Cuddle up baby; cuddle up tight

Over on the Great Orange Satan, sane and smart America-loving people have been providing terrifying and more terrifying and still more terrifying analyses of where we are and how we got here (thanks in no small part to that lying, power-lusting senile tantrum-throwing baby John McCain and the truly monstrous Cheney/Bush junta). It seems to me that the United States of America may be in more danger of falling apart than at any point since 1864. Let me provide a second link to that last-listed item, by Devilstower, with the sublime title Three Times is Enemy Action. Go read it, my friends, and tremble for your country.

Uber neutrino-class wetmechanic Bremser said to me yesterday in private correspondence, (apropos of this poetic flight),

Odd, that’s the second day in a row that Jefferson Airplane was quoted
to me in the context of this meltdown; the first time the lyrics were:

In loyalty to their kind
They cannot tolerate our minds.
In loyalty to our kind
We cannot tolerate their obstruction.

You can imagine how we got around to remembering that lyric.

Today it’s a it’s a song by the Stones that I cannot shake.

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This Is Ready From Day 1?

In his most recent emphatic response to the financial crisis that cannot in any way be blamed on the former Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee (because really, it was those bozos over at Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs and possibly the folks over at the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Antitrust), former Deregulator turned Regulatory Hawk John McCain told a cheering crowd of supporters that if he were President he would fire SEC Chairman Christopher Cox.

“The chairman of the SEC serves at the appointment of the president and in my view has betrayed the public’s trust,” McCain said. “If I were president today, I would fire him.”

Firey, determined, definitely a stern rebuke to the Bush Administration and its lackeys who — although confirmed by McCain and the rest of the Republican Senate back in 2005 despite nasty bad bad partisan allegations that Cox had been involved in some shady investment schemes — certainly have nothing to do with McCain the Reformer!

Except, of course, that the Chairman of the SEC does not serve at the pleasure of the President and cannot be “fired,” only impeached by Congress. The President can “demote” Cox by redesignating someone else on the Commission as Chairman — which would probably prompt a Chair to resign before letting that happen. But still, saying you would fire someone you have no authority to fire? This is ready from Day 1?

I suppose I could give McCain the benefit of the doubt and assume he knows the actual law, and that he was just shorthanding “I can’t actually fire him, but I would certainly embarrass him and harass him out of a job faster than a Wasilla Librarian who refused to censor books!” To the more dramatic “I would fire him and then be all embarrassed when I was told I can’t actually do that.” But either way, it’s a pretty stupid response when McCain spent all his time as Chair of the Commerce Committee perfectly happy with the way the SEC regulated the financial sector. (I know, I know, wrong committee, not my fault . . . .)

Stay tuned . . . .

McCain Invented the Blackberry? Maybe Not, But It May Make A Good Symbol.

I know that staffers often feel intense loyalty to their bosses, but can we please try to keep the hero worship to a minimum? Otherwise, you end up accidentally making the other side’s argument.

According to this story, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a top McCain policy adviser, held up his Blackberry and told folks: “You’re looking at the miracle that John McCain helped create.” Mind you, Reasearch In Motion is a Canadian company. When sold in the United States, it requires a contract with a wireless carrier. Each carrier controls which models it will permit on its system and what applications it will permit to run.

Or, in other words, the “miracle” is that we not only limit the development of technology in this country and force our hi-tech jobs to other countries, we actually allow a handful of wireless carriers to break the technology, limit it further, and jack up the price. This was probably not the miracle that Holtz-Eakin had in mind.

Still, the voter interested in tech policy and following up on the “McCain Miracle” for wireless would do well to visit the Blackberry Website. Notice how many models Blackberry makes? What applications it can run? Now select country U.S. and compare carrier by carrier. The carriers you can connect to at all each have a limited set of models and applications they permit you to use. Want one of the other Blackberries? Tough. Want to run an application the carrier doesn’t like? Too damn bad. Want to bring your own device so you don’t have to pay an early termination fee justified by an “equipment subsidy?” Dream on.

McCain was quick to dismiss this fulsome praise as a “boneheaded joke.” Still, it is worth noting that I am aware of no major leadership or initiatives by McCain on tech or media issue comparable with, for example, his efforts on campaign finance reform. This is not to say McCain has been devoid of accomplishments. He deserves credit for a strong stance in promoting low-power FM and for twice sponsoring the Community Broadband Act, designed to eliminate restrictions on the ability of local governments to provide broadband services. But by and large, as reflected in his tech policy, McCain’s chief accomplishment for tech — and his plan going forward — is to not do anything and let the private sector work its magic.

If you are satisfied with the “King Log” approach to tech policy and don’t mind that AT&T, Verizon, and other carriers get to call the shots over what Blackberry and other companies can do on wireless networks, then McCain is absolutely your man. If Holtz-Eakin was trying to make the point that McCain will let wireless carriers continue to “own the customer” and control how Blackberry and other devices evolve, and we peons should be content with whatever technological “miracles” the carriers graciously allow us, then he has a point. But if Holt-Eakin was trying to say that McCain got out there, showed real leadership in the face of political presure, and established lasting policies that even his political rivals now try to embrace as their own, sorry. I lived through it, and that ain’t how it happened.

Stay tuned . . . .

Happy News from the War on Terror

Pakistan orders army to fire on US troops if they invade Pakistan again. Something about that is a little troubling to me. Can’t quite put my finger on it.

One thing I don’t understand: if the US cannot be allowed to go into Pakistan, how are they going to capture Bin Ladin the week before the election? Don’t the Pakistanis know how important this mission is to John McCain the free world?

Questions, Questions, Questions

Like Harold, I’ve been on vacation this week –on the New Jersey shore, where the weather is perfect and the surf is fine. Which accounts for the sparseness-osity of the postings around here lately.

Anyway, I’ve been wondering: how many houses does John McCain own? How many rooms in all these houses, total? How many houses does his wife own? How much does he typically pay for a haircut, and how much for a pair of shoes?

Also, is he technically senile?

On vacation, you know, I guess one’s thoughts tend to turn a tad philosophical.

Deep Thought about the New Yorker Cover

So, the New Yorker mag has a cover depicting Barack & Michelle Obama in the White House, in which she’s Angela Davis with a bandolier and rifle, he’s an Indonesian Moslem, Osama Bin Ladin’s portrait is on the wall, and the American flag is burning in the fireplace. As I’m the 23,452,998th person to point out, the satire is a little weak because it’s not clear whether the Obamas are being mocked or if it’s the people who circulate the Manchurian Candidate emails about them.

Whatever. It’s a magazine cover. I was kinda annoyed by it at first, but now actually it makes me smile a little.

What I’m waiting for now is the New Yorker cover that does to St. John McCain what this cover does to St. Barack Obama. It would have to include McCain setting the aircraft carrier Forrestall on fire (& killing 134 sailors), making propaganda tapes for the North Vietnamese, deserting his first wife (disfigured in an accident) for a mega-wealthy heiress, and having senile dementia.

McBush McSame, mcJohn McCain!

Those meanines on the internets keep showing this little video of W’s very-own Mini-me, McSame McBush McCain, saying how staying in Iraq for a hundred years would be “fine with him”.

But everybody knows that it’s unfair to show Straight-Talking Maverick St. John McCain saying anything politically unpopular! St. John got mad. St. John got sad. St. John went to his jillionaire-millionaire wife looking for a little love, but she was too busy plagiarizing a cookbook to notice him. He wound up back in the arms of the Hugger-in-Chief!

Now that’s what I call “straight” talk!

Why Obama is Wrong Even When He's Right

It’s amusing to see Hilary Clinton and John McCain blasting Barack Obama for his remarks explaining why despair and bitterness over the way economic elites have marginalised them economically and politically have motivated large portions of the working class to vote for politicians and issues which are utterly contrary to their economic self-interest: “It’s not surprising that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment.”

It’s less amusing to see Obama backtracking now with his claim that “I didn’t say it as well as I should have.”

While Obama got it wrong on free trade — Chicago School free trade fanaticism has been a potent weapon for extracting surplus value from working people internationally by breaking unions and depressing wages, and people are justifiably angered about it — he got it right about the basis on which large elements of the American working class embrace right-wing causes and politicians who serve the interests of the economic elite rather than working people. There are two fundamental explanatory principles here.

First, as an insightful nineteenth-century political economist put it, religion is the opiate of the masses. There is a direct correlation internationally and in the U.S. between the degree of economic pain which globalisation and other forms of primitive accumulation against labour have imposed and the rise in the prevalence of fundamentalist religiosity since the late 1970s. The rise of the Religious Right and their issues in American politics, and their attraction to elements of the working class, are directly tied to this. When it looks like nothing can be done because the system is owned lock, stock, and barrel by an economic elite who profit from gutting your union, shipping your job to a Chinese slave-labour factory, plundering your pension fund, and dropping your health care, people get religion. And right-wing politicians play on this to keep working people from effectively opposing the underlying economic causes by focusing on gay marriage, abortion, and other social issues. It’s called creating false consciousness.

Second, it is a well-known phenomenon that in the absence of a class-conscious, well-organised, effective democratic left the exacerbation of economic oppression will produce support for the Right among working people. It happened in Weimar Germany when German social democracy dithered while working-class voters divided themselves between the Nazis and the KPD. It’s not surprising that the Bush administration’s penchant for corporatist-fascist ideology and the nativist Right’s racialist agenda have confused working people into supporting positions which help the economic elite keep power. We haven’t had a serious democratic left in this country since the Great Depression (some people might argue that we’ve never had a serious democratic left in the way European countries have).

I see nothing in Obama’s original remarks — the reference to ”anti-trade sentiment” aside — which isn’t entirely defensible.

In fact, it would have been refreshing as hell to have heard Obama respond to Clinton that eight years of her and her husband selling out the Democratic Party working-class base, trying to abolish the New Deal, blocking a single-payer national health care system on behalf of their buddies in the insurance industry, and triangulating on making the Gingrich agenda on everything but abortion the DLC agenda, while stuffing corporate cash into their pockets as fast as they could raise it (confirmed by their joint tax returns since leaving office), have led a lot of working people to despair about politics and embrace right-wing social and religious issues.

But that isn’t going to happen, largely because the principal difference between Obama and Clinton is that he hasn’t been around long enough to get his snout into the corporate trough as deeply as the Clintons, but he has hopes with his millionaire fundraisers. So he backtracks.

McCain and the Dirty Deed

John Sundman wants sexy details on John McCain, Vicky Iseman, and Paxson Communications. I’ll tell all I know.

Cornerstone TeleVision had sought to obtain the noncommercial license for WQEX, owned by Pittsburgh public broadcaster WQED, and then to transfer the license to Paxson Communications with Cornerstone and WQED splitting the $35 million Paxson was putting up for the sale. The proposal was virtually unprecedented since it involved transfer of noncommercial license held by a public broadcaster to a commercial enterprise. The complicated plan was an attempt to end-run a 1996 FCC ruling that WQEX could not be “dereserved,” i.e., commercialised, by a direct sale to a commercial broadcaster.

The Republican minority on the FCC supported the plan, the Democrats opposed… until John McCain weighed in via his December 10, 1999 letter to the FCC, demanding that the FCC Commissioners ”advise me, in writing, no later than close of business on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 1999, whether you have already acted upon these applications…. If your answer to the latter question is no, please state further whether you will, or will not, be prepared to act on these applications at the open meeting on Dec. 15. If your answer to both of the preceding questions is no, please explain why“ (the full text of McCain’s letter to FCC Chairman William Kennard may be found here).

McCain had held up confirmation of Democrat Susan Ness’ reappointment to the FCC since the previous July. Apprised of McCain’s adamant support for Paxson on this issue, Ness voted against her fellow Democrats to approve the deal. As far as I know, the only ones getting screwed in all this were the Democrats by Ness (who caved to pressure from McCain — and despite repeated gutlessness in dealing with the Republican Congress Ness is frequently mooted as the next FCC Chairman if Clinton is elected).

And even then the well-laid plan of Paxson fell apart over a condition placed by the FCC on the deal, prohibiting Cornerstone from ”proselytising,” an important issue, since the transfer involved a religious broadcaster taking over an educational TV station.

No, I Don't Know Anything About the McCain Story.

I regret to disappoint my fellow Wetmachiner John Sundman and legions of of folks discovering telecom policy is incredibly sexy (a fact I mentioned in my very first Wetmachine post), but I really have nothing to add about the McCain/Iseman story. This is not Wonkette here folks.

Policy, sure. I can tell you what made this transaction so controversial. And it may even have some bearing on the next FCC, given that one of the folks involved was Susan Ness, the former FCC Commissioner whispered about as the most likely nominee to replace Kevin Martin if Clinton wins. It also, of course, involved Bill Kennard who, along with Reed Hundt, is advising Obama. So I suppose the policy might have some relevance here. But as for the “juicy stuff:”

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