Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Mouse that Roared

Top 10 Christmas Movies I Want to See

Top 10 Christmas Movies I Want to See
by Michael Dare
10: It's a Horrible Life: Clarence the angel gets his wings after convincing George W. Bailey to kill himself by showing him how absolutely fantastic the world would have been had he never been born.
9: The Polar Espresso: Elves from around the world are kidnapped and forced to work at the first Starbucks at the North Pole.
8: How the Magnanimous Billionaire Gave Away Christmas: A mad billionaire hires minions to sneak into people's houses and replace the gifts around the tree with much better ones.
7: Homo Alone: I really don't want to see this. What was I thinking? You go see it.
6: Elf Realization: Che Elf rouses the toy workers to overthrow their hefty master. Siddhartha Elf finds enlightenment.
5: The Nightmare After Christmas: A swamped clerk at a Wal-Mart's return desk kidnaps shoppers and opens an underground slave department where illegal aliens can buy white people.
4: The Little Shop Around the Coroner: Law and Order meets CSI meets Bones meets Love, Actually, with a bit of Die Hard and Eyes Wide Shut thrown in.
3: Rudolph the Normal-Nosed Reindeer: There's nothing special about Rudolph so he never guides Santa's sleigh or ever really amounts to anything. Nobody writes a song about him and he dies in obscurity.
2: Disaster on 34th Street: Santa is hijacked by elf terrorists who crash his sleigh into Macy's which mysteriously comes crumbling down in what many claim must have been a controlled demolition. The US declares war on the North Pole and blows up a Starbucks. Gimbels has its biggest week ever.
and the number one Christmas movie I want to see...
1. The Most Improbable Story Ever Told: A virgin who appears on tortillas gives birth to a man who can walk on water. Starring Jesus Saves (pronounced Hey-soos Sah-vess.)

We had a deal. A few Senators just lied to us.

by Chris Bowers

I've seen a few post-mortems of the public option campaign kicking around the Internets.  Invariably, as more are written, some will blame the people leading the campaign for not adopting different tactics which, the authors of the post-mortems will claim, could have led to victory.

Before this line of writing becomes too widespread, we all need to remember that the only reason we didn't win the public option campaign was because a few Senators lied to us.  Unless someone can think of ways to have prevented them from lying, then these post-mortems will be useless.

Back on May 21st, there were only 28 Senators in support of a triggerless public option.  Through your tireless participation in a whip count effort, by October 8th we raised that number to 51 when Jon Tester came out in support.  By October 30th, when Evan Bayh said he wouldn't filibuster, we were up to 56 Democrats for cloture on health care reform with a public option.

From that point, the only four Senators we still needed all lied to us in one form or another.  Both Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln signed a document stating that they supported a public option, only to reverse their positions.  Blanche Lincoln's website still comically claimed she supported a public option even as she was declaring her opposition to one on the Senate floor.

Still, Landrieu, Lincoln and Ben Nelson were all part of the group of ten Senators who forged a deal on the public option that included a Medicare buy-in.  Further, immediately after that deal was reached, Harry Reid contacted Joe Lieberman to see if he liked the deal.  Lieberman told Harry Reid that he was liking what he was seeing, and just wanted to wait for the CBO report.  Further, Lieberman had supported an even stronger Medicare buy-in (for Americans aged 50-64) as recently as September 2009.

Six days later, Lieberman and Nelson went on national television to engage in some more mendacity.  Lieberman said he would filibuster the deal, even though he had told Reid he liked it, and even though he had recently advocated for it.  Ben Nelson badmouthed the deal even though he helped forge it.

And then, when the lying was all done, Rahm Emanuel ordered the Democratic Senate caucus to do as Lieberman said.  And the Democratic Senate caucus not only is ready to comply, but to do so without punishing Lieberman (or any of the other liars, for that matter).

To put it bluntly, we had won the campaign, but were lied to by a small number of Senators.  In particular, we were lied to by Joe Lieberman.  If you have a post-mortem that could have prevented the lying, I'd love to hear it.  For, were it not for the lying, the public option campaign would have been won.

Four Real-Life Christmas Scrooges

By Christopher

4 Andrew Carnegie
Second richest man in history

Andrew_CarnegieHis Riches

How rich was Carnegie? He is regarded as the second richest man in history, worth $293.3 billion dollars in today's time—3 times more than Bill Gates. Making most of his fortune from the booming steel industry in the late 19th century, Carnegie soon had fingers in everything from bonds, to sleeping cars.

His Scroogyness

Carnegie was so cheap, that he once "lost a dime. It is said that he got on his knees, and searched for the dime until he found it." This guy, who is worth the GDP of Zimbabwe, looking for something that most of us wouldn't have given a second thought.

s1Another famous anecdotes was how he tipped a dime once, at a meal. Unless he was eating at a $2 restaurant, is unacceptable. It is unknown if it is the same dime mentioned, although knowing Carnegie, we wouldn't be surprised if he had originally picked it up with his next meal in mind.

Scrooge Rating (out of 10)

Carnegie was a noted philanthropist, and by his death, had given an estimated $35 billion dollars away—again, massively more than Bill Gate's philanthropy of $28 billion (Suck it, Bill!) So, I suppose we could forgive him for the two (one?) dimes.

3 John Elwes
The man Dickens based Scrooge on


A Member of Parliament of Britain in the 1700s, Elwes inherited his wealth from his mother and his uncle. Although his mother left him £100,000 (which would be like, a trillion dollars today), she reputedly starved to death, as she was too stingy to spend the money; while his uncle left his £250,000, but prided himself on spending only £110 a year. Which ultimate leads us to ask the question: is being a selfish jerk hereditary?

His Scroogyness

Elwes was so damn stingy, that he has an entire section in his Wikipedia page dedicated to his "Miserliness".

Elwes dressed in beggars clothing; went to sleep when the sun set to save candles; would eat rotten food before buying new ones, once eating the remains left by a rat; refused to see a doctor, even when he had been shot; and ultimately lived on £50 a year.

s6Scrooge Rating (out of 10)

When Elwes lay dying, he forced his lawyer to draw his £800,000 will in firelight to save the cost of a candle. One. Single. Candle.

Despite all this, Elwes wasn't really an asshole, just stingy.

Auld Lang Syne: Farewell to another decade of "liberal media bias"

by Eric Boehlert

It might seem futile to try to select just two quotes from the previous decade and single them out as bookends to illustrate how the political press so often malfunctioned over the last 10 years. But if pressed, I know which duo I'd nominate in hopes of highlighting the absurdity behind the never-ending right-wing claim about supposed "liberal media bias."

Y'know, the same "liberal media" that over the previous decade unleashed its venom on Al Gore, morphed into George Bush's lapdog cheerleaders, and created unfair double standards for covering the new Democratic president, Barack Obama.

The first quote I'd nominate actually comes from very late 1999, but the implication was pure 2000 and the decade that followed. The passage appeared in a Time report about the unfolding Democratic primary battle and came just as the Beltway press was unveiling its unapologetic War on Gore, as The Daily Howler might put it.

The orgy of resentment that erupted toward Gore during the 2000 campaign season was likely unprecedented in American politics, as media elites did very little to hide their disdain for Gore. For years, they mocked him, bad-mouthed him, and made up nasty stories about him. (Hint: Inventing the Internet.) Acting as a conduit for the RNC, the press actively tried to delegitimize the Democratic Party nominee for president. And the chronically caustic and unfair press coverage cost Gore the election in the historically close 2000 campaign.

Which brings me to Quote of the Decade No. 1, courtesy Time's Eric Pooley and his New Hampshire primary dispatch: [emphasis added]:

[T]he 300 media types watching in the press room at Dartmouth were, to use the appropriate technical term, totally grossed out by it. Whenever Gore came on too strong, the room erupted in a collective jeer, like a gang of 15-year-old Heathers cutting down some hapless nerd.

If readers needed confirmation regarding the open contempt for Gore, blogger Mickey Kaus soon traveled to New Hampshire and announced the consensus among journalists: "They hate Gore. They really do think he's a liar. And a phony."

My second Quote of the Decade nominee arrived 110 months later and via NBC's Chuck Todd. It was uncorked inside the new Obama White House press room, on January 23, 2009. The topic on the table was the administration's proposed economic stimulus package and whether the White House, which was hoping for a bipartisan effort on the legislation, would be disappointed if the bill passed with little or no Republican support. And that's when Todd asked Robert Gibbs the following:

Would [the President] veto a bill if it didn't have Republican support?

That's right. Just days into the new presidency, Todd wanted to know if Obama would go ahead and take the unprecedented action of vetoing his own legislation designed to immediately jump-start the faltering economy because not enough members of the opposition party supported the stimulus bill.

If nothing else, Todd's absurd query highlighted the unheard-of double standard the press constructed for the new Democratic president. Namely, when addressing the issue of bipartisanship (i.e. "involving cooperation, agreement, and compromise between two major political parties") the press decided to hold only one of the political parties accountable: the Democrats. Bipartisanship was now something Democrats had to bring to fruition.

Be Careful What You Pray For

by Iron Knee

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) said on Sunday:

What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can't make the vote tonight. That's what they ought to pray.

Coburn was hoping that a Democrat would not show up for the vote on health care reform and the vote would fail. But he forgot to specify the party of the person against whom people should pray.

But on Tuesday a teabagger called into C-SPAN because he was terrified that the prayers had backfired. He had prayed that aging Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) would either die or be unable to show up to vote. Instead, it was Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) who failed to show. The caller, obviously distraught, asks Senator John Barrasso (R-WY):

How hard did you pray because I see one of our members was missing this morning. Did it backfire on us? One of our members died? How hard did you pray senator? Did you pray hard enough?

First they pray for bad weather for the Democratic convention, and instead get a hurricane for the Republican convention. Now this. If there is a God, he must be laughing.

Watch it here:

How Banks Fleece the Unemployed

By Barbara Koeppel
Just when you thought the big banks had maxed out their chutzpah account, think again.

While posting breathtaking profits in the last two quarters – Wells Fargo's $3.2 billion, Citigroup's $3 billion and Chase's $2.7 billion – U.S. banks have figured out a way to squeeze some extra dollars from those who can least afford it, the unemployed.

Here's how it works. In the past two years, states have been overwhelmed with unemployment claims. Always eager to serve, America's banks offered a deal the states couldn't refuse.

Sign a contract — which won't cost you a dime — and send us your weekly unemployment funds, the banks said. In return, we'll issue our VISA or MasterCard debit cards to your laid-off workers, on which we'll post their benefits electronically.

Thirty states signed on with the usual suspects — Citi, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America — and some smaller ones, too. More states are lining up.

In a stroke, states dropped all their costs for printing and mailing checks. Andrew James, with North Carolina's Employment Security Commission, told me that in the past year, his state saved a whopping $10 million. During the same time, Nevada saved $800,000, Maryland $400,000 and West Virginia $340,000.

But if the system is good for the states, it's great for the banks. A February 2009 Associated Press article noted that Missouri's Central Bank, which won that state's contract, could reap $6.3 million this year alone.

The banks profit from interest earned on the funds the states deposit with them until the money is posted onto the debit cards. Then there's the money the banks get from retailers where the unemployed shop with their cards — from 2 percent to 3 percent per transaction.

But such sums are not large enough, it seems. So the banks have figured how to extract more money from the millions of unemployed now using the debit cards. The devil's in the fees.

Darth Vader Opens Wall Street

How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room home

As recriminations fly post-Copenhagen, one writer offers a fly-on-the-wall account of how talks failed

by Mark Lynas

A woman listens to Barack Obama's speech at Copenhagen climate change conference 18 December 2009
A woman listens to Barack Obama's speech at the Copenhagen climate change conference on 18 December.

Copenhagen was a disaster. That much is agreed. But the truth about what actually happened is in danger of being lost amid the spin and inevitable mutual recriminations. The truth is this: China wrecked the talks, intentionally humiliated Barack Obama, and insisted on an awful "deal" so western leaders would walk away carrying the blame. How do I know this? Because I was in the room and saw it happen.

China's strategy was simple: block the open negotiations for two weeks, and then ensure that the closed-door deal made it look as if the west had failed the world's poor once again. And sure enough, the aid agencies, civil society movements and environmental groups all took the bait. The failure was "the inevitable result of rich countries refusing adequately and fairly to shoulder their overwhelming responsibility", said Christian Aid. "Rich countries have bullied developing nations," fumed Friends of the Earth International.

All very predictable, but the complete opposite of the truth. Even George Monbiot, writing in yesterday's Guardian, made the mistake of singly blaming Obama. But I saw Obama fighting desperately to salvage a deal, and the Chinese delegate saying "no", over and over again. Monbiot even approvingly quoted the Sudanese delegate Lumumba Di-Aping, who denounced the Copenhagen accord as "a suicide pact, an incineration pact, in order to maintain the economic dominance of a few countries".

Sudan behaves at the talks as a puppet of China; one of a number of countries that relieves the Chinese delegation of having to fight its battles in open sessions. It was a perfect stitch-up. China gutted the deal behind the scenes, and then left its proxies to savage it in public.

Here's what actually went on late last Friday night, as heads of state from two dozen countries met behind closed doors. Obama was at the table for several hours, sitting between Gordon Brown and the Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi. The Danish prime minister chaired, and on his right sat Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the UN. Probably only about 50 or 60 people, including the heads of state, were in the room. I was attached to one of the delegations, whose head of state was also present for most of the time.

What I saw was profoundly shocking. The Chinese premier, Wen Jinbao, did not deign to attend the meetings personally, instead sending a second-tier official in the country's foreign ministry to sit opposite Obama himself. The diplomatic snub was obvious and brutal, as was the practical implication: several times during the session, the world's most powerful heads of state were forced to wait around as the Chinese delegate went off to make telephone calls to his "superiors".

Christmas Stockings