Monday, December 1, 2008

You haven't suffered enough

Left Out


by Christopher Hayes

I've been trying to avoid commenting on specific personnel for the Obama administration, because it's hard to know what's real and what's rumor, and because it's also difficult to get my head around what the proper evaluative criteria is. The federal bureaucracy is inordinately complicated and there may be reasons to put certain people in certain positions that has nothing to do with their ideological bona fides. That said, I pretty much agree with Chris Bowers:

I know everyone is obsessed with the "team of rivals" idea right now, but I feel incredibly frustrated. Even after two landslide elections in a row, are our only governing options as a nation either all right-wing Republicans, or a centrist mixture of Democrats and Republicans? Isn't there ever a point when we can get an actual Democratic administration? Also, why isn't there a single member of Obama's cabinet who will be advising him from the left? It seems to me as though there is a team of rivals, except for the left, which is left off the team entirely.

Not a single, solitary, actual dyed-in-the-wool progressive has, as far as I can tell, even been mentioned for a position in the new administration. Not one. Remember this is the movement that was right about Iraq, right about wage stagnation and inequality, right about financial deregulation, right about global warming and right about health care. And I don't just mean in that in a sectarian way. I mean to say that the emerging establishment consensus on all of these issues came from the left.

'Bronx Mowgli'? Why not just 'Mom Hates Me'?

Hey, celebs: Your kids actually have to live with those dumb names

When I heard Pete Wentz and Ashlee Simpson named their newborn boy Bronx Mowgli, I figured "My Parents Are Goofballs" must have been taken.

I mean, really. God bless the new mom and dad and their little one, but how could you do this to your kid?

Part of me still thinks it's a prank. (Bronx Mowgli Wentz=BMW. Subliminal advertising?) Wentz is a smart and savvy guy who always seems to be having fun with his celebrity and the sheer silliness of all the trappings, so maybe he issued a release about Bronx Mowgli but in reality he named the child Billy Wentz or Jimmy Wentz.

The New York borough-Jungle Book combo of Bronx Mowgli isn't as groan-inducing as Kal-el Coppola Cage (Nicolas Cage's son), Moxie Crimefighter (Penn Jillette's kid), Zuma Nesta Rock (Gwen Stefani's child) or Pilot Inspektor, whose dad is that guy from "My Name is Earl."

But it's pretty bad.,CST-NWS-roep24.article

Lil' O'Reilly vs. Barney Frank

Signs of the Recession: Wealthy cutting back on gifts to mistresses

by kevinjamesshay

I write a lot about the economy these days. And to tell the truth, I don't think things are all that bad for most of us. Or at least I don't think we have it near as bad as my parents did in the Great Depression, when unemployment reached 30 percent.

Unemployment has risen, but at 6.5 percent in the U.S., that's nothing compared to the 1930s. Hell, it's nothing compared to the 1980s. If you're not in finance or retail or real estate or manufacturing or construction, you should be doing OK, even with a smaller 401k or mutual fund. Long-term investors say the market will rise again - the S&P is coming off its best week in 34 years! It's on a roll! And look how low gasoline prices have sunk - you can go out and buy a Hummer to feel better.....Um, yes, I'm joking. I cram my 6-7 frame into a Honda CRV that gets almost 30 mpg because I care more about the environment and saving gas than I do about my own temporary comfort.

But this item did make me pause: Maybe it is getting pretty bad when wealthy folks have to cut back on gifts to their mistresses, and even ditch them altogether. Hmmm....that's hitting us - or them - where it really hurts.

More than 80% of multimillionaires who have extra-marital lovers plan to cut back on their holiday gifts to them, according to a new survey by Prince & Associates, a Connecticut research firm. About 12% of the men and women questioned planned to dump their lovers due to their weakening stock portfolios.

Must be rough - not that I would know.

Day One: Frank Zappa to The Band

by PopMatters Staff

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention: We're Only in It for the Money

Like all superficially idealistic youth movements, the love- and drug-crazed rebels of countercultural naïveté circa the late 1960s were incredible hypocrites. The gap between the utopian, free-loving, nature-attuned neo-transcendentalists that entranced timid teen squares and scared the equally-stereotypical caricatures of their stern and stoic postwar parents, and the real lives of the VD-infested and woefully self-centered societal dropouts is well chronicled in media artifacts from the time. For film, see the commune of psych-folk cabaret travelers in Easy Rider; Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem is a fascinating literary chronicle of the grim realities of Haight-Ashbury. When it comes to musical representations of the true free-thinker's reaction to this faux-enlightened mess, it all ties together perfectly on We're Only in It for the Money.

The thing to remember about 1968 is that the Beatles were untouchable. So, when the Mothers elected to include a cover image with Money that lampooned the psychedelic flower-celebrities that adorned the cover of the recently-released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, there was another kind of iconoclasm at work. It was all too easy for the "freaks" to direct their damnation at LBJ, parents, people over 30—the usual cast of squares—but another thing entirely for the Mothers to scoff at the meaningless antics of the counter-cultural types who were probably their majority demographic. Unsurprisingly, the powers that be in the record-releasing industry objected, and the intended cover art was remanded to the gatefold until reissues decades later. Not that the cover headshot of male band members in dresses in deadpan seriousness was such a turnover to the Man.

Wet Noodles

No One In Charge

By Eugene Robinson

Having two presidents is starting to feel like having no president, and that's the situation we'll face until Inauguration Day. Heaven help us.

President Bush spent the weekend in Lima, Peru, at a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, conferring with Pacific Rim leaders who had no reason to pay attention to anything he said. Bush did, however, cut a dashing figure in a traditional Peruvian poncho. On Monday morning, minus the poncho, he was back home lending his imprimatur to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's latest diving catch to save the global economy from utter ruin—this time, the massive bailout of Citigroup.

A couple of hours later, the other president, Barack Obama, presented his new high-powered economic team. Obama made a point of saying that the prospective officials—led by Timothy Geithner, his pick to head Treasury—would start working immediately. Obama also made clear that there's very little they can do except monitor the situation, study possible solutions and develop a plan to be enacted after Jan. 20. We can't afford another month or more of drift, Obama said. But I'm afraid that's just what we're going to get.

The problem, and it's becoming serious, is that no one is prepared to orchestrate a comprehensive program to stabilize the financial system, put a floor under housing prices and keep the economy from sinking into a long, punishing recession.

Bush could and should do it—he is still president, and avoiding economic collapse is part of the job description. But he won't. It's ironic that after being so aggressive and proactive in other areas, the Decider is so indecisive and passive about the economy. He has limited his role to signing off on whatever Paulson says is necessary—most recently, $20 billion in cash and $306 billion in guarantees for Citigroup, which Bush apparently approved during his flight home from Peru.

Brother, can you spare a billion?

The Bigger Bailout

by Poor Elijah (Peter Berger).

I am not a political operative.  When it comes to Presidential elections, I've almost always either voted for the losing candidate or wound up wishing that the candidate I'd voted for had lost.

I'm also not an economist, although degrees in economics and finance don't seem to have helped the masters of the universe in charge of our economy.  Every year I teach my eighth graders about the Great Depression.  We talk about how Americans in the 1920s spent more money than they had.  We talk about the enormous debt they ran up, and how that debt finally caught up with the nation's overheated economy and sank it.  Every year some fourteen-year-old raises his hand and observes, "Isn't that like what people do with credit cards today?"

How can something that occurs to a kid in eighth grade slip past the Federal Reserve and the former CEO of Goldman Sachs?  In fairness, there was more to the Great Depression than excessive personal spending.  Back then people were buying overvalued stocks and other securities with money that didn't really exist.

It would be comical if it weren't so appalling.

California's same-sex marriage case affects all of us

It forces us to consider why we have rights.

What now for California? In May, its Supreme Court announced a right to same-sex marriage. Gays and lesbians rushed to take advantage of the opportunity; by early November, 18,000 such marriages had been performed. But on Nov. 5, they stopped. By a 52-47 percent margin, California voters approved Proposition 8, an amendment to the state constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage.

Immediately, gay rights supporters filed lawsuits asking to overturn the ruling. Critics are calling Proposition 8 an illegal constitutional "revision," fundamentally altering the guarantee of equality – not a more limited "amendment."

This suit raises a serious question: When should a majority have the power to take away a constitutional right granted by a court?

It's a question that forces us to think about why we have constitutional rights in the first place, and why they are enforced by judges. But it is not simply a theoretical puzzle. All of us enjoy constitutional rights, and most of us are at some point in a minority. All of us could be affected.

Gay penguins steal eggs from straight couples

A couple of gay penguins are attempting to steal eggs from straight birds in an effort to become "fathers", it has been reported.

There are known to be several gay penguin couples in zoos across the world
There are known to be several gay penguin couples in zoos across the world Photo: GETTY

The two penguins have started placing stones at the feet of parents before waddling away with their eggs, in a bid to hide their theft.

But the deception has been noticed by other penguins at the zoo, who have ostracised the gay couple from their group. Now keepers have decided to segregate the pair of three-year-old male birds to avoid disrupting the rest of the community during the hatching season.

A keeper at Polar Land in Harbin, north east China explained that the gay couple had the natural urge to become fathers, despite their sexuality.

"One of the responsibilities of being a male adult is looking after the eggs. Despite this being a biological impossibility for this couple, the natural desire is still there," a keeper told the Austrian Times newspaper.

Beware Rumsfeld's Snow Job

The former defense secretary's revisionist op-ed.

Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Click image to expand.Donald Rumsfeld is writing his memoirs, and if his op-ed in the Nov. 23 New York Times is any preview, it should be a classic of self-serving revisionism.

On the surface, the former defense secretary's piece seems to be a warning—sound, if unoriginal—that merely sending more troops to Afghanistan won't fix that country's problems or win the war.

But his real intent is clearly to justify his own policies on the war in Iraq, to refute the (properly) widespread idea that he committed serious errors, and even more to deny that he held the views that he actually did hold.

The first eyebrow-raiser comes in the second paragraph, in which he writes, almost in passing, "As one who is occasionally—and incorrectly—portrayed as an opponent of the surge in Iraq. …"

Let's stop right there.

From beginning to end—from the preparations for the invasion in the summer and fall of 2002 until his (forced) resignation was announced in November 2006—Rumsfeld consistently opposed all proposals to send more troops to Iraq.

The quarrels between Rumsfeld and the generals over how many troops to send at the outset of the war have been well-documented. It turned out that Rumsfeld was right about how few troops would be needed to overthrow Saddam Hussein—and very wrong about how many would be needed to impose order afterward.

Iraq War Foes Get Short Shrift

Iraq War Foes Get Short Shrift

By Robert Parry

Arguably, Barack Obama's most promising promise of the presidential campaign was his vow to not just end the war in Iraq but "to end the mindset that got us into war."

Like much campaign rhetoric, this pledge was open to interpretation. Did he just mean that he would avoid the belligerent arrogance of George W. Bush, or was he suggesting a more fundamental challenge to Washington's stale foreign policy elite?

Would Obama pick up on the prescient warning of Dwight Eisenhower about the deforming power of the "military-industrial complex" or on John F. Kennedy's vision of peace that was "not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war"?

In the three weeks since his Nov. 4 election victory, the answer seems to be that Barack Obama is viewing his pledge in the most minimal sense. The emerging shape of his incoming administration suggests that Americans who opposed the Iraq War early will continue to be treated as misfits and outsiders, even though Obama was one of them.

In the mainstream press, too, there survives the same old pro-war frame of debate. On Sunday, the New York Times published seven opinion articles about the open-ended conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, all by writers with histories of favoring Bush's arguments for the wars, albeit with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

There were no articles from prominent opponents of the Iraq invasion, like Sen. Russ Feingold or Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni or arms inspector Scott Ritter. It seems that having the foresight and the courage to oppose Bush's reckless invasion still disqualifies you from the respectable debate of the New York-Washington power centers.

Yet, while there is no room at the dinner table for the anti-war "ideologues" – as they're often called – there appear to be plenty of seats for the neocon-lites of the Democratic Party (from their institutional base at the formerly liberal Brookings Institution) and even some spots for key holdovers from the Bush administration.

Happy Thanksgiving