10 R&B Songs From My Childhood

I’m going out of town on business for a few days. I don’t know how much blogging I will be doing. Maybe a lot. We’ll see. Regardless, I created this set of ten R&B songs from my childhood. When all the polls are going against you, you can always turn to this:

Update (8 October 2012 9:39 pm)

When Etta James died, I saw a lot of headlines that read, “At Last Singer Etta James Dead at 73.” Yes, they normally put quotes around “At Last” and a comma after “James.” But still, it is an annoying headline. Better would be, “Etta James, ‘At Last’ Singer, Dead at 73.” Unless you were really anxious for the old girl to die.

Romney’s Foreign Policy Speech

Fred KaplanFred Kaplan has a devastating article about Romney’s foreign policy speech today, Mitt Romney’s Most Dishonest Speech. You can get some idea of where he’s coming from in the subtitle, “When it comes to lies and half-truths, Romney saves his best stuff for foreign policy.”

Kaplan goes point by point in the speech and demolishes it. He admits that in a couple of cases—especially Syria—Obama’s performance could have been better. But as usual, Romney does not say what he would do better. It is the same old same old from Romney: “Trust me!

Earlier today, I wrote about my frustration at having to defend Obama when I disagree with his policies. Kaplan discusses this in his article as well. You can’t not. No president is perfect; he will always do things that one disagrees with. But it seems particularly wrong that a liberal like me should have to defend Obama policies that Romney (if he weren’t running against Obama) would love.

Here is one example from Kaplan:

Then came a gratuitously outrageous statement. “America,” Romney said, “can take pride in the blows that our military and intelligence professionals have inflicted on al-Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan, including the killing of Osama bin Laden.” (Italics added.) Really? President Obama deserves no credit for dealing these blows? Obama has personally ordered many of these blows (as some in his own party have complained), and, as is well known, he ordered the raid on bin Laden’s compound against the advice of Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who thought it was too risky.

Of course, all of this is standard Republican macho foreign policy bullshit. But according to Romney, Obama should get no credit for it. No credit? Giving him credit for the drone strikes is key to my biggest disappointments about him.

The article next goes on to a very frustrating attack that Romney does all the time and almost never gets called on:

Romney followed this with the most stupefying attack in the entire speech, worth quoting at some length:

I will put the leaders of Iran on notice that the United States and our friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons capability. I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran and will tighten the sanctions we currently have. I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf region—and work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination. For the sake of peace, we must make clear to Iran through actions, not just words, that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated.

Obama has long been doing all of these things. He has ratcheted up sanctions and persuaded others (including Russia) to go along, to the point where Iran’s currency has plummeted by 40 percent, prompting the merchant class to protest in the streets. Two aircraft carriers have been on constant patrol within range of Iran since the summer. And U.S. security assistance to Israel, as its own defense minister said, is at near-peak levels.

This is not likely to catch the eye of PolitiFact. You see, Romney is telling the truth: he will do these things. This is the same as his claim to cover pre-existing condition without explaining that his plan is to have things exactly the same as they’ve been for years.

The rest of the article chronicles all of the now well known ways that Romney deceives—this time on foreign policy. Will it matter? Probably not. After all, he was “aggressive” at the debate! If we end up with this fucktard as President, it will be thanks to the fact that we don’t have more journalists like Fred Kaplan who are willing to dig into what the candidates actually say and not focus on how they say it.

The Cheech-and-Chong Machine

Jeremy ScahillWe have allowed the powerful, the rich, the Democratic and Republican Cheech-and-Chong machine… to define the political context through which we view the world… We need to remove 9/11 from our memories for a moment, and look at a perfect trajectory of mass slaughter in Iraq that extends back many decades, and extends to both the Democratic and Republican regimes that have ruled this country. —Jeremy Scahill, Socialist Worker, 2007

Problem With Debate Coverage

Matt TaibbiMatt Taibbi has an interesting take on the debate. He thinks that both Obama and Romney lost. But I suspect that he sees it pretty much the way everyone else does, because he spends most of the article attacking what Romney actually said.

The main point of the article is that the media should not elevate style over substance. They already know that they work in a medium that distorts politics in a very bad way. But instead of pushing back against this, they just pile on more.

Taibbi discusses this as it related to the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debates:

In that legendary meeting, radio viewers[1] thought Nixon won, but TV viewers, blown away by Kennedy’s smile and tan, thought was a landslide for the Democrat.

Journalists who cite that Nixon-Kennedy debate always forget that the lesson of that night is that the new broadcast media technology made superficiality and nonsense more important—that thanks to the press, it was now possible to get someone elected to the most powerful office on earth because he had a superior tan. Reporters love this story because it reminds everyone that the medium they work in has the power to overcome substance and decide elections all by itself. What’s amazing is that they don’t have the good sense to be ashamed of this.

Indeed, they should be ashamed. But they aren’t. This reminds me of when Bill O’Reilly is on The Daily Show claiming that he’s just an entertainer. I’m inclined to believe him. But it isn’t just him. It is most TV news people. Hell, it is most newspaper people.

Taibbi ends:

Reporters should have instantly pelted Romney with bags of dogshit for insulting the American people with this ridiculous non-answer, but he was instead praised for the canny “strategy” hidden in the response. Despite the fact that Romney is running as a budget hawk and yet has refused to name any actual programs (except Obamacare and PBS) he will cut, reporters gave him credit in the debate for being willing to be the bearer of bad budgetary news, because he essentially advance-fired Jim Lehrer on TV. Many also complimented the “humor” of the line about Big Bird.

Of course they did. You know why? Because there’s no business like their business:

[1] I’ve always wondered about this. Isn’t it likely that the in 1960, the radio-listening public skewed conservative? I don’t know, but it’s a reasonable question.

Unhappy About Defending Obama

Obama HopeThis is how the presidential race works. We start with a policy of Obama’s that I don’t like. Then Mitt Romney, who very much likes the policy, lies and says the policy doesn’t exist. And then Obama defends doing something that I don’t like. Meanwhile, of course, the media are at the point where Mitt Romney’s lies are just given, and therefore: dog bites man—nothing to see here—no news.

Anyway, Obama lied too when he said Mitt Romney wants to cut taxes by $5 trillion in the next ten years; he should have noted that Romney is going to pay for those cuts by… Magic! It is a given in the mainstream that Democrats are supposed to give a thorough analysis of their opponents’ policy plans while Republicans are expected to lie. Balance!

The Maddow Blog is reporting on Mitt’s Mendacity on trade agreements. According to Mitt Romney, Obama has not passed any new free trade agreements. In fact, he’s passed 3, but who cares? If Mitt Romney were a Democrat, well then, he would be expected to get that number right. In fact, if he had said 2 or 4, major portions of the fact checking industry would have been mobilized to bring this shocking lie to the attention of the public. But Romney isn’t a Democrat; he’s a Republican. Dog bites man; nothing to see here; no news.

Of course, free trade agreements are bullshit. They are designed to fuck workers and destroy the environment—all in the name of greater profits for corporations. Here’s the thing about these things. They are always justified by noting that they’ve increased productivity or GDP. But how long are we going to accept these reasons when over the last 3 decades huge increases in productivity and GDP have provided works with almost no gains whatsoever? But as every newspaper in the nation can tell you: labor reporting just isn’t interesting. No news there.

So here I am in the position of defending a repugnant policy of Obama against an outright lie from Mitt Romney. This is what comes from supporting a candidate and a party that really doesn’t have my interests at heart. It’s like choosing a mother who beats me over a father who rapes me. And yet, I don’t want to see America raped by Mitt Romney and the Republican party. So I support the very conservative Democratic Party. But how long can America deal with this situation? And how long can I?

Dog bites man; nothing to see here; no news.

Jennifer is So Damn Sensitive

Mister Kenneth W. Krause, ambushed while heading to his car after a solid 3 hours at the gym, gallantly apologized to Jennifer Livingston for indelicately addressing her weight condition; he had no idea she was so damn sensitive.

Mister Krause: If Jennifer’s offended, then I truly apologize to Jennifer, that’s the last thing I wanted to do.
Reporter: Do you think you’re a bully?
Mister Krause: Um, no I’m not a bully. I’m in no position to bully her. She’s a big time media personality and I’m just a workin’ stiff. If I was going to bully anybody it would be Dan, that fat bastard at work.

I would like to apologize to Mister Krause for insinuating he may have, at one time, looked like a retarded Chinese Crested dog. He just looks like some guy.

Winners Always Win

XOR CursorOur intellectual property system has been broken for so long that most people can’t even see the problem. I remember back in the early 1990s, my friends and I often talked about software patents and how they were killing innovation. Things like the GIF image format and the XOR cursor could make me apoplectic. Over the last year or two, I’ve been hearing a lot more people talk about this—only three decades late! (I don’t mean to suggest that I was on the cutting edge.)

Now let me be clear. I’m with Dean Baker: we should rethink our entire patent and copyright systems. There are two arguments in favor of patents. First, patents encourage innovation. I think this a highly questionable statement. But even if one accepts it, there are other ways to encourage innovation. As a society, we are blinded by our approach to intellectual property. In fact, most people think these anti-free market laws are somehow God given.

The second argument in favor of patents is that it protects the “little guy” against the big corporations. I like this image of the individual battling against the system. But it is rarely, if ever, the case. Take the story of Edwin Howard, the inventor of FM radio, driven to kill himself when corporate interests blocked his new (And far better!) system.

Yesterday, Charles Duhigg and Steve Lohr wrote an excellent article about the software patent system, The Patent, Used as a Sword. It starts with the story of Vlingo, a company that created voice recognition software included in Siri in the iPhone, which was destroyed by a patent lawsuit that Vlingo won. It is a very familiar story.

They also note in the article that Apple and Google now spend more on patent lawsuits and purchases (which are often coerced in cases like Vlingo) than they do on Research & Development. That makes sense. Why should a company create intellectual property when they can just steal it?

This story points to an important aspect of our entire economic system: large companies use the legal system as a sword against small companies and individuals. Conservatives claim that the government should not “pick winners and losers.” But the truth is that through a broken intellectual property system that allows the powerful to always get their way, the government is picking winners and losers. It is simply doing it in the most unjust way imaginable. Conservatives don’t even see the problem given that they like this kind of “winners always win” market manipulation. And liberals don’t see it either because they are too involved using Siri on their iPhones.

Update (8 October 2012 12:41 pm)

Dean Baker chimes in on the Times article:

The one major error is that the piece implies at one point that the story with prescription drugs is better, if anything it is almost certainly much worse. The enormous patent rents that drug companies are able to earn (drugs that can be profitably sold for $5 are instead sold for 100 or even 1000 times this much with patent protection) give them a huge incentive to misrepresent their effectiveness and safety and to market them for inappropriate uses. As the NYT has frequently documented in news stories, the drug companies respond to these incentives as economic theory predicts.