Greece stays, Greece goes, who knows?

Paul Krugman and others have asserted that European banks were the big beneficiaries of the early Greek bailout. They’ve gotten pushback, apparently. Steve Randy Waldman has created a timeline of events from that early 2010 bailout through the second one in 2012. I can’t swear to the accuracy of his analysis, but it seems to buttress what Krugman’s been saying: that Greece has been a victim of European political leaders and financial technocrats who are guilty of practicing bad macroeconomics to the benefit of European elites and the detriment of 11 million Greeks.

The Boston Pops and the Glorious Fourth

I have been whining and complaining about CBS and its miserable broadcast of the Boston Pops annual 4th of July show from the Esplanade in Boston for about ten years now. It looks like the Pops and CBS separated after the 2013 Fireworks Spectacular, as unless you lived in Boston the only way to see the show in 2014 was on a live webcast. That remains the same this year. If you live in Boston you can watch on WBZ-TV from 8-11pm EDT, otherwise you have to watch the livestream.

Following last year’s first-ever live webcast of the event, the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular will stream live online AT BOSTONPOPSJULY4th.org, bringing Boston’s famous July 4 celebration once again to a worldwide audience.

Well, good. The webcast can’t possibly be any worse than what CBS had done with it over the past years. This is from 2010:

Okay, CBS, you’re officially on notice about your Pops telecast; I won’t bother watching again. You opened the show with a one-minute picture of the cannon being fired for the 1812 Overture, then went to some seemingly-drunk MC who introduced Toby Keith, who sang two songs. Then you showed the Pops playing a singalong medley. Then, after a bunch of commercials, you showed the drunk again, bragging about the upcoming fireworks display. (Was that Craig Ferguson and is that his normal schtick?)

Just after the half-hour mark of this hour-long cut of what is a three-hour performance for the locals you started showing the fireworks. Yes, they are spectacular. But I wonder if the viewers of WBZ in Boston and those on the Esplanade heard what we did: canned pop music accompanying them. The Pops were neither heard nor seen for the entire twenty minutes of fireworks.

Back in 2006 the CBS geniuses enlisted Aerosmith to play their own music, rather than the Pops playing American patriotic songs.

The webcast sounds better and better.

Trump? Come on, Americans

Even among the looniest of Republican Presidential aspirants, Donald Trump stands out as unique. So of course he placed second in a national CNN poll,

with 12 percent of GOP primary voters saying they were most likely to support him in 2016. In fact, he outranked every other candidate in the crowded Republican field except former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who garnered 19 percent.

Trump. One of the loudest buffoons to emerge from American business in the late 20th century. A man who persisted in claiming the current President was not an American citizen long after that idiocy had been debunked. A man who just insulted an entire nation of Mexicans. A man who’s just had four or five of his corporate associates sever their ties with him because he was at best an embarrassment and at worst a drag on their businesses. Yet somehow a whole bunch of American voters think he’s just what the doctor ordered for the country.

I despair for our democracy.

Bernie Sanders drawing big crowds

My goodness. Senator Sanders has been getting larger crowds than anyone in the political press expected, but it hasn’t paid much attention. Now, though: 10,000 people in Madison, Wisconsin? It’s no surprise a liberal candidate would get a crowd in Madison, which has a proud tradition of liberalism. But still, 10,000 people 16 months away from the election? Wow.

This link is to Chris Hayes’s show and has a video autoplay.

Chris Christie? Really?

It’s pretty rare in presidential politics that a guy who is known more for his bullying of voters and teachers than for any particular achievements while Governor of a small state has much of a chance winning the primaries, much less the general election. Nonetheless, Gov. Christie of New Jersey has persuaded himself that he’s the exception that proves the rule.

He’ll undoubtedly win “Biggest Jerk” in the Republican beauty pageant.

Justice Alito is a murderous bastard

He’d just as soon kill inmates as see ’em, apparently.

Our decisions in this area have been animated in part by the recognition that because it is settled that capital punishment is constitutional, “[i]t necessarily follows that there must be a constitutional means of carrying it out.” [.pdf] And because some risk of pain is inherent in any method of execution, we have held that the Constitution does not require the avoidance of all risk of pain. After all, while most humans wish to die a painless death, many do not have that good fortune. Holding that the Eighth Amendment demands the elimination of essentially all risk of pain would effectively outlaw the death penalty altogether.

Er, what? If something is constitutional then anything goes when doing it? I don’t see how it “necessarily follows” at all, Justice Alito. Jeebus, talk about the end justifying the means!

Worse yet, somehow the drug companies’ refusal to sell enabling drugs to death penalty states means they’re to blame if states use drugs with horrific effects on the way to killing somebody.

The nationwide shortage of execution drugs came about in large part because the drug manufacturers themselves refuse to sell their products to be used to kill another human being, and because foreign governments have imposed strict restrictions on the export of certain drugs that can be used in executions. By laying the actions of these private companies and foreign officials at the feet of anti-death penalty advocates generally, Scalia and Alito seem to be suggesting that inmates should be subjected to unconstitutionally painful executions if parties that are not before the Court have rendered lawful executions impossible.

Isn’t that nice and bloodthirsty? And yet they’d both swear they are good, decent Catholic men.

What is Europe doing?

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that the Troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF really want to force Greece’s government out of office. Paul Krugman seemingly thinks along the same lines: he notes that the troika has issued yet another ultimatum to Greece and its Prime Minister, and rather than grovel the man has scheduled a referendum of his voters to see what they’d like to do.

This is leading to much hand-wringing and declarations that he’s being irresponsible, but he is, in fact, doing the right thing, for two reasons.

First, if it wins the referendum, the Greek government will be empowered by democratic legitimacy, which still, I think, matters in Europe. (And if it doesn’t, we need to know that, too.)

Second, until now Syriza has been in an awkward place politically, with voters both furious at ever-greater demands for austerity and unwilling to leave the euro. It has always been hard to see how these desires could be reconciled; it’s even harder now. The referendum will, in effect, ask voters to choose their priority, and give Tsipras a mandate to do what he must if the troika pushes it all the way.

If you ask me, it has been an act of monstrous folly on the part of the creditor governments and institutions to push it to this point. But they have, and I can’t at all blame Tsipras for turning to the voters, instead of turning on them.

Yep. They seem to want to dictate domestic policy to Greece (I’d like to see them try to do that to Germany or one of the Northern Euro members) by telling it to cut more pensions and make other spending cuts rather than raise taxes on the wealthier Greeks. Sounds like the party of the 1% is trying to run things in Europe too.

Good week for the Dems

The good guys were on a roll at the Supreme Court this week. First off they got a 6-3 decision that Obamacare’s exchanges are legitimate, then they got a 5-4 decision that housing discrimination claims can be based on the effect of a particular law or practice (or regulation, I imagine) whether discrimination was clearly intended or not. Finally, they got a 5-4 decision that the rights of gay couples included marriage.

All in all, a good week. To celebrate, look at all these national landmarks lit up in rainbow colors.


Palin timing: smarts or blind luck?

If you have already had one child out of wedlock and have been paid a substantial salary to campaign for abstinence, finding yourself pregnant should be mildly crushing, wouldn’t you think? And when the news got out you’d likely be a little embarrassed, right? But if the news breaks on the same day that the President of the United States gets the news that the latest and most likely last big court test of his health care program made it through the Supreme Court in fine form, your pregnancy news probably drops off the radar for a few days.

You ought to hope so, anyway. I know it would embarrass me if I’d made nearly a million bucks as an “ambassador of abstinence” and turned up in a family way. But maybe you Palins are made of stronger stuff than I.