Thursday, March 28, 2013

Last Stand: Newspapers, Paywalls and George Orwell

Newspaper Paywall- Nomdic Politics
Last year saw many in the beleaguered newspaper industry finally committing to restrict general online access to both their current editions to their archives behind so-called paywalls. 
 Even after years of declining revenues, there were plenty of concerns about the whole idea. From now on, if anybody wishes to read news content of these newspapers will have to become a subscriber. That includes not merely current news but the archives as well.

But can paywalls really save the print media or will it just squeeze the last drop of advertising dollar from another dying industry? Although the jury is still out on that, a more critical question might be: How will the paywall business model change journalism, or the freedom of information? What are the long term consequences for democracy when essential information is available only to people who can afford to view it?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Iraq Invasion: What it Feels like to be Ahead of Your Time

This is what it feels like to be a decade ahead of your time. 

Look at that crowd; all those smug looks, smirking at the loudmouth fat guy. Listen to all that booing. Wasn't Hollywood supposed to the bastion of bleeding heart liberals?

The real question is: how many of us could have stood there on that stage and said the same things at that time? Keep in mind, Michael Moore was receiving death threats for voicing his opinions on the war. Wouldn't it have been easier and safer to remain silent?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Ironic Warnings from Pat Robertson and Donald Trump

by Nomad

To have a sense of irony it requires the ability to reflect, to understand that not everything is as it seems or as we expected them to be. It also requires us to see things from another's person's eyes. In that respect, I suppose irony is one of the more intellectual forms of humor. (As opposed to, say, a cream pie in the face or seltzer water sprayed down your pants.)

One of the most remarkable things about the conservatives of the Republican party is their stunning lack of ironic sense. It's like they can't actually hear what they are saying. It doesn't register. 
For instance, when Speaker of the House, John Boehner said days after the president's reelection that Obama needed to stop this "nonsense" of acting like he won the election, the irony was completely lost on him. 

When Sarah Palin said:
“Leaders are expected to give good speeches, but leadership is so much more than oratory. Real leadership requires deeds even more than words.”
It was clear that the ironic humor of her remark went right over her head. (But then what doesn't?)

Perhaps the problem of this lack of ironic sense lies in the fact that so many of these people are only half as smart as they think they are. They think that whatever they say will never be critically considered or questioned. It is also clear that they do not think that most people cannot remember what was said before last week, (That's why they hate the Internet, I assume. It keeps records.) Knowing the reality is, of course, what makes things ironic.

Sadly too often, these politicians have been proven correct in thinking people will accept whatever they say without muttering to themselves. "Say what?" It often seems as though, if something is said with enough conviction, in a serious setting, with a lot of familiar faces nodding and applauding, these conservative voters will believe just about anything, no matter how ironic, or hypocritical or stupid it may be.  
(However, Romney, very early on in one of his less scripted moments came face to face with a snorting guffawing crowd in Iowa when he tried to tell them that corporation were people.)

Whatever the reason for it, irony abounds when it comes to the conservatives. Here are some two examples of what I am referring to, one comes from Pat Robertson and the other from none other than Donald Trump.  

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Failed GOP Solutions: Is Marriage Really the Answer to Poverty in Oklahoma? 2/2

by Nomad

In PART ONE of this two-part series, we investigated a bit of curious legislation in Oklahoma. The House Speaker there decided to that that federal funds which were supposed to be used to find employment for needy families, should instead be used for statewide public service announcements promoting marriage as a solution to poverty. The idea, highly supported by organizations like The Heritage Foundation and the Christian Right, has been used in many other Red States.

Heritage Marriage Poverty ads
The Heritage Foundation promotes marriage
as a solution to poverty in ads like these.
The Practicalities of Marriage
When it comes to the Marriage Initiative as a way of reducing poverty, what so wrong about it? 
First of all, it hasn’t worked.

Despite the more than a decade of the Marriage Initiative efforts in Oklahoma, the single-parent problem is not going away. 

According to the latest US Census Bureau, about 28 percent of Oklahoma's families are led by a single parent, with that figure increasing to more than 40 percent in some rural counties. In some counties, the number has climbed to around 45.5 percent of all  households. 

Unlike many states where poverty is a feature of urban life, in many states like Oklahoma, poverty is a way of life in the more rural zones. (That's just like any third world country, as a matter of fact.)
So what can account for the rise of single parent households in the state? 

For one thing, divorce is much more of a problem than unwed mothers. As NBCNews reported in 2011,
Oklahoma has extraordinarily high rates of divorce among both men and women compared to the rest of the country. According to the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative, 32 percent of Oklahoma adults who have ever been married have been divorced. The association lists financial troubles as one of the leading causes of divorce in the state.

The sponsors of the Marriage Initiative don't like to talk about divorce. for very obvious reasons. The truth about divorce and its causes refuses to fit into framework of their marriage agenda.

In any case, let's ignore the divorce rate and just concentrate on marriage as a solution to poverty. Even then, their logic doesn't hold up against reality.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Failed GOP Solutions: Is Marriage Really the Right Answer to Poverty in Oklahoma? 1/2

Marriage-Nomadic Politicsby Nomad

In another example of failed Republican logic, one Oklahoma congressman thinks he might have solved the problem of poverty. Draft legislation, HB1908, authored by House Speaker T.W. Shannon, will set aside funding from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program for statewide public service announcements. 
The message?

Marriage is the best tool to fight poverty. Get married, stayed marriage and you won’t be poor.

The government program, TANF, (from which funding the public service ads would be drawn), is a federal-assistance program aimed at reforming past welfare programs. This Clinton era legislation was supposed to replace welfare payments with creating of employment opportunities. 

Importantly TANF allowed states greater discretion on how the federal dollars were to be spent. And the faith-based idea of encouraging people to marry is one major way Oklahoma decided to use the funding. In fact, Oklahoma is one of only two states that uses less than 10 percent of their grant for basic cash assistance. (In any case, the average TANF benefit is a mere $205 a month, hardly a sustainable income even considering Oklahoma’s relatively low cost of living.) 

Instead, the focus has been more on reducing out-of-wedlock births and increasing the rates and stability of marriages. That direction undoubtedly pleased the highly-active, highly-vocal Christian Right which plays an important role in local politics in the state. For example, in the past, members of one Christian Right group took the last Speaker of the House to task on such issues as not offering more support on banning Islamic law, immigration restrictions, for any discussion of gun control and for possible implementation of Affordable Health Care.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Romney’s Million Dollar Campaign Contributor Considers Tax Escape to Puerto Rico

Paulson Johnby Nomad

At the beginning of last year, before the presidential campaign had really gotten underway, Nomadic Politics reported that one of Mitt Romney’s high- dollar contributors to his Restore Our Future SuperPAC was hedge fund billionaire, John Paulson. Now it seems as though, Paulson might be considering leaving the country altogether. Bloomberg last week mentioned Puerto Rico as a possible new home. (His hedge fund, however, issued a denial of the story.)

Paulson belonged to an exclusive club of uber-wealthy Romney backers who, even before the Republican nomination, were willing to write a cool million check for Romney’s bid for the White House. What's a million between friends?
Why, that's chicken feed for a man like Paulson, whose net worth, according to Forbes was almost $16 billion. (The year prior to the SuperPAC contribution he reportedly earned staggering 5 billion.)

But it was all for naught, in the end. Investing in Romney proved to be an expensive proposition with very limited returns. However, the opposite can be said of Paulson's investments during the economic crisis. Wall Street analysts say that Paulson became outrageously successful by betting on failure, from the collapse of banks to the mortgage crisis. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Suggestion for the 2014 Republican Party Advertising

Republican Campaign ad for 2014by Nomad

I thought I would offer this early suggestion for campaign advertising for the 2014 mid-terms. Looks like the Republican Party is going to need every bit of help it can get.

Feel free to copy and paste or link this image wherever you like.

Consider this post and open thread.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Riding the Rails and Ryan's Return to Failed Policies of the Past

by Nomad

While scouring the Internet for anything and everything, I found this extraordinary PBS documentary online called Riding the Rails. Here's a description of this independently produced feature length film.

At the height of the Great Depression, more than a quarter million teenagers were living on the road in America, many criss-crossing the country by illegally hopping freight trains. This film tells the story of ten of these teenage hobos -- from the reasons they left home to what they experienced -- all within the context of depression-era America.
If you have some free time, I invite you to watch. I haven't finished the whole thing yet but just listening to these stories of people at their lowest points (but who somehow survived) is truly inspiring.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Privacy Laws and Citizen Journalism: ACORN and Romney's 47% Speech

Privacy Laws and Citizen Journalism: ACORN and Romney's 47% Speech

Laws on Privacy and Citizen Journalismby Nomad

wanted to take a moment to follow up on a post I recently wrote on James O'Keefe III and the ACORN scandal.

In a somewhat related story, CBS has reported details about that notorious secret recording of Mitt Romney last year. The controversial video became known as the "47%" speech.

As it turns out, the recorder of that video was not a reporter (even self-designated like O'Keefe) but a bartender who worked at the site in Florida where the speech was given. 

In the speech he told his audience of wealthy campaign contributors that 47% of the population would never vote for him. That percentage of the population was politically unimportant to him. 
"My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
On the surface, he had a point. And the results of the election confirmed it. The problem was the background to those remarks, who spoke them and to whom they were addressed. These factors behind his speech accounted for in the decline in his popularity of the candidate. He was none to popular in the first place.

I saw one comment that interested me since I had recently investigated the James O'Keefe case in which he was sued by a former ACORN employee for recording him without permission.
The comment  points out that since O'Keefe was arrested on Invasion of Privacy Laws, the law should apply to the bartender as well. The comment reads:
This guy should be brought up on charges for filming someone without there knowledge. If the Acorn fiasco taught us anything, it was that it was illegal to film anyone without there knowledge. Then the people in power get a video that was to there advantage and the rule dosnt [sic] apply. Figure that. Illegal is only illegal when? The line is getting pretty blurry.
It's a valid argument and something that troubled me when I wrote the post. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Truth Behind Palin's Soon-to-Be Released Book on Christmas

by Nomad

Nomadic Politics- Sarah Palin
Decries the commercialization of Christmas
by peddling her book just in time for the holidays 
Rumor has it that Sarah Palin has another book in the works. Hurrah! According to USAToday, the book is "focused on putting faith and values back into Christmas."

The book, reportedly entitled "A Happy Holiday IS a Merry Christmas", is supposed to come out in November, right in time for the holidays. All carefully calculated to be a "hot" seller during the holiday season. (And who wouldn't want the a Sarah Palin book as a Christmas gift?)

No doubt Sarah hopes the book will be a money-maker for her. The timing of the release is wonderfully ironic. According to the publisher the book, a well-beaten dead horse if ever there was one, will deal with the commercialization of Christmas. Ho-humbug.

We can be assured it will take to task all those baddies who don't share her view that America is a Christian nation. No doubt the book will list every perceived offense, such as endangered nativity scenes on public property, etc. etc..  Anybody of you who dare to use the term "happy holidays" had better run for cover. Having failed in taking back America, Palin is now apparently planning to take back Christmas. 

In typical Palin-speak, Palin issued this statement through her publisher, HarperCollins.
"Amidst the fragility of this politically correct era, it is imperative that we stand up for our beliefs before the element of faith in a glorious and traditional holiday like Christmas is marginalized and ignored."
Fragility? How is a politically-correct era fragile? Could she have meant frigidity?  
She said the book will be "fun, festive" and "thought provoking." It will "encourage all to see what is possible when we unite in defense of our faith and ignore the politically correct Scrooges who would rather take Christ out of Christmas."
It's hard to imagine what she means by a politically-correct Scrooge. (Scrooge always sounded like a conservative to me.) But then it's generally hard to imagine what she means whenever she speaks. We will deal with the last part of her statement (Christ out of Christmas) in a moment.

Monday, March 11, 2013

ACORN and James O’Keefe III: The Tiny Crumb of Justice

Acorn and James O'Keefe: Nomadic Politicsby Nomad

Mr. James O’Keefe III has always been a useful tool for the conservatives. 
The right wing  can distantly applaud his antics under the pretense of social good works, and at the same time, they can disapprove of his controversial techniques. He can do things that no respectable journalist would dream of doing and, best of all, he can be painted as hero to naive but politically-mind young conservatives. 
By friends and foes, O'Keefe has been called many things: a hero, a prankster, a provocateur, guerilla reporter, a film-maker, an activist, a douchebag, even- though more rarely- a journalist.

Last week, 28-year- old O’Keefe was back in the news, but this time he was not in control of the spotlight. 
In the past, we have examined O’Keefe’s pivotal role in bringing down the community action organization, ACORN. Here’s a follow-up to that story.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Aaron Swartz: Was the DOJ Prosecution Political or Something More?

Aaron Swartz: Was the DOJ Prosecution Political or Something More?

Nomadic Poilitics Aaron Swartzby Nomad

In what might seem as "stating the obvious" Huffington Post has an article about the prosecution / persecution by the Justice Department of Aaron Swartz. 
In a past post, we looked at the case in which Swartz, who committed suicide in January, had been indicted and faced prison time for downloading millions of academic articles from an online archive. 
A Justice Department representative told congressional staffers during a recent briefing on the computer fraud prosecution of Internet activist Aaron Swartz that Swartz’s “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto” played a role in the prosecution.
The manifesto said sharing information was a “moral imperative” and advocated for “civil disobedience” against copyright laws pushed by corporations “blinded by greed” that led to the “privatization of knowledge.”
“We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world,” Swartz wrote in the manifesto.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Open Thread: Speak the Truth....

Open Thread: Speak the Truth....

by Nomad

I thought I would offer this open thread. To kick things off, here are some items making news:

Hugo Chavez, the left wing dictator of Venezuela, has finally died after a two year struggle against cancer. The citizens of the nation are in mourning for their national hero. However as one reporter notes, there's an ugly truth behind Chavez's rule:
The crime rate is Caracas is staggering. The capital metropolitan area notched no fewer than 3,218 homicides in the first ten months of 2012. Numerous government officials have well established ties to narco-trafficking groups. Human rights abuses have been selective but deeply cruel (just look at what they have done to Maria Lourdes Afiuni). Price controls and artificial exchange rates have barely kept a lid on soaring inflation and rising food costs, while a steep currency devaluation and increase in the price of fuel are long overdue. The last time that a Venezuelan government attempted to dramatically change the fuel subsidy, we had the Caracazo riots of 1989 and some 3,000 deaths, which is credited in part for laying down the social conditions that led to the rise of Chávez. No matter who clings to power after the president is gone, they will have to face the reality of some form of these difficult policies.
That's really not much of a legacy to leave behind.
*    *    *    *
The Dow Jones has closed at an all-time high, erasing all of the losses from the 2008 recession. Analysts suggest that the boom is a result of deep skepticism about the predicted damage that the Sequester fiasco will do to the economy. In any case, the people who will benefit from a bear market are very unlikely to feel the direct impact of the budget cuts. The question,  before we celebrate, is whether anything has really been learned by the economic meltdown or whether it's business as usual. If so, we should all be prepared for yet another bubble followed by yet another market crash. 

*    *    *    *
One story that I found quite shocking but seems to have flown under the radar (pun intended) is this one from PopSci:
Yesterday morning, an Alitalia pilot reported seeing a remote-controlled aircraft near New York's JFK airport, where he was landing. The drone was flying about 4 to 5 miles west of the airport at an altitude of about 1,750 feet, and it came within just 200 feet of the Alitalia plane, the pilot said. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident, and the FBI announced that it is looking for information leading to the drone operator. But was it legal?
Eventually the issue of drones will have to be discussed. Hopefully before one of them brings down an airliner. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

South Carolina's Lee Bright: A Closer Look at Lindsey Graham's Possible Tea Party Challenger

by Nomad

When you listen to South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, it’s hard to remember that according to his own consultant, he is “a thinking person's conservative.” 

Lately that's been a contradiction in terms.

Even if true, the question might be whether conservative voters in South Carolina would actually vote for a representative that thinks. It's a bit of a high standard.

They seem to prefer a politician that fights, that rants, that issues bold but essentially meaningless proclamations while refraining from any unwarranted brain activity.
These days Graham has been giving his constituents exactly what they crave. His recent embarrassing displays on the highly-politicized Benghazi investigation and his even more inept attempt to block the vote on the Hagel confirmation was a calculated strategy to establish his conservative credentials with his home state voters. So the crazier Graham appears on the national stage, the more votes he believes he can get back home. 

And this is the key problem with Republican party today. Insanity is the flavor of the month. And it is happening in many Red states, not just South Carolina.

Friday, March 1, 2013

VAWA: A Closer Look at Five Republicans who Said No

by Nomad

Let's take a closer look at five Republicans who voted against the renewal of a bill which gives legal protections to women who are victims of violence.  

After the vote on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the prospect of taking control of the Senate just became a little more remote. 

As The Daily Caller noted, many of the Republicans who have considered or who have announced plans to run for the Senate decided to vote against the bill. 

That legislation provides 
"$1.6 billion toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, imposes automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allows civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave unprosecuted. The Act also establishes the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice."
The bill covered many important topics such as human trafficking, domestic violence (including during pregnancy) sexual slavery, forced abortion, sexual violencemarital rape and many other crimes that tend to target women. Any no vote would logically require some kind of explanation to the public. 
In this post I would like to shine a spotlight on five Congressmen and women who have dreams  of a revered Senate seat but who also decided to deny women suitable protections against violence.