Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Belle Brigade – "Belt of Orion"

With the vocal blend on those harmonies, you might guess that the singers are related, and you'd be right. The core of The Belle Brigade is Barbara and Ethan Gruska, who come from a musical family (their grandfather is composer John Williams). Here's a live version.

Eclectic Jukebox

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Talk Like a Pirate Day 2012

In honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day, I thought I'd use the English-to-Pirate translator on an scurvy dog bent on pillaging Americans, Mitt Romney. Here's some of his recent scurrilous remarks, rendered into pirate via one of the English-to-pirate translators:

There be forty-seven percent o' t' people who will vote for t' president no matter what. All starboard, thar be forty-seven percent who be with him, who be dependent upon government, who believe that they be victims, who believe t' government has a responsibility t' care for them, who believe that they be entitled t' health care, t' food, t' housin', t' you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And t' government should give it t' them. And they will vote for this president no matter what...

Me job be not t' worry about those people. I'll never convince 'em they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. Let 'em rot! Gimme some more tax cuts! Arr, ha-harr!

Update: The Onion has a good related piece.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

C&L Fundraiser 2012

Crooks and Liars, one of the coolest big blogs, is holding a donation drive. I imagine most readers here are familiar with Crooks and Liars, but if not, it's a great place to catch up on political video clips. I periodically guest post over at C&L as part of the Mike's Blog Roundup crew, and C&L is really unique among bigger blogs in consciously, deliberately trying to spread the love and link smaller blogs. It's one of the blogs I give to every year, and if you've got the means, it's worth considering a donation, however modest. Funds have gotten tighter, as founder John Amato writes:

As C&L continues its donation drive I thought I'd clear something up. Yes, we do have ads on all of our pages. It's because of the way tags and html work that they show up on every page, but not all ads are equal. First party ads are buys that give bloggers a great CPM ratio, but now they are disappearing in favor of cheap Google ads which pay pennies to the blogs on which they appear.

It used to be that progressive groups, presidential and congressional campaigns, think tanks and the like would buy first party ads on all of our sites. That funding stream is crucial to our survival, but in the last two years many have switched their buys, including prominent groups that claim to support progressive media. It's frustrating on many levels, but the simplest reason they should buy first party ads again is because we are the only sites that carry a distinct progressive message. Also, we reach vast audiences on a daily basis that these groups need to support them in these troubled times. We often promote progressive causes of these groups when possible, but nowadays it's not reciprocated. I hope that changes.

You've seen the amount of money flowing into the market during this election season. There's no reason for them to shortchange some of the people most responsible for turning the tide against conservative rule. Do we have work to do? Absolutely, but a movement takes time to build. It took conservatives many decades to achieve what they had hoped. The blogosphere has given us a vehicle to express our ideas to a vast audience like never before. The progressive movement will grow too, but we can't get discouraged by short-term setbacks.

Here at C&L we will continue to cover the news and also support progressive groups and media. Please donate what you can. It is very appreciated. The monies collected will support our staff and our ongoing web improvements.

Monday, September 17, 2012

RIP Buck

I was shocked and saddened to learn that a former co-blogger, Buck, had died. (He was relatively young; it was due to natural causes; I'm omitting other details for privacy's sake.)

Buck was very good with computers, and that's how he earned his living. He also did all the web design over at Blue Herald, which he revamped several times (the site's mostly dormant now, and has one of his simpler designs up currently, but you can see his old posts). He came up with some really cool custom coding behind the scenes to make all the bloggers' lives easier. I'd occasionally ask him questions about how to do some coding trick. (He showed me how to do the custom blockquotes here at VS, and how to design this post. He was also a big help for managing Right-Wing Cartoon Watch over at BH.) Sometimes he'd pass on a few links for me to read, sometimes he'd just code it himself and pass it on. Buck was generous to a fault, and you quickly learned that if you asked him for assistance, you had to preface it with something like, Hey Buck, this is really minor and please don't kill yourself, but I was wondering about… because he was liable to drop everything to help. Buck was always helping his fellow bloggers, or neighbors, or members of his large, extended family. He was wired that way.

He had an interesting perspective, being a liberal in the Bible Belt, owning guns but for reasonable gun laws, live-and-let-live at heart, but irked by the political insanity of the day, and intolerance especially. Most of all, he was a nice guy. I'll miss his presence in comment threads and e-mail exchanges, his silly, goofy and sometimes raunchy sense of humor, teasing him about his affection for 80s hair bands, his passionate and principled outbursts, and most of all his essential, irrepressible decency. He was just a really good guy. He deserved a longer life. Condolences to all his family and friends who knew him in real life. Those of us fortunate to get to know him online are grateful we did. He will be missed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Kurt Eichenwald has a piece in The New York Times titled "The Deafness Before the Storm" that adds details to what's known about 9/11:

On Aug. 6, 2001, President George W. Bush received a classified review of the threats posed by Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, Al Qaeda. That morning’s “presidential daily brief” — the top-secret document prepared by America’s intelligence agencies — featured the now-infamous heading: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” A few weeks later, on 9/11, Al Qaeda accomplished that goal.

On April 10, 2004, the Bush White House declassified that daily brief — and only that daily brief — in response to pressure from the 9/11 Commission, which was investigating the events leading to the attack. Administration officials dismissed the document’s significance, saying that, despite the jaw-dropping headline, it was only an assessment of Al Qaeda’s history, not a warning of the impending attack. While some critics considered that claim absurd, a close reading of the brief showed that the argument had some validity.

That is, unless it was read in conjunction with the daily briefs preceding Aug. 6, the ones the Bush administration would not release. While those documents are still not public, I have read excerpts from many of them, along with other recently declassified records, and come to an inescapable conclusion: the administration’s reaction to what Mr. Bush was told in the weeks before that infamous briefing reflected significantly more negligence than has been disclosed. In other words, the Aug. 6 document, for all of the controversy it provoked, is not nearly as shocking as the briefs that came before it.

The direct warnings to Mr. Bush about the possibility of a Qaeda attack began in the spring of 2001. By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.

Head over to read the rest. You'll be absolutely shocked to discover that the neocons were complete idiots, even beyond their saber-rattling about Iraq and Saddam Hussein.

Many Americans were stunned by 9/11. While some were bent on vengeance, many showed a generous outlook – at least toward their fellow Americans, as well as government officials. Few people, if any, wanted a witch hunt. (Surely the Bush administration did all it could!)

I suspect, knowing right-wingers, that had Al Gore been president, there would have been far less forgiveness, and they would have been calling for his head. Of course, it's quite possible a Gore administration would have prevented 9/11 in the first place, given the much stronger focus the Clinton/Gore White House gave Al Qaeda. But it's impossible to know for sure.

Regardless, the Bush administration showed deadly incompetence in allowing 9/11 to occur, and its subsequent exploitation of 9/11 to wage an unnecessary war remains one of the most shameful episodes in our nation's history. It's also shameful that Bush officials have faced so few repercussions for it (in part because some many members of the press were culpable in selling the war, too).

I definitely don't begrudge anyone who still remembers 9/11 with grief, especially anyone who lost someone. The days after, and the first anniversary, were days of reflection for many people, and certainly were for me. But for the past few years, I've found it's been the exploitation that stands out – the still largely-unaddressed and certainly unpunished exploitation (the latter being less important than the former). Unfortunately, for America as a whole, that seems to be 9/11's enduring legacy. "Never Forget" only extends so far.

In related news, Human Rights Watch has a new report out, Delivered Into Enemy Hands, that "meticulously documents a George W. Bush–era CIA program of torture, including waterboarding, in careful collaboration with former Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi."

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports:

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced Thursday that no one would be prosecuted for the deaths of a prisoner in Afghanistan in 2002 and another in Iraq in 2003, eliminating the last possibility that any criminal charges will be brought as a result of the brutal interrogations carried out by the C.I.A.

Mr. Holder had already ruled out any charges related to the use of waterboarding and other methods that most human rights experts consider to be torture. His announcement closes a contentious three-year investigation by the Justice Department and brings to an end years of dispute over whether line intelligence or military personnel or their superiors would be held accountable for the abuse of prisoners in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The closing of the two cases means that the Obama administration’s limited effort to scrutinize the counterterrorism programs carried out under President George W. Bush has come to an end.

This comes via Scott Horton, who has more, as do emptywheel and Brad DeLong.

Sorry, this post has been awfully bleak; it's just that I don't think anything dismays me more as an American than the Bush-era torture program. The subsequent decisions not to prosecute, or even really to investigate, are hardly surprising at this point, but remain discouraging. But contrary to my pessimism about "Never Forget" above, DeLong passes on a sage comment from a reader:

I would urge people to think of accountability as a generational project – this is how it has worked out in Chile, Argentina, South Africa... the thing that can be done now is create opportunities for more participants to tell their stories, put on record what was done and who did it and how, so that the record gets fuller rather than thinner over time.

Amen. Well said. Many people (including me) have mentioned South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a possible model for dealing with America's torture programs. But since the government won't do it, it's up to the citizenry. Where the Justice Department was gutless and corrupt, the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other organizations and individuals can document, serve as witnesses, and remember.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Family Of The Year – "Hero"

This is a local L.A. band. I've had this song stuck in my head for the past week, so I decided to learn it (the chords are pretty easy). You can also hear the studio version or this stripped down one.

Eclectic Jukebox

Monday, September 03, 2012

Happy Labor Day 2012

Happy Labor Day, brought to us by the labor movement, the same folks who brought us the weekend. I wrote more about this last year. Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns & Money has been running a fantastic ongoing series, This Day in Labor History. Jon Perr has another one of his superb posts on economic/fiscal matters, "15 Things the GOP Doesn't Want You to Know About Taxes and the Debt." Meanwhile, Yale professor Jacob Hacker, one of the sharper political scientists out there, has co-authored a report called "Prosperity Economics: Building an Economy for All." Here's a short video introduction, an op-ed explaining more, and the website, which features the full report and more. Many of its ideas fit nicely with the People's Budget, which I've featured before.

Here are two renditions of Woody Guthrie's song, "Union Maid," the first by Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie:

This one is from Pete Seeger's 90th Birthday Concert, and features "Billy Bragg, Mike & Ruthy Merenda, Dar Williams, [and the] New York City Labor Chorus":

Happy Labor Day! If you post anything for the occasion, feel free to link it in comments, and I'll try to update this piece later.