Monday, January 31, 2011

Rebirth

Number 9 of Haibane Renmei.



The previous 8 episodes.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Obama, Before and After

The Afghan village of Tarok Kalache.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Send in the Clowns

Mr. Floyd on that most ridiculous of political creatures: a 2011 Obama liberal.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Word

Fifty years ago today, 22° with a wind of 20 mph, making it feel like 5°.

The ice was broken.



A fine new website.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

His Father's Nightmare


In this week's 5-point-descent, Barack Obama lectures us (in the Wall Street Journal) on the glories of Big Business and the evils of regulating it.
For two centuries, America's free market has not only been the source of dazzling ideas and path-breaking products, it has also been the greatest force for prosperity the world has ever known. That vibrant entrepreneurialism is the key to our continued global leadership and the success of our people.

But throughout our history, one of the reasons the free market has worked is that we have sought the proper balance. . . Sometimes, those rules have gotten out of balance, placing unreasonable burdens on business — burdens that have stifled innovation and have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs. . .

. . .Today, I am signing an executive order that makes clear that this is the operating principle of our government. This order requires that federal agencies ensure that regulations protect our safety, health and environment while promoting economic growth. And it orders a government-wide review of the rules already on the books to remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive.

We are also making it our mission to root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb. . . As the executive order I am signing makes clear, we are seeking more affordable, less intrusive means to achieve the same ends — giving careful consideration to benefits and costs. This means writing rules with more input from experts, businesses and ordinary citizens.

We're also getting rid of absurd and unnecessary paperwork requirements that waste time and money. We're looking at the system as a whole to make sure we avoid excessive, inconsistent and redundant regulation. And finally, today I am directing federal agencies to do more to account for — and reduce — the burdens regulations may place on small businesses. Small firms drive growth and create most new jobs in this country. We need to make sure nothing stands in their way.

This is the lesson of our history: Our economy is not a zero-sum game. Regulations do have costs; often, as a country, we have to make tough decisions about whether those costs are necessary. But what is clear is that we can strike the right balance. We can make our economy stronger and more competitive, while meeting our fundamental responsibilities to one another.
Another view.



And Glenn Greenwald on how "Obama has won the War on Terror debate" - for the far right.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Uomo D'onore

The great Dr. Michael Parenti, from late 2007.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Witch Doctors

On MLK Day, the NYT continues its now almost daily front-page assault on the needs of the surplus population, as we move towards a Utopia of the Masters.
The dismal fiscal situation in many states is forcing governors, despite their party affiliation, toward a consensus on what medicine is needed going forward.

The prescription? Slash spending. Avoid tax increases. Tear up regulations that might drive away business and jobs. Shrink government, even if that means tackling the thorny issues of public employees and their pensions.

In years past, new governors have introduced themselves in inaugural remarks filled with cheery, soaring hopes; plans for expansions to education, health care and social services; and the outlines of new, ambitious local projects.

But an examination of more than two dozen opening addresses of incoming governors in recent days shows that such upbeat visions were often eclipsed by worries about jobs, money and budget gaps. Those speeches are the best indication thus far of the intentions of this class of 37 governors — 26 new and the others re-elected.

“The rhetoric has grown very similar,” said Scott D. Pattison, executive director of the nonpartisan National Association of State Budget Officers. “A lot of times, you can’t tell if it’s a Republican or Democrat, a conservative or a liberal.”

In Wisconsin, the new Republican governor, Scott Walker, says that any prospect of a tax increase is off the table, and that he wants to “right-size” state government, meaning, he says, that it would provide “only the essential services our citizens need and taxpayers can afford.”

In California, the new Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, lists as one of his guiding principles (second only to his tenet to “speak the truth”) support for new taxes only if voters want them. And he says it is time to examine the state’s system of public pensions — an increasingly vitriolic political issue in states around the country — to ensure that they are “fair to the workers and fair to the taxpayers.”

Friday, January 14, 2011

Crocodiles


Pwesident Pwuddles.
Christina was given to us on September 11th, 2001, one of 50 babies born that day to be pictured in a book called "Faces of Hope." On either side of her photo in that book were simple wishes for a child's life. "I hope you help those in need," read one. "I hope you know all of the words to the National Anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart. I hope you jump in rain puddles."

If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today. And here on Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit.

May God bless and keep those we've lost in restful and eternal peace. May He love and watch over the survivors. And may He bless the United States of America.
The Infested and the Nameless.
Suspected U.S. unmanned aircraft fired four missiles at a house in a militant-infested area of northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, killing at least four people, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

The U.S. has stepped up its use of drone strikes to target militants who use Pakistan's lawless tribal area as a base to launch attacks against foreign troops in Afghanistan.

Most of the strikes, including the one Wednesday, have occurred in North Waziristan, the main base for the Haqqani network, which U.S. officials have said poses the greatest danger to American troops in Afghanistan.

The identities and nationalities of those killed in Wednesday's strike were unknown, said the intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang


And so Obama's Pwogs across the airwaves bleat about right-wing terrorism and Limbaugh and Michael Savage and Arizona racists and gun control laws and the sexy Ms. Palin. The New York Times this morning even headlined the Loughner murder spree as an event which could "alter the political landscape" -- make sure to catch MSNBC tonight and for the rest of the winter on that one. Yes, this will surely turn America back to its warm and compassionate self. You betcha.

Of course, the Pwogs are correct. The targets of their self-righteousness are indeed scum which should be forever banned from all contact with American Civilization. And the victims of our latest Lone Gunman must be prayed for.

Yet these same High Horsepersons have had little or nothing to say the past two years about this. (No doubt Mr. Loughner thought Congresswoman Giffords and her staff were also Militants.)

Or this.

This.

Or this.

Or this.

Or this.

Wasn't Lee Harvey Loughner just following the American way taught us these past couple years by our Nobel Peace Laureate: in the words of Chris Floyd, "creep, sneak, kill, run, lie – repeat"? I guess Pwogs must be too busy Twittering and Facebooking to notice when the victims are dorky darkies far, far away.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Scab Nation

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

You Are What You Read

USA Today:
Stung by criticism he is aloof and out of touch, Barack Obama has turned to the great communicator for inspiration.

He has used his Christmas holiday in Hawaii to read a biography of Ronald Reagan.

The icon of the Republicans and the Tea Party may seem an unusual choice of subject matter for the Democratic President, who spent the first day of 2011 with wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha at Pyramid Rock, a secluded beach at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

The first family then hit the tennis courts at Kailua Racquet Club, a private club near the neighbourhood where the Obamas are renting a luxurious ocean-front home.

Like Mr Obama, Reagan suffered a huge drop in popularity and heavy losses in mid-term elections, yet managed to bounce back to win a second term.

Reagan, like Mr Obama, endured what was until then the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s and saw unemployment rise to more than 10 per cent.

Voter disenchantment led to a large swing to the Democrats in the 1982 mid-term elections.

As the economy recovered, however, he went on to trounce Walter Mondale, his Democratic challenger, in the 1984 presidential election, winning almost every state.

Mr Obama's approval ratings, at 47 per cent according to last week's Gallup poll, are nowhere near as low as Reagan's, which fell to just 35 per cent at the beginning of 1983.

Mr Obama, a former law professor who is regarded as distant even by his own staff, is studying how the Hollywood actor achieved his remarkable comeback.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs revealed the President's holiday reading included Lou Cannon's account of Reagan's administration, President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime.

"Like Obama, Reagan greatly valued his privacy and was not naturally gregarious," noted Bradley Bloch on The Huffington Post, adding Reagan was a master of "the personal relationship".

"Reagan knew that at the end of the day politics -- even (and perhaps especially) at the global level -- is ultimately about people," Bloch wrote. "As Obama looks to get his groove back, Reagan may be his most accessible role model."

Perhaps inspired by "the Gipper" -- Reagan's nickname from one of his film roles -- Mr Obama is expected to return to Washington tomorrow to start the second half of his presidency with renewed vigour.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

More Fog. . .

The subject line from this morning's New York Times digest:
Strained States Turning to Laws to Curb Labor Unions
The top of the story:
Faced with growing budget deficits and restive taxpayers, elected officials from Maine to Alabama, Ohio to Arizona, are pushing new legislation to limit the power of labor unions, particularly those representing government workers, in collective bargaining and politics.

State officials from both parties are wrestling with ways to curb the salaries and pensions of government employees, which typically make up a significant percentage of state budgets. On Wednesday, for example, New York’s new Democratic governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, is expected to call for a one-year salary freeze for state workers, a move that would save $200 million to $400 million and challenge labor’s traditional clout in Albany.

But in some cases — mostly in states with Republican governors and Republican statehouse majorities — officials are seeking more far-reaching, structural changes that would weaken the bargaining power and political influence of unions, including private sector ones.

For example, Republican lawmakers in Indiana, Maine, Missouri and seven other states plan to introduce legislation that would bar private sector unions from forcing workers they represent to pay dues or fees, reducing the flow of funds into union treasuries. In Ohio, the new Republican governor, following the precedent of many other states, wants to ban strikes by public school teachers.

Some new governors, most notably Scott Walker of Wisconsin, are even threatening to take away government workers’ right to form unions and bargain contracts.

“We can no longer live in a society where the public employees are the haves and taxpayers who foot the bills are the have-nots,” Mr. Walker, a Republican, said in a speech. “The bottom line is that we are going to look at every legal means we have to try to put that balance more on the side of taxpayers.”

Many of the proposals may never become law. But those that do are likely to reduce union influence in election campaigns, with reverberations for both parties.
The rest.

Meanwhile,

Monday, January 3, 2011

Outrage

For some masochistic reason I still allow the New York Times to contaminate my morning Inbox with a "daily digest." Yesterday's had this in the subject line:
Public Workers Facing Outrage as Budget Crises Grow
A quick look and I thought: "Hooray! Finally pushback against the coast-to-coast ghouls demanding privatization of everything is getting some serious coverage. Maybe 2011 will turn into 1848. Maybe the workers of Greece and Ireland and France have had an effect." I figured the outrage they were facing was their own internal outrage, caused by the demonizing of everything public and communal in this increasingly sociopathic "society."

Then I clicked on the story.
Ever since Marie Corfield’s confrontation with Gov. Chris Christie this fall over the state’s education cuts became a YouTube classic, she has received a stream of vituperative e-mails and Facebook postings.

“People I don’t even know are calling me horrible names,” said Ms. Corfield, an art teacher who had pleaded the case of struggling teachers. “The mantra is that the problem is the unions, the unions, the unions.”

Across the nation, a rising irritation with public employee unions is palpable, as a wounded economy has blown gaping holes in state, city and town budgets, and revealed that some public pension funds dangle perilously close to bankruptcy. In California, New York, Michigan and New Jersey, states where public unions wield much power and the culture historically tends to be pro-labor, even longtime liberal political leaders have demanded concessions — wage freezes, benefit cuts and tougher work rules.

It is an angry conversation. Union chiefs, who sometimes persuaded members to take pension sweeteners in lieu of raises, are loath to surrender ground. Taxpayers are split between those who want cuts and those who hope that rising tax receipts might bring easier choices.

And a growing cadre of political leaders and municipal finance experts argue that much of the edifice of municipal and state finance is jury-rigged and, without new revenue, perhaps unsustainable. Too many political leaders, they argue, acted too irresponsibly, failing to either raise taxes or cut spending.

A brutal reckoning awaits, they say.

These battles play out in many corners, but few are more passionate than in New Jersey, where politics tend toward the moderately liberal and nearly 20 percent of the work force is unionized (compared with less than 14 percent nationally). From tony horse-country towns to middle-class suburbs to hard-edged cities, property tax and unemployment rates are high, and budgets are pools of red ink.

A new regime in state politics is venting frustration less at Goldman Sachs executives (Governor Christie vetoed a proposed “millionaire’s tax” this year) than at unions. Newark recently laid off police officers after they refused to accept cuts, and Camden has threatened to lay off half of its officers in January.

Fred Siegel, a historian at the conservative-leaning Manhattan Institute, has written of the “New Tammany Hall,” which he describes as the incestuous alliance between public officials and labor.

“Public unions have had no natural adversary; they give politicians political support and get good contracts back,” Mr. Siegel said. “It’s uniquely dysfunctional.”

Even if that is so, this battle comes woven with complications. Across the nation in the last two years, public workers have experienced furloughs and pay cuts. Local governments shed 212,000 jobs last year.

A raft of recent studies found that public salaries, even with benefits included, are equivalent to or lag slightly behind those of private sector workers. The Manhattan Institute, which is not terribly sympathetic to unions, studied New Jersey and concluded that teachers earned wages roughly comparable to people in the private sector with a similar education.

Benefits tend to be the sorest point. From Illinois to New Jersey, politicians have refused to pay into pension funds, creating deeper and deeper shortfalls.

In California, pension costs now crowd out spending for parks, public schools and state universities; in Illinois, spiraling pension costs threaten the state with insolvency.

And taxpayer resentment simmers.
"Taxpayer resentment simmers." A resentment directed not toward a $25,000,000,000,000 transfer of taxpayer money to private financial crime combines, no strings attached: no firings, no takeovers, no congressional investigations, no Justice Department investigations, no new rules or regulations, no enforced give-backs, no trials, no sentences, no executions. A resentment not directed toward the $400,000,000,000 each month spent collectively (the only 21st Century American form of collectivization) on wars against the people of Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Colombia and (covertly at the moment) Iran.

No, a simmering resentment -- with a brutal reckoning awaiting! -- against people cleaning up parks, and filing away library books, and watching for forest fires, and building roads, and building bridges, and taking care of old people, and teaching children.

In 1848, de Tocqueville wrote: "society was cut in two: those who had nothing united in common envy, and those who had anything united in common terror." It seems the division in USA 2011 will be between jackals (those with everything and, strangely, plenty of those with nothing) and humans, with the balance tipping -- thanks to corporatist foghorns such as the NYT -- toward the jackals more and more each day.

Nader:
The left has disemboweled itself. It doesn't even have a strategy every four years like a good poker player. The best example is Richard Trumka and the AFL-CIO. Obama has given them nothing. Therefore, they are demanding nothing. They huff and puff. They make tough speeches. But Trumka hasn't even made Obama's campaign pledge of a $9.50 minimum wage by this year an issue. If you want to increase consumer demand, what better way to do it than to unleash $300 billion in wages? The card check for unionization, which Obama pledged as his No. 1 sop to the labor unions, is dead. The unions do not even demand a hearing. And now wait till you see what they will do to the public employee unions. Part of it is their own fault. They are going to be crushed. Everybody is ganging up on them. You have new class warfare. It is non-unionized lower income and middle class taking it out on the unionized middle-income public employees. It is a classic example of oligarchic manipulation. It will start playing out big time in New York State with Andrew Cuomo and others. They will start saying, ‘Why are you getting this? Most workers who pay the taxes, who pay your salaries, are not getting this.' This plays.
What is to be done?