No more hating people


Like most journalists/former journalists, I have a pretty thick skin. (You wouldn’t believe some of the tasteless jokes that come out of a newsroom after a major tragedy. It’s how you keep your emotional distance. You have to, to stay functional.) But when I saw this picture yesterday morning, I just broke down. And then I got up and went out to lunch with a friend, because I needed to get away from the overwhelming assault of terror pornography, streaming constantly from the teevee and across my computer.

I love kids. I despise bullies. And who’s a bigger bully than some asshole with a bomb? Whatever stupid, immature, immoral rationalization the perpetrator of this violence had, it has all the significance of a speck of dust. Angry people looking to blow things up will always find a reason. We won’t let this asshole bully us into a cowering, frightened huddle. Not again.

Just look at this little boy’s sweet, open, hopeful face. My God, just look at him, and the sign he made. “No more hurting people. Peace.” And those little hearts on each side. Think about his loving family. Go out into the sunshine. Feed your soul today. Don’t get caught up in the fear, or even the righteous anger. Make peace, in yourself and with the people you meet today.

Because hate, as we’ve seen this week, has a powerful ripple effect.

Third grader Martin Richard died Monday waiting for family friends to cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon. His mother and 6-year-old sister were injured severely.

Lucia Brawley, a friend of Martin’s former teacher, posted a photo on Facebook of the 8-year-old holding a sign with an important — and now haunting — message. A message that should be shared, and heard, far and wide.

Brawley wrote, in part, “His message resonates powerfully today. My prayer is that we all live by Martin’s words, paying tribute to his too-brief, but immeasurably valuable life by following his example.”

The picture was taken last year when Martin was in Rachel Moo’s second grade class at the Neighborhood House Charter School. “Her whole life was about peace,” and she taught that message to her students by participating in marches and assigning art projects, Brawley told HuffPost over the phone. Moo attended the Boston Marathon Monday and then went home to Worcester covered in debris only to learn that one of her students had been killed.

There are no words. Except Martin’s.

Torture report blames Obama, media for not confronting the truth

Dan Froomkin with some news that is no big shock to some of us:

By this point, there really should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that torture was widely used during the last administration — and that nothing like that should ever happen again.

The new, comprehensive report out today from an august, bipartisan commission goes a long way toward making that abundantly, authoritatively clear, laying the blame fully at the feet of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and other top officials.

But the reality is: That’s old news. What’s new and disturbing and important about the report from the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment is how it calls attention to the absurd reality that we, as a country, are actually still actually arguing about any of this.

And for that, the report lays the blame fully at the feet of the current administration, for covering up what happened and stifling any sort of national conversation on the topic — and the media, for splitting the difference between the facts and the plainly specious argument made by torture regime’s architects that what occurred should be defined as something other than what it so obviously was.

The report points out, as I have in the past, that neither Obama nor Congress have done a thing to make sure that, the next time a perceived emergency comes up, some other president or vice president won’t decide to torture again.

Obama’s policy of “looking forward instead of looking backward,” in this light, is exposed as a cover-up that is actually holding the country back from a crucial period of self-understanding, and growth.

There’s also a matter of law. That U.S. officials involved with detention in the CIA’s black sites committed war crimes and violated interntional law, which the report concludes to be self-evident, isn’t something Obama is allowed to ignore.

It actually violates the U.S.’ legal obligations under the international Convention Against Torture, which requires each country to “[c]riminalize all acts of torture, attempts to commit torture, or complicity or participation in torture,” and “proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.”

“The United States cannot be said to have complied,” the report concludes, noting:

No CIA personnel have been convicted or even charged for numerous instances of torture in CIA custody — including cases where interrogators exceeded what was authorized by the Office of Legal Counsel, and cases where detainees were tortured to death. Many acts of unauthorized torture by military forces have also been inadequately investigated or prosecuted.

So it’s not just Bush and Cheney who violated international law; now it’s Obama, too.

Barney Frank on tax cuts and bombing

The wingnuts are popping a gasket over Barney’s statement, because they know he’s right:

Former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank (D) on Tuesday warned that Monday’s twin bombings in Boston were an example of why lawmakers should proceed with caution when considering cutting taxes and slashing the budget.

In an interview with on CNN, host John Berman posited to Frank that “in some ways, the recovery is based on the response.”

“Let’s be very grateful that we had a well-funded, functioning government,” Frank agreed. “It is very fashionable in America and has been for some time to criticize government, belittle public employees, talk about their pensions, talk about what people think is their excessive health care, here we saw government in two ways perform very well.”

The former congressman pointed out that both local and federal government had worked together in “seamless cooperation.”

“You know, I never was as a member of Congress, one of the cheerleaders for less government, lower taxes,” he explained. “No tax cut would have helped us deal with this — or will help us recover. This is very expensive.”

“We’re not asking people, ‘Do you have have private health insurance or not? Can you afford this or not?’ Maybe the government is going to have to pay for it. And this is an example of why we need — if we want to be a civilized people — to put some of our resources into a common pool so we are able to deal with this. And to deal with it, you can’t simply be responsive once it happens.”

Frank added that that “this is a terrible day for our society, but a day when I hope people will understand the centrality of having a government in place with the resources.”

“At a time like this, no one thinks about saving pennies. But going forward, I hope people aren’t going to think, you spent these tens and tens of millions of dollars — that would probably be a low estimate — let’s just take that out of everything we have going forward. This is an example of why we need to provide the resources for our common good.”

Unmarried women on the edge

I think we already knew this. It’s why the chained CPI is such a bad, bad idea:

As millions of Americans raced to the post office this week to mail in their taxes, we were reminded that April is, indeed, the cruelest month. It’s cruel because the sagging economy continues to create economic hardships for working-class Americans — including the Rising American Electorate.

Composed of unmarried women, African Americans, Latinos, other people of color, and youth ages 18-29, the Rising American Electorate, or RAE, continues to feel the pinch of the underperforming American economy. Unmarried women in particular are economically living on the edge.

Of all women who are unemployed, two-thirds are unmarried. Of all women who have no health insurance, two-thirds are unmarried. And of all women below the federal poverty line, 81 percent are unmarried, according to recent data gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Just this past March, a survey conducted by the Democracy Corps and the Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund confirmed our fears about the RAE. The survey found that unmarried women and significant portions of the RAE had experienced economic hard times within the past year.

For the first time in decades, I was eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit this year (which was immediately applied to my tax debt, although it’s supposed to be a stimulus.) Good times!

Open letter

Senator Brian Nieves
201 W Capitol Ave., Rm. 423
Jefferson City, MO 65101

Dear Senator Nieves,

I think you should know that it appears a petulant 12-year-old has hacked your e-mail and is engaging in angry, bizarre e-mail exchanges with your constituents.

I read the exchange you — or, more likely, someone who hacked your account — had with Bart Cohn, who, I don’t need to remind you, is a former city councilman from Wildwood. I immediately noted the immature nature of the messages sent from your account. I mean, threatening a constituent with a “he/she started it” e-mail archive? Clearly this isn’t the kind of thing an adult would send to another adult, but the account does have your name on it, so I felt you should know about it.

Another clue was the use of capitalization and exclamation points to amplify the assertions made in the original message. Hilarious? Sure, but clearly not something that was written by an elected official. I mean, it reminds me of a “WAKE UP white people!!!!!” flyer the KKK once left on my windshield.

And who else but a pubescent, perhaps confused, pre-teen would feel the need to announce his heterosexuality to strangers? Or to anyone, for that matter?


The apparent hacker completes the e-mail exchange by actually insulting Mr. Cohn’s appearance. Imagine, the person who wrote these messages actually took the time, at nearly 1 a.m., to Google Mr. Cohn, found a picture and insulted the man’s beard. A schoolyard-level insult — unsophisticated, petty and pathetic. Obviously, this is not the way you would spend your constituents’ tax dollars.

So I wanted to bring this matter to your attention because you come across looking like a real douchebag, and I am sure you would want to contact Mr. Cohn right away and apologize. Luckily, you have his e-mail address.

You’re welcome,

Dr. S

Deep thought

If the Boston bomber turns out to be a wingnut extremist, everyone will fall all over themselves insisting he’s a “lone wolf.”

Open letter to NY Times staffers


New York Timesians, welcome to the real world. In the end, the problem is the ownership of the media. In the end, you work on a plantation. Granted, it is a plush plantation, and there are many benefits, not the least of which is the status it accords.

But you’re very much working for the establishment. And the establishment is looking out for their interests, chiefly, not yours, or ours, no matter how much they try and tell us otherwise.

Why not, in this new world, take a risk to create a better journalism, one not owned by rich people or corporations? Why not get involved with journalism whose only agenda is to figure out what is really going on, and then say so? That gets right to the point of what you discovered in your reporting, without pretending to be above the fray and reporting what powerful, self-interested “sources” tell you as if it is the gospel?

You can see what corporate ownership (even the kind dominated by single families—think Walmart and the Waltons, not just the Sulzbergers and the New York Times) does to journalists: it causes them to hold their fire. News outlets are really too important to democracy and the public interest to let them nestle in the bosom of the rich.

Think of all the times The Times has been wrong, pressing you toward the establishment consensus on stories where you knew that was not the right place to be, journalistically.
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So the intellectual basis for austerity

Is based on a bad formula on an Excel spreadsheet.

So what do Herndon-Ash-Pollin conclude? They find “the average real GDP growth rate for countries carrying a public debt-to-GDP ratio of over 90 percent is actually 2.2 percent, not -0.1 percent as [Reinhart-Rogoff claim].” [UPDATE: To clarify, they find 2.2 percent if they include all the years, weigh by number of years, and avoid the Excel error.] Going further into the data, they are unable to find a breakpoint where growth falls quickly and significantly.

This is also good evidence for why you should release your data online, so it can be properly vetted. But beyond that, looking through the data and how much it can collapse because of this or that assumption, it becomes quite clear that there’s no magic number out there. The debt needs to be thought of as a response to the contingent circumstances we find ourselves in, with mass unemployment, a Federal Reserve desperately trying to gain traction at the zero lower bound, and a gap between what we could be producing and what we are. The past guides us, but so far it has failed to provide an emergency cliff. In fact, it tells us that a larger deficit right now would help us greatly.

[UPDATE: People are responding to the Excel error, and that is important to document. But from a data point of view, the exclusion of the Post-World War II data is particularly troublesome, as that is driving the negative results. This needs to be explained, as does the weighting, which compresses the long periods of average growth and high debt.]

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