Saturday Reads

Good Morning!!

President Obama has left the country again. He was in Lisbon today for a NATO meeting, at which the organization agreed to build a missile shield, and they hope that Russia will go along with it too.

In general, senior NATO officials note a welcoming Russian tone under President Dmitri A. Medvedev to the idea of cooperation with NATO on missile defense and European security, and they also note the general silence of Mr. Putin, now prime minister.

On Saturday, Russia will be formally invited to take part in the missile defense system, especially with intelligence and radar sharing. Moscow has indicated that it is interested but has questions, and wants to ensure that the system is not aimed at countering Russian missiles.

The missile defense system approved Friday is different from the fixed-missile defense that President George W. Bush initiated and that proved controversial. The idea is to have a phased system of radars and antimissile missiles that would be less expensive than the Bush system. The NATO spokesman, James Appathurai, said the nearly $1.5 billion cost could be managed over 10 years.

Plenty of money for missile defense that probably won’t work, but nothing for the desperate long-term unemployed.

In one of his many bad decisions, President Obama invited Skeltor Alan Simpson back out of obscurity, and we may never get rid of him. With his latest pronouncement, he has moved way beyond inappropriate to sociopathic.

He predicted a government that approaches shutdown in April of next year.

“This is going to be beautiful politics – The brutal kind,” he told reporters in Washington at a forum put on by the Christian Science Monitor. “I love those,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye and a jokester tinge to his voice.

“The debt limit, when it comes in April or May, will prove who’s a hero and who’s a jerk and who’s a charlatan and who’s a faqir,” said Simpson. “And there it will be right there. Because they’re going to say, these new guys, some of them, and I’ve met a good deal of them and boy they’re sharp cookies,” he said, adding a message to new Congressmen.

“Compromise is not a filthy word,” said Simpson. “It doesn’t mean you’re a wimp when you learn to compromise. You either learn to compromise and legislate or go home – my personal view – anyway there they are and they’re going to say I will not vote for the debt limit extension until you cut this. Say, you can’t do that. you can’t possibly do that. well, then I’m not voting for it. and they’ll say well the government will close. Which they’ll say that’s what I came here for. Oh, I can’t wait. It’ll be something and I’ll be watching.”

You can watch it at the Christian Science Monitor site.

If only there really were a hell so Alan Simpson could spend eternity there.

Ezra Klein is thinking along the same lines as Simpson, but makes more of an effort to sound reasonable. He says Democrats should trade an extension of the Bush tax cuts to the rich for Republican votes to extend unemployment benefits and increase the debt ceiling when the time comes.

Ezra must have learned bargaining strategy from that great bipartisan choker compromiser Barack Obama.

Elsewhere in The Washington Post is the story of “one family’s plunge from the middle class into poverty.”

Walker used to make $100,000 a year as a nursing home executive until she lost her job a year and a half ago. Unable to find a new one, she shed her business suits and high heels and put on an apron and soft-soled shoes. This year, she and her daughter are living on $11,000: her unemployment benefits plus whatever she can earn selling home-cooked dinners for $10 apiece….

The Census Bureau recently reported that the poverty rate in the United States rose to 14.3 percent last year, the highest level in more than 50 years.

Texas and Florida saw the most people fall below the line. In Florida alone, 323,000 people became newly poor last year, bringing the state’s poverty total to 2.7 million.

The numbers tell another tale as well: Nationwide, in black households such as Walker’s, income plunged an average of 4.4 percent in 2009, almost three times the drop among whites. The number of blacks living below the official poverty line – $21,756 for a family of four – increased by 7 percent in just one year.

Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, co-chairs of the Catfood Commission, should be forced to read this article, memorize it, and then write on a blackboard 1,000 times, “I am a damn fool who knows nothing about economics.”

At Counterpunch, Alexander Cockburn thinks “it’s time for a real mutiny.”

So much for 2010 as the year of mutiny, when the American people rose up and said, “Enough! Throw the bums out!” As the dust finally clears after the midterm elections, and the bodies are hauled from the field of battle, guess what? It was all so predictable. The safest thing to be in 2010 was an incumbent.

Out of 435 seats, 351 incumbents will be returning to the House in January. In the Senate, out of 100 seats, 77 incumbents will return in January. As the libertarian Joel Hirschorn puts it, “Welcome back to the reality of America’s delusional democracy where career politicians will continue to foster a corrupt, inefficient and dysfunctional government because that is what the two-party plutocracy and its supporters want for their own selfish reasons.”

What will Dear Leader do next?

Already there are the omens of a steady stream of concessions by Obama to the right.

There’s hardly any countervailing pressure for him to do otherwise. The president has no fixed principles of political economy, and who is at his elbow in the White House? Not the Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis. Not that splendid radical Elizabeth Warren, whose Consumer Financial Protection Bureau the Republicans are already scheduling for destruction. Next to Obama is Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, the bankers’ lapdog, whom the president holds in high esteem….

Two more years, of the same downward slide, courtesy of bipartisanship and “working together”? No way. Enough of dreary predictability. Let’s have a real mutiny against Obamian rightward drift. The time is not six months or a year down the road. The time is now.

But who will lead the charge?

Dakinikat turned me on to this article about Obama’s Asian trip: Asia After Obama, by Brahma Chellaney

Significantly, Obama restricted his tour to Asia’s leading democracies – India, Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea – which surround China and are central to managing its rise. Yet he spent all of last year assiduously courting the government in Beijing in the hope that he could make China a global partner on issues ranging from climate change to trade and financial regulation. The catchphrase coined by US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg in relation to China, “strategic reassurance,” actually signaled America’s intent to be more accommodating toward China’s ambitions.

Now, with his China strategy falling apart, Obama is seeking to do exactly what his predecessor attempted – to line up partners as an insurance policy in case China’s rising power slides into arrogance. Other players on the grand chessboard of Asian geopolitics also are seeking to formulate new equations, as they concurrently pursue strategies of hedging, balancing, and bandwagoning.

Once again, Obama plays the role of Bush III.

At Truthdig, I learned that David Sirota has found a new hero to replace his now tarnished idol Barack Obama. These days Sirota is bragging about hanging with cut rate Rolling Stone gonzo writer Matt Taibbi.

Sirota reminds me of that little dog Chester in the Looney Tunes cartoons–the one that idolizes the big bulldog Spike. Chester jumps around Butch, trying to get his attention, praising him, agreeing with him; and when Spike brushes him aside, he just keeps coming back for more. Sirota:

Over drinks in my living room, Taibbi and I pondered the financial Masters of the Universe and their maddening infallibility. I asked him why they never fear facing legal consequences. Do they believe they’re untouchable? Or do they know law enforcement won’t pursue them?

“They’re not afraid because other than Bernie Madoff, when was the last time someone on Wall Street faced any real punishment?” he responded. “Sure, a few go to jail once in a while, but they’re usually out in a few months and then on the speaking circuit. That’s not exactly a deterrent against bad behavior that’s making you millions.”

Deterrence—it’s the vaunted idea behind “tough on crime” sentences for violent offenses. Lock the door, throw away the key, and the theory says that heinous acts will be prevented.

Duh! I think Sirota wrote this piece just so everyone would know he’s pals with Taibbi.

Since it’s Saturday Morning….

What’s on your reading menu this morning?

52 Comments on “Saturday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    The NYT editorializes about TSA arrogance:

      • grayslady says:

        Normally I can’t stand Krauthammer, and I stopped reading WaPo a long time ago; but I must admit that he admirably captures the anger and frustration of the hapless traveler these days. Although Krauthammer talks about 4th amendment rights, to me, this is all part of an attempt by the “overclass” to convince normal Americans to willingly give up their rights (and a reasonably normal lifestyle) through a policy of fear-mongering. We’re all supposed to be constantly afraid of “the other”. Well, personally, I’m more afraid of the people running operations like TSA.

    • mablue2 says:

      OMG! It gets worse.

      TSA forces cancer survivor to show prosthetic breast

      A longtime Charlotte, N.C., flight attendant and cancer survivor told a local television station that she was forced to show her prosthetic breast during a pat-down.

      Cathy Bossi, who works for U.S. Airways, said she received the pat-down after declining to do the full-body scan because of radiation concerns.

      The TSA screener “put her full hand on my breast and said, ‘What is this?’ ” Bossi told the station. “And I said, ‘It’s my prosthesis because I’ve had breast cancer.’ And she said, ‘Well, you’ll need to show me that.’ “

      This is getting beyond ridiculous.

  2. Pat Johnson says:

    To show how little attention I pay to Obama, I had no idea he was out of the country once again.

    Not sure if this says more about me or him but either way I guess I have “tuned out” of his overall comings and goings. As far as I can tell, we are virtually without a leader.

  3. zaladonis says:

    Obama: pretending is the same as doing.

    Members of Organizing for America – the president’s former campaign committee – received a text message today asking them to call 888-206-1431 “to hear a special message from President Obama.”

    In the recorded message, the president says, “Thank you for the tireless work, you guys organized the single largest midterm election effort in this history of our party…You turned ‘Yes We Can’ into ‘Yes We Did.’”

    “You didn’t sit this one out even when all the pundits said it was hopeless and because of that we are stronger,” the president said. …

    As ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer has pointed out, according to exit polls, 29 million Obama voters from 2008 didn’t show up to vote in the midterms.

  4. zaladonis says:

    Obama’s the perfect leader of a wasteful entitled elite; I think these wannabes actually believe they’re Somebody because they can hoodwink -or intimidate- suckers by making the biggest noise, taking up the most space, and use up and waste more than anybody.

    LISBON (AFP) – The Portuguese hosts of Friday’s NATO summit hoped to use the event to promote clean-energy and electric cars, but all eyes were on US President Barack Obama’s diesel-guzzling “Beast” instead.

    As is usual when he travels, Obama’s eight-tonne armoured behemoth of a limousine was flown out to Lisbon before the US leader’s arrival, and it ferried him from the airport tarmac to his first meetings of the weekend.

    Doubtless he didn’t intend the Beast’s roar to drown out his hosts’ green message, but a US presidential motorcade and its attendant escort of Secret Service SUVs do attract attention, even at the most elite gatherings.

  5. Pat Johnson says:

    The GOP just does not care. (Neither does Obama but that’s for another time.) They are so entrenched in big money that cutting off benefits for those in need has no effect on them.

    They are confident that they are prepared to go to war on behalf of the wealthy as this is their own ATM. They are so confident of a huge victory in both Houses and the WH itself in 2012 that cutting off the poor and helpless is not going to tarnish their image one bit. They can taste the power; they revel in their chances to outmaneuver any form of legislation that does not include privatization that they can sit back and take advantage of the helplessness of this nation they feel will turn to them out of a sense of utter frustration.

    It explains their success in their willingness to cut off aid to the least among us as they push their hateful agenda through to fruition. How do these people actually look themselves in the mirror or sleep at night knowing that what they do is politcially motivated against those who are in need?

    These “Christian warriors”, so intent on maintaining the fortunes of those who do little to assist this nation, are the most despicable pack of jackals to ever hold the title of “public servant”. They will pass the unemployment bill as soon as they have what they want. Extending that tax cut into perpetuity for the sake and the payback to those donors who fill their coffers and pocketbooks.

    They should hang their heads in shame.

  6. soupcity says:

    So Simpson thinks this will be “beautiful, brutal politics”. He sounds like a demented ghoul. This is not a game. Do these guys need to be tripping over dead bodies in the streets before they finally get it? Blood boiling…. again.

    • bostonboomer says:

      He looks like a demented ghoul too. Why Obama needed to drag him out of retirement, I’ll never understand. Aren’t there plenty of wingnuts available to put old people into the streets to die?

      • soupcity says:

        Yep, saw him interviewed on something (couldn’t keep watching) and he seems almost gleeful, it’s freakin scary. Obama isn’t even phoning it in at this point.

        And the UI extension debate goes on, they might as well put June and July’s debate on this on an endless loop on cspan cause it’s happening all over again.

      • Sima says:

        I don’t get why Obama sought him out either. He’s not even a Dem. I guess the answer is the obvious. Obama wants to gut SS and Medicare, and sought out the people who would help him do it.

  7. glennmcgahee says:

    I saw Simpson interviewed on that MSNBC morning Joe show. Why I watch it I can’t figure out exactly. Simpson was talking about his cuts to Social Security and the lies about its insolvency since there are so many damn old poor people. Mika kept trying to say “I love it, I think the cuts should be greater”. She must’ve said it 2 or 3 times and each time, they ignored her obviously attempting to talk over her since she was exposing how clueless she really is. Each time I’ve seen Simpson, he’s grinning from ear to ear describing the power he’s been granted by Obama. He’s always been one of the most uncaring, ruthless politicians I can remember. Coming from a state that must have the fewest ratio of voters per square mile and exactly what has Wyoming contributed as far as tax receipts that could compare to almost any other metropolitan City, much less another state? Wyoming does not tax corporations. Any questions?
    Boston, thanks for that great Chester cartoon. Thats my dog – Chester! He’s a miniature rat terrier that followedmy other half and our old 14 year old beagle, Jake, home from the dog park 1 day. He’s the sweetest,smartest guy you’ll ever meet and we credit him with saving our Jake’s life. Jake has cancer and was given only weeks to live when Chester came along. Chester would not leave Jake alone to die and Jakes been improving ever since. Almost 2 years now and the docs are amazed. What a guy!

  8. Pat Johnson says:

    I particularly remember Simpson from the Anita Hill hearings. He was abominable then as he is now. A disgusting, sexist, party hack who comes from a long line of millionaires who made their money on the backs of ordinary people and who refuse to give back in any form.

    Why Obama chose to drag that miserable piece of work out of mothballs to oversee an unneed commission is beyond comprehension.

    Here’s a few hints on how to save a few bucks: bring the troops home, let the Bush tax cuts die, and quit funding commissions like this that make me question the sanity of those in charge.

  9. grayslady says:

    Just saw a story on Yahoo headlines ( that a park ranger has been shot and critically injured in a Utah park. Tell me again why anyone thinks it’s okay to carry weapons into a national park. I have major problems with how the 2nd amendment is being interpreted.

  10. Minkoff Minx says:

    I am just running out, but I wanted to say congrats to the boost in the blog’s standing in the world wide web…I think that is fantastic. And the more links to the blog, the better. It increases the “legitimacy” of the blog in Google’s eyes. (The more links outside of the site, the higher up the site will get in the google search results. SEO is quite confusing at times. ) Anyway, I think it is great.

  11. Pips says:

    Obama and his team must have had a good laugh, behind the scene, over this:

    How’s your family?” Obama asked [Karzai] whose brother is being investigated by the United States for corruption. [Karzai] replied, “Good.”

    And even though he’s the “Leader of the Free World” and such … he set the tone? Really?

    Karzai praised Obama for setting the right “tone” at NATO, and Obama thanked him.

    “That was my goal,” Obama said. “Every once in a while, I do things right.”

  12. cwaltz says:

    Simpson and Bowles don’t care and won’t care. I’ve little doubt that they got their bailout when we bailed out the banks and Wall Street. They could care less whether the rest of us are bailed out or not.

    They figure they can keep repeating it’ll be the end of the world if we raise the debt ceiling and eventually the sheep in this country will believe it. By the way, can someone explain why the nonpartisan committee is meeting with politicians behind closed doors? Paging President Transparency…….

  13. dakinikat says:

    Here’s an interesting read at The Incidental Economist about cost and access to Health Care services. There’s a chart there that indicates it’s not only poor people that can’t get access to appropriate health care in this country, wealthier individuals can’t get access either. It compares us to other countries and you’ll see exactly how our system basically exists to deny health care. The graph is really shocking!

    • grayslady says:

      Wonder if they included dental care in that graph as part of health care costs? Then, indeed, I could believe that Americans with above-average incomes couldn’t afford access to care! The cost of dental care is nothing short of outrageous, IMO (i.e., $500 out-of-pocket for a crown in a typical business-subsidized dental program).

    • Pips says:

      Not being economics savvy at all I’m sure there’s a lot more to it than just the numbers, but I do find it strange that countries that provide free, universal healt care spend a lesser % of the GDP than countries that don’t.

      An example from a quick google search: “visualeconomics.

  14. dakinikat says:

    Equally shocking story about Professor Ed Overton from LSU who keeps showing up on all kinds of programs to downplay the effects of the Oil Gusher. He’s basically a shill. Here’s a raw story article that breaks his background wide open.

    • bostonboomer says:

      It’s terrible. He really went over to the other side.

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      This guy somehow made me think of Dr. Talc, and the letter that Ignatius wrote to him in red crayon…

      Your total ignorance of that which you profess to teach merits the death penalty. I doubt whether you would know that St. Cassian of Imola was stabbed to death by his students with their styli. His death, a martyr’s honorable one, made him a patron saint of teachers.
      Pray to him, you deluded fool, you “anyone for tennis?” golf-playing, cocktail-quaffing pseudo-pedant, for you do indeed need a heavenly patron.
      Although your days are numbered, you will not die as a martyr—for you further no holy cause—but as the total ass which you really are.

      Sounds like this LSU professor really is an ass.

      Oh, and that quote above is from Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy O’Toole.

  15. dakinikat says:

    Here’s another Raw story article about how Republicans in the House want to take down the 14th amendment to the Constitution giving you birth rights to citizenship.

    • Pat Johnson says:

      This must be the aftermath of the “message” that was sent out on November 2nd that so many thought necessary to bring the GOP back into power.

      Anyone not thinking that these thugs mean business should get their heads out of their butts long enough to realize they most certainly do.

      If sending a “message” that further weakens the number of Dems left in congress with this type of legislation then we are further doomed.

      I hate these people. There, I’ve said it.

    • cwaltz says:

      Our birthright is going to consist of austerity anyway from the way it appears to be going anyway. It’s at a point where they’ve almost pillaged anything of value they can. They’ve managed to destroy oceans, sell mineral rights, sell off roads….Now they are looking to ensure they don’t have to pay the 2 trillion some odd dollars they utilized to finance their expedition on other countries worth pillaging.

      With 1 in 4 Americans reliant on help for food and less than 1 in 400 worrying about shelter and millions without access to healthcare, I figure the birthright of the bottom 80% appears to be poverty. We’re pretty much the best off of third world countries but we pretty much have managed to almost achieve the third world status the top 5% wishes to achieve.

    • soupcity says:

      Ok, so now in addition to the “anchor babies” we now have “terror babies”.

      These people are nuts.

  16. mablue2 says:

    I think the NY Times is baiting you:

    Sculptor Dangles Clues to Stubborn Secret in C.I.A.’s Backyard

    It is perhaps one of the C.I.A.’s most mischievous secrets.
    “Kryptos,” the sculpture nestled in a courtyard of the agency’s Virginia headquarters since 1990, is a work of art with a secret code embedded in the letters that are punched into its four panels of curving copper.

    “Our work is about discovery — discovering secrets,” said Toni Hiley, director of the C.I.A. Museum. “And this sculpture is full of them, and it still hasn’t given up the last of its secrets.”

    Not for lack of trying. For many thousands of would-be code crackers worldwide, “Kryptos” has become an object of obsession. Dan Brown has even referred to it in his novels.

  17. soupcity says:

    Oh no, you gotta do at least 10 Our Fathers. 😉 Good grief. For some reason this is really cracking me up, I thought the sperm was sacred or something.

    It’s funny because today my sis and I were talking about going to confession in grade school and how much we dreaded it. They brought in a few priests for our weekly confession session and you could always tell which confessional Fr. Petro was in, the line was very long because he gave the least amt of penance.

    Glad I survived to become the heathen I am today. 🙂

  18. Minkoff Minx says:

    I saw some talk on Alegre about this so I googled it…

    Democrats Spoiling To Fight GOP Blast Obama, Prep To Go Own Way

    “Top Democratic activists and lawmakers who allege that President Obama blew it by being too passive during the midterm campaign, are responding in at least two ways.

    They continue to criticize the president heavily. And they’re not waiting around for the White House to ramp up anti-Republican aggression.

    Instead, Democrats are making plans to fight Republican fire with Democratic flames by creating their own outside groups to mirror those the GOP used to great effect during the recent campaign season.”

  19. dakinikat says:

    Oh, sheesh, I noticed the water pressure went really low after I took a bath last night and now we’re under a boil order. Wonder what happened to our cranky antique water system? The entire east bank is under it.