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Texas Tea

Texas Tea

by digby

There's no more denying that Rick Perry is making a huge play for the Neanderthal vote:

Governor, do you believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States?
I have no reason to think otherwise.

That’s not a definitive, “Yes, I believe he”—
Well, I don’t have a definitive answer, because he’s never seen my birth certificate.

But you’ve seen his.
I don’t know. Have I?

You don’t believe what’s been released?
I don’t know. I had dinner with Donald Trump the other night.

That came up.

And he said?
He doesn’t think it’s real.

And you said?
I don’t have any idea. It doesn’t matter. He’s the President of the United States. He’s elected. It’s a distractive issue.

"I don't know. Have I?"

"It's a 'distractive' issue."

(Remind you of anyone? Someone who liked to wear a codpiece, perchance?)



Hoping to be clowns in the long run

Those birth pangs are still coming:

“Revolutions are not pretty,” Rice says of the changes sweeping the region now and the often brutal forms they take, such as Gaddafi’s gory end. “If political reform comes late, when there is a lot of anger, then it is not going to be either smooth, or, frankly, look like we would like it to look.”

Despite this, Rice predicts a better ending to the Middle East revolutions and credits Bush’s Freedom Agenda with facilitating it. “We pursued the Freedom Agenda not only because it was right but also because it was necessary,” she writes. “There is both a moral case and a practical one for the proposition that no man, woman or child should live in tyranny. Those who excoriate the approach as idealistic or unrealistic missed the point. In the long run, it is authoritarianism that is unstable and unrealistic.”

And in the short run a lot of men, women and children have to die. But I guess Condi feels good about it because she thinks she "facilitated" somebody's else's freedom in the long run.

Gag. This grandiose view is so typically Bushian it makes me want to vomit.Forgive the bad manners in quoting myself, but this is something that's been sticking in my craw for a long time:

Condi Rice and Laura Bush are insisting that the administration will be vindicated by history for all the wonderful work it has done around the world. Rice, especially, is intent upon making the case that if the world gets better some time in the future, Bush will be given the credit for it. (This isn't the first time she and Bush have made this stupid comment.)

This definition of success would mean that you have to reevaluate Tojo since Japan has since become a prosperous, first world country. After all, if it weren't for him, the world wouldn't be where it is today. Hell, where would Western Europe be if it weren't for that bad man in the mustache -- or Eastern Europe and Russia if it hadn't been for Stalin? Hey, even Caligula can be seen to be a hero if you believe that the world is better off today than it was during Roman times.

It's not that Bush is as bad as those examples, but the logic behind Rice's view inexorably leads you to evaluate everyone in history through the lens of human progress --- which means that none of the great villains can be held responsible for their deeds and nothing can ever be learned from bad decisions of the past. As long as the world goes on you can always make the case that things will probably turn out ok in the long run. And that's hardly any comfort ---as the old saying goes, in the long run, we'll all be dead.

In fact, in the short run a whole lot of Iraqi people are dead because of the United States' inexplicable decision to invade their country. It is what it is and it's offensive to compare temporary political resistance to a pragmatic humanitarian policy like The Marshall Plan to the worldwide revulsion at an invasion for reasons that made no sense, as Rice does. If Iraq becomes a sane and prosperous nation some time from now, it will never render that policy, based on lies and propaganda, to be a good one --- and Bush, Cheney and Rice will never get credit for any future progress because of it. They need accept that the best they can hope for is to end up among history's inept clowns instead of history's villains. It's not much, but it's all they've got.

It is deeply offensive for this woman to be touting the "success" of her foreign policy when it has resulted in so much death and carnage. Nobody misses Saddam and Gadaffi, but the costs paid by innocent people in having them killed are so huge that anyone who struts around as if they've achieved something great ("Freedom Agenda") should be shunned --- at a minimum.

" is not going to be either smooth, or, frankly, look like we would like it to look." No kidding, Condi.


The GOP Jobs Quandary

The GOP Jobs Quandary
by David Atkins ("thereisnospoon")

The LA Times reports that the GOP is in a jobs quandary:

Rooney's candid assessment puts a fine point on the political predicament facing GOP lawmakers when it comes to jobs bills. With President Obama touring the country to sell his $447-billion plan, Republicans increasingly are under pressure to present an alternative vision for reviving the economy.

For months, the party has focused on shrinking the government, sparking ugly battles with Democrats over the budget and the debt ceiling. But with job growth back at the top of the congressional agenda, Republican lawmakers have found themselves without a clear strategy to reduce the 9.1% national unemployment rate.

To many Republicans, ignoring the issue likely to define the next election is a risky proposition. While political wisdom holds that voters typically unload economic frustration on the president, lawmakers like Rooney have reason to be restless: Congress' approval rating has been in the tank for months, and tied the all-time low of 13% last week, according to a Gallup poll.

"We get a lot of email saying, 'We want all incumbents out. That includes you. We put you in, we'll take you out,'" Rooney said.

The GOP solution? Take some bills you were going to push anyway, and call them jobs bills while avoiding doing the people actually want, like taxing the wealthy:

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has revived talk of his chamber's jobs plan, which is not a bill but an outline of proposals. The House this week will take up a tax measure and a copper mining bill — both billed as jobs legislation.

The push comes as Congress begins a weeks-long political volley over jobs legislation. The Democratic-led Senate has said it will bring up slices of the Obama bill, rewritten to pair spending with a popular tax on people making more than $1 million a year. Republicans, who have sworn to oppose all tax increases, know they are in for series of tough votes.

"President Obama hasn't closed the sale with the public on his latest stimulus, but one theme does appear to resonate. It may be the result of larger environmental conditions, or he may be moving the needle himself, but Obama's 'tax the rich' mantra is getting traction," said Steven Law, president of the GOP advocacy group Crossroads GPS, wrote in a memo Friday.

The GOP jobs "quandary" is actually much simpler: after months of deliberately trying to prevent jobs from being created in order to weaken President Obama's re-election prospects, Republicans are figuring out that their own electoral futures might be compromised if they don't do something real about unemployment, particularly given the President's more aggressive rhetoric of late.

So far, their response is to pretend to do something about it and hope the public doesn't notice. I doubt that will cut it.


20 Premium WordPress eCommerce Themes And 6 Shopping Cart Scripts

One of the coolest things that ever happened on the internet is the ability to sell things online. Not everyone has the capability to create websites that are built to sell products, it’s a good thing we have WordPress and WordPress developers to thank for their themes and scripts. In this article I will present eCommerce themes and PHP scripts that will help sell your product online using the cheapest means possible.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, WordPress has an amazing support community today that you won’t ever get lost. But of course it is always good if you have a basic understanding of how WordPress themes and scripts are created so that you can have an idea, if you have not yet, of how to edit and customize themes and scripts. A little knowledge of PHP and JavaScript is good too, but not really needed unless you want some tweaking done.

So, what are we waiting for? Let’s begin with the selection of premium eCommerce themes and scripts!


Over the years we, at 1stwebdesigner, have presented several free themes that are of premium quality. Right now we’re presenting yet another perfect collection from ThemeForest and CodeCanyon that are still maintained and are supported by their authors.

1. Animal House – E-Commerce and Blogging Theme $35

Some features:

  • 15 Background Patterns to choose from
  • 12 Custom Widgets (Social Icons, Flickr, Video, Twitter, Google Map, etc.)
  • Social sharing bookmarks built into posts (50+ sharing options to choose from including printer friendly PDF conversion of posts)
  • Flexible home page (remove any section and add widgets to areas)
  • E-Commerce Ready with Jigoshop
  • 4 Slider Area Options (Gallery, Content, Nivo, or none)


2. Sofa SuppaStore $35

Some features:

  • Stock Inventory Manager
  • Orders Tracking
  • Unlimited Coupon Codes
  • PayPal and Mail Orders ready
  • 11 built-in Widgets
  • Online FAQ and HowTo support site
  • Newsletter


3. Cute & Sweet $40

Some features:

  • Newsletter system
  • Select how many news articles to display on the home page
  • Built-in simple shopping cart (PHP script)
  • Google Map and driving directions on the contact page
  • Built in contact form (with re-captcha capabilities)


4. Sport and Grunge $40

Some features:

  • Built-in simple shopping cart (PHP script)
  • Google Map and driving directions on the contact page
  • Working contact form
  • Photos in this website are using Javascript and CSS classes to apply a pre-made grunge border to your plain rectangle images.


5.E-Shopper Plugin Free Premium E-Commerce Theme $35

Some features:

  • 2 Home Page sliders
  • Automatic thumbnails
  • Working Ajax Contact Form
  • Payment Methods – PayPal or Google Checkout
  • Coupon system
  • Tax Rates
  • Username Purchase Tracking


6. Kids Toys $40

Some features:

  • WordPress shop payment methods: PayPal, Bank Transfer and Google Checkout
  • Unlimited number of products
  • 5 widget areas


7. Child Care Creative $40

Some features:

  • Custom post types for Testimonials and Products
  • 6 widget areas
  • Simple shopping cart
  • Newsletter system


8. Viroshop $35

Some features:

  • Customer Wishlist
  • Featured Product Carousel
  • Payment Methods – PayPal or Google Checkout
  • Multiple Currencies Supported
  • Product Specifications – Size, Color e.t.c
  • Give visitors the option to choose a shipping method
  • Individual product shipping


9. Sofa Shoppr $40

Some features:

  • 8 built-in Widgets
  • Supported payment gateways: PayPal, 2CO, Authorize + mail orders
  • Switchable layouts
  • Stock Inventory Manager
  • Orders tracking


10. RGBStore $35

Some features:

  • Menu Manager
  • 6 Page Templates
  • 2 Sidebar Position
  • Auto Image Resizing with New Post Thumbnail
  • It is important to note that this theme relies on ecommerce plugins to work.


From here on click the images for the live demo. Note that the features the following themes have mostly resemble each other, so there’s no need to post them here. 

11. Store Box theme $65

12. Store – Ecommerce theme $65

13. Kidz Store e-commerce theme $65

14. WP Store $65

15. Store Front theme $65

16. eShop e-commerce theme $65

17. Emporium theme $65

18. eBook theme $65

19. iProduct Theme $65

20. eProduct theme $65

Scripts and Plugins

Say you have no extensive coding experience and you want to sell a digital product through your website but you want to live frugal. An easy solution to this is to use free plugins or scripts for the shopping cart, but money is money and you can’t be too trusting when it comes to free plugins handling all your transactions.

Perfect for self-publishers of e-books, music, and other services/products that can be transferred digitally.

The following scripts are both working and are supported by their authors. They can work without WordPress, although a little coding experience is necessary for installation and modification.

1. PHP Shopping Cart $12

Some features:

  • Unlimited number of categories and products
  • Automatic image resizing
  • Cross-browser compatible
  • PayPal checkout Integration


2. Secret Paypal File Download $10

This script is perfect for selling digital products online.

Some features:

  • Supports PayPal Sandbox
  • Automated processing payment
  • Prevents leeching by setting an expiry to download links of digital products


3. Simple PHP Shopping Cart $9

Some features:

  • No registration before checkout
  • Different shipping rate per product
  • Works with PayPal, Google Checkout, and Bank Transfer


4. woooShop – Shopping Cart for Every Website $8

Some features:

  • Works with PayPal, Moneybookers, 2Checkout, and Paymex
  • Configurable “add to cart” buttons


5. Optimal Payments Payment Terminal $7

Some features:

  • Works with major credit cards
  • Javascript validation
  • Confirmation emails


6. plum.Shop – A jQuery Shopping Cart $6

Some features:

  • Pure JavaScript
  • Elegant
  • Works with Google Checkout, Paypal, Moneybookers, custom methods
  • Discount codes



Drop us a comment and share your themes, plugins, and scripts!


Weekend Diversion: Lift me up, Quantum-style! [Starts With A Bang]

"I see miracles all around me
Stop and look, it's all astounding
Water, fire, air and dirt
Fucking magnets, how do they work?
And I don't wanna talk to no scientist,
Y'all motherfuckers lyin', and gettin' me pissed." -Insane Clown Posse
While music certainly has the power to be uplifting, the Insane Clown Posse simply won't make the cut for this site. You'd do better listening to LZ Love's song,

Lift Me Up,

which just might do it for you. Even so, it's nothing compared to the power of physics! In particular, the following fantastic video has been making the rounds. Have a look!

I first ran into it at Greg's place, and was sure it wouldn't be long before a scientist filled in the details for everyone. Little did I know that when it came, it would contain this howler:

Even though scientists will claim otherwise, magnetism isn't great (sic) understood.
This declaration of ignorance is followed by a -- let's be generous -- partially correct explanation of how this "quantum levitation" works. But let's see if we can't get it right! Let's start with the basic type of magnetism you all know: ferromagnetism.


(Image credit: Robert Krampf.)

Ferromagnetism is how permanent magnets work, from iron blocks capable of picking up paper clips to the magnets sticking to your refrigerator. The basic principle is that you apply an external magnetic field, and not only does your ferromagnetic material wind up internally magnetized in the same direction as the external field, it remains magnetized even after that field is turned off!


(Image credit: Wiley.)

Although this is the type of magnet we're most familiar with, nearly all materials are not ferromagnetic. Why not?

Because most materials don't remain magnetized once that external field is removed. So what happens inside these other materials when you apply an external magnetic field? They are either diamagnetic, where they magnetize anti-parallel to the external field, or paramagnetic, where they magnetize parallel to the external field. (Incidentally, all materials exhibit diamagnetism, but some materials are either also paramagnetic or ferromagnetic, which can easily overwhelm the effect of diamagnetism.)


(Image credit: Skulls in the Stars. It's a science blog, really!)

At normal temperatures, you've probably heard of Faraday's law of induction, which says that if you change the magnetic field inside of a material, it generates an internal current to oppose that change! Well, if you bring a material with any sort of conduction at all into or out of a magnetic field, you're going to create tiny currents inside of the material -- known as eddy currents -- that oppose the internal change in the magnetic field.


(Image credit: I seriously have no idea, but retrieved from here, which is no help.)

Now, at normal temperatures, these currents are extremely temporary, as they encounter resistance and decay away.

But what if you eliminated the resistance? What if you drove it down all the way to zero?

Believe it or not, you can drive the resistance down to zero in pretty much any material; all you have to do is bring it down to low enough temperatures, until it becomes a superconductor!


(Image credit: Piotr Jaworski.)

But just what is it that happens when you drop the temperature of a material below its critical temperature, to make it superconducting? It expels all the magnetic fields from inside! This is known as the Meissner Effect, and it turns a superconducting material into a perfect diamagnet.

"Hang on," you may say, "how does that explain this quantum levitation?"

Well, it doesn't, of course. Because what I just told you is for a Type I superconductor, like aluminum, lead, or mercury.

But there's another type of superconductor, one with impurities in it, like the one at the video atop, and also in the amazing video, below.

If your material is an alloy, made of a mixture of materials, it can not only be made to superconduct at higher -- like liquid nitrogen (77 K) -- temperatures, it can also have impurities that run all the way through it! And if this is the case, the magnetic field is expelled from everywhere except the impurities, where the magnetic field can penetrate.


(Image credit: Department of Engineering Physics, GITAM University.)

In other words, in a Type II superconductor there are impurities where the magnetic field lines can penetrate. And if the magnetic field can get through, guess what else it can do? Make those eddy currents! And with the resistance driven so far down by these ultra-low temperatures, these currents don't simply decay away; they're sustained.


(Image credit: Philip Hofmann.)

So in the superconducting regions, the fields are expelled, and you get a perfect diamagnet. In the impure regions, the magnetic field lines are concentrated, pass through and cause sustained eddy currents, and this is what pins the superconductor in place! (When you hear the term flux pinning, these confined field lines in the impure regions are what they're talking about!)

Two years ago, I happened to cross paths with Matthew Sullivan of Ithaca College, who has applied this to create some amazing resources, including -- for eye candy -- the video below!

So not only do we understand magnetism, now you do, too, even when applied to levitating quantum superconductors! Now go forth and spread the knowledge, because it's too good to not share it!

Read the comments on this post...

Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Inside the Outbreaks on the ScienceBlogs Book Club


Saturday Night At The Movies—I saw a film today, 2: Top 10 Fab 4 Flicks

Saturday Night At The Movies

I saw a film today, Pt. 2: Top 10 Fab 4 Flicks

By Dennis Hartley

Recently, I was browsing at my favorite Barnes & Noble (love those cushy chairs) when I happened upon a display table with a Beatles theme. Amongst the usual biographies, chord books and calendars, they had a stack of album cover jigsaw puzzles that sort of caught my eye. Although I am not really a puzzle person (disarray makes me anxious) I thought it was a clever concept, and started sorting through what they had. Ah, Revolver…that’s a good one (with that great Klaus Voormann design). Beatles for Sale (how appropriate). Oh look! Abbey Road…now that’s cool. The White Album. Wait a sec. The White Album?! Is this some kind of a sick joke? But no, it was for real. My first reaction was cynicism (Jesus, people will buy anything). But then, I thought, I would have to respect someone who would sit down in earnest to assemble a 500-piece jigsaw largely comprised of solid white. There’s a kind of Zen in that. I felt somewhat humbled.

So I now humbly offer my picks for the Top 10 Beatles films. I don’t really want to stop the show, but I thought that you might like to know: In addition to docs and films where the lads essentially played “themselves”, my criteria includes films where members worked as actors or composers, and biopics. As per usual, my list is in alphabetical order:

The Beatles Anthology-Admittedly, this opus is more of a turn-on for obsessive types (guilty!) but there is certainly very little mystery left once you’ve taken this magical 600 minute tour through the Beatles filmic archives. Originally presented as a mini-series event on TV, it’s a comprehensive (to say the least) compilation of performance footage, movie clips and interviews (both vintage and contemporary). What makes it somewhat unique is that the producers (the surviving Beatles themselves) took the “in their own words” approach, eschewing the usual droning narrator (I suspect even Morgan Freeman couldn’t hold one in thrall for a full ten hours). Very nicely done, and a must-see for fans.

The Compleat Beatles- Prior to the Anthology, this theatrically released documentary stood as the definitive overview of the band’s career and love letter to their fans. What I like most about director Patrick Montgomery’s approach, is that he delves into the musicology (roots and influences), which the majority of Beatles docs tend to skimp on. George Martin’s candid anecdotes about the creativity and innovation that fueled the studio sessions are another highlight. It still stands on its own as a great compilation of clips and insightful interviews. Malcolm McDowell narrates. Although you would think it’s a no-brainer for a DVD, it’s on VHS only (I’ve seen laserdiscs at secondhand stores).

A Hard Day’s Night- This 1964 masterpiece has been often copied, but never equaled. Shot in a semi-documentary style, the film follows a “day in the life” of John, Paul, George and Ringo at the height of their youthful exuberance and charismatic powers. Thanks to the wonderfully inventive direction of Richard Lester and Alun Owen’s cleverly tailored script, the essence of what made the Beatles “the Beatles” has been captured for posterity. Although it is in reality very meticulously constructed, Lester’s film has a loose, improvisational feel-and therein lays its genius, because it still feels just as fresh and innovative as it was when it first hit theatres 47 years ago. There’s much to savor in every frame; to this day I catch subtle gags that surprise me (ever notice John snorting the Coke bottle?). Musical highlights: “I Should Have Known Better”, “All My Loving”, “Don’t Bother Me”, “Can’t Buy Me Love”, and of course, the fab title song.

Help! - Compared to its predecessor (see above), this is a much fluffier affair, from a narrative standpoint (Ringo is being chased by a religious cult who wish to offer him up as a human sacrifice to their god; hilarity ensues). But still, it’s a lot of fun, if you’re in the mood for it. Luckily, the Beatles themselves exude enough goofy energy and effervescent charm to make up for the wafer-thin plotline. There are a few good zingers here and there in Marc Behm and Charles Wood’s screenplay; but the biggest delights come from director Richard Lester’s flair for pure visual invention. The main reason to watch this film is for the musical sequences, which are imaginative, artful, and light years ahead of their time (and pretty much the blueprint for MTV). And of course, the Beatles’ music was evolving in leaps and bounds. Talk about a killer soundtrack; in addition to the classic title song, you’ve got “Ticket to Ride”, “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”, “The Night Before” and “I Need You”, to name a few. And don’t miss those end credits!

I Wanna Hold Your Hand- This modest little sleeper was the feature film debut for director Robert Zemeckis and writer Bob Gale, the creative tag team who would later collaborate on much bigger and brassier box office hits like Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Sort of a cross between American Graffiti and The Bellboy, the story concerns an eventful “day in the life” of six New Jersey teenagers. Three of them (Nancy Allen, Theresa Saldana and Wendy Jo Sperber) are rabid Beatles fans, the other three (Bobby Di Cicco, Marc McClure and Susan Kendall Newman) not so much. Regardless, they all end up falling in together on a caper to “meet the Beatles” by sneaking into their NYC hotel suite (the story is set on the day that the band makes their 1964 debut on The Ed Sullivan Show). Zany misadventures ensue. Zemeckis overindulges on the door-slamming screwball tropes and the slapstick, but the energetic young cast and Gale’s breezy script keeps the story moving along nicely. Allen has a very funny (and very Freudian) scene where she lolls around the Beatles’ hotel suite, fetishizing over their possessions. The film also benefits from the use of original Beatles songs (licensing fees must have been a steal before Michael Jackson bought the catalog).

Let it Be- By 1969, the Beatles had probably done more “living” than most of us could manage to do over the course of several lifetimes, and they did a lot of it with the whole world looking in. It’s almost unfathomable how they could have achieved as much as they did, and at the end of all, still be only in their twenties. Are there any other recording artists who have ever matched the creative growth that transpired over the scant six years that it took to evolve from the simplicity of Meet the Beatles to the sophistication of Abbey Road ? So, with hindsight being 20/20, should we really be so shocked to see the four haggard and sullen “old guys” who mope through this 1970 documentary? Filmed in 1969, the movie was originally intended to be a document of the “making of” the album of the same name (although interestingly, there is some footage of the band working on the rudiments of several songs that ended up on Abbey Road). We see the band rehearsing on the soundstage at Twickenham Film Studios, and hanging out at the Apple offices. However, the film has developed a rep as a sad look at the band’s disintegration. There is some on-camera bickering (most famously, in a scene where George reaches the end of his rope with Paul’s fussiness). Still, there is that classic mini-concert on the roof, and if you look closely, the boys are actually having a grand old time jamming out; it’s almost as if they know this is the last hurrah, and what the hell, it’s only rock’n’roll, after all. I hope this film finally finds its way to a legit DVD release someday (beware of bootlegs).

The Magic Christian- The original posters for this 1969 romp proclaimed it to be “antiestablishmentarian, antibellum (sic), antitrust, antiseptic, antibiotic, antisocial and antipasto”. Rich and heirless eccentric Sir Guy Grand (Peter Sellers) stumbles upon a young homeless man sleeping in a public park (Ringo Starr) and decides to adopt him as his son (“Youngman Grand”), and the rest of the film pretty much follows in that same spirit of spontaneity. Sir Guy immediately sets about imparting a nugget of wisdom to his newly appointed heir: People will do anything for money. Basically, it’s an episodic series of elaborate pranks, setting hooks into the stiff upper lips of the stuffy English aristocracy. Like similar broad counterculture-fueled satires of the 60s (Candy, Skidoo, Casino Royale) it’s a bit of a psychedelic train wreck, but when it’s funny, it’s very funny. Highlights include Laurence Harvey doing a striptease whilst reciting the “To be, or not to be” soliloquy from Hamlet, a pheasant hunt with field artillery, and well-attired businessmen wading waist-deep into a huge vat full of slaughterhouse offal, using their bowlers to scoop up as much “free money” as they can (accompanied by Thunderclap Newman’s “Something in the Air”). Badfinger performs most of the songs, including their Paul McCartney-penned hit, “Come and Get It”. Director Joseph McGrath co-wrote with Sellers, Terry Southern, and Monty Python’s Graham Chapman and John Cleese.

Nowhere Boy- This gem from U.K. director Sam Taylor-Wood made the toppermost of the poppermost on my list of 2010 Seattle International Film Festival faves. Aaron Johnson gives a terrific, James Dean-worthy performance as a teenaged John Lennon. The story zeroes in on a specific, crucially formative period of the musical icon’s life beginning just prior to his first meet-up with Paul McCartney, and ending on the eve of the “Hamburg period”. The story is not so much about the Fabs, however, as it is about the complex and mercurial dynamic of the relationship between John, his Aunt Mimi (Kirstin Scott Thoma


Never the twain shall meet

Never the twain shall meet

by digby

I gotcher co-option for you right here:

Occupy Wall Street has captured both headlines and water cooler banter in recent weeks as the movement has spread from New York across the country. Cheered on by everyone from Kanye West and Labor Unions to Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic establishment, it has quickly become a buzzword and national movement. Yet as participants in the movement lay out their laundry list of demands, it’s clear that the real catalyst for their outbreak of frustration isn’t Wall Street. Instead of leveling their vitriol at financial institutions, CEO’s and Congress, it’s clear: the Occupy movement should cast its blame at the current occupant of the White House.

Ok, a whole lot of you are saying "hell yeah!" to that one. But before you get too excited about this post-partisan meeting of the minds, read on:

The roots of unrest began early, with the White House pursuing a strategy that seemingly resembled “shock and awe”. Aided by a Congress whose Democratic majorities were all to willing to rubber stamp the legislative wishes of its newly minted President, Americans of all stripes were hit hard with a government stimulus, a health care plan that has already resulted in thousands of employers dropping company funded insurance and a Wall Street reform bill that unleashed a new wave of uncertainty on Wall Street, locking up new investment as big business waited for some kind of certainty.

You see, it's not that the president didn't do enough to fix the economy, it's that he did too much. And it caused a lack of confidence among our jaaaab-creeeeaters and now everything's all messed up. People got "hit hard" by a stimulus and the health care plan caused them to lose their insurance and now there's uncertainty! How did we let this happen?

As his poll numbers began to sink, the President attempted to deflect attention from his policy failures by blaming everyone from Republicans in Congress to oil companies and private jet owners. The results of the President’s efforts were evident in the first issue of the “Occupied Wall Street Journal”, a communiqué that quickly became the voice of a disjointed movement. An article entitled, “The Revolution Begins at Home” discusses “liberating territory from the financial overlords and their police army”. Further into the article, it likens NYPD police interventions to the violence unleashed in Egypt.

Uh oh. The president's angry, violent rhetoric has inspired a revolution. Luckily the Real Americans are having none of it:

The misbehavior of a few notwithstanding, outcries like we’ve seen from occupy Wall Street are worth paying attention to. However, instead of simply focusing on the loud minority, the true feelings of Americans were better reflected in an ABC News focus group where a group of self proclaimed “Wal-Mart Moms” said that they wouldn’t have time to protest in a park and if they did, would rather spend time with their families. While Nancy Pelosi was incorrect that Occupy Wall Street “reflects America”, it is the working families who have suffered from the President’s policies, and more importantly, it is those families who will vote next November.
So, Occupy Wall Street is worth paying attention to, but only if we focus on people who don't want anything to do with it. But not to worry. President Obama still has a chance to make things right:

The President has a chance to work in bi-partisan fashion with Congressional Republicans on real solutions, such as a payroll tax holiday that would ease the burden for both job creators and seekers. Instead of continuing the class warfare and government based solutions that have trademarked his time in office, the President should work toward mitigating the damage caused by his ambitious legislative strategy and stop fueling the destructive dialogue that has fed the poisonous rhetoric pouring out of Occupy sites across the country.
Oh heck. And here I thought he liked us.

Speaking of which, Kate Zernike, who wrote Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America, has written a piece in today's NY Times that backs up the impressions I wrote about in my Al Jazeera piece earlier this week: the Tea Party and OWS are not the same animal:

At a Republican candidate forum outside Fort Worth last week, a Tea Party activist turned Senate candidate proclaimed the Occupy Wall Street protesters “unemployed, uneducated and uninformed.” To which the conservative radio host moderating the panel added, mirthfully, “This is the first occupation many of these people have seen in years.”
More and more commentators — as well as President Obama — have likened the Occupy forces spreading across the country to the Tea Party movement. But as they have, conservatives and Tea Party activists have rushed to discredit the comparison and the nascent movement. They have portrayed the Occupy protesters as messy, indolent, drug-addled and anti-Semitic, circulated a photo of one of them defecating on a police car, and generally intimated that Democrats who embrace them are on a headlong road to Chicago 1968.

It is a culture war, young versus old, left versus right, communal food tables versus “Don’t Tread on Me” flags.

In fact, the two movements do share key traits. They emerged out of nowhere but quickly became potent political forces, driven by anxiety about the economy, a belief that big institutions favor the reckless over the hard-working, grievances that are inchoate and even contradictory, and an insistence that they are “leaderless.” “End the Fed” signs — and even some of those yellow Gadsden flags — have found a place at Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street protests alike.

Where they differ is in where they place the blame. While Occupy forces find fault in the banks and super-rich, the Tea Party movement blames the government for the economic calamity brought on by the mortgage crisis, and sees the wealthy as job creators who will lift the country out of its economic malaise. To them, the solution is less regulation of banks, not more.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey declared Monday, “If you told the Occupy Wall Street people and the Tea Party people that they are the same, they would hit you.”

Not quite. But Tea Party activists are indeed fighting the comparisons.

“They seem to be more in favor of anarchy than they are in favor of working out problems through the Constitution,” Jenny Beth Martin, a co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, said about the Occupy forces.

Like threatening to use those "Second Amendment remedies." Or this:
We are the original homeland security, not the paid agents that today masquerade as such in ninja outfits, dressed in black to intimidate the people with their faces covered to keep them from being held accountable for their actions. I have even been shown proof that they consider the founding fathers like George Washington, Sam Adams and Thomas Jefferson to be the terrorists of old.
Unless you are a member of the active military, it is your historical, constitutional and moral duty to participate in a citizen’s militia. And I’ll say this, shame on those who are either too busy or too scared or too apathetic to step up.

The British aren’t coming. It is the Soviet socialists that have occupied our Capitol. It might as well be Moscow on the Potomac.

The question is: do we have the courage and the spirit of our forefathers? Our people do. Today we want to tell the Marxist control freaks out there, don’t dare cross that bridge. But we know they will. We the militia, and hopefully with your support, stand ready with no apologies, cause what we have forced upon us is not from a legitimate government, or the American values of self reliance and independence. If you want to be a European, move.

The Declaration of Independence says that when a government is no longer beneficial or responsive to the people, it is our right and duty to change it. Now some citizens are holding out hope that the upcoming elections will better things, and you know we’ll wait and see. Lots of us believe that maybe that’s not reliable, considering the fact that the progressive socialists have been chipping away at our foundations. Regardless, the founders made sure we had plan B (holds up his gun). You know what that is.

The treasonous left wing socialist politicians, and their lapdogs in the press, have gotten a wedgie here recently in their underpants over the tea parties. And a little broken glass (wink, wink). I sure hope they’re out there today. If they read history, they should know and fear what came after those events over 200 years ago. This latest forced health care bill, which is really about people control, the same thing as gun control, is the modern day equivalent of the 1765 standback, its only more disastrous to our freedom living way of life, etc…

History it seems is ready to repeat itself. After a long and costly civil war that is eminent, and sure to be forced upon us, we are taking note of those who are responsible for the treason, and they will be held accountable. I advise the press to start getting it right from this moment on, and stop aiding and abetting un-American activities. Like the Tories of old, the worst shall be hung, most will be exiled, and I’m a contractor so I have a little bit of tar and feathers for those who are only partially guilty.

In closing, let me implore you to keep the torch of freedom burning bright, god bless the republic, death to the New World Order. We shall prevail.

Senator Rand "I have a message from the Tea Party " Paul spoke at that rally.

There is a bizarre need on the part of quite a few liberals to believe that the right really agrees with them, they just don't know it. They think that there is a potential "transpartisan" ideological Grand Alliance that will come together across all these artificial boundaries to work toward a common purpose. It's pretty to think so, but it isn't any more realistic than President Obama's odes to post-partisan leadership that would transcend ugly ideology and "change the way Washington works" were.

It is possible that the Occupy Wall Street movement will keep a majority of the public on its side. I fervently hope it does. But it won't win everyone and certainly not hardcore Reactionaries whose very identities are formed by their opposition to liberalism. You go with the culture you have, not the one you wish you had ...

Wages versus Assets by David Atkins

Wages versus Assets
by David Atkins ("thereisnospoon")

The latest "bipartisan" cockamamie scheme to re-inflate the housing market now apparently involves giving immigration visas to foreigners who buy houses valued at $500,000 a year. There is so much wrong with this idea that it's hard to know where to start: the threat of absentee landlords, the booting out of people faced with foreclosure, the lack of concomitant work visas to accompany the immigration visas, etc. Joan McCarter at DailyKos has a good rundown.

There can be little question at this point that American public policy is dedicated almost entirely to benefiting wealthy people and corporate "people" over regular Americans. But examples like this one show that it's not just corruption: there's a strong bipartisan ideological component that is driving this insanity as well that is based on very flawed economic assumptions.

It would be comforting in a way to think that most every public official in Washington were eating luxurious dinners while rubbing their hands in glee at how best to destroy American families to benefit corporate contributors, so that those same public officials could buy houses in the Hamptons and eat filet mignon every night. Then it would just be a question of rooting them all out and putting "good" people into office. But that's not really how most people, including elected officials, operate. Some are overtly corrupt to be sure, but a large number of them think they're doing what they do for the right reasons.

Looking at the big picture, it's fairly obvious what has happened over the last 30 years. It has to do with a battle between the forces trying to raise wages, and the forces trying to raise assets. The asset side, of course, has won this battle in both parties. Enriching the wealthy through Reagan's trickle-down ideology was a symptom of the outcome of this battle, rather than the primary disease.
The real bipartisan agenda can be neatly summed up in this much overlooked but central Ronald Reagan quote from 1975:

"Roughly 94 percent of the people in capitalist America make their living from wage or salary. Only 6 percent are true capitalists in the sense of deriving income from ownership of the means of production...We can win the argument once and for all by simply making more of our people Capitalists."

Understanding this idea is the key to understanding what is happening in America today, without resorting to Snidely Whiplash caricatures of elected officials.

Simply put, in the 1970s America was hit with an inflation crisis that quickly became a stagflation crisis. There were also oil shocks involved. Simulataneously, the world was becoming increasingly globalized, which made it more difficult for American corporations to compete using American labor. Finally, as Hacker and Pierson have persuasively argued, big business banded together to begin more aggressive and cohesive lobbying efforts. These four trends were devastating politically for the middle class.

American public policy on both sides of the aisle reoriented itself away from a focus on wages and toward a focus on assets. Specifically, the idea was that wage growth was dangerous because it led to core inflation in a way that asset growth did not. American foreign policy became obsessed even more than it had been with maintaining access to oil, both to prevent future oil shocks and to prevent inflationary oil spirals. Wage growth was also dangerous because it would drive increasing numbers of American corporations to employ cheaper overseas labor.

But that left the question of how to sustain a middle class and functional economy while slashing wages. The answer was to make more Americans "true Capitalists" in Reagan's terms. Pensions were converted to 401K plans, thus investing about half of Americans into the stock market and creating a national obsession with the health of market indices. Regular Americans were given credit cards, allowing them to take on the sorts of debt that had previously only been available to businesses. Most crucially, American policymakers did everything possible to incentivize homeownership, from programs designed to help people afford homes to major tax breaks for homeownership and much besides.

Low prices on foreign-made goods were also a policy priority. This had a dual benefit for policymakers: lower prices offset stagnant wages, while keeping core inflation low. Free trade deals were also a major centerpiece of public policy in this context. Few politicians actually believed that these deals would help increase wages and jobs in America. But what they were designed to do is keep low-cost goods coming into America, while increasing the stock value of American companies exporting goods overseas, thus raising asset values.

Low interest rates were also important. Renters and savers suffer in a low-interest rate environment, but borrowers and asset owners do very well. Tax cuts, of course, are also helpful in offsetting the impact of wage stagnation.

Houses and stocks, then, are assets that rise independently of wages. Low-cost overseas goods and the easy availability of loans and credit provide offsets to low wages. Low interest rates and tax cuts help as well keep assets afloat as well. The bipartisan idea from a public policy standpoint was not simply to enrich the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. The idea was to make the American middle class dependent on assets rather than wages. I was at a conference many years back, the purpose of which was to bring corporate bigwigs together in defense of free trade against what they feared might be a protectionist backlash. One executive told me point blank that if only enough Americans were invested in the stock market, they wouldn't gripe about Halliburton and other similar companies because they would say, "Hey, I own part of that company!" When I objected that that only half of Americans were invested in the market at all, and of that figure far fewer had significant assets invested, he retorted that more Americans were invested in the market than I thought, and that policy needed to be designed to push more Americans to invest.

On its face, the idea is insane. In a capitalist system, assets do often rise in value. But they also decline, and often sharply. Without significant wage growth and redundancies in the economy that provide stability at the expense of efficiency for asset growth, the popping of economic bubbles produces Great-Depression-style economic pain. The only way an asset-based economy can work is if assets grow reliably forever into the future. Not even the most "pro-growth" policies can promise that. In fact, those policies usually inflate bubbles that ensure just the opposite.

When policymakers attempt to privatize Social Security and Medicare, they aren't necessarily supervillains hoping to turn America into a nation of nobles and peasants. Some are, but not all. The objective is to convert what they see as "useless" money sitting in the financial equivalent of a freezer, and put it to "productive" use in asset investments.

When policymakers bristle at pushing banks to accept principal reductions on mortgages in order to help people remain in their homes, it's not just that they're doing the banks' bidding. It's also that helping people stay in their homes would devalue housing-based assets, when the goal of policymakers is to re-inflate those assets as soon as possible. Policymakers don't want to stop foreclosures; they want to speed them up in order get rid of the "dead weight" that is preventing housing assets from rising again.

The recklessness and stupidity of this sort of approach to public policy should have been proven by the 2008 financial crisis that saw the rapid destruction of asset values in stocks, bonds, and housing. Predicating economic health on asset growth is a pipe dream: most people will never have enough assets to make it work, and asset growth is far too unstable to serve as the basis for a functional economy.

Whether they can articulate it or not, what has most progressives most incensed about the Obama Administration's domestic policy is that has ultimately hewed to the same asset-based economic model. When the Administration could be progressive on cutting costs or ensuring equality without negatively impacting asset models, it did so. That's what the ACA, the Ledbetter Act, the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and numerous other left-leaning Administration moves were designed to do. But the Administration has been very reticent to take any actions that would negatively impact the value of assets.

America will only return to real economic health when the asset-crazed insanity of the last 30 years is brought to heel, and America returns to a public policy that is far more interested in wage growth and economic stability than it is in asset inflation. Until then, we can expect continued political and economic shocks from an angry electorate and an economy that has run off the rails due to 30 years of deeply misguided anti-inflation, pro-asset-growth ideology.


California DREAMing

They never quit:

Led by Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, referendum backers hope to halt implementation of the California Dream Act. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the measure Oct. 8.

Donnelly's group has until Jan. 6 to collect valid signatures from 504,760 registered voters. Donnelly has said he hopes to wage a largely volunteer effort fueled by social media and talk radio.

Assembly Bill 131, written by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, will allow undocumented immigrant college students who already qualify for in-state tuition rates to receive state-funded financial aid, including Cal Grants. Rick Perry:

“It was a long love affair with a boy and his gun, that turned into a man and his gun, that turned into a man and his son and his daugher and their guns.”

Was the love affair with the boy/man/son/daughter? Their guns? Both? A whole incestuous gun-owning family? Eww.

Those Texas Republicans are kinky.


Sometimes a gun is just a gun. Or is it?

Rick Perry:

“It was a long love affair with a boy and his gun, that turned into a man and his gun, that turned into a man and his son and his daugher and their guns.”

Was the love affair with the boy/man/son/daughter? Their guns? Both? A whole incestuous gun-owning family? Eww.

Those Texas Republicans are kinky.


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