New Years Eve Greetings Open Thread

I know. I know.  Every one is busy; even little ol’ me. But,  I did want to put up an open thread so we could share our New Year Wishes and Greetings with each other  tonight on  into the morning!!

I’ll be down on the Poland Avenue Wharf watching the two barges from the east and west bank of the Mississippi shoot their simultaneous fireworks display.   Lama is here with his youngest son who gets to experience his first American New Year’s celebration ala New Orleans. I’ve got a big ol’ pot of hopping john bubbling away on the stove!

I’m not sure if you know, but those of us that are students of Vajryana do New Year’s (Losar) based on the Tibetan Lunar Calendar, so this month really isn’t a holiday month per se for us.  However, I’m never one to keep a good party down that includes joyfulness! (Also, this one lacks crass consumerism, so I opt in.)  So, here’s to all those displays of wisdom lights over the world!

May the New Year see the multiplication of people who seek and find the blessings of peace!

May the New Year bring harmony to those whose inner demons rule their thoughts and lives!

May the New Year see the brilliant play of wisdom and the skillful means necessary to ameliorate the suffering of the many!

May the New Year open the eyes of those whose lives are filled with abundance so that they are moved to share those blessings with others!

May the New Year welcome you and yours and everyone’s into the comforting arms of health, prosperity, peace and love!

May the beneficial actions of the wise and compassionate multiply!

May the obstacles to wisdom diminish!

May compassion and love surround you until whatever place you reach is where you should be!


The Voodoo They All do so well

I’m not sure what exact delusional or fugue state describes Paul Ryan’s psyche. Dammit Jim, I’m an economist not a psychologist!   I do, however, recognize b$gf$ck crazy when I see and hear it.  It makes me want to avoid whatever part of Wisconsin that votes him into office because there must be something in their water or air.  It amazes me that one small section of  our country can wreck so much havoc on the rest of us by sending a loony tune to Washington, D.C.   I’m beginning to think that Miami University should ask him to turn his degree back in and issue him a refund.  I certainly would be ashamed if he were the product of any of my economics classes.

Paul Ryan is an outstanding example of everything that is wrong within that damnable beltway.  He’s Daddy knows best on Acid.  He wants to usher in the Republican Big Daddy state.  In January, his type of crazy will dominate the House Budget committee. As a mater of fact, it’s already starting and it’s alarming.

RYAN’S RADICAL RULE?…. House Republicans quietly advanced procedural budget rules last week, which would be funny if they weren’t so ridiculous. But there’s a second part of this that shouldn’t go overlooked.

We talked the other day about Republicans’ “Cutgo” rules. The policy allows the GOP to try to keep slashing taxes, without having to pay for them, while requiring spending cuts to pay for new or expanded programs.

As Paul Krugman explained this morning, “Spending increases will have to be offset, but revenue losses from tax cuts won’t. Oh, and revenue increases, even if they come from the elimination of tax loopholes, won’t count either: any spending increase must be offset by spending cuts elsewhere; it can’t be paid for with additional taxes.” The Nobel laureate labeled this “the new voodoo.”

And then there’s the other part of House Republicans’ new budget rules.

A little-noticed detail in the new rules proposed by House GOP leaders would greatly increase the power of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the incoming chairman of the House Budget Committee. As National Journal’s Katy O’Donnell reports, the new rules say that, for fiscal 2011, the chairman will set spending limits without needing a vote.

If that sounds insane, that’s because it is. Under the proposed rules, Ryan would be empowered to single-handedly establish spending levels if the House and Senate struggle to agree on a budget resolution. Just as important, Ryan’s levels would be binding on the chamber, without even be subjected to a vote.

Fascism doesn’t creep with Ryan in charge of things.  It sprints.  It’s typical of the radical right/Bircher mentality to think that when one can’t get to where they want with reasoned thought and plurality, it’s okay to lie about it and sneak things in under the radar.  Thankfully, Paul Krugman has a bully pulpit at the NYT. Krugman’s description of the entire thing is right on.  There’s only one problem.  Krugman consistently ignores just how much Obama has been enabling the voodoo.  It is, afterall, the Obama-McConnell Tax Cuts for Billionaires (TM) law.  In fact, I’m willing to go out there on limb and say Obama believes the voodoo and that other Democrats perpetually cut-and-run rather than hold ground on it.  Krugman seems to set on pointing out  the sin on one side of the aisle and ignoring the same behavior on the other side.  Let’s ignore that for a moment and concentrate on the good stuff Krugman offers.

But the tone changed during the summer, as B-day — the day when the Bush tax breaks for the wealthy were scheduled to expire — began to approach. My nomination for headline of the year comes from the newspaper Roll Call, on July 18: “McConnell Blasts Deficit Spending, Urges Extension of Tax Cuts.”

How did Republican leaders reconcile their purported deep concern about budget deficits with their advocacy of large tax cuts? Was it that old voodoo economics — the belief, refuted by study after study, that tax cuts pay for themselves — making a comeback? No, it was something new and worse.

To be sure, there were renewed claims that tax cuts lead to higher revenue. But 2010 marked the emergence of a new, even more profound level of magical thinking: the belief that deficits created by tax cuts just don’t matter. For example, Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona — who had denounced President Obama for running deficits — declared that “you should never have to offset the cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans.”

It’s an easy position to ridicule. After all, if you never have to offset the cost of tax cuts, why not just eliminate taxes altogether? But the joke’s on us because while this kind of magical thinking may not yet be the law of the land, it’s about to become part of the rules governing legislation in the House of Representatives.

It’s one thing to say “That’s just crazy talk” to Republicans but to turn around and excuse or ignore the enabling and facilitating role that the President and Democratic members play is to commit a big sin of omission.  That troubles me when you’re one of the few economists with a very public bully pulpit.

There’s obfuscation on all sides of this stupidity however.  BostonBoomer asked me about a response to Krugman’s criticism here that’s grounded in something  wonky at JustOneMinute. The writer of that post tries to call  out Krugman by screaming “deception and misdirection”, then referring to Ricardian economics.  You must use the Wayback Machine for this one.  The article is like reading a critique of modern democracy based on what they did in Athens around 500 BC.

Let me just refer to the Wikpedia on Ricardian Economics to tell you how far we have to go in the Wayback machine.

David Ricardo was born in 1772 and made a fortune as a stockbroker and loan broker.[1] At the age of 27, he read An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith and was energized by the theories of economics. His main economic ideas are contained in Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (1817). This set out a series of theories which would later become theoretical underpinnings of both Marx’s Das Kapital and Marshallian economics, including the theory of rent, the labour theory of value and above all the theory of comparative advantage.

Ricardo wrote his first economic article ten years after reading Adam Smith and ultimately, the “bullion controversy” gave him fame in the economic community for his theory on inflation in 19th century England. This theory became known as monetarism, the theory that excess currency leads to inflation.[2] He was also a factor in creating classical economics,[3] which meant he fought for Free trade[4] and free competition without government interference by enforcing laws or restrictions.[5]

Yes, that’s right.  Ricardo is an early 19th century economist philosopher writing during the time when the main sector of all economies was agriculture using technology like  horses and slaves under a system called Mercantilism. That’s the reason to criticize Krugman.  Yes, we academic economists teach Ricardian concepts, models, and principles still.  However, it’s just because it’s an easy entry for people that do not have good calculus skills and are unfamiliar with the most basic economic concepts. These simple models weird enough people out as it is. Also,  it’s the original, early attempt at theory that under pins classical economics.  Tons of empirical data and computer models plus advances in mathematics have pushed us beyond all that.  Most of the Ricardian stuff has been reformulated–as has a lot of the Keynesian stuff and that’s only from about 100 years ago–and tested empirically.  To put it in blunt terms, some of the impacts have the right sign and do exist, but they show up as so trivial that no one takes them seriously when you’re dealing with real world economic policy.   A really good example of this is the ‘crowding out effect’.  Another is what Tom Maguire points out at JustOneMinute.    Let me refer to a thing via new school on Barro who is one of the reformulaters.

Almost immediately, Barro turned on his Keynesian roots and joined the Rational Expectations revolution with two central pieces: his celebrated “Ricardian Equivalence Hypothesis” (1974) and his famous money neutrality paper (1976). Under a particular set of assumptions (e.g. intergenerational altruism or immortality, perfect capital markets, lump sum taxation, and the condition that debt not grow faster than the economy), Barro’s (1974) “Ricardian Equivalence Hypothesis” argues that every bond-financed deficit must be met by a future tax increase, that this tax increase would be forseen by living agents and that these agents would care enough about posterity to adjust their present consumption accordingly. In short, this implies that agents do not take a bond-financed fiscal expansion as a lucky windfall but rather will save the entire proceeds in anticipation of the future tax burden – and thus not raise their demand for goods and services. Thus income received by agents from government deficit-spending is all saved – and hence has no effect on consumption (thus no multiplier) – and that these savings go into the demand for the very same bonds that were supplied to finance that government spending (so bond demand rises exactly to meet higher bond supply, and money demand is unchanged) and thus there is no effect on interest rates either.

Barro’s “Ricardian Equivalence Hypothesis” has spawned a virtual research industry of its own as a whole generation of economists have climbed over each other tortuously examining, assailing, and verifying the validity and implications of Barro’s theorem (his 1974 paper is among the most-referenced papers in economics today). Barro’s 1976 paper on the neutrality of monetary policy (i.e. that changing money supply growth would not affect output or interest or any real variables) followed up on the work of Lucas and Sargent and although less unique, it was no less controversial.

This stuff is at the root of the conflict between the freshwater (Neoclassical) and the saltwater economists (NeoKeynsian) economists.   I highlighted the most germane thing in all of this above and that is the phrase “under a particular set of assumptions”.   It takes just as many unrealistic assumptions to make a free market economy work as it does to create a Marxist Utopia.  The most suspect assumption of all is that of perfect capital markets. 

Joseph Stiglitz earned his Nobel Prize for a career spent outlining all the ‘frictions’ in markets. That would be all the stuff in reality that make markets so damned imperfect.  Stiglitz’s big thing is asymmetries of information which is something I talk about a lot when it comes to financial markets.  The capital markets are loaded with them; especially now.  Then, there’s the little friction involved with basic market structures. Back in the Ricardian days it was possible to point to the market for wheat and label it a somewhat ‘perfect market’.  We’re way past that.  We’ve got so many monopolies and oligopolies and so much government regulation and rules, that what Ricardo and Smith describe is as arcane as Marxism.  Greg Mankiw is probably the closest ‘real economist’ source I can name that still ambles along those lines.  However, he does so with a huge amount of caution. No one serious denies the role of frictions in markets.

The most silly thing about the JustOneMinute commentary is it ignores the source of Krugman’s Nobel–international trade–which starts with the Ricardian ‘comparative advantage’ framework.  It also ignores Krugman’s writings outside of the NYT.  Here’s an example  from MIT that’s still standing called ‘Ricardo’s difficult idea’. Krugman writes this in the 1990s.  Now, why was that so difficult to Google?

And so one is prepared to be sympathetic after reading a passage like the following, on the first page of Sir James Goldsmith’s The Trap: “The principal theoretician of free trade was David Ricardo, a British economist of the early nineteenth century. He believed in two interrelated concepts: specialization and comparative advantage. According to Ricardo, each nation should specialize in those activities in which it excels, so that it can have the greatest advantage relative to other countries. Thus, a nation should narrow its focus of activity, abandoning certain industries and developing those in which it has the largest comparative advantage. As a result, international trade would grow as nations export their surpluses and import the products that they no longer manufacture, efficiency and productivity would increase in line with economies of scale and prosperity would be enhanced. But these ideas are not valid in today’s world.” (Goldsmith 1994:1). On close reading, the passage seems a bit garbled; but maybe he is just a careless writer (or the translation from the original French is imperfect). One expects him to follow with a discussion of some of the valid reasons why one might want to qualify Ricardo’s idea — for example, by referring to the importance of external economies in a high-technology world.

But this expectation is utterly disappointed. What is different, according to Goldsmith, is that there are all these countries out there that pay wages that are much lower than those in the West — and that, he claims, makes Ricardo’s idea invalid. That’s all there is to his argument; there is no hint of any more subtle content. In short, he offers us no more than the classic “pauper labor” fallacy, the fallacy that Ricardo dealt with when he first stated the idea, and which is a staple of even first-year courses in economics. In fact, one never teaches the Ricardian model without emphasizing precisely the way that model refutes the claim that competition from low-wage countries is necessarily a bad thing, that it shows how trade can be mutually beneficial regardless of differences in wage rates. The point is not that low-wage competition never poses a problem. Rather, what is significant is that despite ostentatiously citing Ricardo, Goldsmith completely misses one of the essential lessons of his argument.

It’s really obvious that Krugman–indeed, most of us–don’t see the Ricardian model as anything but an early attempt to take economics out of the realm of philosophy and apply the scientific method and models.  It’s like yelling at a learned Psychologist for not continually citing Freud as a modern authority or a learned Molecular Biologist for not continually citing Darwin as the be all and end all on evolutionary theory.  These guys started modernizing their fields, but a lot of new evidence, tools, and data have arisen since then.

So,  my bigger question is why do we have Republicans pushing a 19th century world view when it comes to economics?  I then would also like to know why  Democrats–especially a Democratic POTUS–enable them?    Well, according to The Hill, Democrats are ripping the proposed rule.  Democrats always seem really skilled at shaking their tiny fists before anything really happens.

Democrats argue the provision would give unilateral power to Ryan and flies in the face of GOP promises of transparency.

“Allowing incoming Chairman Ryan to have unilateral power to set spending limits — instead of subjecting those limits to a vote on the floor of the House — flies in the face of promises by House Republicans to have the most transparent and honest Congress in history,” said Doug Thornell, spokesman for incoming House Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), in an e-mailed statement.

“Unfortunately, the House GOP is reverting back to the same arrogant governing style they implemented when they last held the majority and turned a surplus into a huge deficit,” he added.

Drew Hammill, spokesman for incoming Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), also criticized the rule change. He said the decision to cede power to Ryan “runs counter to the Republicans’ promises of transparency and accountability.”

The deal is will they actively FIGHT it and stop it?  Then the bigger question is will Krugman talk about the complicity of the Democratic congress critterz and the President in enabling their stupidity?

Forehead, meet palm.


Tinker and the Aquifer

Welcome to the second in a series of posts on Chromium 6 or Hexavalent Chromium. In my first post, Water Water Everywhere…Chromium 6, I discussed the basics of this highly toxic chemical, the serious health effects, the system used to remove it from your tap water and the lack of regulation for maximum amounts of Chrome 6 in drinking/tap water at the federal level.

In this post I will examine one town in particular, Norman, OK, which according to the recent EWG report had the highest level of Chromium 6 in the county tap water. Norman is a city just outside Oklahoma City, in the county of Cleveland. The counties that are adjacent to Cleveland are Oklahoma County to the north, Pottawatomie County to the east, McClain County to the south and west, and Canadian County to the northwest. The aquifer that supplies water to the population of this area of Central Oklahoma is the Garber-Wellington Aquifer.

The Garber-Wellington formation is the major aquifer in Central Oklahoma. The GarberWellington Aquifer is Lower Permian, Leonardian in age (Woods and Burton, 1968, Simpson, 1973). The water-bearing portions of the Garber and Wellington formations cover an area roughly two thousand square miles and contain approximately 5 trillion gallons of water. Over 400 public water-supply wells and more than 20,000 domestic wells tap into this resource. Figure 3-2 shows the generalized area of the Garber-Wellington aquifer, which covers most of Oklahoma and Cleveland Counties.

 

Figure 3-2 shows the generalized area of the Garber-Wellington aquifer, which covers most of Oklahoma and Cleveland Counties.

The domestic wells completed in the Garber-Wellington Aquifer can be quite varied in depth and construction. Most wells are 100-500 feet deep and cased with five- to seven- inch steel casing. The bottom 25-200 feet of the casing is slotted. The entire casing except the top ten feet is gravel packed with 15-20 to 30-40 “Colorado Frac Sand”. The top ten feet of the casing must be cemented to reduce surface water pollution. These wells yield 10-100 gpm. A vast majority of these domestic wells only penetrate the upper portion of the aquifer.

Tinker Air Force Base is a Superfund site that is located over the south-western portion of the Garber-Wellington Aquifer. In 1942, Tinker AFB was activated and began its long history of repairing airplanes. The building that encompassed most of the work that would later contaminate the ground water, is known as Building 3001. This building was the largest building on the base, most of the repair work done in this building dealt with the chrome plating of airplanes and various airplane parts and equipment.

Site Name: TINKER AIR FORCE(SOLDIER CR/BLDG 300)

EPA ID: OK1571724391

Conditions at proposal (April 10, 1985): Tinker Air Force Base covers 4,277 acres adjacent to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma. The base is within the North Canadian River drainage basin and drains into Crutcho and Soldier Creeks. It overlies the Garber-Wellington Formation. This NPL site is bounded by 59th Street, Douglas Boulevard, Building 3001, and the base boundary to the north. Building 3001 is used for aircraft maintenance and jet engine rebuilding. Organic solvents, including TRICHLOROETHYLENE (TCE), TETRACHLOROETHYLENE, and l,2-dichloroethylene, were used for degreasing and aircraft maintenance. In the past, waste oils, solvents, paint sludges, and plating waste generated from maintenance activities were disposed in Industrial Waste Pits Numbers l and 2, located about l mile south of Soldier Creek and Building 300l. Current waste is disposed off-site at landfills permitted under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) or the State. The base acquired Interim Status under RCRA Subtitle C when it filed an application for a permit to store hazardous wastes. Tests conducted by a contractor to the Air Force detected TCE in a water supply well located within Building 3001. The Air Force has taken this well out of service. The municipal water system serving 55,400 customers in Midwest City draws water from the contaminated aquifer within 3 miles of the base. The Air Force has detected HEAVY METALS (CHROMIUM, NICKEL, CADMIUM) in Soldier Creek at Douglas Boulevard. The Air Force is participating in the Installation Restoration Program, established in l978. Under this program, the Department of Defense seeks to identify, investigate, and clean up contamination from hazardous materials. The Air Force has completed Phase I (records search) and is currently involved in Phase II (problem confirmation). Status (July 22, 1987): Phase IV (Operations Phase) is underway, and work on Phase II continues. Phase IV includes installation of additional cover at a landfill thought to be contributing contamination to a private well. Within the boundaries of this Federal facility, there are areas subject to the Subtitle C corrective action authorities of RCRA. However, no such areas were included in scoring this specific site. Therefore, this Federal facility site is being placed on the Federal section of the NPL under the NPL/RCRA policy announced on September 8, 1983 (48 FR 40662).

Sources of Contamination:

Discharge to sewer/surface water

Inadvertent spill

Manufacturing process

Storage – drums/containers of waste

Waste tank – below ground

Groundwater and Drinking Water

Were drinking water wells shut down due to contamination? Yes

Population served by the wells now shut down: 101 – 500

Are drinking water wells potentially threatened? Yes

Population served by the threatened wells: 10,001 – 100,000

Aquifer discharges into: Surface water

Population served by water wells in the aquifer: 10,001 – 100,000

The EPA has a IN SITU TREATMENT OF SOIL AND GROUNDWATER CONTAMINATED WITH CHROMIUM TECHNICAL RESOURCE GUIDE, which gives a great deal of technical information about the process of Chromium as it contaminates soil and ground water. Tinker AFB has been leaching Chromium 6 into the soil and more importantly into the Gerber Wellington aquifer since the 1940’s. To get a visual understanding of how the aquifer is contaminated, just look at this image below.

Conceptual geochemical model of zones in a contaminant plume.

Typically, chromium-contaminated sites consist agent) may be desirable to overcome the of three zones: (1) source zone soils where the tailing phenomenon and reduce the overall concentrated waste resides; (2) the time required for remediation. However, the concentrated portion of the groundwater cause of tailing at a given site needs to be plume; and (3) the diluted portion of the determined and quantified. For example, if the groundwater plume (Sabatini et al., tailing is controlled by physical processes such 1997).Figure 2-6 illustrates these three zones as differential travel time along streamlines, or of contamination.

Waste water from Building 3001, was discharged into a pit area near the building and into Soldier Creek. According to the EPA Superfund Record of Decision 1990, the hazardous chemicals have seeped down into the soil around Building 3001 .

PERCHED GROUNDWATER EXISTS BENEATH THE SITE, OVERLYING THE REGIONAL AQUIFER… THE DEPTH FROM THE SURFACE OF THE PERCHED AQUIFER IS APPROXIMATELY 15 FEET. THE THICKNESS OF THE PERCHED AQUIFER IS APPROXIMATELY 23 FEET. THE HIGHEST CONCENTRATIONS OF CONTAMINANTS ARE CONTAINED IN THIS ZONE. CONTAMINATION OCCURRED FROM THE DOWNWARD MOVEMENT OF LIQUIDS CONTAMINATED WITH SOLVENTS, METALS, AND FUEL PRODUCTS.

[...]

CHROMIUM IS PRESENT BENEATH THE SITE WITH CONCENTRATIONS RANGING FROM 80,000 PPB BENEATH THE BUILDING TO LESS THE 10 PPB AT THE EDGE OF THE PLUME. THE CHROMIUM PLUME…COVERS APPROXIMATELY 220 ACRES…

[...]

THE DEPTH FROM THE SURFACE TO THE TOP OF REGIONAL AQUIFER IS APPROXIMATELY 50 FEET. THE THICKNESS IS APPROXIMATELY 30 FEET. TRICHLOROETHYLENE, 1,2-DICHLOROETHYLENE, CHROMIUM, LEAD, AND BARIUM ARE ALL PRESENT IN THE AQUIFER IN CONCENTRATIONS GENERALLY LOWER THAN IN THE PERCHED ZONE. CONCENTRATIONS OF TETRACHLOROETHYLENE ARE SLIGHTLY HIGHER IN THIS ZONE. TRICHLOROETHYLENE AND CHROMIUM, THE PRIMARY CONTAMINANTS, WERE DETECTED IN MAXIMUM CONCENTRATIONS BENEATH THE BUILDING WITH MAXIMUM CONCENTRATIONS OF 30,000 PPB FOR TRICHLOROETHYLENE AND 1700 PPB FOR CHROMIUM.

[...]

THE DEPTH FROM THE SURFACE TO THE REGIONAL ZONE IS APPROXIMATELY 110 FEET. THE APPROXIMATE THICKNESS IS 65 FEET…CHROMIUM IS ALSO PRESENT WITH A MAXIMUM CONCENTRATION OF 1200 PPB BENEATH THE BUILDING. THE CHROMIUM PLUME COVERS APPROXIMATELY 145 ACRES.

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New Year’s Eve Reads

Good morning!

Today we begin to say good bye to 2010 and the first decade of the millennium and century!    What a decade and what a year it has been!  I don’t know about you, but just the last five years alone have turned my life upside down. (Think Hurricane Katrina, BP Oil Tsunami, and the financial crisis that has empowered thugs like Governexorcist Jindal to enforce absolute budget austerity on Louisiana and higher education.)   Despite all that, we’re going to have an Airing of the Gratitude thread as part of the-Little-Blog-That-Could’s New Year’s Celebration.  I’ve bought my black eyed peas and cabbage.  Now, I’m making my list of things that I resolve to appreciate for the thread.  I’d like to invite you to think about yours too and join in.   A lot of my gratitude comes under the heading of my daughters, dad and sister, and my friends.  That includes you !  We’re a blogging community that was forged from some really tough political times.

Meanwhile, here are some headlines to gear you up for the coming year and decade.  May things improve for the better!!  May peace and sanity prevail!!  May every one’s health and circumstances improve tremendously!  Many, many  blessings to each and every one of you!

Are you pessimistic or optimistic about the coming year?  A CNN poll  shows a lot of people are optimistic about the the world outlook, but less so about their personal situation. Men are much more optimistic than women.  Where do you fit in?

The Senate appears to have reached its limit on perpetually trying to find 60 votes for cloture and taking every ‘threat’ of a filibuster seriously.  Brian Beutler at TPM is following the reform movement and the possible hurdles it faces.

The consensus package will aim to put an end to “secret holds” (anonymous filibuster threats) and disallow the minority from blocking debate on an issue altogether. Those two reforms are fairly straightforward. The third is a bit more complex. Udall, along with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), say there’s broad agreement on the idea to force old-school filibusters. If members want to keep debating a bill, they’ll have to actually talk. No more lazy filibusters.

But how would that actually work? In an interview Wednesday, Udall explained the ins and outs of that particular proposal.

“What we seem to have the most consensus on, is what I would call… a talking filibuster,” Udall told me. “Rather than a filibuster which is about obstruction.”

As things currently stand, the onus is on the majority to put together 60 votes to break a filibuster. Until that happens, it’s a “filibuster,” but it’s little more than a series of quorum calls, votes on procedural motions, and floor speeches. The people who oppose the underlying issue don’t have to do much of anything if they don’t want to.

Here’s how they propose to change that. Under this plan, if 41 or more senators voted against the cloture motion to end debate, “then you would go into a period of extended debate, and dilatory motions would not be allowed,” Udall explained.

As long as a member is on hand to keep talking, that period of debate continues. But if they lapse, it’s over — cloture is invoked and, eventually, the issue gets an up-or-down majority vote.

DDay at FDL has a thread up that offers a more detailed explanation.  This includes a bit on what is being called ‘continuous debate’ which sounds a lot like that Jimmy Stewart movie “Mr. Smith goes to Washington” or what every one was hoping for when Bernie Sanders started talking a few weeks ago.

After 41 Senators or more successfully maintain a filibuster by voting against cloture, they would have to hold the floor and go into a period of extended debate. Without someone filibustering holding the floor, cloture is automatically invoked, and the legislation moves to an eventual up-or-down vote, under this rule change.

This would institute the actual filibuster. The Majority Leader would have the capacity, which Harry Reid says he doesn’t have now, to force the minority to keep talking to block legislation. It becomes a test of wills at this point – whether the minority wants to hold out for days, or whether the majority wants to move to other legislation.

Here’s hoping we can fix our broken government that is driven by corporate cash and interests and railroaded by imperious Senators.  I’m not very hopeful that congress can actually fix itself, but I guess we’ll see.  I will say that I do think Tom Udall is a good man. He’s one of the people that is fighting for an improved process.

I still have Louisiana and New Orleans on my mind right now. We have a new headline in our ongoing BP Oil Gusher Saga. This is from Raw Story. It appears the company that owns the rig–Transocean–is refusing to co-operate with the federal oil spill probe. I just want to find out what went wrong so we don’t ever repeat it.  I’m sure all they are thinking about is the upcoming lawsuits.

Transocean said the U.S. Chemical Safety Board does not have jurisdiction in the probe, so it doesn’t have a right to the documents and other items it seeks. The board told The Associated Press late Wednesday that it does have jurisdiction and it has asked the Justice Department to intervene to enforce the subpoenas.

Last week, the board demanded that the testing of the failed blowout preventer stop until Transocean and Cameron International are removed from any hands-on role in the examination. It said it’s a conflict of interest. The request is pending.

Our economy is in sad shape down here and a good part of it is due to Transocean’s role in destroying livelihoods and life around the Gulf of Mexico.  Human lives aren’t the only thing still struggling from the gulf gusher.  Here’s some local news on that.

Scientists at the institute of Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport are studying why two endangered manatees died near the Gulf Coast in the past two weeks.

According to the Institute’s Executive Director Dr. Moby Solangi, cold water killed the manatees, but they should have migrated to warmer water.

Scientists are finding an unusually large number of Gulf of Mexico animals out of place since the BP oil spill began.

“It is no different than having a forest fire,” Dr. Solangi said Thursday. “The oil spill expanded, it went thousands of square miles and as their habitat shrunk, these animals moved to areas that were not affected.”

The problem, according to Dr. Solangi, is those unaffected areas were also unfamiliar to the animals.

Too many turtles, for instance, wound up in waters off the Mississippi coast, where they didn’t understand the food supply.

300 turtles died in Mississippi.

Many more were caught by fishermen.

“In the past years, we would get one or two or maybe three animals, this year we had 57,” Dr. Solangi said.

He and his staff at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies are now caring for dozens of sea turtles.

Of course, turtles in distress have to be  swimming through some pretty nasty stuff in their environment. The shores along the Gulf are still oiled. Here’s a story about 168 miles of coast in Louisiana alone.  This is from New Orleans own Times Picayune. Yes, folks, every single story I’m linking to on this is no more than a day old.  We’re still living this nightmare down here.

Louisiana’s coastline continues to be smeared with significant amounts of oil and oiled material from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, with cleanup teams struggling to remove as much as possible of the toxic material by the time migratory birds arrive at the end of February, said the program manager of the Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Teams, which are working for BP and the federal government.

There are 113 miles of Louisiana coastline under active cleanup, with another 55 miles awaiting approval to start the cleanup process, according to SCAT statistics. Teams have finished cleaning almost 72 miles to levels where oil is no longer observable or where no further treatment is necessary.

But that’s not the whole story for the state’s coastline. According to SCAT statistics, there’s another 2,846 miles of beach and wetland areas where oil was once found but is no longer observable or is not treatable.

Gary Hayward, the Newfields Environmental Planning and Compliance contractor who oversees the SCAT program, said that large area will be placed into a new “monitor and maintenance” category, once Louisiana state and local officials agree to the procedures to be used for that category.

“With rare exceptions, most of the marshes still have a bathtub ring that we have all collectively decided we aren’t going to clean any more than we already have because we’d be doing more harm to the marshes than the oil is going to be doing to them,” Hayward said.

Raise your hand  if you heard any thing about any of this on your local newspaper or the national TV stations.  We’re so out of sight and out of mind down here that some times I wonder if we’re even considered part of the country.  You do realize that a majority of water-related commerce and a majority of oil comes through our state, don’t you?

The South American country of Brazil is looking forward to incoming-President Dilma Rousseff.  The Nation has an article that spotlights the country’s first female elected head of state.  I only hope to see a day like that for our country.  I’d also like to end the Reagan legacy and get a real Democrat back in the White House.  Yes, I’m clapping for Tinkerbelle.

When the confetti was still falling after her victory at the polls on October 31, Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president-elect, said, “I want to state my first commitment after the elections: to honor Brazil’s women so that today’s unprecedented result becomes a normal event and may be repeated and enlarged in companies, civil institutions and representative entities of our entire society.”

In a country where women have typically played a limited role in politics, the election of a woman to Brazil’s highest office signals a major break from the past. But Rousseff’s term will likely be marked by continuity with her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Lula, a member of the Workers’ Party (PT), is leaving office with 87 percent support in the polls. An economist, PT bureaucrat, chief of staff under Lula and former guerrilla in the anti-dictatorship movements of the 1960s and ’70s, Rousseff was handpicked by Lula to follow his lead as president. When she is sworn in on January 1, she will inherit Lula’s popular legacy and will be further empowered by the fact that her party and allied parties won a majority of seats in the Senate and Congress. Not even Lula counted on this much support.

Well, at least somewhere, women are getting their due.  I’m getting tired of living through stories where women in the U.S. watch jobs they should have go to less qualified people.  Then, they get to do all the work without the title.  What’s worse is when the boyz club in power make you participate in the charade of celebration and finding the royal heir. Like that legitimizes their malfeasance!  Here’s yet another example in a  WSJ story about Elizabeth Warren searching for a person for the job she would hold if the world weren’t so upside down.  It seems less and less about qualifications and knowledge these days and more and more about appearances and appeasing the old boyz.  Money screams!

White House adviser Elizabeth Warren and a top lieutenant are quietly asking business and consumer groups for names of people who might run the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, people familiar with the matter said.

The hunt suggests that Ms. Warren, a lightning rod for some bankers, might not be selected to lead the bureau, a centerpiece of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul bill that passed this summer. Still, many liberal groups will push to get her in the post.

President Barack Obama’s choice could signal how he intends to deal with resurgent Republicans in Congress. The feelers to business groups serve as a reminder that any nominee would likely need support from at least seven Republicans in the Senate to win confirmation.

Among the names being discussed are Iowa’s attorney general, Tom Miller; New York state bank regulator Richard Neiman; and former Office of Thrift Supervision director Ellen Seidman.

The reality is Obama fights for nothing but Obama. I know there are other Obama appointments coming up shortly and I’m trying to get a grasp on what I want to discuss with you on the proposed replacements for Larry Summers.  Well, I know what I want to discuss but it’s more like trying to figure out how to describe what I see as the problem. As some one who rides both sides of the finance and economics line, I have some insight that many don’t have.  Finance is where you make the money and it’s really based on chimera.  I know the details and the proofs behind asset pricing models and it’s simply smoke and mirrors.  Economics is where the brains and the real insight exists. There is going to most likely be a bland, uninspired replacement for Larry Summers.  A finance person will undoubtedly win that appointment.  Hence, we will get smoke and mirrors and meaningless numbers.

Once again, it’s the vision thing.  All these appointments seem to reek of employing micromanaging corporate bureaucrats that are part of the problem.  They can crank through the data but they can’t put it into perspective.  As old President Bush used to say, no one seems to be good at the “vision thing”.  No one is crafting a  blue print that incorporates a better big picture based on what we already know.  The Great Depression and the inflationary 70s–and definitely the failures of Reagan’s voodoo economics–are full of lessons that every one seems to be ignoring.   We’re seeing the appointment of types that just muck around in the already mucked up bureaucracy decimated by Dubya Bush whose only inspiration appeared to be blowing things up like a psychopathic third grade with a bunch of firecrackers and a pond full of frogs.

Finance people have tons of numbers in search of a theory.  They crunch that data until they come up with a hypothesis that fits their storyline.   Macroeconomists have a broader sense of what the system needs to look like in order to really change things.  Economics has theory proved endlessly by empiricists.  Finance people have run amok since the 1980s and really, it’s time to end overt data mining and look to bigger principles.

This White House seems really short on values, vision, and a blueprint to carry our country forward into this new decade. We need an economic strategy that includes real job creation; not imaginary ‘saved’ jobs.  We need to unwind any thing that’s too big too fail and empower small, facile, and agile companies.  Our money needs to be concentrated on developing strategies and resources that we can nurture and renew.  (No, corn ethanol is not the answer. Making higher education more expensive and less accessible to all is not the answer either.)  We need to find a way to fulfill our promises to the weakest among us.  Current income inequality is not only immoral but it’s at levels approaching the powder keg of revolutions.  (Have you listened to a Teabot recently?)   We can no longer be railroaded by the interests of the few just because they can afford to fund political campaigns.  No government law should incent a business to leave its community in need to search out obscene profits elsewhere because government policy encourages it.  We should not accommodate any country that buggers growth from us by proffering trinkets on credit.   Vision is not a difficult thing.  Fighting for what’s right should not be a difficult thing either unless you’re in the fight with the wrong motivation.

Compromise seems to come so easy these days because there’s nothing proffered but compromise.  The original positions are badly compromised from the get-go.  Law making is based on political victory and not victory for the country.  No one is shifting real strategies due to midterm elections because there’s never been an overarching plan to begin with.  Moving pieces around a chess board is not playing chess.  Government at the highest levels has just gotten to be a muddled process with no guiding principles.   The White House is intently putting mid-level bureaucrats from corporations and the Clinton administration in charge of making tasteless sausage.  It’s just making things even more muddled and more muddled is not the type of change people want.  No bold vision could ever include the likes  Timothy Geithner, Joe Biden, or  Bill Richardson in positions that require vision.  Instead, we have people of vision–like Elizabeth Warren–hunting for acceptable seat warmers.

Meh.

I would just like to say that the last two months of being more than a file cabinet has brought a lot of intriguing things to Sky Dancing.  We have a growing number of readers and front pagers and I find that all very exciting.  So, must other parts of the blogosphere.   WonktheVote’ s excellent piece ‘What if this is as good as the Obama administration gets? ‘ made Mike’s Blog Round up at Crooks and Liars. Another surprise showed up last night from Pew Research Center and the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. This time a reference and quote come  from BostonBoomer on Julian Assange and the Wikileaks.  Here’s their story and how we fit in.

Espousing a unique mix of politics, technology, free speech and transparency, WikiLeaks has captured the attention from bloggers in a way few stories ever do. It has been a focus of social media conversation for three weeks this month alone, with a discussion that moved from one dimension to the next. After centering on political blame, the value of exposing government secrets, and the importance of a free press, the debate took on yet a new angle last week.For the week of December 20-24, more than a third (35%) of the news links on blogs were about the controversy, making it the No. 1 subject, according to the New Media Index from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

“It should go without saying that I do not approve of Assange’s behavior if the allegations against him are true. Nevertheless, I still believe the allegations are very convenient for the powers that be,” declared Sky Dancing.

The Center produces something that’s called the New Media Report.  Here’s the description.

The New Media Index is a weekly report that captures the leading commentary of blogs and social media sites focused on news and compares those subjects to that of the mainstream press.

PEJ’s New Media Index is a companion to its weekly News Coverage Index. Blogs and other new media are an important part of creating today’s news information narrative and in shaping the way Americans interact with the news. The expansion of online blogs and other social media sites has allowed news-consumers and others outside the mainstream press to have more of a role in agenda setting, dissemination and interpretation. PEJ aims to find out what subjects in the national news the online sites focus on, and how that compared with the narrative in the traditional press.

In similar news,  Technorati just gave us a new badge early this morning. It’s a nice little green rectangle that says TOP 100 US POLITICS. We’re currently 95.  Not so bad for a blog that was just a file cabinet 2 months ago.

Our goals here include becoming part of the bigger conversation as well as providing more links and information to news items than we get via traditional main stream media outlets dominated by the concerns of advertisers and sources.  We complement that with our commentary and explanations and yours.    Yes.  They hear us now.

So what’s on your reading, blogging and celebration lists today?

I just learned way more than I ever wanted to know about Michelle Bachmann

The first time I ever saw Michelle Bachmann was when, as a brand new Congressperson from Minnesota, she hugged and kissed George W. Bush after the State of the Union Address. She was so affectionate toward him that I almost wondered why the Secret Service guys didn’t pull her off him. Here’s a you tube clip in which she explains the incident.

The reason I was reading up on Bachmann is that I was struck by the story at TPM today about Bachmann’s claim that she used to be a liberal Democrat, but she suddenly became an extreme right wing Republican after reading Gore Vidal’s novel Burr. Here’s the transcript of a Bachmann appearance in Michigan in which she recounts the story of her abrupt conversion.

Michigan is a tough state, but I do believe that Democrats, independents, Republicans, all make up fair-minded, reasonable people. I say that because I grew up in a Democrat state, and I have to share a little secret with you: I was a Democrat when I grew up. Because in Minnesota, they stamp that on your birth certificate! You know that, that’s how it works.

I didn’t realize until I went off to college one day — this is the honest to God truth — I was going off to college, and I was reading this snotty novel. It was written by Gore Vidal, and I was maybe like a junior in college, or — yeah, I think was maybe a junior in college. I was reading this snotty novel, and he was going after our Founders. And he was mocking them. And he was making fun out of them.

I was a reasonable, fair-minded Democrat. And another secret you need to know: My husband and I met in college. We worked on Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign. It’s true, it’s true. This is like a 12-step meeting here today, you know that. Because I am here to admit to you, I’m a Minnesotan who had “DFL” – that’s what we call Democrats in our state — stamped on my birth certificate, worked for Jimmy Carter. The first time I ever went to Washington, DC, I went to dance at Jimmy Carter’s inaugural ball! It gets worse!

Until I was reading this snotty novel called ‘Burr,’ by Gore Vidal, and read how he mocked our Founding Fathers. And as a reasonable, decent, fair-minded person who happened to be a Democrat, I thought, ‘You know what? What he’s writing about, this mocking of people that I revere, and the country that I love, and that I would lay my life down to defend — just like every one of you in this room would, and as many of you in this room have when you wore the uniform of this great country — I knew that that was not representative of my country.

And at that point I put the book down and I laughed. I was riding a train. I looked out the window and I said, ‘You know what? I think I must be a Republican. I don’t think I’m a Democrat.’

And from that moment on, I recognized that it was the Republican Party, and conservatives in particular, who really got America — who we are, what we stand for, and are unashamed about the values that the Founders lived and died and shed their blood and their treasure for.

Good Grief! I can see why someone might think Gore Vidal is “snotty” (did she mean “snooty” or maybe “snobby”?) but he isn’t any more so than, say, William F. Buckley was.

At Salon’s War Room, Alex Pareene writes:

In my perhaps unrepresentative experience, Vidal’s historical fiction — especially “Burr” and “Lincoln” — are the only things Vidal ever wrote that conservatives like. (I mean, thank god Michele didn’t pick up “Myra Breckenridge.”) But those are the conservatives who, I guess, are adult enough to read a mostly historically accurate account of the Revolution in which the Founders are portrayed as recognizably human and not become offended that the book is not a literary adaption of the Schoolhouse Rock classic “No More Kings.”

OMG, what would have become of Bachmann if she had read Myra Breckenridge! I hate to even think about it.

Anyway, it turns out that Bachmann has been telling her silly conversion story for years. Pareene dug up several examples. The funniest one is an interview with George Will.

Bachmann, an authentic representative of the Republican base, had quite enough on her plate before politics. She and Marcus, a clinical psychologist, were raising their children — they had four then; they have five now — and, as foster parents, were raising some other people’s children, 23 of them, a few teenagers at a time.

Born in Iowa but a Minnesotan by age 12, Bachmann acquired what she calls “her family’s Hubert Humphrey knee-jerk liberalism.” She and her husband danced at Jimmy Carter’s inauguration. Shortly thereafter, however, she was riding on a train and reading Gore Vidal’s novel “Burr,” which is suffused with that author’s jaundiced view of America. “I set the book down on my lap, looked out the window and thought: ‘That’s not the America I know.’ ” She volunteered for Reagan in 1980.

Bachmann is married to a clinical psychologist? Wow, I’m going to have to take some time to digest that.

Oh wait, I just looked at his academic credentials:

Dr. Marcus Bachmann, president of Bachmann & Associates, has been a clinical therapist in the Twin Cities for more than 18 years. Marcus is a popular conference speaker with practical insights, biblical principles, and humor interwoven in his messages.

I believe my call is to minister to the needs of people in a practical, caring and sensitive way.

Dr. Bachmann received his Masters degree in education/counseling from Regent University located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He received his Doctorate degree in clinical psychology from Union Graduate Institute located in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Are those places even accredited?


Watch Dog of the Lap Dogs

Since I went off on the media yesterday, I thought I’d continue the rant and share  ‘Smell Something Rotten?’ from FAIR.  FAIR stands for Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting.  It’s their annual P.U. litzer award time. Here’s a few juicy roasts of the worst media had to offer in 2010.

Prosecute the Messenger Award: Diane Sawyer (ABC News)

On October 22, ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer introduced a report on WikiLeaks‘ exposure of thousands of classified documents from the Iraq War. ABC correspondent Martha Raddatz summarized the contents of the WikiLeaks files: “Deadly U.S. helicopter assaults on insurgents trying to surrender…. The Iraqi civilian death toll far higher than the U.S. has acknowledged…. Graphic detail about torture of detainees by the Iraqi military.” After Raddatz’s report, Sawyer offered this followup: “I know there’s a lot of outrage about this again tonight, Martha. But tell me, anything more about prosecuting the WikiLeaks group?”

–The Quarter-Million-Dollar Middle Award: Kiran Chetry (CNN)

CNN anchor Kiran Chetry (American Morning, 2/1/10) interviewing White House budget director Peter Orszag: “You also talk about letting taxes expire for families that make over $250,000. Some would argue that in some parts of the country that is middle class.” Back in reality, more than 98 percent of U.S. households make less than $250,000

–Disappearing Palestinians Award: New York Times

On the New York Times op-ed page (8/27/10), Martin Indyk of the Brookings Institution gave one reason to be hopeful about peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority: “First, violence is down considerably in the region.” What he meant was that Israeli deaths were down. Completely unmentioned were the roughly 1,500 Palestinians that have been killed since the Israeli assault on Gaza in December 2008–the vast majority of whom were minors or noncombatant adults, according to the Israel human rights group B’Tselem. This oversight wasn’t just confined to the op-ed page: a Week in Review article by Ethan Bronner (11/21/10) reported “that the Palestinian/Israeli conflict has been largely drained of deadly violence in the past few years.” Hundreds of dead Palestinians are what is meant by “drained of violence.”

–Balancing Tolerance with Hate Award: Washington Post’s On Faith Blog

On National Coming Out Day (10/11/10), the Washington Post’s On Faith blog decided it would be a good time to hear from raging homophobe Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. Perkins penned a column attacking “homosexual activist groups” under the headline “Christian Compassion Requires the Truth About Harms of Homosexuality.” Why on Earth does anyone need to hear Perkins’ claptrap? The Post explained on Twitter (10/12/10) that it was a matter of journalistic balance: “We’re working to cover both sides. Earlier, we hosted Dan Savage of It Gets Better in a live chat.” For the record, “It Gets Better” is Savage’s campaign to combat suicides among queer youth. Who knew that was a point of view that needed balancing?

–Am-I-Reading-The-Onion Headline Writing Award: Washington Post

For its April 26 story, “Amid Outrage Over Civilian Deaths in Pakistan, CIA Turns to Smaller Missiles.”

Honorable mention goes to the New York Times, whose November 11 story explained the U.S. plan to remain in Afghanistan for at least three years longer than advertised. The headline: “U.S. Plan Offers Path to Ending Afghan Combat.”

I’d love to put them all up, but then I’d go way over the rule of FAIR use.  At least Rick Sanchez is off the air or there would be enough on their list to fill up about 5 posts.

As Brad Delong says, “Why Oh Why Can’t We Have a Better Press Corps?”


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

The media is all worked up about how badly NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg handled the blizzard that hit the Northeast early this week. Can we please put aside all the talk about this man running for President? He’s really not that bright, judging by his stupidity in the face of a little winter weather. Bloomberg didn’t even have the brains to declare an emergency parking ban so plows could clear the streets! In Boston, parking bans are routinely declared in advance of a big storm.

From the NYT: Inaction and Delays by New York as Storm Bore Down

At 3:58 a.m. on Christmas Day, the National Weather Service upgraded its alert about the snow headed to New York City, issuing a winter storm watch. By 3:55 p.m., it had declared a formal blizzard warning, a rare degree of alarm. But city officials opted not to declare a snow emergency — a significant mobilization that would have, among other things, aided initial snow plowing efforts.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority entered the holiday weekend with modest concerns about the weather. On Friday, it issued its lowest-level warning to subway and bus workers. Indeed, it was not until late Sunday morning, hours after snow had begun to fall, that the agency went to a full alert, rushing to call in additional crew members and emergency workers. Over the next 48 hours, subways lost power on frozen tracks and hundreds of buses wound up stuck in snow-filled streets.

By 4 p.m. Sunday, several inches of snow had accumulated when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg made a plea for help at his first news conference about the escalating storm: he asked people with heavy equipment and other kinds of towing machinery to call the city’s 311 line to register for work. A full day had gone by since the blizzard warning had been issued.

Yes, you read that correctly. Bloomberg called for help from private contractors DURING the blizzard! What a dope. You’d think New York had never experienced a snowstorm before.

Speaking of stupid, did you catch Floyd Abrams’ op-ed at the WSJ yesterday? Abrams presents his lame arguments against Wikileaks by discussing how the Wikileaks revelations differ from the Pentagon Papers.

In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg decided to make available to the New York Times (and then to other newspapers) 43 volumes of the Pentagon Papers, the top- secret study prepared for the Department of Defense examining how and why the United States had become embroiled in the Vietnam conflict. But he made another critical decision as well. That was to keep confidential the remaining four volumes of the study describing the diplomatic efforts of the United States to resolve the war.

Not at all coincidentally, those were the volumes that the government most feared would be disclosed. In a secret brief filed with the Supreme Court, the U.S. government described the diplomatic volumes as including information about negotiations secretly conducted on its behalf by foreign nations including Canada, Poland, Italy and Norway. Included as well, according to the government, were “derogatory comments about the perfidiousness of specific persons involved, and statements which might be offensive to nations or governments.”

Um…duh. But so what? Is he claiming that the diplomatic cables that major newspapers are publishing are analogous to peace negotiations? Doesn’t Abrams understand that Wikileaks released the cables to these newspapers so that they could make educated journalistic judgments about which parts should be made public and which should be redacted or kept secret?

Furthermore, the analogy that Daniel Ellsberg has made is not between Wikileaks and the Pentagon Papers but between himself and Bradley Manning. They were both whistleblowers who revealed government lies and corruption. As for the diplomatic cables, there is no evidence that Manning gave those to Wikileaks.

Abrams even tries to blame Manning and Assange for the overkill reactions of the Obama administration:

Mr. Assange is no boon to American journalists. His activities have already doomed proposed federal shield-law legislation protecting journalists’ use of confidential sources in the just-adjourned Congress. An indictment of him could be followed by the judicial articulation of far more speech-limiting legal principles than currently exist with respect to even the most responsible reporting about both diplomacy and defense. If he is not charged or is acquitted of whatever charges may be made, that may well lead to the adoption of new and dangerously restrictive legislation. In more than one way, Mr. Assange may yet have much to answer for.

What a load of garbage. Abrams once fought in defense of the first amendment. Now he’s just another enabler of government corruption and lies. I guess he spent too much time hanging out with Judith Miller, because he seems to have adopted her views on journalism. We have every right to know what our corporate-sellout politicians are doing.

Here’s what Emptywheel had to say about Abrams’ piece:

Abrams’ purported rhetorical questions–can anyone doubt that WikiLeaks would have published the diplomatic volumes of the Pentagon Papers? can anyone doubt he wouldn’t have paid the slightest heed to efforts to end the war?–are one of two things that dismantle his entire argument laying the responsibility for the government’s overreaction to Assange with Assange. Because–as Digby has explained at length–we have every reason to doubt whether WikiLeaks would have published the diplomatic volumes of the Pentagon Papers. And we have solid evidence that WikiLeaks would shield really dangerous information.

Because they already have. And because they have now outsourced responsibility for choosing what is dangerous and newsworthy or not to a bunch of newspapers.

Indeed, back before WikiLeaks ceded that role to a bunch of newspapers, WikiLeaks was actually being more cautious with the publication of sensitive information than the NYT was.

So rather than blaming the government and the press for mischaracterizing what WikiLeaks has done here and then using that mischaracterization to justify an overreaction to that mischaracterization, Floyd Abrams just participates in it. WikiLeaks is responsible, Floyd Abrams says, and I’m going to misrepresent what they have done to prove that case.

Abrams either was never a liberal or he lost his liberalism along the way to his current rich and powerful status. He sounds more like a neocon to me.

At Slate, Jack Schaeffer is even more down on Abrams than I am.

Did an imposter steal Floyd Abrams’ identity and use it to sell an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal? That’s the only explanation I can come up with after reading the First Amendment litigator’s wacky battering of WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange (“Why WikiLeaks Is Unlike the Pentagon Papers”).

Abrams, who represented the New York Times in both the Pentagon Papers and Judith Miller cases, applauds Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg because he withheld four volumes of papers—while releasing 43—because he “didn’t want to get in the way of the diplomacy.” That is, Ellsberg didn’t want to interfere with ongoing and confidential negotiations to end the war. Continuing his “Ellsberg good,” “Assange bad” formulation, Abrams asks, “Can anyone doubt that [Assange] would have made those four volumes [of the Pentagon Papers] public on WikiLeaks regardless of their sensitivity?”

Well, yes, I can doubt that.

Perhaps because Abrams listens to too much NPR or doesn’t read the New York Times very closely, he’s under the misconception that WikiLeaks has published all 251,287 U.S. diplomatic cables it claims to possess. It hasn’t, as NPR noted in a correction yesterday. WikiLeaks has released just 1,942 cables, which makes Assange’s ratio of released-documents to withheld-documents much, much smaller than Ellsberg’s. By that measure, Abrams should regard Assange as a more conscientious leaker than Ellsberg, not less conscientious.

‘Nuff said.

In his latest post at Truthdig, Chris Hedges’ argues that both Orwell and Huxley were right when they wrote their dystopian novels about the future. Now that we’re here, we’ve got the worst of both their worlds.

The two greatest visions of a future dystopia were George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” The debate, between those who watched our descent towards corporate totalitarianism, was who was right. Would we be, as Orwell wrote, dominated by a repressive surveillance and security state that used crude and violent forms of control? Or would we be, as Huxley envisioned, entranced by entertainment and spectacle, captivated by technology and seduced by profligate consumption to embrace our own oppression? It turns out Orwell and Huxley were both right. Huxley saw the first stage of our enslavement. Orwell saw the second.

We have been gradually disempowered by a corporate state that, as Huxley foresaw, seduced and manipulated us through sensual gratification, cheap mass-produced goods, boundless credit, political theater and amusement. While we were entertained, the regulations that once kept predatory corporate power in check were dismantled, the laws that once protected us were rewritten and we were impoverished. Now that credit is drying up, good jobs for the working class are gone forever and mass-produced goods are unaffordable, we find ourselves transported from “Brave New World” to “1984.” The state, crippled by massive deficits, endless war and corporate malfeasance, is sliding toward bankruptcy. It is time for Big Brother to take over from Huxley’s feelies, the orgy-porgy and the centrifugal bumble-puppy. We are moving from a society where we are skillfully manipulated by lies and illusions to one where we are overtly controlled.

Orwell warned of a world where books were banned. Huxley warned of a world where no one wanted to read books. Orwell warned of a state of permanent war and fear. Huxley warned of a culture diverted by mindless pleasure. Orwell warned of a state where every conversation and thought was monitored and dissent was brutally punished. Huxley warned of a state where a population, preoccupied by trivia and gossip, no longer cared about truth or information. Orwell saw us frightened into submission. Huxley saw us seduced into submission. But Huxley, we are discovering, was merely the prelude to Orwell. Huxley understood the process by which we would be complicit in our own enslavement. Orwell understood the enslavement. Now that the corporate coup is over, we stand naked and defenseless. We are beginning to understand, as Karl Marx knew, that unfettered and unregulated capitalism is a brutal and revolutionary force that exploits human beings and the natural world until exhaustion or collapse.

Hedges is right, IMHO.

As an antidote to the dystopian nightmares Hedges discusses, you might want to check out some idealistic utopian dreams. Alternet has an excerpt of a new book by Richard Fairfield, The Modern Utopian: Alternative Communes of the ’60s and ’70s (Process Media, 2010). It’s pretty interesting. Check it out if you have time.

Returning to grim reality, the WaPo has an article on high unemployment among returning war veterans.

As they return home to the worst labor market in generations, the veterans who are publicly venerated for their patriotism and service are also having a harder time than most finding work, federal data show.

While their nonmilitary contemporaries were launching careers during the nearly 10 years the nation has been at war, troops were repeatedly deployed to desolate war zones. And on their return to civilian life, these veterans are forced to find their way in a bleak economy where the skills they learned at war have little value.

Some experts say the grim employment landscape confronting veterans challenges the veracity of one of the central recruiting promises of the nation’s all-volunteer force: that serving in the military will make them more marketable in civilian life.

“That [promise] works great in peacetime,” said Lawrence J. Korb, an assistant secretary of defense for manpower under President Ronald Reagan who is now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “But that does not work too well in war. . . . If you are in there four years and deployed twice, what kind of skills have you learned other than counterinsurgency?”

Finally, Elizabeth Warren has piece up at Huffpo: New Consumer Agency Is Frightfully Necessary — And Late

No one has missed the headlines: Haphazard and possibly illegal practices at mortgage-servicing companies have called into question home foreclosures across the nation.

The latest disclosures are deeply troubling, but they should not come as a big surprise. For years, both individual homeowners and consumer advocates sounded alarms that foreclosure processes were riddled with problems.

[....]

First, several financial services companies have already admitted that they used “robo-signers,” false declarations, and other workarounds to cut corners, creating a legal nightmare that will waste time and money that could have been better spent to help this economy recover. Mortgage lenders will spend millions of dollars retracing their steps, often with the same result that families who cannot pay will lose their homes.

Second, this mess might well have been avoided if the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau had been in place just a few years ago.

Thanks for being one of the few people advocating for us, Ms. Warren.

Sooooooo…. What are you reading this morning?