December 27, 2009 archive

the Jane Hamsher Front — Strike the Empire Back!

I know, I’m the pest who keeps complaining that, for all their heroic posturing, our progressive leaders have been pathetic in refusing to brandish any kind of retaliatory stick while begging the Democratic Party to not turn the healthcare bill into nothing more than the bloody stump of reform.  And urging those outraged at those pathetic leaders to start figuring out how to hit the Democratic Party where it hurts.

Then along comes Jane Hamsher.  For the record, I had criticized her in my intro to the Full Court Press as one of those progressive leaders who had caved in and was supporting the bill even without the “robust” public option she had once demanded.  But then she turned around and came out 4-square for killing the Senate bill.  And then, a few days ago, she joined with notorious scoundrel Grover Norquist  to demand an investigation of Rahm Emmanuel for malfeasance regarding his relationship with Freddie Mac.

Well, I gotta say the lady’s got guts.

Her move follows one or both of two tracks.  It could be seen as an innocent exercise in good  government.  Or it could be a counterpunch to the way Rahm and the White House have viciously sidelined progressives around, well, everything.  Both are valid.

But working with Norquist! the Dems cry while clutching at their smelling salts.  Okay, let’s look at the Democrats’ record.  The Stupak amendment passed mostly with Republican votes.  And then when the House Democrats passed its Stupak-laden bill, they made Stupak their own.  They passed a Republican measure.

So the Obamacrats cry “teabagger!”  Jane Hamsher is getting her money from Jack Abramoff!  Next thing you know, she’ll be leading teabagger rallies.  The charges are nonsense, but the underlying politic is worth some thought.

Make no mistake, the teabagger movement is a fascist-led, corporate-funded reactionary movement.  But its success is in part a monument to progressive failure.  While progressives had dreams of Obama-plums dancing in their heads, they ignored their working class base, which was outraged that Wall Street was getting bailed out while they were losing their homes.  They distrust the Fed.  They fear a distant government that might do things like, oh, mandating people to buy insurance they can’t afford.  The teabaggers were able to merge this righteous anger with backward racist and sexist currents in the American people.  Because progressives were asleep at the wheel!

Afternoon Edition

Afternoon Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Suicide attack at Pakistan Shiite procession kills 30

by Hasan Mansoor, AFP

Mon Dec 28, 11:43 am ET

KARACHI (AFP) – A suicide bomber on Monday targeted Pakistan’s largest procession of Shiite Muslims on their holiest day, killing at least 30 people and wounding dozens more in defiance of a major security crackdown.

The blast sparked riots in Karachi, the financial capital, where angry mourners went on the rampage, throwing stones at ambulances, torching cars and shops and firing bullets into the air, sparking appeals for calm.

Pakistan had deployed tens of thousands of police and paramilitary forces, fearing sectarian clashes or militant attacks on Ashura processions, when Shiites whip themselves to mourn the seventh-century killing of Imam Hussein.

Weekend News Digest

Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread

This Sunday’s Edition is being brought to you, one more time, by TMC. Hopefully ek hornbeck has survived the Holiday in Stars Hollow and will return to the news to its regular format. It was fun. 😉

The Top News Story

No sign Detroit flight incident in larger plot: U.S.


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – There is no initial evidence that the Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a U.S. passenger jet was involved in a larger plot, a senior U.S. official said on Sunday.

But al Qaeda involvement is a “subject of investigation” in Friday’s incident, U.S. homeland security chief Janet Napolitano said after U.S. authorities on Saturday charged Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, with attempting to blow up the plane by setting alight an explosive device attached to his body.

The suspect, who was being treated for burns at a Michigan hospital, was overpowered by passengers and crew on the Northwest Airlines plane from Amsterdam on Christmas Day with almost 300 people on board.

“Well, right now we have no indication that it is part of anything larger. But obviously the investigation continues. And we have instituted more screening and what we call mitigation measures at airports,” U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano told CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

Asked whether al Qaeda was involved in the incident, Napolitano told ABC’s “This Week” program, “That is now the subject of investigation, and it would be inappropriate for me to say and inappropriate to speculate. So we will let the FBI and the criminal justice system now do their work.”

Send Them a Message

It’s official.  The USA Patriot Act is no longer the greatest social achievement of our time.  The Baucus/Lieberman Perpetual Serfdom Act has just been awarded that distinction.  Obama is immensely proud of it.  “Pragmatic” progressives are saluting it.  They’re telling us we should be grateful for the crumbs Democrats toss us, they’re ridiculing us for taking a stand on principle, they’re calling it “wanting our ponies”, they never shut up, their condescending lips are always flapping, their lips never stop flapping until police state decrees like this are issued from on high . . .

After hearing passionate arguments from the Obama Administration, the Supreme Court acquiesced to the president’s fervent request and, in a one-line ruling, let stand a lower court decision that declared torture an ordinary, expected consequence of military detention, while introducing a shocking new precedent for all future courts to follow: anyone who is arbitrarily declared a “suspected enemy combatant” by the president or his designated minions is no longer a “person.” They will simply cease to exist as a legal entity. They will have no inherent rights, no human rights, no legal standing whatsoever.

Every time Obama channels Cheney and goes all medieval on us, his Obamabots fall silent. All we hear is crickets.  Until the next greatest social achievement of our time is announced. Then the festivities begin anew and anyone who doesn’t join in gets burned as a witch.  

For corporate fascists keeping score at home, that’s two great social achievements in one week!  For “pragmatic” progressives, it’s one great social achievement and a minor disappointment.  Nothing to dwell on.  Clap louder and it’ll go away.  For actual progressives, it’s the final evidence that we no longer have any choices left.  There is only one way to fight back now.  We have to boycott the major parties in the 2010 Midterms. Vote 3rd party. Vote for a write-in candidate.  Take electoral action in whatever way you think is most effective.

Iranians can die for democracy . . .

iranian election protester Pictures, Images and Photos

But we can’t even boycott an election?  

Don’t argue about it.  Do it.  Call it what you want.  Get to work organizing it.  Get to work publicizing it.  Help in any way and every way you can or get the hell out of the way.    

Democrats told us they couldn’t Impeach because “we don’t have the votes”.  They told us they couldn’t pass single payer because “we don’t have the votes.”   They told us they couldn’t give us a strong public option because “we don’t have the votes.”  They told us they couldn’t even give us a watered down public option because “we don’t have the votes.”  

When progressives boycott the Midterms, Democrats will discover the true meaning of “we don’t have the votes.”  They’ve been using it as a bullshit excuse, we’re going to use it as a warning, as a nationwide declaration that we will no longer tolerate betrayal.    

“Pragmatic” progressives will freak out, we’ll be lectured about “reality” by people who think that gutter they’re crawling in is the Yellow Brick Road to Incremental Change.  They’ve been crawling in that gutter of “political reality” ever since their anti-Impeachment days.  They weren’t worth listening to then and they never will be.    

We’ve supported Democrats over and over again, election after election, but nothing ever changes. Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is insanity.   It’s insane to keep reelecting corrupt politicians who keep betraying us.  

WE ALL NEED TO STOP DOING THAT. and Tea Parties coming together??

(Will be cross-posted at OpenLeft and

Is it realistic to think that two groups such as and Freedom Works, the lead catalyst and organizer of the Tea Party/9-12 movement could possibly find common ground? Given the institutional and financial pressures inherent in the two-party system it will be very difficult for these groups to actually work togther publicly, but recently two of their leaders met on a “transpartisan panel” at the Engaging the Other Conference. Their was a remarkably civil dialogue and all present were inspired that if the unthinkable cooperation were possible, the red-blue game may begin to shift in dramatic ways. Here’s a 7 min. video that gives a flavor of the very hopeful conversations…

Art: some stories and some how-to (with html help)


I’m not really a big devotee of Christmas.  My partner is, however.  So she expects to receive presents and she expects to give me some.

On Christmas day, we received two boxes of top-of-the-line marshmallows, A box each of key lime apples and key lime pears, a “care package” from our Iranian sister-in-law (which includes baklava, raisins, and a lot of food objects of the more strangely Persian variety), and a gingerbread lighthouse, which we have thus far successfully kept sealed.

And Debbie received some socks and I got a comfy pair of fleece lined booties to replace the pair which had finally fallen apart.

Debbie’s other presents have not arrived yet.  She collects dolls and I ordered her two expensive ones which will take several more days to get here.

And I got an upgrade for my art program…

Open Range


Now for Something Light & Fluffy (err maybe)

All the News That’s Probably NOT Fit to Print on the Front Page of the New York Times


Not again! Giant Swedish Christmas goat statue gets torched


Wed Dec 23, 1:22 pm ET

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Arsonists set fire early on Wednesday to a giant straw statue of the Swedish Yule goat, a forerunner to Santa Claus in Sweden, defying security measures for a third year in a row.

Police in Gavle, north of Stockholm, said an unknown number of attackers had torched the goat in the early morning hours, leaving a blackened skeleton standing in the town square.

“It’s a tradition to burn it down,” Lofberg said. “It’s happened an untold number of times since the 1960s … it’s been burned down more years than it’s survived.”

Burning the goat has been a popular, and illegal, tradition in Gavle since the 1960s when an advertising executive first came up with the idea to endow the city with a giant replica of the goat, a Christmas decoration common in many Swedish homes.

There were no witnesses, but a bottle of lighter fluid was found near the goat’s frame, which stood about 12 meters tall at the apex of its horns, police told Reuters.

OK, Dear Hearts, take it away. Feel free to add anything wierd, odd or just plain too stupid to be believed. This is a Weird Open Thread

Historical Income Tax Rates for the Top Tax Bracket — with Charts

Increasing the Tax rates on the Wealthy — can it happen? should it happen?

Dare we let the fabled “Engine of the Economy” grind to a halt?

How about a little Historical Perspective — How does the “Upper Crust” ever manage their Tax Burden?

(Click for Larger Image)

(By the way, that red line is the “Historical Trend” for the Tax Percentage Rate, for the Top Tax Bracket in America.  It just keeps going down.)

How much do you have to make, before that burdensome Top Percentage Rate kicks in? — here are the Historic Thresholds:

(Click for Larger Image)

(That Super Wealthy threshold, has been creeping up since 1992.)

National Taxpayers Union

Focusing the Flames ~ Of Class War and Coalitions

Crosspostedy Goodness from my blog,The Wild Wild Left

I have been pointedly not following the Jane Hamsher flamefest. I guess she cosigned a call for recalling Rahm with Norquist.

Why, then do I mention it at all? It seems in this busy week spent on everything BUT politics, a semi-vacation from my obsession, it fits nicely with the essay that had brewing in my brain in the background all week. Yes, on sub-levels the internal writers dialogue never ceases no matter what I’m doing.

Then on Christmas day, I read Cassiodorus’ essay on Docudharma, “On the possibility of a class coalition,” and the subsequent commentary. It was a provoking and well-cited work, that I would ask my gentle readers to use as an introduction to this work. I would ask my wild and hard-assed readers to, too. Heh.


This sentence seems to echo around the Liberalsphere this week: “Your political-class elites suck; my political-class elites rock!” Then the flames abound.

I shake my head in wonder. How can we survive as a coalition when we cannot even sustain ties within the community of our own echo-chambers? Are even we, the best among the Political-junkie, citizen-journalist, self-educating left so infantilized by our society and education that we cannot empathize with others perceptions, cannot as adults accept disagreement without cutting ties and creating enmity? (I was tempted to use the intentional misspelling and go for enema-ity, for we tend to flush out as ‘waste’ those who we see as flawed)

We are all the sum results of our life’s experiences, for better or ill. That is what we bring, no more, no less, to the table in this fight. Our personal realities create the being, create the actions and thoughts and create the blind spots we have with one another.

So Hamsher “failed” her idolizers, and now they are hurt and angry. I get it. I’ve regrettably done the same with some of my own allies. In just a heartbeat, you can turn the most dedicated and driven activist into someone who just gives up entirely on the process. Even the most focused of flames can go out.

And unfocused flames like those at the GOS? Their scorched Earth policy leaves activism a barren wasteland.

Its a Class War. How do we learn to Focus the Flame?

A Spiritual Awakening in the Most Unlikely of Settings

A few years back my depression flared up again, and it became necessary for me to make the long-practiced, but always demoralizing trip to the hospital to regulate my medications and in so doing stabilize my illness. The hospital close to my apartment had no beds available, but the law indicates that those who require hospitalization for any reason must be taken somewhere, no matter how far away that may be. After waiting for several hours, an ambulance arrived for me and I ended at a psychiatric hospital that I eventually came to discover was very badly managed and severely understaffed. Daily existence was trying enough, particularly when in such an emotionally vulnerable state, but I reached my breaking point when it came down to separate into groups for discussion. Substance abusers headed in one direction, and psychiatric patients went in another.

Before that instant, I had no idea I was about to have a spiritual awakening. This setting would seem the least likely of all regarding spiritual insight. To be taught a lesson with application well beyond the immediate was something I recognize now I needed desperately. The most potent image that stuck with me most was that of sitting in a room with ailing people, many of whom were clothed in the barest of scrubs, some of whom did not have their own clothes to wear. The nominal leader began a rambling devotional which then moved unskillfully to a denunciation of the sins of humankind. It was not until well after it concluded that I realized the leader was not a staff member, but was a fellow patient. As this delusional prophet spread a message of hellfire and brimstone, I saw heads droop lower and lower to the ground, believing that God must be punishing them for having mental illness. There was a time, and not that long ago that those with psychiatric disorders were seen as being either possessed by demons or being cursed by the Devil.

It took an experience that viscerally jarring for me to get the point. At that precise moment I vowed that I would never stand for such a thing ever again. The God I believed in then and believe in now was a God of love and a cool healing touch. I regret to mention how uncomfortable I had been in the presence of so many souls whose poverty and crippling condition rendered them a truly pathetic sight. Now, my heart was filled with pity and concern, as well as anger at the man who had encouraged them to curse themselves for a condition which they did nothing to create themselves. The world is full of much ignorance and much misguided advice, but since that day I have vowed that those who attack the most vulnerable among us for whatever reason must be challenged and ultimately defeated. That I had allowed my own prejudice to judge unfairly and harshly these people who had taken me outside of my comfort zone I regret to this very day. They lacked the intellect and the privilege I took for granted regarding how to advocate for themselves and how to even form the words needed to aid the doctors assigned to treat their case.

The story also highlights the shortcomings of our supposedly world-class health care system. The hospital upon which I was a patient had clearly seen better days and much of its dysfunction was due to the fact that it had close to twice as many beds as it did staff to manage the load. I saw a psychiatrist for no more than five minutes per day, at which point I had barely enough time to describe my symptoms and have my medication regimen modified. Those who could afford to leave did so, and those whose insurance or lack thereof would not pay for something better were stuck there. As for me, I claimed a miraculous recovery to escape after having been there a mere three days. For many, however, three days was but a drop in the bucket. Psychiatric hospitals are often merely a way station for the severely ill to remain until the court rules whether they should be committed to a state-run institution. Once there, a patient lingers for several months, upon which he or she is turned back out into society. Yet, few only manage one tour of duty in this whole sordid process. The homeless or the desperately poor spend years in and out of hospitals with such a variance in quality of care that it is no wonder this revolving door is the rule, not the exception.

I recognize how lucky I have been, but I know also that my role is to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. Though whatever means I can manage, the indelible impression left on me by this story and others I have experienced in the course of several hospitalizations have allowed me to recognize that I have an obligation to serve those with limitations that would otherwise leave them worse for wear.

Some are fond of stating that we are our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper, but what often gets obscured is the original context in which this quotation is found. It is in Genesis, shortly after the the world’s first homicide. Cain intends the phrase as a childish retort full of scorn, but the phrase has often been taken literally.

Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.

It would be just as easy then as now to refuse to look out for the vulnerable ones among us. Christmas, promising goodwill to humankind just passed us, a New Year yet to come, it is easy to forget high-minded ideals once the halls are un-decked and the time comes to roll up sleeves again and dive into work. If we are really to do the season justice, it would be for us to recommit ourselves to the process of reaching beyond our own selfish preoccupations. That it took my own direct observation to take into account the completely needless shame and fear felt by fellow patients only renders me exactly like the throngs of Doubting Thomases with whom I associate regularly. It is this gift I wish I could impart to those who have opposed reforming our broken health care system. It is this experience, horrible though it is, that opened my eyes and I feel certain it would do the same for many others.


Blessed are the poor in spirit,

   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

   Blessed are those who mourn,

   for they will be comforted.

   Blessed are the meek,

   for they will inherit the earth.

   Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

   for they will be filled.

   Blessed are the merciful,

   for they will be shown mercy.

Docudharma Times Sunday December 27

Sunday’s Headlines:

Elite U.S. Force Expanding Hunt in Afghanistan

In N. Korea, a strong movement recoils at Kim Jong Il’s attempt to limit wealth

Plane suspect was listed in terror database after father alerted U.S. officials

Michele Bachmann is welcome at tea parties

Japan’s ‘grass eaters’ turn their backs on macho ways

Sharia tightens its grip on Banda Aceh

The IRA’s culture of silence extended to child abuse

Eurostar executive’s promotion ‘absurd’

Reporters attacked in crackdown by Iran militia

Gazans still angry one year on from Israeli offensive

Brazil Aims to Prevent Land Grabs in Amazon

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