Friday, October 17, 2008


Why I'm Voting for Obama

Smirking Chimp

It was an easy decision. I live in Pennsylvania, which is now, according to all the polls, reliably in the Obama column, with the Democratic candidate holding an insurmountable lead in the polls of 14 percent over Republican John McCain--enough to overcome even the most devious Republican vote suppression techniques and voting machine chicanery.

I was going to vote for Nader because I find Obama to be a seriously flawed candidate. He ran early on an anti-Iraq War platform, saying not that invading Iraq was wrong legally and morally, but that it was "the wrong war." Since then, he has backed away even from saying he wanted the war ended, opting for a 16-month withdrawal timetable that would have the killing and dying in that sad land going on longer than most wars this nation has fought. He has also called for an escalation of the war in Afghanistan, despite clear evidence that more troops just will make the situation there worse, and has called for an expansion of the US military budget, to increase the size of the Army and Marines, which will only encourage more warmongering, more killing and more waste of precious resources.

Obama also sold us all out by going along with a bill sought by President Bush granting immunity to telecom companies that aided and abetted the illegal and unconstitutional spying on Americans by the National Security Agency--spying that we now know is massive almost beyond our imagination, even including the monitoring of private family conversations of American service personnel in Iraq, of journalists, and almost certainly of Bush administration political "enemies." By backing that obscene bill, Obama has made it almost impossible for victims of this police-state surveillance campaign to sue and find out what the Bush/Cheney administration has been up to all these years.

In so many ways, Obama has tacked to the middle or even the right, while spouting soaring but empty rhetoric about "change."

Meanwhile, everything Ralph Nader says makes perfect sense. He has consistently called the Iraq and Afghanistan wars the crimes that they are. He has consistently called for a nationalized health care system, which every other modern nation has long since proven to be a more cost-effective and health-effective way to run a medical system than the failed free-market approach advocated by Obama and the rest of the Establishment political system. He has correctly denounced the economic bailout as welfare for the rich and for the corporate criminals who have been sucking the life out of the US economy for years.

And yet, I think I have to vote of Obama this year.


How low can Wall Street go?


In this Monday, Oct. 13, 2008 photo released by Denny's Beer Barrel Pub, Brad Sciullo of Uniontown, Pa., is seen before attempting to eat a 15-pound cheese burger with five-pounds of toppings including bun, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, onions, mild banana peppers and a cup each of ketchup, mustard, relish, and mayonnaise at Denny's Beer Barrel Pub in Clearfield, Pa., Monday, Oct. 13, 2008. Sciullo finished the concoction in 4 hours and 39 minutes.

Tips for New Paupers

Little did I know that when I lost everything last year, I was doing research. At the time I thought it was just stupidity or bad luck or both. But now that the economy's crashing, it turns out I've been out there gathering valuable tips for millions of new paupers.

And let me clarify, I'm talking real poverty.

My wife and I fell through many layers of poverty in a few months. First we revisited the genteel poverty known to grad students, the sort of poverty where you have scary dreams about the rent and eat a simple, wholesome diet towards the end of the month. But we fell right through that into the sort of Dickensian privation spoiled first-worlders like me never expected to experience.  That's the kind of poverty a lot of people are going to be experiencing soon—because I'm here to tell you, it can happen here and it can happen to you. And it's remarkably unpleasant. You may be saying "Duh!" here but you're probably not imagining the proper sort of unpleasantness. So I'll try to lay out what to watch for, how to hunker down when it's not just a matter of cutting back or selling your second car but having no car at all, having no money for heat or food.

All the things we learned are going to seem pretty obvious, but remember that it's very hard to think clearly when your life has collapsed. These are what they call the old verities, the truths of life before the middle class was (briefly) in session:

Warmth. Above all you need to have a dry warm place to sleep. We had only an unheated boat, and that was not enough. We woke up to the thump of sea ice banging against the hull and realized that the old world was still very much in session. When we finally fled to stay with family, we stayed in our blankets up against their gas fireplace for weeks. You won't even want food much after a while. You'll want heat itself, not the chemical middle man. You are going to realize that cold is the most frightening thing in the world. In older English dialects, "to starve" meant "to freeze." You will see why.

Car. Got one? Maybe you should sell it. Cars drain the last dollars out of you. And there's something worse: cops can smell desperation, and they hate the poor. I didn't use to hate cops much, except drug cops, but God, I hate them now. The real purpose of cops is to keep poor people off the roads. That's their only real goal. On my way to an interview for a job that could have gotten us out of the gutter, a cop stopped me because my insurance was two weeks overdue—for the simple reason we didn't have money to pay it. She gave me a $600 ticket for that, plus $120 for not having an updated address on my driver's license. Then she called for a tow truck and told me, "So, a lesson learned here today!" as I watched my car towed away and trudged off with our terrified dog down a typical Western suburban road: four lanes of fast traffic with no sidewalks. Are you poor? The cops are your enemy now. Accept it. The car is how they'll try to get you. Sell it if you can—which is to say, if there's any decent public transportation—hah!—where you live.

The ant and the grasshopper updated

Auction of the week

Coffee with General Wesley Clark

Item Image
Time Left 7d 6h 19m
Online Close Oct. 23, 2008 7:00 PM PDT
Leading Bid $900.00
Number of Bids 17  -  Bid History

Item Information

Estimated Value Priceless

Item Number 262

Item Description

Interested in having a cup of coffee with four-star General and netroots champion Wes Clark? Join the General for coffee and a discussion about the important challenges facing our country. Bring up to three friends and be ready for a wide-ranging discussion on anything from national security to the current state of our economy.

Special Instructions

Coffee with Clark will take place in Little Rock, D.C., Los Angeles, or New York City with up to four people. Details will be arranged in advance and are subject to General Clark's availability.

One factory is still hiring...

Diagramming Sarah

Can Palin's sentences stand up to a grammarian?

There are plenty of people out there—not only English teachers but also amateur language buffs like me—who believe that diagramming a sentence provides insight into the mind of its perpetrator. The more the diagram is forced to wander around the page, loop back on itself, and generally stretch its capabilities, the more it reveals that the mind that created the sentence is either a richly educated one—with a Proustian grasp of language that pushes the limits of expression—or such an impoverished one that it can produce only hot air, baloney, and twaddle.

I found myself considering this paradox once again when confronted with the sentences of Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee. No one but a Republican denial specialist could argue with the fact that Sarah Palin's recent TV appearances have scaled the heights of inanity. The sentences she uttered in interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity, and Katie Couric seem to twitter all over the place like mourning doves frightened at the feeder. Which left me wondering: What can we learn from diagramming them?

One thing we can't learn, of course, is whether her words are true or make sense. Part of the appeal of diagramming is the fact that just about any sentence can be diagrammed, even when it is gibberish. Cats chase mice and Mice chase cats present the same kind of entity to the diagrammer. So does Muffins bludgeon bookcases. If it's a string of words containing a certain number of parts of speech arranged in reasonably coherent order, it can be hacked and beaten into a diagram.

Once we start diagramming political sentences, the diagram's indifference to meaning can be especially striking. Stirring words like "I have a dream," the magisterial Declaration of Independence (a staple of diagramming teachers), bald-faced lies ("I am not a crook"), and crafty shadings of the truth ("I did not have sexual relations with that woman") can be diagrammed with equal ease. But some politicians—our current president included—offer meanderings in the higher realms of drivel that leave the diagrammer groping for the Tylenol ("Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream") or the gin bottle ("I remember meeting a mother of a child who was abducted by the North Koreans right here in the Oval Office").

So let's take a crack at a few of Palin's doozies. From the Katie Couric interview:

It's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where—where do they go?

A diagrammer doesn't care about who "they" are in that last stuttered question or fuss over the problem of the head-rearing Putin coming into our "air space." A diagrammer simply diagrams. I didn't have a clue about what to do with the question that ends it. Otherwise, in its mice chase cats way, the sentence is perfectly diagrammable.

Other Palinisms are not so tractable. From the Charlie Gibson interview:

I know that John McCain will do that and I, as his vice president, families we are blessed with that vote of the American people and are elected to serve and are sworn in on January 20, that will be our top priority is to defend the American people.

I didn't stop to marvel at the mad thrusting of that pet political watchword "families" into the text. I just rolled up my sleeves and attempted to bring order out of the chaos:

I had to give up. This sentence is not for diagramming lightweights. If there's anyone out there who can kick this sucker into line, I'd be delighted to hear from you.

More booze and cake!

Cruel recession got you down? Buck up, pal. Good news abounds!
What's the matter, patriot? Don't enjoy seeing your stock portfolio slashed in half for greed-obsessed reasons beyond your control? None too pleased with how much of your 401(k) account has burned to a crisp, like John McCain's ethical boundaries? Home worth a fraction of what you paid and the neighbors have all moved away as squads of homeless people now squat in the 350K tract-McMansion next door, staring a mite too hungrily at your dog?

Housewives! Have you taken to the online message boards recently, posting bleak, depressing notes of fear and uncertainty after your husband lost his job of 20 years and the kids are asking uncomfortable questions? Or maybe you're one of the super-wealthy, quaking in your Upper East Side Gucci riding boots over the collapse of your family fortune and self-esteem and who, pray who, will polish the fleet of Aston Martins?

Or perhaps you're none of these, and you're just a sweet young thing, still in your what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-the-world phase, with no real idea what the hell a "portfolio" or "recession" or "hedge fund manager" actually are, but it doesn't really matter because you're still stuck with this sinking feeling that Something Is Deeply Wrong.

Do you know this feeling? The sense that the bumbling, squinty-faced dude in the White House is about to step down, and this wrecked economy, this decimated nation, this toxic sickness will be his final parting gift, like some sort of nasty STD he and his cronies passed on to you, while you didn't even realize you were getting royally screwed?

Well, enough whining. It's time to buck up and hunker down and tighten your belts and employ all those other metaphors that indicate frugality, squeezing, smallness, bitterness and frustration and Zoloft and mom 'n' dad sighing heavily at the kitchen counter, staring at a stack of bills and then over at their kids' evaporated college fund and saying, well, I guess community college won't be that bad.

The Amazing Morph Monster

“Working Poor” report: Nearly 30 percent of US families subsist on poverty wages

A report released Tuesday by the Working Poor Families Project reveals that more than 28 percent of American families with one or both parents employed are living in poverty.

By Tom Eley

The report, "Still Working Hard, Still Falling Short," is based on data for the period from 2004 through 2006 gathered from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US Census Bureau's American Community Survey and the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey.

The report finds that 9.6 million households can be described as low-income or "working poor"—defined as families that earn less than 200 percent of the official poverty level. There were 350,000 more such families in 2006 than in 2002. More than 21 million children now live in low-income working families—an increase of 800,000 in four years.

In 2006 there were more than 29 million jobs in the US that paid below the official poverty level—defined as $9.91 an hour for full-time labor—an increase of nearly 5 million poverty-wage jobs from 2002.

Family income inequality also increased rapidly between 2002 and 2006, the report says. In 2006, the top 20 percent of US households earned on average 9.2 times as much as the bottom quintile.

The gates of hell

The "God"-less Debates

Swampland, TIME 

by Massimo Calabresi

In the nearly sixteen thousand words uttered last night in the debate between John McCain and Barack Obama, one was noticeably absent: God. The deity got not a single mention, not even a perfunctory "God Knows," or "Good God," or "God Bless America". In fact, in the three presidential debates, McCain and Obama have completed a surprising sweep: no mention of "God", the "Lord", or even a higher power.

In contrast, the word "God" was invoked twice during the first Bush-Kerry debate (both times in closing God Bless Americas by the candidates), twice in the second debate (once in a Kerry reference to the Pledge of Allegiance, and again by Bush with a departing GBA), and fully nine times in the third Bush-Kerry debate, seven times by Kerry and two by Bush. Sprinkled throughout the Bush-Kerry debates were the occasional "Lord", "heaven" or other divine references.

Why the God-free gab fest this time? A few possible reasons leap to mind. First, the country's focus is very much on real-world problems of everyday Americans right now. The economic crisis has eaten up much of the time in these debates, with lengthy exegeses on plans for job creation, tax plans and the $700 billion bailout plan. If there are no atheists in foxholes, perhaps there are agnostics amid bank runs.

Debate picture of the day

The Hoover-Palin Ticket

Palin and McCain
AP photo / Gerald Herbert

Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his vice presidential running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, at a rally in Bethlehem, Pa., on Oct. 8.

By Robert Scheer

And the winner is … Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Remember him—the great Democratic president who saved capitalism from the capitalists by reining in their exorbitant greed? Forget the Reagan Revolution heralding a new era of small government, which turned out to be nothing more than a fig leaf for legalized corporate crime. The hero of the hour is FDR, as the essential wisdom of his New Deal is now embraced by most Republicans as well as Democrats.

Roosevelt's legacy was acknowledged Monday when GOP presidential nominee John McCain absurdly accused his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, of advocating policies pursued by Herbert Hoover, the Republican incumbent whom Roosevelt defeated in 1932. While clueless GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin prattled on at the same rally about Reaganomics and getting government out of the way of business, most other Americans noticed—and are grateful—that the federal government now directly manages many of our biggest businesses in the all-important financial sector.

The banking bailout is pure FDR at his big-government best. Greedy bankers are being taken to the woodshed and read the riot act: If they behave, then they will once again have the opportunity to be filthy rich—that's the American way.

As McCain put it Tuesday: "I will begin by making certain that the $700 billion already committed to economic recovery is not used to further enrich the very people and institutions that invited these troubles with their own reckless conduct."

Yes, McCain finally gets it: "I will not play along with the same Washington games and gimmicks that got us into this terrible mess in the first place. I am going to Washington to fight for you." I didn't check whether this performance made it into the "Moment of Zen" in "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," but it should have. "I am going to Washington" is a classic proclamation of stupidity that assumes the rest of us are unaware of where McCain has been these past three decades.

What Publishing Can Learn From Music


The modern publishing business has been in existence since about 1800, but things are not looking so rosy in the ink-stained world. The publishing business is scared: if stagnating book sales and the creeping digital shakeup were not enough, the market meltdown has many tightening their belts while trying to figure out the future.

Still, there is no indication that books are going away, or are any less useful, needed or wanted now than they were 200 years ago. Books are still essential. People still love them.

The book publishing business has a great advantage over other big media industries. For various reasons, publishing is late to the digital party. So it can look to all the many mistakes the music business made in the past decade, and decide how to move into the uncertain future. Here is some unsolicited advice to ponder while ignoring the Dow.

Five Lessons Publishing Should Learn from Music

1. An iPod for Books Will Change Everything

The Internet, Napster, and Bit Torrents have all shaken up the music business, but it was the iPod that put the final nail in the coffin of the old business models: radio doesn't matter anymore, and barely anyone can remember what a CD is for. All of a sudden, the world is full of people who want to fill up their little white devices with music. In the book business, we've yet to see an iconic, affordable e-reader that people love. When we do, the game will change. Kindle Two apparently shows promise. The new Sony Reader is getting lots of good reviews. And Stanza, the new e-book app for the iPhone, makes Apple's handheld the most popular e-book reader in the world. What's more, Stanza has converted many e-book skeptics I know personally. Question for publishers: do you want to be where the readers are? Then find out where they are, and go there.

Joe the Plumber! Just in time!

Who the Fuck is Joe the Plumber? That and Other Questions for John McCain

The Ostroy Report

The Ostroy Report is a fresh, aggressive voice in the fight against the Bush administration, the Republican Party and the powerful right-wing media. While our mission is to help Democrats regain the White House and build a greater majority in Congress, we're not afraid to criticize our own when warranted.

All three presidential debates are now history. With just 20 days left until the election, judging from the polls and Sen. John McCain's overall sub par performance Wednesday night in which he needed a knockout but failed to get one, it looks as though Sen. Barack Obama is well on his way to becoming the 44th President of the United States. That is of course barring any acts of terrorism, widespread election fraud and/or large-scale racism.

As a post-mortem to the debate, I have some questions for McCain:

1. Who the fuck is Joe the Plumber, and why is he so important to have been mentioned 21 times by you? And, why is he the only American you referred to the entire evening?

2. Is Joe the Plumber a $40,000 per year working stiff or the wealthy owner of the plumbing company? In your repeated populist references to him, you implied that he's just your average blue-collar worker, yet all of your tax and health policy examples clearly had him as the more affluent entrepreneur in control of his workers' fates.

3. Who the hell cares about William Ayers and Acorn? Did you not see the new NY Times/CBS News poll indicating that voters are utterly fed up with your dirty politics and smear attacks on Obama? With the Dow down another 700 points earlier in the day, and with the economy's meltdown scaring the bajesus out of Americans, how about talking about something they're all really interested in?

Plumber Joe starts a blog

News Groper: These Blogs Are Not Real

October 16th, 2008

And he told the world what he really wants: "You want to help me out? Don't pour your grease down the god damn drain." Also Samuel L Jackson is now on team Bob Barr and Obama bragged that he can kiss anyone he wants.

That's it--I'm now a Barr-man by Samuel L. Jackson

I could kiss anybody I want by Barack Obama

Ringo Starr

John has it good by Ringo Starr

Henry Paulson


The News Groper Editors