliff deal. That’s a lot of money, and not one good or service was improved to drop that cash to the bottom line.

As another example, the cable industry is projecting an average monthly bill of $200 by 2020, versus $86 today. At 73 million subscribers, that’s an additional $100 billion a year of revenue. Comcast alone has 22 million customers – that’s $30 billion a year for this one company alone. And let’s be clear, this is not going to better products, Americans tend to get worse internet and cable service than counterparts around the world. Investing in manipulative pricing schemes, lobbying for tax breaks and not investing in good infrastructure is a rational choice for American corporate executives, since their ethic is to extract as much capital as possible from the American economy. And yet, this is why America can’t have nice things.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 6:28 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
America is Doomed | Economics and Society | Rich White Trash | Weakening America
September 02, 2014
Today’s Stupid…

…brought to you by Alternet:

In Israel, Jewish women fought for years for the right to pray at the Western Wall, braving routine threats, abuse and harassment by ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jews who believe the holy site should only be open to men. Finally, the reformers won a ruling in Israel’s courts, opening up a designated prayer section at the wall for women. The ultra-Orthodox responded by ordering their own wives and daughters to show up en masse and pack the women’s section, so that the women who actually want to pray there and who fought for the right to do so couldn’t get in.
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:42 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (4)
Idiots | Politics and Religion | Religion and Society
August 29, 2014
Monkey See, Monkey Do

From The Washington Post:

At least four hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State, including an American journalist who was recently executed by the group, were waterboarded in the early part of their captivity, according to people familiar with the treatment of the kidnapped Westerners.

James Foley was among the four who were waterboarded several times by Islamic State militants who appeared to model the technique on the CIA’s use of waterboarding to interrogate suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks…

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 1:17 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
Idiots | War on "Terror" | Weakening America
The Changing Face of The Establishment

Owen Jones is talking about the establishment, or perhaps rather The Establishment, in Britain, but his description hits home here in the US as well.

The establishment is a shape-shifter, evolving and adapting as needs must. But one thing that distinguishes today’s establishment from earlier incarnations is its sense of triumphalism. The powerful once faced significant threats that kept them in check. But the opponents of our current establishment have, apparently, ceased to exist in any meaningful, organised way. Politicians largely conform to a similar script; once-mighty trade unions are now treated as if they have no legitimate place in political or even public life; and economists and academics who reject establishment ideology have been largely driven out of the intellectual mainstream. The end of the cold war was spun by politicians, intellectuals and the media to signal the death of any alternative to the status quo: “the end of history”, as the US political scientist Francis Fukuyama put it. All this has left the establishment pushing at an open door. Whereas the position of the powerful was once undermined by the advent of democracy, an opposite process is now underway. The establishment is amassing wealth and aggressively annexing power in a way that has no precedent in modern times. After all, there is nothing to stop it.


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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:30 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Political Commentary