2011 - %3, October

Obama and the Wall Streeters

| Thu Oct. 6, 2011 12:18 PM EDT

It's prediction time. Do you think that President Obama, in the reasonably near future, will embrace the Occupy Wall Street movement? Cast your vote in comments. 

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Scott Brown Calls Elizabeth Warren Ugly

| Thu Oct. 6, 2011 11:40 AM EDT
Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.).

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) doesn't think anyone should have to see Elizabeth Warren naked.

At Tuesday night's primary debate, Warren, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination to challenge Brown, used a question about how she paid for tuition to take a jab at the freshman Senator. "I kept my clothes on," Warren said, referring to Brown's famed nude Cosmopolitan spread

Brown could have brushed off the attack, but instead, he decided on the worst possible course of action. According to Boston journalist Joe Battenfield, Brown said "Thank God," in response to Warren's jab. You can hear the audio of the comment at 3:30 here:

 

A Warren campaign spokesman declined to comment, but to state the obvious: By saying "Thank God," Brown was implying that Warren is ugly. Brown's comment might seem hilarious to your average bro, but elections aren't won by bros alone. Attacking your female opponent for her looks won't necessarily play well with women voters, and Brown can't afford to lose much more ground than he already has: several polls have already shown Warren within striking distance of the incumbent.

Several media figures think Brown has made a serious mistake by attacking Warren's looks. American Banker's Rob Blackwell has suggested this may be Brown's "Macaca moment"—referring to when then-Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) used the word "Macaca" to address a dark-skinned employee of his opponent, James Webb. (Allen lost.) Slate's Dave Weigel also joked that (Brown's previous opponent) Martha Coakley might be running Brown's campaign, and TPM's Josh Marshall called the comment "not smart."

No, the Tea Party Has Never Cared About Wall Street

| Thu Oct. 6, 2011 11:00 AM EDT

Will Bunch is exactly right about this:

One of the biggest myths about the Tea Party is that a driving force in its creation was anger over bank and Wall Street bailouts. It's true that some rank-and-file joiners did feel that way at first, but they were quickly co-opted by the movement leaders — including radio talkers and groups funded by the Koch Brothers — into worshipping the rich instead.

The tea partiers really do hate TARP, and they hate the auto bailout, and they hate the Fed and its money debasing ways. But the tea party's leaders have always been careful to give those things plenty of lip service while channeling all the movement's real energy into the issues that its big-dollar funders have always cared about most: lowering taxes on the wealthy, reducing regulations on corporations, and cutting spending on the poor.

After all, tea partiers could have poured their energy into protesting the AIG bailout. They could have poured their energy into insisting that Dodd-Frank be tightened up. They could have poured their energy into demands that the Fed be reformed and made more transparent.

But those were never more than side issues. The real issues for the tea partiers have always been healthcare reform, tax cuts, deficit fever, and EPA bashing. And in the most obvious tell of all, they were actively opposed to Dodd-Frank, a bizarre stand for an allegedly anti-bailout movement. The tea party, in the end, simply isn't anything new. It's the same old right-wing fluorescence we see every couple of decades or so, with all the same hobbyhorses. The media really should have figured that out by now.

ACTUAL Death Panel Approves US Kill List

| Thu Oct. 6, 2011 10:11 AM EDT

Reuters' Mark Hosenball has an amazing story about the process by which US citizens suspected of terrorism are placed on the government's secret "kill list." (The list famously included extremist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki before he was killed in Yemen.) Hosenball received two basic narratives about how the process works, one in which the president has to personally approve someone being placed on the list, and one in which someone is removed from the list only if the president objects:

They said targeting recommendations are drawn up by a committee of mid-level National Security Council and agency officials. Their recommendations are then sent to the panel of NSC "principals," meaning Cabinet secretaries and intelligence unit chiefs, for approval. The panel of principals could have different memberships when considering different operational issues, they said.

Hey Kids, Wanna Listen to "Peter and the Wolf"? Then Pay Up.

| Thu Oct. 6, 2011 9:45 AM EDT

You—the public—once essentially owned the Sergei Prokofiev classic Peter and the Wolf. You could play it for your friends and charge admission. You could remix it with other music. You could write a book called Peter and the Wolf and Zombies. You didn't have to worry about getting sued because the work was in the public domain. 

Then, in 1994, Congress suddenly snatched Peter and the Wolf and millions of other works out of the public domain. The move was part of a deal to secure broader copyright protection for American works in foreign countries. (Not that it worked very well: As anyone who has ever been there knows, it's not exactly hard to find DVDs of newly released Hollywood movies on the streets of Moscow.)

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Golan v. Holder, a case that addresses whether it was constitutional for Congress to remove Peter and the Wolf and other works from the public domain. The case was brought by University of Denver professor Lawrence Golan, a conductor who loves Peter and the Wolf but can no longer afford the fees the copyright holders charge for the sheet music. I listened to David Bowie's narration of Peter and the Wolf (something that may have not even been created if Peter and the Wolf hadn't been in the public domain at the time) about 100 times growing up, so the prospect of not being able to take my children to see a live performance of the piece is a real bummer.

Chart of the Day: Crisis of Confidence

| Thu Oct. 6, 2011 9:35 AM EDT

Via Pew, this chart sort of speaks for itself. Support for the nation's biggest institutions (you can add in the media, if you want) have very steadily declined over the last four decades. When you add in a horrible economy, it's really no surprise why so many people have taken to the streets to protest over the last three years:

Courtesy of Pew ResearchCourtesy of Pew Research

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Obama's Broken Promise on GMO Food Labeling

| Thu Oct. 6, 2011 6:00 AM EDT

Back in 2007, a presidential candidate named Barack Obama declared that foods that include ingredients from genetically modified crops should be labeled. As president, he vowed, he would strive to "let folks know when their food is genetically modified, because Americans have a right to know what they're buying." (Check out the video from Food Democracy Now below.)

The ambitious senator from Illinois was no doubt sensing a popular cause. According to a 2010 poll (PDF) conducted by Reuters Thompson, more than 90 percent of Americans thought GMO-containing foods should be labeled.

As president, Obama has been silent on the issue, as has his FDA, which oversees food labeling. Meanwhile, Obama's USDA—which oversees farming practices—has been greenlighting GMO crops left and right, even while acknowledging that they generate herbicide-resistant weeds and other troubles.

But a vigorous grassroots pro-labeling movement has been gaining steam for a while, and this week, a coalition of sustainable-food NGOs and organic businesses has launched a campaign to "flood the FDA with comments so they know that the public wants labeling of GE [genetically engineered] foods."

Along with the public campaign, the group has also submitted a formal petition (PDF) to the FDA, which in the course of demanding labeling also lays out a blistering critique of the way agency regulates GMOs—which is to say, hardly at all.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 6, 2011

Thu Oct. 6, 2011 5:57 AM EDT

Staff Sgt. Bill Cenna prepares to move a patient on a litter while an HH-60G Pavehawk lands during training Sept. 21, 2011, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. The training focused on quick-care under fire and also gave training to Baker Company, 3rd Platoon, 509th Infantry Regiment (Airborne) on how to react when pararescuemen arrive. Cena is a 212th Rescue Squadron pararescueman. (US Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Zachary Wolf)

13 Ways In Which Republicans Are Wrong

| Thu Oct. 6, 2011 1:01 AM EDT

I've got a piece coming up in the next issue of the magazine about five economic memes that deserve to die. By the time it was done, it had actually turned into six memes, but apostate Republican David Frum goes me seven better today by listing 13 — yes, 13! — ways in which the Republican consensus on the economy is wrong, wrong, wrong:

  1. It is wrong in its call for monetary tightening.
  2. It is wrong to demand immediate debt reduction rather than wait until after the economy recovers.
  3. It is wrong to deny that “we have a revenue problem.”
  4. It is wrong in worrying too much about (non-existent) inflation and disregarding the (very real) threat of a second slump into recession and deflation.
  5. It is wrong to blame government regulation and (as yet unimposed) tax increases for the severity of the recession.
  6. It is wrong to oppose job-creating infrastructure programs.
  7. It is wrong to hesitate to provide unemployment insurance, food stamps, and other forms of income maintenance to the unemployed.
  8. It is wrong to fetishize the exchange value of the dollar against other currencies.
  9. It is wrong to believe that cuts in marginal tax rates will suffice to generate job growth in today’s circumstance.
  10. It is wrong to blame minor and marginal government policies like the Community Reinvestment Act for the financial crisis while ignoring the much more important role of government inaction to police overall levels of leverage within the financial system.
  11. It is wrong to dismiss the Euro crisis as something remote from American concerns.
  12. It is wrong to resist US cooperation with European authorities in organizing a work-out of the debt problems of the Eurozone countries.
  13. It is wrong above all in its dangerous combination of apocalyptic pessimism about the long-term future of the country with aloof indifference to unemployment.

I have to say, once people break with the Republican Party these days, they really break. They don't become Democrats or anything, but if anything, they actually savage their former comrades more than Democrats do. I'd love to see something this pithy from, say, Barack Obama. It's inspiring.

Watch Young Steve Jobs Unveil Apple Macintosh in 1984

| Wed Oct. 5, 2011 8:51 PM EDT

From YouTube:

"Demo of the first Apple Macintosh by Steve Jobs, January 1984, in front of 3000 people. Andy Hertzfeld captured the moment quite well in his retelling: 'Pandemonium reigns as the demo completes. Steve has the biggest smile I've ever seen on his face, obviously holding back tears as he is overwhelmed by the moment. The ovation continues for at least five minutes before he quiets the crowd down.'"

A few months later, in 1984, Mother Jones published a short piece about Jobs' upstart company and its now famous "1984" ad. It contains this quote, from an employee at Apple's advertising agency at the time: "There's a residual feeling on the part of corporate computer buyers that Apple builds computers for people, not for companies." Sounds about right. Read the full piece here: Apple's Free Spirits Vs. Big Blue's Meanies.

And we'd be remiss if we didn't link to this classic from the Steve Jobs personality cult cannon, in which the world's most famous businessman responds to customer service queries. RIP Steve.

Update: This video of Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford commencement address is making the rounds on Facebook. From the speech, delivered about 10 months after he'd undergone successful surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his pancreas:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.