Spencer Ackerman is, of course, an ace defense reporter, but I really love it when he writes about culture. And I particularly appreciated this meditation on the New York punk club that was critically important to him growing up, because I think it reflects, to come back to a perpetual hobby-horse, the kind of norm-building it would be great to do in fan communities and at conventions:
Above my desk I keep a photograph that my wife bought for me of ABC No Rio. ABC No Rio is a punk club and (former?) squat on Rivington Street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan where every Saturday afternoon a motley assortment of bands perform. I think of it as the punk rock version of the Boys & Girls Club, because that was the role it played for me as a teenager…it was supposed to be a place where you would be made to feel unwelcome if you groped someone in the pit; if you made a homophobic or racist remark; or if you engaged in otherwise destructive behavior.
You could be drunk or high and have sex — you weren’t supposed to be, but no one was really going to stop you — but if that translated into behavior that threatened others, your ass would be kicked out. It was filled with contradictions — a scene that supposedly glorified nihilism and free expression being so rigid? — but they were resolved, intellectually speaking, according to the baseline principle that those were the basic social responsibilities needed for the world in which we wanted to live to exist, a haven from the aggravating bullshit around us.
Again, these principles were never fully realized. I know women who were abused at ABC No Rio. I am thinking in particular of one individual who got away with it, probably because of his scene cred. I cringe at the idea that this piece will come across as treacly or sanitized. These are the reflections of a straight white boy who came up in the mid-90s and who went on to do all manner of bad things in his life. Your mileage may vary.
But it was important that these were the basic values that you were expected to adopt if you wanted to be part of what ABC No Rio was.
When I wrote about my experience at New York Comic Con, I noted how level the crowd seemed, how there were no particular signifiers of coolness. It also didn’t feel, for me, at least, like an unsafe space. The female cosplayers I saw getting their pictures taken mostly seemed to be objects of admiration because their costumes were completely and utterly awesome, less because they were intensely sexual or revealing. And almost no vendors were employing booth babes, perhaps in a sign that strategy is played out, though we’ll see when I hit San Diego Comic Con next year.
But despite that generally neutral atmosphere, it would still be great if there was a way to sell en masse the idea the dominant culture at cons was inclusive and oriented against harassment. Some changes, like panelists making a conscious effort to treat questioners who raise issues of representation and inclusiveness in art with respect, even if the questions are tough, would be relatively easy. Others, like adopting sexual harassment policies and training staff to enforce them, would take slightly more effort. But none of this is impossible. And even if enforcement’s inconsistent, the effort is important.
Next week, Republican congressmen Cliff Stearns and Fred Upton will take the next step in their party's campaign to turn the failure of Solyndra into a political scandal: They are going to subpoena the White House.
The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee investigating Solyndra will vote Thursday to issue a subpoena to the White House for all internal documents on the failed California solar company, including President Barack Obama's BlackBerry messages.
Reps. Fred Upton and Cliff Stearns said in a joint statement Friday that they were taking the extraordinary step because White House lawyers have repeatedly rejected their requests but have not formally invoked executive privilege.
"Subpoenaing the White House is a serious step that, unfortunately, appears necessary in light of the Obama administration's stonewall on Solyndra," the Republican lawmakers said.
Although Stearns and Upton will both wax poetic about how the investigation is necessary because government shouldn't pick winners and losers, they won't mean a word they say. Before taking on their new roles, each of them sought federal loan guarantees for energy firms in their home states?exactly the same sorts of companies as Solyndra.
In Stearns' case, he applauded a $95.5 million loan from the energy department to a local battery maker:
"I am honored to join in welcoming Saft's Li-ion battery manufacturing facility to the Cecil Commerce Center, which underscores that this is a good place to do business," Stearns said at the plant's ground-breaking.
"In addition, as a member of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus, I recognize the contributions of these advanced rechargeable batteries in meeting our energy needs."
And in Upton's case:
Upton just last year was among the Michigan lawmakers who wrote to Energy Secretary Steven Chu calling for ?prompt completion and consideration of loan applications? from Michigan companies, including GM, Chrysler ? and Severstal.
Since the Solyndra story broke and Upton started hammering the White House over it, other news outlets have noted Upton?s support for a loan guarantee programs aimed at helping companies developing renewable energy, as well as nuclear and coal.
In 2007, Upton supported a measure that created the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) Loan Program, targeting manufacturers and suppliers looking to retool U.S. factories to build high-fuel economy vehicles, USA Today reported in late September.
Severstal was a huge beneficiary of the program ? winning the $730 million loan in July of this year after Upton signed the Michigan delegation letter to Chu.
So even as Stearns and Upton scream bloody murder about the federal government supporting private companies in the development of alternative sources of energy, it's a practice that they have long supported?just like their leader, House Speaker John Boehner. And despite their high and mighty rhetoric, they're just playing a political game. They don't give a damn about the issues at hand. They just want to draw blood.
You mean the Koch-Cain connection, don't you?
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In Paul Ryan's world, it is perfectly acceptable for the Republican Party to repeal the Clean Air Act, repeal the Clean Water Act, even repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- what Republicans contemptuously call "Obamacare." What is not acceptable, however, is for President Obama to conclude from the agenda above that Republicans want dirtier air, want dirtier water, want less people with health insurance.
"Can you think of a pettier way to describe sincere disagreements between the two parties on regulation and health care?" asked the Wisconsin Republican and House Budget Committee Chairman.
To Congressman Ryan, the issue between Republicans and Democrats isn't whether we'll have cleaner or dirtier air and water. It's whether there can be "sincere disagreements" between the parties in which no one, apparently, is held accountable if, in fact, our air and water is polluted.
Ryan is the Republicans' designated attack-dog now that President Obama has finally decided to come out swinging and call out Republicans by name for their obstructionism over the past three years that's prevented the federal government from taking a more active role to relieve the economic misery of millions of Americans suffering from the Great Wall Street Recession that began in 2008.
In a speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation, Ryan accused the President of engaging in "divisive rhetoric" and cheap political point-scoring "instead of working together where we agree" -- failing to note, I should add, that the entire 2012 GOP election strategy is predicated on the assumption that there will be no places where the President and Republicans might conceivably agree.
As with most right wing Republicans, to fully grasp Ryan's meaning you must first understand the alternative definitions he gives to the commonplace words he uses.
When Paul Ryan accuses the President of "divisiveness," for example, he does not mean what you or I might mean by "divisive" - the deliberate rejection of good-faith efforts to get along.
No, since Ryan is a reactionary who takes his own positions and preferences to be synonymous with the status quo, what Ryan means by "divisive" is Obama's obstinate refusal to conform to the view of the world that Paul Ryan and Republican Party have already established.
In a similar way, Ryan calls it "an ideological thing" that Obama "chose" not to work with Congress when he sent Republicans a jobs bill "he knew" had no chance of passing because it contained ideas Republicans have already rejected. Apparently to Ryan a President's not permitted to propose a bill he thinks might actually work if it falls outside the narrow ideological parameters House Republicans have already established for what is, and what is not, acceptable. And if the President goes ahead and proposes a bill unacceptable to the GOP anyway, it should merely be tossed aside as "an ideological thing" not worthy of serious consideration.
In the Ayn Rand-inspired universe of Paul Ryan, it doesn't matter how much harm you actually do just so long as long as you have the right motives for doing it. That's why Ryan is so furious with Obama for suggesting Republicans are actually "for" people not having health insurance when they vote to deny people health care coverage.
In Ryan-world, having the right principles is far more important than having specific solutions to specific problems. Thus, to Paul Ryan it's the rhetoric of class division "that is especially destabilizing" and not the reality of 10% unemployment.
Congress' favorability rating currently stands at 9%. That's nearly within the margin of error of universal, dissent-free agreement that Republicans suck. So, the more I read and listen to what Republicans like Paul Ryan have to say, the more suspicious I become that Republicans intend to defeat President Obama in 2012 by simply describing themselves.
In a fundraising letter sent out to big donors this week, for example, Congressman Ryan says: "America is at a tipping point. 14 million Americans are unemployed and 9.3 million are underemployed. Our debt has grown over $4 trillion in less than three years and will be above $16 trillion before the end of 2012. The safety net for the poor is coming apart at the seams and no one in Washington seems to care."
Steve Benen and Matt Yglesias are outraged by Ryan's jaw-dropping hypocrisy. To me it's not clear whether Ryan sees the crisis he just described as a bad thing or as evidence the Republican plan is working.
The more that right wing radicals pull the Republican Party into the lunatic fringe the more elite opinion-makers like New York Times columnist David Brooks seem to urge the President and his party to forswear confrontation with Republicans in favor of blurring party differences instead.
In today's New Republic, Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute dismiss such advice as dangerous nonsense. It is based, they say, "on a series of tired and false assumptions" about who so-called "independents" really are and what they really want. Heeding such advice, would only "doom whatever chance Obama has of winning reelection," they add.
It reminds me of this friend I have who's against economic stimulus, thinks tax cuts pay for themselves, thinks it's economic suicide to tax the rich, is against abortion, thinks marriage should only be between a man and a woman, is for bi-partisanship just so long as it means Obama works harder to get along with Republicans, thinks store clerks should say Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays and thinks Occupy Wall Street protesters are dirty, shiftless hippies out to destroy the country.
Yet, despite this verbatim recreation of the right wing Republican agenda, my friend still insists on calling himself an "independent." And why, I ask? "Because I watch more than just Fox News," he responds.
Likewise, the voting public might say it is more conservative and desirous of a more limited role for government, say Mann and Ornstein. "But that's more an expression of their general frustration with the state of the economy and the seeming failure of ambitious government initiatives to produce tangible results than their true convictions."
If you move beyond labels to get at real views on specific policy options, "you quickly realize that a conservative swing in public opinion is a chimera," says Mann and Ornstein.
True Independents "have almost no ideological frameworks" with which to judge candidates, they add, since they vote almost entirely on whether something "works" or not.
Independents greatest concern is jobs and economic growth, Mann and Ornstein say, so independents could care less if those jobs materialize thanks to tax hikes, budget cuts or some combination of the two.
Finally, it was not President Obama who inserted ideology into our politics when he decided to scrap bi-partisan compromise in favor of get-tough campaigning. The fault for that lies instead with the rightward shift of the Republican Party, Mann and Ornstein say.
"One cannot watch the Republican presidential candidate debates or listen to Republican leaders in Congress without concluding they are an insurgent party set on undoing many decades of policy that once enjoyed bipartisan support," the two long-time Congressional scholars say.
In the scorched-earth environment created by Republican recalcitrance, looking for some mythic political "center" won't earn Obama praise with swing voters, say Ornstein and Mann. Instead, "it'll just set him up for another year of looking weak and ineffectual."
Obama tried the route of conciliation once, say Mann and Ornstein, and Republicans turned that into a political liability for the President "through a disciplined campaign to oppose, obstruct, discredit, and nullify everything he has tried to do."
Indeed, by trying to work constructively with an ideologically-rigid party like the GOP, Obama "paid a tremendous political price" among both supporters and swing voters. Neither were impressed with Obama's fence-mending efforts and both judged him "weak" when the returns proved puny and the political system itself looked dysfunctional.
The only hope of achieving any bipartisan policy success at all will come, say Mann and Ornstein, when Republicans finally believe that blocking the President's efforts to help the American people will cause them to pay a steep political price. That is unlikely to occur with further offers of the olive branch, but could come if Obama continues to do in the future what he is currently doing now, which is to turn up the heat.
The idea that Obama should move to the "center" is ridiculous, say Mann and Ornstein, because Obama is already there. It's his opponents who are inhabiting the extremes. Therefore, the proper course is for the President to be "explicit and forceful in communicating the stark differences between the parties and the source of inaction and gridlock in Washington. To do anything less would be a disservice to the public, his party, and his hopes for a constructive and consequential presidency."
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The markets appear euphoric about the ability for European policy makers to deliver on new promises. Low market expectations were met. We, too, have a positive takeaway, but only because of one detail of the grand plan; actually, let’s call it a “grand sketch,” as many details are still unknown.
Just as the U.S. bailout fund “TARP” was used to bolster U.S. banks as opposed to buying toxic securities in the market, the most effective tool to bolster confidence in the Eurozone is to ensure banks are able to stomach losses on their sovereign debt holdings. The movement to focus on banks in earnest started earlier this month. On October 5, 2011, German chancellor Merkel embraced . . . → Read More: Euro Bailouts – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
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Suddenly John Boehner believes the government actually can create jobs (Larry Downing/Reuters)
Now it's John Boehner who's been caught with his pants down over Solyndra scandalmongering:
House Speaker John Boehner attacked the Obama administration for financing failed solar-panel maker Solyndra LLC, saying government shouldn?t pick winners and losers. That hasn?t stopped him from demanding that the U.S. make a winner of a nuclear-fuel plant in Ohio, his home state.
Boehner is backing a $2 billion Energy Department loan guarantee sought by USEC Inc. (USU) for its American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon, Ohio, aimed at enriching uranium for commercial nuclear reactors.
?When it comes to emerging energy technologies, the Republicans don?t want to pick winners and losers -- unless it?s nuclear power,? Ellen Vancko, nuclear energy and climate-change project manager in the Washington office of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in an interview.
So out of one side of his mouth John Boehner says this:
In an interview with Fox Business Network on Sept. 19, Boehner said that ?for the federal government to be out there picking one company over another, one type of energy source over another. I think is wrong.?
And out of the other he says this:
?Hundreds of Southern Ohio workers stand to lose their jobs if the Obama administration reneges on the president?s promise to support an energy project in the small town of Piketon, Ohio,? Boehner wrote. ?I urge the administration to not betray the citizens of Ohio.?
I actually haven't looked into the specifics of the loan, so I've got no idea whether it's a good idea or a bad one, but I do know that if I were a Republican operative, I'd point out that as long as John Boehner's definition of "hundreds" is less than one thousand, he's asking for at least $2 million for each job.
Meanwhile, he continues to double down on Solyndra scandalmongering and refuses to hold a vote on any of the major provisions in President Obama's jobs bill, even the one that would extend the payroll tax holiday another year. With "leadership" like Boehner's, it's no wonder that Congress has a 9 percent job approval.
On Wednesday, the Occupy Reno members appeared before the Reno City Council. A 90-day permit was approved for the old municipal pool site on Moana Lane. The $35 per day ($1100 per month) fee was waived and the permit filing fee of $103 was donated by a[...]
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New Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput says he isn?t likely to change his mind about creating a window to allow some past victims of sexual abuse by priests to file lawsuits after the statute of limitations in their cases has expired.I realize this isn?t exactly ?man bites dog? stuff, but it?s important to get Chaput (pronounced ?shay-poo,? I think) on the record here. And this sounds a little like that stunt he pulled when he was the Denver Archbishop here ? namely, supporting the extension of the statute of limitations for sexual abuse of minors for civil lawsuits, but only if it included public schools (and I was not able to find any evidence of clerical abuse in public schools in that archdiocese; by adding the public schools, though, it would sink the extension since the teachers? union would protest?I would argue that Chaput knew that would happen).
Chaput, in a discussion Thursday with the Inquirer Editorial Board, said statutes of limitations exist for sound legal reasons, and that exceptions should not be made just to allow litigation against the Catholic Church.
The rise of government surveillance is a troublesome legacy of the September 11 attacks. Today, video cameras are visible everywhere in public places, recording people?s every move. But what about spying that can?t be spotted?Also, here is more in the annals of this country?s disintegration into a police state regardless of which political party is in charge (looks like this new ?rule? says that federal agencies can lie about FOIA requests?doesn?t exactly sound ?hopey changey? to me). And for more, here is an entire listing of related stories from the New York Times.
Ten years after 9/11, new questions are being raised about what the US government is secretly doing on the internet and through satellites, using the Patriot Act and other national security law as justification.
Two American senators with access to top-secret intelligence raised the alarm in May, suggesting that the invasion of law-abiding Americans? privacy was being carried out clandestinely - and that people would be shocked if they knew the extent.
?I want to deliver a warning this afternoon,? Senator Ron Wyden said on May 26 during a Senate debate. ?When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry.?
Exactly what activities US agencies are carrying out remains unclear. Senator Wyden and Senator Mark Udall - also on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence - have been unable to elaborate on their accusations because of official secrecy law.
However, observers surmise that ordinary people may be caught up in an electronic dragnet searching for terrorists. Civil liberties advocates suggest that intelligence and law-enforcement agencies may be reading and cataloguing people?s e-mails in databases, as well as tracking their mobile phone locations.
Funny, Jack Bogle doesn't look like any of the members of Occupy Wall Street we've been seeing on television.Bogle basically invented mutual fund investing in index funds, claiming that index funds would outperform actively managed funds over time (the success of his company is a testimony to his strategy). He was also a rebel in the sense that the success or failure of Vanguard (more the former than the latter) was based on the performance of its mutual funds (he was fired from Wellington Management for trying to implement this kind of a business model ? again, he was proved to be right). So basically, he has always been a bit of a rebel, as well as a visionary; to me, it?s not a bit surprising that he ?gets? the Occupy movement.
I can't picture the legendary founder and former CEO of the Vanguard Mutual Fund Group, clad in Brooks Brothers suit, adjacent to City Hall, or as one of the 50 who were arrested in Atlanta, not to mention those being sprayed with tear gas in Oakland. But that doesn't mean the Main Line patrician and capitalist icon is lacking in sympathy for some of their grievances. Bogle believes attention must be paid to their complaints.
While the messages coming from Occupy Wall Street often seem to lack cohesion, one mantra has been that the new economy so eloquently described by Bogle has created unprecedented income disparity. A report out Tuesday from the Congressional Budget Office detailed how, in the last three decades, "the share of after-tax household income for the top 1 percent of the population more than doubled, climbing to 17 percent in 2007 from nearly 8 percent in 1979."
So is Occupy Wall Street channeling Jack Bogle (who has analogized our financial economy to the childhood game of Rock, Paper, Scissors)? I e-mailed and asked him.
He replied, "I like the idea of the idealism, frustration, and even anger that the Occupy Wall Street movement represents. These (mostly) young citizens can see what their elders (mostly) cannot - that the financial system is responsible for much of the havoc wreaked on our economy, with the penalties paid not by the Wall Street (and Greenwich) financiers and executives who led and participated in the abuse, but by the taxpayers of our nation. That our savers, as a result, are earning close to zero on their hard-earned savings is just one more example of this economic drain and profound unfairness.
"So long as we have a First Amendment that guarantees the right of the people peaceably to assemble, their right to protest the inequities in our economic and financial system sends an important message to Wall Street: 'Attention must be paid!' In a world increasingly dominated by Goliaths, all those Davids together will make a difference."
I have had my disagreements with Keith Olbermann the last few years, but I have been watching in admiration lately as night after night he's covered the Occupy protest movement like no one else in the media.So let me get this straight ? on the same day, Smerky indirectly compliments the ?Occupy? protests with some reasonable perspective from John Bogle, and ?Z on TV? compliments Keith Olbermann concerning the movement also?
I am surprised that he has not received more praise for getting to this major story before anyone else and understanding the massive sociology of it better than anyone yet.
Olbermann understands that Occupy Wall Street is an eruption of the pain millions of Americans are feeling. He sees it as the sign that it is of something deeply disturbing that has happened to the quality of American life and our ability to believe in the future any more.
And that is especially and heartbreakingly true for young adults who have paid their dues and gone to college only to discover there are no jobs for them. Those college students and young adults who were dancing in the streets on election night in 2008 after seeing TV coverage of Barack Obama in Grant Park are some of the same people sitting in tents in the cold and rain in American cities tonight. And no one in the media speaks to them and is telling their story like Keith Olbermann.
Olbermann has been telling their story every night while cable channels like CNN have been sending smug, superficial anchor-hosts like Erin Burnett down to the Occupy Wall Street encampment to ridicule those who are protesting. And they are doing it in empty-headed, right-wing, 1960's, pot-and-bongo-drum stereotype-think worthy of Spiro Agnew -- or Pat Buchanon (sp).
Tea Party groups across the nation are accusing local and state governments of a double standard ? charging them fees to hold rallies in public parks, while allowing Occupy protesters to set up camp for free.In response, please allow me to point out that police violence has occurred against ?Occupy? protests in New York City, Oakland, Arizona, Illinois, and even Australia (Mother Jones put together a complete list to date here ? so far, 2,000 have been injured, including Iraq War vet Scott Olsen from Oakland, who suffered a fractured skull and brain swelling after he was allegedly hit in the head by a police projectile, as noted here).
?I find it extremely frustrating and upsetting,? said Colleen Owens, a spokesperson for the Richmond Tea Party. ?It is definitely a slap in the face.?
Owens is demanding a refund of about $10,000 from the city of Richmond, claiming her group was charged for rallies at Kanawha Plaza but the Occupy protesters have not been charged.
?We?ve had to pay for the police, the sanitation, we had to pay for emergency personnel, and we event had to buy a $1 million liability policy,? Owens told Fox News.
She said it was unfair that the protesters have been allowed to essentially break the law by setting up camp in the city park.
?We?re trying to show this is unfair and biased treatment by the mayor and the city council,? she said. ?Either force the occupiers to follow the law that?s on the books or evict them.?
And what if the city doesn?t administer the law equally?
?If they are not going to apply the law equally, then they should refund our money,? she said. ?They?ve been camped out there for almost two weeks and they have not paid one dime. They are not being held accountable to follow the law, yet we were expected to follow the law.?
Let's all not forget his comments on the Sid Salter Supertalk show on 7/21/10:
Salter: Alright. Let?s look at this from another angle. What about those that complain that even from appearances sake that there was something wrong with the commissioner of public safety picking up someone who had been charged with domestic violence. How do you respond to that?
Simpson: I guess my response to that is would it make a difference if it had been a speeding ticket or a traffic violation or even a DUI or if it had been for a old fine, is it the domestic violence that gives people the trouble or that a lifelong friend of thirty years called me in a time of need and I simply didn?t, call down there and went and got him.
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If you missed this Tuesday's Charlie Rose Show on PBS, here's his really wonderful interview with Democracy Now's Amy Goodman and Truthdig's Chris Hedges with their thoughts on the Occupy Wall Street movement.
More video below the fold.
Here's part two.
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And part three.
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