This is the Archive site for Firedoglake. To go to the main site please click on the following link

Saturday, March 05, 2005

It's Bobo's World, You're Just Living In It

The revolution has begun. Cast off your Chanel, throw down your Dior. It's time to dive into that dumpster and jump into the latest fashion craze lead by -- David Brooks?

Yes, the less than seminal work Bobos in Paradise, by the uber-untrendy and reliably cobwebby David Brooks, is lending its name to a new brand of fashion chic. The conservative NYT columnist devised the term to refer to the "bohemian bourgeois," those he saw as bashing materialism while at the same time letting Gucci use their backsides for billboards.

The bobo style look is defined by layers of mismatch, and owes a lot to Japanese street fashion -- threadbare thrift store sweaters and torn jeans over vintage silk slips, floppy hats and billowy peasant tops, slouchy coats and big sunglasses. The whole ensemble is accented with expensive accessories -- say a Rive Gauche bag, an Ann Demeulemeester alpaca scarf or an exquisite pair of Stella McCartney over-the-knee boots, just so everyone knows you're doing this on purpose and didn't simply filch someone's stuff from the dryer at the laundrymat.

Much of fashion is dictated by function, so you have to wonder -- what does bobo style say about the culture that nurtured it? During WWII when fabric was in short supply, skirts got tighter and hems got shorter, and the t-shirt sashayed onto the fashion stage. Now bobo style is being touted by none other than those teenage millionaires Ashley and Mary Kate Olsen, according to the New York Times. Estimated to be worth some $275 million, only a few months ago they were doing magazine spreads in head-to-toe matching Prada.

It's a sign that conspicuous consumption is out, and an era of necessary belt-tightening is upon us. That as a nation we shouldn't feel good about flaunting privilege when the government is taking money out of the mouths of poor people and handing it back to a fiscal elite. And perhaps only on a subconscious level, it reflects a growing awareness that BushCo's cokehead-with-a-credit-card spending habits are something we'll all be picking up the tab on for a long time to come.

I'm going to guess that Brooks will miss the irony that the style he named is a reaction against the corrupt climate of unseemly wealth his beloved Preznit has done so much to cultivate. But that's probably not going to bother his high lords at the NYT a whole bunch. Missing the obvious has long been his stock in trade.


Daily Bushwhopper

flinging dung across the globe

GWB recently told one of his audiences pre-screened for slack-jawed credulity that even though the Social Security system is currently running a surplus, once the money is spent there is only "a paper IOU" backing up future claims on the system, and that it has no chance of paying future benefits it is currently guaranteeing. "First of all, the government can't meet its promises," Bush said.

Mike over at 18minute gap had this to say:

Isn't that amazing? This is the leader of our government. An allegedly intelligent man. With an MBA from one of our finest institutions of higher learning. I have to wonder if he'd tell the same thing to, say, Ross Perot, or Warren Buffett? "Hey, guys, those treasury bills you bought? Worthless. Sorry. Already spent the money. Better luck next time." And you know, I just love the way he talks about "the government" as though his party wasn't running most of it. Look, genius, if "the government can't meet its promises", that's your fault.


Pennachio for Senate in Pennsylvania

'cos we're lookin' out for the future

You may be wondering why the new banner on the side for Chuck Pennacchio, who is running as a Democrat for the Pennsylvania Senate seat currently occupied by Rick Santorum. Why? Well, because Santorum has to go. He's a GOP hack of the worst odor. Lots of bloggers are promoting Casey, saying that even though he's anti-choice, he's the best bet to defeat Santorum. Sorry, but I'm just not that cynical yet. I agree that the Democrats might some times have to give red staters a little more latitude to express themselves on the issue of choice, but I guess I'm just not ready to cede anything to an anti-choice candidate like Casey yet. I know Atrios likes him, and Atrios is a big pro-choice proponent, but I'm a woman. And I just don't hate myself that much.

So good luck, Chuck. We've got our fingers crossed over here at the fire dog lake. And to all our readers -- go over and visit his blog, listen to what he has to say and tell me what you think.

(Photo courtesy stock.xchng)


Friday, March 04, 2005

Tillamook Gives Big Cheesy Finger to Monsanto

happy Oregon cows breathe a sigh of relief

Today is Oregon day on the blog!

And the Grace Under Pressure award goes to the Tillamook County Creamery Association's dairy farmers, who voted Monday to support a ban that prohibited them from using Posilac, a genetically engineered growth hormone designed to make cows produce more milk.

Why should you care? Well, aside from consumer worries about potential cancer risks, there is evidence to suggest that cows treated with the chemical run increased risks of udder infections (causing them to be treated with increased antibiotics, which winds up in the milk). There is also increased risk of lameness in the cows.

But the bigger story is the heavy-handed tactics Monsanto has used to try and force Tillamook into using Posilac. When Tillamook announced that it was interested in phasing out the drug, Monsanto not only came to Oregon and started organizing farmers to fight the ban, they also tried to push forward a measure that would have prohibited Tillamook from regulating the use of ANY FDA approved drug.

I'm going to go out and buy some Tillamook cheese today to give to my friends. And then I'm going to send Tillamook a letter with a copy of the receipt and tell them I'm totally behind them.

Because Monsanto is the same company that spent $5.5 million in Oregon in 2002 to defeat a measure requiring labeling of genetically modified food. I'm guessing they're not done yet, and Tillamook is gonna need all the support they can get.


We Do Art Here in Newport

sculpture by Bill Kucha

Bill Kucha is an Oregon artist who also happens to be my art teacher. He carves breathtaking sculptures out of large blocks of stone he finds on Oregon beaches, in addition to his part-time duties pulling my bacon out of the fire when I simply do not know how to extricate myself from the mess I've made (in fact I'm sitting here right now looking at a little sketch Bill did to help me with my final project for the semester that he tossed off in 20 seconds that is better than anything I came up with after working for hours. Sigh.) Anyway, Bill has a new gallery in Portland, the Window in the Pearl, located at 425 NW 9th between Flanders and Glisan. He also has a web site where you can stop by and check out his current work, and if you ask real nicely and fill out the form on the contact page he will invite you to his annual gala exhibition in his Oregon coast garden and studio, just north of me.

This upcoming semester is going to be Bill's last one teaching for a while. I feel very fortunate because good teachers are hard to find and I feel like I've really learned a lot studying with Bill, it's been one of the best parts of my Oregon experience. I didn't know if I could find anyone who could do justice to my amazing former teacher in LA, Lisa Adams, and Bill certainly has.

And before you ask, no, his decision to take time off had nothing to do with the fact that he had me for a student. Well, I'm pretty sure anyway.


Thursday, March 03, 2005

What's Right With Vermont

March 1st was Town Meeting Day across Vermont. Amidst discussions about such burning local issues as the purchase of a backhoe loader, 52 towns considered a resolution calling for the return of US troops from Iraq. It passed in 48 towns.

Specifically, the resolution called for state legislators to look into the local impact of National Guard deployment and to reassert state authority over National Guard Units, in addition to calling for the federal government to bring US troops home from Iraq.

I've mentioned it before, but I still think that anti-draft (or possibly anti-war) ballot measures could work for the Democrats in 2006 as a way to draw progressive-minded voters to the ballot box, much in the same way Rove's anti-gay measures brought out the knuckle-draggers in 2004.

That aside, reading about it was a great way to start off the morning. So what's right with Vermont? Maple syrup, my best friend from high school Mary Jane Mucklestone, a great paradigm for local democracy in action and a big batch of home-brewed, all-American town hall anti-war sentiment.

(Photo courtesy stock.xchng)


Bill Frist Backing Away from SS Piratization?

wary of anything supported by Bill Frist

Senate Majority Leader Bill "I Got Your Back, George!" Frist is saying today that the plan to,, what are they calling it this week? I think it's the kinder, gentler security may be off the table this year.

The WaPo is reporting that the support for the plan by GOP lawmakers is weakening after they returned to Washington from a week at home meeting with constituents. I guess it wasn't all yellow ribbons and Champale:
Frist's comments came as lawmakers returned from a week-long break during which many held town meetings to discuss the president's Social Security plan. Some Republicans were shocked by the intensity of opposition expressed, while many Democrats seemed emboldened by the reaction.
So what does it mean for the Repugs if they can't jam it through this year? Well, if they push it to 2006, an election year, it could make things mighty prickly for their incumbents. And beyond that even more difficult, with Bush as a lame duck and everyone jockeying for position in a new Presidential race.

That master of understatement, Ol' Hard Hat Harry Reid, notes that the public forums have "proven that the president's message is not selling."

In between killing cats, future presidential hopeful Dr. Frist might also well be advised to take a moment off from smiling at inappropriate moments and consider the political ramifications of continued support for the program. Oh, wait...maybe he already has.

(Photo courtesy stock.xchng)


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Judge Scalia's Neighborhood

In a contentious decision handed down today, the Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty can't be meted out to those under 18. While it isn't an issue in many parts of the country, three specific states -- Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia -- have executed minors in the past, and are pretty liberal with the one-way passes to the chair anyway.

Notable in dissent was Antonin Scalia, who said:
The court thus proclaims itself sole arbiter of our nation's moral standards - and in the course of discharging that awesome responsibility purports to take guidance from the views of foreign courts and legislature.
Now I really have no idea if Scalia is a fine legal mind or not. I certainly hear all the time that he is, mostly from people who are not lawyers and have probably never read one of his legal decisions (and that means you, Monica Crowley) so I'm not going to pass on an unreliable opinion as my own. I do know, however, that he is using this dissent as an opportunity to play a fine bit of politics and fan the flames of Congressional wingers, particularly Rep. Tom Feeny (R-FL), who introduced a resolution last year which threatens with impeachment any Supreme Court Justice who cites a foreign law in a decision.

It's an absurd proposition. US law cannot be rendered in a vacuum, especially when it comes to areas like intellectual property and maritime law that depend on a high degree of international cooperation. Why, it wasn't so very long ago that the Supremes handed down this decision construing the Warsaw Convention in Chan v. Korean Airlines, Ltd.:
For the reasons given above, we agree with the opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada, see Ludecke v. Canadian Pacific Airlines, Ltd., 98 D.L.R.3d 52 (1979), that the Warsaw Convention does not eliminate the limitation on damages for passenger injury or death as a sanction for failure to provide adequate notice of that limitation.
And who is the author of this opinion? Well -- that would be Justice Scalia, writing for the majority.

Hey Monica, can you say the word H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E?

(Photo courtesy stock.xchng)


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Pin the Tail on Lieberman

"Above all maintain the line of demarcation between parties, for it is only by maintaining the independence of party that you can maintain the integrity of public men, and the power and influence of Parliament itself." - Benjamin Disraeli

I generally don't trust polls. I don't know who's taking them, what their bias is, how they're phrasing the questions, etc. But the one thing I find polls to be more reliably revelatory about is trends. If consistent polling methods are used to conduct a poll from one time to the next, and public opinion seems to be steadily moving in a particular direction, that can be telling.

A newly released poll from USA Today/CNN/Gallup found that Bush's Social Security Piratization road show just isn't working -- only 35% of thoe polled approve of his Social Security plan. That's down from 43% three weeks ago, and down from 49% just after he took office in 2001.

Face it -- the Repugs are losing this one. Want more proof? They've stitched up some kid to join the traveling snake oil show. If you can't win 'em over with facts, how about that adorable face, huh? Overweening sentimentality may not be enough to win this one. And 47% of those polled say they trust Democrats more to deal with Social Security, a 10 point advantage over the Repugs.

But Bush isn't done yet. Rick Santorum (R-PE) has his marching orders -- go forth and offer a compromise. He went on "Meet the Press" this Sunday and basically said that if raising taxes (i.e., the FICA cap) was what they had to do to make the Democrats happy in order to push through a plan to divert some of the tax revenue into private retirement accounts, then damn it, that's what they'd do.

And according to Josh Marshall, somebody -- in the form of everyone's least favorite Vichy Democrat, Joe Lieberman -- is close to some kind of a deal on that front with Lindsey Graham (R-SC). As Josh notes:
You do have to wonder -- really, really wonder -- about the roots of the urge to split the difference on phase-out seeing as the public is against it and turning more against with time. The policy and the politics are both lined up on one side of the ledger on this one. This isn't about garnering lots of press as the dealmaker, invites to the chat shows or the yearned-for plaudits of an increasingly right-leaning dinner-party centrism. And it shouldn't be about angling for mentions in the Post's increasingly fatuous Social Security editorials. This is about saving Social Security and now about preserving it for a long time to come.
Moreover, let's take a hypothetical. Say over the next couple of years Bush predictably continues on his manic spree to spend every dollar he can even imagine getting his hands on, and a few that he can't. It can't go on forever without some kind of massive fallout unless he has some sort of plan to get it under control, and we all know he hasn't got one. Wall Street goes into the shitter. Corporate America uses it as an excuse -- real or imagined -- to belt-tighten, lay off workers and ship more jobs overseas, which always happens whenever economic times get dicey. You can talk about re-framing and moving to the center and taking the battle to the red states all you want, but nothing is more likely to assure a Democratic victory in 2008 than a country sick of GWB's fiscal irresponsibility.

So who provides that alternative? Why, the Democrats, of course. At least they should. That's what an opposition party does -- it opposes. It doesn't blow like so much used toilet paper with the prevailing winds. It presents an alternative to the dire policies of this administration. And what is Santorum offering Democrats when he offers to "raise taxes" to make them happy? Why, he's offering them the opportunity to wear the mantle of Tax and Spend Democrat, one of the weirdest political sleight-of-hand flourishes of the past 25 years. How can a party who has chalked up titanic piles of debt convince the country that this particular myth is true? And yet they manage to do it.

So what does Lieberman do? He sits down with Lindsey Graham and Eeyore-like, begs to have that tail tacked on him. Sells out the party, sells out Social Security, sells out old people, young people, and everyone in between. For what? So they'll love him? So he can get his mug on TV a few more times, trading sickening bon mots with Bill Frist and John Cornyn?

Wake up, Joe. They don't love you, and they ain't gonna call you in the morning.

(Photo courtesy stock.xchng)


Monday, February 28, 2005

Jane Has a Little Talk With Her Broker

Bob?...Are you still there?...Bob?

I hate to sound like Chicken Little, but this whole Asia/dollar thing has me spooked. In the recent past I have written about both China and Malaysia growing wary of the rapidly falling dollar, which is suffering under the burden of oppressive US debt. Last week the stock market plunged when they got a mere whiff that South Korea might stop buying US dollars.

This may sound dull on the surface, but it's actually pretty interesting if you take a minute to understand what's going on. Consider Korea's position (from a recent article in the Korea Times):
The local currency market is turning into one of the most popular playgrounds for hedge funds, with the won (Korean currency) becoming the main target by the international speculative funds aimed at short-term gains, analysts said.

Hedge funds are viewed as the main force behind the won's steep gains recently, they said. It is concerned that they will continue to bet on a stronger won, a major negative for the country's economic recovery.

Hedge funds were one of the main forces behind the 1997-1998 financial crisis. They usually grow on volatile currency markets.
Shorting of local currencies by hedge funds was one of the main factors driving the 97-98 crisis. Only now, they are shorting the dollar and buying the Korean won, saying in effect that the won is stronger than the dollar. This is freaking out the Koreans, because they, like so many Asian countries, are heavily invested in the dollar. And they of course want to keep their currency weak while they sell their dollar holdings.

And Korea is just one of the countries suffering because of this dilemma. For those Asian central banks who have large dollar holdings based on loans to the US, the problem is pretty acute, because the value of those holdings have plummeted recently. Two years ago a euro was worth 88 cents. Today, it's valued at $1.36. Get the picture?

So it's turned into a game of international Old Maid. Sell off your dollars, start a panic, drive the value of the dollar down and the value of your holdings with it. But hold on to them too long and you may be the one stuck. So when do you start to diversify? How much of a loss can you afford to take before you feel like you have to get out of the game?

The country that worries me most is China, as I've mentioned before. China is sitting on a fat load of US debt, and they've got the US by the short and curlies. Now, China doesn't de facto want to drive the value of the dollar down, because they'd be cutting their own throat and devaluing their own holdings in the process. The only way they would be willing to play that ace is over something they really want -- say, Taiwan or oil to fuel its growing industrial sector. Can the US afford to stand up to China, given its current literal indebtedness at the moment? The US is dealing from an awfully weak hand. I could imagine a scenario where China flexes its muscle just to show the US who's boss and the stock market goes into the tank. Among the many things our Preznit has forgotten is what an interconnected world we now live in.

So I spoke to my broker, and I told him I only wanted to be looking at stocks that could stand up to further erosion of the dollar. He's now recommending companies that have large sources of European revenues. I mention this so everyone will know that I seriously believe this, and I'm putting my money where my mouth its. I'm not just railing at George Bush for the pure mean-spirited hell of it (to quote the late good Doctor).

And I'm not the only one thinking these dark thoughts, according to Bob. Although you won't hear anything about this in the mainstream financial news (CNBC, CNN, Faux, etc.), two of the big companies who stand to do well if the dollar keeps falling -- Caterpillar and John Deere -- are at their all-time highs.

Wall Street may be publicly cheering for Bush, but when it comes to their pocketbooks they're privately betting against him.

(Via philinmaine at DKos)

(Photo courtesy stock.xchng)


Sunday, February 27, 2005

Hey, How About Those Activist Judges?

In what would seem to be a big reversal of tune, considering all the crowing that Citizen Fathead and his ilk have done in the past against "activist judges," right wingers are applauding the decision of state Circuit Judge George Greer who ruled on Friday that the family of Terry Schiavo had another three weeks to convince a higher court to hear their case.

Poor Terry Schiavo. Just for the record, if I ever wind up in that state, pull the tubes, baby, 'cos I'm done. I'm off to whatever is next on the cosmic agenda for Jane, and I don't want to be a political nerf ball for the likes of Jeb Bush who thoughtfully jammed through legislation in 2003 (that was later ruled unconstitutional) which authorized the resumption of Terry's feeding six days after it had been stopped and everyone thought the long hard battle was over.

I don't know what happened, I don't know what her relationship was with her husband. And I can understand when her parents look at her they want to see somebody who has the potential to get better. I dread the day when I might have to make that kind of decision about someone in my family, or one of my dogs. I sincerely hope that at that time I can put aside my own needs to have them around and consider what's best for them. And weighing the limited evidence available to me, all I can say is that if I was in her shoes, 15 years is long enough. It's not going to get any better. And turning her brain dead body over to her parents and the fundies so they can use her as a poster girl for the Triumph of the Right is pretty heartless, if you ask me.

And the photo? Well, I found one where she looked happy and pretty. The way I'd want to be remembered. It speaks volumes to me that the people who are trying to keep her alive are spreading the airwaves with pictures of her in that no woman would ever want to have disseminated. I just don't think these people have any concept of life with dignity.


Happy Almost March

Winning photos of the International Snow Sculpture Championships, held in Breckenridge Colorado this year.

Just because.