Bring Me the Disco King – And Glenn Beck!

Bowie olbermann

UPDATE:  Olbermann writes “Never Mind“.

Did you ever hear this fairly obscure song by David Bowie? It’s  called “Bring Me the Disco King”:

The song’s refrain go something like this:

Feed me no lies
I don’t know about you, I don’t know about you
Breathe through the years
I don’t know about you, I don’t know about you
Bring me the disco king
I don’t know about you, I don’t know about you
Dead or alive, bring me the disco king
Bring me the disco king, bring me the disco king
Bring me the disco king

Here’s a similar refrain, posted by Keith Olbermann in his Daily Kos diary, entitled “Send Me Everything You Can Find About Glenn Beck

I don’t know why I’ve got this phrasing in my head, but: Find everything you can about Glenn Beck,  Stu Burguiere, and Roger Ailes. No, even now, I refuse to go all caps.No, sending me links to the last two Countdowns with my own de-constructions of his biblical vision quality Communist/Fascist/Socialist/Zimbalist art at Rockefeller Center (where, curiously, he works, Comrade) doesn’t count. Nor does sending me links to  specious inappropriate point-underscoring prove-you’re-innocent made-up rumors.

I keep wondering if somewhere somebody named Ollie Garhey thinks he’s in charge now. Or, even more entertainingly and societally satisfying, if somebody named Ali Garhi does. Despite the worn-out snark above, I am in earnest here.

Bring me the Disco King, Bring Me the Disco King

I Don’t know about you, I Don’t Know about you

Dead or Alive, bring me the Disco King, Bring Me the Disco King

Bring Me the Disco King

I may have accidentally transcribed the last few lines of the Olbermann quote poorly, and if I did, apologies. But I give Keith credit. While most of the commentariat is angered by the rabid tactics of the Glenn Beck audience over Van Jones’s firing, Keith Olbermann is tearing the hinges off of the left door as well. If you don’t think so, check out some of the 1400+ comments in his DK diary.

UPDATED: The Bell Tolls for Van Jones and Print Media

Jones is Gone, Will Print Media Soon Follow?

Jones is Gone, Will Print Media Soon Follow?

Is “Green Jobs Czar” Van Jones’s ouster (sudden ouster, if the New York Times is your primary news source), a harbinger of print media’s imminent (or at least sooner rather than later) demise?

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama’s adviser Van Jones has resigned amid controversy over past inflammatory statements, the White House said early Sunday. Jones, an administration official specializing in environmentally friendly “green jobs” with the White House Council on Environmental Quality was linked to efforts suggesting a government role in the 2001 terror attacks and to derogatory comments about Republicans. The resignation comes as Obama is working to regain his footing in the contentious health care debate.

For the past two week, the internet was abuzz with stories of Jones purported radicalism. A few years back, he signed a 9/11 “Truther” petition, a statement by a (kinda nutty) organization whose members believe the Bush Administration either failed to act on 9/11 or were complicit in the terror actions (along with a whole bunch of other conspiratorial cover-up stuff involving insider trading, technical explanations of implosions vs plane strike, etc; like I wrote before kinda nutty.)  During the week it also came out that Jones had been a member of  Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement, or STORM, a defunct organization with Marxist leanings. So, Jones was kinda nutty, and sorta commie. Finally, to top it all off, he said some things that were better left unsaid, I guess.

And now he’s gone, which everyone knows if you read the FIRST AND ONLY ARTICLE ABOUT THE VAN JONES CONTROVERSY IN THE NYT WHEN THE PAPER FINALLY PRINTS AN ARTICLE ABOUT IT TOMORROW!!! UPDATE: If you read the NYT story this a.m., you STILL don’t really, truly understand why the Administration ousted Jones. Here is the paragraph summarizing the reason for Jones’s sudden departure:

The adviser, Van Jones, a controversial and charismatic community organizer and “green jobs” advocate from the San Francisco Bay Area, signed a petition in 2004 questioning whether the Bush administration had allowed the terrorist attacks of September 2001 to provide a pretext for war in the Middle East [emph added].

A light reading of that sentence could lead the uninitiated to believe  the 9/11 Truther petition was protesting the use of 9/11 attacks to drum up support for the war in Iraq, a fairly mainstream proposition. In fact, 9/11 Truthers believe (and the wording in the petition clearly alludes to the fact) that the Bush Administration as a minimum allowed the 9/11 attacks to happen, or were complicit in them. That is well within the realm of nutty, no? Why airbrush over the fact that signing this petition is damning in and of itself? Mickey Kaus has a few theories.  At the bare minimum, the Times could have  provided deeper context by investigating whether Jones truly knew what he was signing (as Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs has done). Probably too hard to do for an outfit on a shoestring budget, though.

And the New York Times is hardly alone; none of the other major publications gave Van Jones, a man commissioned my President Obama to spend over $60 billion of taxpayers’ money on so-called green jobs, more than a cursory glance at the man’s fitness to do so. And when they finally were forced to commit words to print, the Times’s milquetoast  article chalked up the imbroglio to a victory of the relentless conservatives over the administration, too. No question of the administration’s judgement, or vetting process, or depth, or context.

Notable blogger and pundit Mickey Kaus recently wrote “I’ve been waiting for the day when a prominent pol resigns and for print MSM readers it appears to be out-of-the-blue, though everyone on the Web knows the whole story”;  we were practically there with the Van Jones deal, and once we get there,  how many people will be willing to pay for a print newspaper? Besides households with parakeets and puppies, that is.

Update: Related thoughts HERE and HERE.

Update 2: Check out Thomas Friedman and Tom Brokaw, as they discuss Van Jones’s firing and spew about the dangers of the internets. I especially love Brokaw’s comment about the sanctity of the MSM “vetting” process, classic. UPDATE: My friend BM, who is incapable of posting a comment on any blog for some reason emails: “Hey, Maybe Brokaw or Dan Rather can go get a job in the administration as ‘The Vetting Czar’.” Cool!

Anyway, here’s the vid, and as they say, “My dear friends, welcome to Jurassic Park”:

California Dreamin’, Then and Now

California During the Great Depression

California During the Great Depression

Harold Meyerson in The American Prospect, 2001:

Indeed, with its Democratic governor, U.S. senators, state legislature, and congressional delegation, California is the only one of the nation’s 10 largest states that is uniformly under Democratic control.  California is more than just the Democrats’ electoral anchor, however. Increasingly, a number of its cities are coming to look like Justice Louis Brandeis’s “laboratories of democracy”–enacting minimum wage, health care, and worker-rights ordinances that would normally be the responsibility of the federal government (if only the feds could be interested in the conditions of working-class life). In city after city, a civic left has emerged in California, with the state’s new-model labor movement–the most dynamic in the country–at its core.    .     . California has responded to the economic travails and political opportunities that have come with its immigrant workers by getting out in front of much of the nation, by creating a model of social equity, of worker and public power, at a time of capital supremacy. A full continent off-Broadway, the next New Deal is in tryouts [emph added].


Washington Post, 20 May 2009:

California voters rejected a handful of ballot measures Tuesday meant to plug less than half of the state’s $21 billion budget hole, and state leaders today are preparing major program cuts to deal with the growing crisis. Voters resoundingly snubbed five of the six ballot measures — a combination of tax increases, borrowing and earmarks for education — in Tuesday’s special election, with most of them receiving more than a 65 percent “no” vote. The only measure approved was one that prevents legislators, including the governor, from receiving pay raises in years when the state is running a deficit.  .  .The timing couldn’t be worse for the Golden State, which regularly takes out short-term loans this time of year to pay its bills. California will be hard pressed to secure a sizeable loan, given its shaky credit rating and the tight lending policies at banks following the national economic crisis.


So how’s that tryout going,  Mr. Meyerson? It might be time to cut California from the team.  .  .

Megan McArdle on California

California During the Great Depression

Megan McArdle’s latest Atlantic article sums up the current tate of affairs in California:

California is completely, totally, irreparably hosed.  And not a little garden hose.    .  .  Their outflow is bigger than their inflow.  You can blame Republicans who won’t pass a budget, or Democrats who spend every single cent of tax money that comes in during the booms, borrow some more, and then act all surprised when revenues, in a totally unprecedented, inexplicable, and unforeseaable chain of events, fall during a recession.  You can blame the initiative process, and the uneducated voters who try to vote themselves rich by picking their own pockets.  Whoever is to blame, the state was bound to go broke one day, and hey, today’s that day!

California will go bankrupt, muni and state debt will spike, the federal government will backstop humanitarian programs and very possibly all state and local debt, and eventually, California will figure out whether it wants higher taxes or lower spending.  But we will not actually make the world a better place by enabling the lunatics in Sacramento to pretend they can have both.

Read the whole thing. And I will update this post later today with some original commentary.  .  .

No Unemployment Stimulus, Thus Far

So far, most American workers have received little to no measurable benefit from the American Recovery and Investment [Stimulus], Act, especially  the unemployed people and their families in the poorest parts of the country.

On January 8th, then President-elect Obama gave a well-received speech to build congressional and public support for the Stimulus, at that time carrying a taxpayer-funded tab in the neighborhood of  $819 billion. At the time, President-elect Obama stated:

[W]e need to act boldly and act now to reverse these cycles. That’s why we need to put money in the pockets of the American people, create new jobs, and invest in our future. That’s why we need to re-start the flow of credit and restore the rules of the road that will ensure a crisis like this never happens again. That work begins with this plan—a plan I am confident will save or create at least three million jobs over the next few years [emph added].

Remembering that even proponents of stimulus admit the “save” part of that often repeated canard will always be difficult to measure, it is interesting to note what the Administration actually DID predict, and how those predictions are faring thus far. From Impact of The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Investment Plan a pamphlet issued to market the immediate effects the stimulus would have to alleviate unemployment and create job growth:

[W]e expect the [Stimulus] plan to more than meet the goal of creating or saving 3 million jobs by 2010Q4. There are two important points to note, however: First, the likely scale of employment loss is extremely large. The U.S. economy has already lost nearly 2.6 million jobs since the business cycle peak in December 2007. In the absence of stimulus, the economy could lose another 3 to 4 million more. Thus, we are working to counter a potential total job loss of at least 5 million. As Figure 1 shows, even with the large prototypical package, the unemployment rate in 2010Q4 is predicted to be approximately 7.0%, which is well below the approximately 8.8% that would result in the absence of a plan.

Here is the graphic that the administration used to illustrate the stimulus’ effect on the unemployment rate:

Stimulus 3

So how have the administrations predictions fared thus far? Take a look:

stimulus effects

The April unemployment rate was 8.9 percent, well over a percentage point above the administration’s predictions. While economic conditions are notoriously challenging to predict, the fact that this stimulus was supposed to dramatically alleviate job loss over a 1-3 year period beginning as early as RIGHT NOW  nonetheless calls many of the other predictions used to market the stimulus bill into question.

Where the stimulus will actually, well, stimulate the economy, if anywhere, is another valid question. It has done little to alleviate economic stress in some of the poorest regions of the country. For instance in Alabama, unemployment

has doubled in the past year from 4.5 percent to 9 percent. But here in Dallas County, it is 18.2 percent. In neighboring Wilcox County, is it more than 22 percent. That is staggering: One in five people you pass are unemployed.   .   .Selma [Alabama] would appear, in the short term, a perfect target for the Obama stimulus plan. Selma has a wish list of $40 million in projects, from street repairs and other infrastructure to help with the new riverfront development. But not a dime has reached here yet. “We have not gotten a response on it at this point,” [Selma Mayor George P.] Evans says. “It is very frustrating. The entitlement cities with greater populations have gotten a lot of theirs, but the smaller cities like Selma have not gotten theirs yet. …[emph added].

Downtown Selma, Alabama

Downtown Selma, Alabama

Of course there are always exceptions, and one city that is likely to benefit from this stimulus is the perpetually stimulated Washington DC metropolitan area:

[The Federal Government could hire] as many as 600,000 [people], according to the Partnership for Public Service. That’s across the federal public sector over the next three to four years. President Obama’s proposed budget for FY 2010 could create all of those jobs, maybe more, according to the Partnership for Public Service. They’re adding up the numbers of retiring workers, plus the number that will be made available because of contracted work that’ll be done by government, or brand new jobs created by the stimulus. .  . The Pentagon workforce will increase by 14,000 employees. Social Security is looking to hire more than three thousand people. In addition, they’ll have to replace any retiring workers, which could add up to more than 4,200 hires. The Department of Veterans Affairs is hiring 10,000 new employees. The Department of Homeland Security is hiring 7,000 to 10,000 new employees.

Cranes are a Ubiquitous Part of the DC Skyline

Cranes are a Ubiquitous Part of the DC Skyline

Even the recent April unemployment numbers, dismal as they were, were alleviated considerably by growth in the government sector:

April’s net job loss total actually was somewhat misleading: Private-sector employment actually fell by 611,000 jobs, but government hiring, which added 66,000 jobs, mostly for the upcoming census, offset some of them. Although April’s job numbers reflect a welcome slowing of the downturn, a deeper look suggests that it will be a long, hard climb back to full employment. The number of long-term unemployed — those out of work for 27 weeks or longer — continues to rise alarmingly.

So if you live in a part of the country that is not Washington DC, or have no desire to spend the rest of your working days as a GS-11 in the bowels of the Census Bureau, Department of Transportation, or the Pentagon, then you are probably not yet partaking of the stimulus’ bounty. So watch the numbers,  count the cranes on the skyline of your hometown, and ensure you let your local/state/federal representatives know  how well they are spending your hard earned money. And your children’s money.

Post Script: I lifted the chart juxtaposing the actual unemployment numbers from this site HERE.

A Weak Government Would Never Take Away MY Cheese!

What Tangled Webs.    .     .

What Tangled Webs. . .

Washington’s actions in the past several weeks illustrate why keeping the scale and scope of the Federal Government in check is a solid idea.

Has the government done ANYTHING in the last two weeks to inspire Americans to cede control of any aspect of their daily lives to this gang that is not only incapable of shooting straight, but seems to have forgotten to bring their guns to the fight altogether? Had Michelle Obama not broken ground on a White House garden in recent days, one could argue that nothing positive had transpired in the District for some time.

And the government is getting bigger and more intrusive, even if it has proven to be inelegant, incestuous, and incompetent over the past few weeks. One only has to window shop at Cheesetique in Alexandria, VA to find the government creeping into your lazy Sunday afternoons, just as you attempt to find something to compliment that great bottle of Chardonnay  picked up at the local winery a few weeks back. More on that later.   .   .

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The Wounded Veteran “Pay Your Own Way Plan”

Secretary For Veterans Affairs Shinseki

Apparently the Department of Veteran’s Affairs is developing a course of action that would force American veterans to have to pay for treatment of service related (including combat) injuries:

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki confirmed Tuesday that the Obama administration is considering a controversial plan to make veterans pay for treatment of service-related injuries with private insurance. No official proposal to create such a program has been announced publicly, but veterans groups wrote a pre-emptive letter last week to President Obama voicing their opposition to the idea after hearing the plan was under consideration. The groups also cited an increase in “third-party collections” estimated in the 2010 budget proposal — something they said could be achieved only if the Veterans Administration started billing for service-related injuries. Asked about the proposal, Shinseki said it was under “consideration.” Currently, veterans’ private insurance is charged only when they receive health care from the VA for medical issues that are not related to service injuries, like getting the flu.

But the proposal would be “dead on arrival” if it’s sent to Congress, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, said [emph added].

Good for Senator Murray, and hopefully this proposal never advances beyond a few crappy Powerpoint slides. What’s interesting is that Secretary Shinseki, himself a wounded veteran who lost part of a foot in Vietnam and no doubt has benefitted from VA care in the years following his retirement, would ever let such a proposal see the light of day in an organization he leads. Maybe the whole “speak truth to power” meme was less accurate than previously reported.

So far, 2009 is off to an inauspicious start for Veterans. In January, several elderly Alaskan Territorial Scouts, veterans of the Second World War, suddenly lost their pension benefits:

The Army has decided to cut off retirement pay for veterans of a largely Native militia formed to guard the territory of Alaska from the threat of Japanese attack during World War II. The change means 26 surviving members of the Alaska Territorial Guard — most in their 80s and long retired — will lose as much as $557 in monthly retirement pay, a state veterans officer said Thursday. The payments end Feb. 1. The Army doesn’t intend to seek to recoup past pay, [an official] said.

Alaska Territorial Guard During World War II

Alaska Territorial Guard During World War II

It is alarming that some government government bureaucracy could ever come to the conclusion that it must, in being a steward of the taxpayer’s dollars, abruptly end pensions for a handful of men on the basis of some arcane technicality, or force servicemembers who have been wounded in the service of their country suddenly have to worry how they are going to pay for a new prosthetic;  one would think keeping the newly-installed color laserjet printers an extra 18 months on one floor of any federal building would surely have saved the government the same amount of money, and kept a few soulless bureacrats from ending up in the pits of Tartarus.

What all Americans should find troubling, however, is the larger message these and other recent government actions send: If you buy a house with one bedroom too many, the government will be there to help; but if you go on one patrol too many, you’re on your own.  .  .