Allison Kilkenny December 30, 2010

December 30, 2010

Allison is, with Jamie Kirstein, the founder of Citizen Radio. She tweets as @allisonkilkenny.

She and I have been in some interesting discussions with other folks on twitter, which led to my inviting her to the program.

The plan is to structure our talk in two areas. First, is the new Austerity narrative that is taking over the Beltway. Allison put up a great post documenting its emergence in TIME. The idea that regular Americans are just gonna have to suck it up is dominating the discussion, moving today into the idea that union contracts, and state employee pensions are not really contractual commitments. See DDay’s video in the previous post.

Second, is more on Wikileaks, because the implications keep growing, multiplying and spawning.  Here I refer you an earlier post, and to this interesting NYTimes editorial, also pointed out to me by Allison’s tweet stream, beating out the dead tree edition:

But a bank’s ability to block payments to a legal entity raises a troubling prospect. A handful of big banks could potentially bar any organization they disliked from the payments system, essentially cutting them off from the world economy.

The fact of the matter is that banks are not like any other business. They run the payments system. That is one of the main reasons that governments protect them from failure with explicit and implicit guarantees. This makes them look not too unlike other public utilities. A telecommunications company, for example, may not refuse phone or broadband service to an organization it dislikes, arguing that it amounts to risky business.

Our concern is not specifically about payments to WikiLeaks. This isn’t the first time a bank shunned a business on similar risk-management grounds. Banks in Colorado, for instance, have refused to open bank accounts for legal dispensaries of medical marijuana.

Still, there are troubling questions. The decisions to bar the organization came after its founder, Julian Assange, said that next year it will release data revealing corruption in the financial industry. In 2009, Mr. Assange said that WikiLeaks had the hard drive of a Bank of America executive.

What would happen if a clutch of big banks decided that a particularly irksome blogger or other organization was “too risky”? What if they decided — one by one — to shut down financial access to a newspaper that was about to reveal irksome truths about their operations? This decision should not be left solely up to business-as-usual among the banks.

All by itself, this editorial raises a host of issues–not just the Times noticing that policies like this put them at risk.  Just for starters, are these banks properly regarded as private institutions? Is this action really the action of an operator in a functional marketplace?

Please post questions, suggested issues in comments. I’ll have an update before the program.


Journalist/Ethnographer C W (Chris) Anderson interviewed by the Council on Foreign Relations on WikiLeaks. (He stopped by Virtually Speaking last August.)

Glenn Greenwald on the integration of government spokepeople and “journalists”.

digby on “the idea that the press is actually hostile to the leaking of secret government documents is…down the rabbit hole.”


David Dayen on State Government Finance

December 29, 2010

David Dayen (At VS on foreclosure fraud and with mcjoan) talks with Sam Seder on Countdown, guest-hosting for KO. David talks about the collapse of state finances, particularly states like California and Illinois that were in trouble before the Great Recession because they were not really covering their annual current expenditures, and future obligations like debt issuance and pension liabilities.  The Recession, with its extended period of extreme unemployment has decimated tax collections,and left some states and municipalities at risk of default.

Naturally,  rather than propose long overdue tax increases to address shortfalls, governors, especially Republican governors, are targeting unions and pension funds. As David points out in the clip, it’s interesting that contracts for banks, and their bankster employers are apparently inviolable, while union contracts and pension obligations are, as they say, on the table.

Ari Berman, December 23, 2010

December 23, 2010

Ari Berman joins us tonight, to talk about Herding Donkeys, and to talk about how the Obama administration has moved away from the grassroots model that got the President elected.

As always, you can attend in Second Life, or listen on BlogTalkRadio. I will be monitoring the test window at the Virtually Speaking auditorium, and the chat log at BTR, passing any questions on to Ari

Susie and Digby

December 19, 2010

Here’s last night’s broadcast. This is an open thread.

Fodder: Aristocrats

December 19, 2010

Digby’s discussion of the multifarious tax code changes that serve to lock in the new American aristocracy shouldn’t be missed. It’s not just preserving the low marginal rates for people earning millions a year, it’s also about wealth preservation, and even lower marginal rates for unearned income.

When you add this to the stealth attack on Social Security, it adds up to an acceleration of the accumulation of productivity improvement in the hands of the top half a percentile. (It’s worse in 2010, by the way.)

The American deal has always been that as workers get more skilled, and work in more productive environments (better tools) their wages reflect that productivity growth. That has entirely stopped happening. Real wages, despite enormous increases in productivity over the period, are about the same as they were in 1974. The increase in productivity has gone almost entirely to the holders of capital, not wage earners.

The tax code that has emerged in the President’s compromise locks in these transfers. And by funding, for the first time, contributions to the SS trust fund through general revenues, the administration sets the stage for rebutting the argument that social security benefits are prepaid, and earmarked, through at least the mid 2030s.

All in all, the tax code changes continue to move us to Versailles on (or about) the Potomac.

Fodder: Transcripts

December 19, 2010

MTP Transcript

This Week

Face the Nation

The Bobblespeak Translations

MTP folks also put up video clips of the Biden interview.

Fodder: My daughter! My sister!

December 19, 2010

One of the very strange things about the government, and the Village, response to WikiLeaks is that it has fallen into two absolutely contradictory spheres. The first is “ZOMG! This is terrorism as threatening as Saddam Hussein’s WMD al Qaeda!” and “Well, actually, anybody actually paying attention already knew all this stuff.”

Glenn documents this week’s version of this running contradiction, with side-by-side clips of Joe Biden saying one thing, and then the other, first to Andrea Mitchell, and then to Dancin’ Dave.

I suppose you could say that means that Gregory never really went to school on Russert’s Gotcha on Tape! journalism, but I suspect complicity is the more likely explanation.

Fodder: DADT

December 19, 2010

“Historic” says the NYT today. Well, it does in my dead tree version, anyway.

So let’s count all the positives. First, the President has been proven right, strategically and tactically. It is much, much more likely to settle the question of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell once and for all having repealed it legislatively–not through executive order, not through the courts. While everybody agreed in principle, many people (including me) agreed pragrmatically as well, the frequency with which bills and appointments have either failed completely or been gutted led many people to doubt the legislative goal line could be crossed. Failing that (and it looked like failure, recently) better to have the courts and an executive order.

Moreover, the White House used the same tactics on DADT as they used on health care–lining up all the interested parties first, like the military brass–and then put forward legislation with broad support outside the chambers. While there is some disagreement about whether this worked for health care, it worked really well here. In the end it became very difficult for the Republicans to hold their caucus to a filibuster in the face of recommendations from the military itself that the military would not be harmed. So there was vindication for the President’s approach of finding consensus on policy changes.

Second, this was a big win for the Democratic wing of the party, and a very big win for the left wing blogosphere. Atrios pointed out yesterday the left blogosphere has been both united and vocal on this issue. The pressure has been unrelenting, personified by Joe Sudbay at the blogger summit meeting with the President. Democrats are sometimes criticized for focusing excessively on their own interest groups’ interests, but here everyone was foursquare for a clear, principled position. As a tweet that flew by me too quickly to note the source said yesterday “Don’t tell me pressure from the left made no difference.”

I get all this. I also get the relief, satisfaction and joy for having won one, and having won one that is simply all good–life just got easier for people who really, really deserve it, with no downside for anything but bigotry.


This was way too much work. Beginning the term with 60 seats in the Senate, a huge House majority and a policy that is simply a no-brainer should not have taken until a lame duck session to get through. We are being forced, by an obstructionist Republican caucus, and ineffective, or worse, Democratic leadership in the Senate, to expend way too much energy and political capital on issues that don’t merit it. Contrast the ease with which, as Susie Madrak pointed out, the BP liability cap zoomed through the Senate. Or we watch another complete no-brainer, the START Treaty, held up by Republican demands for pork.

Some of this, of course, is due to a media that gives the GOP a pass on everything from obstruction to outright, blatant lies. But a lot of that also has to do with a caucus that chose Harry Reid.

Fodder for Digby and Susie: “Covert?”

December 18, 2010

What gets talked about on Sundays is up the panelists. I post ideas here, things that would interest me to hear about.

You can too! Just put up any suggestions in the comment thread.

Early this morning, reading yesterday’s dead tree NYT edition, an article about US/Afghan policy included this paragraph:

The drone strikes in Pakistan have already risen significantly over the past year. The Central Intelligence Agency carried out roughly 53 Predator attacks in 2009, which was more than President George W. Bush authorized during his entire presidency. The figure has more than doubled this year, though presidential aides will not publicly discuss the program because it is technically secret.

Even earlier, I’d received a tweet from Juan Cole  (Like all VS Tweeps, @jricole is on the @JayAckroyd/virtuallyspeaking lists) linking to a post about the CIA station chief in Pakistan fleeing the country because of a civil lawsuit. Juan points out:

The episode demonstrates the miseries of postmodern warfare, wherein President Obama is treating Pakistan the way Henry Kissinger treated Cambodia. If the US is going to conduct military operations in a country, it should be in the terms of a Status of Forces Agreement, and should be carried out by the Department of Defense. To have the CIA just lob missiles onto civilian villages in another country is wrong for all kinds of reasons. CIA operations are covert and US officials cannot even talk about them in public. There therefore can be no public debate or scrutiny of the policy. And, the whole operation breaks US law, since it is essentially a mass assassination campaign, not a war.

Funny. When I thought of “covert” I thought of Impossible Mission force operating completely undercover. Nowadays the US openly engages in illegal activity, which, of course, is what spying is. There is no question who is responsible for the drones; there is no doubt in any Pakistani’s mind. And even to the NY Times, the operations are only “technically” secret–in that US government officials will not tell reporters, including American reporters, that what everybody knows to be true, is in fact true.

Alex Sanchez, 12/16/2010

December 16, 2010

Alex Sanchez Lambda award winning author of books for teens will be talking about teen sexuality, tolerance, and its absence tonight.

Please post questions for him here. You can, as always, join us in chat at BlogTalkRadio or in Second Life.


Here’s a clip from Alex’s appearance:


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