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Avedon Carol presents:

The Sideshow

My motto as I live and learn is: dig and be dug in return. -- Langston Hughes
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Wednesday, 01 April 2020

I don't want to hear them scream

Bernie Sanders wins a big victory for the American people: "Senate passes $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, sending it to the House [...] Before passing the bill, the Senate first rejected an amendment proposed by Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., to cap unemployment insurance at a recipient's previous wages. The bill adds $600 per week to the benefits a recipient would normally get for up to four months. Sasse's amendment failed in a 48-48 vote. The senator and three of his GOP colleagues threatened to delay passage of the legislation if they could not get a vote on an amendment. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., then suggested he could hold up the bill's approval if they did not back down from their opposition."

Which doesn't mean the bill itself is even remotely good. David Dayen, "Unsanitized: Bailouts, A Tradition Unlike Any Other [...] This is a robbery in progress. And it's not a bailout for the coronavirus. It's a bailout for twelve years of corporate irresponsibility that made these companies so fragile that a few weeks of disruption would destroy them. The short-termism and lack of capital reserves funneled record profits into a bathtub of cash for investors. That's who's being made whole, financiers and the small slice of the public that owns more than a trivial amount of stocks. In fact they've already been made whole; yesterday Wall Street got the word that they'd be saved and stocks and bonds went wild. BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, is running these bailout programs for the Fed, and could explicitly profit if the Fed buys its funds, which it probably will."

Now that the media and the Democratic leadership have decided that, though he is still hundreds of delegates short and half the country is still waiting for their chance to vote, Biden has "really" won the nomination, they are starting to worry about whether he can win. "Joe Biden is the worst imaginable challenger to Trump right now: For anyone plugged in to the news firehose about the coronavirus pandemic, it has been extremely bizarre to watch President Trump's approval rating. He has botched the crisis beyond belief, and the United States now has the biggest outbreak in the world. Because of his ongoing failure to secure stockpiles of medical supplies, doctors and nurses are re-using protective gear over and over, and suiting up in garbage bags and page protectors to treat COVID-19 patients. Some have already caught the virus and died — along with over 1,300 others at time of writing, which is very likely an underestimate. Yet Trump's approval rating keeps going up. Poll averages show a marked bump in favorable ratings, a recent Washington Post/ABC poll has him above water. He does even better on the coronavirus response, with a Gallup poll finding him at 60 percent approval of his handling of the situation. This is what happens when the Democratic Party, de facto led at this point by its presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden, refuses to make the case that Trump is in fact responsible for the severity of the disaster. Biden is proving to be about the worst imaginable nominee to take on Trump."

Video: "Krystal Ball: THIRSTY Dems throw themselves at Cuomo, here's why that's a mistake"

Teen Vogue, "Andrew Cuomo's Coronavirus Response Doesn't Mean He's Crush-Worthy [...] But shouldn't the bar be higher for a corona-inspired crush? In times of panic-induced infatuation, let's remember that someone can be a better leader than Trump during a crisis and still not deserve our praise. Particularly when the leader in question helped set the stage for many of the devastating challenges we now face as coronavirus sweeps the nation."

"Inside a Murder Trial in Krasner-Era Philadelphia: Not long ago, a poor black man charged with the murder of a wealthy white man wouldn't have a chance at justice. Times have changed." Innocent man goes free because the evidence doesn't support a conviction.That shouldn't be a story, but of course, it is.

"Colorado abolishes death penalty; governor commutes sentences of 3 on death row [...] Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill Monday making Colorado the 22nd state to abolish the death penalty, and he also commuted the sentences of the three killers on death row. They will instead serve life prison sentences without the possibility of parole, Polis said."

Hilarious. The Russians decided to call the Russiagate bluff and... "Justice Department moves to drop charges against Russians indicted in the Mueller probe." You remember, they charged 13 Russians with "interfering" with our election, only they knew the Russians would never answer the charges so they could fabricate any charges they wanted out of thin air. But when the Russians respond instead with a not guilty plea, there has to be discovery, and since there's nothing to discover, the government has to claim they can't provide discovery material because that would mean exposing the Russians to our secret stuff. In other words, there was never any There there.

Michael Moore talked to the people he knows in Washington about Joe Biden, and they said some chilling things about how they had it covered.

And here's an episode of Useful Idiots in which, among other things, Matt and Katie marvel at Rachel Maddow's bizarre reason for not letting the remaining states vote in the primaries - an argument that would work pretty well for shutting down the general election if she really meant it, but of course she doesn't.

It goes without saying that Trump's leadership on the Coronavirus is worse than useless, but he's not the only one. "How Did Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden Screw This Up?: The Democratic response to the coronavirus has been a political disaster. [...] But Trump does not have a monopoly on political malpractice. As the crisis has spread, Democratic Party leaders — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden — have either been missing in action or short on solutions. Incredibly, a handful of arch-conservative Republicans have been able to take public credit for advancing the popular, progressive idea of just sending every household a large check for the duration of the crisis. Pelosi explicitly rejected that very idea in early talks among House Democrats, overruling pleas from Democratic economists. With Democratic leaders thinking small, a majority of the public now actually approves of Trump's catastrophic pandemic management, according to a new poll."

"Democrats' grotesque coronavirus failure [...] Meanwhile on the question of broader economic stimulus, several Republicans are now outflanking Pelosi to the left. On Monday, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) rejected the Pelosi bill as insufficient, while Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) proposed an immediate payment of $1,000 to every adult. On Tuesday, the White House released a massive $850 billion stimulus plan (which may get even bigger), including "$500 billion in a payroll tax cut, a $50 billion bailout for airlines struggling from plummeting demand, and $250 billion for small business loans," Reuters reports. [...] Only Pelosi can leverage Democrats' control of one chamber of the legislature to influence the process. As Michael Grunwald argues, she should very obviously just write a plan that is both fair and big enough to address the crisis, and tell Republicans to take it or leave it. That would mean at a minimum a massive expansion of unemployment benefits, a sickness allowance, and paid family leave. Any bailouts of businesses should have heavy strings attached to halt dividends, share buybacks, and excessive executive compensation, so the rich don't just gobble up the money. Bailouts should also mean the government collects new stock issues in return, so if and when the market bounces back, the state rather than rich investors collects the benefit. [...] But if I had to guess, I reckon Pelosi will basically agree to whatever Republicans propose. Indeed, she may well push Republicans to the right — former Obama adviser Jason Furman proposed the cash payment idea in a recent meeting with Democrats, but Pelosi shot him down. Democrats have long thought that exploiting political leverage in a crisis to make the response as good as possible is somehow "irresponsible." That means the Republicans will lead, and quite possibly get credit for doing what they could. If Trump wins with such a campaign, it will be Nancy Pelosi's fault."

"Michael Hudson: A Debt Jubilee is the Only Way to Avoid a Depression [...] The word 'Jubilee' comes from the Hebrew word for 'trumpet' — yobel. In Mosaic Law, it was blown every 50 years to signal the Year of the Lord, in which personal debts were to be canceled. The alternative, the prophet Isaiah warned, was for smallholders to forfeit their lands to creditors: 'Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land.' When Jesus delivered his first sermon, the Gospel of Luke describes him as unrolling the scroll of Isaiah and announcing that he had come to proclaim the Year of the Lord, the Jubilee Year. [...] It is now understood that these rulers were not being utopian or idealistic in forgiving debts. The alternative would have been for debtors to fall into bondage. Kingdoms would have lost their labor force, since so many would be working off debts to their creditors. Many debtors would have run away (much as Greeks emigrated en masse after their recent debt crisis), and communities would have been prone to attack from without. The parallels to the current moment are notable. The U.S. economy has polarized sharply since the 2008 crash. For far too many, their debts leave little income available for consumer spending or spending in the national interest. In a crashing economy, any demand that newly massive debts be paid to a financial class that has already absorbed most of the wealth gained since 2008 will only split our society further. This has happened before in recent history — after World War I, the burden of war debts and reparations bankrupted Germany, contributing to the global financial collapse of 1929-1931. Most of Germany was insolvent, and its politics polarized between the Nazis and communists. We all know how that ended. [...] In fact, it could create what the Germans called an 'Economic Miracle' — their own modern debt jubilee in 1948, the currency reform administered by the Allied Powers. When the Deutsche Mark was introduced, replacing the Reichsmark, 90 percent of government and private debt was wiped out. Germany emerged as an almost debt-free country, with low costs of production that jump-started its modern economy."

"Medicare for All is a Great Automatic Fiscal Stabilizer: So why does it matter that Medicare for All would make our healthcare system far more countercyclical? For one, it means that it contributes to building an infrastructure which is far better at responding to recessions and even preventing them. Strong indefinite mandatory funding for a Medicare for All system would have also been far more capable of responding to pandemics. These crises still require discretionary closing businesses and implementing social distancing measures by government officials to be lessened but we could have far higher healthcare capacity than we do to respond to these crises as needed. People would also seek treatment at the speed necessary without having to worry about cost. To get the full benefits of this crisis response, we need a system as Sanders envisions it- no out of pocket costs and comprehensive coverage that makes supplemental private insurance irrelevant."

Alex Sammon at The American Prospect, "It's Time to Nationalize the Airlines: America's most consumer-abusing and environment-degrading industry wants us to bail it out. Instead, we should take it over. [...] The airline industry has become another cautionary tale of the pitfalls of deregulation, the result of extremely misguided policy set loose over decades. Air travel wasn't always like that. In its early days, between 1937 and 1978, air travel was treated as a public utility. The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) managed domestic flights and was responsible for establishing schedules, fares, and routes. But in 1978, under the guidance of the Jimmy Carter administration, the industry was deregulated, in the name of increasing competition and driving down prices. Initially, that decision was ballyhooed as a free-market triumph, a true success story that made the case for deregulation and privatization. A smattering of startup airlines joined the skies; the price of a plane ticket fell; the number of fares sold increased dramatically. But quickly, the airlines began to merge, and the industry became an oligopoly (if you're feeling charitable) or a cartel. The airlines dropped unprofitable routes, many of them direct flights, and went to work upping bag fees and cutting back on meals, entertainment, and the size of their seats in coach, infuriating consumers while racking up massive profits. Study after study began to find that airfares had actually fallen more rapidly before Carter's Airline Deregulation Act, and that, if the CAB had been allowed to continue enforcing its long-standing formulas for setting maximum fares, prices would have been considerably less than the free-market offering. As a result, U.S. airlines currently pull in net profit margins of 7.5 percent, which is twice the average for airline companies internationally. Meanwhile, the U.S. hasn't seen a new scheduled passenger airline come into existence since 2007." Alex talked to Sam about this on The Majority Report.

I saw one of those online Twitter polls asking, "Who do you think has stronger, deeper, personal ideological opposition to #MedicareForAll?" Biden was "winning" with 82.5% to Trump's 17.5%. I actually think this might be true (not that it makes a difference, but bear with me.) I remember during the campaign Trump raving about the great health care system they have in Scotland. Trump knows that health care free at the point of delivery is possible, and it works. And it's quite possible that when he babbled about how his administration was going to replace Obamacare with a much better program, he believed it. He had to figure, piece of cake, if they can do it in Scotland, why can't we write a good health care plan, too. Of course, he wasn't going to write it, and that meant Republicans were going to write it, and it's just possible he didn't realize that they would absolutely refuse to produce a genuinely good plan. And according to this story I failed to see at the time, that might really be the case. From January of 2018, "Trump asked 'Why can't Medicare simply cover everybody?' before pushing Obamacare repeal."

David Dayen, "The Man Who Knew" An interview with Barry Lynn, whose prediction about the dangers of centralizing our manufacturing has sadly come true amid the coronavirus outbreak.
David Dayen: What piqued your interest in this circumstance with supply chains in the beginning?
Barry Lynn: I first approached it after this earthquake that happened in Taiwan, in September 1999. I was running a magazine called Global Business. We wrote about how large businesses were moving things around the world. Within a few days, all these factories in the U.S. shut down, in California and Texas, because the supply chains, the supply of semiconductors from Taiwan, were broken. They couldn't fly them out because there was no power at the airport, so the shipments couldn't get out.
It showed me that we took this really important set of eggs and put them all in the same basket. At the time, I became really quite curious why these really smart people running these corporations would do that, and why the really smart people running government would allow that to happen."
"

"How to Save Elections From a Pandemic" - to me this article could be called, "How to make sure everyone has paper ballots." But by saying you're doing something else.

"Who Wants a Revolution? No One Who Owns a Major Media Outlet [...] Of course, that raises the question that is almost never answered in such outlets: Why do Democratic voters think Biden is the more electable candidate, even if they like Sanders' policy positions better? Why, if in head-to-head polling—our best available data on who is 'electable'—Sanders has consistently done as well if not better than Biden over the months, have Democrats been convinced to vote against their own preferences? The pundits appear willfully ignorant of their own role in shaping electability narratives. In the debates, electability was a favorite topic of the journalists doling out questions, and the message (evidence be damned) was clear: Sanders is unelectable. As we reported after studying every debate question prior to Super Tuesday (FAIR.org, 2/29/20), Sanders' electability was questioned more than four times as often as Biden's (21 to 5). While Biden's lackluster campaign performance had prompted much commentary about whether he could win the primaries, the chorus of pundits and 'experts' in political coverage counseled that this year, as always, the center is the one and only place for Democrats to find electability (e.g., FAIR.org, 10/25/19). With Biden's victory in South Carolina, media doubts about his strength were quickly banished. He walked away with an 'earned-media tsunami' of three days of almost entirely exuberant media coverage, worth in the neighborhood of $70 million (Vanity Fair, 3/5/20). By comparison, Sanders, whose massive grassroots fundraising outpaced all of his competitors, spent $50 million in the last three months of 2019 (Politico, 2/20/20)."

"The Four Senators Who Sold Their Stocks Just in Time [...] Loeffler, Inhofe, and Feinstein say that they didn't personally sell those stocks. Their financial managers sold those stocks; the senators themselves deny knowing anything about it. According to TPM, 'Burr has since claimed that he dumped between $628,000 and $1.72 million of his holdings in February, based solely on publicly available news reports.' The 'insider' information he was getting as a senator had nothing to do with it, he says. One suspects we'll be hearing more about this. And it's not just about potential 'insider' trading; it's about these people knowing the situation was dire but going along with the Trump Administration's claims that everything was just fine and under control. Well, the Republicans, anyway. I'm not aware of Feinstein trying to cover Trump's ass."

RIP: "Jerry Slick, San Francisco Musician/Filmmaker & Grace's 1st Husband, Dead at 80: Jerry Slick, a drummer turned cinematographer whose mid-'60s San Francisco band the Great Society featured his then-wife Grace Slick on vocals, has died. No cause, date or place was cited in online posts announcing Slick's death, which was confirmed by his current wife, Wendy Slick, and by Darby Slick, Jerry's brother. Jerry Slick was 80." I was interested to learn from this obit that the producer of the album was a guy who came to be known as Sly Stone.

RIP: "Tom Turnipseed, a 'reformed racist' after backing George Wallace, dies at 83: Tom Turnipseed, who after working on the presidential campaign of the segregationist George C. Wallace in 1968 took a 180-degree turn and became a champion of civil rights, died on March 6 at his home in Columbia, S.C. He was 83. In 1968 when Wallace, the former governor of Alabama, was the American Independent Party candidate for president, Turnipseed, a South Carolina lawyer, was the campaign's executive director. 'I liked him,' Turnipseed explained in an interview for Tom Brokaw's book 'Boom! Voices of the Sixties' (2007). 'He was standing up for the South.' But the campaign began to change his thinking, setting the stage for him to become, as he often described himself, a 'reformed racist.' 'What turned me off was not Wallace, but the crowds,' he told the New York Times in 1978. Wallace, he saw, was tapping into something ugly, not just in the South but among white blue-collar supporters in the North."

I found this conversation between Michael Brooks and Adolph Reed pretty interesting

More like Trump every day: "Time's Up Said It Could Not Fund A #Metoo Allegation Against Joe Biden, Citing Its Nonprofit Status And His Presidential Run: [...] She thought about the world she wanted her daughter to live in and decided that she wanted to continue telling her story and push back against what she saw as online defamation. To get legal help, and manage what she knew from her first go-around would be serious backlash, she reached out to the organization Time's Up, established in the wake of the #MeToo movement to help survivors tell their stories."

"Tourism is not development [...] If not tourism, then what? Cambridge based development economist Ha Joon Chang in his book Kicking Away the Ladder looked at all the developed countries and observed a pattern in how they developed. All the countries instituted industrial policies that supported their infant industries through subsidies and protectionism. Once these countries had efficient industries, only then, these countries opened their borders for trade."

"The decline and fall of neoliberalism in the Democratic Party [...] Meanwhile, New Dealers ran into political difficulties. In 1972, George McGovern ran on a strongly left-wing platform, and got flattened by Nixon, seemingly demonstrating that the New Deal was no longer a vote winner. Neoliberal economists were reaching the height of academic respectability, they had a convincing story to explain the problems, and they gained the ears of top Democratic politicians like Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter. On the advice of Alfred Kahn, Kennedy shepherded through airline deregulation, while Carter appointed neoliberal Paul Volcker to chair of the Federal Reserve, where Volcker proceeded to create a terrible recession to crush inflation. "The standard of living of the average American has to decline," he said. This produced growing inequality, which turned out to be a keystone element of neoliberal political economy. Deregulation, union-busting, abandoning anti-trust, and so forth shunted money to the top of the income ladder — thus providing more resources for lobbying, political pressure groups, think tanks, and economics departments to produce yet more neoliberal policy.

Naomi Klein in 2016: "It was the Democrats' embrace of neoliberalism that won it for Trump [...] Here is what we need to understand: a hell of a lot of people are in pain. Under neoliberal policies of deregulation, privatisation, austerity and corporate trade, their living standards have declined precipitously. They have lost jobs. They have lost pensions. They have lost much of the safety net that used to make these losses less frightening. They see a future for their kids even worse than their precarious present. At the same time, they have witnessed the rise of the Davos class, a hyper-connected network of banking and tech billionaires, elected leaders who are awfully cosy with those interests, and Hollywood celebrities who make the whole thing seem unbearably glamorous. Success is a party to which they were not invited, and they know in their hearts that this rising wealth and power is somehow directly connected to their growing debts and powerlessness."

"The World War II food memoir that’s getting me through life in a pandemic: MFK Fisher's How to Cook a Wolf is a hopeful message on how to survive during wartime when food supply lines were disrupted, fuel was scarce, and people stocked "blackout shelves" in case of a bombing."

"Museum asks people to recreate art from household items while social distancing and it's delightful" — and it is, too.

"7 of the Best Art Deco Buildings in London"

"Your Guide To Not Getting Murdered In A Quaint English Village"

I really am sick of having all the news be about one subject, but I have to admit this made me smile: "Beautiful Covid-19 Song Spotted on Youtube. Chris Franklin and Robert Kelly. (STAY THE F*CK AT HOME)"

"Lukas Nelson & Family - Turn Off The News And Build a Garden (Quarantunes Evening Session)"

Warren and Neil, "Splendid Isolation"

22:47 GMT comment


Sunday, 15 March 2020

You're still sorry, and there's still no apology

No surprises in South Carolina, where Biden won big. Sanders was the only other to break the 15% threshold (with 19.8%). Buttigieg and Steyer dropped out of the race the next day, and Klobuchar a day later. Pete and Amy made it clear they were dropping on behalf of Biden to help him beat Bernie. The terrain looked quite different from the polls and there was little joy in Mudville on Super Tuesday when Bernie won only four states — CO, UT, VT, and CA. Bloomberg, his work done, was gone by Wednesday night, and Thursday, Warren made a stirring resignation speech. Liz didn't endorse, probably because she needs to decide whether she can bring herself to endorse her original nemesis in politics, Joe Biden, or snub the establishment and endorse Sanders. It's hard to imagine her lining up with the man she said this about as recently as Monday night. It all seems to have been orchestrated by Obama, of course - the man whose sole interest in politics since Trump's election has been to thwart progressive Dems. It's a two-man race, now - two "old white guys", in fact. Sanders announced Thursday that his VP would be a woman who supports Medicare For All.

But the turn-out continues to be disappointing even where wins had been hoped for, when, Michigan turned to Biden and he seems to have doubled his lead on March 10th. Although neither candidate has a knock-out lead, it's hard to see where Sanders can make up the numbers. But, clearly, the Democratic leadership has decided to put all its chips on people hating Trump enough that they will vote for someone who couldn't be more similar to him.

"Bernie Sanders: Now More Than Ever: There's too much at stake to let establishment Democrats lead us down the road of failure by selling Joe Biden as safe. He's not. [...] A long career as a union organizer who has helped workers overcome incredibly stiff odds in many hard-to-win National Labor Relations Board elections has given me some insight into the Trump strategy, because it is identical to the methods and techniques deployed by anti-union consultants: drive doubt, suspicion, division, fear, hate, and, above all else, use every mechanism of voter suppression—especially damping down turnout on election day—available. This union buster-Trump playbook can be overcome only by a candidate who will raise people's expectations that they and their family deserve and can obtain a better life, and who has the capacity to counter wedge against Trump on key issues. With no special affection for either of the older white men this contest has come down to—I'd like the chance to vote for a younger, unionized, working-class woman of color, to be clear—I also know that it's imperative we understand why Joe Biden is a repeat of Hillary Clinton and thus will likely lose in November. "

I'm going to steer clear of the pandemic, since it's suddenly become all the news there is. But Pareene is right on the money. "The Dismantled State Takes on a Pandemic [...] Despite its grip on power, the conservative movement cannot adapt to the circumstances created by its victory over the state. It didn't occur to the right that a more terrifying series of words than 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help' would turn out to be 'I'm from the government, and I guess I anticipated that the private sector would have engaged.'"

"Most People Never Saw the Best of Bernie Sanders's Campaign On Wednesday, Sanders gave a press conference in Vermont and declared his intention to stay in the race, despite delegate math that makes his nomination look extremely unlikely. 'On Sunday, I very much look forward to the debate in Arizona, with my friend Joe Biden,' he said. But the confidence that he displayed in February is gone. An outbreak of the coronavirus is starting to paralyze life in the United States, and both Sanders and Biden have begun cancelling campaign events, complying with expert advice to avoid large gatherings of people. (The location of Sunday's debate between the two has been moved from Arizona to Washington, D.C., for the same reason.) For Sanders, this means giving up the best of his campaign. He's not ready to give up the rest, yet."

Some writers have attempted to interpret the fact that South Carolina's black voters went for Biden despite the fact that they seem to support Sanders' agenda, but I mostly read them as black "centrists" making stuff up to explain away the usual manipulation of voters. I trust Adolph Reed a lot more. "South Carolina, Neoliberalism's Stranglehold, and the Mystique of the 'Black Vote': By reducing all of black Americans' concerns to race or exploiting the idea of a singular 'black vote' in the first place, the elite political class continues to undermine our ability to organize the majoritarian social movement we need to combat the ruling-class assault on all working people in the United States."

"Sanders Releases Reproductive Justice Plan, Calls for Legislative Codification of Roe v. Wade: A day prior to announcing his Reproductive Heath Care and Justice for All plan, Bernie Sanders lit Joe Biden's ass up at a rally in Detroit by doing what is increasingly becoming the easiest thing to do when criticizing the former Vice President, quoting him directly."

OK, this is enough to make me swear. "Warren Urged By National Organization For Women Not To Endorse Sanders: He Has 'Done Next To Nothing For Women'." Sanders' record on women's issues can stand up to anyone's; Biden's record is mostly fighting against things women need. NOW supporting Joe Biden is one of the more disgusting things I've ever heard. It's...deplorable.

"Erik Prince Recruits Ex-Spies to Help Infiltrate Liberal Groups: Mr. Prince, a contractor close to the Trump administration, contacted veteran spies for operations by Project Veritas, the conservative group known for conducting stings on news organizations and other groups."

"The Times' Attempt to Create a Bernie-Russia Scandal Is an Embarrassment [...] Crazy! Bernie Sanders, as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, tried to betray the United States! Wow! Really? Ah, no"

At Black Agenda Report, a frustrated Glen ford complains that, "The Corporations and Their Media Strangled Bernie, and Older Black Voters Tied the Knot: There really is no more to the clap-trap about a Black electoral 'strategy' than attempting to figure out which way the white folks are going and then circling the Black wagons, accordingly."

"The Amount of Voter Suppression in Texas Would Keep U.N. Election Monitors Busy: Before Super Tuesday, the essential Ari Berman pointed out on the electric Twitter machine that, in the wake of the Supreme Court's having gutted the Voting Rights Act, Texas had gone out of its way to close 750 polling places. (The Guardian looked into the numbers and came to the unsurprising conclusion that these closures affected minority voters most harshly.) And that's how Hervis Rodgers became famous on Tuesday night. Rodgers waited seven hours to vote at a polling station on the campus of Texas Southern University in Houston."

Tucker Carlson makes me crazy again. This time he barely even wandered off the path into Fox News territory. It's all true: "Tucker: Democrats pin their hopes on gaffe-prone Joe Biden." Almost word-for-word what Democrats should be saying. I remember there used to be someone on Air America named Rachel Maddow who might have said something like this. Usually Tucker completely ruins it at the end of his amazingly progressive analyses by suddenly detouring into raving right-wing loony conclusions, but not this time.

"Democrats, You Really Do Not Want To Nominate Joe Biden: We urgently need to remember who Biden is and think carefully about what would happen if he were chosen. [...] The reason many of us are so turned off by Joe Biden is that, over the course of a many-decade career in Washington, he has let us down on the key issues when it matters most. Joe Biden has shown himself to be fundamentally weak, unreliable, and dishonest. He gets taken advantage of by Republicans, and he seems more interested in making friends than advancing Democratic ideals."

Is our old friend Election Fraud back? Given that everyone seems to have switched to electronic voting, it's probably the way to bet. "Super Tuesday Biden Victories Questioned by Election Watchers: Wildly divergent exit polls in South Carolina and Massachusetts, and documented voting problems in California and Texas, have prompted veteran election watchers to suggest that there may have been election fraud on Super Tuesday, always at the expense of the Bernie Sanders vote. Edison Research/CNN polls show 4 point and 7 point discrepancies in South Carolina and Massachusetts, respectively, between the computer-tallied vote totals and exit polling. Exit polls are considered by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to be one reliable, although not in itself conclusive, indicator of election fraud. Election fraud may be perpetrated by hacking of vote tabulation machines, or reporting incorrect results that are different from the tally tapes from each machine. Although exit polls may be wrong, which even among experts are considered just one limited but useful tool for detecting fraud, it is more unusual when the errors always point in the same direction. The both SC and MA, exit polls showed Sanders doing better than the official vote tallies."

"How The Senate Paved The Way For Coronavirus Profiteering, And How Congress Could Undo It [...] That's how much of the pharmaceutical industry's research and development is funded. The public puts in the money, and private companies keep whatever profits they can command. But it wasn't always that way. Before 1995, drug companies were required to sell drugs funded with public money at a reasonable price. Under the Clinton administration, that changed. [...] The move was controversial, and a House member from Vermont, independent Bernie Sanders, offered an amendment to reinstate the rule. It failed on a largely party-line vote, 242-180. Then in 2000, Sanders authored and passed a bipartisan amendment in the House to reimpose the 'reasonable pricing' rule. In the Senate, a similar measure was pushed by the late Paul Wellstone of Minnesota. 'Many in Congress find it hard to argue with Sanders' line that 'Americans must pay twice for life-saving drugs, first as taxpayers to develop the drug and then as consumers to pad pharmaceutical profits,'' Nature wrote at the time. Then-Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware voted to table Wellstone's amendment, and it was defeated 56-39."

And if someone asks you for info on Joe Biden, by all means send them here.

"What Happened to the Company That Raised Minimum Wage to $70k/yr? Remember a few years ago when the owner of a credit card payment processing company based in Seattle raised the minimum wage of his employees to $70,000/yr while taking a huge pay-cut himself and capitalists the world over, afraid of their beloved & apparently suuuuper delicate system collapsing from such madness, flipped out? The BBC recently checked in with Gravity Payments and its owner Dan Price to see how things were going. Pretty damn well, as it turns out: [...] When Price made the announcement about raising wages, two senior employees quit because they thought the junior employees would become lazy and the company would suffer. Spolier alert: didn't happen. [...] Employees that worry less about debt, healthcare, or where their next meal is coming from are happier, more productive employees. Imagine that."

Interesting little data point from a couple weeks ago: "Bernie Sanders Beats All Other Democratic Candidates In One-On-One Matchups, Says Poll" — which means once we get down to just Bernie and any other Dems, most Democrats would side with Bernie. At the other end of the spectrum, everyone in the field beats Bloomberg. In national head-to-heads with Trump, Sanders beats him better than anyone, but of course what really matters is the state head-to-heads, where it's way too close for comfort in too many places. (Of course, these things can change, and seem to have done so since that poll was taken.)

A little story from 2016: "Obama Wanted To Cut Social Security. Then Bernie Sanders Happened." What caused Obama's complete about-face on an issue he'd been pushing from the moment he got into the Oval Office? (And, really, had hinted at before he was even elected.) Well, you know the answer to that.

"There is hard data that shows "Bernie Bros" are a myth: A computational social scientist's study shows Bernie's Twitter followers act pretty much the same as everyone else. Mainstream pundits and politicians continue to obsess over the stereotype of the "Bernie Bro," a perfervid horde of Bernie Sanders supporters who supposedly stop at nothing to harass his opponents online. Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton and New York Times columnist Bret Stephens have all helped perpetuate the idea that Sanders' supporters are somehow uniquely cruel, despite Sanders' platform and policy proposal being the most humane of all the candidates. The only problem? The evidence that Sanders supporters are uniquely cruel online, compared to any other candidates' supporters, is scant; much of the discourse around Bernie Bros seems to rely on skewed anecdotes that don't stand up to scrutiny. Many Sanders supporters suspect that the stereotype is perpetuated in bad faith to help torpedo his candidacy."

"Centrists" argue that we need to nominate someone "moderate" enough for Republicans to vote for, which, aside from being a terrible reason to nominate someone as the candidate for the Democratic Party doesn't seem to be holding much water if even "NeverTrump" voters are willing to vote for Sanders. "Former Trump Presidential Opponent Joe Walsh Backs Bernie Sanders, Tells GOP 'I'd Rather Have A Socialist Than A Con Man'." Not that Walsh is typical of the NeverTrumpers, an awful lot of whom seem to be Republican operatives who have merely been frozen out of the current administration and just want the old regime back in — and they, of course, keep advising us to nominate someone who is pretty much a Republican except for the D.

Please make this nightmare go away. "Joe Biden's secret governing plan: Joe Biden confidants are privately discussing potential leaders and Cabinet members for his White House, including the need to name a woman or African American — perhaps both — as vice president, top sources tell "Axios on HBO." Why it matters: Biden advisers describe a Return to Normal plan — a reversal of President Trump's unorthodox, improvisational style. Biden wants known, trusted people around him — many from the Obama years." Shortlist appears to include: John, Kerry, Elizabeth Warren, Susan Rice, Michael Bloomberg, and Jamie Dimon.

"MSNBC Benches Contributor Who Smeared Bernie Sanders Staffers: Following MSNBC contributor Dr. Jason Johnson's inflammatory remarks about supporters and campaign staffers of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the academic has been temporarily benched by the network, sources confirmed to The Daily Beast. In recent months, Johnson—a fixture of the network's Democratic primary analysis—has drawn considerable heat for his relentlessly anti-Sanders commentary on MSNBC, which has also come under fire from the left for its skeptical and largely negative coverage of the democratic-socialist senator. During an interview last week on SiriusXM's The Karen Hunter Show, Johnson claimed 'racist white liberals' support Sanders and that the senator has done 'nothing for intersectionality.' The MSNBC contributor then took aim at the women of color who work for Sanders. 'I don't care how many people from the island of misfit black girls you throw out there to defend you,' Johnson exclaimed."

"Noam Chomsky: 'Bernie Is Vilified Because He Has Inspired a Movement' [...] First of all we should mention and bear in mind that Margaret Thatcher and the people around Reagan were not fools. They understood that it would be necessary to destroy the labour movements if they wanted to carry through the kinds of policies which were certain to harm the general population, as indeed they have done."

Jake Tapper noticed something. And tells us, by the way, that a Republican operative said they were more afraid of Howard Dean than they were of the "more electable" John Kerry.

Edroso, "Red Assed: Sometimes it seems things are out of control in dazzling new ways, and sometimes it seems they're out of control in ways that are even older than I am. Like did you see that Bernie Sanders, Democratic presidential front-runner, said on TV that Cubans have done alright at health care — which is true! See 'How Cubans Live as Long as Americans at a Tenth of the Cost' — and at literacy programs — which is also true! See 'An adult literacy program developed in Cuba is now being used in more than 30 countries' — and now everyone's acting like he said 'I think gulags are great, you can't have universal health care without gulags, as President I will throw you all in gulags'?"

"Months After Supporting a Deadly Coup, WaPo Admits Bolivia's Elections Were Clean" — Points to the Post for having printed it, but it still leaves out a lot. "Thus, the entire article is presented as an interesting anomaly, rather than evidence of a major international crime."

"Bernie Sanders' Medicare For All Policy Would Likely Increase Wages And Create Jobs, New Economic Analysis Shows [...] Sanders, a progressive senator from Vermont who is currently a close second to former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic frontrunner, has long advocated for a universal or single-payer health care system. Critics argue that such a policy would lead to mass job loss and be an economic drain on the country, but the new analysis published Thursday by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) suggests the opposite would happen. Josh Bivens, EPI's director who conducted the study, wrote in the report that Medicare for All 'would be unambiguously positive' for the labor market in the U.S., leading to a 'boost in wages and salaries' as well as an 'increase in job quality, while producing 'a net increase in jobs.' Although the analysis notes that policymakers should not 'ignore the distress caused by job transitions' due to such a health care reform, Bivens wrote that job losses during a transitional period would be 'relatively small.'"

The Los Angeles Times, "Column: Bernie Sanders isn't going to destroy the Democratic Party. He just might save it [...] After all, most polls say that Sanders can beat Trump. Sanders' polling strength undercuts the oft-repeated claim that he can be destroyed because he calls himself a democratic socialist. Besides, if the Republicans haven't already neutered the word 'socialist' through overuse, they soon will. Also, when he is given the chance, Sanders makes a perfectly cogent case that he is ideologically in tune with most Americans, whether they realize it or not."

For some reason, anti-Berners pretend to care passionately about how Sanders voted on it, so here's a quick refresh: "Why Did Bernie Sanders Vote Against the Magnitsky Act?."

RIP: "Dr. Stanley Dudrick, Who Saved Post-Surgical Patients, Dies at 84: Why were they dying after 'successful' operations? He discovered the cause and came up with a remedy: intravenous nutrition — a technique that has saved millions of lives." He did more, and he never patented any of it because he believed it should be available to everyone. More here

RIP: "Rosalind P. Walter, original 'Rosie the Riveter,' dies at 95: Walter was the inspiration behind the "Rosie the Riveter" song after she spent a year working at the Sikorsky aircraft plant at the age of 19."

RIP: Legendary science fiction fan and pornographer Earl Kemp, 1929-2020, after a fall. He connected with fandom in 1950 and eventually became the president of U of Chicago's SF club. "In 1955, Earl and several other UofCSF Club members started Advent:Publishers with the idea of bringing out critical works about science fiction. Advent's other founders, besides Earl, were Robert Briney, Sidney Coleman, James O'Meara, George Price, Jon Stopa and Ed Wood. Damon Knight had written a goodly number of critical essays for science fiction magazines by then, and it was Earl's idea to assemble them into a book. In 1956, Advent published as its first book Damon Knight's In Search of Wonder. Advent would also publish major nonfiction works such as James Blish's The Issue at Hand, Don Tuck's massive bibliographic Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy to 1968, Robert Bloch's The Eighth Stage of Fandom, as well as Harry Warner, Jr's All Our Yesterdays and Alexei Panshin's Heinlein in Dimension." Here he talks about his famous arrest.

"How To Be A Democrat, According To Republicans: Beware the advice offered by your literal opponent. [...] Republicans have always loved to lecture liberals on what they should be doing, sometimes adopting the pretense of telling them how to win elections. This always takes the form of encouraging them to be more like Republicans. To an easy mark, the offer of advice might seem to display a lack of self-interest that makes it trustworthy. But in the world of American politics, it's a deviously effective strategy. If Republicans can convince Democrats to dilute their identity and abandon their principles, there are two possible results. The first is that they will appear so enfeebled and unreliable to the electorate that they will inevitably lose. The second is that even if they win, they will have become Republicans in the process. Like the scorpion sinking into the river with the frog, Republicans know that this defeat is also in some sense a victory. Yet Democrats fall into this trap over and over again, a tendency that has risen precipitously with the emergence of the so-called #NeverTrump movement. MSNBC is crawling with Republican talking heads; the op-ed pages of major newspapers regularly allow them to address Democrats in the second person.

"The Liberal-Conservative-Socialist Case for Bernie Sanders [...] Even someone committed to reasonableness and conversation can find that their energy flags while arguing with Brooks, his colleagues Bret Stephens and Thomas Friedman, and other never-Sanders avatars of the center. Brooks has seemingly gotten his impression of Sanders from Stephens's columns, not from anyone with first-hand experience of the campaign."

Robert Borosage, "Biden's Not the One: [...] If the Democratic establishment thinks that Joe Biden is a better candidate to run against Donald Trump, they're in for a rude awakening. Joe Biden was less architect than inheritor of his stunning electoral comeback. His sweeping victory in South Carolina was largely orchestrated by the forceful South Carolina Representative James Clyburn. Then the Democratic establishment went all in."

"How 'Bernie Bros' Were Invented, Then Smeared as Sexist, Racist and unAmerican as Borscht [...] Biden's campaign is a reminder that power is indivisible. Donald Trump or Joe Biden for president — it doesn't matter to the power-establishment. An egomaniacal man-child (Trump), representing the billionaires, or an elder suffering rapid neurological degeneration (Biden), representing the billionaires, are equally useful to power. A woman will do too, or a person of colour. The establishment is no longer worried about who stands on stage — so long as that person is not a Bernie Sanders in the US, or a Jeremy Corbyn in the UK."

"Recovered History: America lured, drowned thousands of Cubans: Seems like everyone's slamming Bernie Sanders for saying a few nice things about Cuba and Fidel Castro. Miami's response topped them all, though. The city just announced it's gonna hold a government-funded (yes, government-funded) anti-communist concert dedicated to the people who risked their lives escaping communism. Take that Bernie, you old Judeo-Bolshevik! Speaking of escaping communism. Most people don't know that America had a hand in killing an estimated 77,000 Cubans just in the 1980s and 1990s — that's way more than the total number of Cubans than Castro is accused of killing. [...] Obviously not everyone decided to raft it to freedom because of one-sided CIA propaganda. But it's clear that some — and possibly very, very many — did. Producing disinformation that celebrated the people who made it across safely while being quiet about the ones who didn't — the ones who drowned at sea? Not sure what the relevant legal classification here would be. But to a simple Soviet refugee like me, this is more than callous. It's straight up murder. Publicly, Radio Martí said it cared about the Cuban people. Privately, it knowingly led many to their deaths. Of course the body count from these drownings doesn't include the one racked up by the brutal colonial dictatorship that Fidel Castro overthrew — the one that America supported. But hey, can you really put a price on anti-communism? American history says, 'No.'"

I'm not sure how I ended up getting requests for comment at Quora, but it was interesting to see Vermonters talking about What Vermont residents think of Bernie Sanders.

This is a WaPo link so you might want to use the Incognito Window to read it. "Coronavirus makes the case for Medicare-for-all [...] We're all fixated on the Trump administration's day-late-and-billions-of-dollars-short response to the increasing likelihood that coronavirus will cause a public-health crisis in the United States. But the fact remains that even if the government were fully prepared, many Americans will face another barrier to receiving care that will make the crisis worse."

"Who Moved Tom Friedman's Cheese? I regret to inform you that Tom Friedman has written about electoral politics again. Does he try to filter the Democratic primary through a mediocre 15-year-old bestseller that for some reason middlebrow pundits instantly determined had a lesson that was applicable to obviously inapplicable situations? You know the answer!"

I watched this video and I feel like I just had four years of college in an hour, only without the boring parts: Michael Hudson - Life and Thought: The interview with Professor Michael Hudson was conducted on 7 May 2018 in Beijing, by Professor Lau Kin Chi and Professor Sit Tsui Jade. Professor Hudson talked about his formative years, and his turn to economics from music as he found his mentor Terence McCarthy's speech about economics beautiful and aesthetic. He recalled his experiences in research and teaching, and the background leading to his writing the many books on imperialism, balance of payment, history of debt, and fictitious capital."

Cory Doctorow has moved to his own blog.

Embroidery tattoos

"Listen To This Fascinating WWII Radio Chatter From A Lancaster Crew On A Bombing Raid."

The return of the Dixie Chicks, "Gaslighter".

02:31 GMT comment


Friday, 28 February 2020

Is resistance futile yet?

Bernie's win in Nevada was decisive, with 47% of the vote and 22 of the 36 available delegates. MSNBC had a complete melt-down.

"Full transcript: Ninth Democratic debate in Las Vegas" - I want to see the expressions on their faces, but most people read faster than I do so maybe you prefer this. Still looking for a link to the full debate.

The big take-away from the debate, for some people, was about the feisty performance of Warren, who laid serious gloves on the centrists in the race. Mike Lux says: She's Baaack [...] Elizabeth first got a following in the progressive movement by her searing questioning of Obama Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner: people figured that if she was willing to challenge the Democratic Party's leadership, she would be willing to fight for them on the issues that mattered the most. And when she got to the Senate and was named to the Banking Committee, in her first hearing as Senator, her questioning of a witness was so devastating that the video became the first Banking Committee hearing ever to get over a million views on YouTube. She knows how to be tough. Well, that Elizabeth Warren is back, folks. Maybe with her running from behind and being written off by the pundits, she felt freed up to go back into Socrates with a machine gun mode. I hope she stays there, and that she stays in this race over the long haul. We need that toughness."

A Culinary Union boss tried to scam his workers with a flier fear-mongering over Medicare for All. It didn't work. The flier, tweeted out, got lots of pushback from union members and other defenders of M4A. Naturally, they were all called "BernieBros" and all accused of attacking "the culinary workers' union". Shamefully, Elizabeth Warren jumped onto this bandwagon, but that didn't work, either, and the union workers themselves backed Bernie and helped give him his win. "Culinary Workers Bucked Their Leadership by Backing Bernie Sanders in Nevada. Here's What They Knew."

There was a lot of misreporting of what was going on when the Democratic Party reform committee was working on the new rules, so it's always interesting hearing about it first-hand from Nomiki Konst. "Why does every candidate but Bernie want to keep Superdelegates?"

Also, Nomiki explaining what's wrong with Joy Reid's story about the Platform Committee and the Reform Commission.

And now that Russiagate is being aimed at Bernie, Nomiki's Dispelling Russia-gate: "Bernie Edition" with Aaron Mate is very useful and contains some interesting surprises.

Sam Seder interviews Thom Hartmann on The Hidden History of the War on Voting, and how they're winning that war now. Keep checking your registration regularly, folks!

According to Newsweek, "76 Percent Of Democrats Say They'd Vote For A Socialist For President, New Poll Shows [...] When it came to candidates who were socialists, Democrats were most likely to answer that they would vote for them. Seventy-six percent of Democrats said they would back a socialist candidate, compared with 17 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of independents." The interesting thing is that other polling shows that the percentage of indies who say they would vote for the specific person called Bernie Sanders show he is more popular than this generic socialist is.

McGovern concern trolling is popular again. People forget that no one could have beaten Nixon in 1972. He was a popular president with 60% approval ratings. The economy was genuinely good, because Nixon was no austerian and spent money in the real economy. And George Meany, the powerful union boss, hated McGovern and vowed to make him lose, thus restoring his own power in the party. Meanwhile, Vietnam was the Democrats' war and Nixon claimed that he had a plan to get out. The war created a huge split within the party that hugely weakened it. This article was written before Biden's poor showing in the primaries, but it's still relevant. "Bernie Isn't McGovern. Biden Might Be Humphrey. [...] But the Democrats, as usual, have learned all the wrong lessons from history. McGovern didn't lose because he was too left-wing. He lost because he was confronting a very popular and savvy incumbent in Richard Milhouse Nixon. Even more importantly, McGovern and his left-wing politics rose to the top because the party was confronting a devastating crisis over its prosecution of the Vietnam War. The fissures the war carved in the party made politics as usual an impossibility."

And Robert Kuttner, "Sanders Is Not Another McGovern. I Know — I Worked on McGovern's Campaign. [...] Jim Hightower, a left-wing Democrat who won statewide office in Texas, has noted that within the white middle class, there are more downwardly mobile angry voters who would be more attracted to Sanders's call to shake up the system in a progressive direction than a return to normalcy. The status quo ante doesn't have that much appeal."

The H8%, again with help from Liz Warren, has been pretending Sanders didn't release his health records. Actually, that's a lie.

Old videos of Bernie Sanders allegedly (but not really) praising Fidel Castro are being trotted out again, but "As a Young Cuban-American, I'm Defending Bernie Sanders (OPINION): I am the son of Cuban immigrants. I grew up in South Florida. My grandfather was a political prisoner under Fidel Castro in 1961. He passed away in 2017, and before my grandfather left us, I sat down with him to listen to his stories about his time in the prison camp. That was a deeply emotional conversation, and a day like today makes those memories flash back into my mind. These disingenuous attacks against Bernie Sanders have been deeply offensive and hurtful, as I see these political hacks using my grandfather's suffering and that of other political prisoners to advance their cynical political agenda."

Jesse Jackson in The Chicago Sun Times, "The important word in 'democratic socialism' is 'democratic': Here's the reality. The important word in 'democratic socialism' isn't socialism, it's democratic. Sanders isn't talking about making America into Cuba or Venezuela; he's talking about extending social guarantees like those offered in most other advanced industrial states, invoking Denmark or Sweden. These countries have universal health care at lower cost, paid family leave, guaranteed paid vacations, higher minimum wages, more generous public retirement programs. They also have vibrant and competitive economies, lower inequality, less poverty, and higher life expectancies. Sanders is seeking a popular mandate from voters to move in this direction."

"Why Does Mainstream Media Keep Attacking Bernie Sanders as He Wins?" It really amazing watching some of the derangement - especially major media figures insisting that Bernie Sanders would cheer if commies executed him in Central Park, comparing his supporters to brown shirts, and insisting that winning a primary was like the Nazis taking over France. Some of these people seriously need mental help.

Let's see what Fred Hiatt did this time to earn another America's Worst Editorial Page Editor award from Atrios. "A line-by-line response to Fred Hiatt's pro-oil, anti-Sanders climate op-ed." Fred thinks Sanders is as "unrealistic" as Trump because he doesn't think that a carbon tax, by itself, will solve climate change.

"How Money Works: Why we can pay for nice things!" If only every householder could get the kind of attention the stock market gets from the Fed when they had money troubles....

Vanity Fair, "Get A Grip, Bernie Bed-Wetters: His Message And Media Machine Could Be Potent Against Trump: Socialist Schmocialist. Sanders has a set of political assets—celebrity, fundraising power, committed foot soldiers, media sophistication, relentless consistency—possessed by no one else in the race."

In In These Times, "Barbara Ehrenreich on Her Endorsement of Bernie Sanders and Why Socialism Should Be Fun: In a sprawling interview, Ehrenreich explains why Sanders is her choice for 2020, the joys of radical politics and why there's no time to wait on capitalism to solve the climate crisis."

"Mayor Pete's Health Care Plan Is a Joke: Pete Buttigieg can't stop attacking Medicare for All. But his own health care plan is so bad it borders on the comical." No one ever asks him how he'll pay for it, either, which is pretty rich since he hectored Warren mercilessly about how she'd pay for hers. But the pay-for pales into insignificance in light of the other problems. "This is, in a nutshell, what is wrong with 'technocracy' as it has come to be known in the discourse. What masquerades as technical competence and a light touch is, more often than not, really science fantasy delusions about what a state can actually successfully administer." The extra-large version of the individual mandate doesn't seem like a particularly smart move, either, seeing has how unpopular it already was. And his plan is actually more expensive than Medicare For All, which raises the question of why we should settle for that. It's not as if any public option plan is going to thrill the insurance industry, given how many customers they would still lose, so they will still fight hard against it.

"Opinion: Bernie Sanders isn't a radical — he's a pragmatist who fights to un-rig the system: Sanders would use both markets and government to reverse the upward redistribution of income to the already rich: As Bernie Sanders continues to increase his standing in the Democratic primary, and his opponents in both parties feel the pain, there is an effort to paint him as an extremist of some sort. Someone who might even lose to Trump because of this alleged 'radicalism.' But it's not that easy to make the case on the basis of facts. He has a 40-year track record as a politician. The things he is saying now are mostly what he has shouted from the mountain tops for pretty much the whole time. The main difference is that now, other Democratic politicians have joined him: on a $15 minimum wage, student-debt relief, free tuition at public universities, expanding Social Security, reducing income inequality, and some even on Medicare for All. His actions speak even more consistently than his words: he understands that politics is about compromise. He fights hard for what he has promised to voters, but then takes the best deal he can win if it will advance the ball down the field, and prepares to fight again the next day."

David Dayen, "Tom Perez Should Resign, Preferably Today: Tom Perez should never have been DNC chair. He was used as part of a proxy war between Barack Obama's faction of the establishment and the rest of the party, which was fully ready to move on after the 2016 mess. Both Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer had embraced Keith Ellison, one of Bernie Sanders's top surrogates in 2016, for the position, a show of unity that might have helped rebuild broken bonds within the party. Just as Howard Dean's elevation to DNC chair in 2005 brought insurgents within a broader circle of power, Ellison's victory would have at least attempted a rough union between the Sanders and Clinton forces, and given the party's left wing more of a shot at creating a strong and legitimate message to counter Donald Trump. Obama couldn't handle it. He pressured Perez, who was musing about running for governor in Maryland, into the race, and bore down on the establishment to break with the Ellison unity shtick and accept his preferred candidate. This eventually succeeded, with the help of a party coup in Puerto Rico that delivered Perez all of that delegation's votes. Obama, now a movie studio boss and occasional public speaker, had no personal reason to force Perez on the party. The most logical reading of his rationale would be that he did it for the blob, the network of consultants, strategists, pollsters, lobbyists, policy mandarins, and media figures for whom politics is their business. They didn't want the spigot to close on the hundreds of millions of dollars that flow through campaigns, and they needed to eliminate the threat of a gatekeeper like Ellison, who might have different ideas. So Perez was installed. The disastrous past week of Democratic politics is the result, deeply damaging the perceived competence of a party that is attempting to ask the American people to put them back in power to engage in activist government. The Iowa results weren't just one snafu but part of a pattern of self-dealing and stupidity within a party elite that's more concerned with staying in power than taking power."

"Emily's List Weighs In Hard In Texas Primary — Against A Leading Woman In The Trump Resistance: EMILY'S LIST IS dumping big money into an upcoming Democratic primary in Texas's 7th Congressional District, pitting the women's group against a pro-choice woman who was, in the months after the election of Donald Trump, a face of the resistance. Laura Moser, as creator of the popular text-messaging program Daily Action, gave hundreds of thousands of despondent progressives a single political action to take each day. Her project was emblematic of the new energy forming around the movement against Trump, led primarily by women and often by moms. (Moser is both.) It was those types of activists EMILY's List spent 2017 encouraging to make first-time bids for office. But that doesn't mean EMILY's List will get behind them. Also running is Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, a corporate lawyer who is backed by Houston mega-donor Sherry Merfish. EMILY's List endorsed her in November."

"Michael Bloomberg Is Legitimately Dangerous [...] Bloomberg is poaching staffers from smaller races, paying well above market rate and offering huge perks like housing and free laptops and iPhones. What's really terrible is that it sounds like he's repeatedly done this right before those candidates' elections or other critical points in their campaign, 'hobbling their political program,' as one operative put it, and leading to the election of Republican opponents."

"When Bloomberg News's Reporting on China Was Challenged, Bloomberg Tried to Ruin Me for Speaking Out: I AM ONE of the many women Mike Bloomberg's company tried to silence through nondisclosure agreements. The funny thing is, I never even worked for Bloomberg. But my story shows the lengths that the Bloomberg machine will go to in order to avoid offending Beijing. Bloomberg's company, Bloomberg LP, is so dependent on the vast China market for its business that its lawyers threatened to devastate my family financially if I didn't sign an NDA silencing me about how Bloomberg News killed a story critical of Chinese Communist Party leaders. It was only when I hired Edward Snowden's lawyers in Hong Kong that Bloomberg LP eventually called off their hounds after many attempts to intimidate me."

"Mike Bloomberg is not the lesser of two evils [...] Does this sound like a guy who would do anything substantial to reverse Trump's worst policies? If we're lucky, he might reverse the Muslim ban and let a few people out of the CBP camps. If we're not, he'll implement a much quieter and more effective version of the same policies, and partisan Democrats will reverse-engineer justifications for these being somehow necessary (or just ignore them, as they did during the Obama years). Recall that Bloomberg once argued that every Social Security card should have fingerprints so unauthorized immigrants would be unable to get jobs. [...] Given his wretched politics, even Bloomberg's superior competence is a mark against him. Right now one tiny silver lining of the Trump administration is that the people trying to commit atrocities through the federal bureaucracy are so inept they keep fumbling the legal procedures and getting stopped in the courts. Bloomberg is sure to appoint competent authoritarian maniacs."

"A Republican Plutocrat Tries To Buy The Democratic Nomination: No Democrat should consider Michael Bloomberg as a candidate. The idea of Michael Bloomberg becoming the Democratic presidential nominee should be too absurd to even consider seriously. For one thing, he is a conservative who openly believes that the poor should be ruled over by the super-rich and is trying to buy the nomination outright. He has a history of saying monstrously offensive things about women and transgender people, and oversaw an infamous racist police regime that terrorized Black and Hispanic New Yorkers. If he did somehow manage to spend his way to the nomination, bypassing the democratic process, it would be such an outrage—and so demoralizing to the Democratic base—that it would guarantee Trump's reelection. If the choice were between two sexist billionaires who hate the poor, how many young people would drag themselves to the polls to support 'our side's' billionaire? It would permanently disillusion an entire generation and vindicate every cynical theory of politics as a domain where money rules absolutely. But, troublingly, Michael Bloomberg's candidacy has not entirely been laughed out of the room. [...] "

In USA Today, Stop Bloomberg. He's showing billionaires how to buy the presidency and it's dangerous. How far would you go to get rid of President Donald Trump? Would you give up any pretense that we live in a democracy of the people, by the people, for the people? That seems to be the bet Mike Bloomberg is making. [...] While it might feel comforting to have our self-made real billionaire beat the spray tan off the fake mismanager of his daddy's wealth, here's the spoiler: You don't have any billionaires; they have you. And once they figure out it's easier and cheaper to buy the presidency than an NFL franchise, the excesses of Trump — or even King George III — will seem trivial in comparison."

Peter Beinart in The Atlantic, "Regular Democrats Just Aren't Worried About Bernie: Many in the party elite remain deeply skeptical of the Vermont senator, but rank-and-file voters do not share that hesitation. [...] Judging by media coverage and the comments of party luminaries, you might think Democrats are bitterly polarized over Bernie Sanders's presidential bid. Last month, Hillary Clinton declared that 'nobody likes' the Vermont senator. Last week, James Carville, who ran Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign, said he was 'scared to death' of the Sanders campaign, which he likened to 'a cult.' Since the beginning of the year, news organization after news organization has speculated that Sanders's success may set off a Democratic 'civil war.' But polls of Democratic voters show nothing of the sort. Among ordinary Democrats, Sanders is strikingly popular, even with voters who favor his rivals. He sparks less opposition—in some cases far less—than his major competitors. On paper, he appears well positioned to unify the party should he win its presidential nomination. So why all the talk of civil war? Because Sanders is far more divisive among Democratic elites—who prize institutional loyalty and ideological moderation—than Democratic voters. The danger is that by projecting their own anxieties onto rank-and-file Democrats, party insiders are exaggerating the risk of a schism if Sanders wins the nomination, and overlooking the greater risk that the party could fracture if they engineer his defeat."

"AT&T is doing exactly what it told Congress it wouldn't do with Time Warner: AT&T's decision to prevent Time Warner-owned shows from streaming on Netflix and other non-AT&T services reduced the company's quarterly revenue by $1.2 billion, a sacrifice that AT&T is making to give its planned HBO Max service more exclusive content. AT&T took the $1.2-billion hit despite previously telling Congress that it would not restrict distribution of Time Warner content, claiming that would be 'irrational business behavior.'" And no one is surprised — they asked for it, they got it, and of course they asked for it because they planned to use it.

"AIPAC Is Helping Fund Anti-Bernie Sanders Super PAC Ads In Nevada: THE AMERICAN ISRAEL Public Affairs Committee is helping to fund a Super PAC launching attack ads against Sen. Bernie Sanders in Nevada on Saturday, according to two sources with knowledge of the arrangement. The ads are being run by a group called Democratic Majority for Israel, founded by longtime AIPAC strategist Mark Mellman. The Nevada attack ads, which will air in media markets in Reno and Las Vegas, follow a similar spending blitz by DMFI ahead of the Iowa caucuses. Like the ads that aired in Iowa, the Nevada ads will attack Sanders on the idea that he's not electable, Mediaite reported."

"Feminist Scholar Barbara Smith on Identity Politics & Why She Supports Bernie Sanders for President [...] The reason I support Bernie Sanders is because of the fact that he has a theory of change. You know, that's a popular phrase now. He has an understanding of like why things are not working in our U.S. society, and he has ideas like Medicare and healthcare for all, like changing the criminal justice system, like having access to college for all young people and not just for those who are privileged. He has good ideas about how we can actually fulfill that promise that the Founders supposedly put out, in their very flawed way, since they didn't really include people like me. They didn't include women. They didn't include black people. But they had some great ideas about freedom and justice for all. He has the plans. He has the passion and the compassion. He has the base of support, which is much more diverse than, I think, any of the other candidate at this point."

In The New Republic, "The Obsolete Politics of James Carville: The Clinton-era avatar of respectable Democratic politics continues to confuse elite opinion with public sentiment [...] Times change, however. At present, Carville represents much that's wrong with the Democratic Party—its refusal to learn from its mistakes; its obsession with appealing to wealthy suburbanites while telling its traditional base of the working class and people of color to suck it up because the Republicans are worse; its preference for the performative over the substantive (Pelosi ripped the speech!); and, above all else, the belief that 'operatives' and 'consultants' know the pulse of the nation and can soothsay the will of the common man. [...] Carville is the most skilled practitioner of a hobby common to his social and political stratum: ascribing to 'the working class'—or simply 'voters'—a resistance to any kind of change that inconveniences people like James Carville. Simply put, his performances seek to demonstrate the remarkable coincidence that 'voters,' particularly of the central casting Average Joe variety, dislike all of the same things he dislikes."

Everyone is posting this study but just for the record, "Medicare For All Would Save $450 Billion Annually While Preventing 68,000 Deaths, New Study Shows: The Medicare For All plan proposed by Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren would save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars each year and would prevent tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths, a new study shows. The analysis, conducted by researchers at Yale University, the University of Florida and the University of Maryland, found that transitioning the U.S. to a single-payer health care system would actually save an estimated $450 billion each year, with the average American family seeing about $2,400 in annual savings. The research, which was published Saturday in the medical journal The Lancet, also found that Medicare for all would prevent about 68,000 unnecessary deaths per year. 'Our study is actually conservative because it doesn't factor in the lives saved among underinsured Americans—which includes anyone who nominally has insurance but has postponed or foregone care because they couldn't afford the copays and deductibles,' Alison Galvani, an author of the study and researcher at the Center for Infectious Disease Modeling and Analysis at the Yale School of Public Health, told Newsweek."

Dday, "Welcome to the Bullshit Economy: The Iowa caucus disaster is a function of a broken economic structure that rewards con artistry over competence. [...] But the spectacle has highlighted a much more consequential problem in America, something I have called the bullshit economy. We've seen elements of it all over the place. When MoviePass offers unlimited screenings for ten bucks a month, when Uber gets an $82 billion valuation for a low-margin taxi business it has never made a dime on, when WeWork implodes after the slightest scrutiny into its numbers, that's the bullshit economy at work. We have seen the farcical bullshit of Juicero and the consequential bullshit of Theranos. Even at the highest levels, bullshit pervades, in fraudulent advertising metrics and fake numbers peddled to convince the world to siphon cash through Facebook and Google's dominant platforms. So many counterfeit goods pass through Amazon that the site might get listed on the U.S. Trade Representative Office's 'Notorious Markets' list. We have endured the more comprehensive bullshit of the financial industry marking corporate progress by manipulated stock prices and air rather than productive advances for society. We had a financial crisis based on bullshitters telling us housing prices would endlessly rise. We have the bullshit of the private equity industry extracting value from companies through the skillful use of debt and other financial engineering, without regard for whether the companies succeed or fail."

Also Dday, "Michael Bloomberg and the Dangers of 'Any Blue Will Do' Politics: The presidential candidate is a mirror image of Trump. [...] And I'm going to say something controversial. There has been plenty of conjecture over whether a Trump-like figure could take over the Democratic Party. And I would say with Bloomberg that we're about to find out. The cries of 'Bloomberg is not Trump!' will rain down on me now, and, of course, he's not. But there are a disturbing number of similarities. We have a figure without connections or the same value system as the party he seeks to represent, with racial and sexist skeletons in his closet, and a penchant for subverting democracy and showing contempt toward the rule of law. Democrats who are acting as pundits and thinking that Bloomberg offers the most certain close to the Trump era are playing with a stick of dynamite. [...] Too many Democrats have spent the Trump era looking for a Republican 'daddy' to rein in the toddler-in-chief and restore both Republican and American decency. From John Bolton and James Mattis to Jeff Flake and Mitt Romney, surely some conservative with courage and self-respect would step up and straighten things out. I think it would be a disaster to extend this delusion by actually nominating a Republican to lead the Democratic Party."

In which George Soros writes a letter to The Financial Times demanding the temporary removal of Zuckerberg and Sandberg until the general election is over.

"'Utterly Shameful': Pelosi Slammed for Boosting Koch-Backed Texas Democrat Over Progressive Challenger Jessica Cisneros: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stirred outrage Saturday by visiting Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar at his campaign headquarters in Laredo and voicing hope that the Koch-backed, anti-choice Democrat will ride to a "resounding victory" over progressive primary challenger Jessica Cisneros on March 3." Also, why is his SuperPAC called "Voter Protection Project" instead of Cuueller SuperPAC?

FAIR, "Factchecking NPR's Attempted Takedown of Bernie Sanders" - My favorite bit is this one: "As the two journalists continued to chat, Liasson took closer aim at Sanders, stating with bold authority that 'you don't even need to do the research part of oppo-research because his policy positions are opposed by big majorities of Americans.' Clearly, these journalists did little to no research preparing for this important broadcast. So many polls have documented what the public thinks about Sanders' policy positions, and the evidence is overwhelming: From a wealth tax to minimum wage, they are extremely popular."

"Joe Biden, Ukraine, nazis, John Conyers and the fall election" — Russ Bellant, an award winning journalist and author of Old Nazis in the Republican Party, says that the story of the Bidens and Ukrain is a lot more complicated than we know, and there are no good guys.

Oh, my The Washington Post admits, "Bolivia dismissed its October elections as fraudulent. Our research found no reason to suspect fraud. Bolivians will hold a new election in May — without ousted president Evo Morales As Bolivia gears up for a do-over election on May 3, the country remains in unrest following the Nov. 10 military-backed coup against incumbent President Evo Morales. A quick recap: Morales claimed victory in October's election, but the opposition protested about what it called electoral fraud. A Nov. 10 report from the Organization of American States (OAS) noted election irregularities, which 'leads the technical audit team to question the integrity of the results of the election on October 20.' Police then joined the protests and Morales sought asylum in Mexico. The military-installed government charged Morales with sedition and terrorism. A European Union monitoring report noted that some 40 former electoral officials have been arrested and face criminal charges of sedition and subversion, and 35 people have died in the post-electoral conflict. The highest-polling presidential candidate, a member of Morales's Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS-IPSP) party, has received a summons from prosecutors for undisclosed crimes, a move some analysts suspect was aimed to keep him off the ballot. The media has largely reported the allegations of fraud as fact. And many commentators have justified the coup as a response to electoral fraud by MAS-IPSP. However, as specialists in election integrity, we find that the statistical evidence does not support the claim of fraud in Bolivia's October election."

RIP: Derek Fowlds, 82: "The actor Derek Fowlds, who has died aged 82, enjoyed long-running stardom on the small screen in popular TV shows ranging from children's programmes to sitcom and drama." And most vividly remembered by me from Yes, Minister.

RIP: "Legendary Rock Poster Artist Bonnie MacLean Dead at 80." Those iconic Fillmore posters were instantly recognizable to us all.

This article is by a career Bernie-hating journalist — it's what he does — but it's pretty clear that Bernie had an important role is preventing Obama from passing chained CPI, and thus saving many lives and homes. "The Hidden History of Sanders's Plot to Primary Obama." I liked Atrios' take on the portrayal of the argument between Obama and Sanders over chained CPI when Obama responded to Sanders' opposition by saying, "'You're acting like I'm the enemy.' Obama was trying to say, 'I hear you that you want this revolution, but explain to me, how's this going to happen?" Atrios: "Not cutting Social Security is a fucking revolution." Luckily, Sanders' "revolution" won.

Just for the record, Glenn Greenwald answered the whole BernieBro scam four years ago with "The 'Bernie Bros' Narrative: a Cheap Campaign Tactic Masquerading as Journalism and Social Activism."

"Norway Is Far More Socialist Than Venezuela." Of course, our right-wing pundits are happy to make bold statements about what makes Venezuela "socialist" without actually making the comparison with other countries.

"How Bernie Sanders Should Talk About Venezuela and US Intervention in Latin America [...] As mayor of Burlington in the 1980s he found time in between initiatives to build affordable housing and transition the Burlington Electric Department to renewable energy to speak out against Reagan's dirty war in Nicaragua. He needs to draw on that understanding now, using silly red-baiting questions about Venezuela as an opportunity to talk about how and why he would pursue a foreign policy as president that would be fundamentally different from that of any of his predecessors."

"'Bernie or Bust' Voters Have a Point [...] Yes, it sounds like ugly hostage taking—not a brilliant persuasive strategy but a crude ego-boosting exercise for a group of leftists who can't resist the impulse to lord some power over an electorate that doesn't normally consider them relevant. But that's exactly what makes it so normal, even understandable, in a depressing 'we're all human' sort of way. Because the truth is this: Every threat these Sanders stans are explicitly making is one the venerated Centrist Swing Voter makes implicitly—and isn't judged for. The centrist never even has to articulate his threat. The media narrates it for him. 'What does the swing voter want?' is the kind of question that rescues this brand of voter from owning or even admitting any moral consequences at all. The question is framed as sensible, and so is its subject. The swing voter—which, let's be clear, is diminishing in this political landscape—is typically treated as the antithesis of a Bernie stan: as a rational and passionless subject (as if contemplating just not voting in an election were a morally neutral choice). That the swing voter is arguably worse than the Bernie or Bust crew—in that in lieu of just staying home and not voting at all, he might actually vote for the other guy—doesn't even register. That's how accustomed we all are to being held hostage to the centrist concerns. As for leftists, who are undeniably real? Well, the Democratic machine has never wondered what they thought; it's simply taken them for granted. After all, who else are they going to vote for?"

"Make America Radical Again: A Conversation with Harvey J. Kaye [...] Harvey Kaye: We're confronting not only the Trump Administration and a truly corrupt and reactionary political regime, but also 45 years of corporate class war from above — a class war that is not just economic for it involves assaults on the rights of workers, women, and people of color — a class war that not only conservative and reactionary Republicans but also neoliberal Democrats have advanced. All of which led to the Trump presidency... And we now face a crisis...."

"The Problem with Alinsky: Saul Alinsky's work formed the intellectual basis of what we call community organising today — but his ideas were deeply hostile to the Left, and should be treated with caution."

Joanna Russ' papers are online, including her correspondence with James Tiptree, Jr./Alice Sheldon.

Just in case you didn't have enough podcasts to listen to, let me recommend You're Wrong About, which tells you a lot of things you didn't know about our cultural stories and how most people have it all wrong.

"Opinion Rhapsody" is pretty well done.

"Someone Built a Distraction-Free Cellphone With a Working Old-School Rotary Dial."

Peter Parker finally gets his driver's licence.

00:51 GMT comment


Thursday, 13 February 2020

Now I know you're not the only starfish in the sea

Bernie won New Hampshire, but it doesn't seem he gets more delegates out of it than second-placer Buttigieg. Klobuchar obviously got some mileage from all that media love, leaving Warren and Biden distant fourth and fifth, respectively. Meanwhile, Yang dropped out and Tom Steyer appears to be teetering on the brink. (Naturally, the headlines are all about Amy and Pete, not Bernie's win.)

It's still unclear who officially won the Democratic caucuses in Iowa, despite Sanders having more votes in both the first and second round. Buttigieg declared victory first with 0% reporting, then later with 38% of the vote still unreported and the news media seemed happy to let him, but even with the convoluted reasoning they use, his lead was drying up as a few more of the late-reporters started coming in. And then Tom Perez said they needed a re-caucus. The facts we have: Sanders got the most votes. But doesn't get the most delegates.

R.J. Eskow, "Iowa Wasn't a Technology Failure. It Was a Failure of Democratic Values. This kind of behavior undercuts the Democratic Party politically. To put it in today's corporatized vocabulary, "democracy" is the party's brand—and lately they've been trashing it. [...] On its face, the level of incompetence leading up to the Iowa fiasco seems almost incomprehensible. First, a party that has spent the last three years talking about data hacking took a manual process and shifted it onto on one of the most hackable devices in the world: a cell phone. Then, having created a vulnerability where there had been none, it spent more money protecting itself from this self-created vulnerability. The technology in question was then rushed into production without proper training for its users, when the stakes for democracy were high—and the whole world was watching. Crazy, right? Actually, no. It all makes perfect sense—once you realized that the software was only a secondary concern for the people involved. Max Blumenthal reports that Shadow Inc, the software company that produced the app, had ties to the Buttigieg campaign both as a contractor and (through its top funder) as a donor. ( 'Shadow Inc'? Really? Were all the best evil names taken, like 'Spectre' and 'Hydra?') Shadow Inc's website says that its employees are veterans of the Clinton and Obama campaigns, as well as the DNC—although, like the Men in Black, it refuses to identify its operatives by name. This reinforces the sense of an insider clique with an interest in the caucus results, rather than a team of the most qualified tech experts. As Blumenthal observes, 'the conspiracy theories write themselves.' The technology failed, but the deal-making worked just fine. Its underlying purpose wasn't to produce an app, or any other product. The deal was the product. The app was merely the residue of an agreed-upon cash transfer among insiders. Its functionality was a secondary concern."

"Sam Seder RIPS Into Iowa Caucus App and Democratic Swamp." — You could say we got Mooked again.

FiveThirtyEight shows Sanders now leading nationally, though RealClearPolitics tells a different story with Biden still slightly ahead of him, and Bloomberg ahead of him.

It's worth right-clicking this link for an incognito window to see just how dangerous McKinsey Pete really is: "Buttigieg health plan hinges on 'supercharged' version of unpopular Obamacare mandate: Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg sells his health-care plan as a moderate alternative to Medicare-for-all — offering a government-sponsored plan to those who want it while letting others keep their private and employer-sponsored insurance. But the South Bend, Ind., mayor's plan has a catch: If you choose not to enroll in any coverage, you could still be on the hook for thousands of dollars. Under Buttigieg's proposal, Americans who lack coverage would be automatically enrolled in the government plan, potentially saddling them with a big bill at the end of the year for 'retroactive' coverage. [...] 'Instead of paying a $695 fine at the end of the year for being uninsured, you are hit with a bill to pay an entire year of premiums that could be ten times that amount,' he said. 'This will be a political nightmare.'"

Joseph Stiglitz, "The Truth About the Trump Economy." Wages are still low, Americans are dying of "diseases of despair" in record numbers, but the Democrats, for some reason, let Trump go on crowing about his "great" economy as if it were true. I wonder why that is?

"Bernie Sanders leads Donald Trump in polls, even when you remind people he's a socialist" - being called a socialist in polls doesn't seem to hurt Sanders much - maybe even less than being called a Democrat.

At The Toledo Blade, recognition that Trump will have a hard time getting under Sanders' skin, "How Bernie Sanders hangs in: THE BIGGEST national political story of the holidays was a sleeper: the resilience of Bernie Sanders. After flirtations with various new flavors and saviors — Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, to name two — the two old white guys are still standing and, in polling terms, stronger than ever. Even the promise of Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg has faded. But whereas Joe Biden seems permanently diminished by his own verbal and intellectual confusion and by his son's self-dealing, Bernie is getting stronger."

"'We Will Not Be Intimidated': Journalist Glenn Greenwald Defiant After Being Charged With Cybercrimes By Right-Wing Bolsonaro Brazilian Government: Journalist Glenn Greenwald hit back after being charged with cybercrimes by Brazilian authorities Tuesday in connection to his reporting on corruption in the country, saying he would fight to defend the right to a free press and his right to report the truth. [...] The move to charge Greenwald by the right-wing government of President Jair Bolsonaro was quickly and forcefully condemned by progressives and journalists around the world. [...] Prosecutors claim that Greenwald—who has lived in Brazil with his husband, David Miranda, for many years—is at the center of a "criminal conspiracy" to hack cellphones of government officials."

Tom Perez ensures tilted scales by nominating staunch anti-Bernie people to the 2020 Democratic National Convention committees. Have a look at who those people are.

The New Republic, "Tom Perez Stacks the DNC Deck Against Progressives: A rogues' gallery of influence-peddlers and insider power brokers will run the party's powerful convention committees.." I think what irritates me most is remembering all those people who insisted that we shouldn't be upset about how Perez was inserted into the race against Ellison because after all the head of the DNC has no power to do anything.

The DNC changed the rules for the debates to allow a Republican, Michael Bloomberg, to participate. This inspired The Onion, "DNC Mulls Asking Donald Trump To Run As Democrat In Effort To Stop Sanders [...] 'He's obviously not our first choice, but Trump has a track record of winning elections, not to mention he does well with the conservative voters we'll need to swing some red states blue—if that's who we need to ask to ensure Bernie doesn't win, we'll do it,' said DNC chairman Tom Perez, who had circled Trump's name on a white board listing dozens of potential candidates the party could try to convince to jump into the Democratic Party primaries in order to obstruct a Sanders nomination."

"The Stop Bernie Movement Is Inherently Anti-American," but one thing I like about the Stop Bernie movement is that they have ads that probably convince more normal people to vote for him.

"Why the centrist extremists are an incredibly dangerous political animal" — mainly because they have a constituency of about 3.8% of the population and keep trying to pretend they are the entire voting public except for a few "extremist crackpots, when in fact those "extremists" make up nearly three-quarters of the electorate.

The Onion, "Liberals Say Sanders's Acceptance Of Rogan Endorsement Sends Dangerous Message He Trying To Win Election [...] Griffin added that it was even more disturbing that Sanders would attempt this during an election year."

End of Blame Game: Sanders (and His Supporters) Helped Hillary Win Popular Vote in 2016: Sanders voters were an indispensable contribution to her popular vote tallies. [...] If Sanders voters hadn't voted for Clinton, she would have lost. Badly. Not just the national popular vote either.....Clinton would have lost all the states she lost anyway but by larger margins, and would have also lost New Hampshire, New Mexico and Minnesota by even the more expansive figure, Virginia"

"Hillary Clinton is still trying to sell herself as a feminist icon. Don't buy it: The real issue of 'representation' isn't that there aren't enough powerful women. It's that what is represented as feminism is actually corporatism."

She has actually vaguely walked back on what the headline here is, but it's really not about that, anyway, but about the dishonestly of Clinton's claims. "Hillary Clinton Won't Commit to Endorsing Sanders If He Wins Nomination [...] It is true that Bernie Sanders has been in Congress for years and that Jeff Merkley was the only senator to endorse him in the 2016 primary. But everything else Clinton says here is false. Eight members of Congress have endorsed the Vermont senator this cycle, including the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and three of the House's most prominent first-term congresswomen. The fact that these lawmakers have rallied to Sanders's side — despite the presence of another viable progressive candidate in the race — suggests that they have a high-level of interest in working with him." [...] The notion that Sanders 'got nothing done' over his long tenure in Washington is also untrue. During his 16 years in the House, Sanders passed more amendments than any other member of Congress, shoehorning small progressive wins into must-pass legislation." The come-back to this is always some variation on, "Oh, just amendments. Anybody could do that." They never realize that this raises the question: Why didn't they? Why did Bernie Sanders have to be the one to write and get passed over 90 amendments? Why didn't Hillary Clinton write and pass even one amendment? Bernie wrote amendments and got a lot of good things done - and they didn't. Why is that?

"Key House Democrat says Perez must go: 'He doesn't lead on anything': A top Democratic voice on election reform is calling for the ouster of Tom Perez, the powerful chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) who has come under fire following the Iowa caucuses. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), chairwoman of the House Administration Committee's subpanel on elections, said Perez has failed to take responsibility for the Iowa vote-counting debacle as it unfolded this week, instead shifting blame on lower-ranking party leaders in Des Moines. [...] Fudge, the former head of the Congressional Black Caucus, also accused Perez of neglecting DNC promises to diversify the organization with more minority leaders, citing as an example the DNC's recent personnel shake up in Milwaukee, where the Democrats are set to hold their convention in July. [...] Fudge also went after Perez over reports that the DNC had approved — and later retracted — a lucrative exit package for the chairman and two of his top deputies."

You know, I can't help the feeling that Matt Yglesias is starting to feel the Bern. "Bernie Sanders showed us he's a very skilled politician: He's a much savvier operator than the establishment gives him credit for."

RIP: "Hamish Macbeth and Agatha Raisin creator MC Beaton dies aged 83 Marion Chesney Gibbons, who wrote under the pseudonym MC Beaton, was the prolific author of the Hamish Macbeth and Agatha Raisin crime novels." - I never read the books, but I loved the TV show and, of course, that's where we discovered Robert Carlyle.

RIP: Kirk Douglas at 103: "No actor now would dare to perform with the zest and belief that drove him. In Douglas, we can recognise a kind of acting that seems as antique, as 'period', precious and charming as the way the Gish sisters fluttered their hands and widened their eyes in the silent era. No one now is capable of the fun that Douglas had, or all the conviction he brought to good work and garbage alike. But he was Kirk Douglas — and others were not." He was also the last surviving cast member of the 1954 film 20,000 Under the Sea.

Robert Kuttner in The American Prospect, "Was Putin Inevitable?: How policy blunders under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush helped bring about a post-communist Russia hostile to democracy, free markets, and the West [...] The Western officials who inflicted raw, uncushioned shock therapy on Russia's economy and needlessly treated Russia as a defeated enemy rather than a new security partner virtually invited a nationalist reaction likely to produce a Vladimir Putin or someone like him. This observation doesn't make Putin a good guy. Quite the contrary: He is a thug, an autocrat, and an ally of kleptocrats. But the history shows that the twin conceits of America as sole superpower and abrupt marketization as the cure for communism interacted to create a needless catastrophe that ranks with the Treaty of Versailles. The fact that an American president has been enlisted as Putin's agent only deepens the disaster. The rise of Hitler, at least, paralleled the ascent of Roosevelt."

"Thomas Frank: Bill Clinton's Five Major Achievements Were Longstanding GOP Objectives [...] Clinton never had a really great relationship with workers' organizations, but the worst thing Clinton he did to them was NAFTA. There were many trade agreements, of course, but NAFTA was the one that mattered, both because it was the first one and because labor put everything into stopping it. Indeed labor had stopped it when George H. W. Bush tried to get it through Congress. Clinton got it done, however, with a little muscle and a vast fog of preposterous claims about how NAFTA would increase exports and manufacturing employment. His admirers saw NAFTA as his 'finest hour,; because he had stood up to a traditional Democratic constituency. What an achievement. NAFTA handed employers all over America the ultimate weapon against workers: They could now credibly threaten to pick up and leave at the slightest show of worker backbone — and they make such threats all the time now."

Thom Hartmann, "The Republican Party has been running a long con on America since Reagan's inauguration, and somehow our nation's media has missed it — even though it was announced in The Wall Street Journal in the 1970s and the GOP has clung tenaciously to it ever since.: This scam has been killing wages and enriching billionaires for decades [...] First, when Republicans control the federal government, and particularly the White House, spend money like a drunken sailor and run up the US debt as far and as fast as possible. This produces three results — it stimulates the economy thus making people think that the GOP can produce a good economy, it raises the debt dramatically, and it makes people think that Republicans are the 'tax-cut Santa Claus.' Second, when a Democrat is in the White House, scream about the national debt as loudly and frantically as possible, freaking out about how 'our children will have to pay for it!' and 'we have to cut spending to solve the crisis!' This will force the Democrats in power to cut their own social safety net programs, thus shooting their welfare-of-the-American-people Santa Claus."

"2 truths and 31 lies Joe Biden has told about his work in the Civil Rights Movement: Since the early 1970s, Joe Biden has been a serial liar when it comes to his "work" in the Civil Rights Movement. It's the equivalent of stolen valor and is fundamentally disqualifying. [...] Temporarily, Joe Biden paid a price for most of those lies, but was never fully held to account for the worst of them all. On the backs of people who actually paid an enormous price for being activists and organizers in the Civil Rights Movement, Joe Biden created a completely false narrative of his work and contributions to the movement that persists to this very day. Instead of plagiarized speeches, he was plagiarizing details about his actual life. He not only told these lies in previous generations, they have now fully returned to his current stump speeches in churches and venues around the country as if he never acknowledged and apologized for them in the past. It's shameful. Below is a full accounting of every lie Joe Biden has told about his work in the Civil Rights Movement. First, though, we must begin with two truths."

"Ep. 10: Reconsidering Ralph (feat. Ralph Nader) ["RUMBLE with Michael Moore" podcast]" - in which Michael recalls asking Al Gore if he blamed Nader for his loss, and Gore said, "Absolutely not. I blame me."

Nick Hanauer's Pitchfork Economics: "How Neoliberalism Captured Democrats (With James Kwak)" Recommended.

"The Enemies of Truth: What is George Packer so afraid of?" This is a marvelous essay about the distinction between self-important journalists who think they're too good to take criticism from their readers and journalists who actually try to get the job done. "As Packer reminds us, Hitchens once said that 'views do not really count.' 'It matters not what you think,' he said, 'but how you think.' The remark is important because it is wrong. The views counted a great deal to the Iraqis. By the time the bombs fell, it mattered little how many strokes of the chin sent them down. And that is why a writer's ultimate obligation isn't to any particular mode of discourse, but to the truth."

A great deal of how Democrats behave is down to one thing: "It's Intimidation, Not 'Moderation' [...] One early line stood out to me, 'Democrats are afraid of appearing weak on defense.' This line says so much about our national discourse. We are so used to hearing it. Democrats do things because they are afraid of how things they do and say will 'appear.' They don't want to 'be seen as' holding certain positions that trigger a certain response. Just how does that 'appearance' reach the public? Through our nation's information channels. Think about this. In a supposed democracy members of the country's majority party are 'afraid' of how they will be 'made to appear' if they do not conform to certain positions."

New from Ansible Editions, Homefront: Fandom in the UK: 1939-1945. "Another massive fanhistorical compilation by Rob Hansen, this time focusing on British fandom during World War Two. Homefront brings together a great many first-hand accounts of wartime experience through fannish eyes, showing how the lines of communication between fans continued during that huge national disruption — and so, somehow, did the fannish sense of humour. Ansible Editions ebook added to the TAFF free library on 1 February 2020. 161,500 words." Comes with an online photogallery.

In which Walt Willis invents Nudgism.

The Cyrkle, "Red Rubber Ball"

05:59 GMT comment


Friday, 24 January 2020

Another runaway post

You can see more pretty oils by Zingitis here.

Digby has a new address.

Michael Moore's podcast, Rumble, has an interview with Anand Giridharadas about how the incredibly rich scam us into giving up more and more of our lives, and try to get us to love them for it, "Please Let Me Rob You, I'm Woke. [...] But what happens when the very people hoarding this wealth at the expense of democracy, the environment and an equitable society, re-brand themselves as the people who will fix society's problems? What happens when the arsonists pose as the firefighters?"

"Virginia Votes to Ratify ERA, Setting Up Likely Legal Battle: Court ruling or congressional action likely needed to override 1982 deadline Virginia on Wednesday became the 38th state to vote to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, teeing up an expected legal battle over whether the approval counts. The Trump administration has said the ratification deadline expired by 1982, a decade after Congress first passed the ERA, which would enshrine women's equality in the U.S. Constitution. It may take a court ruling or congressional action to override that decision and determine whether the vote in Virginia, which pushed the number of ERA-approving states across a necessary three-fourths threshold, should lead to amending the Constitution.:" Well, I wasn't expecting that headline at this late date!

"Bernie Sanders leads Donald Trump by widest margin of all 2020 candidates: election poll: SurveyUSA asked 4,069 registered voters nationwide how they would vote in an election today if Trump was pitted against each of the 2020 candidates in the Democratic race. The progressive Vermont independent came out on top. The poll found that 52 percent of voters would choose Sanders and 43 percent Trump, giving the veteran senator a nine-point lead. Next was former vice president Joe Biden at 50 percent to Trump's 43 percent, a seven-point lead."

Hillary Clinton came out to lead her hate-fest against Bernie Sanders again, claiming no one likes him and he can't build coalitions. The Atlantic debunked this one ages ago, showing that Democrats and Republicans alike have praised him on this very thing. Not that it should be necessary, since, as surely everyone knows, Bernie Sanders was co-founder of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and chaired it for its first eight years, so it sure looks like he is used to working with others. But even Peter and Leela Daou, having come to their senses and remembered what they actually believe in after getting wound up defending Hillary for two years, came right out in public to say that, "I worked for Hillary Clinton. Her attacks on Bernie Sanders are a big mistake: Why is Clinton amplifying destructive myths about Sanders and his supporters just weeks before the primaries begin?"

"S. Carolina elected official now backing Sanders over Biden: COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina elected official who endorsed Joe Biden last month is switching her allegiance to Bernie Sanders in the state's first-in-the-South presidential primary, saying she had viewed the former vice president — whose support in the state is considered deep -- as 'a compromise choice.' Dalhi Myers told The Associated Press on Wednesday that she was making the change in part because she values what she sees as Sanders' strength in being able to go toe-to-toe with President Donald Trump in the general election. 'I looked at that, and I thought, 'He's right,'' said Myers, a black woman first elected to the Richland County Council in 2016. 'He's unafraid and he's unapologetic. ... I like the fact that he is willing to fight for a better America — for the least, the fallen, the left behind.'"

"We Tortured Some Folks: The Report's Daniel Jones On The Ongoing Fight To Hold The CIA Accountable: MONDAY MARKED THE five-year anniversary of the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's executive summary on the CIA's torture program. The former top Senate Intelligence Committee investigator, Daniel Jones, and his team combed through 6.3 million pages of CIA records. Jones discusses the yearslong battle with the Bush and Obama administrations to make public the findings of this still-classified 7,000-page report. In this bonus episode, Jones expands on the torture report findings. Jones is the subject of the new feature film, 'The Report,' starring Adam Driver and Annette Bening, and the host of its companion podcast, 'The Report Podcast,' with Kelly McEvers, where they unpack the story of the CIA's torture program, the Senate's investigation, and the ensuing cover-up.

* * * * *

"Entire Afghanistan War A Fraud, Rich People Scrubbing History"

I need to introduce this Lee Camp video:

Anyone who was paying attention knew that The Most Trusted Names In News were telling you lies for at least the last couple of decades. A lot of us warned that false information was being funneled into an ever-contracting news-gathering apparatus controlled by self-serving billionaires who happily broadcast single-sourced press releases straight from the White House and/or the Republican Party, unedited, to your pages and screens without any real investigation. You weren't allowed to argue with these obvious lies in American mass media. There might have been the occasional op-ed from some college professor few had heard of expressing doubts, but it might as well not have been there for all the acknowledgement it received from broadcast media. Phil Donahue was fired from his popular slot on MSNBC for opposing the invasion of Iraq, something that should have generated wall-to-wall outrage from working journalists of every stripe, but it was barely reported and was forgotten within days instead. The only person who was allowed to express those doubts on the air at all was actor Janeane Garafalo - because she could be ridiculed as a mere actress - but at least there was one debater allowed on the air - ironically, on Fox News.

But, pretty much no one at all asked why we had to invade Afghanistan. Surely no one even believed the fantasy that Osama bin Laden was in a high-tech James Bond villain-type cave fully supported by the government of Afghanistan, could they? Everyone knew that bin Laden and his merry band were Saudis, right? When the normally timid Barbara Lee voted against the attack on Afghanistan, she was the sole member of Congress to do so, which generated lots of hate for her on Fox but no defense from fellow Democrats. We went into Afghanistan without a whimper of objection in the "serious" and "respectable" American media.

Be that as it may, when American citizens who want to argue with this blatant propaganda look for an outlet, they generally have to go abroad for a platform. And then they get dismissed by not only the mainstream media but by our very own, "liberal blogosphere"-spawned unpaid social media gatekeepers who seem to think there is anything more reliable about the New York Times or CBS than there is from internet comedians on RT. Bollocks.

* * * * *

"Hear the Bern Episode 32 | Bernie Gets It Done (w/ Warren Gunnels): Next time someone asks you what Bernie has accomplished in his career, send them this podcast and tell them that we had to leave the better part on the cutting room floor just to get it under an hour. Featuring veteran policy advisor to the Senator, Warren Gunnels."

The Maryland Democratic machine actually resisted the prospect of electing the Democrat who won the primaries so much that state elective officials told the press they were supporting the Republican. Ben Jealous was a union guy with progressive policies, so Democrats backed a man who Alex Pareene calls, "The Most Popular Crook in America: The ominous approval ratings of Larry Hogan, the corrupt Republican governor of Maryland Maryland Governor Larry Hogan repeatedly steered state transportation development money to projects that would increase the value of his real estate holdings, according to a lengthy investigation by Washington Monthly's Eric Cortellessa. Cortellessa reports that Hogan, who ostensibly left his brother in charge of his real estate brokerage firm when he was elected, has, in fact, maintained ownership and control while serving as governor; the trustees he handpicked to run his company have continued to keep him apprised of its business dealings. And as governor, he has advanced highway and road construction projects that directly boosted the value of land owned by his company. Those efforts have proved extraordinarily lucrative: During his first three years in office, Hogan reported $2.4 million in income, more than four times his salary. No other governor in the history of the state has made as much, according to Maryland's former Secretary of State John Willis. Hogan, he told Washington Monthly, is the only governor in the history of Maryland 'to have made millions of dollars while in office.' [...] Hogan, on the other hand, is exactly the 'normal' to which politicians like Joe Biden promise to return us when they try to speak into existence a Republican Party that they can 'work with.'"

And since Pareene has been on a roll, check out this earlier piece, "How Political Fact-Checkers Distort the Truth Glenn Kessler and his ilk aren't sticking to the facts. They're promoting a moderate dogma. At the June 28 Democratic presidential debate, Senator Bernie Sanders said, 'Three people [in this country] own more wealth than the bottom half of America.' And Glenn Kessler, who leads The Washington Post's 'Fact Checker' blog, wrote, 'This snappy talking point is based on numbers that add up.' But Kessler, having checked the fact and confirmed that it was true, for some reason continued checking. 'People in the bottom half have essentially no wealth,' he helpfully pointed out. 'So the comparison is not especially meaningful.' That seems like a judgment call best left to, say, a 'meaning-checker,' but Kessler, a former business section editor who happens to be a descendant of Royal Dutch Shell and Procter & Gamble executives—an actual member of the American elite and a likely member of the one percent—makes Sanders the regular target of his attempts to police the bounds of acceptable political realities from his perch at The Washington Post. In June, he dinged Sanders for saying that 'millions of Americans are forced to work two or three jobs'—because, while Sanders was right, at least eight million do work more than one job, 95 percent of Americans don't. His team has also taken on Sanders's claim that health care costs lead to 500,000 bankruptcies a year, going so far as to fact-check the study where Sanders found that statistic. Finding fault with its premises, they declared the study to be untrue, and awarded the candidate three 'Pinocchios' for referencing it. (In the lexicon of the Post's fact-checking department, lies, rather than causing Pinocchio's nose to grow, cause him to spontaneously reproduce, like a very naughty paramecium.) [...] Because Kessler is particularly bad at his job—or, rather, because he is doing a different job, that of a centrist columnist disguised as a fact-checker—he has deflected attention from his competitors, most of whom also routinely mistake elite conventional wisdom for truth. In September, PolitiFact, the venerable fact-checking operation run by the nonprofit Poynter Institute, waded into a fight between Julian Castro and Joe Biden over their health care plans, and found a disputable but eminently supportable claim Castro has made—that there is a 'big difference' between a plan people are automatically enrolled in and one they opt into—to be 'mostly false.' When Elizabeth Warren blamed trade policy for American job losses, an Associated Press fact check said, 'Economists mostly blame those job losses on automation and robots, not trade deals.' Some economists have indeed made that claim, but others vehemently disagree—pointing out that very little, if any, evidence exists to support the automation thesis. What may look like the unquestioned assumptions of centrist economists appear to these organizations, somehow, as cold, hard facts. Ironically, had fact-checkers kept to this narrow interpretation of the facts, they might actually be useful today. Trump deals less in shifty evasions and omissions than he does in clear falsehoods. While some of his claims can be hard to verify, the just-the-facts approach will catch most of his 'whoppers' (to use a highly technical fact-checking term). The trouble is, fact-checkers have expanded their purview from checking strictly empirical statements to 'checking' contestable political statements. As a result, Trump's most glaring whoppers—such as his ludicrous suggestion last April that wind turbines cause cancer—appear no different than Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's contention that it's morally wrong to pay people less than a living wage."

At first when I saw this headline I thought this was The Onion — because it's true. But no, it turns out to be The Washington Post. "The 1% are much more satisfied with their lives than everyone else, survey finds: An NPR/Harvard poll shows that, among the rich, 97 percent say they're living the 'American Dream.'"

Stepping in to sow division, "Yet Another Round of Clinton Smears." He didn't even mention that Clinton was the one with the army of online trolls set up to sow division in the party.

In this segment, Nomiki tells Sam about the time she was getting death threats from the Clinton campaign trolls and she told the DNC to make it stop, and it stopped.

"Andrew Yang and the Failson Mystique," in which Amber A'Lee Frost argues that, "America has already witnessed the largest UBI experiment known to history — the postwar middle-class housewife. And she was utterly miserable."

"Biden Accidentally Makes Case for Medicare for All by Admitting Employers Can Take Away Your Insurance—Even If You Like It: 'No you don't have the choice, but you had the choice to — that's why — I'm not saying, I said, if you like your plan, you can keep it, assuming — I should add the obvious — if your employer doesn't take it away from you. OK?'"

Pretty terrible campaign news here, "Bernie-Elizabeth Tacit Alliance Frays." You can read the piece, but what I get from it is that in a week when French protesters forced Macron to back down on raising the retirement age, more and more of Trump's crimes were exposed and he bragged about selling US troops as mercenaries to Saudi Arabia (or did he just give them away for free?) , and, oh, we had only just recently been on the brink of war (and maybe still are), Elizabeth Warren thought it would be a good idea to make sure the big topic for the last debate before the first primary vote was that Bernie Sanders was sending his campaign out to "trash" her, and then next day "someone" leaked the unlikely claim that Sanders told her two years ago that a woman couldn't win the presidency. (Kristal Ball is on a real tear about this Clintonesque betrayal, and I can't help agreeing with her.) The buzz has been that Warren has hired Hillary's people and if David Brock is one of them this is just the sort of thing he does. This makes Warren look weak, and the fact that she's suddenly shifted to a BernieBro-type of tone just means her advisors are screwing her over. Seems to have backfired. But Taibbi thinks the network was even worse: "CNN's Debate Performance Was Villainous and Shameful: The 24-hour network combines a naked political hit with a cynical ploy for ratings [...] This time, the whole network tossed the mud. Over a 24-hour period before, during, and after the debate, CNN bid farewell to what remained of its reputation as a nonpolitical actor via a remarkable stretch of factually dubious reporting, bent commentary, and heavy-handed messaging." (Taibbi's follow up is "Media Stupidity Is Uniting Left and Right: After CNN's debate ambush and MSNBC's body-language analysis, loathing of media is becoming a crossover phenomenon.")

"Joe Biden Lies to the New York Times About His Attempt to Gut the ACA's Contraceptive Coverage, Rambles Incoherently About the Hyde Amendment: Joe Biden—who somehow continues to be the frontrunner in the Democratic primary despite repeatedly lying about his opposition to the war in Iraq and evincing a decades-long passion for cutting Social Security—also continues to be on his bullshit about everything from his support for the Hyde Amendment to his attempts to gut contraception coverage in the Affordable Care Act." Biden had tried to pretend that video of him from C-Span huckstering Social Security cuts that David Sirota put round was "doctored" and that he'd never tried to cut Social Security, which had half of Twitter out with more C-Span videos of him doing the same thing multiple times, and even The Washington Post admits that his record makes him vulnerable.

Democracy NOW!, "Col. Lawrence Wilkerson: Qassem Soleimani Worked with U.S. in Fight Against Taliban & ISIS: [...] But let's take that and apply it to what we're looking at today. In September of 2015, I was in the Roosevelt Room in the White House. President Obama came out of the Oval Office, sat down across from me, with Secretary John Kerry beside him. And we were there ostensibly to be thanked for our help on the nuclear agreement with Iran. The president launched into a 30-minute disquisition that he began with these words: 'There is a bias in this town toward war.' I almost fell off my chair. That's what I teach. But I didn't think that any president, even one who had been in office for seven years, would ever come to that conclusion. Clearly, here was one who was intelligent enough to have come to that conclusion. But what he was telling us was he didn't know what to do about it."

Richard Eskow, "The Progressive's Guide to Corporate-Democrat Speak:'Purity test'? 'Pragmatic progressive'? 'Free stuff'? What are these politicians talking about?" This is a handy primer but I think he should have included the fact that "centrist" is genuinely constructed jargon to make right-wing Democrats sound mainstream.

New polling shows that "Americans want jobs, not war," and they want spending on health care and other public goods instead of war toys.

David Dayen, "Goldman Sachs's Shell Game: The mega-bank has created 61 different off-balance-sheet corporations with help from companies based in the Cayman Islands. That looks in no way shady! Tyson Slocum has embarked on a crusade the past few months that would make I.F. Stone jealous. The director of Public Citizen's Energy Program has stumbled into some genuinely novel evidence about how mega-banks cloak their entry into commodity markets. First, Slocum found associations between JPMorgan Chase and an allegedly non-affiliated entity buying a power station in El Paso, Texas, links that the bank would eventually acknowledge. But Slocum's discovery regarding Goldman Sachs seems even more revelatory. The banking giant has set up at least 61 different off-balance-sheet entities controlling various investment assets, all of which have the same three-member panel of 'independent' directors. The directors were all leased from 'rent-a-director' firms based in the Cayman Islands, a notorious tax haven. 'They're almost like a dating site, choose your director,' says Slocum, who is protesting one of the entities as it requests regulatory approvals at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). These transparently affiliated shell corporations enable Goldman Sachs to avoid FERC limitations on sales of electric power, bank regulatory requirements around participating in pooled investment funds, merchant banking restrictions, and requirements to add capital in case of losses. 'Goldman Sachs has enormous financial and regulatory incentives to keep these entities off the books,' Slocum says. The sham directors fulfill corporate governance rules without having to put the fate of the shell companies in the hands of anyone with independent thought. In other words, it's a useful and lucrative fiction, manipulating the securities laws to conceal the truth."

"Unmasking the secret landlords buying up America: America's cities are being bought up, bit by bit, by anonymous shell companies using piles of cash. Modest single-family homes, owned for generations by families, now are held by corporate vehicles with names that appear to be little more than jumbles of letters and punctuation — such as SC-TUSCA LLC, CNS1975 LLC — registered to law offices and post office boxes miles away. New glittering towers filled with owned but empty condos look down over our cities, as residents below struggle to find any available housing. All-cash transactions have come to account for a quarter of all residential real estate purchases, 'totaling hundreds of billions of dollars nationwide,' the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network — the financial crimes unit of the federal Treasury Department, also known as FinCEN — noted in a 2017 news release. Thanks to the Bank Secrecy Act, a 1970 anti-money-laundering law, the agency is able to learn who owns many of these properties. In high-cost cities such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami, it's flagged over 30% of cash purchases as suspicious transactions. But FinCEN also cites this bill to hide this information from the public, leaving the American people increasingly in the dark about who owns their cities. For journalists, it requires undertaking a tremendous investigative effort to find the real owner of even one property, let alone millions. 'It reminds me of Moldova after the fall of the Soviet Union: oligarchs running wild, stashing their gains in buildings,' James Wright, an attorney and former Treasury Department bank examiner, told me. [...] With anonymity comes impunity, and, for vulnerable tenants, skyrocketing numbers of evictions. It wasn't until reporters from The Guardian and The Washington Post began to investigate, for example, that residents living in hundreds of properties across the South learned that they shared a secret landlord, hiding behind names such as SPMK X GA LLC: Fox News personality Sean Hannity."

"Economists 'Surprised Americans Aren't Revolting' Over $8,000 Tax They Pay Each Year Due to For-Profit Healthcare System: The payments made to the U.S. healthcare system are 'like a tribute to a foreign power, but we're doing it to ourselves.'"

Here's a fun little episode of Useful Idiots in which Katie and Matt have some useful insights and then a chat with Nina Turner.

R.J. Eskow and Diane Archer reminding me how lucky I am that I escaped to Britain before I ever had to go on the health insurance shopping spree every year, "Don't let the Trump administration corporatize Medicare". Oh, God, I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

EuroYankee, "The Smears Against Bernie Must Be Stopped—Here's How to Do It: A rapid response guide to 23 classic anti-Bernie smears. This is a handy guide to beating back the ridiculous and vile smears that are being leveled at Bernie Sanders, and in particular those that may compare him to Joe Biden."

RIP: Steve Stiles (1943-2020): Steve Stiles, one of fandom's all-time great artists, died during the night on January 12, only a few days after he shared on Facebook that he had cancer and a short time to live. It's a double shock to his wide circle of friends who were still adjusting to the first piece of news. His awards history barely begins to scratch the surface of how much he meant to fandom over the past fifty-plus years, substantial as it is. He earned the first of his 17 Best Fan Artist Hugo nominations in 1967, winning the award in 2016. He's won 15 FAAn Awards, presented by fanzine fans at Corflu, since the award was revived in 2001. And Steve was the first winner of the Rotsler Award (1998), a career honor for fan artists." There's a lot of stuff in Mike Glyer's obit about his pro work, too, and also some fascinating things I never knew. He was an important part of my life for a long time and I have often missed him since moving to London. I'll also always cherish that moment when we were in that room party (I think it was Boston in 1980) where John Shirley was rhapsodizing about fatherhood and using a lot of sentences that started with, "I believe..." and when he wound down Steve quietly remarked, "I believe my suitcase comes from Saturn." I have stolen that line many times.

RIP: "Mike Resnick (1942-2020): Mike Resnick, who at his zenith was one of the most popular figures in the science fiction fan and pro community, died January 9. He was nominated for the Hugo Award 37 times, winning 5, and 11 Nebula nominations, with 1 win. He was a Guest of Honor at Chicon 7 in 2012." Mike edited a lot of anthologies, famously doing alternate histories as well as his Women Writing Science Fiction As Men and the vice-versa companion book.

RIP: Terry Jones, 77. Another Python gone. Stephen Fry tweeted: "Farewell, Terry Jones. The great foot has come down to stamp on you. My god what pleasure you gave, what untrammelled joy and delight. What a wonderful talent, heart and mind."

RIP: "Roger Scruton: Conservative thinker dies at 75." I won't pretend I never deliberately mispronounced his name, especially after that time he accused me of destroying British culture when we got the courts to acknowledge that there was no proof of harm from seeing pornography.

RIP: "Barbara Testa, Hollywood librarian who found 'Huck Finn' manuscript in her attic, dies at 91: Barbara Testa had enjoyed a perfectly anonymous life in Hollywood until she crawled up in the attic one day and opened a steamer trunk left behind by her grandfather, a 19th century attorney with powerful friends. Inside, amid the letters and ledgers James Fraser Gluck had stowed away, was a handwritten manuscript that would solve a century-old literary riddle and plunge Testa into the headlines in a mounting dispute over ownership of the precious document, the missing first half of the original copy of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."

David Graeber on how the "center" threw the election to the right, "The Center Blows Itself Up: Care and Spite in the 'Brexit Election'. [...] This simultaneous embrace of markets, and of rules and regulations, represents the soul of what's sometimes called 'centrism.' It's a decidedly unlovely combination. Nobody truly likes it. But the talking classes had reached an absolute consensus that no politicians who departed significantly from it could possibly win elections. In 2015, the handful of 'hard Left' MPs of the Socialist Campaign Group, who fell well outside this consensus, were largely considered mildly entertaining Seventies throwbacks. The election of one of them as party leader was therefore treated—both by the party establishment and their allies in the left-of-center media outlets like The Guardian—as an embarrassing accident that had to be immediately reversed. Corbyn was declared 'unelectable.' In order to demonstrate this, dozens of Labour MPs initiated an immediate campaign to render him so, via an unceasing barrage of press briefings, leaked documents, attempts to create false scandals, and a campaign of sustained psychological warfare directed against Corbyn himself—essentially waging an active and aggressive campaign against their own party. Tony Blair even openly stated that he would rather see his own party defeated than come into power on Corbyn's leftist platform. [...] Most sitting Labour MPs had begun as Labour youth activists themselves, just as most centrist political journalists had begun their careers as leftists, even revolutionaries, of one sort or another. But they had also risen through the ranks of Blair's machine at a time when advancement was largely based on willingness to sacrifice one's youthful ideals. They had become the very people they would have once despised as sell-outs. Insofar as they dreamed of anything, now, it was of finding some British equivalent of Barack Obama, a leader who looked and acted so much like a visionary, who had so perfected the gestures and intonations, that it never occurred to anyone to ask what that vision actually was (since the vision was, precisely, not to have a vision). Suddenly, they found themselves saddled with a scruffy teetotaling vegan who said exactly what he really thought, and inspired a new generation of activists to dream of changing the world. If those activists were not naive, if this man was not unelectable, the centrists' entire lives had been a lie. They hadn't really accepted reality at all. They really were just sellouts.":

"Why Fascism is the Wave of the Future: " - This London Review of Books article is so depressing I don't even want to quote from it.

Screaming far-left radical John F Kennedy argues for universal healthcare.

"Mobilization and Money: I'm nearly finished with a very long book that may well be the best illustration of the basic principles of Modern Money Theory available. The book is 'A Call To Arms,' by Maury Klein. It is an historical account of the U.S. mobilization as it prepared for, and engaged in, war with Germany and Japan. The scale of the task was unprecedented in human history—and the accomplishment of it changed not just the structure of the American economy, but American society as well. What is striking about the story—and the monumental effort to quickly build, virtually from scratch, the largest and most sophisticated war machine ever to exist on the planet—is that there is nary a peep of concern or argument about how this enormous task would be paid for. All of the anguish and struggle had not to do with finding enough 'money' to pay for things, but rather with finding enough things to buy—and enough skilled labor to properly marshal it all together. In the end, virtually every real resource available in the continental U.S.—oil, gas, steel, aluminum, rubber, copper, sugar, tin, and man-hours of labor—was purchased by the Federal government to build the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps that ultimately defeated the Axis powers. The scale of the sovereign spending is almost beyond comprehension—especially given the fact that, at the starting gate, the U.S. economy was still decimated and impoverished by the Great Depression. At the finish line, however—VJ day, September 2, 1945—the U.S. had become the most powerful, efficient, and equitable economic power the world had ever seen. So how did it all get paid for? And even more important, how did we travel from that VJ day of economic triumph to our sorry state of today, where we think we are so 'broke' we can't even afford to hire enough fire-fighters and equipment to put out the forest-fires raging in our western states?" Of course, it worked by MMT - not a theory, but just the way things are done. The question has never been how to pay for things - we can do that easily. The question, always, is what to spend the money on.

Mark Fisher's 2013 piece, "Exiting the Vampire Castle: We need to learn, or re-learn, how to build comradeship and solidarity instead of doing capital's work for it by condemning and abusing each other. This doesn't mean, of course, that we must always agree — on the contrary, we must create conditions where disagreement can take place without fear of exclusion and excommunication."

"Why was pioneering director Alice Guy-Blaché erased from film-making history? A new documentary sheds light on the career of the forgotten Frenchwoman who helped write the rules of film [...] Guy-Blaché was in the room when the Lumière brothers held the first ever cinema screening, in Paris in March 1895. By the following year, she was making her own films. And while the Lumières were still hung up on cinema as a technological spectacle — 'Look! A train!' — Guy-Blaché immediately saw its potential for telling stories. Even her 60-second debut, The Cabbage Fairy, had a fictional narrative (a fairy conjures babies from cardboard cabbages). As time went on, Guy-Blaché helped write the rules of this brand new medium. She incorporated now-standard techniques such as editing, primitive special effects and hand-tinted colour. She might even have invented the music video, back in 1905, with her use of newfangled 'chronophone' technology, by which singers were filmed lip-syncing to a prerecorded playback."

I posted a link to a story about this survey when it came out, but I could never find the original survey report. For completeness sake, here it finally is, saying that people on social media found Hillary Clinton's supporters the most obnoxious after Trump's.

Linkrot already got another article I posted and still occasionally want to link to, but the Web Archive comes through again, "The American Prison in the Culture Wars."

"Picardilly Circus: TfL renames Tube station to celebrate Star Trek launch: For 48 hours Piccadilly Circus will be renamed PICARDilly Circus to celebrate the launch of Amazon's original series Star Trek: Picard." I didn't see it but the article has pictures, and Rob took some more posted here..

I got Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries series for Christmas and I absolutely love it, in case you're interested.

04:13 GMT comment


Friday, 10 January 2020

I hear the music all the time

"Illinois becomes 11th state to legalize marijuana: On New Year's Day, Illinois became the 11th state to legalize marijuana, prompting long lines to start forming at dispensaries before sunrise. Dispensaries were allowed to begin selling cannabis at 6 a.m., but there was a delay in some sales due to a problem with the state database that will track all marijuana sales. Illinois residents may possess up to 30 grams of the dried flower, five grams of cannabis concentrate and 500 milligrams of THC in edibles, while nonresidents may possess only half as much. The first day of legal sales follows Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) granting more than 11,000 pardons to people convicted of low-level marijuana convictions."

"Illinois Governor Pardons Over 11,000 People For Marijuana One Day Before Legal Sales Begin: One day before legal recreational marijuana sales launch in Illinois, the governor announced that his office is clearing the records of more than 11,000 people who have previously been convicted of simple cannabis possession. Gov. J. B. Pritzker (D) said the move 'sets us apart' from other states that have legalized marijuana for adult-use and that 'Illinois is putting equity first, clearing thousands of convictions and giving individuals & their families a new lease on life.'"

"Bernie Sanders Outperforms Joe Biden In Head To Head Matchup With Donald Trump, New Poll Finds: In a recent survey by Ipsos/Reuters, slightly more respondents said they would vote for Senator Bernie Sanders than former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 election against President Donald Trump. Though the difference is within the margin of error (3.4 percentage points) 39 percent of the 1,108 adults surveyed between December 18 and 19 preferred Sanders over Trump, compared to 37 percent who preferred Biden."

Believe it or not, Matthew Yglesias in Vox, "Bernie Sanders can unify Democrats and beat Trump in 2020: The first in a Vox series making the best case for each of the top Democratic contenders. The case for Bernie Sanders is that he is the unity candidate. The Vermont senator is unique in combining an authentic, values-driven political philosophy with a surprisingly pragmatic, veteran-legislator approach to getting things done. This pairing makes him the enthusiastic favorite of non-Republicans who don't necessarily love the Democratic Party, without genuinely threatening what's important to partisan Democrats. If he can pull the party together, it would set him up to be the strongest of the frontrunners to challenge President Donald Trump." And then he says everyone should be calm because he's not really all that.

And here's a GOP operative who thinks Bernie Sanders has mojo that Liz Warren doesn't - and I don't think he's spinning. "Why Trump should fear Sanders much more than Warren in 2020: It is conventional political wisdom that President Trump stands his best chance in 2020 if Democrats nominate a progressive candidate on the far left such as Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. That is half right. I have witnessed both of these candidates up close as a former chairman of the Vermont Republican Party when Sanders rose from the backbench of the House to the Senate, and as campaign manager for the Senate reelection of Scott Brown against upstart Warren in Massachusetts. It has given me some insight into both their strengths and weaknesses as candidates. [...] To better understand this political dynamic, compare two instructive elections in locations that have little in common, one in tiny Essex County in the most rural northeast corner of Vermont and another in the only New England metropolis of Boston. Essex County is the most Republican part of what was once the most Republican state in the nation. Today it is the lone Republican holdout among the 14 counties in Vermont. In 2016, it was the red dot in the blue sea of the state, going for Trump by 18 points. Flashback to 2006 when Sanders ran for the open Senate seat in the only serious contest he had faced since 1994 when he was a member of the House and socialism was still a dirty word. Sanders cruised to victory and won Essex County with 59 percent of the vote, even as those same people had overwhelmingly backed the reelection of their Republican Governor James Douglas."

Every time I think Biden couldn't be more like Trump, he gets even more like Trump: "Biden again dishonestly suggests he opposed the Iraq War from the beginning" Both of these putzes were all for the war and now we have both of them pretending they were too smart to fall for it.

"Court bounces Abrams Suit against Voter Purges Shunts Case to GOP-Controlled State Courts: In Atlanta Friday, Federal Judge Steve Jones ruled against Stacey Abrams' organization Fair Fight in its suit to restore nearly 100,000 Georgians to the voter rolls. It turns out that Abrams' attorneys were not in a fair fight against this federal judge who refused to even consider if the purge would cause 'irreparable harm' or 'the public interest would support the issuance of a preliminary injunction.' Georgia's Secretary of State, Brad Ratffensperger, was using Kris Kobach's favorite method of vote theft, what we call, 'Purge by Postcard.' Under the guise of 'voter list maintenance,' Georgia sent out postcards that look like cheap junk mail — see one at the link here. When a voter fails to return the card, they lose their vote. Yes, the cancelled voter can re-register. But, as we have uncovered in our film, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, most people don't know they were pulled from the list until it's too late."

From back in 2011, Michael Moore with a bit of history at Common Dreams, "30 Years Ago: The Day the Middle Class Died:: From time to time, someone under 30 will ask me, "When did this all begin, America's downward slide?" They say they've heard of a time when working people could raise a family and send the kids to college on just one parent's income (and that college in states like California and New York was almost free). That anyone who wanted a decent paying job could get one. That people only worked five days a week, eight hours a day, got the whole weekend off and had a paid vacation every summer. That many jobs were union jobs, from baggers at the grocery store to the guy painting your house, and this meant that no matter how "lowly" your job was you had guarantees of a pension, occasional raises, health insurance and someone to stick up for you if you were unfairly treated. Young people have heard of this mythical time -- but it was no myth, it was real. And when they ask, 'When did this all end?', I say, 'It ended on this day: August 5th, 1981.'"

"Four-day working week and six-hour shifts to be introduced in Finland: Finland's new Prime Minister wants to introduce a four-day working week. Sanna Marin, 34, says an extra day off and six-hour days will allow the public to spend more time with their families and on hobbies. The proposal from Ms Marin — the world's youngest sitting prime minister — follows the lead of Scandinavian neighbour Sweden, where a six-hour working experiment began in 2015. According to the New Europe newspaper, she said: 'I believe people deserve to spend more time with their families, loved ones, hobbies and other aspects of life, such as culture."

"The Anarchist Daughter of the GOP's Gerrymandering Mastermind Just Dumped His Maps and Files on Google Drive: 'I won't be satisfied that we the people have found everything until we the people have had a look at it in its entirety,' she said. The daughter of late GOP gerrymandering mastermind just put all of his files online in a Google Drive for anyone to read. Thomas Hofeller, who died in 2018, was crucial to the Republican Party's redistricting efforts across the country: He drew up tons of maps that the party used to make districts easier for them to win — sometimes at the expense of minorities' voting rights. In an effort to defend their state's political map in a lawsuit, Republicans had tried to keep Hofeller's files secret. But on Sunday, his daughter, Stephanie, who identifies as an anarchist, tweeted them out. She'd announced her plans to release the files last month and has now made them public on a website: thehofellerfiles.com, which links to a Google Drive full of his emails and documents related to his gerrymandering work. (Thomas pronounced the word 'gerrymander' with a hard 'G,' in honor of the former U.S. Vice President Elbridge Gerry, who pioneered the practice in Massachusetts in 1812.) 'These are matters that concern the people and their franchise and their access to resources. This is, therefore, the property of the people,' Stephanie told NPR. 'I won't be satisfied that we the people have found everything until we the people have had a look at it in its entirety.'"

It continues to fascinate me that so many faces — including not just Republicans but Democratic leaders — persist in showing up and speaking as if American troops in the Middle-East are not principally foreign invaders and occupiers in places they simply don't belong. It's hardly as if we were invited into Iraq and no one happened to notice yet that our "reasons" for invading were based on a stack of lies, but are we still at the phase where we think we can get away with pretending that the only reason these inscrutable foreigners don't welcome us into their homes with cookies and milk when a bunch of soldiers break down their doors and point guns at them is that they have some really weird cultural attitudes and superstitions? The simple fact is that we shouldn't be there and we should have gotten out as fast as we could. There's just no excuse. And, as Ryan Cooper points out, "America is guilty of everything we accuse Iran of doing [...] Events like this bring out the absolute worst in the American foreign policy community. Many conservative writers and thinkers, including former National Security Adviser John Bolton, the Hudson Institute's Michael Doran, and Commentary's Noah Rothman, openly cheered this Putin-style cold-blooded murder of a foreign statesman. Other more supposedly nonpartisan commentators uncritically parroted Trump administration assertions that Iran was planning something bad. Every top Democratic presidential candidate except Bernie Sanders was careful to foreground that Soleimani was a bad guy before condemning the assassination in their initial comments. The truth is that Soleimani was not all that different from any of about five dozen current and former American politicians and bureaucrats — if anything, he was considerably more restrained about the use of force. Yes, he was involved in a lot of bloody wars — but so was every American president since 2000, and besides half the wars he fought in were started or fueled by the United States. It's just another instance of America's gigantic hypocrisy when it comes to war. [...] So yes, Soleimani has fueled a lot of nasty conflicts and killed a lot of people, directly or indirectly, many of them American soldiers — though it's worth noting also that much of his recent effort has been dedicated to fighting ISIS (with great effectiveness, by all accounts) in a tacit uneasy alliance with U.S. forces. Yet even the worst of Soleimani's record pales in comparison with the most blood-drenched American warmongers. If Soleimani deserves condemnation for arming Iraqi insurgents, then George W. Bush and Dick Cheney deserve 10 times as much for starting the war in the first place. It was a pointless, illegal war of aggression sold on lies that obliterated Iraqi society and killed perhaps half a million people, almost all of them innocent civilians. (Our own Soleimani, General David Petraeus, was connected to the operation of Iraqi torture dungeons and paramilitary death squads during the fight against the insurgency.)" Apparently, all this is justified because President George W. Bush understood in his wisdom that no one native to Iraq could paint schools so we had to send in U.S. troops to do it for them.

"Google fired an engineer who built a tool that notified employees of their labor rights. She's the 5th employee this month to accuse the company of illegal retaliation.

"DCCC To Consultants: Helping To Elect A Republican? Sure, We'Ll Work With You: IN MARCH, House Democrats' campaign arm formalized a policy cutting off firms working with candidates running primary challenges against incumbent Democrats. But the rule doesn't appear to apply to consultants who get millions of dollars from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee while working for political action committees that support and elect Republicans. One of the biggest vendors working with the political action committee With Honor, Trilogy Interactive, has taken at least $2 million from the DCCC since the 2016 election cycle, according to FEC filings. With Honor PAC — which has an affiliated bipartisan caucus, the For Country caucus, that includes at least 10 Democratic members — is dedicated to electing veterans to Congress. [...] The DCCC has faced intense scrutiny for the blacklist policy, which critics say is another example of the committee exploiting its position to keep centrist Democrats in power while discouraging women and people of color to run for office. For example, Marie Newman lost to Rep. Dan Lipinski last year, after the committee backed the anti-abortion Democrat over his progressive challenger. She's running against the eight-term incumbent a second time in 2020. As of October, several consultants had dropped her campaign because of the DCCC rule change, though a number of House Democrats were privately supporting her. In 2018, the DCCC intervened in a competitive New Jersey primary to help Jeff Van Drew, one of the most conservative Democrats in the state, win the party's nomination. Democrats expected to flip the House seat, but overlooked progressives like retired teacher Tanzie Youngblood and ex-Cory Booker staffer Will Cunningham in favor of Van Drew — who enjoyed a 100 percent rating from the National Rifle Association and supported restrictions on abortion."

"Leak: How NYT Editor James Bennet Justifies The Op-Ed Page To His Colleagues: In December, New York Times editorial page editor James Bennet met with a group of Times employees to answer questions about his much-questioned opinion section. At the time, A.G. Sulzberger, now publisher of the Times, was conducting a tour of the company he was about to inherit, meeting with employees from different corners of the newspaper. The Q&A session with Bennet was apparently convened in a similar spirit of transparency and goodwill. But according to some Times staffers who were present, little clarity was offered by Bennet and even less goodwill was spread. One person who was there, still angry more than two months later, called Bennet's answers 'equivocal bullshit.' [...] It was as frank an explication as Bennet has given of how he conceives of the opinion section. Slaloming between contradictions, Bennet laid out an ideology of no ideology. The editorial page is beholden to no priors (except when it is). It proudly forswears the idea of right answers (except when it doesn't). It is humanist and ecumenical but also of the belief, for instance, that some kinds of ethnic cleansing are worthy of debate. 'The world needs this from us right now,' Bennet told the dozen or so New York Times staffers in the room. 'I don't mean to sound pious, but it really is true that this is a crude and dangerously polarized time... And to simply assert that we know what the right answers are is not good for the democracy.'"

"They Loan You Money. Then They Get a Warrant for Your Arrest: High-interest loan companies are using Utah's small claims courts to arrest borrowers and take their bail money. Technically, the warrants are issued for missing court hearings. For many, that's a distinction without a difference. Cecila Avila was finishing a work shift at a Walmart. David Gordon was at church. Darrell Reese was watching his granddaughter at home. Jessica Albritton had pulled into the parking lot at her job, where she packed and shipped bike parts. All four were arrested by an armed constable, handcuffed and booked into jail. They spent anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days behind bars before being released after paying a few hundred dollars in bail or promising to appear in court. None of the four, who live in northern Utah and were detained last year, had committed a crime. They had each borrowed money at high interest rates from a local lender called Loans for Less and were sued for owing sums that ranged from $800 to $3,600. When they missed a court date, the company obtained a warrant for their arrest. [...] It's against the law to jail someone because of an unpaid debt. Congress banned debtors prisons in 1833. Yet, across the country, debtors are routinely threatened with arrest and sometimes jailed, and the practices are particularly aggressive in Utah. (ProPublica recently chronicled how medical debt collectors are wielding similar powers in Kansas.) Technically, debtors are arrested for not responding to a court summons requested by the creditor. But for many low-income people, who are not familiar with court proceedings, lack access to transportation, child care options or time off, or move frequently and thus may not receive notifications, it's a distinction without a difference.

"The Campaign Against 'Medicare For All' Is Spending Millions. Progressives Not So Much. The most hotly debated policy in the Democratic presidential primary is 'Medicare for All' — a plan to move all Americans onto a single, government-run health insurance plan. But while proponents of single-payer health care like presidential hopefuls Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have had the chance to make their case on the debate stage, the opponents of the idea are vastly outspending them on the airwaves in early caucus and primary states. The Partnership for America's Health Care Future — an industry front group representing private health insurers, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies — has spent at least $1 million in television advertisements blasting the policy in Iowa alone. (It is also ghost-writing anti-Medicare for All op-eds for state lawmakers, according to a Washington Post report.)"

"I Am a Union Worker, and I Want Medicare for All: My union is in a perpetual battle for decent health care coverage. It's a tactic of our employers to prevent us from striking against our terrible work conditions. If we had Medicare for All, we could demand much more at the bargaining table."

David Dayen picked this as one of his best of the year and wants more people to pay attention to it: "Democrats Are Ignoring the Power of the Hospital Industry And this will doom any meaningful reform. [...] But Democrats are actually united on health care in one respect, from Joe Biden to Bernie Sanders. All of them lack the courage to name the one major obstacle to getting any meaningful reform done: the hospitals and medical providers who create the most costs in the system by a wide margin. Watching the debates, I got the feeling that there was a swear jar offstage, and candidates would be fined $10,000 if they said the word 'hospitals.' The calculation has been made to choose insurance companies and pharmaceutical manufacturers as the core villains. The candidates have put shackles on themselves, content to debate whether to eliminate private insurance or how much the respective plans will cost. The price of health care, not insurance, was nowhere to be found, even though we pay the highest prices in the world, and concentrated hospital networks, not insurers, are largely to blame. Meanwhile, during commercial breaks of the CNN debate, viewers heard from the Partnership for America's Health Care Future, the main corporate coalition opposed to major reforms to the health-care system. And while America's Health Insurance Plans, the lead trade group for insurers, is among the funders of this initiative, so is the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, hospital network Ardent Health Services, Catholic hospital network Ascension, Fortune 500 giant Community Health Systems, The Federation of American Hospitals, Bill Frist's old hospital network HCA, outpatient group Tenet Healthcare, and hospital management company UHS. Simply put, if candidates fail to talk about the companies primed to strangle any health-care reform before it gets started, nothing will happen."
Check out the rest of the "Best of 2019: David Dayen: The Prospect's executive editor highlights his favorite stories of the year."

RIP: "William Greider, Journalist Who Focused on Economy, Dies at 83: In interviews with Reagan's budget director, David Stockman, he exposed doubts about the supply-side economics that the administration had embraced. William Greider, a reporter, editor and popular author who examined the United States, its politics and its position in the world through an economic lens for four decades for The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, The Nation and other media outlets, died on Wednesday at his home in Washington. He was 83. His son, Cameron, said the cause was complications of congestive heart failure. Mr. Greider worked for 15 years at The Post, where he was a national correspondent, an assistant managing editor for national news and a columnist. His writing then took a more polemical and leftward turn at Rolling Stone, where, as a columnist and national affairs editor from 1982 to 1999, he began investigating the defense establishment and challenging mainstream political and economic thought. He joined The Nation in 1999 as the national affairs correspondent and was also a correspondent for six Frontline documentaries on PBS, including 'Return to Beirut,' which won an Emmy in 1985."

John Nichols in The Nation, "William Greider Knew What Ailed the Democratic Party ...and how to fix it. We will miss him.: Born in the year of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's greatest electoral triumph, William Greider was in so many senses the last New Dealer. His death on Christmas Day, at age 83, represents a stark loss for American journalism. His honest diagnosis of our political crisis distinguished him from his contemporaries as he covered politics across six long decades. Now, it forms a legacy that is essential to understanding a 2020 election campaign that could finally see the emergence of the more humane and progressive electoral project that he identified as necessary—and possible. I knew Bill as a quick-witted comrade in the press corps of too many campaigns to count, a generous mentor, an ideological compatriot, and an occasional co-conspirator. He taught me to see politics not as the game that TV pundits discuss but as a high-stakes struggle for power in which the Democrats foolishly, and then dangerously, yielded far too much ground to increasingly right-wing Republicans."

RIP: "Buck Henry: the master of despair whose comedies seduced Hollywood: Screenwriter behind The Graduate and What's Up Doc? forged a cultural cache that paved the way for future generations he language of American comedy would have been a lot less sparky without Buck Henry, who has died aged 89. He helped shape one of the most revolutionary films of the 1960s (The Graduate), co-wrote one of the funniest of all time (What's Up, Doc?) and scripted the movie that became the springboard for Nicole Kidman's career (To Die For). Each new wave of comic talent took it in turn to pay tribute to Henry in some way; Tina Fey, who cast him as her character Liz Lemon's badly behaved father in 30 Rock, was only the most recent." The article doesn't even mention That Was The Week That Was, where I still have sharp memories of him (particularly that time with the hamburger buns falling on his desk). Doesn't mention his multiple guest appearances on SNL, either, though I don't think anyone else had ten of them. Nor his valiant attempt to translate Catch-22 to film (it wasn't quite what I wanted, but it was a damned good try - and funny). There's more.

RIP: "Neil Innes, Rutles star and 'seventh Python', dies aged 75" — Guardian
"Neil Innes, 'Monty Python' Songwriter, Rutles Co-Founder, Dead at 75" — Rolling Stone"

RIP: "Jack Sheldon who sang 'I'm Just a Bill" in 'Schoolhouse Rock!' dies at age 88: Jack Sheldon, an acclaimed jazz musician whose trumpet graced the award-winning song 'The Shadow of Your Smile' and who was known to TV viewers as the puckish sidekick to talk show host Merv Griffin, has died. He was 88. Sheldon died Friday of natural causes, his longtime manager and partner, Dianne Jimenez, said in a statement Tuesday. Further details were not provided."

RIP: "Leon Lederman death: Nobel Prize-winning physicist dies aged 96 after being forced to sell medal for $765,000 to pay medical bills: An experimental physicist who won a Nobel Prize for his groundbreaking work on subatomic particles has died aged 96. Leon Lederman coined the phrase "God particle", a shorthand description of the then-theoretical Higgs boson, in the title of a 1993 book. His discoveries proved crucial in the identification of the subatomic particle that accounts for matter having mass in 2012."

RIP: "Scots author Alasdair Gray dies at the age of 85: The 85-year-old was known for novels such as Lanark (1981) and the award-winning Poor Things (1992), which are both set in Glasgow where he was born. His public murals are visible across the city, with further pieces on display in the V&A and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. He died on Sunday at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. His family said he wanted to leave his body to science so there would be no funeral." He will always be fondly remembered in British fandom for that time he passed out on the steps of the ballroom as guest of honor at his first convention.

Ana Kasparian, "How Nancy Pelosi enables Trump's reelection: A common accusation to any justified leftist critique of the Democratic establishment is that progressives are only helping to reelect Donald Trump. The finger-wagging and guilt-tripping that one would expect from a disappointed mother is the corporate Democrat's way to hush up valid concerns while deflecting to the devastating consequences of Trump's second term. But if Democratic leadership perceives Trump to be a huge threat, they have a funny way of showing it. Their actions demonstrate not only a willingness to negotiate or work with Trump but also an eagerness to throw their constituents under a bus while enabling him. Trump is unquestionably monstrous to the working class in America. But so are the Democrats who consistently join in on his brutality. For instance, corporate Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have a seemingly unmitigated desire to assist Trump in accomplishing right-wing legislative wins, and there are many examples to prove the point."

"The Pelosi Playbook: What do you get when you cross big-money politics and tepid progressive positions? A look back at the career of Nancy Pelosi, who's now poised to retake the House Speaker post. [...] On the one hand, Pelosi is undoubtedly an able hand at the practical aspects of the job, and in several high-profile episodes she's successfully resisted parts of the Republican agenda and occasionally even the more right-wing elements of her own party. On the other, Pelosi is arguably the perfect avatar for today's moribund Democratic Party: awash in money, steeped in conflicts of interest, hopelessly anchored to an illiberal and always-moving center, and pathologically unable to fully stand up for what should theoretically be its own principles — all of which makes her unsuited to leading the party in the current moment."

"Envisioning Solidarity: ON DECEMBER 29TH, the last night of Hanukkah, several of us met at Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza for the lighting of a hanukkiah as tall as a city street lamp. 'Brooklyn's Largest Menorah' belongs to the ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect Chabad; it is lit nightly during the holiday at celebrations usually dominated by Chabadniks. But on this cold, rainy evening, a more diverse crowd gathered, brought together by a call from progressive Jewish and Muslim organizations to join in solidarity with the Orthodox community. The previous night, 30 miles north in the town of Monsey, a masked intruder had entered the home of a Hasidic rabbi during a Hanukkah party and stabbed five people. (All the victims lived, but one is likely to be permanently comatose.) The vigil at the menorah lighting felt both disorienting and familiar, a surreal performance of intercommunal life in central Brooklyn, where all but one of us live. It was heartening to join with friends and neighbors—Jewish, black, South Asian—to demand an end to the frightening wave of violence currently afflicting Orthodox Jews in the New York area: the stabbings in Monsey, the mass shooting at a kosher market in Jersey City, and the relentless stream of assaults and vandalisms in Brooklyn. At the same time, even as we recited the Hanukkah blessings along with a Chabad rabbi, it was clear that we were witnessing not a single unified event but two parallel ones: a Hanukkah ceremony by and primarily for a particular Hasidic community, and a rally against antisemitism held by outsiders to that community. Huddled together under umbrellas, eating hot latkes distributed by Chabadnik children, we were intimate yet divided, as we are in our neighborhoods. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, over the days that followed, these gestures at solidarity were counteracted by something darker than mere division: rhetoric from the Jewish right and center that attempted to pit leftist Jews against Orthodox ones."

I really need to get around to doing some googling to find out how it worked out six years ago when Vietnam sentenced corrupt bankers to firing squads. How's their economy doing?

From Yves Smith in April of 2013, "Bill Greider on Why Paul Krugman Was So Wrong: I know I often give Paul Krugman a hard time. The big reason is he does not always seem to take the responsibilities that come along with his stature seriously. While he has staked out some important positions and defended them vigorously, such as firmly opposing austerity, and took quite a lot of heat for his early opposition to the war in Iraq, in other areas he is often too inclined to fall in with conventional thinking. And don't get me started on how he defends dubious Obama behavior. The fact that the Republicans are bad guys does not make the Democrats good guys by default. A good piece in the Nation by Bill Greider, which focuses on Krugman's long standing support of free trade, and how, contrary to his predictions, the results were not positive for ordinary American workers. Greider, who has long stressed that our system is not open trade but managed trade, and that other countries manage it with much more attention to protecting their workers than we do, has reason to personalize this discussion. He does point out that Krugman's positions on trade were widely held among mainstream economists in the 1990s. But it is still fair for Greider to call Krugman out. First, Krugman, as a trade economist, was taken seriously not just in the profession but in wider policy debates. Second, Krugman took it upon himself to act as an enforcer, and went after people who dared suggest that opening up more sources of low wage labor might reduce pay levels in the US. In particular, he savaged Greider."

"A provocative new book argues we must 'unlearn' race. We absolutely should: While many on the left now reject gender categories, they seem determined to enshrine racial categories. Let's do better [...] Then everything changed: he and his wife, a white French woman, had their daughter Marlow. As Williams held Marlow, he took in her blonde hair and blue eyes and his conception of America's strict racial dichotomy between black and white started to collapse before him. He began to see racial categories as an obstacle to social progress."

"Bill Barr Thinks America Is Going to Hell: And he's on a mission to use the 'authority' of the executive branch to stop it. [...] It is hardly the first time Mr. Barr stepped outside of long-established norms for the behavior of attorneys general. In his earlier stint as attorney general, during the George H.W. Bush presidency, Mr. Barr took on the role of helping to disappear the case against Reagan administration officials involved in the Iran-contra affair. The situation demonstrated that 'powerful people with powerful allies can commit serious crimes in high office,' according to Lawrence Walsh, the independent prosecutor in that case. According to some critics, Mr. Barr delivered the partisan goods then, as he is delivering them now. Another view is that Mr. Barr is principally a defender of a certain interpretation of the Constitution that attributes maximum power to the executive. This view, too, finds ample support in Mr. Barr's own words. In the speech to the Federalist Society, he said, 'Since the mid-'60s, there has been a steady grinding down of the executive branch's authority that accelerated after Watergate.' In July, when President Trump claimed, in remarks to a conservative student group, 'I have an Article II where I have the right to do whatever I want as president,' it is reasonable to suppose this is his CliffsNotes version of Mr. Barr's ideology. Both of these views are accurate enough. But at least since Mr. Barr's infamous speech at the University of Notre Dame Law School, in which he blamed 'secularists' for 'moral chaos' and 'immense suffering, wreckage and misery,' it has become clear that no understanding of William Barr can be complete without taking into account his views on the role of religion in society. For that, it is illuminating to review how Mr. Barr has directed his Justice Department on matters concerning the First Amendment clause forbidding the establishment of a state religion." What Barr believes in is "religious freedom" for people with his religious beliefs, and that "freedom" is the freedom to assert, in all things, the dominance of his own religion: religious privilege.

"The Incredible, Rage-Inducing Inside Story of America's Student Debt Machine: Why is the nation's flagship loan forgiveness program failing the people it's supposed to help? [...] Everything seemed fine for the first few years—McIlvaine initially made payments through an Education Department website, and then, as the department increasingly outsourced its loans, hers were transferred to a company called MOHELA. But once FedLoan took over, things quickly started to go awry. While FedLoan was sorting out the transfer, her loans were put into forbearance, an option usually reserved for people having difficulty making payments; during a forbearance, any progress toward forgiveness stalls, and loans balloon with interest. Then the company failed to put several of her loans on an income-based plan—so her payments briefly shot up, she says. And when McIlvaine submitted her tax information, she says FedLoan took months to process the paperwork—while she waited, the company again put her into what it called 'administrative forbearance,' so none of the payments she made during this period counted either. (McIlvaine requested a forbearance at least once, after turning in late renewal paperwork.) McIlvaine initially hoped these problems were just 'hiccups,' but they kept piling up. And when she tried to figure out what was going on, she says, FedLoan's call center 'loan counselors' brushed the whole thing off as an inconsequential administrative oversight. Astonishingly, the cycle would repeat over the next four years."

Ganesh Sitaraman in The New Republic, "The Collapse of Neoliberalism: The long-dominant ideology brought us forever wars, the Great Recession, and extreme inequality. Good riddance.: With the 2008 financial crash and the Great Recession, the ideology of neoliberalism lost its force. The approach to politics, global trade, and social philosophy that defined an era led not to never-ending prosperity but utter disaster. 'Laissez-faire is finished,' declared French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan admitted in testimony before Congress that his ideology was flawed. In an extraordinary statement, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd declared that the crash 'called into question the prevailing neoliberal economic orthodoxy of the past 30 years—the orthodoxy that has underpinned the national and global regulatory frameworks that have so spectacularly failed to prevent the economic mayhem which has been visited upon us.'"

"The Ultra-Wealthy Who Argue That They Should Be Paying Higher Taxes: In an age of historic disparity, Abigail Disney and the Patriotic Millionaires take on income inequality. [...] Disney is one of the highest-profile figures in the Patriotic Millionaires, which now has more than two hundred members in thirty-four states: technology entrepreneurs, software engineers, Wall Street investors, industrialists, and inheritors of family fortunes. Although Abigail is best known for her criticisms of the Disney company, the group's mission was initially a simple idea endorsed by a half-dozen rich people: 'Please raise our taxes.' The members now have the broader goal of pressuring their wealthy peers to confront what they believe are the destructive effects of trickle-down economics—the idea, which has driven U.S. policy decisions for several decades and has largely been debunked, that reducing taxes on businesses and the wealthy will benefit low- and middle-income workers. Members of the Patriotic Millionaires lobby lawmakers and affluent individuals to instead support policies that would, for instance, increase the minimum wage and raise taxes on corporations and the rich. 'If you want to change social norms, you've got to be out there going public about your beliefs,' Eric Schoenberg, a former investment banker, said, during a breakfast that the group held in New York, in October."

Venn Diagram

Beach Boys, "I Can Hear Music"

18:18 GMT comment


Friday, 27 December 2019

Did I say overlords? I meant protectors

Oops, got distracted by Christmas from posting the traditional Christmas links, but that's okay, they're good up to the Epiphany:
* Mark Evanier's wonderful Mel Tormé story, and here's the man himself in duet with Judy Garland.
* Joshua Held's Christmas card, with a little help from Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters.
* Brian Brink's tour-de-force performance of "The Carol of the Bells"
* "Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime."
* Ron Tiner's one-page cartoon version of A Christmas Carol

"Six companies are about to merge into the biggest farm-business oligopoly in history: Top executives from Bayer, Monsanto, DuPont, Dow Chemical, and Syngenta today (Sept. 20) testified before the US Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, making a case for why federal regulators should approve the mega-mergers, which stand to fundamentally reorganize global agriculture. (Executives from the sixth company involved in the consolidation, China National Chemical Corp., declined an invitation to appear at the hearing.) [...] The consolidation of these six highly competitive companies into three juggernauts has left many farmers and consumers uneasy. Consumers advocates say they worry the mergers will usher in a 'new era of sterile crops soaked in dangerous pesticides.' Farmers worry that less competition in the marketplace will give the merged companies an ability to increase prices of seeds and chemicals—something that would be particularly harmful during a time when US farm incomes are dropping."

"Schumer Revealed as Key Industry Ally in Defeat of Effort to Curb Surprise Billing: It was one of a series of lobbying victories by the healthcare industry in 2019 bolstered by top Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer worked behind the scenes through December in the Senate to defeat a bipartisan initiative to curb surprise medical billing, according to a new report Friday which details the lobbying victories won by the for-profit healthcare industry in 2019."

"Why the Media Is Ignoring the Afghanistan Papers: The documents are a bombshell. So why do so few news outlets care? This week, The Washington Post published the Afghanistan Papers, an extensive review of thousands of pages of internal government documents relating to the war in Afghanistan. Like the Pentagon Papers, which showcased the lies underpinning the Vietnam War, the Post's investigation shows that U.S. officials, across three presidential administrations, intentionally and systematically misled the American public for 18 years and counting. As Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1974, told CNN earlier this week, the Pentagon and Afghanistan Papers revealed the same dynamic: 'The presidents and the generals had a pretty realistic view of what they were up against, which they did not want to admit to the American people.'"

"Andrew Yang Has The Most Conservative Health Care Plan In The Democratic Primary: Entrepreneur Andrew Yang has had unexpected staying power in the Democratic presidential primary thanks in part to the enthusiasm for his plan to provide every American with a basic income of $1,000 a month. But the boldness of his signature idea only serves to underscore the unambitiousness of the health care plan he released earlier this month. In fact, Yang's health plan, which he bills as an iteration of the left's preferred 'Medicare for All' policy, is more conservative than proposals introduced by the candidates typically identified as moderate. [...] Under Yang's plan, people employed by businesses that do not provide insurance, or who are self-employed, would continue to purchase coverage on the exchanges created by former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. The decision not to focus on expanding coverage distinguishes Yang dramatically from his competitors. And in the foreword to his plan, he explains that that is a deliberate choice, since enacting single-payer health care is 'not a realistic strategy.'"

"Accusing Bernie Sanders of antisemitism? That's a new low: The allegations should be called for what they are: politiking in service of politicians who will put more Jews in danger. [...] For Lowe and others on the right that have jumped on this bandwagon, though, details don't really matter. Sanders, an avowed democratic socialist, simply belongs to an opposing political camp with opposing values. Like the attacks against Corbyn abroad and Ilhan Omar at home, those now being lobbed at Sanders aren't about defeating antisemitism so much as using it as a narrative device to undermine a worldview that offends them. Sanders's solidarity with Palestinians suffering under occupation is not an affront to Jews but to the right's propaganda that looking out for their best interest means a blanket, unquestioning support for whatever the Israeli government happens to be doing, which at the moment includes maintaining a brutal apartheid state."

"National Democrats Have Endorsed Three Former Republicans In Key Senate Races: SENATE DEMOCRATS' CAMPAIGN arm has endorsed three former Republicans, adding to a list of races in which the party has continued a futile strategy of backing moderates over candidates with more progressive platforms. [...] IN OTHER SENATE races, national Democrats are backing conservative Democratic candidates over viable progressives. In Kentucky, for example, the party has coalesced around Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, a centrist who lost a winnable 2018 House race and stands little chance of unseating Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. State Rep. Charles Booker is running to her left. In North Carolina, the DSCC has endorsed commercial litigation attorney, former state senator, and military veteran Cal Cunningham to replace Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, who is one of the least popular senators in the country. The committee has backed Cunningham even though state Sen. Erica Smith, a progressive, has led both Cunningham and Tillis in polling — as recently as November. Cunningham has far outraised Smith, with $1.7 million — including $200,000 of his own money — to her $133,000, including $4,500 of her own money. Cunningham has had significant fundraising help from donors linked to Schumer. " We are mere minutes from the day when saying, "Bernie's not a Democrat" will be synonymous with saying, "Bernie's never been a Republican."

Is there a sea-change in Politico? "Democratic insiders: Bernie could win the nomination [...] A series of TV segments around last week's Democratic debate illustrate the shift in how Sanders is being perceived. 'We never talk about Bernie Sanders. He is actually doing pretty well in this polling,' former senior Obama adviser David Axelrod said on CNN after the event. 'He's actually picked up. And the fact is Bernie Sanders is as consistent as consistent can be.' The same day on MSNBC, national political correspondent Steve Kornacki said, 'Democratic voters like him, and if he starts winning, there could be a bandwagon effect.' GOP pollster Frank Luntz, who conducted a California focus group that found most participants thought Sanders had won the debate, said on CNBC, 'I think you're going to see continued movement. Sanders has been gaining in California over the past two months.' [...] Faiz Shakir, Sanders' campaign manager, said political insiders and pundits are rethinking his chances 'not out of the goodness of their heart,' but because 'it is harder and harder to ignore him when he's rising in every average that you see.' And he welcomes a conversation about Sanders' electability, he said. 'We want that,' he said. 'I'd love to be able to argue why he stands a better chance to beat Donald Trump than Joe Biden.'"

"Why Are Cops Around the World Using This Outlandish Mind-Reading Tool? The creator of Scientific Content Analysis, or SCAN, says the tool can identify deception. Law enforcement has used his method for decades, even though there's no reliable science behind it. Even the CIA and FBI have bought in. [...] The review devoted just one paragraph to SCAN. Its synopsis was short but withering. SCAN 'is widely employed in spite of a lack of supporting research,' the review said. Studies commonly cited in support of SCAN were scientifically flawed, the review said. 'When all 12 SCAN criteria were used in a laboratory study, SCAN did not distinguish truth-tellers from liars above the level of chance,' the review said. The synopsis also specifically challenged two of those 12 criteria, noting: 'Both gaps in memory and spontaneous corrections have been shown to be indicators of truth, contrary to what is claimed by SCAN.' In a footnote, the review identified three specific agencies that use SCAN: the FBI, CIA and U.S. Army military intelligence, which falls under the Department of Defense. Those were the very agencies responsible for this report, concluding there's no reliable science behind SCAN."

"Government Entitled To Edward Snowden's Book Money, Judge Rules The National Security Agency leaker violated secrecy contracts by discussing his classified work without approval, a federal judge said. The government is entitled to any money that National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden makes from his book and paid speeches because he discussed his top-secret work without permission, a federal judge ruled. Snowden signed contracts while working for the NSA about handling classified information that detailed the government's sweeping surveillance programs, and his book and speeches are violations that permit the government to claim his profits, U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady wrote in an opinion released Tuesday in Virginia. 'The contracts at issue here are unambiguous and clear,' the judge wrote."

Intercepted, "We Tortured Some Folks: The Report's Daniel Jones On The Ongoing Fight To Hold The CIA Accountable: MONDAY MARKED THE five-year anniversary of the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's executive summary on the CIA's torture program. The former top Senate Intelligence Committee investigator, Daniel Jones, and his team combed through 6.3 million pages of CIA records. Jones discusses the yearslong battle with the Bush and Obama administrations to make public the findings of this still-classified 7,000-page report. In this bonus episode, Jones expands on the torture report findings."

"What It Looks Like When a Hospital We Investigated Erases $11.9 Million in Medical Debt: MEMPHIS, Tenn. — When Danielle Robinson got a letter in the mail from Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in October, she braced herself. She'd missed a court-ordered payment to the hospital after she was laid off from her job in September. In 2018, the massive nonprofit health care system sued her for just over $11,500 in unpaid hospital bills, plus $3,800 in attorney's fees. In April, a Shelby County General Sessions Court judge ordered her to pay $150 per month toward the debt. If she was lucky, the envelope contained only a warning. If she wasn't, it was another attempt to garnish her paycheck, even though she wasn't even getting one. Nervously, she opened the letter. 'As of August 1, 2019,' it said, 'your total amount due is $0 for docket ROBINSON, and we have notified the court that this account has been paid in full.' 'I had to read it a couple of times just to make sure,' Robinson said. 'I couldn't believe it. I went crying around the house.'"

RIP: "Baba Ram Dass, Proponent of LSD Turned New Age Guru, Dies at 88: Born Richard Alpert, he first gained notice as a colleague of Timothy Leary and later became even better known as the author of Be Here Now."

Pareene in The New Republic, "A Decade of Liberal Delusion and Failure: It was the death of hope by a thousand tiny technocratic "nudges." As 2009 ended, the editors of this magazine at the time took their measure of the first year of Barack Obama's presidency and declared it, with some reservations, a modest success. 'All of this might not exactly place him in the pantheon next to Franklin Roosevelt,' they said of his major domestic achievements (the stimulus package, primarily, as the Affordable Care Act had not yet been signed). 'But it's not a bad start, given all the constraints of the political system (and global order) in which he works.' That was the broad consensus of American liberals at the time, ranging from nearly the most progressive to nearly the most neoliberal. Over the ensuing years, that consensus would crack and eventually shatter under the weight of one disappointment after another. The story of American politics over the past decade is that of a political party on the cusp of enduring power and world-historical social reform, and how these once imaginable outcomes were methodically squandered. [...] It's hard to remember now how wise everyone made it sound that the president and his team intentionally avoided doing things they worried would be too popular, but there would not be another New Deal."

"There is hard data that shows that a centrist Democrat would be a losing candidate: Economist Thomas Piketty wrote a paper about this in 2018, though the Democrats paid no attention. The Republican Party has earned a reputation as the anti-science, anti-fact party — understandably, perhaps, given the GOP's policy of ignoring the evidence for global climate change and insisting on the efficacy of supply-side economics, despite all the research to the contrary. Yet ironically, it is now the Democratic Party that is wantonly ignoring mounds of social science data that suggests that promoting centrist candidates is a bad, losing strategy when it comes to winning elections. As the Democratic establishment and its pundit class starts to line up behind the centrist nominees for president — like Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg — the party's head-in-the-sand attitude is especially troubling.."

"'Authenticity,' 'Culturally Relevant': Why Bernie Sanders Is Resonating With Latinos [...] Recent polls by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and Latino Decisions all show Sanders as the top Democratic presidential candidate choice among Latino Democrats. He has a particular strength with young Latinos. The story of how a man who represents one of the whitest states in the country — Vermont — came to resonate with the largest nonwhite eligible voting block in the country is multifaceted."

"Pete Buttigieg's Campaign Says This Wikipedia User Is Not Pete. So Who Is It?: Tracking down the editor who tracks every move the South Bend mayor makes. [...] Luckily for Buttigieg, there is at least one person carefully looking out for his needs on Wikipedia—someone who has followed his political career from its very beginning, and whose interests and connections track his own with eerie sympathy. This Wikipedia user was there to post the site's first mention of Pete Buttigieg's political career in 2010, and to write the very first iteration of Pete Buttigieg's Wikipedia page. They go by the username 'Streeling.' Streeling is an old Irish word that means 'wandering,' the sort of word that might be familiar to the son of a scholar who studied James Joyce. Joyce uses the noun streel, meaning 'a disreputable woman,' in Ulysses, which Pete Buttigieg has cited as the book that influenced him the most." I can't help think this is either someone who has had a crush on Buttigieg since high school or one of Buttigieg's parents. It's like a a parental scrapbook of their kids.

"Future Audi Interiors Will Be A Button-Less, Screen-Filled Dystopia [...] Even if you generally know where you need to press on a touchscreen, you'll still need to look down more often than not to confirm. You can't just feel around for the right button. What happens if the touchscreen glitches or gets stuck? Will you be trapped and unable to turn off the air conditioning? You'll freeze! We've all experienced menus we can't back out of before. Does that mean we'll all have to get used to the hard-resetting (turning off then turning back on) of our cars, too?"

"Canadian Healthcare - Debunking the Myths" - Wendell Potter busting the myths he himself once spread on behalf of the health insurance industry.

"Louisa May Alcott's Forgotten Thrillers Are Revolutionary Examples Of Early Feminism: [...] Generations of scholars have examined Alcott's personal life (Civil War nurse, 'spinster,' possibly a lesbian), discussed ad nauseum her family's radical political activism (her father was not only a transcendentalist and an abolitionist, but believed in absolute equality of all races); and marveled at her childhood milieu, surrounded by people like Emerson and Thoreau and her mother's friends, Lucretia Mott and the Grimke sisters, as well as meeting Frederick Douglass and his wife. But far less attention is paid to her sensationalist 'blood and thunder tales'—pulpy thrillers she wrote early in her career, often using the pseudonym A.M. Barnard. This was the work Alcott was passionate about before the financial needs of her family forced her into writing what she called 'moral pap for the young.'"

Harry Potter But In 7 Different Genres

"Moonlight Etchings of the Forgotten Artist who Taught Edward Hopper"

01:36 GMT comment


Thursday, 19 December 2019

More slow glass

Things are happening too fast for me. I'm not even gonna talk about the impeachment stuff, it's all too much. I still think Pelosi is a saboteur, though.

Jeremy Corbyn in the Guardian, "We won the argument, but I regret we didn't convert that into a majority for change: We are living in highly volatile times. Two-and-a-half years ago, in the first general election I contested as Labour leader, our party increased its share of the popular vote by 10 percentage points. On Thursday, on a desperately disappointing night, we fell back eight points. I have called for a period of reflection in the party, and there is no shortage of things to consider. I don't believe these two contrasting election results can be understood in isolation." The other good news: Many of the Labour MPs who lost their seats were virulently anti-Corbyn, and the leader of the "centrist" party, Jo Swinson of the LibDems, lost her seat while her party went down to a mere 11 seats.

"Pelosi brokers deal with liberals on drug pricing bill: The chamber's liberal wing had threatened to stall the bill, if Pelosi refused to make a series of last-minute changes to the legislation. Significantly, Pelosi didn't want to get rid of the no-negotiation rule from Bush's Medicare Part D. This was something *everyone* in the real world had expected (and wanted!) Obama to do and one of the reasons many felt betrayed by him. And it's not something anyone should have trouble selling to the public, and I mean Republican voters, too.

"Bernie Sanders' Broadband Plan Is Comcast's Worst Nightmare: Sanders promises to break up media monopolies, restore net neutrality, and embrace the countless towns and cities that are building their own broadband networks. AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast executives aren't going to like Bernie Sanders' new broadband plan. The wide ranging proposal, released Friday morning, would all but demolish big telecom's stranglehold over the broadband and media sectors, unwinding decades of unrelenting consolidation, imposing hard new limits on how much broadband providers can charge for service, while opening the door to significantly broader availability of community broadband. The proposal pulls no punches when it comes to the U.S.' broadband woes."

"'Despicable': Internal Emails Reveal Water Contractor Knew About Lead Risks in Flint Months Before City's Public Confirmation: 'I think anyone has to ask themselves how the story in Flint would be different five years later now if Veolia had made those private concerns public.'" Interestingly, in Forbes, "Democratic Politicians Go Back To Blaming The Poor For Their Poverty: It is typically well-off GOP members and sympathizers who explicitly and publicly blame low-income people, the poor, and everyone, for that matter, who feel discrimination, for all their problems. 'If only someone had worked harder. Had kept a family together. Valued education. Given up the cell phone. Stopped drinking those lattes. Stayed at work instead of wanting to go off and have kids.' These are self-soothing suggestions. Those with money want to believe that they have an innate right to it—that they worked hard and, through nothing more than their own effort, achieved what they have. Whereas, people in the U.S. are increasingly stuck when we look at upward mobility, according to data pulled together last year by Forbes.com contributor Aparna Mathur. Particularly when looking at generation over generation educational attainment—higher levels meaning upward mobility—for those born in the 1940s, the percentage that would exceed their parents was about 68%. Today, [...] If you're comfortably at the top, it could be distressing to consider that your fortune sat atop the backs of many people's opportunities. Lecturing on good behavior is much easier. In the past week, we had the unusual display of Democratic candidates doing exactly this."

"Ocasio-Cortez takes victory lap after Amazon goes to NYC — even after she helped block $3 billion in subsidies [...] 'The giant online retailer said it has signed a new lease for 335,000 square feet on the city's west side in the new Hudson Yards neighborhood, where it will have more than 1,500 employees,' The Wall Street Journal reported. 'Amazon is taking the space without any of the special tax credits and other inducements the company had been offered to build a new headquarters in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City, the company said.'" It was always obvious that Amazon wanted to be in New York and they needed no inducements. This is New York City, ffs.

"Pete for Corporate America [...] In Buttigieg, voters get a candidate who can define neoliberalism in a sentence, who will even say that he thinks it's a negative force in the world. But he has never explained what alternative he offers. Generational change, in the mayor's case, doesn't mean much. Voters will just get a younger version of a Democratic Party they already know." So, sorta like Hillary Clinton, only younger, and with different baggage.

"People hate shopping for health insurance: Americans rarely switch to new health plans when the annual insurance-shopping season comes around, even if they could have gotten a better deal. The bottom line: People loathe shopping for health plans, and many are bad at it, for one major reason: "It's just too hard," Tricia Neuman, a Medicare expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told me last year."

I'm with Lambert on this: If Pelosi didn't think Bush-Cheney's lies and lawbreaking were impeachable, what's her justification for this one? I'm sorry, but torture and lying us into a war that's cost hundreds of thousands of lives and made an even bigger mess of the world stand in horrific contrast to what Trump is accused of. "Impeachment, the House as Prosecutor, and Justice [...] Put Turley's justifiable polemic against a childish West Wing view of international relations aside. Just look at the triviality of the subject matter, whether you think Trump is guilty or not. White House appearances. Military aid. Corruption investigations. How is lying the country into the Iraq war not impeachable, and this mass of anodyne trivialities impeachable? When it's the same prosecutor declining to indict for Iraq, and deciding to indict for Ukraine? Whatever this is, it's not 'the impartial and consistent application of rules', and that means the House is failing in its prosecutorial duty to seek justice, and not merely conviction."

"Why Hospitals Never Have Enough Nurses: The Explanatory Power of 'Prasad's Law' of Wealth Concentration: Yves here. In case you haven't had the misfortune to acquire first-hand experience, what Vinay Prasad and Roy Poses say about chronic nurse shortages in hospitals appears to be correct. I have a good friend whose father was a doctor and who has spent big parts of her career in the medical biz (her first job was at the NIH) who says she would never go to a hospital in New York without bringing her own private duty nurses. And it is not as if she is flush. Poses uses this sad fact to illustrate a more general pattern for what gets readily paid for in US medical circles: only services that direct income into the hands of the wealthy. And this is a big reason why incremental reform of the medical system will not deliver meaningfully better outcomes for patients or lower costs. The idea, for instance, that Big Pharma gets to free ride on government-funded basic and often applied research and then price gouges patients has to stop."

The UK elections may be over, but this was a good video. "An Appeal By David Graeber Re: Labour 'Antisemitism': David Graeber - a Jewish Anthropologist - speaks to the dangers of the witch hunt and why a Jeremy Corbyn victory would be the most positive outcome for Jewish people not just in the UK, but worldwide."

"Researchers say there's a simple way to reduce suicides: Increase the minimum wage: Since 2000, the suicide rate in the United States has risen 35 percent, primarily because of the significant increase in such deaths among the white population. There are hints that these deaths are the result of worsening prospects among less-educated people, but there are few immediate answers. But maybe the solution is simple: pursue policies that improve the prospects of working-class Americans. Researchers have found that when the minimum wage in a state increased, or when states boosted a tax credit for working families, the suicide rate decreased."

"Billionaire-funded protest is rearing its head in America: Recently a crowd of protesters disrupted a speech by Elizabeth Warren. The activists might have seemed grassroots, but they weren't: Last week, Elizabeth Warren went to Atlanta to give a major speech about issues of concern to black women. Her speech touched on knotty, existential topics such as the legacy of slavery, institutional racism, voter suppression, mass incarceration and reparations. But the next day's headlines overwhelmingly focused on the fact that the speech was interrupted by a loud group of pro-charter school protesters. We were supposed to be talking about challenging centuries of institutional racism, but now we're talking about charter schools. How did that happen? If you suspect that some sort of nefarious action that can be traced back to plutocratic billionaires is involved — well, of course."

Now this is weird. "Clinton Donors Charged in Massive Campaign-Finance Scheme [...] The individuals conspired to 'make and conceal conduit and excessive campaign contributions' valued around $3.5 million in the 2016 election campaign and beyond, according to the announcement. Although the indictment does not specifically name the recipient of the donations, it is clear that the contributions went to groups allied with Clinton's presidential campaign."

"What really happened during the Battle in Seattle? And how the 1999 WTO protests changed the way we think about capitalism, globalism and economic equity. The WTO protests in November 1999 put Seattle on the map in a way that grunge and tech never could. The World Trade Organization had planned a meeting in the city to discuss trade agreements for the new millennium, but then tens of thousands of protestors filled the streets. For days, activists overwhelmed the event and the city's police force, which responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. The protesters were there to condemn corporate power and the potential impacts of free trade on human rights and the environment. And while the WTO ultimately continued its work, the protest had a big effect on Seattle and the world. It influenced similar movements, like Occupy Wall Street, to come to the city. And it impacted how we think and talk about capitalism, globalism and economic equity. Now, on the 20th anniversary of the so-called "Battle in Seattle," we invited a panel of local leaders to the Crosscut Talks podcast to discuss what happened in Seattle in 1999 and what it means to our world today. The episode begins with former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper and activist John Sellers, who are later joined by activist Nikkita Oliver and Norwell Coquillard, executive director of the Washington State China Relations Council. The conversation was recorded at KCTS9 studios in Seattle on Nov. 19, 2019, as part of the Crosscut Talks Live series."

RIP: "René Auberjonois, actor who starred in M*A*S*H*, Star Trek and Benson, dies aged 79: In a career spanning six decades, the actor worked on Broadway, in Hollywood's 70s golden age and TV. René Auberjonois, a prolific actor best known for his roles on the television shows Benson and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and his part in the 1970 film M*A*S*H*, has died aged 79. The actor died on Sunday at his home in Los Angeles of metastatic lung cancer, his son Rèmy-Luc Auberjonois said. René Auberjonois worked constantly as a character actor in several golden ages, from the dynamic theatre of the 1960s to the cinema renaissance of the 1970s to the prime period of network television in the 1980s and 90s. For film fans of the 1970s, he was Father John Mulcahy, the military chaplain who played straight man to the doctors antics in M.A.S.H. It was his first significant film role and the first of several for director Robert Altman."

RIP: "Paul A. Volcker, Fed Chairman Who Waged War on Inflation, Is Dead at 92." He was a disaster.

"Why America's 1-Percenters Are Richer Than Europe's: A new Gilded Age has emerged in America — a 21st century version. The wealth of the top 1% of Americans has grown dramatically in the past four decades, squeezing both the middle class and the poor. This is in sharp contrast to Europe and Asia, where the wealth of the 1% has grown at a more constrained pace. [...] Rather than simply trying to make up for unequal pay through tax-code redistribution, Europe's economy delivers more equitable paychecks from the outset. Economists call this strategy 'pre-distribution.' Chancel suggests that the Europeans accomplish this through policies and institutions that improve workers' bargaining power — such as strong labor unions and higher minimum wages. And they push to make workers more productive, for example through broad-based access to education and health care. Whether U.S. voters will embrace such policies is an open question. But it's clear that rising inequality has made America exceptional — and not in a good way." Handy graphs.

"Kansas City, Missouri, Approves Free Public Transit for All: Mass transit measure is championed as 'visionary way to reduce inequality and better serve everyone in the community. 'Let's do this everywhere.' Lawmakers in Kansas City, Missouri took a "visionary step" on Thursday by unanimously voting to make public transportation in the city free of charge, setting the stage for it to be the first major U.S. city to have free public transit."

"Yes, There is a Civil War Within the Democratic Party—it's Just Not What You Think: The popular narrative about the Democratic Divide is all wrong and it's important that we realise the truth—before it is too late. [...] So yes, Mainstream Media and political pundits, there is a 'civil war' raging within the Democratic Party, but the rebels are not the Berniecrats. The true revolutionaries are the Clintonite apostates who have been trying for 20 years to overturn and reverse the greatest achievements of the Democratic Party, programs that help the poor, the working class and the middle class; programs that protect the people from the cruel vicissitudes of the Market and the sociopathic machinations of those whom FDR called 'the Economic Royalists.' The current Democratic Establishment is run by those self-same Economic Royalists; the robber barons whose hatred FDR welcomed are now met with open arms and warm receptions by the revolutionary Leadership that has seized control of the Democratic Party. These radicals have taken the Party of FDR, JFK, LBJ, RFK and turned it into the Democratic Party of Goldwater, Nixon and Reagan."

Another weird turn in the NYT: Ross Douthat makes "The Case for Bernie: The Democrats need a unifier. It could be the Vermont Socialist. [...] This is why, despite technically preferring a moderate like Biden or Amy Klobuchar, I keep coming back to the conservative's case for Bernie — which rests on the perhaps-wrong but still attractive supposition that he's the liberal most likely to spend all his time trying to tax the rich and leave cultural conservatives alone." That made me laugh.

Video, "Auschwitz Survivor - Israelis are behaving like 1930s Germans behaved - Hajo Meyer"

But PBS 2020 Segment Finds Time for Klobuchar, Sestak, and Bullock—But Completely Ignores Bernie Sanders." In the continuing story of pretending Bernie Sanders isn't in the race, this hits a new low for the establishment media. It's got to be a joke in newsrooms by now that they have to keep finding ways not to admit Sanders is any kind of contender. Here's The New York Times trying to win the award for this category with the headline, "Sanders Loses Third Place Spot in Nevada to Buttigieg," for example, and if you don't read the subhead, you miss how that happened: "As the senator rises to first in the polls, Buttigieg claims a strong lead behind Elizabeth Warren."

"The Real Barack Obama Has Finally Revealed Himself: Barack Obama is using his post-presidency to attack the Left and protect the status quo. The historical myth believed by so many liberals that Obama was a progressive leader who was hemmed in by the presidency's political constraints is collapsing fast. [...] More revealing, though, is what it tells us about Obama's attitude towards the populist left. The phrase 'stave off the same kind of forces that took over the GOP' belongs to Lizza rather than the former president himself, but it seems reasonable to conclude given Obama's words and actions that he views the Trumpian right and the populist left in roughly similar terms. If anything, Politico's investigation suggests he's been more concerned with opposing the latter since leaving the White House. As TrueAnon's Liz Franczak aptly put it: 'Obama went on like 200 billionaire yacht cruises and finalized his Netflix deal when Trump became president, but even a whiff of Sanders gaining momentum and he's running to the dais.' Now more than ever liberals, partisan Democrats, and progressives of every kind are overdue for a reckoning with Barack Obama, his legacy, and whatever residual feelings still linger from the euphoria of 2008. To his credit, Obama has always been fairly open about the conservative outlook that grounds his politics — even in the halcyon days of Yes We Can, he was already taking care to distance himself from radicalism and align himself with Reaganism. As for that initial question of what Obama wants, the answer is that he's told anyone willing to listen from the very beginning. Since 2016, his major concern has been to preserve a legacy whose progressive bona fides are increasingly threatened by the genuine radicalism of those to his left — and to use the vast power and influence at his disposal to stand in their way."

"'It's a Miracle': Helsinki's Radical Solution to Homelessness: Finland is the only EU country where homelessness is falling. Its secret? Giving people homes as soon as they need them — unconditionally. [...] 'We decided to make the housing unconditional,' says Kaakinen. 'To say, look, you don't need to solve your problems before you get a home. Instead, a home should be the secure foundation that makes it easier to solve your problems.' [...] In England, meanwhile, government figures show the number of rough sleepers — a small fraction of the total homeless population — climbed from 1,768 in 2010 to 4,677 last year (and since the official count is based on a single evening, charities say the real figure is far higher)."

"Take Back Our Party Chapter 1: Their Democratic Party: The recent history of the Democrats, with neoliberalism ascendant, has offered little for ordinary working people. [...] The change that Clinton represented, however, went beyond a simple partisan shift in the White House. His historical significance lay in what he did not do. He did not reverse the conservative revolution and restore the core values of the New Deal. [...] In many ways, Clinton was the perfect standard bearer for the New Democrats. He was a Southern governor, apparently unstained by the corruption of the big city or of Congress. He had an impressive reputation as a policy wonk, having won a Rhodes Scholarship and graduated from the Yale Law School. He could fly back to Arkansas during the campaign to order the execution of the mentally disabled Ricky Ray Rector to demonstrate how 'tough on crime' he was. He emphasized welfare reform and school choice to highlight his willingness to break with past orthodoxies. He openly rejected his own party: 'The choice we offer is not conservative or liberal. In many ways, it is not even Republican or Democratic,' he said, accepting the nomination of the Democratic Party."

The Internet Archive is having a fundraiser. I want there to be a Wayback Machine so I hope you'll kick in, too.

Pretty! "Decorative Laser Cut Paper Compositions with Hand-Painted Ink by Julia Ibbini: United Emirates-based artist Julia Ibbini sources elements from Islamic geometry, embroidery, meenakari enamel work, and even electronic music to inspire the designs that compose her laser cut paper works."

"The Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar (2019 Edition)"

00:06 GMT comment


Sunday, 01 December 2019

Like a tiger defying the laws of gravity

Happy Advent, have some traditional music. At the darkest and coldest time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, we need warmth and light, fellowship and joy, and I wish it to you all. Even Bill O'Reilly, much as he may try to spoil it.

"This is Bad: The Bolivian Military Coup Explained: Very Very Bad." It basically amounts to the right-wing claiming fraud because the popular left-wing president was pretty obviously winning, but read the article to see the details, which are a bit more than a simple pull-quote can clarify. And the OAS lied about "concerning" election results. Big takeway: The claim of "fraud" rests on the fact that returns from the areas where Morales' support is strongest came in later, so his six-point lead stretched over 10% as the data from the rural regions piled up.

Background from Newsweek back in April: "Bolivian Lawmakers Sent Letter To Donald Trump Asking Him To Intervene In Their Country's Election: A group of lawmakers in Bolivia is facing backlash after it sent a letter to President Donald Trump requesting he work to intervene in their country's upcoming election in order to block President Evo Morales from running. The group of 12 politicians asked Trump to use Washington's influence within the Organization of American States to somehow prevent Morales from running for another term. In a 2016 referendum, which was later overturned by the South American country's Constitutional Tribunal, Bolivians voted to prevent Morales from seeking a fourth term." It's true that the referendum won, but it won very narrowly, and in the end, people clearly wanted to vote for Morales over the alternative. Which is probably why the opposition promoted term limits in the first place.

"Bolivia coup led by Christian fascist paramilitary leader and millionaire — with foreign support: Bolivian coup leader Luis Fernando Camacho is a far-right multi-millionaire who arose from fascist movements in the Santa Cruz region, where the US has encouraged separatism. He has courted support from Colombia, Brazil, and the Venezuelan opposition." The woman who simply declared herself interim president - supposedly for the sole purpose of calling new elections - has been very busy doing things that definitely are not in aid of free and fair elections, such as promising to arrest two-thirds of the legislature.. "The Bolivian Coup Is Not a Coup—Because US Wanted It to Happen: Army generals appearing on television to demand the resignation and arrest of an elected civilian head of state seems like a textbook example of a coup. And yet that is certainly not how corporate media are presenting the weekend's events in Bolivia. No establishment outlet framed the action as a coup; instead, President Evo Morales 'resigned' (ABC News, 11/10/19), amid widespread 'protests' (CBS News, 11/10/19) from an 'infuriated population' (New York Times, 11/10/19) angry at the 'election fraud' (Fox News, 11/10/19) of the 'full-blown dictatorship' (Miami Herald, 11/9/19). When the word 'coup' is used at all, it comes only as an accusation from Morales or another official from his government, which corporate media have been demonizing since his election in 2006 (FAIR.org, 5/6/09, 8/1/12, 4/11/19)."

"Unpacking Media Propaganda About Bolivia's Election: Pro-coup editorials rely on— and misreport—questionable evidence from the dubious OAS. To endorse the coup in Bolivia, numerous editorials in major US media outlets paint President Evo Morales as undemocratic. Exhibit A in their case is the Organization of American States' (OAS) claims that there was fraud in the October 20 Bolivian election in which Morales was elected for a fourth term. They also argue that he should not have been allowed to run again in the first place." A key claim in the propaganda is that Morales is "autocratic" because the Supreme Court overturned term limits, and the claim is that he had "packed the courts". That's an interesting charge since the judges aren't even appointed, but rather elected.

There was another debate. I can't seem to find a complete link yet but here's Everything Bernie Sanders Said During the Democratic Debate in Atlanta | NBC New York.

"Legislation That Would Surreptitiously Steal Social Security's $2.9 Trillion Surplus Has Been Defeated — But 97% of Republicans Voted For It: The following is a statement from Nancy Altman, President of Social Security Works, in reaction to nearly every Republican member of the House of Representatives, as well as seven Democrats, voting for a Constitutional amendment requiring that all annual revenue and spending balance every year. The amendment failed to attain the two-thirds majority required to pass it into law:" If only they had an opposition party that was smart enough to make a big deal about this.

"Rodney Reed Lawyers 'Relieved and Thankful' After Stay of Execution Granted by Texas Court" - so far only a stay of execution, which is obviously not enough since he's now been fairly conclusively proved innocent. Bernie says it's not enough since we should join the civilized world and eliminate the death penalty.

In The New Republic, "The Fall of Nate Silver: His data journalism blog, FiveThirtyEight, is a political website with no politics—or rather, no politics beyond a mute approval of the status quo. [...] Silver, let's not forget, launched his career as a political forecaster in 2007 under the pen name 'poblano,' and as devilishly subversive as it no doubt was for a nerdy white boy to hide behind the pseudonymous cover of a foodstuff that brown people eat (this guy!), perhaps the signs were always there of a basic superficiality in the worldview of this, red flag incoming, University of Chicago economics major. "

"Watch The Iceland Christmas Ad Which Will Never Be Shown After Authorities Banned It; Supermarket Iceland's advert for Christmas has been banned for being too political. The commercial, made with Greenpeace, features an animated orangutan and highlights the destruction of the rainforest by palm oil growers."

Amazing Bloomberg headline: "Americans Are Dying Younger, Saving Corporations Billions: Life expectancy gains have stalled. The grim silver lining? Lower pension costs.

"Sweden drops investigation into bogus sexual misconduct allegations against Julian Assange: A Swedish prosecutor announced Tuesday morning that her office was dropping its preliminary investigation into allegations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. It is the third time that Sweden has been compelled to shelve the investigation for lack of any evidence to support it, and confirms that the claims of 'rape' or 'sexual assault' by Assange are a politically motivated fraud. The Swedish investigation has always been a stalking horse for the US government, which has sought to extradite Assange, either from Sweden or Britain, where he is currently jailed, in order to lock him up forever or execute him on charges under the 1917 Espionage Act, because of WikiLeaks' publication of evidence of US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assange was illegally dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London last April, after spending seven years inside, having been granted political asylum. At the time, the Swedish deputy director of public prosecutions, Eva-Marie Persson, reopened the investigation into claims—initiated by the police rather than the women involved—that Assange had been guilty of sexual assault in 2010."

This is the best news I've seen in a long time, that Mike's work will be back in print and with his last book finally published. "The Disappearance of John M. Ford: I wanted to learn why a beloved science fiction writer fell into obscurity after his death. I didn't expect that I would help bring his books back to life. [...] And so, after months of investigation, I found myself in an Iceberg Passage, seeing only some of the story while, lurking beneath the surface, other truths remained obscure. I do not share Ford's horror at obviousness, but there are simply things that we will never know. We will never know why Mike and his family grew apart, or, from the family's perspective, how far apart they were. We will never know who anonymously tried to edit the Wikipedia page to cut out Elise Matthesen. (The family denies any involvement.) But I reconnected Ford's family and editors at Tor, and after a year of delicate back-and-forth spearheaded by Beth Meacham, Tor and the family have reached an agreement that will gradually bring all of his books back into print, plus a new volume of stories, poems, Christmas cards, and other uncollected material. First up, in fall 2020, is the book that introduced me to Ford, The Dragon Waiting. Then, in 2021, Tor will publish— at long last— the unfinished Aspects, with an introduction by Neil Gaiman.

Astonishingly, in The New York Times, "Bernie Sanders vs. The Machine: In 1981, he was elected mayor of Burlington. But the city's bureaucracy showed him that winning wasn't everything. So he learned how to fight back. BURLINGTON, Vt. — The young woman on the political leaflet was smiling, but the message printed beside her in bold capital letters was severe. 'The last two years,' it said, 'have shown that those who made the revolution are not always the best to lead after the coup.' To voters in Burlington, in 1983, the reference to Bernie Sanders was unmistakable. What Democrats here were calling a coup was this: A young socialist had captured the mayor's office two years earlier by a margin of just 10 votes, upending the political order in a comfortable lakeside city of about 38,000. For decades, an old-school Democratic machine had dominated municipal government. In 1983, the party intended to reclaim control by assailing Mr. Sanders's 'unkept promises.' But in his re-election campaign that year, Mr. Sanders crushed the competition. Casting himself as a champion of the people against the establishment, Mr. Sanders summoned voters to the polls in unusual numbers. He triumphed over two opponents — one Democrat and one Republican — by more than 20 percentage points."

"Federal Judge Allows North Dakota Republicans to Block Native Americans From Voting [...] Following Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp's narrow victory in 2012, North Dakota's Republican lawmakers passed a new law requiring voters to present an ID that lists their current residential street address. The measure plainly targeted Native Americans, many of whom live on rural reservations with no street names or residential addresses. Previously, residents could vote with a valid mailing address, allowing rural tribal voters to list their P.O. Box. Now they must provide an ID with their exact residency—something that many Native Americans don't have and can't get."

Deconstructed Special: The Noam Chomsky Interview (audio and transcription), with Mehdi Hasan. "Forty years of the neoliberal assault on the general population which has been extremely harmful almost everywhere. It's led to anger, resentment, contempt for institutions. And when you have a period of unfocused anger, resentment and so on, it's fertile territory for demagogues to arise, and try to mobilize it, and blame it, not on its sources. So, like not on the international financial institutions that are lying behind it to a substantial extent. But to focus it on scapegoats. Typically, people even more vulnerable than you are, immigrants, Muslims, Afro-Americans. This goes way back to Ronald Reagan's 'Welfare queens' and so on and many other demagogues in the past. So yes, that's rising.".

Kate Aronoff in The Nation, "We Need a Green Bailout for the People: Here's what the government should demand when the economy tumbles and Wall Street comes begging. [...] The next crash will be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to decarbonize the economy, so the next recovery cannot aim to just blindly increase output and demand. An industrial mobilization on the scale of a Green New Deal could cause a short-term spike in emissions, but it will need to transform consumption qualitatively by giving more people access to real prosperity, not just the ability to buy more cheap junk. Sociologist Daniel Aldana Cohen has aptly called for a 'last stimulus' that would dramatically shrink those parts of the economy we don't need (fossil fuels, speculative finance, building more McMansions) while increasing those we do (renewable energy, public transit, care work, affordable housing, education, the arts, and more)."

"Is Your Employer Stealing From You? Millions of workers lose billions in stolen wages every year—nearly as much as all other property theft. [...] Wage theft isn't one of the crimes most prosecutors and politicians refer to when they talk about getting "tough on crime," but it represents a massive chunk of all theft committed in the U.S. A 2017 study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that in the ten most populous states, an estimated 2.4 million people lose a combined $8 billion in income every year to theft by their employers. That's nearly half as much as all other property theft combined last year—$16.4 billion according to the FBI. And again, EPI's findings are only for ten states. According to the institute, the typical worker victimized by minimum-wage violations is underpaid by $64 per week, totaling $3,300 per year. If its figures are representative of a national phenomenon, then EPI estimates that the yearly total for American wage theft is closer to $15 billion."

"California Mayors Back Plan to Make PG&E a Cooperative: Frustrated with wildfires and intentional blackouts caused by Pacific Gas & Electric, more than two dozen California mayors and county leaders are calling for a customer-owned power company to replace the giant utility."

A recent poll found that Fox News viewers were more likely to support Bernie Sanders than viewers of MSNBC were. That's not surprising, since Fox attacks Sanders all the time in just the ways that are likely to make people want to vote for him, but "MSNBC Is the Most Influential Network Among Liberals—And It's Ignoring Bernie Sanders: When the network's primetime pundits do cover Sanders, they cover him more negatively than Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden."

Linda Sarsour in Teen Vogue, "Yes, Women of Color Support Bernie Sanders. It's Time to Stop Erasing Our Voices. In this op-ed, the activist and Sanders surrogate argues that Sanders is the only candidate who can bring transformational change. [...] Women of color are exhausted from bearing the disproportionate burdens of inequality — and with so much at stake in this election, we are exhausted from having to explain ourselves. Every time our choice for the presidency is discredited, our agency of women of color is stripped away. Every time people echo the patently false 'Bernie Bro' narrative, they erase our voices as well. Regardless of who the Democratic nominee is, we will not hesitate to support them in the summer of 2020. But by supporting Sanders in the primary, women of color are simply continuing the fight for justice we have spearheaded for generations."

Oh, look whose reared his bankster head again. "Deval Patrick, Foreclosure Mogul: How the 2020 Democratic presidential contender helped a Republican billionaire rip off the middle class." Short version: He covered for Ameriquest. He also covered for Texaco. "Under Patrick's leadership in 1997, the DOJ signed a $176 million settlement with Texaco for racial discrimination against its employees. A year after a court approved the deal, he left the DOJ for a job as Texaco's top in-house attorney." It appears Barack himself has convinced him to enter the presidential race. I guess he doesn't fancy the chances of any of the other "centrists" in the race and really hates the alternative possibilities of Warren and Sanders.

"The Iron Law of Institutions: What You Need to Know About Voting in the 2020 Primary [...] If you don't believe the Democratic party is redeemable, don't get your hopes up that another party would end up being much better. Any other party would also be subject to the Iron Law of Institutions. It thus would be quickly just as dreadful as the Democrats...unless people put in the same amount of work as would be required to clean out the Democrats' Augean stables.

"Billionaires hurt economic growth and should be taxed out of existence, says bestselling French economist [...] Thomas Piketty, whose 2013 book on inequality, Capital in the 21st Century, became a global bestseller and bible for tax-the-rich progressives, just published a 1,200-page follow-up book called Capital and Ideology It won't be published in English until March. But in an interview with the French magazine L'Obs, Piketty called for a graduated wealth tax of 5% on those worth 2 million euros or more and up to 90% on those worth more than 2 billion euros. [...] Piketty added that the notion that billionaires create jobs and boost growth is false. He said per capita income growth was 2.2% a year in the U.S. between 1950 and 1990. But when the number of billionaires exploded in the 1990s and 2000s — growing from about 100 in 1990 to around 600 today — per capita income growth fell to 1.1%."

"The US could raise $1 trillion more in taxes through stricter IRS enforcement, according to a new study [...] There will be more than $7.5 trillion uncollected taxes by 2029 under the current system, they estimated, and roughly 70% of that would be driven by underpayment by the top 1% of earners."

Dean Baker, "How Rich Would Bill Gates Be Without His Copyright on Windows? [...] This simple and obvious point matters because it is popular in many circles to claim that income inequality is just an inevitable, even if unfortunate, result of technology and globalization. In fact, there is nothing inevitable about patent and copyright protection; these monopolies exist as a result of government policy. The fact that Bill Gates and many others have gotten hugely rich as a result of these protections is a result of government policy, not an inevitable outcome of technological progress."

"Why Political Pundits Are Obsessed with Hidden Moderates [...] This isn't just a question of bad punditry—it's a window into how skewed our standards have become by the extreme concentration of wealth and the normalization of an assault on the formerly bipartisan, post-war governing consensus, which embraced forceful government regulation of corporations and a steeply progressive income tax structure. But while elites have accepted the concentration of wealth, the leveling of the tax code and the decimation of even basic consumer protections as normal, the majority of voters have not. Americans have been losing faith in government for decades, long before Trump. And income inequality is driving that loss of faith."

David Dayen, "What Obama Really Wants: His interventions in the presidential race are music to the ears of the wealthy and powerful. [...] Obama has determined to put his thumb on the primary scale, and he couches his critique in the language of electability, in what voters really want. Practically every Democrat in America wants to eject Donald Trump from the White House, and ask 100 of them and you get 101 theories of how to make that happen. But without doubting Obama's sincerity that a moderate politics and only a moderate politics can spell victory next November, I can't help but notice the audiences for his targeted attacks on progressive policy: wealthy donors in the most rarefied, winner-take-all enclaves of America, whether in Washington last week or San Francisco on Thursday. It's rather telling that The New York Times quoted Obama's friend Robert Wolf to unlock the former president's mindset, when he argued that Obama is 'trying to set a tone.' Who is Robert Wolf? The former chairman and CEO of UBS Americas, the U.S. affiliate of the Swiss megabank, who now sits on the board of Obama's foundation, and owns a venture capital firm and a company offering 'drones as a service' on the side. That's the milieu Obama lives in today; he hasn't spent a year on the campaign trail like the candidates have. And his warnings about runaway liberals doing 'crazy stuff' just so happen to line up with protecting the profits and lifestyles of those wealthy donors. In doing so, Obama is revealing the limits of his own incrementalism, which cannot surmount a Washington rigged in favor of elites. This has real consequences in politics and policy, for who sits in power and who struggles on the outside. During his own presidency, Obama told a group of bankers that he was the only thing standing between them and the pitchforks. Here we are, sadly, again."

Haretz, "The Contract on Corbyn [...] Corbyn is not an anti-Semite. He never was. His real sin is his staunch position against injustice in the world, including the version Israel perpetrates. Today this is anti-Semitism. The Hungarian Viktor Orban, the Austrian Freedom Party and the extreme right in Europe are not the danger to Jews. Corbyn is the enemy. The new and efficient strategy of Israel and the Zionist establishment brands every seeker of justice as an anti-Semite, and any criticism of Israel as hatred of Jews. Corbyn is a victim of this strategy, which threatens to paralyze and silence Europe with regard to Israel."

An entertaining little ad from the Labour Party, "Jeremy Corbyn: There's a DEADLINE to rewrite your future."

Mehdi Hasan, "When Asked How They'll Pay for Their Plans, Democrats Should Answer Just as Trump Does: Mexico: [...] When they are inevitably asked by a moderator from MSNBC or the Washington Post how they plan to 'pay for' one of their signature proposals — whether it is Medicare for All (Elizabeth Warren), a Green New Deal (Bernie Sanders), baby bonds (Cory Booker), middle-class tax cuts (Kamala Harris), or a universal basic income (Andrew Yang) — they should respond with one word: Mexico. Mexico, they should say, with the straightest of straight faces, will pay for it. Yes, that line would get a big laugh from the crowd in the hall. It would go viral online. It would endear the candidate who dares say it to Democratic voters watching at home (many of whom are fed up with debate moderators who constantly frame their questions around GOP talking points). It would help that candidate dominate the post-debate headlines on cable news. But it would do much more than that: It would serve a major strategic purpose. Democrats who dare to remind pundits and the public of Donald Trump's ridiculous yet oft-repeated campaign pledge that 'Mexico will pay for the wall' would finally be drawing a crucial line in the sand and saying to Republicans, to the media, and even to each other, that they will no longer be playing the tiresome and very right-wing 'pay for' game."

The tweet caught my attention:: While we were distracted by Ukrainegate over the past weeks, @SpeakerPelosi hid an extension of the Patriot Act into HR 3050, the House's version of the bipartisan bill in the senate that allows for trillions in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid Snap and SS." And the linked article: "Why the Hell Did Democrats Just Extend the Patriot Act? House leadership included the measure in a government funding bill—and even members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus went along with it. [...] Just 10 Democrats defied the leadership to vote against the resolution, including Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar (a.k.a. 'the Squad'). 'I cannot in good conscience vote in favor of a [continuing resolution] that reauthorizes unconstitutional mass surveillance authorities,' Tlaib told me, 'especially under a president who has retweeted images of his opponents jailed and suggests anyone who disagrees with him is a criminal.' AOC tweeted before the vote, 'Yeah that's gonna be a no from me dog.'"

"Senate Democrats Join GOP to Back 'Automatic Austerity' Bill That Would Gut Social Programs, Hamstring Bold Policies: 'One priority of a Sanders or Warren White House absolutely must be politically crushing the deficit scolds within the Democratic Party.' A handful of Senate Democrats joined forces with Republicans last week to advance sweeping budget legislation that would establish an "automatic deficit-reduction process" that could trigger trillions of dollars in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and other social programs—and potentially hobble the agenda of the next president. The Bipartisan Congressional Budget Reform Act (S.2765), authored by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), passed out of the Senate Budget Committee on November 6. The legislation is co-sponsored by five members of the Senate Democratic caucus: Whitehouse, Mark Warner (Va.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Chris Coons (Del.), and Angus King (I-Maine). Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, issued a statement last week opposing the legislation and warning it 'could be used by Republicans to unilaterally cut programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and nutrition assistance—all supposedly to reduce the deficit.'" The others you could expect this from, but I don't think I'll pay attention next time someone tells me what a great progressive Sheldon Whitehouse is.

"Los Angeles County to Introduce VSAP E-Voting System: NOT Hand-Marked, NOT Paper, NOT Hand-Counted in Public: No doubt Los Angeles County's VSAP ('Voting Solutions for All People') rollout will not be covered as a debacle. The real question is: If there were a debacle — like, say, a case of election fraud — would we even know? Doubtful. Just what we want in a voting system! In this post, I'll give a brief overview of issues with electronic voting. Then I'll look at VSAP as an institution. Next, I'll show why the VSAP system is not only insecure, but likely to make money-in-politics even worse than it already is."

"No Imitations and No Limitations: Phillip Agnew talks to us about the Movement for Black Lives, the erasure of Bernie Sanders's diverse support base, and the need for a North Star beyond capitalism. [...] Yes, if anything, Barack Obama was a tranquilizer to many people. When activists went to visit him in the White House, he spoke down to us, counseling us on the way he sees change happening. He continues to speak ill of movements since leaving the presidency."

"Top U.S. Toxicologist Was Barred From Saying PFAS Cause Disease In Humans. She's Saying It Now.: THE WIDESPREAD ENVIRONMENTAL contaminants known as PFAS cause multiple health problems in people, according to Linda Birnbaum, who retired as director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program earlier this month. The statement may come as little surprise to those following the medical literature on the industrial chemicals that have been used to make nonstick coatings, firefighting foam, and host of other products. Thousands of scholarly articles have linked the chemicals to at least 800 health effects. Some of the health problems found in humans — including elevated cholesterol levels, liver dysfunction, weight gain, reproductive problems and kidney cancer — have been shown to increase along with the levels of the chemicals in blood. Extensive research also shows that children with higher levels of PFAS have weakened immune responses. Yet while she was leading the NIEHS, a division of the National Institutes of Health, whose mission is 'to discover how the environment affects people, in order to promote healthier lives,' Birnbaum was not allowed to use the word 'cause' when referring to the health effects from PFAS or other chemicals."

Adolph Reed, Jr., "How Racial Disparity Does Not Help Make Sense of Patterns of Police Violence [...] But, when we step away from focus on racial disproportions, the glaring fact is that whites are roughly half or nearly half of all those killed annually by police. And the demand that we focus on the racial disparity is simultaneously a demand that we disattend from other possibly causal disparities. Zaid Jilani found, for example, that ninety-five percent of police killings occurred in neighborhoods with median family income of less than $100,00 and that the median family income in neighborhoods where police killed was $52,907.4 And, according to the Washington Post data, the states with the highest rates of police homicide per million of population are among the whitest in the country: New Mexico averages 6.71 police killings per million; Alaska 5.3 per million; South Dakota 4.69; Arizona and Wyoming 4.2, and Colorado 3.36. It could be possible that the high rates of police killings in those states are concentrated among their very small black populations—New Mexico 2.5%; Alaska 3.9%; South Dakota 1.9%; Arizona 4.6%, Wyoming 1.7%, and Colorado 4.5%. However, with the exception of Colorado—where blacks were 17% of the 29 people killed by police—that does not seem to be the case. Granted, in several of those states the total numbers of people killed by police were very small, in the low single digits. Still, no black people were among those killed by police in South Dakota, Wyoming, or Alaska. In New Mexico, there were no blacks among the 20 people killed by police in 2015, and in Arizona blacks made up just over 2% of the 42 victims of police killing."

"Drinking water supplying Great Lake turns toxic [...] 'If you did a Google image search for 'Toledo water,' what would pop up is the Toledo skyline where the Maumee River looks like the Chicago River on (St. Patrick's Day),' Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said. "The only difference is we didn't put any dye in it.'"

Patriotic Millionaires have a column in The Hill, "Ensuring everyone pays their fair share: Most people have heard of the estate tax, or as it's labeled by conservative fearmongers, the 'death tax.' But few understand just how important it is, how weak it's become in recent years, or why that matters. Thanks to the 2017 Trump tax cut — one of the biggest wealth grabs in history — a couple can now pass on an estate worth up to $22.8 million completely tax-free. With such a high cutoff before you start paying any estate tax at all, this clearly isn't something that prevents working class families from passing along their savings to their children and grandchildren. Rather, it's one of the best defenses we have in addressing economic inequality — one of the defining challenges of our time — and pushing back against the growth of a new American aristocracy, one in which a small number of wealthy families get wealthier while working Americans fall further behind. It's the only tax that many ultra-rich heirs will ever pay on the millions of dollars they're inheriting. And unless you're incredibly wealthy, you'll never pay a cent of it."

"Researchers Discover Seaweed That Tastes Like Bacon And Is Twice As Healthy As Kale: Researchers at Oregon State have patented a new strain of seaweed that tastes like bacon when it's cooked. The seaweed, a form of red marine algae, looks like translucent red lettuce. It also has twice the nutritional value of kale and grows very quickly. Did we mention it tastes like bacon?"

Pareen in The New Republic, The Death of the Rude Press: Deadspin and Splinter were only the most recent victims of a culling that began many years ago. [...] This is not a story about the private equity vampires ruining this specific company. It is about the implications of the fact that Splinter was not allowed to live, and Deadspin is not allowed to be political. Rude media, for lack of a better term, is dying. [...] Rudeness is not merely a tone. It is an attitude. The defining quality of rude media is skepticism about power, and a refusal to respect the niceties that power depends on to disguise itself and maintain its dominance. It's often hard for me to imagine that anyone can grow up in this era and not end up doubting the competence and motives of nearly everyone in charge of nearly every American institution, but some of us grow up instead to be Bari Weiss. For various reasons you could figure out after a couple hours with the writings of a Noam Chomsky or a Robert McChesney, this skepticism is frequently missing from the coverage of what we once called the 'mainstream media,' and people who have long and successful careers at our most prestigious press outlets tend to either never possess it, or have it systematically beaten out of them over time."

"Trends in Party Identification, 1939-2014: For more than 70 years, with few exceptions, more Americans have identified as Democrats than Republicans. But the share of independents, which surpassed the percentages of either Democrats or Republicans several years ago, continues to increase. Currently, 39% Americans identify as independents, 32% as Democrats and 23% as Republicans. This is the highest percentage of independents in more than 75 years of public opinion polling. Report: A Deep Dive Into Party Affiliation"

RIP: "Diahann Carroll: Pioneering actress dies aged 84 Carroll, who was 84, starred in 1960s TV show Julia, the first US sitcom to centre on a black woman. She was also the first black woman to win the Tony for best actress in 1962, for Broadway musical No Strings. She went on to be nominated for an Oscar for best actress in 1975 for Claudine.

I was cheered to see this in The Los Angeles Times, "Opinion: The Democratic debate confirmed it — we've entered the 'Bernaissance' [...] He and his supporters gathered on a scorching unshaded high school basketball court at a rally in El Sereno last weekend. Hearing him address nurses and teachers and undocumented Americans with such vitality, in the midst of such a vital campaign, just weeks after a heart attack, was moving. 'No half measures,' he insisted at the rally. 'We don't have decades,' he said about the climate crisis Wednesday night. Sanders has a sense of urgency that matches this moment and thoughtful policies — his devotion to which has been proven over the course of decades — to match that drive."

Nicole Aschoff reviewed Matt Stoller's latest book and criticized it - from the left. "It's Not Enough to Be Against 'the Monopolies': Antitrust is, and was, an extremely limited strategy for reining in corporations. We need a broader project to democratize the economy and the state. The 2008 financial crisis was traumatizing for millions of Americans. For some, the pain was visceral, caused by losing a job, a home, savings. For others, like Matt Stoller, the suffering was more existential. Stoller was working as a congressional staffer during the financial meltdown and witnessed firsthand how the US government screwed over homeowners while bailing out the bankers and speculators who had caused the crisis. Stoller wasn't alone in his disgust. Neil Barofsky, a prosecutor for the Southern District of New York who was brought on to oversee the Troubled Asset Relief Program, had similar sentiments. After much thought (and a book), Barofsky concluded that the US government had been 'captured by the banks.' Stoller would no doubt agree, but in his new book, Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy, he situates the crisis in a much longer struggle.

RIP: Michael J Pollard, at 80, from a heart attack. "American actor who played the hapless getaway driver in the 1967 film classic Bonnie and Clyde." He also had a bunch of sf genre credits, but our eyes once met across a hotel lobby while I was checking in and he was looking straight at me and caught my look of surprised recognition. He was just as twinkly as he was on screen and I grinned and gave him a wink and went to find my room in the strange and legendary Chelsea. No idea what he was doing there, he'd just been sitting as if he was waiting for someone to arrive.

"Steal This Archive? Abbie Hoffman's Papers Become a College Collection: Thousands of letters and other artifacts from the life of the radical prankster of the counterculture are sold to the University of Texas at Austin"

Ringo was lookin' really good the day they did that shoot. "Abbey Road Walk"

I'm sorry, I can't explain my sudden inability to stop hearing Queen in my head all the time, but there it is. "Don't Stop Me Now" for an hour.

00:21 GMT comment


Sunday, 10 November 2019

One golden glance of what should be

"Democratic Socialists Had a Pretty Good Election Night: Several of the victories were in purple states. [...] Some were historic victories. In Philadelphia, the DSA-backed independent candidate Kendra Brooks won her City Council seat by over 10,000 votes, flipping a slot held by Republicans for generations. The national organization even sent DSA members from New York down to Philly to help knock on doors for her. [...] DSA members not endorsed by the national committee also won city council seats in Medford and Lansing; in Virginia — where Democrats won a majority of seats in the state legislature and turned every branch of the state blue for the first time in 26 years — delegate Lee Carter, a DSA member, won reelection."

"BERN NOTICE: Trump Pal Matt Bevin's Attacks On Bernie Wildly Backfired: After portraying his reelection campaign as an explicit crusade against Bernie and the working-class agenda fueling Bernie's campaign, GOP Gov. Matt Bevin said he felt 'confident' he'd win by 6 to 10 points in the Republican-leaning state of Kentucky. Instead, by the end of election night, Bevin was down, and both Kentucky's Secretary of State and NBC News declared that Bevin lost the race. Whatever happens with the final results (Bevin has not conceded), the fact that Kentucky's election was even close is a fantastic sign for the 2020 election and Bernie's campaign. It shows that GOP attacks on Bernie and his agenda are likely to backfire — even in traditionally Republican states."

"Fracking halted in England in major government U-turn: Victory for green groups follows damning scientific study and criticism from spending watchdog.The government has halted fracking in England with immediate effect in a watershed moment for environmentalists and community activists. Ministers also warned shale gas companies it would not support future fracking projects, in a crushing blow to companies that had been hoping to capitalise on one of the new frontiers of growth in the fossil fuel industry. The decision draws a line under years of bitter opposition to the controversial extraction process in a major victory for green groups and local communities. The decision was taken after a new scientific study warned it was not possible to rule out 'unacceptable' consequences for those living near fracking sites. The report, undertaken by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), also warned it was not possible to predict the magnitude of earthquakes fracking might trigger."

"Brazil's former president Lula walks free from prison after supreme court ruling: Brazil's former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been released from prison after a supreme court ruling that delighted his supporters and infuriated followers of the far-right president Jair Bolsonaro. Lula, who was serving a 12-year corruption sentence, was greeted by hundreds of supporters wearing red vests emblazoned with his face outside the federal police headquarters in the city of Curitiba, where he had been imprisoned for 580 days. In a speech to the crowd, Lula thanked party militants who had camped outside throughout his imprisonment, and attacked the 'rotten side' of the police, prosecutors, tax office and justice system for jailing him." Shortly after his release, Lula was on Twitter thanking Bernie Sanders for his solidarity - and endorsing him for president.

Flabbergasting interview:The Enigma of Clarence Thomas w/ Corey Robin - MR Live - 11/4/19. Some people wonder where Clarence Thomas is coming from, but I gotta admit, I was not expecting that.

On CNN, "Cornel West: This is not the time for centrism: CNN's Anderson Cooper sat down with professor Cornel West to discuss Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and what it means to be a democratic socialist."

"Career-Long Conservative Joe Biden Attacks Progressives, Extols Imaginary Bipartisanship And Middle Way To Nowhere And Nothing [...] When Biden-- almost as big a liar as Trump-- wrote that "I have fought for the Democratic party my whole career" he was lying in the same manner he's been lying his whole life. [PolitiFact rates 15% of Trump's public statements 'true' or 'mostly true' and rates 37% of Biden's 'true' or 'mostly true,' better than Trump for sure-- but that still leave most of what he says a lie. Most Democratic politicians mostly tell the truth, not most lie.] In the past, Biden has admitted that when he was just getting started in politics he 'thought of myself as a Republican.' The Delaware Republican Party was talking with him about running as a Republican but he was hesitant because he didn't like Richard Nixon. Because of that antipathy for Nixon, he registered as an Independent. After he went to work for a local Democrat, Sid Balick, he switched his registration to Democrat and soon after began running for office, appealing to white resentment of black people.

"By trying to Silence Sanders, the Corporate Media De-Legitimize Themselves [...] In the absence of massive, grassroots movements, corporate voices always drown out all the others. Capitalist ownership of the media allows the rich to frame their own worldview as the political 'center,' thus relegating contending ideologies to the 'extremes' of left or right. In this sense, 'centrism' is nothing more than the political position of the corporate owners, who construct media versions of reality that make corporate-concocted policies seem the most logical, commonsensical and socially responsible approach to the world's problems. As long as the rich can sustain broad public trust in the 'truth' of their 'journalistic' products -- newspapers, electronic newscasts, books and other media created by professional operatives directly answerable to rich owners — widespread revolt against the corporate order is unlikely. "

"The Media Has a Right-Wing Bias. Politico's Founder Just Admitted It: How Republicans benefit from the media's centrist instincts. [...] It's hard to think of an analogy that does this justice. Phil Jackson admitting the triangle offense has lost its potency in the space-and-pace NBA? Paul Ryan turning on trickle-down economics? This is not exactly a mea culpa. Instead, it's a forthright description of the way that D.C. media works, all but acknowledging that liberal critics of mainstream news coverage have been right all along. Despite what the right might say, the problem with the news isn't a liberal bias—it's bias toward an arbitrary, made-up center that ends up tilting reality against liberal policies and politicians. [...] Here one of the nation's preeminent political journalists is admitting that he and other members of his class adhere to a rather cynical ideology—the ideology of finding the midway point between a normal party with normal policies and proposals and an intellectually bankrupt tribe of troglodytes that gets crazier and more morally repugnant by the day. The problem, in the view of Harris, is that pesky 'activists' (which is really just another word for 'voters') get in the way. Candidates like Warren and Bernie Sanders suffer in this environment because their ideas are out of step with the D.C. consensus. They are automatically categorized as 'extreme,' their ideas 'unworkable,' all because they reject the midway-point mode of governance, which only ends up favoring the actual extremists on the right."

Shickha Dalmia in The Week, "The real reason Kamala Harris is tanking [...] The real reason she's falling is that the more voters learn about Harris' decade-and-a-half record, first as a San Francisco prosecutor and then as the California attorney general, the more they recoil. And rightly so. Harris has long billed herself as a "progressive prosecutor." To most people, that would strike as oxymoronic. But to her this meant using the carceral state that conservatives like to tackle social problems that progressives care about. She's got the mindset of a cop who wants to save you not from the bad guys but yourself. "She repeatedly fought for more aggressive prosecution not just of violent criminals but of people who committed misdemeanor and 'quality of life' crimes," Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown noted after an exhaustive look at Harris' record."

"The Inflation Gap: A new analysis indicates that rising prices have been quietly taxing low-income families more heavily than rich ones. In an era of wild inequality, sputtering wages, and rising rents and health-care costs, the American working class has had one consistent financial respite: 'stuff,' broadly defined, is cheap. Sure, workers might not be able to afford a decent apartment, a college education, or sufficient elder care for an infirm relative, or to ever, ever get sick. But burgers, leggings, yard tools, bicycles, dishes, smartphones, soda—these items have become less expensive, thanks to big-box stores and internet retailers and imports from abroad. Or perhaps not. A new analysis from a prominent group of economic researchers suggests not only that rising prices have been quietly taxing low-income families more heavily than rich ones, but also that, after accounting for that trend, the American poverty rate is significantly higher than the official measures suggest. Call it 'inflation inequality,' a subtle, pernicious way that the fortunes of the rich and the poor have diverged. Using government data and scanner data from retail stores—the bar codes that get swiped at Target, the produce codes that get punched in at grocery stores—Xavier Jaravel of the London School of Economics found that from 2004 to 2015, the prices of the products purchased by the bottom income quintile increased faster than the prices of the products purchased by the top income quintile. As a result, low-income families experienced an annual rate of inflation conservatively estimated at 0.44 percentage points higher than that of high-income families."

"Manufacturing Fear and Loathing, Maximizing Corporate Profits! A Review of Matt Taibbi's Hate Inc.: Why Today's Media Makes Us Despise One Another [...] For all that, however, the most salient difference between the news media of 1989 and the news media of 2019 is the disappearance of the single type of calm and decorous and slightly boring cis-het white anchorman (who somehow successfully appealed to a nationwide audience) and his replacement by a seemingly wide variety of demographically-engineered news personæ who all rage and scream combatively in each other's direction. 'In the old days,' Taibbi writes, 'the news was a mix of this toothless trivia and cheery dispatches from the frontlines of Pax Americana.... The news [was] once designed to be consumed by the whole house.... But once we started to be organized into demographic silos [italics mine], the networks found another way to seduce these audiences: they sold intramural conflict' (p. 18). And in this new media environment of constant conflict, how, Taibbi wondered, could public consent, which would seem to be at the opposite end of the spectrum from conflict, still be manufactured?? 'That wasn't easy for me to see in my first decades in the business,' Taibbi writes. 'For a long time, I thought it was a flaw in the Chomsky/Herman model' (p. 19). But what Taibbi was at length able to understand, and what he is now able to describe for us with both wit and controlled outrage, is that our corporate media have devised — at least for the time being — highly-profitable marketing processes that manufacture fake dissent in order to smother real dissent (p. 21). And the smothering of real dissent is close enough to public consentto get the goddam job done: The Herman/Chomsky model is, after all these years, still valid. Or pretty much so. Taibbi is more historically precise. Because of the tweaking of the Herman/Chomsky propaganda model necessitated by the disappearance of the USSR in 1991 ('The Russians escaped while we weren't watching them, / As Russians do...,' Jackson Browne presciently prophesied on MTV way back in 1983), one might now want to speak of a Propaganda Model 2.0. For, as Taibbi notes, '...the biggest change to Chomsky's model is the discovery of a far superior 'common enemy' in modern media: each other. So long as we remain a bitterly-divided two-party state, we'll never want for TV villains' (pp. 207-208)."

Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism notices something odd. "Paul Jay and Sharmini Peries Ousted from The Real News Network in June; Current Fundraiser Hides that Fact; Falling Viewership and Liberal Turn Result: It's remarkable, or perhaps a function of the aggressive use of non-disclosure agreements, that the June defenestration of Paul Jay and Sharmini Peries from The Real News Network, the site they had founded and run for over a decade, has been kept under wraps for so long." And now that I think of it, I haven't posted anything from TRRN since April, haven't seen anything interesting from there.

Luke Savage, "Neoliberalism? Never Heard of It: The latest liberal parlor game is pretending there's no such thing as neoliberalism. The game's very popularity highlights neoliberalism's enduring hegemony. For the first time in decades, it has become possible to envision real alternatives to the prevailing political and economic order of the past forty years. In both Europe and the Americas, the neoliberal consensus is facing a crisis of moral, intellectual, and popular legitimacy: proving unable to deliver either the growth or the broad prosperity its ideologues once promised and facing robust electoral challenges from both the socialist left and the nationalist right. Predictably enough, this turn of events has elicited a defensive response from neoliberalism's greatest partisans and those otherwise invested in its political and cultural hegemony."

"Measles wipes out immune system's memory, study finds: Scientists say threat posed by measles is 'much greater than we previously imagined' [...] Measles causes long-term damage to the immune system, leaving children who have had it vulnerable to other infections long after the initial illness has passed, research has revealed. Two studies of unvaccinated children in an Orthodox Protestant community in the Netherlands found that measles wipes out the immune system's memory of previous illnesses, returning it to a more baby-like state, and also leaves the body less equipped to fight off new infections. Measles eliminated between 11% and 73% of children's protective antibodies, the research found."

Still fun to watch: "Old Movie Stars Dance to Uptown Funk"

Queen, "It's a Kind of Magic"

19:02 GMT comment


Thursday, 31 October 2019

Tell them Boris sent you

If you were thinking you couldn't figure out the news from the British Parliament merely because you are American and therefore the British system is just too alien to you, no, it's not that. No one here knows what's going on, either. Conversations almost daily go something like this: "Did you hear Boris did X?" "Yeah, but what's it mean?" "Nobody knows."

"Trump administration official resigns, calls for massive student debt forgiveness: A senior government official appointed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos resigned Thursday, saying the current student loan system is 'fundamentally broken' and calling for billions of dollars in debt to be forgiven. A. Wayne Johnson was hired as the chief operating officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid, which manages the country's $1.6 trillion outstanding student loan portfolio. He later worked in a strategic role, directing how student loans are serviced for borrowers." He says he's going to run for the Senate as a Republican on a platform of eliminating student debt, using a tax increase to pay for it. As Dan Riffle tweeted, "The thing about overton window politics is you don't just move your own party. The leading edge moves left, and the trailing edge moves left with it."

John Nichols in The Nation, "Bernie Sanders Is As Frustrated as Ever With Corporate Media: The senator explains to The Nation why he is raising concerns not just about the presidential debates but about the media's narrow coverage of national crises. [...] Critiquing media coverage of debates and campaigns, issues and ideas is nothing new for Sanders. He has been calling out 'the corporate media' in much the same language that he now employs for decades. When Robert W. McChesney and I were writing about media and democracy issues in the mid-1990s, Sanders, who was then serving in the House of Representatives, and Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone were among the rare members of Congress who recognized that the conglomeration of media ownership—and the influence of this consolidated media on our politics—could not be ignored. [...] 'Even more important than much of the corporate media's dislike of our campaign is the fact that much of the coverage in this country portrays politics as entertainment, and largely ignores the major crises facing our communities,' wrote Sanders. 'In fact, what I have learned from experience is that, as a general rule of thumb, the more important the issue is to large numbers of working people, the less interesting it is to the corporate media. Sadly, for the corporate media, the real issues facing the American people—poverty, the decline of the middle class, income and wealth inequality, trade, health care, climate change, education etc.—are fairly irrelevant.'"

New campaign ad: "Bernie's Burlington: The Spark That Spread Around the Country"

"Harris Loses Ground in California to Front-Runners Warren and Sanders: Less than five months before Californians vote in the 2020 presidential primary, a new Change Research poll for KQED shows U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris losing ground to the front-runners, Sens. Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts and Vermont's Bernie Sanders. The poll, taken after last week's Democratic candidate debate, finds Warren is the top choice of 28% of primary voters, followed by Sanders at 24% and former Vice President Joe Biden at 19%. South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg is fourth with 9% followed by Harris at 8%."

"Bernie Sanders Vows To Revive Criminal Prosecutions Of CEOs For Unfair Trade Practices: BERNIE SANDERS, IF he were elected president, would revive the criminal provisions of the Sherman Antitrust Act to prosecute CEOs who have illegally monopolized a market, he told The Intercept in an interview. The Sherman Act is the Department of Justice's main tool for enforcing antitrust laws, which are meant to prevent monopolies from dominating an industry, which harms workers, consumers, and other businesses. It has both civil and criminal provisions, though in recent years, prosecutors have relied only on its civil provisions, with the intent of breaking up monopolies and opening markets. Asked if the criminal provisions, which could see a CEO locked up for 10 years if intent to engage in unfair restrictions on trade can be proven, Sanders said, 'Damn right they should be.'"

On Democracy NOW!, "Noam Chomsky: Bernie Sanders is Not a Radical, He Has Mass Support for Positions on Healthcare & Taxes: During an event Tuesday night, Noam Chomsky was asked about Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and said he considered him more of a 'New Deal Democrat' than a radical extremist, as some have portrayed him. Chomsky said Sanders' positions on taxes and healthcare are supported by a majority of the American public, and have been for a long time. He added that Sanders has 'mobilized a large number of young people who are saying, 'Look, we're not going to consent anymore.' If that turns into a continuing, organized, mobilized force, that could change the country—maybe not for this election, but in the longer term.'"

"The Real Obama: What the president does in retirement will reveal his true self.. [...] During his two terms in office, Barack Obama's most zealous devotees tended to explain away apparent failures or complacencies by referring to the constraints high office places on anyone who ascends to it. Even some critics on the left may have suspected that the deeds of Obama's administration were out of sync with his natural instincts, that Obama was a man of high conscience weighed down or blunted by Washington's leviathan bureaucracy, or frustrated by the exigencies of an unstable world. Obama's retirement should therefore finally give us meaningful insight into who he really is or, to put it another way, who he has been all along. The albatross of office finally lifted from his neck, America's 44th president is now free to do anything and everything he desires without impediment. He can be the person he has always wanted to be, the person whom he has had to keep hidden away. Who, then, is the real Obama? Well, it turns out the real Obama is quite like the one we knew already. And what he most wants to do is nestle himself cozily within the bosom of the global elite, and earn millions from behind a thinly-veiled philanthropic facade."

"Two Leading Economists Say Medicare for All Would Give Workers 'Biggest Take-Home Pay Raise in a Generation': Medicare for All would give most U.S. workers 'the biggest take-home pay raise in a generation,' two economists from the University of California, Berkeley said Friday, countering one of the main insurance industry talking points against single-payer."

RIP: Former Rep. John Conyers dies at 90: Former Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the longest-serving African American House member in congressional history, died Sunday at age 90. Conyers, a veteran of the Korean War and participant in the Civil Rights movement, was co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus and chaired the House Oversight Committee from 1989 to 1995. He also introduced the bill establishing a national holiday commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. He was also the first African American to serve as Dean of the House, or longest continually-serving current member. Conyers was a member of the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate investigation into President Richard Nixon, and was on Nixon's 'enemies list.' During his tenure, he also regularly introduced bills to establish a single-payer health care system and to conduct a study on reparations for the descendants of slaves."

Great interviews on The Majority Report:
Student Debt Cancellation & the Progressive Agenda w/ Marshall Steinbaum - MR Live - 10/1/19
The Stakes: 2020 and the Survival of American Democracy w/ Robert Kuttner - MR Live - 9/23/19
Goliath: The 100 Year War b/w Monopoly Power & Democracy w/ Matthew Stoller - MR live - 10/28/19
Make America Radical Again w/ Harvey J. Kaye - MR Live - 10/29/19

"J.S. Bach the Rebel: The subversive practice of a canonical composer." This guy was a troublemaker and possibly a great big slut.

And now a word from Jason Mraz, "Look For The Good."
(And here's the song.)

Bobby "Boris" Pickett, live on American Bandstand, "The Monster Mash"

20:35 GMT comment


Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Let me tell you 'bout the headline news

Oh, man, I really let this one get away from me.

There was another debate. Sanders definitely won it, despite what the talking heads said. They actually praised the shameful performances of Buttigieg and Klobuchar, of all people. Biden trying to claim credit for helping Warren get the CPFB and Warren's failure to thank him graciously for it were described as "petty" on her part rather than shameless credit-hogging on his. Ryan Cooper was not impressed with "Pete Buttigieg's disingenuous attack on Medicare-for-all: In the Democratic presidential debate Tuesday night, once again Medicare-for-all was a major focus of discussion. Once again, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren defended the plan against all comers — most especially Pete Buttigieg, who had a number of slick arguments about how universal Medicare would be a disaster. There's just one problem: None of Mayor Pete's arguments are true. [...] Those savings would necessarily be less in more fragmented systems which would preserve private insurance — like the one proposed by Pete Buttigieg. In other words, Mayor Pete's plan would be more expensive than Medicare-for-all. He would "pay for that" by keeping more of the cost burden on the shoulders of individual Americans."

And speaking of Buttigieg's strange position on M4A, it's interesting how his position seems to have radically changed since February.

Bernie's Back Rally with AOC in New York. I liked the part where Michael Moore points out that it's a good idea to have someone who is old enough to remembers what things were like before the neoliberals ate them.

I've always said that Democratic operatives and politicians know how to read the polls and they've known for 50 years that some policies are popular (Social Security, universal health care, living wages higher taxes on the rich), but the neoliberals were against those things so they just didn't mention them like the previous generations of Democrats did. Rahm Emanuel knew he was backing unpopular policies, which is why he opposed Obama using the "bully pulpit" to defend and promote them. But Stephie was the White House spokesperson for a Democratic White House and he didn't know? And he thinks he is insulated because he lives in Manhattan? Oh, honey, your cocoon is much smaller than that.

"Voting machines pose a greater threat to our elections than foreign agents [...] In follow-up testimony, Halderman offered some chilling details: 'While we were in control of these systems, we observed other attack attempts originating from computers in Iran and China. These attackers were attempting to guess the same master password that we did. And since it was only four letters long, they would likely have soon succeeded.' Security experts have long warned that short passwords provide easy targets, but hackers at DEF CON, an annual security convention, recently found U.S. election systems with no passwords at all. How did the security bar get set so low?"

"US Supreme Court overturns ruling in Michigan gerrymandering case: What it means: WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday officially overturned a ruling which had called for nearly three dozen congressional and legislative districts in Michigan to be redrawn because they unfairly helped one political party."

"Utility Expert Claims PG&E Blackouts Are 'All About Threatening the Judge' in Bankruptcy Case: California utility company Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) is blackmailing the judge overseeing their bankruptcy case by instituting widespread blackouts across California, a utility regulation and power industry company expert claims. 'The PG&E Blackout Con is all about threatening the judge in the PG&E bankruptcy case,' Greg Palast said in a press release. 'The victims have joined with the bondholders to eliminate the equity of the stockholders who deserve nothing. So in desperation, the power company [is] turning off your lights. Hopefully, the judge will not be intimidated.' Palast previously worked for energy regulators in 26 states and eight countries and also authored a United Nations guide on utility regulation and investigator of power companies."

"Private Equity Chases Ambulances: Investment firms have bought up emergency medical service companies, squeezing soaring profits from vulnerable patients. On July 2, 2018, a Boston woman fell into the gap between a subway car and the platform. Passengers rocked the train back and forth, eventually extricating her. Her leg was cut down to the bone. Still, she begged her rescuers not to call an ambulance. 'Do you know how much an ambulance costs?' she sobbed. Because there was no choice but to call an ambulance, though, one eventually arrived. Ambulance services used to be covered by local taxpayers, volunteers, or nonprofit hospitals, part of a suite of services akin to firefighting, which many people took for granted. This remained the status quo for emergency medical services for decades. Then, following the 2008 recession, private equity firms began to buy up ambulance companies. Quality has declined, and prices have shot up. Within ten years, from the recession to the Boston woman falling on the platform, the transformation of ambulance services from community service to luxury good was complete. Under the new paradigm of private equity, poorly maintained ambulance services siphon profit from vulnerable patients."

"How Private Equity Makes You Sicker: Investment firms have created consolidated hospital empires across America, leading to closures, higher prices, and suffering. [...] Hahnemann, a 171-year-old institution in Center City Philadelphia that serves primarily low-income patients of color, closed on September 6 in one of the more egregious cases of private equity wealth extraction. In 2018, Paladin Healthcare, an entity owned by private equity baron Joel Freedman, bought Hahnemann as part of a small hospital portfolio. He made no improvements for 18 months, and then closed the facility with the intention of selling the real estate, which is set in a 'gateway location' for gentrification. 'This seems to have been [Freedman's] plan all along, to buy this place, let it fail, and shut it down.' McHugh said. Local politicians in Philadelphia and even presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke out, savaging Freedman as an avatar of greed. But the condemnations did nothing to stop the closure. Freedman's lucrative scheme could become a trend, where private equity firms find hospitals in urban areas attractive to developers and strip the assets."

"Documents Reveal Hospital Industry Is Leading Fight Against Medicare For All: INVESTOR-OWNED HOSPITALS are leading the fight against the creation of a comprehensive, universal health care system, according to corporate filings reviewed by MapLight and The Intercept. Tenet Healthcare, the nation's third-largest investor-owned operator of hospitals, has donated nearly $630,000 to the Partnership for America's Health Care Future, or PAHCF, a dark-money organization created last year to erode public support for Medicare for All, a government-run plan that would provide health care for all Americans."

"Inside TurboTax's 20-Year Fight to Stop Americans From Filing Their Taxes for Free: Using lobbying, the revolving door and 'dark pattern' customer tricks, Intuit fended off the government's attempts to make tax filing free and easy, and created its multi-billion-dollar franchise." [...] But the success of TurboTax rests on a shaky foundation, one that could collapse overnight if the U.S. government did what most wealthy countries did long ago and made tax filing simple and free for most citizens. For more than 20 years, Intuit has waged a sophisticated, sometimes covert war to prevent the government from doing just that, according to internal company and IRS documents and interviews with insiders. The company unleashed a battalion of lobbyists and hired top officials from the agency that regulates it. From the beginning, Intuit recognized that its success depended on two parallel missions: stoking innovation in Silicon Valley while stifling it in Washington. Indeed, employees ruefully joke that the company's motto should actually be 'compromise without integrity.' [...] This year, Intuit was close to realizing a long-held goal: enshrining the Free File program in law, effectively closing the door on the IRS ever creating a free tax filing system. But an outcry followed ProPublica's reporting on the matter and Intuit's treatment of its customers, prompting the provision to be dropped and state and federal investigations into Intuit's practices. Yet even after this setback, the company remained steadfastly confident that its clout in Washington would win the day."

"Zuckerberg: No One Deserves to Be a Billionaire, But It's Useful: Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, the fifth-richest person in the world, was asked by an employee to respond to an assertion by U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders that billionaires shouldn't exist. Zuckerberg conceded that they probably shouldn't. 'No one deserves that much money,' Zuckerberg said. 'I think if you do something that's good, you get rewarded, but I do think some of the wealth that can be accumulated is unreasonable.'"

Doctors say people are better after a stent to clear arterial blockage, so news that Bernie had to get one was startling not so much because he'd had a medical incident but because there'd been no sign that he was even slowing down. He already races around the country like a Lamboughini so, what now? Will he still need a plane to get from one city to another, or can he run there? Of course, the media was full of alarm at "proof" that Sanders was in dire health and also of course that the Sanders camp had not used exactly the alarmist language they wanted to use so this was evidence of Sanders' "lack of transparency". (Still no word on why Biden's eye was bleeding and he seemed confused during the last debate, though.) Meanwhile, says The Onion, "Weak, Exhausted Nancy Pelosi Given Saline Drip Following Hours-Long Attempt To Stand Firm In Convictions: WASHINGTON—Collapsing from the extreme exertion required to announce an impeachment inquiry into the president, a weak and exhausted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was reportedly given a saline drip Tuesday night following an hours-long stretch during which she stood firm in her convictions. 'She's obviously not used to following her conscience like this, or acting in accordance with any clear set of principles, so the experience has left her completely drained,' said Pelosi's communication director, Ashley Etienne, confirming that medical personnel administered fluids to the speaker after she went an entire news cycle without ever capitulating, an amount of strain that can be life-threatening for a 17-term lawmaker."

"The 'Public Option' on Health Care Is a Poison Pill: Some Democratic candidates are pushing it as a free-choice version of Medicare for All. That's good rhetoric but bad policy. [...] That's comforting rhetoric. But the case for a public option rests on faulty economic logic and naive assumptions about how private insurance actually works. Private insurers have proved endlessly creative at gaming the system to avoid fair competition, and they have used their immense lobbying clout to undermine regulators' efforts to rein in their abuses. That's enabled them to siphon hundreds of billions of dollars out of the health care system each year for their own profits and overhead costs while forcing doctors and hospitals to waste billions more on billing-related paperwork."

As you may recall, Wendell Potter was an insurance exec who had an epiphany and has spent the rest of his life essentially blowing the whistle on the insurance industry. Instructive interview with Michael Winship in Common Dreams, "Healthcare Reformer Wendell Potter: The For-Profit 'System Is Unraveling': A business group comes out swinging on behalf of Medicare for All. [...] One of the things that I can remember so vividly toward the end of my career was attending a leadership meeting with our then CEO at Cigna, and someone asked him what kept him up at night. He used a word that you don't use everyday -- disintermediation. It's a word that means essentially disrupting or getting rid of the middleman, the unnecessary middleman. He went on to say that he feared that at some point Americans, and in particular American employers, would begin to question 'the value proposition,' to use business jargon, of the private insurance industry.

"Documents Reveal Hospital Industry Is Leading Fight Against Medicare For All: INVESTOR-OWNED HOSPITALS are leading the fight against the creation of a comprehensive, universal health care system, according to corporate filings reviewed by MapLight and The Intercept. Tenet Healthcare, the nation's third-largest investor-owned operator of hospitals, has donated nearly $630,000 to the Partnership for America's Health Care Future, or PAHCF, a dark-money organization created last year to erode public support for Medicare for All, a government-run plan that would provide health care for all Americans."

"Massachusetts Unions Vote To Vet Presidential Candidates On Medicare For All, Breaking With Labor's Top Brass: MEMBERS OF THE Massachusetts AFL-CIO recently passed a unanimous resolution to endorse a presidential candidate only if that candidate supports Medicare for All, marking a break from the labor federation's national leadership, which has equivocated on the question of whether to support universal health care. The resolution, which was passed at a late September convention in Massachusetts attended by delegates from AFL-CIO constituent unions across the country, comes after months of comments from labor leaders criticizing Medicare for All, despite support for the measure among their members. In August and September, Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (an AFL-CIO member union), said publicly that they do not currently support a single-payer plan would ban private insurance, despite assurances from Sen. Bernie Sanders, who authored the Medicare for All plan, that a single-payer option would not sacrifice hard-won benefits for union members. 'The Massachusetts AFL-CIO urges the national AFL-CIO to endorse a presidential candidate with a demonstrated commitment to the pro-worker agenda that this body has previously endorsed, including but not limited to a $15-dollar federal minimum wage, ending Right to Work nationwide, and a Medicare for All system that recognizes health care as a human right,' reads the resolution, which was put forward by Beth Kontos, the president of the American Federation of Teachers in Massachusetts."

Interviewed in Teen Vogue, "Bernie Sanders Shares His Plan for a Working-Class Revolution." This interviewer is too good for most newspapers, and never mind television news.

"Cancelling Student Debt Reduces The Racial Wealth Gap: Debt cancellation must be on any progressive agenda and we should be suspicious of anyone who calls it 'regressive'.Since Elizabeth Warren proposed sweeping student debt cancellation in April, and Bernie Sanders put forth his own more extensive plan in June, members of the D.C. establishment have invented all sorts of reasons why cancelling student debt is privileged, actually. '[It's] a big gift to a select group of people' opined Sandy Baum of the Urban Institute. Jason Delisle of the American Enterprise Institute said Elizabeth Warren's plan suffers from a 'fairness problem' because it 'favors one class of students over those who never took out student loans.' And last fall, New York Times op-ed columnist David Leonhardt asserted that most student debtors are 'doing just fine.' Student debt cancellation, however, is progressive, not regressive; rather than favoring one elite class of people over another, it would in fact benefit the poorest. Lower-wealth households are likelier to have student debt, and even more so if they're Black. As such, student debt cancellation would also help close racial wealth gaps." Yes, there really are people out there who imagine that rich kids are the have all the student debt.

Marshall Steinbaum, "Is Student Debt Cancellation Regressive? No. [...] The idea that student debt causes borrowers to earn more, by increasing their educational attainment and therefore their earnings, is baked into the idea that cancellation of student debt would be a regressive policy— people with the most debt need the least help, but they'd get the most money from forgiveness." Right, because everybody who goes to college automatically gets a high-paying job.

"Warren Runs False Facebook Ads to Highlight Problem: The ad's own admission of a lie seeks to draw attention to a controversial Facebook policy Warren has spent days criticizing. Under the policy, Facebook exempts ads by politicians from third-party fact-checking — a loophole, Warren says, that allows Zuckerberg to continue taking 'gobs of money' from Trump's campaign despite Trump's ads telling untruths Joe Biden and his son."

"How the Bush Foundation wasted $45 million and 10 years on an ill-conceived assault on teachers: The foundation famously promised 50% more students in post-secondary education in three states, erasure of so-called 'achievement gaps,' and a fancy new evaluation tool. Ten years later there are actually fewer students in college, 'achievement gaps' are the same or worse, and its hyped $2 million VAM evaluation tool is up in flames - but the foundation is undaunted — proud of its failure" Of course, it wasn't such a failure, since it was an attack on education and teachers' unions. If there's two things right-wing aristos really hate, it's an educated populace and unions.

"AT&T Workers Fight For Their Lives As Company Faces Investor Revolt: Union workers say an investor plan to save the company will only make the problem worse. [...] 'Elliott's proposal represents the archetype ploy of vulture capitalists: boost earnings through headcount reductions, outsourcing, and reduced investment to benefit Elliott Management,' one letter warns. 'The cost-cutting measures that Elliott recommends, such as closing wireless retail stores and increasing outsourcing, would accelerate the loss of family-supporting jobs and the shift to using low-wage and potentially overseas contractors.' Analysts from Morgan Stanley also questioned Elliot's move, however, wondering whether the sale of 'non-core businesses' would help or hurt AT&T's future cash flow. There is also the question of whether Elliot is making these suggestions because it owns AT&T debt and would stand to profit from its own suggestions—Elliot Management, after all, had an Argentine training vessel seized to force the government to clear a debt with the firm."

"After Avoiding Safety Upgrades, PG&E Hired Lobbyists And Public Relations Instead: POWER SHUTOFFS AFFECTING more than 1 million residents, scheduled by PG&E this week throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California, have sparked a massive backlash, with many community members telling reporters that they are shocked that the company has not done more to upgrade its transmission lines. The decision to shut off the electricity services, a precaution over concerns about high winds, raises the question of precisely how PG&E has been spending its rate-payers' money. And the answer isn't pretty: While neglecting safety upgrades and investments in its aging infrastructure, PG&E has instead been lavishly rewarding shareholders and buying political influence."

"PG&E is a Crime Wave, Not a Power Company: Blackout is Blackmail: The PG&E Blackout Con is all about threatening the judge in the PG&E bankruptcy case. The victims have joined with the bondholders to eliminate the equity of the stockholders who deserve nothing. So in desperation, the power company pigs are turning off your lights. Hopefully, the judge will not be intimidated. Leaving hospitals, schools and 1 million homes without power — and that means without water — in California is the endgame of deregulation mania. Jerry Brown, Bill Clinton and other deregulation snake-oil salesmen, and the PG&E greedster bosses, should be imprisoned for the people already burned to death. Where is the California utility commission?"

"Dear Ellen: The Problem With George W. Bush Is Not His Beliefs—It's His War Crimes: Bush may owe Ellen six bucks for nachos. He owes the rest of us a prison sentence at The Hague. [...] Yet Ellen's specific argument in defense of her friendship with the former president is both nonsensical and offensive. No one is suggesting that she shouldn't be pals with a conservative or a Republican. Bush's beliefs are irrelevant here; his actions are what matters. He was one of the most destructive presidents in modern American history; a man who has never been held to account for a long litany of crimes, misdeeds, and abuses of power committed during his two bloodstained terms in office. The reason '43' should be treated as a pariah is not because he is a Republican or a conservative, but because he caused the deaths of thousands of innocent people and tortured hundreds of others."

"Nobody Should Be Friends With George W. Bush: Tens of thousands of people are dead because his administration lied to the American public about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and then, based on that lie, launched a war that's now in its 16th year. After Hurricane Katrina struck and hundreds of people drowned in New Orleans, Bush twiddled his thumbs for days. Rather than fire the officials responsible for the government's life-threateningly lackluster response to the crisis, he praised them, before flying over the scene in Air Force One. He opposed basic human rights for LGBT people, and reproductive rights for women, and did more to empower the American Christian right than any president since Reagan. [...] DeGeneres isn't a role model for civility. Her friendship with Bush simply embodies the grossest form of class solidarity. From a lofty enough vantage point, perhaps Bush's misdeeds really look like minor partisan differences. Perhaps Iraq seems very far away, and so do the poor of New Orleans, when the stage of your show is the closest you get to anyone without power."

"How Democrats Became the Party of Monopoly and Corruption: This wasn't an accident.: [...] Ambitious men now wanted to change the world through finance. Bruce Wasserstein had been a "Nader's Raider" consumer advocate; he now worked at First Boston as one of the most successful mergers and acquisitions bankers of the 1980s. Michael Lewis wrote his best-seller Liar's Poker as a warning of what unfettered greed in finance meant, but instead of learning the lesson, students deluged him with letters asking if he "had any other secrets to share about Wall Street." To them, the book was a "how-to manual." [...] Meanwhile, the family farmer had lots of people who said they were friends at election time—even the glamorous music industry put on a giant "Farm Aid" concert in 1985 to raise money for bankrupt growers. But there was no populist leader like Congressman Wright Patman had been during the New Deal in the Democratic Party anymore. On the contrary, "new" Democrats like Dale Bumpers and Bill Clinton of Arkansas worked to rid their state of the usury caps meant to protect the "plain people" from the banker and financier. And the main contender for the Democratic nomination in 1988, the handsome Gary Hart, with his flowing—and carefully blow-dried—chestnut brown hair, spoke a lot about "sunrise" industries like semiconductors and high-tech, but had little in his vision incorporating the family farm." As we know, Al From and Bill Clinton cooked us.

"Anti-Sex Work Feminists Try to 'Rescue' Strippers With 'Revenge Porn Tactics': Nine strip club performers in the United Kingdom are fighting to stop the publication of an undercover video shot by Not Buying It, a self-described 'feminist' anti-sex work organization. The performers argue that the footage, shot by hired private detectives with the aim of capturing business-ending violations at Spearmint Rhino clubs in London, 'could infringe their human right to respect for private life,' reports the Guardian. Already, this seems to be proving true: Just this week, the dancers lost an appeal for anonymity. A judge ruled that, against the performers' wishes, their names will be revealed in court records. These women were not only non-consensually filmed while doing their jobs, in footage that may soon circulate widely, but will also be outed as sex workers on judicial record. All this because a feminist organization is ostensibly concerned, as the Guardian puts it, 'about the exploitation of women.' Guess it's OK when self-described feminists are the ones doing the exploiting—and for political ends."

Sydney Morning Herald, "Nestle says slavery reporting requirements could cost customers: One of the world's largest food and drink companies has warned proposed legislation requiring big business to report on their efforts to combat modern slavery could hit consumers' hip pockets. Companies operating in Australia with an annual turnover of $100 million or more would be required to annually report on the risks of modern slavery within their business and the actions they've taken to address those risks under the federal government's draft Modern Slavery Bill 2018."

"Banksy launches homewares shop in dispute over trademark" Artist opens Gross Domestic Product for sale of 'impractical and offensive' merchandise. In the run-up to a potentially record-breaking auction of his work at Sotheby's, to be held on Thursday, the street artist Banksy said he had been forced into taking the unusual step of opening his own homewares store following a legal dispute with a greetings card company. Gross Domestic Product mysteriously opened in Croydon on Tuesday on the site of a former carpet shop. It will trade for the next two weeks — though will never open its doors, with all sales being made online. Banksy said the motivation behind the venture was 'possibly the least poetic reason to ever make some art' — a trademark dispute."

"Fearful of Lula's Exoneration, His Once-Fanatical Prosecutors Request His Release From Prison. But Lula Refuses. Lula's accusers are desperately trying to get him out of prison, while he insists on staying there until he's fully exonerated. THE SAME BRAZILIAN PROSECUTORS who for years exhibited a single-minded fixation on jailing former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva are now seeking his release from prison, requesting that a court allow him to serve the remainder of his 11-year sentence for corruption at home. But Lula — who believes the request is motivated by fear that prosecutorial and judicial improprieties in his case, which were revealed by The Intercept, will lead to the nullification of his conviction — is opposing these efforts, insisting that he will not leave prison until he receives full exoneration."

"Pennsylvania Attorney General'S Staff Pushed Philadelphia Inquirer To Be More Critical Of Larry Krasner: Emails: OFFICIALS WORKING ON behalf of Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro pitched the Philadelphia Inquirer to be more critical of local District Attorney Larry Krasner, according to emails revealed through an open records request. Several stories published by the Inquirer after Shapiro's office reached out to the paper, drawing on some of the same arguments that Shapiro's office had made to the paper, were heavily criticized by criminal justice experts after its publication for painting a misleading picture. The emails shed light on an ongoing power struggle between two of the area's top law enforcement officials, pitting the more moderate Shapiro against Krasner, a leading figure in the movement to roll back mass incarceration by taking power at the district attorney level. On June 18, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Krasner's office had actually increased the number of gun cases approved for prosecution despite criticism that his approach to criminal justice reform was too lenient. The coverage appeared to rankle officials at Shapiro's office, who swapped emails criticizing the story and indicating that they subsequently facilitated an off-record phone call with the paper, in which they suggested that future coverage should show that Krasner's policies were actually linked to increased crime, shootings, and homicides in the city."

"Ten Recent Democratic Primary Polls Good for Bernie Sanders Ignored by the Conventional Wisdom." This can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, because many voters will support the candidate they perceive as most likely to beat the Republican, so the more the media talks Sanders' electoral potential down, the less likely such voters are to give him their support.

Norman Solomon, "MoveOn's Phony New Campaign for 'Protecting Whistleblowers': All of a sudden, MoveOn wants to help 'national security' whistleblowers. Well, some of them, anyway. After many years of carefully refusing to launch a single campaign in support of brave whistleblowers who faced vicious prosecution during the Obama administration — including Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, NSA whistleblowers Thomas Drake and Edward Snowden, and CIA whistleblowers John Kiriakou and Jeffrey Sterling — MoveOn.org has just cherrypicked a whistleblowing hero it can support." I forget who said it, but it was suggested that the real tragedy for Manning and Snowden was that they blew the whistle during a Democratic administration.

Robert Kuttner, "The Coming Primary Challenges to Corporate Democrats: Is the threat to senior House incumbents a risky distraction or a long overdue exercise of grassroots progressive power—or both? Representative Richard Neal, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, is the poster child for everything that's wrong about corporate Democrats. His newly announced primary challenger in Massachusetts's First Congressional District, Alex Morse, epitomizes the grassroots dynamism that is making over the party. Beyond this primary contest is a much larger story involving the unsavory role of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the creative disruption of a growing wave of challengers to other corporate Democratic incumbents."

"Fighting The Dog Whistle, Sam Seder interviews Ian Haney Lopez about how to break through the use of racism as a weapon against all of us.

"The rise of the entitled millennial politician [...] Unlike Mayor Pete, Kennedy's politics are not terrible, but his only real argument for taking Markey's seat is "my name is Kennedy." Indeed his attempted pole-vault could easily turn out to be a tactical blunder. It looks increasingly likely that Elizabeth Warren (the other Massachusetts senator) will be on the 2020 Democratic ticket in some fashion, in which case she will probably resign her seat before November so the special election to replace her can take place alongside the presidential one (so the Republican governor Massachusetts "liberals" are inexplicably fond of installing won't get to pick a replacement). In that case Kennedy would be all but guaranteed to walk into the open seat, and he wouldn't have to stomp on a loyal progressive in the process." Not that Kennedy's politics are any good, but at least they're not quite as odious as Mayo Pete's.

Ryan Grim talked to Bernie and AOC, and they talked about lots of stuff, but the headline is, "Sanders: I Wouldn't Make Obama's Mistake Of Shutting Down Grassroots Pressure On Washington: AFTER WINNING THE election in 2008, Barack Obama, before being sworn in as president, effectively shuttered the unprecedented grassroots army his campaign had mobilized. The decision, which took his 10 million-plus donors and volunteers off the political battlefield, is regularly cited today as having hampered his first-term agenda. Bernie Sanders, when asked on Saturday afternoon whether he would make a different decision if he were to win the presidency in 2020, said, 'Yes, I absolutely would.' Sanders, along with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., sat down for an interview with The Intercept ahead of his rally in Queens, New York — his first since having a heart attack in Las Vegas earlier this month — and spoke in granular detail about what political revolution means to him. While he was eager to expound on the ability of an organized, working-class movement to overpower structural obstacles, he stopped short of endorsing new congressional primary challengers. However, he did say that he plans to become more involved in such challenges in the near future. "

QUIT: "Why Shep Smith finally walked out of Fox News for good: New York (CNN Buiness)Last month Shep Smith decided that he had simply had enough. With President Trump actively distorting the truth and many of his own colleagues helping him do it, the Fox News star prided himself on anchoring a newscast that countered the network's pro-Trump opinion shows. he way Smith saw it, he was making sure that accurate information was getting on Fox's air. 'I wonder,' he told a Time magazine reporter last year, 'if I stopped delivering the facts, what would go in its place in this place that is most watched, most listened, most viewed, most trusted? I don't know.' But he had had enough. In September, according to a well-placed source, he went to Fox News management and asked to be let out of his long-term contract. Tensions with the opinion shows were the breaking point. Executives at the network leaned on him to stay, but to no avail. On Friday afternoon he announced his departure on the air, then exited the building immediately, clearly emotional about saying goodbye to his television home of twenty years.".

RIP: "Ginger Baker: Legendary Cream drummer dies aged 80:" There's nothing I can add to accolades for Cream and its members, but the truth is, most of us thought Ginger Baker could not possibly last this long.

RIP: "Fiery blues guitarist Beverly Watkins dies at 80: Beverly Watkins, a rare woman among blues guitarists, who cleaned homes when music did not pay her enough and did not record her first solo album until she was 60, died Oct. 1 in Atlanta. She was 80. Her son, Stanley Watkins, said the cause was a heart attack that had been preceded by a stroke. Ms. Watkins called her music lowdown, stomping blues and complemented it with crowd-pleasing antics into her 70s — playing her electric guitar on her back and behind her head, sliding across the stage. When she sang, it was often with a growl. 'She'd been doing all that since the late 1950s, but she wasn't a star because she'd been a sideman most of her career, playing with bands that didn't have hits,' Brett J. Bonner, editor of Living Blues magazine, said by phone. 'She was a fabulous guitar player.'" Here she is performing last year.

RIP: "Rep. Elijah Cummings, powerful Democratic chairman and Trump target, dies at 68: The Maryland congressman's death was due to complications from longstanding health challenges, his office said in a statement. Cummings had represented Maryland's 7th Congressional District for 23 years before ascending in January to his perch atop the Oversight panel, from which he oversaw several investigations into the administration. Along with House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), he was one of three committee leaders guiding House Democrats' impeachment inquiry.

REST IN PUZZLEMENT: Cokie Roberts, Pioneering Journalist Who Helped Shape NPR, Dies At 75." My opinion of this woman was cemented in stone the day she said in front of God and everyone that "we" had no idea what the protesters were protesting about as if it were their fault and not a failure of a media that did not seem interested in asking, let alone reporting, on what they were actually on about. "If only," I thought, "there were some kind of job where you would go out and ask people what they were doing and tell the public. You could even have them come on TV and talk about it. I wonder what that would be called."

Orf makes videos that would make great ads:
Bernie Sanders Gets Stuff Done | 5 Amazing Victories
Rising Up | Bernie 2020

Krystal Ball is getting to be the smartest thing in what on most days has been establishment media. "Why the establishment smears people as Russian plants"

"Federal Job Guarantee: History, Research, Proposals, Commentary: Conversations about the nation's budget should be about spending priorities and the resources necessary to accomplish them: the people, materials and time. And those conversations should include the benefits of those spending priorities to the well-being of we, the People."

Jim Hightower, "Why we must ignore the cries of doom from corporate boardrooms — and start fixing our unequal country: When Jesse Jackson ran a strong populist campaign for president in 1988, advocating bold new policies and programs to address inequality, establishment skeptics scoffed, 'Where ya gonna get the money?' Jackson answered directly: 'Get it from where it went.' He meant from corporations and the rich, which had been rigging the economic system and government policies to shift income and wealth from the workaday majority to themselves. Thirty years later, that shift has become an avalanche, with income and wealth inequality reaching the plutocratic excesses of the Gilded Age. Just three men — Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett — now own more of the nation's wealth than the 165 million Americans who make up the bottom half of our population."

Hadas Thier, "Why the Differences Between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders Matter: Denying that there are differences between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and that those differences matter, is absurd. One candidate has a suite of progressive policy proposals; the other has stronger versions of those policies plus a commitment to building a movement to win them. [...] It should be clear from reading Jacobin's coverage of Elizabeth Warren that she is not a corporate shill, nor an enemy of working people. She's an actual progressive Democrat, proposing real reforms. But she is a progressive Democrat at a time when the bar has been raised (finally, thankfully) beyond progressivism."

Former NC Rep. Brad Miller, "The 40-Year War: William Barr's long struggle against congressional oversight 'I have Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president,' Donald Trump said in a recent speech to a far-right-wing campus organization. Trump is not a constitutional scholar, and he would not care at all about 'constitutional architecture' were he not president. So where did this sweeping claim to executive power come from? Trump's claims are largely motivated by self-interest, as all of Trump's motivations begin with "self,' rather than any doctrinal belief. Congressional investigations may expose his venality and perhaps criminality, so Trump will fight them tooth and nail. But for Trump's attorney general, William Barr, and others on the right, the effort to take power for the president from the courts and especially from Congress has been a 40-year project. Barr and his comrades may find statements like 'I have Article II' crass and narcissistic, but in their view Trump is generally correct. Executive power maximalists argue that the 'original intent' of the framers of the Constitution was to create a strong president with concentrated power and a largely advisory Congress." I can remember back in the days of George W. Bush's occupancy of the White House, we sometimes used to refer to his administration as "the Regency". That wasn't far off the mark from the way Bush talked, There seem to be a number of Republicans who think that's fine. Sam Seder interviewed Brad about this on The Majority Report.

"Joe Biden Is Right About The New York Times [...] 'In recent years the times has become a leading perpetrator of one of the most corrosive trends in modern journalism—'savvy' reporting that prizes the identification of disingenuous political tactics at the expense of focusing on the facts that voters need to know. This unfortunate tendency was visible in the days the scandal that has led Trump to the brink of impeachment broke, as the Times rehashed this hateful and disproven conspiracy theory as though it hadn't been put to bed. Two of our staff members, when discussing the Trump news with a pair of Times reporters, were stopped as they tried to outline how disproven the smear Trump wanted to pressure Ukraine into fomenting was, being told that this piece wasn't about the facts of what happened and instead had to do with trying to forecast how it might play in the Democratic primary.'"

"Why Barack Obama was particularly unsuited to live up to the ideals of the Nobel Peace Prize: In the primaries, Obama pledged to filibuster any bill that promised amnesty to the telecommunications companies for warrantless data collection on the American public. He repeatedly promised to close Guantanamo. He called it a stain on the honor of the United States. I think more largely, he was seen as the anti-war candidate. He was going to withdraw the United States from these overextended, violent commitments abroad. And, of course, he also promised to be the one who would help solve the financial collapse and its effects in a way that was not going to favor the big banks, the large money interests. On all of those commitments, to one degree or another, he reneged. He never closed Guantanamo. The numbers of prisoners were decreased. But there are still scores of them, who have no prospect of release, and they're now talking about creating an old age unit, so people captured at the age of 30 will die in Guantanamo."

"I ran a business. I know a CEO doesn't need to make 1,000 times more than his workers.: I've been an entrepreneur about as long as any American still alive. I started my fishing tackle business in 1937, as a high school sophomore. A few decades later, in a 1964 White House ceremony, President Lyndon Johnson named me the first Small Businessman of the Year. At the ripe old age of 98, I've now been around long enough to watch the American business landscape evolve over the grand sweep of time — and I haven't liked that evolution. Top executives today can pocket more for a morning's labor than their employees earn in an entire year. Last year, the Institute for Policy Studies reports, 50 major U.S. corporations paid their chief executives more than 1,000 times what they paid their typical workers. I never paid myself more than four or five times what my employees were making. I lived like my friends in my hometown of Spirit Lake, Iowa. I drove an older car, served as a scoutmaster and resided in a modest home. I had a good life. The younger me would have found today's corporate world — where share prices mean everything and workers and communities mean just about nothing — unimaginable. "

"'A Feminism Aimed at Liberating All Women Must Be Anti-Capitalist': An Interview With Nancy Fraser: Women workers, people of color, and white men in the Rust Belt may not see each other as natural allies. But as Nancy Fraser tells Jacobin, there is a path to uniting the social majority — so long as we recognize our common enemy in capitalism."

Further to the question of where private property comes from, Terri Windling in 2015 on, "Enclosure of the Commons: the borders that keep us out: Historically, the Commons straddles the border between private space and unmanaged wilderness."

A neat little .gif: "Land doesn't vote; people do."

"Two Mathematicians Just Solved a Decades-Old Math Riddle — and Possibly the Meaning of Life." You'll never guess what the answer is.

"The Roman Empire's Roads In Transit Map Form. They all lead to the same place.

The King's Man Official Trailer 2

Beverly "Guitar" Watkins, "Red Mama Blues"

22:52 GMT comment


Monday, 30 September 2019

Everybody's desperate, trying to make ends meet

David Dayen, "Great News: Wall Street Democrats Might Leave the Party: My fervent hope for many years could be coming true. [...] This is fantastic news. Anything that accelerates the split in the decades-long marriage between the alleged party of the people and Big Money should be celebrated. The transformation in policy that would ensue if Wall Street Democrats walk away from the party, freeing it from self-censorship and bad ideas, far outstrips whatever money they might raise for Democratic candidates."

Ryan Grim, "Why The House Democratic Caucus Was Able To Move So Rapidly Toward Impeachment"

It's only an occasional ray of sunshine, but every once in a while even a major network has a decent piece about Sanders. "Emotional town halls become centerpiece of Bernie Sanders' campaign: 'I'm a doctor, I've got a prescription and it's Medicare for All,' said one medical debt town hall attendee. 'We're leaving here today with another prescription in our pocket. That prescription is you, senator. Eighteen months from now, it's "Mr. President".'"

"Orrin Hatch: Joe Biden told me he 'didn't believe' Anita Hill during Clarence Thomas hearings: Former Vice President Joe Biden's handling of Anita Hill's sexual harassment allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas is under new scrutiny, as a former Senate colleague and fellow Judiciary Committee member contradicted Biden's repeated recollections of his feelings at the time of those contentious hearings."

A Michael Brooks interview about good prospects in the upcoming Canadian election. Trudeau might just get kicked out for someone better.

The last presidential candidate to go to the all-female HBCU Bennett College was Shirley Chisholm. So it was a big deal when Bernie Sanders came with some friends to Greensboro.

David Dayen spent a lot of the last decade or so pointing out that presidents have enormous power and can do a lot to fix the system and help people. When a president doesn't do that, you have to conclude that they don't want to. But if they do, well, they can do a lot. "The Day One Agenda: Laws already on the books give a president great discretionary power for constructive change—without abusing executive authority." It's worth listening to Sam Seder's interview with David Dayen about this, and the reminder of why excusers who sneered at "the Green Lantern theory" were wrong.

Common Dreams, "MSNBC Pundit Who Accused Those Who Prefer Sanders to Warren of 'Sexism' Sparks Viral Outcry From #WomenforBernie: 'Not here to be vote shamed by the 1%. I am supporting the only candidate who will always put the needs of people first.' [...] Collectively, the argument from most Sanders supporters appears not be that they dislike Warren or her policies, but that they have come to believe that Sanders—largely based on his concept of political power and his lifelong commitment to a host of issues and values—is a truly unique and superior candidate overall." Embedded in the article is Katie Halper and Matt Taibbi's Useful Idiots podcast with guest Nathan Robinson, talking about Warren and Sanders, that's worth a listen.

RIP: Cherie Matrix-Holt, 1 April 1963-19 September 2019. longtime member of Feminists Against Censorship and member of the FAC publishing group, for which she edited Tales From the Clit: A Female Experience of Pornography, from metastatic small cell lung cancer. She was vibrant and inspiring and meant a lot to us all. She was my friend and I loved her. She complained of back pain and went to the doctor for relief, which lead to the discovery that cancer had been eating its way through her for a long time, and her death a few weeks later. I'm still reeling in shock.

RIP: Diplomat Joseph Wilson, who challenged lead-up to Iraq war, dies at 69: Diplomat Joseph Wilson, whose disagreements with the George W. Bush administration led to his then-wife Valerie Plame being outed as a CIA agent, died Friday, according to The New York Times."

Black Agenda Report, "Believe Absolutely Nothing the US Government and Media Say About...Anything [...] There was a time, not so long ago, when most Black Americans of all classes were highly skeptical of every word that emanated from the mouths of white folks in power in the United States. A substantial body of Black opinion believed nothing at all that appeared in the corporate media — which, back then, we simply called the 'white press.' It was a wise and healthy skepticism, learned over generations of enduring a constant stream of lies and slander against Black people from politicians and mass media of the two governing parties. These organs and mouthpieces of rich white people's power were no more to be trusted, as Malcolm X counseled, than 'foxes' (Democrats) and 'wolves' (Republicans). The logic of the collective Black domestic experience extended to international affairs, as well. We empathized with the 'colored' peoples of the world under attack by the U.S. government and media. If white politicians and press lied about us, we knew they were probably lying about their foreign non-white victims, as well. And we were right." So how did that change?

"Edward Snowden: Joe Biden Threatened Countries Not To Give Me Asylum: Edward Snowden revealed then-Vice President Joe Biden and then-Secretary of State John Kerry pressured countries that protect whistleblowers and asylum seekers to deny him entrance. In an interview with MSNBC's Brian Williams, Snowden said he applied for asylum to countries such as allies France and Germany but every time it got pulled."

"The Prospect Of An Elizabeth Warren Nomination Should Be Very Worrying [...] I understand that, if Sanders is the leftmost U.S. senator, and Warren the second leftmost, it seems nitpicky and fringe to disparage Warren. In fact, I've tried to refrain from criticizing Warren too much, because I think the difference between having either her or Sanders as the nominee and having someone else as the nominee is substantial, and if Sanders isn't it then by God it had better be Warren. Yet I think it is necessary for Sanders supporters to fight hard to make sure he is the nominee. Settling for Warren should be a last resort. "

Bernie Sanders has been promoting a wealth tax since at least 1972, so it was unsurprising — if also largely unheralded — when he tried to introduce one in 2014. Elizabeth Warren has recently introduced one, so it was even less surprising when Sanders refurbished the idea himself. My personal proposal is for a 200% tax on anything over $100 million, so I'm always happy when I see something like Luke Savage's "Abolish the Billionaire Class: Billionaires are the grotesque products of an exploitative, immoral economic system. We should get rid of them. [...] To state what should be obvious, these two facts are not unrelated. Vast concentrations of wealth in the hands of the few is both how and why there is so much poverty and insecurity among working and middle-class Americans, despite there being so much wealth overall. Thanks to their cumulative labor — in factories, schools, hospitals, care homes, restaurants, and throughout the economy — an immense amount of wealth is produced in a society like the United States, but much of it is expropriated by billionaires in the form of rents and capital income. No one earns a billion dollars, but hierarchical economic structures and a skewed political system ensure some nevertheless acquire it because of the property they own. A billion dollars, let alone the over $100 billion amassed by Jeff Bezos, is not a reward proportionate to someone's social contribution. It's institutionalized theft, plain and simple."

Also Luke Savage, "Liberalism in Theory and Practice: Contemporary liberals are temperamentally conservative — and what they want to conserve is a morally bankrupt political order. [...] No, that instinct owes much more to watching Barack Obama summon forth a tidal wave of popular goodwill, then proceed to invite the same old cadre of apparatchiks and financiers back into the White House to carry on business as usual despite the most punishing economic crisis since the Great Depression; to seeing the 'war on terror' become a permanent fixture of the global landscape long after its original architects had been booted from the halls of power, courtesy of supposedly enlightened humanitarians; to witnessing a potentially monumental hunger for change be sacrificed on the altar of managerialism and technocratic respectability. It comes from watching a smiling Nick Clegg stand next to David Cameron in the Rose Garden at Number 10 Downing Street before rubber-stamping a series of lacerating cuts to Britain's welfare state and betraying a generation of students in the process; to seeing the dexterity by which Canada's liberals gesture to the left then govern from the right; and from seeing the radical demands of global anti-austerity movements endlessly whittled down and regurgitated as neoliberal slam poetry to be recited at Davos by the hip young innovators du jour."

"Someone Should Do Something: After seeing the events of the past few days, in the light of the events of the days before those, in relation to the events that took place in the weeks, months, and years before that, I am strongly considering writing something that would address the question of whether Nancy Pelosi is bad at her job. If I did, I would argue that the House of Representatives, under Pelosi's leadership, has come to function as a necessary complement to the corruption and incompetence of President Donald Trump—that a lawless presidency can only achieve its fullest, ripest degree of lawlessness with the aid of a feckless opposition party, which the Democrats are eager to provide. My editor thinks that I should write this article. I understand that in a week when one of the president's most dedicated flunkies went before Congress to openly sneer at the idea that he should answer questions, making a show of obstructing what was supposed to be an investigation into obstruction of justice—a week now ending with reports, confirmed by the president's jabbering ghoul of a lawyer on television, that the president tried to force a foreign country to act against the Democrats' leading presidential candidate—there is good reason to feel that something needs to be written. It is certainly the sort of situation that someone could write about: the opposition party sitting on its hands and issuing vague statements of dismay while the entire constitutional order is revealed to be no match for the willingness of a president and his enablers to break the law.

"A strange Twitter glitch is censoring the left — and no one knows if it's a bug or a feature: Twitter is mum about a well-documented "bug" that seems to prevent verified accounts from getting ratioed." I keep another browser open that isn't logged into Twitter so I can read things that are blocked, and sure enough, I can read the WFP thread just fine there, but not in the browser where I'm logged in.

The WFP Thing: The Working Families Party's members voted to endorse Bernie Sanders overwhelmingly in 2016. Strangely, they altered their counting methodology this time and weighted leadership's votes (56) as 50% of the vote, and membership's votes (about 10,000 people) at 50% of the vote, and Warren won. And, also unusually, they have refused to release the vote tallies. Naturally, there have been a lot of complaints online, and naturally, there is a lot of the usual push-back about how it's all just a bunch of white BernieBros saying racist things. "White Terrorism", in fact! So far the examples given are of an Amerind calling them "Uncle Tom" and a black guy calling them "slave". Going deeper, Katie Halper interviewed Susan Kang, who "talks about quitting the Working Families Party over its endorsement of Elizabeth Warren over Bernie Sanders and its lack of transparency. Instead of paying WFP dues, she'll give her money to the Sanders campaign. Plus the differences between Sanders and Warren and the cynical accusation that criticism of WFP's endorsement is an attack on people of color."

"'Exactly What I've Hoped For': 100+ Education Leaders Voice Support for Sanders K-12 Plan: 'No president or presidential candidate has offered a proposal so bold and sweeping.' [...] Unveiled in May, the Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education calls for 'a transformative investment in our children, our teachers, and our schools, and a fundamental re-thinking of the unjust and inequitable funding of our public education system.'"

"Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Are Breeding in Brazil, Despite Biotech Firm's Assurances to the Contrary: An experimental trial to reduce the number of mosquitoes in a Brazilian town by releasing genetically modified mosquitoes has not gone as planned. Traces of the mutated insects have been detected in the natural population of mosquitoes, which was never supposed to happen. The deliberate release of 450,000 transgenic mosquitoes in Jacobina, Brazil has resulted in the unintended genetic contamination of the local population of mosquitoes, according to new research published last week in Scientific Reports. Going into the experimental trial, the British biotech company running the project, Oxitec, assured the public that this wouldn't happen. Consequently, the incident is raising concerns about the safety of this and similar experiments and our apparent inability to accurately predict the outcomes."

"Documents: Police Used Buttigieg Donors to Get Him to Fire Black Chief: Legal documents related to Pete Buttigieg's ousting of South Bend's first black police chief describe a plan by white police officers in 2011 to use Buttigieg's campaign donors to get him to remove the chief, Darryl Boykins, once Buttigieg became mayor. 'It is going to be a fun time when all white people are in charge,' one officer is quoted as saying in the documents, which describe secret police recordings. The previously undisclosed documents shed new light on the most controversial chapter of Buttigieg's South Bend political career. The documents describe a plan to use two Buttigieg donors — including his campaign chairman — to lobby Buttigieg on personnel changes at the South Bend Police Department (SBPD). Both donors deny having such discussions with Buttigieg."

"Surveillance Nation: How DEA Agents Search and Seize Property from Amtrak Passengers: As you listen to the panicked fear that the U.S. government will turn authoritarian under Trump, consider the following story about the DEA and drug surveillance on the Amtrak Southwest Chief, the long train between Chicago and Los Angeles."

Stephanie Kelton: The Public Purse

Anti-BernieBros

"Elizabeth Warren Is Thirty Years Too Late: Both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are political throwbacks. But whereas Warren wants to fix the policies that went astray in the Clinton era, Sanders wants to change the economic foundations of American life. [...] On the campaign trail, 'I believe in markets' has become a kind of mantra for Warren. 'I am a capitalist to my bones,' as she put it more explicitly last year. Her 2004 book even boasted that 'We haven't suggested a complete overhaul of the tax structure, and we haven't demanded that businesses cease and desist from ever closing another plant or firing another worker. Nor have we suggested that the United States should build a quasi-socialist safety net to rival the European model.' (At the time, a whopping 45.8 million Americans were without health insurance, a number roughly equivalent to the entire population of Spain.) And it's not clear her thinking has changed all that much since."

"The Untold Story: Joe Biden Pushed Ronald Reagan To Ramp Up Incarceration — Not The Other Way Around [...] The politics of race relations have been a central part of Biden's career, from his high-profile opposition to busing to his authoring of the 1994 Biden Crime Bill. When he talks about his criminal justice record on the campaign trail, he argues today that the focus on the '94 bill is unfair, because the real rise in mass incarceration happened at the state level and was long underway by then. Biden is correct that the surge began in the 1970s and accelerated in the 1980s, but a closer look at his role reveals that it was Biden who was among the principal and earliest movers of the policy agenda that would become the war on drugs and mass incarceration, and he did so in the face of initial reluctance from none other than President Ronald Reagan. Indeed, Reagan even vetoed a signature piece of Biden legislation, which he drafted with arch segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, to create a federal 'drug czar.'"

Matt Taibbi in 2005, "Inside the Horror Show That Is Congress [...] To understand the breadth of Bush's summer sweep, you had to watch the hand-fighting at close range. You had to watch opposition gambits die slow deaths in afternoon committee hearings, listen as members fell on their swords in exchange for favors and be there to see hordes of lobbyists rush in to reverse key votes at the last minute. All of these things I did — with the help of a tour guide. 'Nobody knows how this place is run,' says Rep. Bernie Sanders. 'If they did, they'd go nuts.'"

David Klion in The New Republic, "The Conscience of Bret Stephens: How one columnist's wild family history explains an increasingly isolated school of conservatism." I had no idea that Leon Trotsky once had an affair with Frida Kahlo. The things you learn....

Warren Zevon and Jackson Browne - Mohammed's Radio - Live 1976 (HD)

19:34 GMT comment


Tuesday, 17 September 2019

September, I'll remember

"6 winners and 3 losers from CNN's climate town hall: CNN's climate crisis town hall on Wednesday night was an unprecedented seven hours of discussion on climate change with 10 of the Democratic 2020 presidential contenders. It was also the most substantive discussion of climate change policies ever broadcast on primetime television. Each candidate was given a 40-minute segment, meaning they could provide long, nuanced answers to hard questions on the most far-reaching issue of our time. There was a lot that could have gone wrong, so it's remarkable so much went right. The town hall easily outshone the muddled discussion in the paltry half-hour or so devoted to climate change across eight hours of official Democratic debates."

Bloomberg, "Schumer Picks Senate Primary Favorites, Irking Progressives: Chuck Schumer's effort to unite Democrats behind well-funded, centrist Senate candidates has sparked a backlash from progressives who warn that the Democratic leader risks turning off voters they'll need to take back the chamber. Consolidating the party apparatus behind strong candidates early can help raise their profile -- and bring in millions of dollars in fundraising. But the strategy is angering local activists and competing primary hopefuls. The campaign committee associated with Senate leaders has already picked well-established candidates in key battleground states more than a year before the election, including Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, who's seeking to unseat Republican Susan Collins, and former Governor John Hickenlooper in Colorado targeting Republican Cory Gardner. Most of the favored Senate hopefuls don't back Medicare for All or the Green New Deal, and in many cases they have more progressive competition.

"Four states set to cancel 2020 GOP presidential primaries: report: Four states are preparing to cancel their 2020 Republican nominating contests over the weekend, Politico reported, citing three sources. The sources told the outlet that South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona and Kansas Republicans are reportedly slated to scrap their primaries and caucuses, in a move that would demonstrate President Trump's effort to shore up control over the GOP at the state level. The report comes as Trump faces two long-shot primary challenges from former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld. "

"California Bill Makes App-Based Companies Treat Workers as Employees: SACRAMENTO — California legislators approved a landmark bill on Tuesday that requires companies like Uber and Lyft to treat contract workers as employees, a move that could reshape the gig economy and that adds fuel to a yearslong debate over whether the nature of work has become too insecure."

"Private Equity Tries to Protect Another Profit Center: The fight in Congress heats up over surprise medical billing, another abuse of the public driven by the private equity industry. Surprise medical billing has quickly become a small but critical flashpoint in health care reform. Because doctors and hospitals negotiate separately with insurance companies over reimbursement rates, it's possible for a patient's insurance to cover hospital charges while failing to cover the fees of some doctors in the hospital who are 'out of network.' Patients who visit an emergency room (ER) or are admitted to an in-network hospital by an in-network doctor may find that some of the professionals who treat them are not covered by their insurance. That is because hospitals have outsourced ER, anesthesiology, radiology, or other specialized services to outside physician practices or staffing firms. Patients often find themselves on the hook for thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars in surprise medical bills.

Well, here's an article I never expected to see in the Telegraph: "Corbyn better than no-deal Brexit, say investment banks as anti-capitalist Labour wins unlikely new City fans: Jeremy Corbyn, the scourge of bankers and avowed opponent of capitalism, is winning support from unexpected new quarters: two of the biggest global banks operating in the City of London are warming to the Labour leader. Unlikely as it may seem, he is now seen as the lesser of two evils by analysts at Citibank and Deutsche Bank, respectively American and German titans of the financial system. 'Is Corbyn as bad as no-deal? Perhaps no longer,' said Christian Schulz at Citi."

"The Citgo conspiracy: Opposition figures accuse Guaidó officials of 'scam' to liquidate Venezuela's most prized international asset: Venezuela's opposition has long accused the Bolivarian government of corruption and mismanagement. But with Citgo on the verge of liquidation, Guaidó's officials are too incompetent — or too devious — to save it."

"BRICS was Created as a Tool of Attack, Says an Imprisoned Lula: Former Brazilian leader wishes emerging economies were closer; recalls Obama 'crashing' Copenhagen climate meeting, writes Pepe Escobar. In a wide-ranging, two-hour-plus, exclusive interview from a prison room in Curitiba in southern Brazil last week, former Brazilian president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva re-emerged for the first time, after more than 500 days in jail, and sent a clear message to the world."

"ThinkProgress, a Top Progressive News Site, Has Shut Down: ThinkProgress, the influential news site that rose to prominence in the shadow of the Bush administration and helped define progressivism during the Obama years, is shutting down. The outlet, which served as an editorially independent project of the Democratic Party think tank Center for American Progress (CAP), will stop current operations on Friday and be converted into a site where CAP scholars can post." In other words, they fired all the unionized staff.

Pareen in The New Republic says, "ThinkProgress Was Always Doomed: Independent journalism fits uncomfortably with mainstream think tank politics. [...] ThinkProgress was not shuttered because it loses money. It certainly did lose money—political journalism is not exactly a cash cow!—but it was not a business of any kind: It was an arm of an extremely well-funded nonprofit think tank. If the Center for American Progress, as an institution, was interested in sponsoring journalism, CAP would've sponsored it. CAP isn't, and here we are."

Over at The Jacobin, Max Sawicky says, "Politics Is Not Arithmetic: UBI advocates have a habit of mistaking politics for arithmetic. Proving that a policy is mathematically possible isn't enough — and it can distract from more compelling left priorities."

Meanwhile, Ben Burgis says, "Socialism and the Self-Checkout Machine: A $1,000 a month check won't cut it, but there's a real democratic socialist response to automation that could make us all happier and give everyone more leisure time.

"This Alone Should Disqualify Pete Buttigieg" — The last thing we need is another Democrat who does the GOP's work for them by whining about fiscal "time bombs" and such.

"Why is the media gaslighting everyone about Joe Biden? After the Democratic primary debate on Thursday, top-shelf political journalists were quick to declare Joe Biden the winner by default. Biden turned in 'a solid but unspectacular showing' that was good enough 'for the former vice president to win the Democratic nomination and maybe even the White House,' wrote Stephen Collison at CNN. 'Joe Biden on Thursday delivered the kind of performance his supporters have been waiting for — combative when needed and in the thick of the action throughout,' wrote The Washington Post's Dan Balz. Biden 'fights off rivals,' wrote Katie Schubauer and Michael Mathes at AFP. 'Biden won, again,' wrote Jonathan Last at The Bulwark. I have only one question: Were these folks watching the same debate as I was? Because while nobody quite executed a Chris Christie-style suicide attack on Biden, his performance was still at-times gobsmacking evidence of a man whose mental acuity is fading by the day."

Deadspin was a bit less polite. "Joe Biden Is A Doddering Old Mummy With A Skull Full Of Dumpster Juice. [...] If you accept the basic and fairly uncontroversial proposition that 'President of the United States' is an important job with the power to influence many extremely vital functions of government, and that this job is best done by someone capable of at least steady if not genuinely nimble brainwork, then it doesn't even matter whether Biden's politics are bad; or whether he has shown himself over the years to be a weasel who uses a phony Regular Amtrak-Ridin' Uncle Joe routine to paper over shameless stoogery on behalf of various predatory industries; or whether his cretinous attitudes toward issues such as race, criminal justice, and the bodily autonomy of women were outdated over 40 years ago and have not substantially changed since then. He can't fucking think straight. He's a senile old man who has no business running a museum tour, much less the executive branch of the federal government."

Ryan Cooper in The Week, "Is Bernie Sanders right about medical bankruptcies? As funny as it is to watch so-called fact checkers beclown themselves in their palpable eagerness to expose the radical commie candidate, the specifics of this debate shouldn't lead us to miss the bleeding obvious. Whatever the accurate number is, we can be sure beyond question that medical debt is causing a great ocean of pointless misery — and Medicare-for-All would help a lot."

"Democracy Dies From Bad Fact-Checking: The Washington Post is feeding into Trump's agenda by turning fact-checking into an ideological weapon. [...] With these polemics-disguised-as-rebuttals, the Post is discrediting the entire journalistic genre of fact-checking. This is dangerous in a way that goes beyond any damage it does to Sanders as a presidential candidate. In truth, Sanders has little to worry about. The fact-checks are so ludicrous that they are unlikely to sway any voters. What they are more likely to do is feed into a pervasive distrust of the mainstream media, which is bad for democracy."

Luke Savage and Nathan J. Robinson in Current Affairs, "Support For Biden Is An Irresponsible Gamble With Our Future: There's nothing pragmatic or safe about a Biden nomination... [...] Even putting aside the inadequacy of his politics, Biden's inability to articulate a clear or legible Democratic message—even on his own terms—means that he cannot be put forward as a candidate against Donald Trump. The stakes are simply too high. [...] This magazine warned in February of 2016 that Trump had unique advantages against an 'establishment' candidate like Clinton, because he could run simultaneously to her right and to her left, criticizing her over her record on the Iraq War and Wall Street. Because these criticisms were accurate, they proved difficult to respond to. The same dangers apply to a Biden candidacy. Biden is not well-positioned to attack Trump on Trump's plutocratic agenda, given his own ties to the banking industry, which Trump will not hesitate to bring up. Nor will Biden be able to effectively criticize Trump's reckless foreign policy when he himself helped agitate for the single most reckless and deadly policy decision of the 21st century. Trump is excellent at preying on personal weaknesses (e.g., mocking Elizabeth Warren's silly ancestry claim) and will not hesitate to portray Biden as senile and out of touch. Unless Biden becomes far more energetic and cogent than he has thus far been, his responses will only confirm the charge."

Paul Rosenberg at Rolling Stone, "When establishment Democrats attack the 'hard left,' what are they really afraid of? [...] So why does anyone outside the right-wing media circus fall for this kind of propaganda, let alone actively promote it? We know why Fox News and the Republican establishment say this sort of nonsense. But why do establishment Democrats and MSNBC, the supposed 'Fox News of the left,' do the same? More importantly, what are they trying to hide? As I inquired above, what does the label hide in terms of policy? A livable wage and a livable planet are cornerstones — and popular ones at that. Higher tax rates (although still lower than Eisenhower's) are popular too."

In the Guardian, Bernie Sanders, "The media has become gossip, clickbait and punditry. This threatens democracy: Walter Cronkite once said that 'journalism is what we need to make democracy work.' He was absolutely right, which is why today's assault on journalism by Wall Street, billionaire businessmen, Silicon Valley and Donald Trump presents a crisis — and why we must take concrete action."

"The Quincy Institute opposes America's endless wars. Why should that be a scandal? When we decided to create a new foreign policy think tank, we never dreamed it would generate the wave of interest, curiosity and occasional vitriol that has ensued since we announced it. My colleagues and I founded the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft to promote — brace yourself — diplomatic engagement and military restraint. But since the news of our formation broke last month, the speculation about us has proved as revealing as anything we've done. Why, many asked, were George Soros's and Charles Koch's foundations teaming up as founding donors of the Quincy Institute?"

"The New American Homeless: Housing insecurity in the nation's richest cities is far worse than government statistics claim. [...] If the term 'working homeless' has not yet entered our national vocabulary, there is reason to expect that it soon will. Hidden within the world of homelessness has always been a subset of individuals, usually single parents, with jobs; what's different now is the sheer extent of this phenomenon. For a widening swath of the nearly seven million American workers living below the poverty line, a combination of skyrocketing rents, stagnant wages, and a lack of tenant protections has proved all but insurmountable. Theirs, increasingly, is the face of homelessness in the United States: people whose paychecks are no longer enough to keep a roof over their heads"

RIP: "Ric Ocasek, Cars Singer Who Fused Pop and New Wave, Dead at 75: Hall of Fame singer behind 'You Might Think,' 'My Best Friend's Girl' and 'Good Times Roll' found dead in New York." I like the cars, but they were in the air the summer I moved to England because of "Drive" at Band Aid, and later I loved them all over again when "You Might Think" was used as a recurring theme in BrainDead. I was surprised to learn when I saw his obit that he was older than I had thought. Good, solid, fun band.

At the top and bottom of the page for "From Obama Boys to Bernie Bros: The Creation of Twitter's Worst Attack Line," there's a podcast embedded called "The Candidates: Please, Whatever You Do, Don't Vote For Joe Biden" which I can't find a separate link for but is worth a listen.

"What Kind of Mayor Was Bernie Sanders? In his eight years as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Bernie Sanders revitalized the economy and solidified support for progressive municipal policies. [...] Thanks to the enduring influence of the progressive climate that Sanders and his allies helped to create in Burlington, the city's largest housing development is now resident-owned, its largest supermarket is a consumer-owned cooperative, one of its largest private employers is worker-owned, and most of its people-oriented waterfront is publicly owned. Its publicly owned utility, the Burlington Electric Department, recently announced that Burlington is the first American city of any decent size to run entirely on renewable electricity."

This article is by Glenn Reynolds so of course it has to contain some right-wing bull about voter ID, but he's right about paper ballots. "Paper ballots are hack-proof. It's time to bring them back. [...] In some ways, paper and ink is a super technology. When you cast a vote on a voting machine, all that's recorded is who you voted for. But a paper ballot captures lots of other information: Ink color, handwriting, etc. If you have access to a voting machine that's connected to the Internet, you can change all the votes at once. To change a bunch of paper ballots takes physical access, and unless you're very careful the changed ballots will show evidence of tampering. Paper ballots aren't fraud-proof, of course, as a century of Chicago politics demonstrates, but they're beyond the reach of some guy sitting at a computer in a basement halfway around the world. And there are well-known steps to make Chicago-style fraud harder."

"Exactly Nobody Needed This: Chris Christie and Rahm Emanuel have three things in common: aggressively courting reputations for being assholes, showing their mugs on television, and their shared commitment to right-wing politics. Oh, and political careers that ended in complete humiliation and failure. Nobody should have to listen to either of them ever again, but that didn't stop ABC News from forcing them on us anyway."

"The Federalist Society Says It's Not an Advocacy Organization. These Documents Show Otherwise [...] Despite what appears to be an obvious political valence, the Federalist Society and its high-profile members have long insisted the nonprofit organization does not endorse any political party 'or engage in other forms of political advocacy,' as its website says. The society does not deny an ideology—it calls itself a 'group of conservatives and libertarians'—but it maintains that it is simply 'about ideas,' not legislation, politicians or policy positions. Federalist Society documents that one of us recently unearthed, however, make this position untenable going forward. The documents, made public here for the first time, show that the society not only has held explicit ideological goals since its infancy in the early 1980s, but sought to apply those ideological goals to legal policy and political issues through the group's roundtables, symposia and conferences."

Just for the record, I think the Tiptree Award should continue to be called "The Tiptree Award" and that what Alli Sheldon did was an act of courage and love, and I'm deeply offended by the whole conversation.

"How Bullwinkle Taught Kids Sophisticated Political Satire: 'Mr. Chairman, I am against all foreign aid, especially to places like Hawaii and Alaska,' says Senator Fussmussen from the floor of a cartoon Senate in 1962. In the visitors' gallery, Russian agents Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale are deciding whether to use their secret 'Goof Gas' gun to turn the Congress stupid, as they did to all the rocket scientists and professors in the last episode of 'Bullwinkle.' Another senator wants to raise taxes on everyone under the age of 67. He, of course, is 68. Yet a third stands up to demand, 'We've got to get the government out of government!' The Pottsylvanian spies decide their weapon is unnecessary: Congress is already ignorant, corrupt and feckless.

They say that Martin Hoare's coffin was bigger on the inside than on the outside.

How a Zildjian cymbal is made

Oh, yeah, I finally found "Hang On, Stevens", a bit late. I didn't remember what a mess the lyrics were, but it was fun at the time.

Push Trump off a cliff again.

Simon & Garfunkel live at Central Park, "April Come She Will"

22:01 GMT comment


Saturday, 31 August 2019

A revolution is the solution

"FDIC approves Volcker revamp, in latest move to roll back bank rules: The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. board voted 3-1 Tuesday to give big banks more leeway to make risky short-term bets in financial markets by loosening a landmark but highly contentious regulation known as the Volcker rule. The FDIC and four other independent agencies have dropped their proposal to tie the rule to a strict accounting standard — a move that banks argued would have made it more burdensome by subjecting additional trades to heightened supervision. Instead, regulators will give banks the benefit of the doubt on a much wider range of trades, according to the text of the final rule." Regulators "will give banks the benefit of the doubt." Because they've really earned our trust.

David Dayen, "With the Volcker Rule Now Dead, Democrats Need to Bring Back Glass-Steagall: Trump's 'regulators' have allowed banks to play fast and loose with your deposits. It's time to make banks' speculation with your money flat-out illegal. In 2017, when Obamacare looked to be a vote or two away from oblivion, a popular argument in left circles went like this: The Rube Goldberg contraption that is the Affordable Care Act represented a compromise from the easier and cleaner way to do universal health care, and if Republicans and the medical industry couldn't even stomach that, the next time Democrats take power they might as well go to full single-payer. If Democrats are going to be called socialists either way, the left theorized, they should choose the best policy instead of a half measure in the faint hope of winning bipartisan support. Democrats now have another example of this in financial reform. Trump's regulators have finally eviscerated the compromise version of a structural separation between deposit-taking banks and trading institutions, known as the Volcker Rule. The financial sector could not allow even minor constraints on its practices of betting prodigious sums with other people's money. Well, fine. Then I guess when Democrats retain control they should just go back to the gold standard in this department, the firewall between commercial and investment banks passed in 1933 as the Glass-Steagall Act.

"Obama Repeatedly Tried to Get Biden Not to Run for President: The former president is reportedly worried Biden will 'embarrass himself.' [...] The most surprising part of the Times story though is how Obama has on multiple occasions tried to dissuade Biden from running for president. First, in 2016, Obama pressured Biden to sit out the race because he believed Hillary Clinton was the best shot at continuing his legacy. Even though that didn't pan out for Obama, he still tried to talk Biden out of running in 2020."

HILL TV EXCLUSIVE, Full Interview: Bernie Sanders sits down with Krystal Ball (28:55 video)

"Column: In shocking reversal, Big Business puts the shareholder value myth in the grave: Among the developments followers of business ethics may have thought they'd never see, the end of the shareholder value myth has to rank very high. Yet one of America's leading business lobbying groups just buried the myth. 'We share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders,' reads a statement issued Monday by the Business Roundtable and signed by 181 CEOs. (Emphasis in the original.) The statement mentions, in order, customers, employees, suppliers, communities and — dead last — shareholders. The corporate commitment to all these stakeholders may be largely rhetorical at the moment, but it's hard to overstate what a reversal the statement represents from the business community's preexisting viewpoint." But as David Dayen observed in his newsletter, "The Business Roundtable's statement that companies have obligations to more than shareholders is funny, considering that two months earlier they sent a comment to the Securities and Exchange Commission asking for a rule change to preserve 'long-term shareholder value.'

Matt Binder explains what the new domain name regime could mean, for independent sites (like this one) and other internet users, on Doomed. (The audio-only stream may be more useful and starts at the beginning of the show, unlike the video that starts over two minutes in.)

Since the usual suspects are dissing it, Bernie Sanders' Green New Deal.

Recommended video: "How Societies Turn Cruel - feat. Sargon of Akkad" (30 minutes)

What happened to America's unions? How the US Auto Industry Destroyed Its Capacity to Compete w/ Joshua Murray - MR Live - 8/29/19

Someone updated Al Franken's "Hang On Stevens" idea for Justice Ginsberg, "Hang On Ruthie!."

I keep telling people that the candidate who is most like Trump is Biden.

Meagan Day, "Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren Aren't Playing the Same Game: The Democratic Party establishment has shown itself time and again to be an enemy of left-wing policies. Despite her progressive plans, Elizabeth Warren is cozying up to those Democratic elites. Bernie Sanders welcomes their hatred. [...] The differences between Sanders and Warren on the one hand and Biden on the other are obvious. Biden has no idea what he wants the country to look like or why he's running for president. Warren and Sanders do. But the differences between Warren and Sanders continue to confuse many in the mainstream media, who repeatedly assert or imply that they're ideologically identical. They aren't. Sanders calls himself a democratic socialist and Warren calls herself a 'capitalist to my bones.' These aren't just labels. They're distinct approaches to the fundamental problems facing our society. A socialist tries to liberate the things people need to survive from the clutches of capitalist markets, which is why Sanders has taken the lead on Medicare for All, transforming it into the most popular working-class demand of the moment. A capitalist respects the superior wisdom of capitalist markets and tries to restore them to optimal functionality, which can help explain why Warren is so frustratingly noncommittal on Medicare for All. A socialist pursues decommodification through universal social programs that enshrine new social rights for all, which is why Sanders has proposed to eliminate every last penny of existing student debt. A capitalist of the liberal or progressive variety is seduced by means-testing, which is why Warren needlessly introduced eligibility requirements and caps into her student-debt forgiveness program.

"Another Nail in the Coffin' of Democracy and Journalism as US Newspaper Giants Gannett and GateHouse Announce $1.4 Billion Merger: 'Hundreds of communities and ultimately our democracy will pay the price for this deal. Less journalism and less deep-dive investigative reporting will only lead to less informed citizens.'

"Corporate Interests Use Voter Purges To Disenfranchise Citizens: The SCOTUS decision in Shelby County v Holder ruled that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is unconstitutional. Greg Palast talks about how what followed has been the expansion of the very issue that the VRA was implemented to curb."

Every now and then I find myself in a conversation with someone, usually a libertarian, who seems to have no idea how people and history ever happen. And I ask them, "And where does private property come from?" Nice little interview from Sammy pretty much explains why this is a useful question. "The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth & Inequality w/ Katharina Pistor - MR Live - 8/27/19"

"Memo to mainstream journalists: Can the phony outrage; Bernie is right about bias: Mainstream media is shocked at Sanders' suggestion that ownership influences coverage. I can tell you it's true. Mainstream journalists are having a ridiculous hissy fit over Sen. Bernie Sanders' suggestion that there may be a connection between the owner of a news outlet and the content or biases of that outlet's coverage. If Sanders had suggested that Rupert Murdoch's ownership of Fox News impacts its coverage, few would argue with him. But Sanders referred to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' ownership of the Washington Post — a corporate centrist outlet. And the senator, an Amazon critic, complained that the newspaper 'doesn't write particularly good articles about me.' [...] I worked in and around mainstream TV news for years, including at corporate centrist outlets CNN and MSNBC. Unlike at Fox News (where I'd also been a paid contributor), there's almost never a memo or direct order from top management to cover or not cover certain stories or viewpoints. But here's the sad reality: There doesn't have to be a memo from the owner to achieve the homogeneity of coverage at 'centrist' outlets that media watchdog groups like FAIR (which I founded) have documented in study after study over the decades. It happens because of groupthink. It happens because top editors and producers know — without being told — which issues and sources are off limits. No orders need be given, for example, for rank-and-file journalists to understand that the business of the corporate boss or top advertisers is off-limits, short of criminal indictments. No memo is needed to achieve the narrowness of perspective — selecting all the usual experts from all the usual think tanks to say all the usual things. Think Tom Friedman. Or Barry McCaffrey. Or Neera Tanden. Or any of the elite club members who've been proven to be absurdly wrong time and again about national or global affairs. [...] If you still want to believe there's no connection between corporate media ownership and content, join me in a mental exercise: Imagine how quickly heads would roll at the Post in the fantastical event that it somehow produced even three negative stories about owner Jeff Bezos in a few hours. (Needless to say, there's much to critically report about Bezos, including Amazon's tax avoidance, labor exploitation, taxpayer subsidies and CIA contracts.) [...] I said above that there's 'almost never a memo or order from top management' to newsroom journalists. In normal times, the media system works smoothly without top-down directives. But in times of crisis, such as during the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq — when I was a senior producer of MSNBC's primetime Phil Donahue show — there may well be orders and memos. As the invasion neared, top management at MSNBC/NBC News ordered us to bias our panel discussions. If we booked one guest who was antiwar on Iraq, we needed two who were pro-war. If we booked two guests on the left, we needed three on the right. When a producer proposed booking Michael Moore, she was told that three right-wingers would be required for balance. (I thought about proposing Noam Chomsky as a guest, but our stage couldn't have accommodated the 28 right-wingers we might have needed for balance.) During that period, we were told by MSNBC brass that invasion opponent Ramsey Clark, a former U.S. attorney general, should not appear on the channel. Apparently, some sort of blacklist." And we all know what happened to Phil Donahue.

"For Bernie, The Washington Post's Hatred Is Pure The Post is apoplectic that Bernie would call out its bias. [...] Take a stalwart of the liberal establishment press, the Washington Post, for example. The Post seems to operate, similar to Cockburn, based on a principle of hatred for one's enemies. The problem, however, is that many of the Post's enemies would never have made Cockburn's enemies list: the Post's targets are all too often in the crosshairs not for being corrupt elites but principally for bucking the elite consensus."

ROT IN PERDITION: "After Life of Incalculable Harm, Billionaire Climate Denialist and Right-Wing Villain David Koch Dead at 79: 'Death is an escape hatch for David Koch while the rest of us are left scrambling for the emergency brake before we go over the cliff.'"
"David Koch's Monstrous Legacy [...] But Koch's largesse wasn't free. We are paying for it now, and have been paying for it for decades. Koch's legacy is a testament to the power of weaponized philanthropy. For Koch did not restrict himself to supporting artists and scientists. He, along with his brother Charles, who survives him, committed their vast family fortune to the construction of a powerful conservative network. We live in the world that he helped build, and it is on fire."

"Fidel Castro's crocodile attacks man at Stockholm crayfish party [...] Skansen's pair — named Castro and Hillary — came to Stockholm from Moscow Zoo in 1981, to whom they had been donated by a Russian cosmonaut who were given the animals as a gift by then Cuban President Fidel Castro in 1978. They have had 11 children since arriving at the Stockholm zoo."

"Disaster capitalism: the shocking doctrine Tories can't wait to unleash: The Tory right doesn't care about the damage Brexit will do. The prize is a free hand to exploit this mess and roll back the state for good. [...] Many thought that the near meltdown of the global financial system would prompt a comprehensive rethink of the principles underlying global capitalism. Instead, it was exploited to de-fund social welfare provision on a grand scale, prompting much of the anger wrongly vented against migrants during the referendum. What then about Brexit? The advocates of leaving the European Union have always claimed that it would be easy and, after a brief period of turmoil, positively productive. A vast chorus of experts disagreed. The decision to leave therefore delivered an enormous economic and political shock to England, Scotland, the EU and the global economy. Why is the government not doing everything possible to mitigate that shock? [...] As Andy Beckett pointed out in the Guardian on Friday, within minutes of the BBC declaring victory for Brexit, the free-market thinktank the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) revealed the plan B that has otherwise remained hidden from view. 'The weakness of the Labour party and the resolution of the EU question have created a unique political opportunity to drive through a wide-ranging ... revolution on a scale similar to that of the 1980s ... This must include removing unnecessary regulatory burdens on businesses, such as those related to climate directives and investment fund[s].'"

Garbage, "Sex Is Not The Enemy"

02:55 GMT comment


Saturday, 17 August 2019

Just nod if you can hear me

"Sanders Says If Israel Wants to Ban Members of Congress, It Should Not Receive Billions in US Military Aid: 'The idea that a member of the United States Congress cannot visit a nation which, by the way, we support to the tune of billions and billions of dollars is clearly an outrage.'" Even AIPAC condemned Benjy on this one. Imagine a president of the United States advising another country to insult our members of Congress!

Democratic Debate 2, in Detroit:
Night 1: Hickenlooper, Bullock, Buttigeig, Klobuchar, O'Rourke, Ryan, Sanders, Warren, Williamson, with commentary from The Majority Report crew. I was going to post night 2 but CNN apparently decided to cut off any of the feeds. I think there's universal agreement by anyone who isn't in the centrist bag that CNN's questioning was horrible and Jake Tapper might as well be on Fox.

"Progressive Democrats vote against BDS, Palestinian rights" — Really disappointed in Ro Khanna on this. (And so did my own Rep., Raskin.)

Joe Rogan did a full hour-long interview with Bernie Sanders. This is notable because more people watch Rogan's YouTube videos than watch the cable shows, and you're lucky to get a ten-minute interview full of all the wrong questions from those cable shows. Rogan actually did a good job of getting Sanders to talk in a little more depth about his plans and policies — and in front of an audience that is unlikely to see or hear them anywhere else. Of course, the only part the media is talking about is the joke about flying saucers.

Even Politifact had to admit that John Delaney is full of crap.

John Oliver explains the horror of Boris Johnson, PM.

"Leaked Draft of Executive Order to 'Censor the Internet' Sets Off Alarm Bells: Civil liberties groups are warning of a major threat to online freedoms and First Amendment rights if a leaked draft of a Trump administration edict—dubbed by critics as a 'Censor the Internet' executive order that would give powerful federal agencies far-reaching powers to pick and choose which kind of Internet material is and is not acceptable—is allowed to go into effect."

"Sanders Demands Drug and Insurance Industries Explain the Hundreds of Millions They Seem Willing to Spend to Defeat Medicare for All: 'You made a $100 billion in profits last year — how much are you going to be spending of that $100 billion to oppose Medicare for All? Is it $200 million? Is it $500 million? Is it a billion dollars in order to protect your profits?'"

"Nina Turner: There is "Something Wrong" With Dems Who Won't Support Medicare-For-All."

"Kamala Harris Releases Healthcare Plan Calling for Privatization of Medicare [...] Bernie Sanders's campaign quickly slammed Harris's plan, saying it is 'centered around privatizing Medicare, enriching insurance executives and introducing more corporate greed and profiteering into the Medicare system.' Bernie Sanders is calling for a single healthcare system, run by the government, that would essentially do away with private insurers."

"Democratic Voters Rank Bernie Sanders as 'Most Qualified' 2020 Candidate to Solve US Healthcare Crisis: 'Bernie Sanders's fight to guarantee healthcare to all Americans through a Medicare for All system is not only a moral necessity—polls show it is also the most compelling healthcare message to mobilize voters.' [...] That's according to a Morning Consult/Politico survey released Tuesday, which found that 25 percent of likely Democratic primary voters believe Sanders, a longstanding supporter of Medicare for All, has a better "understanding of the problems with the U.S. healthcare system" than his 2020 rivals."

Great interview on The Majority Report with an author who was inspired by Barbar Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, an important reminder not just that poverty is hard, but that low-waged work has gotten even worse and more soul-killing than it's been in living memory: On the Clock: How Low-Wage Work Drives America Insane w/ Emily Guendelsberger - MR Live - 8/6/19. (Link is direct to the interview but you can roll it back to watch the whole show.)

A little recommended reading, from Bloomberg, "Russiagate Is Deader Than Ever: A judge has ruled it was actually fine to publish material stolen by the Russian intelligence — even if the Trump campaign had done it The ruling by U.S. District Judge John Koeltl to dismiss the Democratic National Committee's lawsuit against Russia, the Trump campaign and others on Tuesday may look like something of an afterthought now that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, has failed to find evidence of a criminal conspiracy between Russia and Trump's team. It is, however, anything but anticlimactic: It contains some hard truths for those still hanging on to the Trump-Russia story." Obviously, the Ellsberg principle is correct, and it's nice to know there are still courts that recognize it.

"Golly, So Many Voter Purges After Supreme Court Declared Racism DOA! The Brennan Center for Justice, using data from the federal government, found that since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, the number of Americans purged from voter rolls has increased to are you kidding me levels of 17 million people. Worse, states that had a history of discrimination against minority voters purged a greater percentage of voters in the last two years than in other parts of the country. Before that 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 required jurisdictions that had a history of voting discrimination to get clearance from the Justice Department before making any changes to voting procedures. But in Shelby, the Supremes decided racism was largely a thing of the past, so such "preclearance" was clearly not needed anymore, and actually was very unfair to places that used to use underhanded tactics to rig the vote. After all, Republicans all over the country were emailing each other pictures of the White House surrounded by watermelon patches, not just in the South! And yet, in a development that nobody wearing opaque goggles could have seen coming, it turns out that getting rid of preclearance resulted in a big rise in voter purges, and those purges somehow managed to be even worse in the places formerly covered by Section 5 of the VRA." I still say there should be a list of known voter-suppression tactics that no jurisdiction, regardless of their history, should be permitted to use.

Speaking of that, remember that some states require you to be registered well in advance of an election, so if you want to vote in the primaries, make sure you are registered now, and that no one has "accidentally" changed your registration or removed you from the rolls. Here's the primary schedule — mark your state primary in your calendar now.

Surprisingly, Bloomberg has a good interview with Stephanie Kelton answering the question, "How will we pay for it?"

The peacefulness of Buttigeig: "McKinsey and Company Is an Elitist Cult. Why Is Buttigieg Defending It? [...] In 1993, Fortune magazine put it this way: 'These fellows from McKinsey sincerely do believe they are better than everybody else. Like several less purposeful organizations—Mensa, Bohemian Grove, Skull and Bones, the Banquet of the Golden Plate—McKinsey is elitist by design.' [...] [...] 'We are now living with the consequences of the world McKinsey created,' writes a former McKinsey consultant in an expose´ for Current Affairs. 'Market fundamentalism is the default mode for businesses and governments the world over.' [...] As McKinsey comes under heavier scrutiny for its role in the crimes of governments and powerful corporations, any 'progressive' who worked there and wants to be taken seriously should have a rather critical perspective. Buttigieg has shown no such reflection. Instead, he calls his time at McKinsey his most 'intellectually informing experience'; he left only because it 'could not furnish that deep level of purpose that I craved.' Buttigieg has said he didn't follow the story of McKinsey's OxyContin push. On McKinsey's Saudi and South African government ties, he said: 'I think you have a lot of smart, well-intentioned people who sometimes view the world in a very innocent way. I wrote my thesis on Graham Greene, who said that innocence is like a dumb leper that has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.'"

Matt Stoller, "Why Private Equity Should Not Exist [...] I'm going to explain what private equity is and why it is facing these attacks. I'll also go into a bit of history, how private equity, which used to be called the leveraged buy-out industry (LBO), was started by a Nixon administration official who oversaw the both the bankruptcy of New York City and the intellectual attack on antitrust in the 1970s. Finally I'll also discuss what it would mean to eliminate PE from our economy and politics. [...] So what is private equity? In one sense, it's a simple question to answer. A private equity fund is a large unregulated pool of money run by financiers who use that money to invest in and/or buy companies and restructure them. They seek to recoup gains through dividend pay-outs or later sales of the companies to strategic acquirers or back to the public markets through initial public offerings. But that doesn't capture the scale of the model. There are also private equity-like businesses who scour the landscape for companies, buy them, and then use extractive techniques such as price gouging or legalized forms of complex fraud to generate cash by moving debt and assets like real estate among shell companies. PE funds also lend money and act as brokers, and are morphing into investment bank-like institutions. Some of them are public companies. While the movement is couched in the language of business, using terms like strategy, business models returns of equity, innovation, and so forth, and proponents refer to it as an industry, private equity is not business. On a deeper level, private equity is the ultimate example of the collapse of the enlightenment concept of what ownership means. Ownership used to mean dominion over a resource, and responsibility for caretaking that resource. PE is a political movement whose goal is extend deep managerial controls from a small group of financiers over the producers in the economy. Private equity transforms corporations from institutions that house people and capital for the purpose of production into extractive institutions designed solely to shift cash to owners and leave the rest behind as trash. Like much of our political economy, the ideas behind it were developed in the 1970s and the actual implementation was operationalized during the Reagan era. [...] PE firms serve as transmitters of information across businesses, sort of disease vectors for price gouging and legal arbitrage. If a certain kind of price gouging strategy works in a pharmaceutical company, a private equity company can roll through the industry, buying up every possible candidate and quickly forcing the price gouging everywhere. In the defense sector, Transdigm serves this role, buying up aerospace spare parts makers with pricing power and jacking up prices, in effect spreading corrupt contracting arbitrage against the Pentagon much more rapidly than it would have spread otherwise."

"White-Collar Slowdown Forces Law Firms, Ex-Prosecutors to Adapt: The slowdowns in white-collar enforcement activity and litigation have coincided with diminished hiring demand from law firms, while some white-collar defense attorneys are shifting their practices to focus on other areas.

Pierce, "The Democratic Party May Finally Be Emerging From the Shadows of 1980: I occasionally talk about the most singularly dismal episode in my experience hanging around politicians and political events, and it is not the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, nor is it the events that occurred between the beginning of November, 2016 and the end January, 2017. It isn't even Betsy DeVos's confirmation hearing, although that's a real contender. No, the episode in question occurred in 1982, when I was just a young alternative journo, and I attended something called the Democratic Midterm Issues Convention. It was at that event that you could see what was coming for the next 30 years or so, and what you saw wasn't pretty.

"The American Medical Association Is Taking a More Aggressive Approach on Abortion Legislation: The American Medical Association is suing North Dakota to block two abortion-related laws, the latest signal the doctors' group is shifting to a more aggressive stance as the Donald Trump administration and state conservatives ratchet up efforts to eliminate legal abortion. The group, which represents all types of physicians in the U.S., has tended to stay on the sidelines of many controversial social issues, which, until recently, included abortion and contraception. Instead, it has focused on legislation affecting the practice and finances of large swaths of its membership. But, says AMA President Patrice Harris, the organization feels that, in light of new state laws in the U.S. that would force doctors who perform abortions to lie to patients—put 'physicians in a place where we are required by law to commit an ethical violation'—it has no choice but to take a stand. One of these laws, set to take effect Aug. 1, requires physicians in North Dakota to tell patients that medication abortions—a procedure involving two drugs taken at different times—can be reversed. The AMA said that is 'a patently false and unproven claim unsupported by scientific evidence.' North Dakota is one of several states to pass such a measure."

In the wake of Donald Trump's attack on Baltimore, Dave Ettlin takes you on his tour of the city, in "Defending Baltimore: The City Of My Birth Has Problems But Promise, Reflecting Urban America." I was sorry to learn that his old house on Calvert Street, Toad Hall, where I had many adventures, has been turned into apartments, "most of its original features stripped away."

Dave Langford reports in Ansible: Court Circular: The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (of 'Urban Spaceman' fame; see SFE entry) found their name had been trademarked by Anglo Atlantic Media Limited, which claimed ownership at the Intellectual Property Office website — no evidence required, just a £200 fee — and then sued them for using their established name. Directors of AAML include the band's former promoter Bob Carruthers. A fundraiser for the Bonzos' legal costs at www.crowdjustice.com/case/bonzodogbanned/ reached its £15,000 target on 26 July, but more would be welcome. [JD] The IPO has scheduled a hearing of the case for 5 September 2019."

Eskow, "What the Fight Over Means Testing Is Really About: What started as a tool to target need has spread into an ideology that runs the risk of puzzling the public and overcomplicating policy. [...] Sanders, who has thus far refrained from criticizing Warren, kept his remarks positive. But Omar's office contrasted Warren's proposal unfavorably with hers, calling it 'a complicated means-tested plan to keep out a doctor or lawyer who might be earning a good living.' 'Means-tested' is clearly used unflatteringly here, because it has become a pejorative shorthand to describe and dismiss a certain kind of Democratic politics. As the headline to a 2017 essay by The Week's Ryan Cooper put it, 'The road to hell is paved with means-testing.'" I actually think he understates the case, here. The simple fact is that when you throw a load of administrative crap at low-income people in need, you make it harder for them to receive the benefits you claim you want to give them. The more they need it, the more they get tripped up by red tape. It's easy for people of means to hire someone to navigate these obstacle courses for them, but it can be insurmountable for people who actually need those benefits the most.

Meet the Economist Behind the One Percent's Stealth Takeover of America: Nobel laureate James Buchanan is the intellectual linchpin of the Koch-funded attack on democratic institutions, argues Duke historian Nancy MacLean."

Down in Fulton, Georgia, the first #BlackLivesMatter organizer elected to public office in America has a rebirth. "Councilman khalid: Why I'm Still Sanders [...] In June, Vermont's Public Access Channel CCTV released the entire archives of 1980s TV show: Bernie Speaks. The City of Burlington cable access show was created in 1986 by then-Mayor Bernie Sanders to circumvent commercial media and promote his political agenda directly to constituents. Late-night host Trevor Noah featured a few funny clips from the show, exposing America to this forgotten trove of what he called 'Bernie gold'. I went online and began binge-watching episodes. I was looking for reasons to believe in Bernie again. I found them. I also found myself. It was Bernie's 2016 Presidential Campaign that inspired me to run for local office. Little did I know that since winning, I was still following in his footsteps. [...] Many of the same issues I discuss on khalidCaresTV — political education, equitable economic development, divesting in policing and investing in young people before they get into criminal trouble — I saw Bernie address on this 30-year-old TV show. As it turns out, the Blackest City in America is suffering the same problems as overwhelmingly-white, 1980s Burlington, Vermont. Civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King was right. We are tied together in a single garment of destiny.

"When Will Obama Stop Dividing Democrats by Attacking Obama's Record? An idea that has entered the political universe this week is that certain 2020 Democratic candidates are 'attacking' Barack Obama by employing certain campaign themes and proposing certain policies, a trend that purportedly came to a head during Tuesday and Wednesday's primary debates in Detroit. [...] Have 2020 presidential candidates begun engaging in suicidal attacks on Obama's legacy by suggesting ambitious universal care policies, critiquing free trade's effects on American workers, discussing the downsides of capitalism, and calling for a reduction in criminal prosecutions of undocumented immigrants? Not really. For one, if you look at the transcripts, you find that almost none of the candidates who've taken those positions actually criticized Obama during the debates; in fact, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Julián Castro only used the former president's name to praise him or to suggest that his example supported the cases their campaigns are making. More importantly, though, none of those individuals nor any other 2020 candidate is doing or proposing anything that departs significantly from the path that Obama himself set for the Democratic Party." TL;DR: Eric Holder is a disingenuous putz.

"Stephen Colbert Jumps The Shark With Cringey Bernie-Bezos Bit:" Bernie Sanders made the completely unremarkable statement that it's unsurprising that media owned by billionaires would not support a candidate who rails against billionaires, and for some reason, Colbert thought this was occasion to attack him. The Majority Report is dismayed. Meanwhile, The Washington Post's New Social Media Policy Forbids Disparaging Advertisers.

And speaking of that, there's now a Bernie substack, and it has "BERN NOTICE: What We Cannot Discuss: Pundits freak out over the suggestion that billionaire media tycoons don't like Bernie Sanders"

"Chase Bank Erases All Debt For Credit Card Customers In Canada: Imagine if that massive credit card bill in your name just magically disappeared. For Chase Bank credit card customers in Canada, that dream became a reality. 'I don't know why they're doing it,' Toronto airbrush artist Randal Thibodeau wrote on Twitter. 'Good news for me.'"

"We Need A Wizard Who Can Appeal To The Moderate Orc Voter: I may be just an ordinary orc, but I wasn't at all surprised when the Dark Lord Sauron became the leader of Mordor. A lot of my smart, liberal friends, though, reacted as if Middle-earth was coming to an end. Dwarves in the barroom of the Prancing Pony said it was the pride of the High Elves. Ravens twittering under the eaves of Mirkwood blamed the cunning of dragons. The Steward of Gondor, posting on FacePalantir, said it was because of Sauron's hatred for the heirs of Isildur. I'm here to tell you: it's the economy, stupid."

"A Bear Somehow Fell Onto A Moving Police Car, Then Things Got Really Weird"

"A Lost Album From John Coltrane, With Thanks To A French-Canadian Director [...] Now comes word of another new album by the classic John Coltrane Quartet, with McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. Blue World will be released on Impulse!/UMe on Sept. 27, and like Both Directions it offers an unexpected view on a pivotal period in the band's evolution. It was recorded at Van Gelder Studios on June 24, 1964 — a few weeks after the quartet put a finishing touch on the album Crescent — as the soundtrack to a Canadian art film. Because the date had gone unnoted in session recording logs, this music has occupied a blind spot for Trane-ologists, archivists and historians."

Mark Kernes reminds me that the complete run of the late Paul Krassner's The Realist is available online.

RIP: Martin Hoare (1952-2019) was well-known to anyone who loves Dave Langford, since they often seemed inseparable. (When Dave met me at Heathrow to pick me up for my TAFF trip, Martin was driving — and, having heard that I was interested in seeing interesting old pubs, pulled us up to a weird little thatched place as soon as the pubs opened. The place had such a low ceiling that I could reach up to lean on a ceiling beam.) (Graham Charnock posted the best photo of Martin I've seen.) More from Langford in Ansible.

RIP: Toni Morrison: Nobel Prize-winning author dies at 88: Her family confirmed 'with profound sadness' that Morrison had died 'following a short illness'. Author of 11 novels, she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, having published her first novel, The Bluest Eye, in 1970. Her 1987 book Beloved told the story of a runaway female slave and was made into a film starring Oprah Winfrey in 1998. [...] Morrison once said: 'We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.'"

RIP: "Peter Fonda, celebrated actor known for Easy Rider, dies aged 79: Son of Henry Fonda and brother of Jane Fonda died after battling lung cancer, family says"

RIP: "Film-maker DA Pennebaker dies aged 94: The documentary-maker's work included Monterey Pop, Bob Dylan's Don't Look Back and Bowie's Ziggy Stardust concert film.

"Why They Hate Bernie: Remember the frenzied, paranoid style of right-wing anti-Clintonism? The lies, the conspiracy theories, the deeply personal disgust? Well, it's back — only this time it's migrated to the Democratic Party and its unhinged attacks on Bernie Sanders." I've actually remarked myself on the way a lot of it has the same features from the same sources of the Arkansas Project.

Liz's inside-outside game: "Elizabeth Warren Took On Obama Over Student Debt Forgiveness. How She Won Is Central To Her 2020 Campaign. [...] She did it by turning to what had become the core tool of her political life: a potent combination of grassroots activism, intense political pressure, and detailed analysis of consumer law. And she used that tool in part against her own party's administration, strengthening a political identity that cut against what was then the mainstream of American liberalism." And here's a little more from Dday.

This 1993 article from The American Prospect is a good reminder that all those left-wing losers of the Democrats' past were, in fact, not left-wing - and that it's always the right-wing Democrats who have the temper tantrums. "The Myth of the New Democrats [...] The notion that the Democratic Party is a captive of left-wing extremists is a familiar one to readers of the American press. It has been a staple of conservative Republican doctrine since 1932. In itself, this does not make the point incorrect, although it suggests that it is a bit musty. Reminiscent of the analysis that has been nurtured for decades in places such as the National Review, New Democrats have a tendency to argue at a level of abstract generalization that permits them to leap over some facts that would otherwise puncture their case. The first set of facts is historical. With the exception of McGovern in 1972, in five of the last six presidential campaigns, the Democratic candidates--Humphrey, Carter, Mondale, and Dukakis--ran as centrists. Humphrey was the establishment candidate against Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy. Carter ran as a conservative southerner moderate on race. The centerpiece of Mondale's campaign (for which Galston served as chief issues adviser) was deficit reduction. And Dukakis ran as a technocrat who, until the last two weeks of his campaign, avoided attacking Ronald Reagan because he didn't want to sound too partisan. Even McGovern didn't run as a "tax and spend" Democrat; a central part of his platform was a proposal for a huge middle-class tax cut. Indeed, the Carter presidency--the failure of which still weighs heavily on the Democratic psyche--was the exemplar of the New Democrat spirit. The New Republic reports that when Al From talked with Carter about forming the DLC, the latter said: 'Boy, could I have used a DLC to back me up.' [...] Naureckas concludes that 'when the "pragmatists" lose badly with their centrist approach, they are repainted after the fact as radicals, so the strategy of tilting to the right can be tried again and again.'"

"After 48 Years, Democrats Still Haven't Gotten the Memo: Lewis Powell once drafted a how-to guide for maximizing political power. Only one party took his advice. Here's how Democrats can catch up."

Michael Moore at Common Dreams, "30 Years Ago: The Day the Middle Class Died: From time to time, someone under 30 will ask me, "When did this all begin, America's downward slide?" They say they've heard of a time when working people could raise a family and send the kids to college on just one parent's income (and that college in states like California and New York was almost free). That anyone who wanted a decent paying job could get one. That people only worked five days a week, eight hours a day, got the whole weekend off and had a paid vacation every summer. That many jobs were union jobs, from baggers at the grocery store to the guy painting your house, and this meant that no matter how "lowly" your job was you had guarantees of a pension, occasional raises, health insurance and someone to stick up for you if you were unfairly treated. Young people have heard of this mythical time -- but it was no myth, it was real. And when they ask, 'When did this all end?', I say, 'It ended on this day: August 5th, 1981.' Beginning on this date, 30 years ago, Big Business and the Right Wing decided to 'go for it' -- to see if they could actually destroy the middle class so that they could become richer themselves. And they've succeeded. On August 5, 1981, President Ronald Reagan fired every member of the air traffic controllers union (PATCO) who'd defied his order to return to work and declared their union illegal. They had been on strike for just two days." Moore overlooks a lot of what came before (like the 1973 HMO bill that made profiteering off of medical care legal), but make no mistake: The firing of the air traffic controllers was a very big deal. And it wouldn't have happened without the help of an unlikely culprit.

Never forget that when it came to reproductive rights, Barack Obama never missed a chance to spit in our eyes: "As of this writing, House Democrats passed a health care reform bill that would extend the principles of the Hyde Amendment to proposed overhaul of the health care system, and further block federal subsidies for private health insurance that covers abortion care. While President Obama reportedly opposed the move, he told Katie Couric on the CBS Evening News in July that there is a 'tradition' in Washington 'of not financing abortions as part of government funded health care.' [31]".

An oldie but a goodie, "One Chart About Income Inequality That Will Make Your Blood Boil"

I can't believe people are still throwing out the "Bernie Sanders has no accomplishments" meme. Bernie Sanders' Accomplishments.

Pink Floyd, "Comfortably Numb"

17:27 GMT comment


Monday, 29 July 2019

And there are no truths outside the gates of Eden

So, after Pelosi and her pals painted a target on Ilhan Omar's back and spent the last few weeks dissing her, AOC, Tlaib and Pressley in the press, Donald Trump picked up his cues and attacked them. So Bernie Sanders asked in one of his campaign's regular fundraising letters that supporters send some of the money they were going to give him to these four women. The H8% was ready with angry threads about how the evil Bernie was "using" them to fundraise. (I liked this response.)

And speaking of that, "Moderate Democrats Warn That AOC Is Distracting From Their Nonexistent Message: Moderate Democrats are sick and tired of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her 'squad' dominating the headlines. Thus, to ensure that those four progressive congresswomen do not garner any additional media attention, several House moderates decided to complain about them anonymously in interviews with CNN Wednesday. [...] If your goal is to galvanize media attention around bread-and-butter issues, whining to Jake Tapper seems like a less effective tactic than, say, taking interesting stances on bread-and-butter issues. And yet, as Vox's Matt Yglesias notes, it has been House moderates — not Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, or AOC — who have prevented House Democrats from advancing several of their most compelling messaging bills. Nancy Pelosi's caucus finally passed a $15 federal minimum wage Thursday. But Pelosi had promised to pass that (popular) policy within 100 hours after assuming the speakership. Instead, it has taken seven months for her to grind down moderate opposition. Meanwhile, centrist Democrats have blocked their party from passing a bill that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, a measure that would effectively transfer large sums of money out of Big Pharma's profit margins and into seniors' pockets. This a winning issue in every district in the country (at least, if you value the approval of voters more than lobbyists)."

And from The Onion, "Pelosi Concerned Outspoken Progressive Flank Of Party Could Harm Democrats' Reputation As Ineffectual Cowards"

It's not funny. Seriously, DDay: Pelosi's Bargaining Chip: Privatize the VA Faster?: While we're consumed with racist tweets, an important discussion about how government dollars will be spent is happening right now. There's something of a fiscal cliff coming in the next couple months, as the annual budget must be approved by the end of September, the debt limit must be lifted, and without a multi-year budget deal sequestration would return. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin did something stupid in negotiations by tipping his hand, noting that the debt limit would be reached by September and asking for a short-term extension. Speaker Pelosi jumped on that. There won't be a short-term debt limit deal, making the White House more desperate to agree to terms. What Pelosi appears to be angling for is this: parity between defense and non-defense spending, and several billion dollars extra for the VA MISSION Act, which privatizes the VA. And I think that's it." Yes, that's right, Nancy Pelosi thought that instead of getting something we need, she would use her leverage to privatize the VA faster.

Aidan Smith in The Nation, "The Overlooked Difference Between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren: It's their approach to party politics—not policy—that truly sets the progressive senators apart. [...] There's only so much a Democratic majority could accomplish as long as the party's institutions are ridden with hedge fund managers, defense contractors, pharmaceutical lobbyists, and other actors whose interests are in diametric opposition to the progressive reforms that Sanders and Warren champion. In the two years since Trump's inauguration, the leadership of the Democratic Party has invested far more time and energy into curbing potential opposition from its left than it has to resisting the total acquisition of America's political institutions by the far right. Sanders intimately understands this. Warren, irrespective of her personal beliefs, does not operate as if she does, and that could prove a major impediment to achieving her policy goals."

Bernie Sanders has an answer to school busing - for today.

Bernie Sanders speaks during NAACP forum in Detroit

"Sanders Tops Democrats' List Of Most Liked 2020 Candidates: Gallup: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is the Democratic Party's most liked 2020 presidential candidate, according to a new Gallup survey released Friday. Out of 10 candidates ranked in the poll, Gallup found that Democrats had the most favorable opinion of Sanders, with 72 percent of respondents indicating a favorable view of the senator. Former Vice President Joe Biden, who has been leading every national poll of the 2020 roster, earned the second-highest favorable rating from Democrats, at 69 percent."

And let's see how the latest smear against Ilhan Omar is created and propagated....

Katie Halper at FAIR, "MSNBC's Anti-Sanders Bias Makes It Forget How to Do Math" — It's just amazing how the folks at MSBBC just can't seem to read a poll.

Mysteriously, no one seems to want you to know that there is bill and that it's actually advancing. This is weird, because it's a good thing. Let your representatives know you're watching. "Alex Lawson: We WILL Expand Social Security" on The Zero Hour.

"Sanders and Warren voters have astonishingly little in common: His backers are younger, make less money, have fewer degrees and are less engaged in politics."

"How Texas Accidentally Legalized Marijuana" - that moment when you legalize low levels of THC and then realize you have no way to test levels of THC.

David Atkins in The Washington Monthly, "What's the Point of Democratic Leaders Insulting AOC and Friends? [...] Actively dissing the party's most energized base to a national columnist makes no sense unless you actively believe that the energized base isn't just potentially losing the votes of a handful of people who would be irrelevant but for their irrational empowerment by the electoral college, but rather that the energized base truly speaks for only a tiny minority of the country." It really does seem like Pelosi is out of her mind.

This is Ryan Grim talking about Tiffany Caban's attempt to become DA in Queens. She won the primary but then the machine decided to disallow some of the ballots. She's fighting it, but we will see what happens.

"Nancy Pelosi Has Lost Control: New York's corrupt machine is running its own show for House Democrats. Two days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called a meeting admonishing her caucus to stop publicly criticizing each other on Twitter, the official House Democrats Twitter account launched a public broadside against a staffer for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). The tweet itself is a cheap smear, the strain of context-free character assassination deployed by 4chan-dwellers and alt-right agitators, assailing a prominent liberal with a snippet of an old Twitter conversation. Two days later, party leaders are hoping everyone will forget the whole thing, and President Donald Trump's racist rant targeting Ocasio-Cortez and Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) has sucked up most of the oxygen in Washington. But the House Dems' tweet carries a symbolic power that a turn of the news cycle can't erase. One of Pelosi's top lieutenants, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the caucus chair, effectively declared war on Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti on Friday night. Nobody in leadership has apologized for it, recanted or publicly rebuked anyone. The tweet is still live. Not since Anthony Weiner's sexual misconduct scandal in 2011 had the Democratic Party leadership targeted one of its own with such ferocity. Divided over how to oppose Trump and his agenda, party leadership attempted to purge its own ranks, and only eased up when the president himself attacked the same members that leadership had been blasting for weeks." Of course, the alternative view is that Nancy Pelosi hasn't lost control, and sounding like Trump just doesn't bother her.

Ryan Grim is in The Washington Post saying more about Democratic history. "Haunted by the Reagan era: Past defeats still scare older Democratic leaders — but not the younger generation Newly elected Democrats in the House of Representatives spent June 27 with the sinking feeling that it was happening again: Their party was going to cave to President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on a viscerally emotional issue. Just after a searing photo circulated of a father and his young daughter who had drowned in each other's arms while fleeing for the sanctuary of U.S. shores, Democrats in Congress let a GOP-drafted spending bill go through that did nothing to address conditions for detained immigrant children — abandoning a House version that would have ordered improvements. House leaders blamed Senate Democrats for capitulating; Senate Democrats attacked the House for poor negotiating. [...] Frustration with the refusal to stand up for principle is boiling over among younger Democrats. On issue after issue — impeachment, Medicare-for-all, a $15 minimum wage, free public college, a Green New Deal — the answer from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and other Democratic leaders is consistent: Now is not the time; the country isn't ready. Push too fast or too far, and there'll be a backlash."

Unbelievably, Kamala Harris is tooting her own horn about her role in the prosecutions of the criminal banksters. "Kamala Harris' Claims About Her Record on Big Banks 'Doesn't Withstand a Moment's Scrutiny': Dayen said today: 'Kamala Harris's role in the failed attempt to hold banks accountable for stealing homes from families during the foreclosure crisis was no more or less tragic than that of many other officials. But now that she's running for president, Harris is not only eliding responsibility for her part in the failure, but claiming it as an outright success. That claim doesn't withstand a moment's scrutiny.'"

When the worst people in the world hate your candidate: "Haim Saban loves every Democratic candidate . . . except Bernie Sanders, who he thinks is turning Dems against AIPAC [...] Saban, who is worth an estimated $3.2 billion, has donated millions of dollars to Democrats and pro-Israel efforts throughout the years alongside his wife Cheryl, president of their Saban Family Foundation. 'The basic strategy is 50-50. Meaning for every dollar we give in America, we give a dollar in Israel,' he says in the interview."

Saying what mustn't be said: "Ilhan Omar: Obama's a 'pretty face' who got 'away with murder': Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar ripped former President Barack Obama in an interview published Friday, belittling his 'pretty face' and saying his agenda of hope and change was an illusion. She cited the 'caging of kids' at the Mexican border and the 'droning of countries around the world' on Obama's watch — and argued that he wasn't much different from President Trump. 'We can't be only upset with Trump,' the freshman firebrand told Politico Magazine. 'His policies are bad, but many of the people who came before him also had really bad policies. They just were more polished than he was,' Omar said. 'And that's not what we should be looking for anymore. We don't want anybody to get away with murder because they are polished. We want to recognize the actual policies that are behind the pretty face and the smile.'"

"House Democrats Are Panicked About Primaries, And New York Shows How Potent They Can Be: A SPECTER IS haunting the House of Representatives: the specter of primaries. All the powers of the status quo have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this specter. Blacklists have been drawn up; arms have been locked. The ferocity with which House Democratic incumbents have rallied around each other reached absurd new dimensions this week. With Crisanta Duran, the first Latina state House speaker in Colorado history, challenging Rep. Diana Degette, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus weighed into the primary — on behalf of Degette. "

"Bernie Sanders' Democratic Socialism Speech Was a Landmark: In a single speech, Bernie showed why he's an existential threat to the political establishment. He decried poverty and exploitation and named capitalism as the culprit and democratic socialism as the solution.

I think this paragraph from Bill Scher's "How the Democratic Netroots Died" is funny: "In March 2008, a group of Daily Kos diarists who backed Clinton staged a virtual walkout in protest of the site's tilt toward Obama. Moulitsas shot back that Clinton's refusal to drop out showed she was 'eager to split the party apart in her mad pursuit of power.' His Crashing the Gate co-author, Armstrong, saw the race differently; in his view, Clinton 'showed signs of being accountable to the netroots movement' while Obama 'didn't need the netroots' and 'was basically an identity-politics cult' leader. Armstrong later quit blogging and worked for Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson in 2012."

RIP: "1960s prankster Paul Krassner, who named Yippies, dies at 87: LOS ANGELES (AP) — Paul Krassner, the publisher, author and radical political activist on the front lines of 1960s counterculture who helped tie together his loose-knit prankster group by naming them the Yippies, died Sunday in Southern California, his daughter said. [...] The Yippies, who included Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman and were otherwise known as the Youth International Party, briefly became notorious for such stunts as running a pig for president and throwing dollar bills onto the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange." He had worked for Mad but caught my attention when he published The Realist for years and I was one of his admirers, even more so when I found out that before the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, he had been "Jane". I found him standing next to me that day on the Ellipse while we were watching Abbie Hoffman chase the pig around (before being arrested for wearing that shirt). I talked to him for a bit but I didn't tell him he was one of my heroes.

RIP: "Former US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has died at the age of 99, after suffering a stroke.. One of the longest-serving US justices, he was on the liberal side of the court despite being appointed by Republican President Gerald Ford. He wrote more dissenting opinions than any other Supreme Court Justice in US history, and retired in 2010." During the Bush years, we all spent a lot of time hoping Stevens would outlast the administration, Al Franken, then doing a show on Air America Radio, wrote a song to the tune of "Hang On, Sloopy" with the lyrics, "Hang on, Stevens." Sadly, no one seems to have saved it to YouTube as a historical artifact.

RIP: "Rip Torn, cult actor, dies aged 88:" Huh, I hadn't realized the role that made Jack Nicholson famous was originally written for Rip Torn. Check out the video of Torn and Norman Mailer actually coming to blows.

"Nancy Pelosi's renewed attacks on AOC aren't just disrespectful, they're dangerous: America is becoming an increasingly hostile place for women and for people of color. Pelosi's constant public attacks against the four newly elected women of color aren't just disrespectful, they're dangerous. Whether she means to or not, her repeated insinuations that the Squad are rabble-rousing upstarts who are undermining the Democratic party helps bolster the right's vitriolic narratives about the congresswomen. As America grows increasingly brazen in its bigotry, Pelosi should be aggressively standing up for her freshman colleagues, not trying to tear them down. So why isn't she?

Elizabeth Spiers in The New Republic, "Beyond Pelosi: Why impeachment can't penetrate the cult of D.C. savvy.: Every time I see Nancy Pelosi patiently spell out the higher political wisdom of refraining from impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump, I think of Alan Greenspan. That's obviously not because the speaker of the House and the famously tight-lipped former Fed chair have any affinities of political outlook or personal temperament. Rather, it's because as a former financial journalist, I'm reminded of how Greenspan's observers in the financial industry tended to project all manner of genius onto him simply because he refused to articulate, in any concrete way that involved anything so crass as a narrative, what he was thinking or doing. For market watchers and finance industry savants, Greenspan was a human koan upon which they were expected to puzzle out their own economic enlightenment. If you didn't get it, you were the idiot. And now I get the sense that Pelosi's refusal to articulate her strategy with regard to Trump is being met with the same familiar projection of assumed good faith and competence."

Atrios on the fundamental error of wonkiness on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, "Bending The Cost Curve: Too often lost in all the discussion of ACA is that its prime architects were just fundamentally wrong. This is not an argument that ACA should not have been passed, it's an argument that the wonks who had all those wonky wonk wonk profiles written about them as they were getting rich on grifting in various ways were wrong about what they saw as the fundamental problems - and solutions to - our private insurance system. [...] Imagine being in the hospital waiting for your chemo treatment and hearing the president telling you that the problem with our health care system is that people don't have enough "skin in the game." The thing about health care is that you do, by definition, have skin in the game. Your fucking skin."

"Most Veterans Say America's Wars Are a Waste. No One's Listening to Them. There's a widening gap between Washington's bipartisan militarism and veterans' bipartisan war-skepticism. [...] The only meaningful variation pollsters found among vets was by party identification: Republican-identifying veterans were likelier to approve of the wars. But even a majority of those GOP vets now say the wars were not worth waging."

Not only is he a creepy bully and the most disgusting quisling Dem in Congress, but "Rep. Josh Gottheimer Is A Really, Really Terrible Boss, Former Staffers Say [...] I heard from staffers who worked for him when he was a lawyer at the Federal Communications Commission ('Josh Gottheimer is the biggest [jerk] I have ever worked for, ever') to his time at the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller ('He was a terror there') to his first campaign for Congress ('When I was reading those [Sen. Amy] Klobuchar stories, I was like, maybe Gottheimer isn't unique') to his congressional office ('Never experienced anything like it. Narcissistic, egotistical sociopath')." His priority is fundraising and he's sitting on a pile of cash, so going after him will be hard if anyone tries to primary him.

Robert Kuttner, "Neoliberalism: Political Success, Economic Failure: The invisible hand is more like a thumb on the scale for the world's elites. That's why market fundamentalism has been unmasked as bogus economics but keeps winning politically. Since the late 1970s, we've had a grand experiment to test the claim that free markets really do work best. This resurrection occurred despite the practical failure of laissez-faire in the 1930s, the resulting humiliation of free-market theory, and the contrasting success of managed capitalism during the three-decade postwar boom. Yet when growth faltered in the 1970s, libertarian economic theory got another turn at bat. This revival proved extremely convenient for the conservatives who came to power in the 1980s. The neoliberal counterrevolution, in theory and policy, has reversed or undermined nearly every aspect of managed capitalism—from progressive taxation, welfare transfers, and antitrust, to the empowerment of workers and the regulation of banks and other major industries. [...] Now, after nearly half a century, the verdict is in. Virtually every one of these policies has failed, even on their own terms. Enterprise has been richly rewarded, taxes have been cut, and regulation reduced or privatized. The economy is vastly more unequal, yet economic growth is slower and more chaotic than during the era of managed capitalism. Deregulation has produced not salutary competition, but market concentration. Economic power has resulted in feedback loops of political power, in which elites make rules that bolster further concentration."

I often get the feeling that people demanding programs that only benefit black people are actually trying to undermine programs that would massively benefit black people. "Stuck: The Absence of a Political Argument in the Debate Over Reparations: On June 17, in Washington, D.C., Reverend William Barber and the Poor People's Campaign hosted a presidential forum as a part of its three-day event called the Poor People's Moral Action Congress. In his discussions with each presidential candidate, Reverend Barber hewed to questions that focused tightly on the way that voter disenfranchisement, especially disenfranchisement of Black voters, helps to maintain poverty for people of all races. He, in fact, took pains to note that the states most impacted by voter suppression also tend to be the states with the highest rates of overall poverty. To underline this insight, he consistently returned to the point that our nation's 140 million low-wage workers and people in poverty, while disproportionately Black, is, in raw numbers, majority white. Consistent with his efforts to take up a modern-day version of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr's mission, Reverend Barber has taken on his messaging as well, [...] Since that writing, the common circumstances to which Reed refers have only grown more stark. Despite the relative historical weakness of the left and labor, and the nation's growing wealth concentration and general economic insecurity, the potential for solidarity continues to grow. It's not difficult to see the call for reparations, as Reed does, as an attempt to weaken that potential."

I can't remember if I posted this when it first came out, but since it keeps being thrown out as an example of how government can't do anything right, here's Barry Ritholtz, "Congress, Not Amazon, Messed Up the Post Office: Legislators passed a law that made the USPS less competitive with the private sector."

In The Atlantic, "Power Causes Brain Damage: How leaders lose mental capacities — most notably for reading other people — that were essential to their rise If power were a prescription drug, it would come with a long list of known side effects. It can intoxicate. It can corrupt. It can even make Henry Kissinger believe that he's sexually magnetic. But can it cause brain damage?"

Atrios reminded me of this oldie from The Onion, which is like every political argument I see lately: "This War Will Destabilize The Entire Mideast Region And Set Off A Global Shockwave Of Anti-Americanism vs. No It Won't"

"Stop Being a Tool for Asshole Anonymous Sources [...] So, what we have here is a Democratic aide on the Hill essentially accusing AOC of being a fake woman of color and a puppet for white liberals. That's an extremely serious and offensive charge. And yet we have no idea who leveled it."

I would have saved myself a lot of disappointment if I'd seen Rolling Stone's review of the TV adaptation of Catch-22, and the one from The New York Times, before I started watching it, but really, it left me a sputtering wreck. What the Stone and the Times don't tell you is that all of the horrible things that happen in the book because of blind chance, stupid bureaucracy, sadistic and callous officers, or just because war is war, happen in the TV show because Yossarian - er, pardon me, some guy who introduces himself as "Yo-Yo" (as Yossarian would never do) - is a callous, sloppy, selfish, thoughtless jerk who is single-minded for no reason even though Snowden hasn't even died yet. That's just leaving aside the fact that the book's wildly different and distinguished characters are all almost identical cut-outs in the TV show - even Orr is just another guy (who, by the way, doesn't do anything interesting like keep crashing his planes even though he's a brilliant pilot, have crabapples in his mouth, winterize the tent, or have oracular conversations with Yossarian). And: Hungry Joe's story is cut out of the script, of course, but that's no excuse for Yo-Yo being unaware that the paperwork always gets delayed when you finish your required number of missions so you have to keep flying anyway. (The show even leaves the impression that the number of missions keep getting raised not because Cathcart is a prick, but because Yo-Yo keeps getting under his skin.) And, for a final insult, Yo-Yo doesn't finally get Orr's message, but instead gets out of the war by doing what Yossarian would never do.

On the other hand, I didn't know what to expect from the movie Professor Marston & the Wonder Women, and I was charmed and touched by the story of a psych prof and his wife and their girlfriend who designed the lie detector as part of the larger project that resulted in the Wonder Woman comic.

"He was buried in a casket labeled: "Flight Recorder Inventor: Do Not Open.". The boy's father had died in a plane wreck, so he set about designing a recording device that would be likely to survive a crash and tell the tale.

"Oh My God, Jojo Rabbit Brought Back the Downfall Meme"

Bob Dylan and Neil Young, live, "Gates of Eden"

22:00 GMT comment


Saturday, 06 July 2019

And behold a mighty city broken in the dust again

"Representative Gottheimer Asks Regulators to Deregulate Banks He's Invested In: At the behest of a big-bank trade group, Gottheimer rallied 16 of his fellow Democrats to join him in urging financial regulators to gut a provision of Dodd-Frank that protects insured depository institutions from risky trading. Big Wall Street banks are on a mission to reverse a section of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill that requires them to post collateral when making internal derivatives transactions among their affiliates and subsidiaries. Congressional Republicans have supported the banks' efforts for several years. Now a key House Democrat has taken up their cause." On almost every progressive or even Democratic initiative, you can find Gottheimer in there rallying to the GOP cause. He really needs to go.

"Planes Were In The Air To Strike Iran When Trump Called It Off." Amazingly, Trump was about to do the wrong thing that Pompeo and Bolton wanted him to do but at the last minute did the right thing. There is much speculation about why he did it, but I suspect that Trish Reagan and Tucker Carlson both, separately, saying on Fox that doing so would be a bad idea, had a strong impact on Trump, who seems to think Fox is speaking to him from God. But then he started obfuscating again — I dunno, maybe he thinks he's playing 13-dimensional chess or something.

Op-ed in the Guardian by Senator Bernie Sanders, "We must stop the US from going to war with Iran [...] I want to be clear on this: Iran pursues many bad policies. It violently represses its own population and supports extremist groups around the region. The same could be said of our longtime partner Saudi Arabia. We need to take a more even-handed approach to the Middle East, and not simply support one side against another in a regional conflict. The US is strong enough to deal with these issues diplomatically, working with allies around the world, and that is what we should be doing. We must not fight another unnecessary war."

Matt Taibbi says, "Elizabeth Warren's Rise Is a Plus for Issue Politics — And a Bad Sign for Billionaires: The press is choosing to view it in another light. That will only work for so long. [...] If Elizabeth Warren is rising in the polls, it's not because people are tired of Sanders. It's because they're pissed at Amazon and Facebook, Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase, Dow-Dupont, Monsanto, Syngenta and countless other soulless, nationless, money-sucking companies — along with their overpaid, under-prosecuted, deviant scum executives who've had outsized influence with both parties for too long."

Sam Seder did a quickie interview with Bernie Sanders on The Majority Report.

Full interview: Bernie Sanders on Face the Nation

For some reason I don't seem to be able to find a handy YouTube video of the first night of the first Dem debate. I listened to it in the members section of The Majority Report* but not sure where else to find it that everyone can see. [Update: It's here.] I did find Democratic Debate 1: Night 2 on YouTube (but with so much introductory crap that I hope I copied that link from the actual start time of the debate). Consensus seems to be that Warren gave herself a boost on the first night, Booker committed to being in the Sanders/Warren lane (looking to be the VP pick?) and was doing well until he fumbled, De Blasio suddenly looked like he should be in the cabinet. Beto hurt himself, and no one seems to think Biden can win. Next night Biden embarrassed himself and Kamala Harris went after him like a prosecutor (although I think there were better lines of attack. And, wait a minute, didn't she go to school in Canada?) Buttigeig's damage control seemed to be good for anyone who doesn't read the news, but he repeated the "I don't want to help rich people go to college for free so let's make it harder for poor and middle class people just in case" story. Too bad we can't just vote Klobucher and Delany off the island. Yang still sounds like a libertoonian. Biden, Beto, and Buttigeig each dropped significantly in "electability" polling. Since the assumption of electability is all Biden's got, that doesn't bode well for him.

"Alabama Bars Sheriffs from Pocketing Food Funds: The Latest from State Legislatures: Alabama sheriffs can no longer personally pocket the funds meant to provide food to people in jail. A new law, sponsored by Republican Senator Arthur Orr and signed by Governor Kay Ivey, ends a rule that incentivized sheriffs to provide subpar meals and then keep leftover money. This longstanding practice drew renewed outrage in 2018, when an AL.com investigation by Conor Sheets revealed that Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin had pocketed $750,000 of jail food funds and bought a $740,000 beach house. Also in 2018, the Alabama Appleseed Center and the Southern Center for Human Rights went on the offensive, demanding that all sheriffs disclose how they use food funds; but many sheriffs refused."

How come rich Democratic donors never do this but a rich Republican did? "GOP donor gives $1 million to fight new Missouri abortion law, sues Secretary of State: A prolific GOP donor and Joplin businessman has contributed $1 million to fight a new Missouri law that criminalizes abortions after 8 weeks of pregnancy and has sued the Missouri Secretary of State for rejecting a referendum application that seeks to put the law before the voters in 2020." [...] 'While I am personally opposed to abortion, I do support a woman's right to choose, particularly in the case of rape or incest,' Humphreys said in a statement at the time. 'And I have to believe that the politicians in Jeff City that voted for this bill would themselves support their wives or daughters' right to choose if their loved ones were raped.'" That's right, a big Republican donor is fighting against a Republican abortion ban.

"Oregon Statehouse Shut Down After Lawmakers Team Up With Right-Wing Militias: Oregon's statehouse shut down for safety concerns on Saturday. But the threats weren't coming from anonymous trolls or foreign fighters—they were coming from the state's Republican senators, who have teamed up with right-wing militias to threaten violence over a climate change bill. Eleven of Oregon's Senate Republicans fled the state this week to avoid a vote on a bill that would cap greenhouse emissions. The group, believed to be hiding in Idaho, left the state senate with too few lawmakers to hold a vote. But the move is more than a legislative maneuver. The missing senators have partnered with right-wing paramilitary groups to threaten violence, should they be brought back to Oregon."

"Jewish Activists Are Protesting ICE Detention Centers Across The Country These young, progressive Jews are insisting that saying "Never again" to the Holocaust means speaking up about the government's treatment of migrants. [...] 'We have a responsibility as a people whose history included these kinds of atrocities to identify the signs and prevent them from happening,— said Rubin, a 25-year-old activist from Boston. 'If you've ever said, 'Never again,' or if you've ever wondered what you would have done if you were alive during the Holocaust, this is the time,— she added."

"California State University stashed $1.5 billion in reserves while hiking tuition, audit says: The California State University stashed away $1.5 billion in discretionary reserves while raising tuition and lobbying the Legislature for more funds, according to a report released Thursday by California State Auditor Elaine Howle. CSU put the money, which came primarily from student tuition, in outside accounts rather than in the state Treasury, the report said."

"Bernie to Student Loan Sharks: Drop Dead: Earlier today, Bernie Sanders and Reps. Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Pramila Jayapal announced a plan to completely cancel all $1.6 trillion of student debt. Funding for the program would come from a Wall Street speculation tax. 'If the American people bailed out Wall Street, now it is time for Wall Street to come to the aid of the middle class of this country,' Sanders said at a press conference. [...] In April, Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduced a plan that would cancel about 40 percent of outstanding student debt ($640 billion). Warren's plan is means-tested, meaning that those with higher incomes — specifically those with household incomes above $100,000 per year — would have less of their debt forgiven, and many would have none forgiven at all. Her plan also capped the amount of debt forgiveness any borrower could receive at $50,000, regardless of income. Critically, as Jacobin's Meagan Day pointed out at the time, Warren's plan 'fails to fully cast education as a social right and student debt as essentially illegitimate. [T]his leaves the plan politically vulnerable, because if some student debt is legitimate, then conservative interests will endeavor to broaden that category.'"

"Illinois approves legal weed, expunging criminal records for pot crimes: Illinois on Tuesday became the 11th state to legalize the sale and use of recreational marijuana for adults, a major victory for cannabis advocates who incorporated "social justice" initiatives into the measure. With Gov. J.B. Pritzker's signature, the new law is the first of its kind passed by a state legislature and signed by a governor. It capped off a legislative year in which legalization efforts sputtered in New York and New Jersey despite heavy pressure from proponents. Illinois, which has more than 12 million residents, is the second-most-populous state to permit recreational cannabis, behind California. Regulators will spend the next few months developing a system for taxing and testing cannabis and will launch sales Jan. 1. [...] Money raised by the new taxes would first be dedicated to expunging about 770,000 minor cannabis-related cases. Expungement has long been a goal of marijuana-legalization advocates, who argue the federal government's war on drugs disproportionately targeted minorities. Other states have similar provisions, usually added after the fact, but Illinois' law is the first to contain such a sweeping expungement provision from the start. Any tax money left over would be used to support drug treatment and enforcement programs, improve mental health counseling access and bolster the state's general fund."

"Aggression Detectors: The Unproven, Invasive Surveillance Technology Schools Are Using to Monitor Students: Ariella Russcol specializes in drama at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Queens, New York, and the senior's performance on this April afternoon didn't disappoint. While the library is normally the quietest room in the school, her ear-piercing screams sounded more like a horror movie than study hall. But they weren't enough to set off a small microphone in the ceiling that was supposed to detect aggression. A few days later, at the Staples Pathways Academy in Westport, Connecticut, junior Sami D'Anna inadvertently triggered the same device with a less spooky sound — a coughing fit from a lingering chest cold. As she hacked and rasped, a message popped up on its web interface: 'StressedVoice detected.' 'There we go,' D'Anna said with amusement, looking at the screen. 'There's my coughs.'"

Robert Reich at Common Dreams, "Dems Cave on the Border: A week of disgusting images at the border that repulsed a nation ended with Trump getting more money to carry out the same abuses, without accountability. While attention has been focused on the Democratic debate—in which most contenders are pushing progressive policies—congressional Democrats have moved in the opposite direction. They caved on an emergency border supplemental appropriation that can now be used by Trump to make the border situation worse, not better. This is how it happened, folks. The House had been working on a $4.5 billion emergency border supplemental appropriation designed to respond to the inhumane conditions in migrant holding cells. The goal was to use the funds to improve standards for migrants, and include safeguards to prevent Trump from using the money to finance deportation raids or his border wall. But then Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans, along with a number of Senate Dems, came up with their own $4.6 billion bill containing none of the safeguards to limit the funding to emergency aid—even earmarking some of it to continue Trump's draconian immigration policies, including funding for ICE and funds that could be used for additional tent camps to warehouse more migrants. Chuck Schumer did nothing to keep the House safeguards in the Senate bill. Worse yet, when the Senate bill got to the House, Democratic centrists led by Josh Gottheimer organized enough votes to block the House from putting the safeguards back into the bill. Nancy Pelosi caved—accepting a bill her House majority had no hand in writing—and the House passed the Senate version, with 129 Democrats supporting it."

"What The Hell Is Nancy Pelosi Doing? House Democrats have lost their moral compass. [...] To sum up the week for House Democrats: no oversight of the rape allegation against the president, no protections for abused immigrant children, a hearing on tax cuts for millionaires and a request that Trump officials deregulate big banks. Democrats did pass a bill trying to guard voting systems from foreign intrusion. But at the moment, it appears the most serious threat to the party's electoral future is coming from inside the House."

"How Israeli spies are flooding Facebook and Twitter: Israel secretly operates a troll army of thousands, partly funded by a government department. The Ministry of Strategic Affairs is dedicated to a global 'war' against BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights. To conceal its involvement, the ministry has admitted to working through front groups that 'do not want to expose their connection with the state.'

No surprises here: "Major study suggests Medicaid work requirements are hurting people without really helping anybody: The first major study on the nation's first Medicaid work requirements finds that people fell off of the Medicaid rolls but didn't seem to find more work. Since Arkansas implemented the nation's first Medicaid work requirements last year, a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has found, Medicaid enrollment has fallen for working-age adults, the uninsured rate has been rising, and there has been little discernible effect on employment. The research appears to confirm some of the warnings from Medicaid advocates who opposed the Trump administration's approval of work requirements in Arkansas and other states. People are losing Medicaid coverage, often as a result of confusion rather than failure to meet the work requirements, but they aren't finding jobs and getting insurance that way. They are simply becoming uninsured."

David Dayen at The American Prospect, "The Democrats' Retirement Debacle—and Ted Cruz's Last-Minute Save: The House resoundingly passed a retirement bill that could be dangerous for workers. It's been blocked in the Senate because of an unrelated perk Cruz wants to give to homeschooling families. House Democratic leaders are frustrated. They thought America would thrill to the bills they're passing that have no chance of making it into law so long as Republicans control the Senate, and Donald Trump the White House. Why they thought that is beyond my comprehension—minority-party agendas hardly ever drive political discussion—but they're desperate to turn attention to a policy agenda rather than oversight of the president (another mistake, in my view). 'I'm spending a lot of time on the issues that my district sent me here to work on,' Representative Ben McAdams, a Blue Dog from Utah, told The Washington Post. 'But it doesn't break through. People understand controversy more than they understand retirement reform, you know?' McAdams should hope that people don't start to understand retirement reform, because then they'd know that the House, by an overwhelming 417-3 margin, passed a retirement reform bill last month that potentially exposes millions of workers to unscrupulous salespeople peddling high-cost annuities through their 401(k) plans. There's evidence to suggest that the bill is the reason that Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal has slow-walked oversight of the Trump administration, including collection of the president's tax returns. If Neal plays relatively nice with the White House, Trump might sign his bill, which helps out the annuity providers that are among Neal's biggest donors.

"Mayor Pete Is Really Screwing Up In His Day Job: On Sunday, a white South Bend police officer named Ryan O'Neil shot and killed 54-year old Eric Logan, a black man. O'Neil, who told investigators he was responding to a break-in, alleges that Logan was carrying a knife and refused to put it down, and that he was forced to shoot and kill Logan when he stepped towards the officer. O'Neil wasn't wearing a body cam during the incident. And as HuffPost reported earlier this week, court documents showed that fellow officers have alleged that O'Neil has made racist comments in the past. The incident is a window to how Buttigieg would handle criminal justice reform and police brutality at a national level. So far, according to an account in the Washington Post, it appears that he hasn't passed the test. According to the Post, Buttigieg gave a press conference about the killing while Logan's family waited in the next room. While the Post says they did have a brief conversation, the family 'grew frustrated with Buttigieg's inability to provide information and his lack of compassion,' and the meeting ended. '[Buttigieg] ain't done nothing,' Logan's mother told the Post. 'He ain't recognize me as the mother of nothing. He didn't say nothing to me.'"

"What Is Joe Biden Hiding About What He's Hiding From the New York Times?: On Wednesday, the New York Times published the culmination of a three-month-long project in which it asked 21 Democratic primary candidates the same 18 questions. According to the Times' own description of the project, every single candidate invited to participate in the Q&A sessions did so, except for one: former Vice President and current Democratic primary front-runner Joe Biden. [...] So what is Biden doing if he's not running around the country campaigning at a pace so frenetic that he can't find a single pocket of time over the course of months for the New York Times? Speaking to wealthy donors about the simpler times when he could still be friendly with avowed racists, for one. But even that only takes up so much time."

Biden was explaining his ability to work across the aisle with people he disagreed with — and cited some nasty segregationists as proof. This might have been interesting if he were working with segregationists to eliminate taxes on Social Security benefits or to lower the retirement age (fat chance), but no, he was working with segregationists to preserve segregation. He's just that kinda guy.

He also manages to give away the store when he works with Republicans, as mentioned before. Another piece of Ryan Grim's work on the suicide Democrats, "Joe Biden Says He Can Work With The Senate. The Last Time He Tried, Mitch Mcconnell Picked His Pockets Badly.: AS THE YEAR 2012 wound down, Democrats hopefully eyed what looked to be one of the last opportunities for genuine legislative progress in a divided government. The party had just stomped Republican Mitt Romney at the polls in a post-Occupy campaign that centered on economic inequality. Democrats picked up two seats in the Senate, expanding their majority to 53 and adding Elizabeth Warren to their ranks. Though Democrats won more House votes nationwide and picked up a net of eight seats, Republicans held onto the newly gerrymandered lower chamber. The hope was tied to the expiration of the tax cuts passed under George W. Bush. Republicans, despite losing the popular vote and only taking the White House in 2000 by a 5-4 Supreme Court decision, moved swiftly to pass an enormous tax cut tilted heavily toward the rich. To do so, they used a parliamentary procedure that could get around the filibuster in the Senate, known as budget reconciliation. The cost of doing so, however, is that policy enacted through reconciliation must expire in 10 years' time. By the time the legislation was set to expire in 2010, the tea party wave had shaken up Congress. The Obama White House urged Senate Democrats to extend the tax cuts, arguing both that they had a difficult political hand, and also that extending them in an unstable economic environment was good policy. White House economic adviser Larry Summers told a private meeting of Finance Committee Democrats that allowing the tax cuts to expire would 'tank the economy,' according to a Senate aide at the time. [...] The Senate agreed to a two-year expansion at the end of 2010, but only after Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., delivered his viral, eight-hour old-fashioned filibuster on the Senate floor to draw attention to the fiscal giveaway. The extension meant that the tax cuts were now expiring in 2012, and in order to repeal all of them — to go over what the media began calling the 'fiscal cliff' — all Congress had to do was nothing. That, Harry Reid told me in an interview for my new book, was precisely his plan. 'I wanted to go over the cliff,' said Reid, the Senate majority leader at the time. 'I thought that would have been the best thing to do because the conversation would not have been about raising taxes, which it became, it would have been about lowering taxes.' In other words, let all the rates go up, and then bargain with Republicans to reduce taxes just for the middle class and the poor. Then-Minority Leader Mitch McConnell similarly knew the difficult position going over the cliff would put him in, and in preliminary talks with Reid, he agreed to let rates on people making more than $250,000 per year go back up, if to slightly lower levels to pre-Bush. (McConnell aides would later say that McConnell had not firmly conceded anything, and that negotiations weren't finalized.) [...] In desperation, McConnell reached out directly to Biden, calling him on the phone and explaining that Reid was refusing to be reasonable. Over the course of the day, McConnell and Biden struck a deal. 'Biden gave Republicans everything they wanted in exchange for fixing the fiscal cliff problem,' the GOP operative recalled."

Also, "Joe Biden Bragged About Getting Republicans To Raise Taxes In 2012. It Was Actually A Disaster For Democrats.: IT DIDN'T TAKE long for the political classes to decide that the biggest loser in part two of the first Democratic primary debate was former Vice President Joe Biden. California Sen. Kamala Harris ripped Biden for bragging about maintaining relationships with segregationists, leading Biden to bizarrely defend the right of local governments to pursue segregation as a policy. And the moderators raised his vote for the Iraq War while in the Senate. The most unlikely Biden callout, though, came in the form of a recent history lesson by longshot candidate Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet. Bennet turned one of Biden's own talking points back on him by pointing out the former vice president's revisionist version of when he was taken to the cleaners by Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell. Biden attempted to defend his acumen for negotiating with Republicans during Thursday night's debate by citing his ability in late 2012 to convince McConnell to raise taxes. The problem for Biden was that multiple people on stage had witnessed Biden's effort, and it was an utter catastrophe for Democrats. [...] 'I got Mitch McConnell to raise taxes $600 billion!' Biden said. Bennet wasn't having it. 'The deal that he talked about with Mitch McConnell was a complete victory for the tea party,' Bennet said. 'That was a great deal for Mitch McConnell. It was a terrible deal for Americans.'"

"Warren emerges as potential compromise nominee: Centrists who once said the senator would lead the party to ruin are coming around to her as an alternative to Bernie Sanders." There are different ways to look at this. One is that the centrists will abandon Warren once she takes enough of Bernie's support to weaken him sufficiently. The other is that Bernie has been making room for Warren from the left. Of course, both of these things can be true.

Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone, "Elizabeth Warren's Rise Is a Plus for Issue Politics — And a Bad Sign for Billionaires: The press is choosing to view it in another light. That will only work for so long. Back in 2009, I called for Elizabeth Warren to run for president. I may have been the first media figure to do so. This was early in the Obama presidency, when he was beginning to renege on some of his progressive campaign promises (closing Gitmo, drug re-importation, etc.), but more importantly already showing an unwillingness to take on Wall Street after the crash. Warren, a rare high-finance literate among national politicians, seemed like the person needed to lead an economic reform effort after the crash.

"How Third Way Democrats Could Get Trump Re-elected: The New Democracy PAC and other centrist groups want you to learn all the wrong lessons from 2016. [...] Just as there is nothing 'progressive' about PPI, there is nothing 'new' about the ideas advanced by New Democracy. Like the Republican Party, New Democracy is death on single-payer healthcare, which the group's website explains 'would force working Americans to give up their doctors, and raise the threat of rationing care.' Back in 2010, PPI wonks ensured that the White House not push for a 'public option'—a government-run nonprofit insurance option—in Obamacare. New Democracy's stated goal in 2020 is to expand 'the party's appeal across Middle America and make Democrats competitive.' Pragmatic radicals like Marshall advocate doing so not by 'tear[ing] up existing trade agreements' but by building a 'knowledge economy' that is 'shaped largely by American ingenuity and technological prowess'—a vision crafted for corporate America under the guise of aiding downwardly mobile white working people who, according to the New Democracy fairy tale, were abandoned by Democrats in 2016. Not so. The abandonment dates to the 1990s, when the DLC, PPI and Bill Clinton championed free trade policies that destroyed the livelihoods of working people of all races, including many of Hillary Clinton's 'deplorables.'"

The anti-Bernie talking points are going around again (such as here), so let's go back to 2016 when Katie Halper explained how, no, Bernie didn't "dismiss" identity politics. "Bernie Sanders Nailed It On Identity Politics and Inequality, and the Media Completely Missed the Point: For over a year, critics within and around the established wing of the Democratic Party have painted Bernie Sanders as a misogynistic, racist, heteronormative, cis, male, pseudo-anti-establishment, actually-totally establishment politician motivated by a humongous ego and a desire to thwart progress and the election of the first female president in US history. And then there were the less moderate critics. [...] And as we saw in a recent episode of anti-Sanders outrage, this narrative is still extant. On Sunday November 20, during a talk at Berklee College in Boston, Sanders said something nuanced about race, ethnicity, gender and class, and the same media that supported Clinton during the campaign distorted his remarks to fit this narrative."

Right-wing talking-point alert: I was following a thread on Bernie's debt-forgiveness plan and saw someone arguing that in Germany, which offers free college and reputedly excellent universal health coverage, everyone pays 50% of their income in taxes. This is not an uncommon error but this person actually linked an article (that part is unusual) that he apparently believed supported this point. This is the article he linked. As you can see, it does not say that there is a universal tax rate of 50%. It says there is a "tax wedge" of 50%, which is something else entirely. A quick google reveals: "The first €9,169 (or €18,338 for married couples submitting a combined return) earned each year is tax free. Any amount after that is subject to income tax. Income tax in Germany is progressive: first, income tax rates start at 14%, then they rise incrementally to 42%; last, very high income levels are taxed at 45%." In other words, you can conceivably be paying no more in income tax than 14% on all income over the first €9,169. However, there are other interesting taxes I've never heard of in the US or UK context. Imagine my surprise: "In addition to income tax, everyone has to pay solidarity tax, which is capped at 5.5% of your income tax. Finally, if you are a member of a registered church in Germany, you will also have to pay a church tax of 8 or 9% of your income, depending on which federal state you live in." I did enjoy this little exercise, which made a refreshing change from having to explain that, no, a top marginal rate of 90% does not mean that if you make ten dollars, the government only lets you keep a dollar.

Katie Halper, "Sydney Ember's Secret Sources: NYT reporter hides corporate ties of Sanders critics she highlights. New York Times reporter Sydney Ember has a problem with Bernie Sanders—which may be why the paper has her cover him. Ember is supposed to write reported articles, not op-eds, but she consistently paints a negative picture of Sanders' temperament, history, policies and/or political prospects in the over two dozen pieces she's done on him. This makes sense, given the New York Times' documented anti-Sanders bias, which can be found among both editors and reporters alike.

Glen Ford at Black Agenda Report, "The Ruling Class Will Not Tolerate the Sanders-Led Assault on Austerity: The Ruling Class Will Not Tolerate the Sanders-Led Assault on Austerity. The whole point of the austerity project is to disempower workers and concentrate wealth at the top. The rulers will kill to keep that dream alive."

RIP: "Gary Duncan, Quicksilver Messenger Service Guitarist, Dead at 72: Influential San Francisco psychedelic rock band among Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list [...] Quicksilver Messenger Service bassist David Freiberg confirmed Duncan's death to Rolling Stone. Duncan's widow, Shelley Duncan Haslouer, said that Duncan had a 'severe fall and hit his head' last week. Duncan suffered a seizure as a result of the fall and went on life support for a few days before his death in Woodland, California. 'I've always thought of Gary as the engine of the original four-piece group,' Freiberg told Rolling Stone. 'He kind of taught me by osmosis, as I was a folkie 12-string guitar finger-picker, how to become a part of the machine. I felt he was always underrated as a guitarist. His solos with QMS were some of the finest ever. He was an amazingly talented musician — one of the best.'"

Seth Harp at The Intercept, "I'm A Journalist But I Didn't Fully Realize The Terrible Power Of U.S. Border Officials Until They Violated My Rights And Privacy [...] It was around 4 p.m. when Moncivias finally finished up and informed me, anticlimactically, that I was free to go. I couldn't wait to get outside because the detention area was freezing. No wonder Spanish-speaking migrants call CBP detention la hielera — the icebox. I took my phone and laptop and silently packed up my luggage, which still lay disemboweled on the desk, underwear and all. Pomeroy was gone by this time. As I was walking out, I said to Moncivias and Villarreal, 'It's funny, of all the countries I've been to, the border guards have never treated me worse than here, in the one country I'm a citizen of, in the town where I was born.' 'Welcome back to the USA,' Moncivias said."

"How a Young Joe Biden Turned Liberals Against Integration: Forty years ago, the Senate supported school busing— until a 32-year-old changed his mind. [...] Ed Brooke, a Massachusetts Republican, was the first black senator ever to be popularly elected; Joe Biden was a freshman Democratic senator from Delaware. By 1975, both had compiled liberal voting records. But that year, Biden sided with conservatives and sponsored a major anti-busing amendment. The fierce debate that followed not only fractured the Senate's bloc of liberals, it also signified a more wide-ranging political phenomenon: As white voters around the country —especially in the North — objected to sweeping desegregation plans then coming into practice, liberal leaders retreated from robust integration policies.

"Apple's Scary Buying Power And The Woman Who Named It: Last month, the Supreme Court opened the door for Apple to lose a lot of money. It decided in Apple vs Pepper — the rare court case that sounds like a deathmatch between fruits and vegetables — that Apple could be held liable for how it runs its App Store. Apple typically takes a 30% cut from every app and service sold there, and Robert Pepper, the lead plaintiff for a class action, claims the company's anti-competitive practices are hurting consumers like him. In handing down this decision, Justice Brett Kavanaugh broke with his conservative colleagues and joined the liberals. Delivering the majority opinion for the court, Kavanaugh wrote that Apple can be sued by its customers "on a monopoly theory." That's pretty standard: when a company, facing little competition, uses its market position to raise the prices of its products, it can be in violation of laws aimed at promoting competition and the well-being of consumers. But Kavanaugh went further. He said Apple could also be sued by app developers, most of whom are forced to fork over a big percentage of their potential revenue, "on a monopsony theory." Over the last couple years, this obscure economic term — monopsony — has popped up in courtrooms, newspapers, magazines, academic journals, and the halls of government. [...] Released in 1933, Robinson's book, The Economics of Imperfect Competition, took aim at the notion that markets were perfectly competitive. Competition, economists believe, ensures prosperity. It's what makes goods and services affordable. It's what drives innovation and economic growth. And by giving us options to quit crummy jobs and get new ones at competing firms, it's supposed to provide a crucial channel for getting a raise. The question Robinson sought to answer was: what happens when markets aren't really competitive?"

From Law Works, The Investigation: A Search For The Truth In Ten Acts" - Theatrical reading of the (abridged) Mueller Report by John Lithgow, Kevin Kline, Anette Bening, Ben McKenzie, Alfre Woodard, Alyssa Milano, Zachary Quinto, Joel Grey, and others.

Quicksilver Messenger Service, "Pride of Man"

02:12 GMT comment


Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Something inside, that was always denied, for so many years

David Dayen at The American Prospect, "Tom Perez Traded a Puerto Rico Statehood Endorsement for DNC Chair Votes [...] The anecdote reveals a mildly seamier side of backroom politics. But it throws the decision to nix the climate debate into even sharper relief. Tom Perez owes his chairmanship to some maneuvering on the island of Puerto Rico. If there's anyone who owes an island devastated by extreme weather, it's Tom Perez. And yet while he seeks the favor of power-broker Puerto Rican politicians enough to meet their demands, he won't grant the people of Puerto Rico some debate time to address the very topic that's led to so much of their destruction."

Also David Dayen talked to Sam Seder on The Majority Report, Casual Friday w/ David Dayen & Andy Kindler - MR Live - 6/7/19.

You gotta listen to this Majority Report: We've Got People: From Jesse Jackson to AOC, the End of Big Money w/ Ryan Grim - MR Live - 6/10/19. Every interview Grim does on this book reveals new nuggets of horribleness from the Dem leadership that screwed us. In this episode, how Joe Biden pulled the rug out from under Harry Reid when he was trying to get rid of the Bush tax cuts and get something good for the public. I've always wondered how Obama could do something as stupid as making the "temporary" Bush tax "cuts" permanent, and now I know exactly who to blame.

"Citing Fears of Americans Getting 'Screwed,' Progressive Democrats Call Out Pelosi for Crafting Pharma-Friendly Drug Pricing Bill in Secret: 'If we don't address this in a big and bold way, a lot of us should go home and start knitting,' said Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Mark Pocan"

I keep seeing "centrist" supporters insisting that Joe Biden's horrible policies were in the last century and he's "evolved" on them by now. No, he hasn't. On abortion, for example, he not only supported the Hyde Amendment throughout his career, but tried to shoe-horn birth control bans into the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. And his campaign says he hasn't changed his tune on Hyde. Except that there was such a huge reaction to this that he reversed his position overnight, suddenly repeating the same objections to Hyde he'd been shrugging off for more than 40 years.

I saw someone who is alert and knowledgeable about what's going on in politics link an article asserting that Elizabeth Warren had chosen a charter school lobbyist to introduce her at a campaign event. People who are also alert and knowledgeable started talking about why Warren would position herself that way. Luckily, someone in that same conversation posted a link this article debunking the first one. It says many wise things "Rebecca Solnit: How Internet Insinuation Becomes Campaign Fact: On the Curious Case of Elizabeth Warren and the 'Charter School Lobbyist' Who Wasn't."

Cenk interviews Bernie about the usual stuff.

"Bernie Sanders's Walmart Speech May Offer a Preview of Larger Labor Proposals: On policy, Sanders is perhaps best known for his support for two progressive proposals: Medicare for All and a fifteen-dollar minimum wage. But his appearance at Walmart's shareholders' meeting came on the heels of a report, by the Washington Post, that Sanders is expected to release a pair of proposals that take a new approach to reducing the wealth gap. One is a plan to require large companies, like Walmart, to grant workers a substantial number of seats on their corporate boards. The other would require companies to turn over portions of their stock to a worker-controlled fund, granting employees both stock dividends and, potentially, the votes in corporate affairs afforded to shareholders."

"Bernie Sanders's most socialist idea yet, explained" by Dylan Matthews at Vox, and the Guardian says, "Bernie Sanders' plan to empower workers could revolutionise Britain's economy: Giving employees a stake in firms would reshape power: this could be the start of a transatlantic challenge to neoliberalism."

"Watch Bernie Sanders Deliver Speech on Why Democratic Socialism 'Only Way to Defeat Oligarchy and Authoritarianism': 'We must recognize that in the 21st century, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, economic rights are human rights. And that is what I mean by democratic socialism.'" In which Senator Sanders re-submits FDR's Economic Bill of Rights and quotes the man himself. (Full transcript and reporting included.)

"Even the 1% Know They Aren't Paying Their Fair Share: New Poll Shows 60% of Millionaires Support Warren's Ultra-Wealth Tax: 'A majority of Americans, even the 1% of us, know that our inequality is out of control and we need to make some big changes if we want to fix things.'"

Ways And Means Committee Chair Doesn't Want Medicare For All Hearing To Mention 'Medicare For All': IN PREPARATION FOR Wednesday's hearing on Medicare for All before the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, the panel's chair met privately with Democrats to lay out how he wants it to unfold. Rep. Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat who has been in office since 1989, told the Democrats on the panel that he didn't want the phrase 'Medicare for All' to be used. Instead, he said, the hearing should focus on all the different ways to achieve 'universal health care' or 'universal health coverage,' which he said was a better term to deploy. Medicare for All, he argued, was wrong on policy and is a political loser, sources present for the meeting, held last Wednesday, told The Intercept."

"'Eye-Popping': Analysis Shows Top 1% Gained $21 Trillion in Wealth Since 1989 While Bottom Half Lost $900 Billion: The top one percent owns nearly $30 trillion of assets while the bottom half owns less than nothing."

Down With Tyranny! is still the best place to learn about Democratic self-sabotage while it's happening. Recent examples are:
* "The Same Reasons Why Primaries Are So Important, Are The Reasons Anti-Democracy Creeps Like Cheri Bustos Hate Them" — More on how the new official anti-primary rule is setting us up.
* "House Democrats Pass Dreamer Protection Bill, But... " — How the Blue Dogs and New Dems tried to help Republicans poison-pill the bill, orchestrated by the execrable Josh Gottheimer. I do not know why this odious man is still not being primaried.

"A Harris poll for "Axios on HBO" finds that socialism is gaining popularity: 4 in 10 Americans say they would prefer living in a socialist country over a capitalist one. Why it matters: Socialism is losing its Soviet-era stigma, especially among women. Popular Democratic socialists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders are bringing new life and meaning to the term." Socialism is also a lot more popular with women than with men, proving once again that Bernie Bros are the problem.

Matt Taibbi has a sort of blog you may want to subscribe to. It's really articles posted one after another on the page. The one that drew it to my attention is "Military vs. military, with an interesting take on how General Michael Flynn annoyed Washington by taking a position that was unpopular in DC. "Flynn is also a puzzle. He's been outspoken and critical of America's Middle East adventures in a way that's almost unheard of in a military man. In a paper about Afghanistan he once wrote, he said, 'Merely killing insurgents usually serves to multiply enemies rather than subtract them.' He denounced our intel there as 'ignorant,' 'incurious,' and 'disengaged.'"

And speaking of Taibbi's Substack, Thomas Neuburger quotes from it at length in a post called, "Are Right-Wing Media Sources Ever Reliable? which addresses the curious case of what is either an important story or a ridiculous rationalization from John Solomon — but we don't know, because almost no one is writing about it either to support it or refute it. Oh, and he quoted me from a letter, too. I think I'll make a meme quoting myself: "There's a right-wing media that tells its listeners that Democrats are corrupt and lying, which they are. There's a leftish media that tells its viewers that Republicans are corrupt and lying, which they are. The only people who admit that both of these things are true are 'the crazy far-left'."

"Dismissing Bernie Sanders as a communist shows your 'profound ignorance,' says one of the most influential behind-the-scenes figures in American business: Delaware is the second-smallest American state by area and has under a million people, but it's where 66.8% of Fortune 500 companies are incorporated. The First State has become a destination for major corporations' legal frameworks largely due to policies that result in significantly smaller tax bills than elsewhere in the country. This also means that its courts are among the most important in the United States for business, and the chief justice of its Supreme Court has a platform for influencing corporate law. Leo E. Strine, Jr., is the outspoken judge holding that position, and he's got a lot to say about the current state of the American economy. At the recent CECP CEO Investor Forum in New York, which focused on CEOs moving beyond toxic 'short-termism,' Strine said that growth is largely captured by the country's wealthiest. He explained that this can only be changed on a structural level if Republicans and centrist Democrats start supporting significant changes, and look to the past. He pointed to the way some Americans talk about Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is running as a Democratic presidential candidate. 'When people talk Bernie Sanders as if he's a communist, they show a profound ignorance' of the market and of history, Strine said. He added that while he doesn't agree with all of Sanders' proposals, they're not actually radical from a historical or global perspective. Per Strine, Sanders is actually a centrist by the standards of some of our closest and most prosperous European allies. 'There is profound economic insecurity. That is the sort of thing that happened in the late '20s and 1930s and that we overcame with New Deal democracy, which became a role model for market dynamism that was tempered by fairness for everybody,' Strine said."

"In Appeal to Moderates, Sanders Calls for Worker-Ownership of Means of Production [...] And yet if Sanders's plan for worker wealth funds is his most radical and socialistic, moderate voters may actually find it more palatable than his conventional redistributive policies. As mentioned above, raising taxes on the non-rich isn't superpopular in the contemporary United States. Over the past half-century, conservative Republicans (and, to a lesser extent, neoliberal Democrats) have given Americans plenty of cause for doubting that Uncle Sam will be a faithful steward of their tax dollars. Asking voters to believe that the federal government knows how to invest their income better than they do can be tough. But asking them to believe that they know how to invest their employer's income better than their bosses? That's usually an easier sell."

I'm not going to argue with the content of Saritha Prabhu's short article "Joe Biden is a candidate of the oligarchy. Democratic primary voters will see through him", but I was disturbed by this: "He is a personally decent man. But the fact is, he is a consummate, long-time Washington insider, who has demonstrated in his long career that he often dances with the ones who brought him: wealthy donors and special interests." No, the donor class may be the ones who push the candidate, but the phrase "dance with the ones who brung ya" isn't about donors, it's about the people who actually matter when it comes to getting into office: the voters. And that's been the problem with Democratic politicians for 50 years - they think their dance partners should be the donors, but we are the ones who brung 'em, and they won't dance with us, and we let them get away with it, which is why they can keep doing it.

"Team Of American Hackers And Emirati Spies Discussed Attacking The Intercept: OPERATIVES AT A controversial cybersecurity firm working for the United Arab Emirates government discussed targeting The Intercept and breaching the computers of its employees, according to two sources, including a member of the hacking team who said they were present at a meeting to plan for such an attack. The firm, DarkMatter, brought ex-National Security Agency hackers and other U.S. intelligence and military veterans together with Emirati analysts to compromise the computers of political dissidents at home and abroad, including American citizens, Reuters revealed in January. The news agency also reported that the FBI is investigating DarkMatter's use of American hacking expertise and the possibility that it was wielded against Americans."

"Breach Of Ethics: Exclusive: Leaked Chats Between Brazilian Judge and Prosecutor Who Imprisoned Lula Reveal Prohibited Collaboration and Doubts Over Evidence: A LARGE TROVE of documents furnished exclusively to The Intercept Brasil reveals serious ethical violations and legally prohibited collaboration between the judge and prosecutors who last year convicted and imprisoned former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on corruption charges — a conviction that resulted in Lula being barred from the 2018 presidential election. These materials also contain evidence that the prosecution had serious doubts about whether there was sufficient evidence to establish Lula's guilt. The archive, provided to The Intercept by an anonymous source, includes years of internal files and private conversations from the prosecutorial team behind Brazil's sprawling Operation Car Wash, an ongoing corruption investigation that has yielded dozens of major convictions, including those of top corporate executives and powerful politicians. In the files, conversations between lead prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol and then-presiding Judge Sergio Moro reveal that Moro offered strategic advice to prosecutors and passed on tips for new avenues of investigation. With these actions, Moro grossly overstepped the ethical lines that define the role of a judge. In Brazil, as in the United States, judges are required to be impartial and neutral, and are barred from secretly collaborating with one side in a case. Other chats in the archive raise fundamental questions about the quality of the charges that ultimately sent Lula to prison. He was accused of having received a beachfront triplex apartment from a contractor as a kickback for facilitating multimillion-dollar contracts with the state-controlled oil firm Petrobras. In group chats among members of the prosecutorial team just days before filing the indictment, Dallagnol expressed his increasing doubts over two key elements of the prosecution's case: whether the triplex was in fact Lula's and whether it had anything to do with Petrobras. These two questions were critical to their ability to prosecute Lula. Without the Petrobras link, the task force running the Car Wash investigation would have no legal basis for prosecuting this case, as it would fall outside of their jurisdiction. Even more seriously, without proving that the triplex belonged to Lula, the case itself would fall apart, since Lula's alleged receipt of the triplex was the key ingredient to prove he acted corruptly." They knew they were just making it up and they had no case, but it didn't stop them. But now questions are shaking the political discourse and Moro is even being pressed to resign.

"We Finally Have Found a Way to Convert Donor Blood Into a Universal Type: In July last year, the American Red Cross declared an emergency blood shortage - it simply wasn't receiving enough donations to help all the patients that needed blood. Now, researchers from the University of British Columbia may have found a way to address the problem, even if people aren't donating more: convert a less-usable blood type into one that anyone can receive."

RIP: "Dr. John, Hall of Fame Singer Who Brought New Orleans to the World, Dead at 77: 'He created a unique blend of music which carried his hometown, New Orleans, at its heart, as it was always in his heart,' family says of Grammy-winning musician born Malcolm John Rebennack. [...] Although best known for his Seventies solo work and radio hits like 'Right Place, Wrong Time,' Rebennack had a career that spanned pop history. He was a key part of the 'Wrecking Crew' stable of ace Los Angeles session musicians in the Sixties. He played on recordings by Cher, Aretha Franklin, Canned Heat, Frank Zappa and countless others, fusing funk with R&B and boogie woogie." His first album was one of the three I lost my virginity to when the guy across the hall played them all night, since he'd bought them all earlier that day.

RIP: "Doris Day, who has died aged 97, was a singer who came out of the big-band boom of the 1940s to become one of Hollywood's top box-office stars throughout the 50s and 60s. She had a honey voice, short, buttercup-coloured hair, a sunny smile — and as many scruples as freckles. If Marilyn Monroe was the 'girl downtown' at 20th Century Fox, Day was the archetypal 'girl next door' at Warners." Yes, that was how I had remembered her, until I saw Young Man With a Horn one day on my TV, all dark in black & white, and realized she'd been something else before. Be that as it may, That Touch of Mink, in which she plays the ultimate Good Girl, is one of my favorite flicks. This owes a lot, of course, to the interplay between Cary Grant and Gig Young, our heroine's best friend played by Audrey Meadows, and John Astin's portrayal of the egregiously sleazy Mr. Beasley. So, in spite of her image, she's had a place in my heart ever since.

RIP: "Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli dies at 96: The Florence native directed stars including Elizabeth Taylor in the 1967 film Taming of the Shrew and Dame Judi Dench on stage in Romeo and Juliet. Italian media said Zeffirelli died after a long illness which had grown worse in recent months."

Nick Hanauer used to believe one of those benevolent rich people things that screwed things up worse, but... "Better Schools Won't Fix America: Like many rich Americans, I used to think educational investment could heal the country's ills — but I was wrong. Fighting inequality must come first. [...] Taken with this story line, I embraced education as both a philanthropic cause and a civic mission. I co-founded the League of Education Voters, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public education. I joined Bill Gates, Alice Walton, and Paul Allen in giving more than $1 million each to an effort to pass a ballot measure that established Washington State's first charter schools. All told, I have devoted countless hours and millions of dollars to the simple idea that if we improved our schools—if we modernized our curricula and our teaching methods, substantially increased school funding, rooted out bad teachers, and opened enough charter schools—American children, especially those in low-income and working-class communities, would start learning again. Graduation rates and wages would increase, poverty and inequality would decrease, and public commitment to democracy would be restored. But after decades of organizing and giving, I have come to the uncomfortable conclusion that I was wrong. And I hate being wrong. What I've realized, decades late, is that educationism is tragically misguided. American workers are struggling in large part because they are underpaid—and they are underpaid because 40 years of trickle-down policies have rigged the economy in favor of wealthy people like me. Americans are more highly educated than ever before, but despite that, and despite nearly record-low unemployment, most American workers—at all levels of educational attainment—have seen little if any wage growth since 2000. To be clear: We should do everything we can to improve our public schools. But our education system can't compensate for the ways our economic system is failing Americans. Even the most thoughtful and well-intentioned school-reform program can't improve educational outcomes if it ignores the single greatest driver of student achievement: household income.

It's all about the rents. "Michael Hudson - How We Got to Junk Economics: In this episode of Days of Revolt, Chris Hedges interviews Michael Hudson, UMKC economics professor and author of Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy. In the first half of their conversation, Hedges and Hudson trace the history of classical economics and explore Marx's interpretation of capitalism as exploitation." Adam Smith understood that allowing the rentiers to run things was a way to destroy an entire society. Then the Junk Economists came along and rationalized a rentiers' economy — and people still believe it.
* "Days of Revolt: Junk Economics and the Future: In this episode of Days of Revolt, Chris Hedges continues his discussion with UMKC economics professor Michael Hudson on his new book Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy. Hedges and Hudson expose the liberal class' allegiance to the predatory creditors on Wall Street and their indifference to real economic justice."

"Frustrated by His Own Party [...] Franklin D. Roosevelt began his "fireside chat" on June 24, 1938, as he had begun others, recounting New Deal battles won and lost during the most recent congressional session. But he ended the broadcast with a surprise. "And now," the president intoned, "I want to say a few words about the coming political primaries." In this midterm primary season, he said, "there will be many clashes between two schools of thought, generally classified as liberal and conservative." Roosevelt insisted that, as "head of the Democratic Party," charged with carrying out "the definitely liberal declaration of principles set forth in the 1936 Democratic platform," he had an obligation to speak out about primary contests involving such a clash. Thus did Roosevelt announce a political gambit not attempted by any president since: active and personal intervention in key primary contests, not only to protect liberals but to replace conservatives. The press branded the effort a "purge," and the name stuck. As Susan Dunn emphasizes in Roosevelt's Purge, her lively narrative of that vexed campaign, FDR was motivated not merely by personal pique and short-term legislative goals but by a vision of a refashioned party system. He explained in that extraordinary fireside chat that primaries should facilitate a "healthy choice" between the two parties in November, for "an election cannot give the country a firm sense of direction if it has two or more national parties which merely have different names but are as alike in their principles and aims as peas in the same pod." According to Dunn, Roosevelt "believed that the nation should have two effective and responsible parties, one liberal and the other conservative." Since the president attempted to accomplish in one frenzied summer what six decades of subsequent developments only haltingly produced, it's perhaps no surprise that the effort failed. But what an exciting failure!"

Blast from the past, George Monbiot in April of 2016, "Neoliberalism — the ideology at the root of all our problems: Financial meltdown, environmental disaster and even the rise of Donald Trump — neoliberalism has played its part in them all. Why has the left failed to come up with an alternative?"

"When Democrats Declined Populism: Sam & Chris Hayes in 2010 - MR Throwback - 5/27/19" — Frustration with Obama had us tearing out our hair, and we knew what he was setting us up for.

"Jacques Cousteau's Grandson Is 3D Printing Coral Reefs: Fabien Cousteau, descendant of the famous sea explorer, is working on a project to bring 3D printed coral reefs to the Caribbean island of Bonaire."

"The Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper': The Story Behind Every Song: A track-by-track guide to every tune on the landmark 1967 album"

01:58 GMT comment


Friday, 07 June 2019

Can't believe you fake it

"Benjamin Netanyahu: The fugitive Crime Minister: In a move considered surreal even two days ago, the Israeli Knesset — elected on April 9th — dissolved itself last night (Wednesday). Some new Members of Knesset didn't even get to get to give their maiden speech. The vote on dismissal came after a few political days which cannot be described as anything but lunatic. [...] With no cards up his sleeve and no rabbits in his hat, the so-called wizard of Israeli politics managed to pull an extraordinary act of self-immolation."

"Biden, Sanders other Democrats lead Trump in Michigan poll: Lansing — While most Michigan voters don't want Congress to impeach President Donald Trump, a majority said they would vote against him if the election were held today, according to a new statewide poll. Both former Vice President Joe Biden of Delaware and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont showed 12-point margins over the first-term Republican incumbent in a Glengariff Group public opinion survey of 600 likely voters released to The Detroit News and WDIV-TV (Local 4). Three other Democrats included in the poll were preferred over Trump by less substantial margins. [...] South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (6 points), U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (4 points) and Kamala Harris of California (3 points) polled ahead of the president in the Glengariff poll, but the advantages of Warren and Harris were within the 4-percentage-point margin of error."

"Ginsburg sides with conservative justices in ruling over prison sentence: The Supreme Court on Monday found that a criminal defendant can be sentenced for violating his supervised release, even if the release expires while he is incarcerated ahead of facing new charges. The justices, divided in the 5-4 decision, ruled against Jason Mont's argument that a district court shouldn't be able to charge him for violating his release because the term had expired at the time of the new sentencing. [...] However, Sotomayor wrote in the dissenting opinion that she doesn't agree with the majority's reasoning "that a person 'is imprisoned in connection with a conviction' before any conviction has occurred.'"

Ryan Grim's book We've Got People: From Jesse Jackson to AOC, the End of Big Money and the Rise of a Movement is coming out, and he's done a couple of interviews on it that are really worth listening to, and you can find them here. The one with Chapo Trap House is particularly fine and concentrates on the evils of Rahm Emanuel and his would-be successor, Josh Gottheimer.

RIP: "Musician Leon Redbone dies aged 69 [...] Notoriously secretive, Redbone rarely spoke out but when asked in a rare interview why he chose to focus on music from the 20s and 30s, he said: 'It was a more interesting time, a more interesting period in the history of the music development of certain styles of music. Something about it seems to speak to me more than what came after.'" My favorite line in this obit is, "Born in Cyprus and once allegedly known as Dickran Gobalian" - I mean, what?

RIP: "Three-Eyed Man: Remembering Psychedelic Seer Roky Erickson." The genius behind the 13th Floor Elevators has died at 71. Rolling Stone has some clips up for you.

"There is hard data that shows that a centrist Democrat would be a losing candidate: Economist Thomas Piketty wrote a paper about this in 2018, though the Democrats paid no attention. The Republican Party has earned a reputation as the anti-science, anti-fact party — understandably, perhaps, given the GOP's policy of ignoring the evidence for global climate change and insisting on the efficacy of supply-side economics, despite all the research to the contrary. Yet ironically, it is now the Democratic Party that is wantonly ignoring mounds of social science data that suggests that promoting centrist candidates is a bad, losing strategy when it comes to winning elections. As the Democratic establishment and its pundit class starts to line up behind the centrist nominees for president — mainly, Joe Biden, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris — the party's head-in-the-sand attitude is especially troubling. [...] Piketty's paper is an inconvenient truth for the Democratic Party. The party's leaders see themselves as the left wing of capital — supporting social policies that liberal rich people can get behind, never daring to enact economic reforms that might step on rich donors' toes. Hence, the establishment seems intent on anointing the centrist Democrats of capital, who push liberal social policies and neoliberal economic policies."

Somewhat longer than usual post by Atrios that begins: "Both Sides: I often think people miss the point of the 'both sides' joke which is not actually that the press always feels the need to bring the universe into harmony by finding a way to match up the sins of one party with supposedly equal and opposite sins of the other. They only both sides...one side. As in, Democratic sins stand on their own, while Republican sins inspire lines like 'Republican Congressman John Smith's conviction on 37 counts of child rape are a stark reminder of the time Democratic Congressman Jay Smith was arrested for whistling too loudly at a woman in public in 1926.'" Read the rest.

Jimmy Dore found a really creepy video of a guy explaining how to provoke a war with Iran. Not as a warning, but as a How-To.

"What was the first US city to undergo an attack from the air? No, not NYC, 2001. And it wasn't Honolulu, 1941, either. No, it occurred during what was probably the worst, bloodiest, deadliest and most destructive 'race' riot in American history occurred in 1921: in the 'Black' neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma, called Greenwood. The Governor of Oklahoma ordered military aircraft to attack the Greenwood district of Tulsa with incendiary bombs and sniper fire on Sunday, June 1, 1921, to suppress a 'Negro Rebellion.'"

Coo, Wikipedia has a nice pic of Whit Diffie.

Have a clip from "Feast Your Ears: The Story of WHFS 102.3 FM. I can't actually remember when I first met Cerphe, I guess it was wandering into the building to see a friend who had a late show, but I haven't seen him since that time I saw him hitching into town and picked him up and got to see his new hair up close.

Garbage, "Stupid Girl"

03:14 GMT comment


Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Winter is over?

David Dayen's last piece for The Intercept before he takes his new stint as executive editor of The American Prospect to full time. "How Rep. Ro Khanna Got A Price-Gouging Defense Contractor To Return $16.1 Million To The Pentagon: JUST BEFORE MEMORIAL DAY, embattled defense contractor TransDigm agreed to return $16.1 million in excess profits to the Department of Defense. The refund was remarkable, a rare example of what congressional oversight can accomplish. TransDigm wasn't required by law to reimburse the Pentagon, and it didn't cough up the dough at the behest of regulators. It returned the money after a damning report from the Defense Department's inspector general, showing profit margins as high as 4,451 percent on sole-source spare parts. And it did so after a contentious House Oversight Committee hearing two weeks ago, where members of both parties — from freshmen progressives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib to Freedom Caucus leaders Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan — demanded payback. In other words, TransDigm paid $16.1 million because powerful people asked them to. 'We saved more money today for the American people than our Committee's entire budget for the year,' said House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings, D-Md., in a statement. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., chaired that hearing. For him, it was the culmination of two years of work on TransDigm, which started when he was a freshman member of the minority party in the House. His successful fight to hold an egregious monopolist accountable for price-gouging reveals the kind of power members of Congress can wield, if they choose to wield it. At a time when much of Congress has gone out of its way to make itself irrelevant, fulminating about the corruption and obstruction of the Trump White House but unwilling to do much about it, it's worth pausing to look at the type of investigation the legislative branch is capable of — and used to routinely perform, to great success."

"The Boss of the NYC Board of Elections is Pushing for New Voting Machines Made by a Company He Benefited From: : It's a new machine called the ExpressVote XL, and it's made by the major voting machine manufacturer, Election Systems and Software (ES&S). In a letter exclusively obtained by NY1, the city asked the state Board of Elections this week to possibly use the new machine for early voting this year. It says using paper ballots would be virtually impossible. That's because there will be far fewer poll sites open for early voting than on a traditional election day. Officials question whether every site would be able to keep all of the different ballot configurations for each election district, and this ExpressVote XL machine uses a touch screen to vote instead. But there is a problem: The state Board of Elections has not certified or fully tested this machine for use in New York. The city Board of Elections is essentially asking state officials to skirt that approval process, specifically asking permission from the state board to use the machine in this fall's general election. [...] Ryan's request comes after NY1 uncovered last year that he had been sitting on a secretive advisory board for this same voting machine company. The company paid for him to take trips across the country, attending so-called conferences. 'The arguments that are in this letter hue very closely to a lot of those arguments we hear coming directly from the vendor's salespeople,' said Susan Greenhalgh of the National Election Defense Coalition. 'They are picking a piece of voting technology that has been roundly criticized across the country and that is insecure,' said Susan Lerner of Common Cause."

"Bernie Sanders will call for ban on for-profit charter schools: (CNN)In a major education policy speech set to be delivered Saturday, Sen. Bernie Sanders will call for a ban on all for-profit charter schools, a position that puts him directly at odds with the Trump administration and becoming the first of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates to insist on such a move. The Vermont independent also will call for a moratorium on the funding of all public charter school expansion until a national audit on the schools has been completed. Additionally, Sanders will promise to halt the use of public funds to underwrite all new charter schools if he is elected president."

Lawrence Wilkerson is in The New York Times saying he and his boss did a bad thing and he recognizes the signs. "I Helped Sell the False Choice of War Once. It's Happening Again. Fifteen years ago this week, Colin Powell, then the secretary of state, spoke at the United Nations to sell pre-emptive war with Iraq. As his chief of staff, I helped Secretary Powell paint a clear picture that war was the only choice, that when 'we confront a regime that harbors ambitions for regional domination, hides weapons of mass destruction and provides haven and active support for terrorists, we are not confronting the past, we are confronting the present. And unless we act, we are confronting an even more frightening future.' [...] This should not be forgotten, since the Trump administration is using much the same playbook to create a false impression that war is the only way to address the threats posed by Iran."

Even Peter Beinart, in The Atlantic, has a problem with it. "Even Democrats Keep Thinking Iran Is Worse Than Saudi Arabia [...] By echoing the GOP's confrontational language, these Democrats are forgetting a crucial lesson of the Iraq War. America didn't invade Baghdad only because people such as John Bolton, then undersecretary of state for arms control, misrepresented intelligence on weapons of mass destruction. America invaded because, under both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Democrats and Republicans so inflated the threat from Saddam Hussein that restoring normal economic and diplomatic relations with his regime became politically impossible. The result was a web of sanctions that no administration could lift, and a glide path to war. [...] Ever since the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, Americans have held an understandably negative view of the Iranian regime, a public perception that makes it easy for Trump, Bolton, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to describe it as the root of virtually all of the Middle East's ills. But, in truth, Iran today is no more aggressive and malign than its key regional competitor, and America's ally, Saudi Arabia. [...] Saudi and Emirati misdeeds don't excuse Iran's. But they underscore the problem with calling Iran reckless, revolutionary, imperial, or destabilizing without describing its American-backed rivals in the same way. In contrast to Trump, Bolton, and Pompeo, security professionals generally describe Iran's foreign policy as opportunistic but cautious. A 2014 Pentagon report argued that 'Iran's military doctrine is defensive.' In 2012, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, called the Iranian regime a 'rational actor,' an assessment echoed by Benny Gantz, then head of the Israel Defense Forces, and the former Israeli spy chief Meir Dagan. The Democrats running for president need to say this too. They need to say it because only by challenging the Trump administration's description of Iran as singularly irrational and menacing can Democrats justify the normalization of relations with Tehran. And without such a normalization, the prospect of war, which flared this week, will return again and again."

"Sanders, Warren, And Wyden Slam Assange Indictment, A Renegade Use Of The Espionage Act To Criminalize Journalism: THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT filed 17 charges against WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange on Thursday, deploying the controversial Espionage Act as a cudgel against First Amendment protections and press freedom. It's the first time the U.S. government has used the Espionage Act to prosecute a publisher, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, along with Sen. Ron Wyden, who all have been outspoken on civil liberties issues, slammed the indictment. 'Let me be clear: it is a disturbing attack on the First Amendment for the Trump administration to decide who is or is not a reporter for the purposes of a criminal prosecution,' Sanders wrote in a tweet Friday afternoon after The Intercept contacted his office for comment. 'Donald Trump must obey the Constitution, which protects the publication of news about our government.'"

"Pelosi Must Not Run Congress Like Trump Ran His Businesses: In the midst of a constitutional crisis of Trumpian proportions, the House of Representatives is poised to unilaterally disarm. At the very heart of how the Congress can hold the president to account is whether it will have the resources to do so. The only real growth in Congress's budget over the last decade has been for the Capitol police force (up 25 percent), the Copyright Office (up 50 percent), and tellingly, the Office of the Speaker (up 23 percent) and the Minority Leader (up 46 percent). So the leadership has been spared the brunt of these actions even as the first branch has been hollowed out. This year alone, spending on the Office of the Speaker will go up almost 12 percent. And yet, Democrats, having finally regained control of the people's chamber, are busy cementing Congress's second-class status."

"Nancy Pelosi Plans To Go Easy On Big Pharma: Progressive advocates are angry about the speaker's drug price proposal. Do Democrats care? [...] Although much still depends on the final details of the legislation, the scheme that Pelosi presented to her colleagues would represent a serious defeat for Democrats concerned about the power of Big Pharma and monopolies writ large. It is not clear, for instance, how HHS would select the 25 drugs in question or how long any lower prices would remain valid."

In Fortune, "Joe Biden Is Wrong. Businesses Will—and Want to—Pay for Medicare for All: Earlier this week, former vice president and current presidential hopeful Joe Biden made one of the more unusual arguments against Medicare for All. 'Right now you have this ... overwhelming number of employers who are paying into the health care plan. Why let them off the hook? All the sudden they don't have to pay anything?' I'm one of those employers, and I'm supportive of Medicare for All, but it's not about being let off the hook. As the founder and CEO of a business that has always provided health care for our employees, MCS Industries, I'd rather pay a predictable, manageable payroll tax to finance health care than pay impossibly high and unpredictable premiums."

"New Poll Suggests Trump Would Beat Biden in Key Battleground States in 2020: A new poll conducted by WPA Intelligence — which describes itself as a 'leading provider of political intelligence for campaigns from President to Governor and U.S. Senate to Mayor and City Council in all 50 states' — suggests that in a prospective head-to-head matchup between Biden and President Trump, Trump slightly edges out Biden in four of six battleground states by an overall margin of 46-44. This includes the battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, which secured the Electoral College for Trump in 2016. Florida, Iowa, and Texas were also included in WPA's poll."

Malaika Jabali in Current Affairs, "The Color Of Economic Anxiety: Is the collapse of Democratic fortunes due to economic anxiety? Of course. Just ask black Milwaukeeans: Is the collapse of Democratic fortunes due to economic anxiety? Of course. Just ask black Milwaukeeans. [...] A common narrative about the November 2016 election is that a wave of white backlash thrust Donald Trump to the White House and that white Obama voters 'flipped' to Trump. This may have been true on a small scale, but Obama-Trump voters did not make a significant difference. White people of all genders and classes voted for Trump at about the same rates as they voted for Romney, McCain, and George W. Bush, and both white and Republican voter turnout stayed fairly steady between 2012 and 2016. More significant was the critical mass of Democrats who defected from the party or didn't vote at all in the battleground states the Democratic Party needed most. The rate of this decline among Democrats in key swing states was larger than the increase of Republicans who brought Trump to victory. And in some states, the drop was unprecedented. While the Democratic Party argues about whether and how to win back the vanishingly small number of white Obama-Trump voters, the uncomfortable fact remains that black voter turnout in 2016 was down in over half the country. In Wisconsin, the decline in black voter turnout between 2012 and 2016 was 86,830 votes. Hillary Clinton lost the state by a mere 22,748 votes. If Clinton won over more of the black Democrats who voted in 2012 in just three states— Wisconsin, Florida, and Michigan — she would have won the election. So why didn't black voters turn out for Clinton? Even accounting for the thousands of potential voters who were likely harmed by Wisconsin's incessant suppression tactics, studies show that voter suppression was among the least important factors affecting black turnout in Wisconsin."

So, it wasn't white voters who made the difference: "As you can see from the right-hand column, Trump did better than Romney among every racial or ethnic group. In fact, if you subtract off how he did among all voters (2 points better than Romney), his performance among whites relative to his overall performance was 1 point worse than Romney's. [...] There are two factual statements you can make about this picture. One is that Trump lost the 'working class' (under $50,000) vote. You will hear a lot of people make that statement. The other is that he did much, much better among the working class than Romney: about 11 points better (the <$30K and $30-50K groups are roughly equal in size). The Democrat always does better among poor people, in part because Democratic policies are always better for poor people, at least as a first-order matter. [...] But in 2016, relative to 2012, the Republican did much better among the poor and much worse among the rich.** His gains among the poor outweighed his losses among the rich by just enough to swing the election."

"Teacher with cancer paying for substitute sparks outcry: A San Francisco teacher on extended sick leave due to breast cancer has had to pay for her own substitute, sparking a nationwide outcry over the policy. The average cost for a substitute in the city is $200 (£150) per day, which gets deducted from the sick teacher's salary, thanks to a 1976 state law. Parents have responded by raising over $13,000 to help the teacher pay her medical bills, local media report. Lawmakers and the city teacher's union are now considering changing the rule." So, wait, Democrats did this?

What makes this interesting is that it's Matthew Yglesias. "Joe Biden is the Hillary Clinton of 2020 [...] What brought Clinton down was public exposure not to her personality — which was sparkling enough to make her the most admired woman in America for 17 years straight before losing the claim to Michelle Obama in 2018 — but extended public scrutiny of every detail of a decades-long career in public life. This, in turn, is the exact same problem Biden will inevitably face as a presidential candidate. Americans like outsiders and fresh faces, not veteran insiders who bear the scars of every political controversy of the past two generations."

Pierce, "The Question Isn't How the Republican Party Produced This Disastrous President*. It's How It Took This Long. Joe Biden kicked up a fuss the other day by saying something...un-smart. (Ex-tree! Ex-tree! Read allaboutit!) He suggested that the current president* is a historical one-off and that, once we are rid of him and have fumigated the White House thoroughly, the normal routine of governing the country will resume and everybody can have drinks with each other at the end of the day. If there is one issue that desperately needs litigating in the Democratic Party's primary process it is this: Resolved: this presidency* is the logical outcome of 40 years of modern conservatism and its effect on the Republican Party. If it wasn't this guy, it would've been somebody else." But that's letting Democrats off the hook for spending those decades refusing to oppose their increasingly crazy antics and even goading them to further heights.

Alex Pareen in The New Republic, "Democrats Have Created an 'Electability' Monster: And this time, it's even eating establishment candidates. [...] 'Electability' is a crock of shit. It is defined, like political 'moderation,' only in terms of opposition to things people want, but are told they can't have, ranging from antiwar politics to left-wing economic populism to even the 'cultural liberalism' that is seemingly the cornerstone of the modern Democratic Party. (Back in 2004, supporting civil unions, not even marriage, for same-sex couples was a threat to a Democrat's perceived 'electability.') While the impulse to vote according to how you think a candidate would appeal to people who don't share your priorities might make sense in theory, practice has revealed time and time again that no one involved in electoral politics — from the pundits down to the caucus-goers — has a clue who or what Americans will actually vote for. That was supposed to be, as the political scientist Masket says, the main lesson of Trump's election. But Democratic voters did not teach themselves to prioritize electability over their own actual concerns. They were trained to, over many years, by party figures who over-interpreted the loss of George McGovern, or who wanted to use the fear of McGovern to maintain their power over the Democratic candidate pipeline and nomination process. 'Electability' is a way to get voters to carry out a contrary agenda — not their own — while convincing them they're being 'responsible.' And now Democratic candidates and their most loyal voters are stuck in an absurd feedback loop. The politicians campaign and govern as if they themselves don't believe a majority of voters prefer their agenda, signaling to their most loyal voters that they must vote not for what they want, but for what they imagine their more-conservative neighbors might want. But when voters in 2016 did exactly that, and nominated the candidate they were repeatedly told was most qualified to defeat Trump in the general election, they chose a person who went on to lose to him."

"Bernie Sanders Used His Campaign Data To Drive Turnout On Strike Picket Lines: Typically, unions rally for a candidate. But using targeted texts and emails, the Sanders camp rallied for unions. Thousands of workers from the University of California waged a one-day strike Thursday and found some unexpected allies out on their picket lines. In an unusual move for a presidential candidate, the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sent out targeted text messages and emails to its supporters in California a day ahead of the strike, urging them to join workers as they rallied against the university system in a labor dispute. Or as Alice Marshall put it, "Bernie is organizing a political revolution under color of a presidential campaign."

"AOC, Sanders, and Warren Are the Real Centrists Because They Speak for Most Americans" - When majorities in both parties support your positions, it's not you who is the extremist, it's your opponents.

Branko Marcetic with another review of A Crisis Wasted, "How Obama Failed [...] It's ironic that Obama's defenders point to Republican obstructionism to explain away his administration's inadequacies, when Hundt makes clear that the primary source of obstructionism was coming from inside the house. Obama's outsourcing of his administration's transition process to Clintonites, combined with his lack of commitment to a progressive political vision, hemmed him in and undermined the economic recovery, particularly since his advisors underestimated the scale of the crisis. David Axelrod candidly admits being shocked to hear a second Great Depression was a possibility, believing the first had been simply 'something that is part of history' and not 'something that could reoccur.' Hundt doesn't let Obama off the hook for his response to Republican obstructionism either. He acknowledges the president had limited options due to an obstinate GOP and a host of conservative Democrats. But he faults the cool, calm, collected Obama for not using the bully pulpit more aggressively to sell the public and Congress on his agenda. He chides him for failing to tie the stimulus to any grander overarching program or vision, like fighting climate change or rebuilding infrastructure. When 'Blue Dog' Democrat Evan Bayh torpedoed Dick Durbin's cramdown legislation, he faced no opposition. 'Obama did not intervene,' notes Hundt. What we might consider Obama's most admirable personal qualities — his preternatural calm, his even temper — ended up being his greatest weaknesses in the field of politics. [...] The Obama administration that came into power in 2009 was ill-equipped, temperamentally and ideologically, to carry out a break with the disastrous road of the previous decades. And while a few, including Summers, have reconsidered some of their original assumptions, there's little sign that Obama or most of the Clintonites who staffed his presidency have done the same. Indeed, while Obama is reported to have privately lashed out at Hillary Clinton's hapless campaign after her 2016 loss, he refused to acknowledge his own role in what happened, believing that he had left office with a 'strong record and healthy economy' and there was 'no way Americans would turn on him.'"

Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone, "We've Hit a New Low in Campaign Hit Pieces: Recent efforts to sandbag Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard are crude repeats of behaviors that helped elect Trump in 2016. Last week, the Daily Beast ran this headline: 'Tulsi Gabbard's Campaign Is Being Boosted by Putin Apologists' That was followed by the sub headline: 'The Hawaii congresswoman is quickly becoming the top candidate for Democrats who think the Russian leader is misunderstood.' The Gabbard campaign has received 75,000 individual donations. This crazy Beast article is based on (maybe) three of them. The three names are professor Stephen Cohen, activist Sharon Tennison and someone using the name 'Goofy Grapes,' who may or may not have once worked for comedian Lee Camp, currently employed by Russia Today. This vicious little article might have died a quiet death, except ABC's George Stephanopoulos regurgitated it in an interview with Gabbard days later. The This Week host put up the Beast headline in a question about whether or not Gabbard was 'softer' on Putin than other candidates. Gabbard responded: 'It's unfortunate that you're citing that article, George, because it's a whole lot of fake news.' This in turn spurred another round of denunciations, this time in the form of articles finding fault not with the McCarthyite questioning, but with Gabbard's answer. As Politico wrote: ''Fake news' is a favorite phrase of President Donald Trump...' Soon CNN was writing a similar piece, saying Gabbard was using a term Trump used to 'attack the credibility of negative coverage.' CNN even said Gabbard 'did not specify what in the article was 'fake,'' as if the deceptive and insidious nature of this kind of guilt-by-association report needs explaining. [...] She's Exhibit A of a disturbing new media phenomenon that paints people with the wrong opinions as not merely 'controversial,' but vehicles of foreign influence." I don't think it's that new, though.

The Onion, "Jay Inslee Recalls Decision To Run For President After 5 Teens From Across Globe Pressed Enchanted Rings Together To Call Him Into Existence: OLYMPIA, WA — Explaining to reporters how he had arrived at the difficult decision, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Jay Inslee recalled Thursday choosing to enter the race after five teenagers from countries across the globe pressed their enchanted rings together to call him into existence. 'The leadership in Washington has failed the American people, and that's been clear to me from the moment I was summoned into being by a multinational group of youngsters holding aloft magical jewelry given to them by the spirit of Mother Earth,' said the 68-year-old governor, adding that he had expressed some initial skepticism about jumping into an already crowded primary field when colorful beams of energy representing the four elements and love had combined to bring him to life, but had made the leap after realizing none of his fellow Democrats were giving an appropriately full-throated defense of green policies. 'Democratic voters have consistently indicated that fighting climate change is a top priority, and this issue hit especially close to home for someone like me who is the manifestation of five children's godlike environmental powers. Please join me in helping to take pollution down to zero.' Inslee then reportedly transformed into a tornado and was racing towards D.C. to advocate for the robust public investments required to achieve zero-emission energy in electricity generation by 2035."
Jay Inslee himself tweeted the story, saying: "This was supposed to be off the record."

"BBC Producer Says Syria Douma Chemical Attack Footage 'Was Staged': Well-known BBC Syria producer Riam Dalati shocked his nearly 20,000 twitter followers by stating that after a 'six-month investigation' he has concluded, 'I can prove without a doubt that the Douma Hospital scene was staged.'"

"Border Patrol In New Mexico Stood By As Right-Wing Militia Terrorized Migrants: Videos and audio posted by the group and its supporters on social media raise questions about the agency's role. National and international media crackled this month with reports that the United Constitutional Patriots, an armed, right-wing paramilitary group, was detaining migrants as they crossed from Mexico to the U.S. in southern New Mexico. In an April 18 news release, that state's ACLU affiliate called the group an 'armed fascist military organization' and characterized its detention of migrants as kidnapping. It also publicized a damning video of the paramilitaries in action in the desert, rounding up scores of migrants, including children, and shining bright lights in their faces. Two days later, the FBI arrested United Constitutional Patriots' (UCP) leader, Larry Hopkins aka Johnny Horton Jr., on a firearms charge. The FBI has since said that the United Constitutional Patriots had once, according to Hopkins, planned to kill former President Barack Obama, George Soros, and Hillary Clinton."

Paul Blest at Splinter, "Jonathan Chait's Laughable Attempt to Take Down Bernie Sanders Over Nicaragua: Because vapidity never takes a day off, New York concern troll-at-large Jonathan Chait was at it again on Memorial Day with a piece on why, in a country that has essentially known nothing but perpetual war since World War II, Bernie Sanders' pro-Sandinista stance in the 1980s is problematic. Chait has three major qualms with Sanders in this arena based on Sanders' recent interview with the New York Times, the primary one being that Sanders wasn't sufficiently mealy-mouthed about the Nicaraguan Civil War and the American government's attempts to overthrow Nicaragua's socialist government and replace it with a right-wing militia."

"Joe Biden's long record supporting the war on drugs and mass incarceration, explained: Biden was a major Democratic leader in spearheading America's war on drugs during the 1980s and '90s. [...] Consider one moment in his career: In 1989, at the height of punitive anti-drug and mass incarceration politics, Biden, then a senator, went on national television to criticize a plan from President George H.W. Bush to escalate the war on drugs. The plan, Biden said, didn't go far enough."

"The bizarre tale of President Nixon and his basic income bill: In 1969 President Richard Nixon was on the verge of implementing a basic income for poor families in America. It promised to be a revolutionary step — had the President not changed his mind at the last minute. This is the incredible and largely forgotten tale of just how close the U.S. came to stamping out poverty altogether."

From Time, a little bit of history: "The Surprising Role of Clergy in the Abortion Fight Before Roe v. Wade [...] But Landreth and Sandon were not alone. Their experiences reveal how, in the half-decade before Roe v. Wade, respected religious leaders participated in a nationwide struggle to make abortion more accessible. This largely forgotten history undercuts the popular myth that religious people oppose abortion rights. Fifty years ago this month, in May of 1967, as mainline Protestants and Reform Jews called for the liberalization of abortion laws, a group of clergy in New York City founded the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion (CCS), an international network of clergy that helped women obtain legal and illegal abortions from licensed medical professionals. When Landreth spoke out, it was as part of CCS, which by then counted over 2,000 other ministers across the United States and Canada as members."

Women are just like everyone else — sometimes we just might not be telling the truth. "Johnny Depp accuses ex-wife Amber Heard of abuse, chopping his finger: Hollywood actor Johnny Depp had been embroiled in a controversy after his ex-wife Amber Heard accused him of domestic abuse last year, in an op-ed penned in the Washington Post. Things seem to have turned around, however, with Depp suing Amber for $50 million for defamation. Depp's lawsuit referred to Heard's allegations as a 'hoax' and has presented new evidence that it was actually Depp who was physically abused in the marriage, and not the other way around. "Ms. Heard also knew that her elaborate hoax worked: As a result of her false allegations against Mr. Depp, Ms. Heard became a darling of the #MeToo movement, was the first actress named a Human Rights Champion of the United Nations Human Rights Office, was appointed ambassador on women's rights at the American Civil Liberties Union, and was hired by L'Oreal Paris as its global spokesperson," the lawsuit stated. Depp's legal team have provided fresh evidence alleging Heard punched Depp in the face and chopped a part of his finger. The new video and photographic evidence submitted show Depp's face with a huge bruise, and one of his fingers severed. Depp also submitted 87 surveillance camera videos to the court and 17 depositions of witnesses, including police officers."

"Neil Gaiman: 'Good Omens feels more apt now than it did 30 years ago.' Before Terry Pratchett died, Gaiman told his friend he would adapt their novel about an angel and a devil stopping the apocalypse. As Good Omens starts on TV, he discusses fame, politics and honouring that promise."

"AOC, Warren Explain Why Game of Thrones' Finale Disappointed: WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the Game of Thrones series finale, 'The Iron Throne'"

The winning sand sculpture at the Texas Sand Sculpture Festival, 2019

18:01 GMT comment


Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Ignorance is kind

This infuriating article from Ryan Grim at The Intercept is a bit long but very much worth reading all of: "The Democratic Counterrevolution Has A Self-Appointed Leader: Josh Gottheimer:

NOT LONG AFTER Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar were sworn into Congress, they began hearing from their new colleagues that one member of the House Democratic caucus, Josh Gottheimer, had particularly strong views about each of them. Gottheimer, a second-term representative from New Jersey, has deep ties to the lobbies for Saudi Arabia and Israel, while Tlaib and Omar are often critical of both Mideast governments.

So when Gottheimer reached out to meet with Tlaib, she was eager to take it, hoping that a personal connection would help bridge their differences. On the day of the meeting, February 6, Gottheimer arrived with a colleague, freshman Elaine Luria from Virginia — and a white binder. Luria began by saying that she had met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu six weeks earlier, and Tlaib tried to break the ice with a joke: 'How's the two-state solution going?'

The joke fell flat. Gottheimer pulled out the binder, opening it to show Tlaib the contents. It was a collection of printed-out articles, with quotes and other lines highlighted. 'He goes through them, 'you said this, you said that,' confusing me with other colleagues,' Tlaib said.
[...]

Tlaib said she tried to reach Gottheimer on a personal level, telling him about her grandmother, who lives in occupied Ramallah. He wasn't interested. 'He was using a very stern tone, like a father to a child. At that moment, I realized he's a bully,' said Tlaib. 'He had a goal of breaking me down. I left feeling exactly that way.'

Breaking down Tlaib, Omar, and their allies on the left has been one of Gottheimer's primary goals since the November elections. He has worked assiduously to carve out a role in the Democratic caucus as something of an avenger, a centrist proud of his centrism and willing to take the fight directly to the squad of freshmen trying to push the party in a progressive direction. He even has a name for his handpicked adversaries: 'the herbal tea party.'

His definition of too progressive is startlingly broad. As the Democratic chair of the so-called Problem Solvers Caucus, he led a push against Nancy Pelosi as she ran for House speaker last year. He has consistently voted against the party even on procedural motions, threatening to hand control over the House to the GOP. This spring, he was one of just a handful of Democrats at a private retreat on Sea Island, Georgia, hosted by the conservative American Enterprise Institute, mingling with Vice President Mike Pence, Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and other Republican heavyweights. He was one of just six Democrats to break with the party on a push for the DREAM Act in 2018, and he publicly undermined the chair of the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., during a hearing in which he fawned over CEOs of the nation's biggest banks.

His boldest bid for internal power, however, came amid the push for a congressional War Powers Resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. As progressives in the House neared a historic achievement, Gottheimer organized behind the scenes to take the resolution down, in part by attempting to make it a referendum on support for Israel — and very nearly succeeded.

The bill's supporters out-organized him, and in April, Congress sent a War Powers Resolution to Trump's desk. He vetoed their resolution, rejecting Congress's demand that the president stop backing the Saudi-led war. Last week's effort to override the veto failed in the Senate on a 53-to-45 vote.

Trump's rejection of the resolution — which was led in the House by Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and in the Senate by Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Mike Lee, R-Utah — was expected. But for advocates who worked on it, Gottheimer's intervention was unwelcome but not surprising. 'He was counterproductive in a totally unnecessary way at a time when there was actually party unity on something really progressive and historic — and that unity had been fought for a long time,' said Elizabeth Beavers, who was associate policy director at Indivisible during the Yemen fight. 'This is a thing that he's doing consistently, helping to organize against progress.'

And, by the way, do we remember this guy?
"Gottheimer is a protege of Mark Penn, a notorious Democratic operative who has become a leading Trump cheerleader on Fox News. Penn's companies, where Gottheimer has held senior positions over the years, have long been on Saudi Arabia's payroll.
[...]

Madeline Trimble, a steering committee member for the main Indivisible chapter in Gottheimer's district, said that local activists' hard work to elect a Democrat in the seat wasn't paying off. 'Many of our members actively supported Josh Gottheimer's re-election efforts because we believe in the Democratic Party platform. Some of us are concerned that sometimes it seems like Congressman Gottheimer is working at odds with that platform,' she said. 'We understand this is a purple district and we're not expecting an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in NJ-5; we just want him to meet us halfway and act like a normal Democrat who believes in the party.'

* * * * *

"Bernie Sanders, AOC unveil legislation to cap credit card interest at 15%: Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced new legislation Thursday to cap credit card interest rates at 15%, a move that they said will help protect consumers from the "greed" of the credit card and banking industries. Sanders, who is vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, referred to credit card industry executives as "loan shark hoodlums" in three-piece suits as he outlined the legislation. He also accused the industry of "grotesque and disgusting" behavior. "Let's be clear what we're talking about: We're talking about economic brutality," Sanders said in announcing the plan during a Facebook livestream with Ocasio-Cortez. "We are talking about some of the most powerful people in the world, people who make millions and millions of dollars a year, and banks that make billions of dollars a year in profit. And they see a real profit center in going after desperate people...who cannot afford the basic necessities of life.""

"States Sue Generic Drug Makers Over Alleged Price-Fixing Schemes: The states claim the companies artificially inflated and manipulated prices for more than 100 different generic drugs. BOSTON (AP) — Attorneys general from more than 40 states are alleging the nation's largest generic drug manufacturers conspired to artificially inflate and manipulate prices for more than 100 different generic drugs, including treatments for diabetes, cancer, arthritis and other medical conditions. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Connecticut on Friday, also names 15 individual senior executives responsible for sales, marketing and pricing. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said investigators obtained evidence implicating 20 firms. 'We have hard evidence that shows the generic drug industry perpetrated a multibillion dollar fraud on the American people,' Tong said. 'We have emails, text messages, telephone records and former company insiders that we believe will prove a multi-year conspiracy to fix prices and divide market share for huge numbers of generic drugs.'"

"Ohio Legislature Considering An Abortion Bill That Is More Restrictive Than The 'Heartbeat Bill' : A new bill would ban most private insurance coverage for abortions. But opponents say it would also ban effective methods of birth control. [...] The bill would ban nontherapeutic abortions that include 'drugs or devices used to prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum.' And Becker says the bill also speaks to coverage of ectopic or tubal pregnancies where the fertilized egg attaches outside of the womb. 'Part of that treatment would be removing that embryo from the fallopian tube and reinserting it in the uterus so that is defined as not an abortion under this bill,' Becker explains. 'That doesn't exist in the realm of treatment for ectopic pregnancy. You can't just re-implant. It's not a medical thing,' says Jaime Miracle, deputy director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. She says, under this bill, women would have to wait until their very lives were in danger to get an abortion in the case of an ectopic pregnancy."

Denver shrooms! "Denver first in U.S. to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms: Psilocybin possession would remain illegal but would become police's 'lowest law-enforcement priority': Denver is poised to become the first city in the nation to effectively decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms. After closing an early vote deficit Tuesday night and early Wednesday, final unofficial results posted late in the afternoon showed a reversal of fortune — with Initiative 301 set to pass narrowly with 50.6 percent of the vote. The total stands at 89,320 votes in favor and 87,341 against, a margin of 1,979."

"Study: U.S. Fossil Fuel Subsidies Exceed Pentagon Spending: The world would be richer and healthier if the full costs of fossil fuels were paid, according to a new report from the International Monetary Fund.The United States has spent more subsidizing fossil fuels in recent years than it has on defense spending, according to a new report from the International Monetary Fund. The IMF found that direct and indirect subsidies for coal, oil and gas in the U.S. reached $649 billion in 2015. Pentagon spending that same year was $599 billion."

"Thousands of Deaths Being Caused by Sanctions Against Venezuela (w/ Branko Marcetic)" on The Majority Report.

"Bernie Sanders Interview MSNBC Al Sharpton"

Former Rep. Brad Miller is always a goldmine of how Democrats fail to use their power and indulge in copious acts of self-sabotage. Here he is on How House Democrats Could Break Barr — and His Boss: Trump & Co. are laughing at the House Democrats' subpoena threats today. But the Democrats have powers that could give them the last laugh — if they use them." He also talked to Nicole Sandler about it.

Interview by Joan Brunwasser, former Senior Editor of OpEdNews and co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform, of Norman Solomon, on "Who's Anti-Bernie and Why They're Wrong: Politicians who change direction with the wind aren't dependable. We don't really know where they stand if they're willing to stand somewhere quite different when the political winds shift. Bernie Sanders is on another trip entirely. From him, instead of transactional behavior with elements of opportunism, we get long-term consistency with a core of idealism. During more than five decades, he's been part of progressive social movements that are committed to really changing the political winds — not blowing with them."

"Congress has questions for Google's 'Sensorvault': Top members on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are calling for answers from Google CEO Sundar Pichai on the tech giant's 'Sensorvault,' which holds the precise location information of hundreds of millions of consumers. In a bipartisan letter sent to Pichai on Tuesday signed by Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), the lawmakers expressed concerns over consumer privacy, citing a report by The New York Times that the database contains the information of almost every Android user. Such information has been used in the past by police for criminal cases. Users of the devices can essentially have their 'whole pattern of life" tracked, since the data is collected even when apps aren't being used and calls aren't taking place, the lawmakers noted in their letter. 'The potential ramifications for consumer privacy are far reaching and concerning when examining the purposes for the Sensorvault database and how precise location information could be shared with third parties,' they wrote. 'We would like to know the purposes for which Google maintains the Sensorvault database and the extent to which Google shares precise location information from this database with third parties.'"

"This New Antenna Is Bringing Cheap High-Speed Internet Into South Philly: 'I was skeptical,' says Indy Hall co-founder Alex Hillman, who switched his company from 'incompetent' Comcast to PhillyWisper. 'Internet through the air? But they made me a believer.' If you're like most people, you probably think there is a special place in hell for Comcast and Verizon, the two impenetrable monoliths with a near-dictatorial grip on Internet service in Philadelphia. But thanks to an Internet service in Philadelphia called PhillyWisper, which just expanded into South Philly, you do have another option." This sounded better to me before I noticed it was $50 a month, which I guess is ok for America, land of freedom and choice, but that's a lot more than I'm used to paying for internet here in the Hellhole of commie socialized Britain. On the other hand, a company that advertises that when you call them, you get a live person who knows what they're talking about on the phone is thinking the way I'm thinking. There is a lot to be said for live people. Oh, but it's Mark Steckel, so they would be.

"Progressives Raise Alarm Over Lack of Single Payer Supporters Chosen to Testify at Historic Medicare for All Hearing: What they want is a hearing that's not about Medicare for All. They want someone to say, 'Hey, there's all these different ways of doing things, none of them are bad, they're all equally good.'"

"Bernie Sanders Calls Out Anti-Medicare For All 'Front Group' [...] But Sanders cautions that, even with Medicare for All's overwhelming public support, a backlash from 'powerful special interests that continue to reap hundreds of billions of dollars from the status quo' will make passage of universal, single-payer healthcare a difficult fight. Sanders specifically calls out the Partnership for America's Health Care Future (PAHCF), an alliance of private interests — including lobbyists from the health insurance, private hospital and pharmaceutical industry — formed in the summer of 2018."

Learn about the EACH Woman Act: Congresswomen Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Diana DeGetter, (D-CO), and U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth, (D-IL), Kamala Harris, (D-CA), Mazie Hirono, (D-HI), and Patty Murray (D-WA), introduced the EACH Woman Act (HR 1692 and S 758). This bill ensures coverage for abortion for every woman, however much she earns or however she is insured." It basically overturns the Hyde Amendment. Ask your representatives if they are supporting it, and if not, why not. (Congratulate and thank them if they have signed on to it.)

"Pelosi warns US will not strike Brexit trade deal with UK if Good Friday Agreement is undermined: Speaker of the US House of Representatives says peace treaty could not be 'bargained away in another agreement': Nancy Pelosi has said there will be no chance of a US trade deal with the UK if the Good Friday Agreement is undermined by Brexit. Speaking at the London School of Economics, the speaker of the US House of Representatives warned a future trading arrangement between the two countries is not guaranteed, and said it would not happen if the UK's exit from the European Union violates the terms of the 1998 peace accord. Ms Pelosi said: 'First of all it is very hard to pass a trade bill in the Congress of the United States, so there's no given anyway. But if there were any weakening of the Good Friday accords there would be no chance whatsoever, a non-starter for a US-UK trade agreement. 'The Good Friday accords ended 700 years of conflict. This is not a treaty only, it's an ideal, it's a value, it's something that's a model to the world, something that we all take pride in.'"

"Navy SEALs Were Warned Against Reporting Their Chief for War Crimes: Stabbing a defenseless teenage captive to death. Picking off a school-age girl and an old man from a sniper's roost. Indiscriminately spraying neighborhoods with rockets and machine-gun fire. Navy SEAL commandos from Team 7's Alpha Platoon said they had seen their highly decorated platoon chief commit shocking acts in Iraq. And they had spoken up, repeatedly. But their frustration grew as months passed and they saw no sign of official action."

"How new research is shaking up the debate about a $15 minimum wage [...] The backdrop to all of this is a longstanding debate among economists about the merits of hiking the wage floor in America. It used to be taken for granted that raising the minimum wage would lead to a reduction in low-wage jobs. Employment among teenagers especially would go down. Landmark research undertaken in the 1970s had proven it. But progressive economists have challenged these assumptions with new data. Dozens of Democratic-held cities and states went have increased the minimum wage floor over the years anyway, well above the long-obsolete current federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. A new highly anticipated study suggests the worst-feared consequences of minimum wage hikes did not come to pass. Employment did not decrease in places where wages went up, and there was actually a residually positive effect on wages for other lower-income workers."

Eric Alterman is an idiot when it comes to Bernie Sanders, but at least he likes Warren. "The Media Can't Figure Out How to Cover Elizabeth Warren: Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is running a presidential campaign unlike any we've seen before, and our media have no idea how to handle it. It's a campaign not merely of ideas but of detailed policy proposals dealing with a host of ills that other politicians have ignored or tried to wish away. Yet The Washington Post compared her plans to the silly 'booklet of policy ideas' issued by Jeb Bush before he flamed out in the 2016 Republican presidential race. Politico, for some reason, thought it worthwhile to get Steve Bannon's views. ('You're not going to beat Trump with policies,' Bannon said.) And New York Times columnist Bret Stephens actually called this meticulously prepared and intellectually challenging thinker a 'Trumpian of the Left.' In reality, her proposals address many of the phenomena undermining the nation's republican values and commitment to equal opportunity. All appear to be based on consultations with progressive activists cognizant of the politics, as well as policy experts hip to the technical complexities. Without exception, her plans are bold, and in many cases they're truly visionary. As with her call for Trump's impeachment, made after she read Robert Mueller's report from cover to cover, their successful implementation would require a sea change in the way politics is conducted in this country. But unlike every other candidate in the race — or in recent US history — Warren is providing a detailed road map for where she wants to take the country. With plans like her proposal to eliminate most college debt, she is revealing the values and commitments that she hopes will take the United States to what Robert Kennedy called 'a newer world.'"

David Bentley Hart has an op-ed in the NYT that's so smart and well-written that I can't believe it's in the NYT. "Can We Please Relax About 'Socialism'?: Only in America is the word freighted with so much perceived menace. [...] One need not idealize any of these nations or ignore the ways in which they differ in balancing public and private financing of civic services. But all of them are, broadly speaking, places where — without any unsustainable burden on the national economy — the cost of health care per capita is far lower than it is here and yet coverage is universal, where life spans are longer, where working people are not made destitute by serious illnesses, where a choice between food or pharmaceuticals need never be made, where the poor cannot be denied treatments by insurance adjusters, where pre-existing health conditions could never be denied coverage, where most people have far more savings and much lower levels of debt than is the case here, where very few families live only a paycheck away from total poverty, where wages generally keep pace with inflation, where every worker has decent vacation time each year, where suicide and opioid addiction are not the default lifestyle of the working poor, where homelessness is exceedingly rare, where retirement care is humane and comprehensive and where the schools are immeasurably better than ours are. Americans, however, recoil in horror from these intolerable impositions on personal liberty. Some of us are apparently even, like Mr. Stein, canny enough to see the shadow of the death camps falling across the whole sordid spectacle. We know that civic wealth is meant not for civic welfare, but should be diverted to the military-industrial complex by the purchase of needless weapons systems or squandered through obscene tax cuts for the richest of the investment class. We know that working families should indenture themselves for life to predatory lending agencies. We know that, when the child of a working family has cancer, the child should be denied the most expensive treatments, and then probably die, but not before his or her family has been utterly impoverished. We call this, I believe, being free. And as long as we have access to all the military-grade guns we could ever need to fight off invasions from Venus, and to assure that our children will be slaughtered at regular intervals in their schools, what else can we reasonably ask for?"

Zaid Jilani in the Guardian, "Bernie Sanders v the Democratic establishment: what the battle is really about [...] Establishment voices will probably mock Sanders' view as naive or overly idealistic. But if you think about what Sanders is arguing, perhaps he is the realist. In 10 years of reporting about politics, almost every politician has told me their donors do not influence their behavior. If this were true, they would be the only individuals on planet Earth who are not tempted by money. What Sanders is arguing is the opposite — if he started doing big-ticket fundraisers with corporate executive and lobbyists, he would be influenced by their money. He is admitting his human flaws, and taking corrective action to make up for them. If anything, the establishment's argument is the idealistic one, and Sanders' is the pragmatic one."

Rob in Vermont posted this at Daily Kos: "Bernie Sanders is an accomplished, effective leader (hope you read this and learn something new!)" — there's some stuff about what he did in Vermont that I hadn't known before.

"Will Black Voters Still Love Biden When They Remember Who He Was? [...] And, as of this writing, a plurality of black Democrats want him to be their party's 2020 nominee. Whether Biden can retain that support, after voters learn more about his problematic past, could very well determine the outcome of the party's primary race." - This is worrying, because there seem to be an awful lot of black women who are less interested in who Biden actually is and how much he has done to hurt black and female Americans and more interested in the fact that he stood next to The First Black President (who also hurt black and female Americans a lot).

Adolph Reed and Cornell West, "Joe Biden wants us to forget his past. We won't [...] An unrecognized irony of the South Carolina primary's current importance as a gauge of African American support is that it and other southern primaries figured prominently in the late 1980s and 1990s strategy of the conservative, pro-business Democratic Leadership Council — of which Biden was a member — to pull the party to the right by appealing to conservative white southern men, in part through stigmatizing and scapegoating poor African Americans. Biden was one of the lustiest practitioners of that tactic. In fact, that's what often underlies Biden's boasts about his talent for 'reaching across the aisle'. In 1984, he joined with South Carolina's arch-racist Strom Thurmond to sponsor the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, which eliminated parole for federal prisoners and limited the amount of time sentences could be reduced for good behavior. He and Thurmond joined hands to push 1986 and 1988 drug enforcement legislation that created the nefarious sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine as well as other draconian measures that implicate him as one of the initiators of what became mass incarceration. (Making political hay from racial scapegoating was nothing new for Biden; he'd earned sharp criticism from both the NAACP and ACLU in the 1970s for his aggressive opposition to school bussing as a tool for achieving school desegregation.) "

"Don't be fooled: Joe Biden is no friend of unions: In San Francisco there's a high-end boutique called 'Unionmade'. There you will find expensive work jackets and overalls, lit by bare bulbs and displayed on unvarnished metal shelves. The aesthetic could not convey its message any more clearly: buy these clothes, and access a bygone era of authenticity and American craftsmanship. But it's a lie — the clothes on offer are largely not union-made. 'The unfortunate reality is that there are not many unions left in the garment industry and so the name was cultivated as a signifier of well-made and aesthetically timeless goods,' explains a spokesperson. As the industrial working class has faded, its afterimage has become available for appropriation in commerce, in culture and in politics. Such appropriation need not entail commitment to the workers' movement. Everyone from Levi's jeans to Donald Trump has made this move — and now, Joe Biden, the would-be candidate of labor. Biden is the Unionmade of politicians. The former vice-president is taking great care to dress up his new candidacy in a blue-collar costume; as Andrew Epstein puts it, he is an 'aesthetic populist'. [...] In fact, I can find reports of only two instances of Biden appearing on a picket line or otherwise supporting embattled workers at any point in his very long public life: once in Iowa, during his 1987 presidential campaign, and just this month in Boston. Now, his first major presidential fundraiser is being hosted by the founder of one of the country's leading anti-union law firms. The man running to be labor's champion is sponsored by someone who has made millions choking the life out of the labor movement."

"Wall Street Democrats Are Absolutely Freaking Out About Their 2020 Candidates: 'Everyone wants to seem relevant,' one prominent investor told me. But for the first time he or any of his friends could remember, 'we're just not fucking relevant. We're not that big of a deal anymore. None of us!'"

"Failed 'Coup' a Fake Corporate News Story Designed to Trick Venezuelan Soldiers — and US Public: After days of breathless reporting in the US media about public and military support for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro collapsing, and about an April 30 coup by presidential poseur Juan Guaidó, we now know the truth: The whole thing was a fraud, staged at the instigation of Washington in hopes that the Venezuelan people and rank-and-file troops would fall for the trick and think an actual coup was underway. We also know, from an excellent May 2 report by Michael Fox in the Nation magazine, that the US mainstream media and its reporters in country were promoting that dangerous fraud."

At Democracy NOW!, "Economist Jeffrey Sachs: U.S. Sanctions Have Devastated Venezuela & Killed Over 40,000 Since 2017: More than 40,000 people have died in Venezuela since 2017 as a result of U.S. sanctions, according to a new report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research co-authored by economists Jeffrey Sachs and Mark Weisbrot. The report examines how U.S. sanctions have reduced the availability of food and medicine in Venezuela and increased disease and mortality. We speak with Jeffrey Sachs in our New York studio. In the report, he writes, 'American sanctions are deliberately aiming to wreck Venezuela's economy and thereby lead to regime change. It's a fruitless, heartless, illegal, and failed policy, causing grave harm to the Venezuelan people.'"

"'I Felt Americans Needed to Know': Insurance Industry Whistleblower Gives Glimpse of Effort to Crush Medicare for All: 'The business model of for-profit health insurance depends on denying care to people who need it. These corporations can't be reasoned with, only defeated.' In an effort to inform the public about the corporate forces working to crush Medicare for All, an employee at the insurance giant UnitedHealthcare leaked a video of his boss bragging about the company's campaign to preserve America's for-profit healthcare system."

Michael Brooks did an interview on The Majority Report that's really worth listening to (starts around the 21-minute mark), Give Them an Argument: Logic for the Left w/ Ben Burgis - MR Live - 5/2/19 about the sort of pointless debates people have and what discussion really needs to be like.

"The best political commentary of the Australian election cycle: 'Honest Government Adverts': Juice Media's Honest Government Adverts are some of the best, most biting political satire being produced today -- they're so good at afflicting the comfortable that Australia basically banned their style of humour -- and now, on the eve of (yet another) critical Australian election, they've produced a "season finale" that recaps the parade of horrors that a succession of bumbling, oligarchic, racist, climate-denying, torturing, confiscatory, planet-destroying Australian governments have bequeathed to the nation and the world. I laughed, I cried, I laughed again. Now I'm crying."

"Indonesia to relocate capital from sinking Jakarta: Indonesia has announced plans relocate its capital city away from Jakarta, one of the world's fastest-sinking cities, according to the BBC. Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro announced President Joko Widodo had made the decision to relocate the capital, according to the news outlet. The idea of moving the capital from Jakarta, home to 10 million people, has been discussed since Indonesia achieved independence from the Dutch over seven decades ago, but the pace at which the island is sinking — one of the fastest rates in the world — has reportedly added incentive."

Katha Pollit reviews Evicted by Matthew Desmond — what if the problem of poverty is that it's profitable to other people? [...] "Even in the Great Depression, evictions used to be rare. Now, each year, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of renters are put out on the street. Even a paid-up tenant can be easily evicted. Arleen loses one apartment when her son Jori throws a snowball at a passing car and the enraged driver kicks in the front door, and another when the police come after Jori when he kicks a teacher and runs home. Any kind of trouble that brings the police can lead to eviction, which means women can lose their homes if they call 911 when their man beats them up. Think about that the next time someone asks why women don't call the cops on violent partners."

In 2010 we lost a Senate seat that everyone thought we should have won, but no one wanted to admit why. Richard Eskow wrote about that in "Will the 'Don't-Blame-Me' Dems Take Responsibility and Fix Health Reform? There's plenty of blame to go around. Nate Silver's conclusions about what went wrong are smart and incisive. His back-of-the-envelope appraisal suggests that the seat would have remained Democratic if not for either one of two factors: Martha Coakley's terrible campaign, and a national environment that's turned toxic for Democrats. That means that the Coakley campaign and those responsible for the national environment (i.e. the Party leadership) are both culpable. Forget the Coakley people for now, since they've had their shot: What are party leaders saying? Everybody's grandstanding, pushing their own agendas. Evan Bayh, for example, insists the problem is that Democrats haven't followed his centrist agenda. And let's review Joe Lieberman's recent comments ... Ah, let's not. The guy already gets too much press. Both Lieberman and Bayh are wrong, anyway. Here are the first results from after-vote polling in Massachusetts: By a 3 to 2 margin, Obama voters who voted for Brown thought that Obama's reform bill 'doesn't go far enough.' And those Obama voters who didn't bother voting felt that way by a 6 to 1 margin. 82% of Obama voters who went for Brown (and 86% of those who stayed home) support a public option. And 57% of Brown voters said that Obama is 'not delivering enough' on change." And I think this tells you everything you need to know about why Hillary's poll numbers suddenly tanked shortly before the 2016 election, right after expected spikes in Obamacare premiums was front-paged in every paper.

Richard Eskow interviews Professor Richard Wolff on What is Class?

"Leading Questions - Yes Prime Minister: Sir Humphrey Appleby demonstrates the use of leading questions to skew an opinion survey to support or oppose National Service (Military Conscription)."

I love how explicit they are about exactly where not to dump: "Please Do Not Dump Trash on White Supremacist Leaders' Properties"

I just noticed what the favicon for Bernie Sanders.com is. Keep that link for when someone asks you about his issues and plans.

In io9, Annie Mok profiles Samuel R. Delany on His Legacy, Creativity, and 'Promiscuously Autobiographical' Work: "At one point, Delany quit sci-fi for a number of years after 'looking at the amount of money I was making,' instead devoting himself to music with the group Heavenly Breakfast around 1968. They had planned to record one day, in fact, but when they got to the studio they found a chain on the door. 'Con Edison had changed their policy [...] there were only eight little recording studios that could have done us, and they all went out of business the same weekend. And they were studios that put out a lot of interesting music — Lovin' Spoonful, the people that were doing experimental stuff that occasionally took off and really made it big [...] then that happened, and that was just before the King assassination [...] So I decided, Okay, let's go back to writing.'"

He spied on the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS) for the FBI.

The BBC discovers Stand on Zanzibar: "The 1968 sci-fi that spookily predicted today: In the first of BBC Culture's new series on fiction that predicted the future, Hephzibah Anderson looks at the work of John Brunner, whose vision of 2010 was eerily accurate." I remember once saying to John that he hadn't predicted Three Mile Island, and he said, "Yes, I did. It's how The Shockwave Rider opens."

Watch Three Beatles Jam at George Harrison's House in 1994: Three Beatles return to their roots, more than 30 years later."

From Postmodern Jukebox, Wham's "Careless Whisper"

20:27 GMT comment


Sunday, 28 April 2019

Your happening world

"Sanders takes on Fox — and emerges triumphant: BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Bernie Sanders entered the Fox's den on Monday night — and he not only survived the hourlong encounter, but often dominated. Appearing at a Fox News-hosted town hall, smack in the middle of Trump Country, the Democratic presidential front-runner played the part, swatting down tough questions from the hosts about health care, defense spending and his newfound wealth. At one point, the Vermont senator even led the network's audience in a call-and-response that found them cheering loudly for his policies."

"Watch: Sanders town hall audience surprises Bret Baier with how much they like Bernie's health care plan: A politically diverse town hall audience showed a lot of enthusiasm for Medicare-for-all."
Town Hall with Bernie Sanders | Part 1
Town Hall with Bernie Sanders | Part 2

"Exclusive: Bernie Sanders Campaign Launches New Podcast, "Hear the Bern": The Bernie Sanders campaign is set to launch a new podcast Monday night called 'Hear the Bern.' Co-hosted by National Press Secretary Briahna Joy Gray, it will feature a variety of campaign staffers, volunteers, and other campaign figures, as well as regular appearances from Sanders himself. You can now listen to the first episode here."

"Maybe Rich Liberals Don't Hate Sanders Because They Fear He Can't Win, But Because They're Rich: That a network of multi-millionaire and billionaire donors would dislike a candidate who not only rejects their funding, but is actively trying to tax them at rates not seen since 1960, would surely be enough reason to explain why these wealthy elites would want to 'stop' his nomination. [...] The New York Times (4/16/19) profiled a network of 'wealthy liberal donors' who, shockingly, are not fans of Bernie Sanders, who according to the same report has rejected their big-bundler funding and instead opted for small donations. (The Times reported the same day that 84 percent of Sanders' donations are less than $200; by contrast, only 37 percent of Kamala Harris' donations are.) [...] Simply drawing attention to the fact that a bunch of wealthy donors affirms Sanders primary argument for running doesn't make it go away. It's a writer's trick, and one the New York Times passes off without criticism: LOL Isn't it ironic we're doing that bad, evil thing Sanders says rich donors do? Wait, what? No, it's just bad, in and of itself. The piece is openly floating a conspiracy of wealthy donors seeking to undermine a democratic process, then laughing it off something that could be mistaken for the actual bad thing it is. Meanwhile, the self-evident fact that rich donors dislike Sanders because he runs counter to their interests is ignored in favor of a child-like fantasy that they oppose him simply because they're looking out for the best interests of the party. To the Times, the rich have no ideology, no beliefs, no self interest; this is reserved instead for Sanders 'embolden[ed],' 'fervent supporters,' whose desire to defeat Trump is presented as at best incidental."

"A top progressive pundit says mainstream Democrats are worried about Bernie Sanders winning the White House in 2020: Sen. Bernie Sanders is making mainstream Democrats nervous. But some of the presidential candidate's supporters say it's not because they're worried Sanders can't defeat President Donald Trump in 2020. It's because he can, they say."

And it's not just the Democratic establishment that's afraid Bernie can beat Trump. Another guy who's afraid is Donald Trump.

But to cap it all off, even Peter Daou has had a sea change and is in The Nation telling people to hold their fire on Sanders. "I Was Bernie's Biggest Critic in 2016 — I've Changed My Mind: Bernie Sanders can beat Donald Trump — and it would be an epic act of self-destruction for Democrats to try to hobble his campaign." Daou understates the degree to which he was a critic of Sanders, but never mind, he really seems to have remembered where he came from: "My political and personal evolution since 2016 has caught some people off guard. I'm often asked how a staunch Clinton advocate and former Sanders critic could reverse course. The answer is simpler than it appears. I spent 15 years before the 2016 election as a progressive activist, a critic of the Democratic Party's meekness in the face of GOP extremism, and a supporter of the policies Sanders promotes. After months of reflection about my role in the 2016 primaries, I realized I was among the far too many Clinton and Sanders supporters who got caught up in an ugly family dispute that spiraled out of control." He still hasn't unblocked me on Twitter, though.

"'Purity Tests': How Corporate Media Describe Progressives Standing Up for Principles: The phrase is code for elites being pressured in ways they don't like, and is often a shield against legitimate criticism of corruption or dependence on corporate power."

Have I mentioned that Nicole Sandler talks to Howie Klein every Thursday on her show? It's definitely worth listening to if you want to know what's really going on in the Democratic Party.

The Democratic Electorate on Twitter Is Not the Actual Democratic Electorate [...] In reality, the Democratic electorate is both ideologically and demographically diverse. Over all, around half of Democratic-leaning voters consider themselves 'moderate' or 'conservative,' not liberal. Around 40 percent are not white."

Advice Unasked, "Bernie and the Racists: It seems to me that one reason so many Democrats resent Sanders is because he reminds them of what the party was, and abandoned in the 1990s, to gain votes in conservative states, especially in the South. From the early 1990s to 2016, the Democratic Party was dominated by its conservative wing. They supported and passed a series of tight-fisted laws: the Clinton tax increase, which cost the party the House; welfare and Medicaid reform; the Clinton health plan, followed by the PPACA. At the same time, we heard racist rhetoric from the party leaders: 'Sister Soljah,' 'superpredators,' and so on. These reassured white racists that African-Americans would be kept from rising against their oppressors. I wonder how much of the tight-fisted conservative policies were also covert appeals to racists. How much of the conservative faction of the Democratic Party is racist? Some, surely. Most? Scratch economic conservatism, find racism (and sexism, but I'm writing about racism.) Policies which keep property relations as they stand, dominated by a wealthy white minority, those policies are racist, even if they do not incorporate explicit bigotry. The bigotry may be there, but it only becomes visible when attacked or when some demagogue like Donald Trump makes a direct appeal to it."

Obama Pushes Neoliberal Myths on Health Care at Fundraiser [...] Multimillionaire former President Barack Obama, 2017's Kennedy prize winner, traveled all the way to Germany over the weekend in order to scold what he called American health care 'purists' who have the crazy nerve to challenge the status quo. He called the current battle between Congressional centrists, like Pelosi, and progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Pramila Jayapal a 'circular firing squad.'"

Our story so far: As we may recall, it was historically not normal for candidates for the presidency to release their taxes before winning the nomination, but in 2008, Hillary Clinton's finances were regarded by some as so scandalous (payoffs) that there was a demand to see her taxes. This cry was taken up by the Obama campaign, and Clinton said she would not release them until she had the nomination. She continued to say so well into 2008, but finally was shamed into releasing hers after Obama released his. Nevertheless, the anti-Bernie cult has made a big deal out of demanding he release his taxes, even though (a) he did and (b) he has 30 solid years of financial disclosures publicly available as required by law for members of Congress. When he announced again, even the press took up the "Will you release your taxes?" cry and it has been a consistent theme from the alt-center. When he said he would release them this year on tax day, it was as if the cry went out - intensified demands and claims that he'd never release them from Donut Twitter, long threads about what he'd been hiding. By the final week before April 15th, there was a sudden shift to numerous Twitter handles all erupting at once with the statement that the important thing would be how much he'd donated to charity. The year-old news that he'd sold his book for a bunch of money became new news again, ardently discussed by idiots who seemed to think it was hypocritical for him to (a) keep his money or (b) advocate for reduced income inequality while actually having a little more wealth than the most people can make in such a short period of time. (Just for the record, a million dollars is enough to live a comfortable middle-class lifestyle for an entire adult lifetime in some parts of the country, but not if the law requires you to have a home hundreds of miles from where you go to work every day in an expensive city.) People were, of course, sending out "where are his taxes?" tweets hours after he'd released them, and naturally no one apologized for claiming he'd never release them, but now they are even going so far as to claim his book was ghost-written. Clintons really do make people crazy.

And speaking of that, the whole book thing turned someone at Think Progress full-on whacko, producing a specious video that falsely claims that Sanders has stopped saying "millionaires" since he made his million on the book. This isn't the first time they've gone after him, or after Warren, and that's not surprising given the kind of people who fund Center for American Progress, whose blog TP is. Unlike last time, he is hitting back. Thomas Neuburger posted about it in "Sanders Takes the Campaign Against CAP to Eleven," praising the Sanders team for calling CAP out. Threads on Twitter are bringing attention not just to the funding by dubious entities, but also making more people aware that CAP also donates to the far-right American Enterprise Institute. Robert Borosage in The Nation says, "The Democratic Primary May Get Ugly, but It's a Necessary Fight: The spat between Bernie Sanders and the Center for American Progress is a sign of things to come." And Harold Meyerson was inspired to write. "How Think Progress Would Have Attacked Franklin Roosevelt: The Center for American Progress is hardly the first institution to label liberals and leftists of some means as inauthentic or hypocritical for their own attacks on concentrated wealth."

"Sanders gets endorsements from 7 black S. Carolina lawmakers: SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Thursday announced endorsements from seven black lawmakers in the critical early voting state of South Carolina, a show of force in the first place where African American voters feature prominently in next year's primary elections. Sanders' 2020 campaign made the announcement just ahead of a Spartanburg town hall meeting with members of the state's Legislative Black Caucus. The backing represents the biggest number of black lawmakers to back a 2020 hopeful to date in this state, which holds the first primary in the South."

"5 Weird Items In The New Bernie-Buttigieg Poll" — Bernie had pulled ahead in polling, but that was before Biden announced, so we shall see. Can't believe Buttigieg got ahead of Warren. Ugh. Oh, but this is Forbes, so the writer only focused on stuff that would hit Bernie. It all looks worse if you look at Klobuchar, Booker, and Gillibrand supporters.

Eric Levitz, "Joe Biden May Be Less Electable Than He Looks [...] In 2016, the Trump campaign put significant energy into spotlighting aspects of Hillary Clinton's record that young, nonwhite Democrats might find alienating. And disappointing turnout among those constituencies in key states were one of the many factors that enabled Trump's victory. So, it's at least conceivable that Biden's own liabilities with millenials and African-Americans would prove similarly costly — and thus, that when Democratic primary voters look past those blotches in Uncle Joe's record, they are actually being the opposite of pragmatic."

Andrew Cockburn of Harper's told Democracy Now! Why Joe Biden's poll numbers could "come down in a hurry" now that he's officially running, and RJ Eskow dissected Biden's launch video on The Zero Hour.

Since he entered the race because teenagers asked him to, Nicole Sandler interviewed Mike Gravel.

"O'Rourke family sues government to lower taxes on shopping center: Back when he served on the El Paso City Council, Beto O'Rourke prodded his hometown to shift more of its property tax burden from homeowners to commercial property owners. But now, he is a minority partner in an O'Rourke family-owned shopping center that is suing the government to lower the amount of taxes it pays on the property."

"The 2020 battle is on: Elizabeth Warren accuses Joe Biden of siding with credit card companies over struggling Americans: Sen. Elizabeth Warren became the first 2020 Democrat to directly attack former Vice President Joe Biden following his Thursday announcement that he's joining the presidential primary. Asked by a reporter on Thursday about a 2005 fight the two had over bankruptcy legislation, Warren was clear that she believed Biden took the side opposing American families. 'I got in that fight because [families] just didn't have anyone and Joe Biden was on the side of the credit card companies," Warren said after a rally in Iowa. "It's all a matter of public record.'"

Doug Henwood, "I Can't Believe Elizabeth Warren Is Losing to These Guys: Almost every day Elizabeth Warren comes out with serious policy proposals. They're rarely even baby steps down the road to socialism, but most of them would make this country a better place. But lacking a media-friendly history of being a skateboarding 'punk' rocker or a stint with McKinsey — and you might think, not being a man — she can't get any attention for them. She can't get out of the mid-single digits in the polls, and PredictIt, the political betting site, puts her chances of winning the nomination at 7 percent. She's having trouble raising money; she lagged Mayor Pete in the first quarter funding haul even though he was a nobody who'd just entered the race."

"Warren approaches breakout with black voters: BEAUFORT, S.C. — When Elizabeth Warren got a question on housing discrimination at a campaign event this week, she went into full wonk mode — and the diverse crowd packed into a middle-school auditorium ate it up. The Massachusetts senator launched into a brief history lesson on African-American homebuyers being rejected outside designated areas, black families getting hit hardest by subprime mortgages and foreclosures during the 2008 crash, and black homeownership still lagging far behind whites. 'That's a problem, and it's a race problem,' Warren thundered, emphasizing 'race' as the crowd erupted into applause. 'And we need to attack it head on.'"

"Elizabeth Warren just unveiled a plan to cancel student debt for 75% of Americans [...] Under Warren's plan, every person with an annual household income under $100,000 would automatically have $50,000 of their student loan debt forgiven. That would immediately wipe out debt for 75 percent of the 45 million Americans with student loans and provide some sort of relief for 95 percent, according to the Massachusetts senator. For every $3 people earn beyond the $100,000 threshold, they lose $1 of the $50,000 in debt forgiven. In other words, if they make $100,003, just $49,999 of their debt will be canceled. Nobody in a household making above $250,000 a year will get student-debt relief. The proposal would still offer federal grants to low-income students to help them cover non-tuition expenses, like housing, textbooks, and food, at universities. Warren's plan also places an emphasis on students of color through an additional $50 billion fund for historically black universities, which she said would help close the racial wealth gap." The plan is covered by her wealth tax proposal.

"Sen. Elizabeth Warren Calls for Trump to Be Impeached: 'The House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States,' the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said."

"Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple employees donating to Elizabeth Warren, even though she wants to break up big tech: Sen. Elizabeth Warren's pledge to break up Silicon Valley's biggest tech companies has provoked a surprising response from some of those firms' employees: They're writing her checks. The Massachusetts senator received more than $39,000 in donations from employees of Amazon, Apple, Facebook or Google, ranking third among her fellow Democratic 2020 presidential contenders. And she did even better among all donors who describe themselves as software engineers or programmers, coming in second behind Sen. Bernie Sanders."

"Does Andrew Yang Want The Most Regressive Tax In The World? (TMBS 85)" - UBI has a left and a right wing, and Andrew Yang doesn't sound like he's on the left one. He wants a VAT, too.

Here's some good new! "House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer Is Facing A Primary Challenge: MCKAYLA WILKES, a 28-year-old administrative assistant, part-time student, and mother of two, has had enough. In late March, she announced that she was mounting a bid for Maryland's 5th Congressional District, aiming to unseat one of the oldest and most powerful Democratic members, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Wilkes is running on a host of progressive policies, but plans to put particular focus on Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and affordable housing. A student of political science, Wilkes hasn't formerly been involved in politics before, but thinks the moment is too urgent to wait. She wants more 'relatable people' in Congress and is fed up with Hoyer's record, which she says does not adequately represent the needs of those living in his district. 'We need someone who will be a voice for us, who knows what we go through as daily constituents, and Steny Hoyer has been in office so long he's never really had to be a regular constituent,' she said. Hoyer, who is 79 years old, was first elected to Congress in 1981." That's not actually the problem with Hoyer, though - he's always been like this. But it would be cool if McKayla Wilkes could do to Hoyer what Donna Edwards did to Al Wynn.

I'm certainly no fan of Obama but this story — "Mueller's report looks bad for Obama" — looks wrong to me. The Iran deal was important, and the real problem with our elections is that we have a vast network of misinformational propaganda coming from Republicans, Democrats, our government, and enthusiastically embraced by our media, keeping Americans confused about what's really going on and making everyone vulnerable to every rumor from every source. We have voter-suppression coming from American partisans. We have unauditable, hackable voting machines. We don't even have real exit polls anymore, nor pay attention to their results when we do, so we have no real checks on election integrity. While it's true that the Republican Party is more overt, organized, and systematic about maintaining and expanding this situation, you'd have to be a fool to think the Democratic Party has not enabled it and in many cases discouraged any real opposition to it. If you want to blame Obama for the results of the 2016 election — and I think you justifiably can — blame the way he presided over our economy and betrayed his voters, which was a disaster and should have been the real scandal. We didn't need Russians to give us such an outcome, it was coming for a long time.

Speaking of that, Eric Rauchway has a piece in Boston Review called "Obama's Original Sin" on Reed Hundt's A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama's Defining Decisions: which I would like to quote from but they made it too annoying to do, but I recommend you read the whole thing. He remarks on the bizarre idea Geithner and Obama had that Roosevelt chose not to work with Hoover to let things fester before coming into office, a false narrative they seem to have spread among their followers but whose source no one seems to be able to track down. And so the Obama administration fell neatly into the trap that Hoover had tried to lay for FDR that he had so neatly avoided.

"What the Mueller Report Actually Says" is less informative in many ways than Lee Camp's points about reversed timing, thinness of content, and, again, the shameless lack of interest both parties have ever shown about election integrity.

California ordered to use settlement money as it was intended — to help homeowners: California is wrongly holding on to $331 million from a nationwide bank settlement and must use the money for its intended purpose: to help homeowners victimized by foreclosures during the Great Recession, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday. The money was part of the state's share of a settlement in 2012 with the nation's five largest mortgage servicers — Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and GMAC — that had been accused of abusive lending practices. The settlement also contained more than $20 billion in direct aid to homeowners nationwide who had been harmed by a wave of foreclosures that started in the recession of 2008-09. "

"Court rules Michigan district maps are unconstitutional: A federal court in Michigan on Thursday became the latest in the country to strike down its state's district maps, ruling that they were examples of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. The lawsuit, filed late last year by the League of Women Voters on behalf of eleven Democratic voters, alleged that the legislative and congressional maps in question violated their constitutional rights. [...] The court cited evidence that showed Republicans loaded some districts with Democratic voters, and divided Democratic communities between other Republican-held seats, practices known as packing and cracking. The judges' order that the districts be redrawn before the 2020 election will almost certainly be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is considering two other partisan gerrymandering cases, out of North Carolina and Maryland, and may issue a stay on the Michigan decision until those cases are resolved. [...] The League of Women Voters pointed to election results that show Republicans hold a disproportionate number of legislative and congressional seats in Michigan, even though they won only about half the number of total votes cast. Republicans hold seven of 14 congressional seats in Michigan, after Democrats won back two Republican-held seats last November. Republicans hold 22 of 38 seats in the state Senate, and 58 of 110 seats in the state House. The judges accepted the League's argument."

"Gallup: 'Americans aren't as pro-Israel as we've been saying': Gallup explains that its polling, which consistently shows high American sympathy for Israel, is the result of 'priming' questions that influence respondents to falsely express pro-Israel leanings. Gallup buried this explosive admission."

Tennessee House passes bill that could penalize voter registration groups for mistakes: NASHVILLE — The Republican-led Tennessee House on Monday night approved a controversial bill imposing new requirements on some voter registration groups that could subject them to civil and possibly even criminal penalties and fines in cases where they submit too many problematic registrations. House Bill 1079 passed in a 71-26 vote along party lines after a heated debate. It now goes to the Senate. Pointing to confusion in the 2018 November election, when election officials in Memphis and Nashville were deluged with thousands of last-minute forms from organizers of voter registration drives, GOP proponents say the bill was brought to them by Secretary of State Tre Hargett, a Republican, to prevent a repeat of that chaos and its incomplete forms. Democrats and others, however, charged that it is part of a continuing effort by Republicans to suppress voter turnout, especially for minorities in a state already known for having low voter registration and, at times, the worst voter turnout nationwide."

"Texas Bill Prohibiting Male Masturbation Moves Closer To Becoming Law: A proposed bill in Texas that would impose a fine for male masturbation is making its way through the state's legislature. House Bill 4260, called the 'Man's Right to Know Act,' would punish male masturbation with a $100 fine, and require men who want Viagra to be subject to a rectal exam. The bill, filed earlier this year by Texas legislator Rep. Jessica Farrar (D), was referred to the House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday. By focusing on male masturbation, the proposed legislation is an obvious attempt to satirize and draw attention to the unreasonable and dangerous policy proposals concerning women's reproductive freedom coming from the Republican Party."

I became aware of this because of a tweet (worth reading the thread for people giving their own stories about how landlords abused them), which led to an article by London housing activist Kirsty Archer, "Why I went viral on Twitter after talking about being evicted on Sky News: The patronising interviewer, who is a landlord, demonstrated the contempt with which many landlords view renters." There's a reason I don't subscribe to Sky, but of course, it's not just Sky. "As it stands, section 21 gives landlords huge power over our lives and discourages renters from making complaints or requesting repairs, for fear of section 21 revenge evictions. Since 2015, around 140,000 other tenants have been victims of revenge evictions making section 21 the leading cause of homelessness in England, displacing huge numbers of working people and migrants from their communities each year." Little did she know that she was being interviewed by a landlord.

"Wells Fargo and other banks paid colleges so they could market accounts to students, putting them at risk of high fees: This month, you're likely to read many stories about the importance — particularly for young people — of understanding compound interest, budgeting and other concepts key to creating a healthy financial life. April, dubbed National Financial Literacy Month, is traditionally when the personal finance and banking industries celebrate the benefits of knowing how to manage your money. But a new report suggests that at least for college students, knowing which tools are best for them can be a challenge because certain banks pay universities to advertise their products to students."

Matt Stoller tweets: This is potentially the most disturbing merger I've ever seen. Roche, which makes an very expensive treatment for hemophilia, is trying to buy Spark Therapeutics, which has a very promising potential cure for hemophilia. I wonder if there are conflicts." The link is to "Roche Makes $4.8 Billion Bid for Spark Therapeutics and Its Gene Therapy Programs."

Matt Taibbi, "Why the Assange Arrest Should Scare Reporters [...] Much of the American media audience views the arrested WikiLeaks founder through the lens of the 2016 election, after which he was denounced as a Russian cutout who threw an election for Trump. But the current indictment is the extension of a years-long effort, pre-dating Trump, to construct a legal argument against someone who releases embarrassing secrets. [...] Last year, we reported a rumored American criminal case against Assange was not expected to have anything to do with 2016, Russians, or DNC emails. This turned out to be the case, as the exact charge is for conspiracy, with Chelsea Manning, to hack into a 'classified U.S. government computer.' The indictment unveiled today falls just short of a full frontal attack on press freedoms only because it indicts on something like a technicality: specifically, an accusation that Assange tried (and, seemingly, failed) to help Manning crack a government password. For this reason, the language of the indictment underwhelmed some legal experts who had expressed concerns about the speech ramifications of this case before. 'There's a gray area here,' says University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck. 'But the government at least tries to put this at the far end of the gray area.' Not everyone agreed. Assange lawyer Barry Pollock said the allegations 'boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identify of that source.' 'The weakness of the US charge against Assange is shocking,' tweeted Edward Snowden. 'The allegation he tried (and failed?) to help crack a password during their world-famous reporting has been public for nearly a decade: it is the count Obama's DOJ refused to charge, saying it endangered journalism.' Part of the case clearly describes conduct that exists outside the normal parameters of press-source interaction, specifically the password issue. However, the evidence about this part of the conspiracy seems thin, limited mainly to Assange saying he'd had 'no luck so far,' apparently in relation to attempts to crack the password. The meatier parts of the indictment speak more to normal journalistic practices. In its press release, the Justice Department noted Assange was 'actively encouraging Manning' to provide more classified information. In the indictment itself, the government noted Assange told Manning, who said she had no more secrets to divulge, 'curious eyes never run dry.' Also in the indictment: 'It is part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning took measures to conceal Manning as the source of the disclosure.' Reporters have extremely complicated relationships with sources, especially whistleblower types like Manning, who are often under extreme stress and emotionally vulnerable. At different times, you might counsel the same person both for and against disclosure. It's proper to work through all the reasons for action in any direction, including weighing the public's interest, the effect on the source's conscience and mental health, and personal and professional consequences. For this reason, placing criminal penalties on a prosecutor's interpretation of such interactions will likely put a scare into anyone involved with national security reporting going forward. As Ben Wizner of the ACLU put it: 'Any prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange for WikiLeaks' publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional, and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations.' Unfortunately, Assange's case, and the very serious issues it raises, will be impacted in profound ways by things that took place long after the alleged offenses, specifically the Russiagate story. It's why some reporters are less than concerned about the Assange case today. [...] It will therefore be interesting to see if Assange is finally asked about Russiagate by someone in American officialdom. If he isn't, that will be yet another curious detail in a case that gets stranger by the minute. As for Assange's case, coverage by a national press corps that embraced him at the time of these offenses — and widely re-reported his leaks — will likely focus on the narrow hacking issue, as if this is not really about curtailing legitimate journalism. In reality, it would be hard to find a more extreme example of how deep the bipartisan consensus runs on expanding the policing of leaks."

"Daniel Ellsberg on the Importance of Julian Assange: 'As part of their attempt to blacken WikiLeaks and Assange, pundit commentary ... has tried to portray Assange's exposure of classified materials as very different from — and far less laudable than — what Daniel Ellsberg did in releasing the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Ellsberg strongly rejects the mantra 'Pentagon Papers good; WikiLeaks material bad.' He continues: 'That's just a cover for people who don't want to admit that they oppose any and all exposure of even the most misguided, secretive foreign policy. The truth is that EVERY attack now made on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange was made against me and the release of the Pentagon Papers at the time.'"

"While Much of US Media Plays Along, Critics Warn Assange Indictment an 'Obvious' Ploy With Deeper Dangers: 'This precedent means that any journalist can be extradited for prosecution in the United States for having published truthful information about the U.S.'"

And Naked Capitalism has a round-up on the Assange story. If one thing is clear, the charge is just the only thing they could come up with to try to get around Britain's extradition laws, but he is being tried for publishing, regardless of what they say they are charging him for.

"Wendell Primus, The Most Powerful Staffer In Congress, Represents A Generational Divide On The Left - David Dayen also talked about this with Sam Seder, The Top Pelosi Aide Aiming to Kill Medicare For All w/ David Dayen - MR Live - 4/17/19. The saddest thing is that Primus really thinks he's defending what's left of the New Deal by behaving this way. Getting into a defensive crouch has really been the strategy of the Democratic Party since the '70s, but they really seem to have frozen in time once Reagan got into office.

Bloomberg, "The Super Rich of Silicon Valley Have a Doomsday Escape Plan: Wealthy Americans have stepped up investment in New Zealand. Parliament votes to ban foreigners from buying bolt-hole homes." This is actually old news, but someone pointed it out to me when I remarked that back in the early days of this blog I wondered where they were planning to live after ruining the world. And it's not exactly a standalone - from The New Yorker, "Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich. Rich people from New York to Seattle have been building bunkers in Kansas, compounds in the Rockies, and buying up islands in the Pacific Northwest. And this one is even freakier: "Survival of the Richest [...] Last year, I got invited to a super-deluxe private resort to deliver a keynote speech to what I assumed would be a hundred or so investment bankers. It was by far the largest fee I had ever been offered for a talk — about half my annual professor's salary — all to deliver some insight on the subject of 'the future of technology.' [...] They started out innocuously enough. Ethereum or bitcoin? Is quantum computing a real thing? Slowly but surely, however, they edged into their real topics of concern. Which region will be less impacted by the coming climate crisis: New Zealand or Alaska? Is Google really building Ray Kurzweil a home for his brain, and will his consciousness live through the transition, or will it die and be reborn as a whole new one? Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system and asked, 'How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?'"

Interesting news on how a cancer treatment I don't want to describe also has the interesting side effect of reducing autism symptoms. Makes ya think, huh?

You thought Tom Lehrer was just a math teacher who wrote funny songs, but little did you know he also invented Jell-O Shots.

06:09 GMT comment


Friday, 12 April 2019

In madness and fear

Julian Assange was arrested today outside of the Ecuadorian Embassy. Here's the Guardian blog on today's events in that regard. The whole affair raises a lot of questions about freedom of the press and the behavior of several governments in collusion to destroy it.

Consortium News addressed some of those questions in "On the Pavement with Wikileaks : "When Julian Assange does leave the embassy, it will be important to try to focus a hostile media on why it is Assange is actually wanted for extradition, Craig Murray comments. [...] When Julian does leave the Embassy, whatever the circumstances in which he does that, it will be for a day or two the largest media story in the world and undoubtedly will lead all the news bulletins across every major country. The odds are that he will be leaving and facing a fight against extradition to the United States, on charges arising from the Chelsea Manning releases which revealed a huge amount about U.S. war crimes and other illegal acts. It will be very important to try to focus a hostile media on why it is Julian is actually wanted for extradition. Not for the non-existent collusion with Russia to assist Trump, which is an entirely fake narrative. Not for meetings with Paul Manafort which never happened. Not for the allegations in Sweden which fell apart immediately they were subject to rational scrutiny. And not for any nonsense about whether he hacked the communications in the Embassy or cleaned up the cat litter. This is not going to be an easy task because pretty well all of the Western media is going to want to focus on these false anti-Assange narratives, and they will be determined to give as little attention as possible to the fact he is a publisher facing trial for publishing leaked state documents which revealed state wrongdoing. It is a classic and fundamental issue of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Drawing together a team that can get this message across in such MSM windows as are afforded, as well as through social media, is an important task. The team needs to be in readiness and to be backed by a suitable support infrastructure that can be dusted off and sprung into action. The public framing of Julian's position will undoubtedly impact on the final outcome; that is why the MSM have put in such a consistent effort to demonise one of the most interesting figures and original thinkers of our time.

"Trump administration approved secret nuclear power tech sales to Saudi Arabia, document shows: WASHINGTON - U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has approved six secret authorizations by companies to sell nuclear power technology and assistance to Saudi Arabia, according to a copy of a document seen by Reuters on Wednesday. The Trump administration has quietly pursued a wider deal on sharing U.S. nuclear power technology with Saudi Arabia, which aims to build at least two nuclear power plants. Several countries including the United States, South Korea and Russia are in competition for that deal, and the winners are expected to be announced later this year by Saudi Arabia. [...] Many U.S. lawmakers are concerned that sharing nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia could eventually lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS last year that the kingdom would develop nuclear weapons if its rival Iran did. In addition, the kingdom has occasionally pushed back against agreeing to U.S. standards that would block two paths to potentially making fissile material for nuclear weapons clandestinely: enriching uranium and reprocessing spent fuel." This directly circumvents the expressed will of Congress.

"U.N. report: With 40M in poverty, U.S. most unequal developed nation: June 22 (UPI) -- A study for the U.N. Human Rights Council has concluded 40 million people in the United States live in poverty -- and more than half of those live in "extreme" or "absolute" poverty. The 20-page report by Philip Alston, U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, says U.S. policies benefit the rich and exacerbate poverty. [...] Alston criticized the Trump administration for stigmatizing the poor and saying those receiving government benefits are lazy and should be working. The report found just 7 percent of benefits recipients are not working." When I was a kid, people talked about the Black Hole of Calcutta. Now it's America.

"Dallas Police Shamed Into Dropping Charges Against Black Woman Beaten By Racist: The Dallas district attorney said he was unaware of the charges. Authorities in Dallas dropped the felony charge against a Black woman seen on video last month being brutally beaten by a racist white man, civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt announced on Wednesday. As we reported Tuesday, Dallas police charged L'Daijohnique Lee with criminal mischief in her confrontation with bartender Austin Shuffield on March 21. She was accused of damaging Shuffield's pickup truck after he violently attacked her in the Dallas neighborhood of Deep Ellum." And another piece of the story, "See Also: Prosecutor Blames Bail System For Allowing White Man To Leave Jail After Vicious Assault Of Black Woman."

"The Trump Administration Wants an Immigrant Underclass: In two recent reports, Trump administration advisors Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller outlined seemingly contradictory plans for the country's already-barbaric immigration policies. Put broadly: Kushner wants more legal immigration; Miller wants less illegal immigration, but also fewer immigrants living in the U.S. legally. [...] It is possible, in fact, for both of these immigration plans to align. Politico frames Miller's vindictive policies as a foil to the Kushner plan, but despite Miller's manic desire to round up everyone with brown skin, there's plenty of room in his general framework of immigration policy for what Kushner — and Trump — want. So what is that? Broadly speaking, Trump and Kushner's push for an expansion to legal immigration is designed to create one thing: a hardworking underclass of both low-skilled and highly skilled immigrants shuttled into the country on restrictive visas that actively prevent them from progressing toward citizenship while costing their employers less than hiring actual Americans. (Businesses love this of course — as Politico notes, the Koch brothers are two of the biggest proponents of this kind of legal immigration). And guess what? It's working!"

I guess TMBS - 83 - Russia, Russia, Russia, (& AIPAC) ft. Matt Taibbi & Francesca Fiorentini pretty much covered that subject.

Sam Seder interviewed Paul Waldman on Ring of Fire, "Joe Biden's Record Bursting into Flames under Magnifying Glass of Voters."

A lot is being made of Joe Biden's inability to keep his hands to himself, but maybe that's to make people forget that he runs around saying stuff like this: "Paul Ryan was correct when he did the tax code. What's the first thing he decided to go after? Social Security and Medicare. Now, we need to do something about Social Security and Medicare. That's the only way you can find room to pay for it. I don't know a whole lot of people in the top 1/10 of 1% or top 1% are relying on social security when they retire." And what's his genius idea? Means-testing. Means-testing is a way to put up barriers for the people who really need it while making the programs no longer universal, and therefore less popular, and thereby start the process of eliminating or privatizing them. Biden's apologists on his past record of this kind of thing insist that his thinking has changed (on the Hyde Amendment, he can get away with this pretense because now that he voted for it over and over, Bush finally signed it into law so he doesn't have to vote for it anymore), but this quote is from January 2019, just a few months back. This kind of thing is what his whole career has been about, and there's no evidence he truly regrets any of it. I just want him to keep his hands off government.

Malcolm, Iowa is a town of 300 people, so unsurprisingly, when a presidential candidate shows up to hold a rally for the first time in history, the whole town shows up. This is kind of interesting to watch, because you can see a little difference from those much bigger rallies he's been doing lately. (I was also reminded, when he twice brought up issues he was currently alerting the public to and said he hadn't known about them before he was told recently ("Shoulda known, but didn't"), of how when Hillary Clinton had the virtues of single-payer explained to her, she responded with, "Now tell me something real.")

America's foremost concern troll, Barack Obama, seems to be on a world tour of concern-trolling as he leads the circular firing squad against circular firing squads.

Charlie Pierce, "Not One Single Democrat Should Get Behind the Worst Idea in American Politics: The balanced-budget amendment is incredibly dumb, and inextricably linked to The Dumbest Idea in American History. This makes me crazy. Any Democratic politicians who attach themselves to any derivation of The Worst Idea In American Politics, especially in 2019, are not "moderate Democrats." They are conservative Democrats or, more accurately, radically conservative Democrats. Really, Bloomberg, knock this stuff off. Also, Blue Dogs? Knock this stuff off, too."

Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone, "On Russiagate and Our Refusal to Face Why Trump Won [...] The 2016 campaign season brought to the surface awesome levels of political discontent. After the election, instead of wondering where that anger came from, most of the press quickly pivoted to a new tale about a Russian plot to attack our Democracy. This conveyed the impression that the election season we'd just lived through had been an aberration, thrown off the rails by an extraordinary espionage conspiracy between Trump and a cabal of evil foreigners. This narrative contradicted everything I'd seen traveling across America in my two years of covering the campaign. The overwhelming theme of that race, long before anyone even thought about Russia, was voter rage at the entire political system. The anger wasn't just on the Republican side, where Trump humiliated the Republicans' chosen $150 million contender, Jeb Bush (who got three delegates, or $50 million per delegate). It was also evident on the Democratic side, where a self-proclaimed 'Democratic Socialist' with little money and close to no institutional support became a surprise contender. Because of a series of press misdiagnoses before the Russiagate stories even began, much of the American public was unprepared for news of a Trump win. A cloak-and-dagger election-fixing conspiracy therefore seemed more likely than it might have otherwise to large parts of the domestic news audience, because they hadn't been prepared for anything else that would make sense. [...] Trump was selling himself as a traitor to a corrupt class, someone who knew how soulless and greedy the ruling elite was because he was one of them. His story of essentially buying the attendance of the Clintons at his wedding — no matter what you think of it — resonated powerfully with voters. He sneered at Hillary as the worst kind of aristocrat, a member of a family with title and no money. She and Bill were second-tier gentry, the kind who had to work, and what work! Hillary was giving speeches to firms like Goldman Sachs for amounts of money Trump would probably say he spent on airplane snacks (even if it were a lie). He claimed Goldman 'owned her.' Having watched Trump wipe out Jeb using similar arguments, I thought a race against Hillary Clinton, who was running on her decades of experience residing in hated Washington, 'would be a pitch right in Trump's wheelhouse.' Trump's chances increased when pundits ignored polls and insisted he had no shot at the nomination. The universality of this take reeked of the same kind of single-track, orthodox official-think that later plagued the Russia story. [...] Russiagate became a convenient replacement explanation absolving an incompetent political establishment for its complicity in what happened in 2016, and not just the failure to see it coming. Because of the immediate arrival of the collusion theory, neither Wolf Blitzer nor any politician ever had to look into the camera and say, 'I guess people hated us so much they were even willing to vote for Donald Trump.'"

Really, Schultz seems to come out with something amazingly stupid every time he opens his mouth. I'm convinced his sister or girlfriend must be the one who said it would be a good idea to open coffee shops, he seems too thick to have thought of the idea himself, simple as it was. His brilliant idea of having an empty chair in the room to "represent the American people" when he discussed important issues with members of the Senate and House of Representatives was awesome. And also, "Dumb Starbucks Man Has Precisely Two Thoughts."

I probably should have been linking to Tarbell earlier. Here's Dr. Hagop Kantarjian with "How to Fix Out-Of-Control Drug Costs to Serve Patients, Not Drug Company Profits [...] Market forces are not effective in lowering drug prices largely because of a 'non-interference clause' included in the 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act (MMA), which overhauled the program. This clause, demanded by the pharmaceutical lobby as a condition of its support, prohibits Medicare from negotiating drug prices. The MMA also included, under Medicare Part D, prescription benefits for Medicare recipients. Thus, Medicare must pay the prices imposed by drug companies without any ability to negotiate. This led to claims by some elected officials that the government does not negotiate effectively, and that free-market forces would result in reasonable drug prices and profits. History has shown otherwise: Almost 16 years after passage of the MMA, we are witnessing massive increases in drug prices and drug industry profits. [...] Though a majority of Americans support these proposed actions, and numerous bills have been introduced in Congress, none has made it into law because of opposition by the powerful pharmaceutical lobby. The Obama administration did not address high cancer drug prices effectively. In May 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released 'American Patients First — The Trump Administration Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Costs.' HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the drug industry's repeated mantra that it must make large profits to pay for research and innovation was a tired point, and that the biggest problem was simple: Drug prices are too high. In other words, the drug industry is too greedy."

"A Bernie Sanders Campaign Adviser Was a Russian. Now He's Speaking Out: A HIGH-LEVEL ADVISER and operative for the 2016 Sanders campaign was Vitali Shkliarov, a Soviet-born citizen of Belarus. Shkliarov, who had previously worked on the 2012 Obama re-election campaign and for several other successful Democratic Party campaigns, has also become increasingly in demand as a political adviser and campaign manager in Russia, working for liberal candidates in opposition to President Vladimir Putin. Possessing a unique background and vantage point, Shkliarov, now that the 2016 election is over, has many interesting observations to express on the state of American politics, the Democratic Party, U.S.-Russian relations, and the impact of rising anti-Russian sentiment in the United States. [...] Of particular interest is Shkliarov's analysis of — and his warnings about — the dangers posed from escalating U.S.-Russia tensions (on Tuesday night, the U.S. scrambled jets in response to Russian warplanes flying 100 miles off the coast of Alaska for the first time since Trump became president). Especially noteworthy are Shkliarov's concerns about how intensifying anti-Russian sentiment in U.S. discourse is alienating Russian liberals from the U.S. and uniting them behind their own government — as happens in most countries when people, even those who loathe their own government, perceive that their nation is being demonized and targeted by a foreign power."

Cory Doctorow, "Microsoft announces it will shut down ebook program and confiscate its customers' libraries: Microsoft has a DRM-locked ebook store that isn't making enough money, so they're shutting it down and taking away every book that every one of its customers acquired effective July 1. Customers will receive refunds. This puts the difference between DRM-locked media and unencumbered media into sharp contrast. I have bought a lot of MP3s over the years, thousands of them, and many of the retailers I purchased from are long gone, but I still have the MP3s. Likewise, I have bought many books from long-defunct booksellers and even defunct publishers, but I still own those books. When I was a bookseller, nothing I could do would result in your losing the book that I sold you. If I regretted selling you a book, I didn't get to break into your house and steal it, even if I left you a cash refund for the price you paid. People sometimes treat me like my decision not to sell my books through Amazon's Audible is irrational (Audible will not let writers or publisher opt to sell their books without DRM), but if you think Amazon is immune to this kind of shenanigans, you are sadly mistaken. "

"The absurdly high cost of insulin, explained: Cigna, a major insurer, is capping monthly insulin costs at $25. It's a Band-Aid on a much bigger problem. [...] 'Any measure that helps only a portion of the population through opaque deals between the players responsible for this crisis is not a solution,' Elizabeth Pfiester, the founder and executive director of the patient group T1International, told Vox. 'We need long-term assurance that manufacturers will be held accountable and prices will be affordable — not another Band-Aid.'"

Interview on The Real News, "Trump and Pelosi Both Cater to Private Health Insurance — Wendell Potter"

"The Southern Poverty Law Center Is Everything That'S Wrong With Liberalism: The SPLC's deceptive and hypocritical approach to anti-racism... The Southern Poverty Law Center, the wealthiest civil rights organization in the country, has ousted its founder, Morris Dees, and president, Richard Cohen, amid unspecified allegations of workplace misconduct by Dees. Dees had been with the organization since creating it in 1971, while Cohen had joined in the mid-'80s, and the SPLC's shake-up can be seen as part of the MeToo reckoning in which conduct that was accepted for years is finally being dealt with appropriately. But the organization has long been dysfunctional in even deeper ways, and the story of Dees and the SPLC is useful for illustrating some of the worst and most hypocritical tendencies in American liberalism. If we understand the full extent of what went wrong in this organization, we'll better understand the ways in which a shallow 'politics of spectacle' can take hold, and see the kinds of practices that need to be categorically rejected in the pursuit of progressive change."

"Voting Machines Are Still Absurdly Vulnerable To Attacks"

"What Conservative Dems-- The Republican Wing Of The Democratic Party-- Don't Want

Highly-recommended interview with Z of Black Socialists of America. I love that they make the point that you have to do the work, not just expect people to know.

I had almost forgotten this. These people are thoroughly intertwined with government in DC and it's shameful. "Jeff Sharlet on Hillary Clinton's Relationship to "The Family" - 4/5" With disastrous results: "An Uncharitable Choice: The Faith-Based Takeover Of Federal Programs: Two Presidents In A Row Have Increasingly Steered Federal Grants And Contracts To Conservative Christian Groups — Including Houses Of Worship." But that was in 2014. It hasn't improved.

Walk Off the Earth, with Sarah Silverman, "Video Killed The Radio Star"

"Hear Roger Taylor's Political Single 'Gangsters Are Running This World: The Queen drummer has some thoughts on the state of things."

02:11 GMT comment


Thursday, 04 April 2019

I got a feeling that the journey has just begun

Gorsuch is a monster and a sadist. "Neil Gorsuch Just Made Death Worse: In an appalling majority opinion, Gorsuch endorses pain-filled deaths for people subjected to capital punishment. [...] This week, Gorsuch wrote a majority opinion that was both shockingly cruel and entirely consistent with arch-conservative thought. The case is called Bucklew v. Precythe. Russell Bucklew is a convicted murderer whose depraved crimes are not in dispute. He was sentenced to death in Missouri. Missouri is a lethal injection state, but Bucklew has a rare medical condition that would cause him to be in extreme pain as the lethal drugs do their work. Bucklew appealed his sentence, arguing that the pain would be a violation of his Eighth Amendment protections, and asked for alternative methods of death that are not sanctioned under Missouri law. Gorsuch, writing for a 5-4 majority, denied his appeal. Gorsuch wrote: 'The Eighth Amendment forbids 'cruel and unusual' methods of capital punishment but does not guarantee a prisoner a painless death.' That's about the most heartless bastard thing I've read in a while, and I work on the internet. Everybody should notice the sleight of hand Gorsuch is playing at here. Saying the Eighth Amendment only forbids certain 'methods' of capital punishment presupposes that the Eighth Amendment allows capital punishment. That's no better than saying you can't drown a person, unless she's a witch. Gorsuch is demonstrably wrong. The Eighth Amendment makes no mention of death, painless or otherwise. It talks about cruelty. It contemplates unusual cruelty. Throwing me off the top of the Empire State Building would be almost entirely painless until I came to a sudden stop. It would still be cruel. It would still be unusual." Torturing people to death is cruel. The end.

"'New York Times' reports that Jewish donors shape Democrats' regressive position on Israel: This weekend the New York Times breaks one of the biggest taboos, describing the responsibility of Jewish donors for the Democratic Party's slavish support for Israel. Nathan Thrall's groundbreaking piece repeats a lot of data we've reported here and says in essence that it really is about the Benjamins, as Rep. Ilhan Omar said so famously. The donor class of the party is overwhelmingly Jewish, and Jews are still largely wed to Zionism — that's the nut. Though that party is breaking up. Thrall's labors are minimized by the New York Times with the headline 'The Battle Over B.D.S.,' but his message is that the progressive base has a highly-critical view of Israel that the leadership has refused to reflect, and that's about to change. We're inside the tent. The party is going to have to reflect pro-Palestinian positions. Ben Rhodes tells Thrall that the moment of overcoming the fear of the pro-Israel lobby (as the Cuba fear was overcome) is about to happen. The article is a thorough-going rebuke of every journalist and former official (Daniel Shapiro, former ambassador under Obama, for instance, as well as the Forward and the Times opinion writers) who says that money is not at the root, or very near the root, of Democratic Party support."

"How targeting Ilhan Omar instead of white supremacy furthered both anti-Semitism & Islamophobia: Last week, House Democrats passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and white supremacy. As Black women, Muslim and Jewish, we agree that anti-Black racism, anti-Semitism, sexism and Islamophobia must be condemned. [...] Yet condemnations of Islamophobia and white supremacy were only added to the resolution after it was initially introduced, with pressure from Black and progressive lawmakers. Given that, it was clear to many that the resolution did not come out of a sincere effort to put an end to real threats to Jews, but rather from an effort to target someone who is already a marked woman, Ilhan Omar, after her criticisms of the U.S.-Israel relationship were rebuked by lawmakers in both parties as anti-Semitic."

This Wisconsin poll shows Biden as being a bit more popular there than Sanders, but Klobuchar and Harris can't even get ahead of Trump. Mind, the methodology of the poll is a little weird, leaving out an awful lot of the Dem demographic, particularly those under 45.

"Georgia Lawmaker Proposes Requiring Permission for Viagra, Criminalizing Vasectomies: Rep. Dar'shun Kendrick's bill, a rebuke to HB 481, would also potentially make sex without a condom 'aggravated assault'"

"Twitter Blocks Account of Julian Assange's Mother: The Twitter account of Christine Assange, the mother of the arbitrarily detained founder of WikiLeaks, has been restricted, she told Consortium News on Tuesday. 'My Twitter account has been 'blocked due to 'unusual activity,' Ms. Assange wrote in a text message. Twitter, however, has provided her no reason for its action.

Apparently, "centrist" Democrats plan is to deluge the public with different plans containing the word "Medicare" so everyone will be utterly confused by what's going on. Interestingly, the Colorado Democrat responsible for this one got a whole article about him from Wendell Potter last February, called, "How to spot the health insurance industry's favorite Democrats. [...] My former colleagues undoubtedly were cheering when they heard Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) come to the defense of private health insurers and trash the idea of improving and expanding Medicare to cover all Americans, which several of the Democratic presidential contenders have endorsed. Bennet, who says he, too, is considering a run for the 2020 nomination, told Chuck Todd that Medicare for All 'seems like a bad opening offer.' He prefaced that by saying that, 'what the (other) Democrats are saying is, 'If you like your insurance, we're going to take it away from you,' from 180 million people that get their insurance from their employer and like it, where 20 million Americans who are on Medicare Advantage, and love it. [...] And to say that most people in employer-sponsored plans are happy with their coverage ignores this growing problem: because insurers and employers are shifting more of the cost of care to their workers every year in the form of higher deductibles, millions more of us are winding up in the ranks of the under-insured. They have coverage but many can't use it because of what they have to pay out of our own pockets before that coverage kicks in. The Commonwealth Fund just last week released a study that showed that 28 percent of people in employer-sponsored plans are now under-insured.

"New rift exposed as Democrats clash over minimum wage." Oh, I wouldn't say it's "new", the alt-center has obstructed progress for a long, long time.

"Kamala Harris skips AIPAC conference — but AIPAC comes to her!" So much for her pretence that she boycotted the conference.

Oh, cool, "Charlie says: I've been sitting on this for ages — but I'm now allowed to admit in public that THE LAUNDRY FILES has been optioned for TV by 42 (producers of Watership Down and Traitors (among other things). This has been grinding through the works for over a year. It's an option deal, meaning the production company are looking at writing a pitch and maybe a pilot script and seeing if they can get a network interested, so it's early days. It doesn't mean that a series has been commissioned or that anything is going to happen. (We've been here before, circa 2006-08, with an American outfit, and in the end nothing came of it.) However: it's a British production company, so anything that emerges this time round is likely to have a British feel to it, and they have a great track record."

RIP: Vonda N. McIntyre (1948-2019), author, founder of Clarion West, and enthusiastic fan. I think I first became aware of her when I read "Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand," but she quickly became a part of the world I lived in. I remember when I was out in Seattle being pleased to see how integrated she was in local fandom. She was diagnosed only two months ago with pancreatic cancer.

RIP: Izzy Young, "Leading figure in the world of American folk music who helped to launch the career of Bob Dylan," founder of Folklore Center in the Village. "Izzy Young, who has died aged 90, was a key figure in the New York folk scene in the heady days of the 1950s and 60s, when he helped to launch the careers of several major musicians, including Bob Dylan. Young became celebrated not as a performer but as an enthusiast, activist, writer and entrepreneur, always more eager to promote the music he loved than to make a profit. His shop Folklore Center in MacDougal Street, Greenwich Village, opened in 1957 and became a haven for fans and artists, who would stop here to meet, perform, or search for records, books and sheet music."

RIP: "Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, Dead at 81: California Rocker first reported that Dale died Friday. His bassist Sam Bolle confirmed Dale's death to the Guardian. No cause of death was revealed, but the guitarist suffered from health issues in recent years. In 2010, Dale said he was battling rectal cancer, and in an interview that went viral, Dale said in 2015 that 'I can't stop touring because I will die' due to medical expenses stemming from cancer treatment, diabetes and renal failure. 'I have to raise $3,000 every month to pay for the medical supplies I need to stay alive, and that's on top of the insurance that I pay for,' Dale said at the time. 'Dick Dale was truly the King of Surf Guitar. Before the Beach Boys gave this new genre lyrics, Dick Dale was providing the instrumental soundtrack to the surfing experience. He influenced everybody!' Stevie Van Zandt said in a statement. (Strangely, I could not find the phrase "Del Tones" anywhere in the article.)

* * * * *

"Mayor Pete" Buttigieg is the flavor of the month, I don't think I'll be supporting him for president any time soon.

Nathan Robinson's "All About Pete: Only accept politicians who have proved they actually care about people other than themselves..." is a bit long but really worth the read — it's so scathing about a certain type of person that I actually wish I already disliked Buttigieg before I read this so I could enjoy seeing someone whose works I despise have his entrails laid out on the page like this. Alas, knowing almost nothing about him, I was merely dismayed at the unfolding image of someone who is exactly what I never want to see in the White House again.

(In a way, though, it says as much about our last two Democratic presidents, as well.)

If you know only one thing about Pete Buttigieg, it's that he's The Small-Town Mayor Who Is Making A Splash. If you know half a dozen things about Pete Buttigieg, it's that he's also young, gay, a Rhodes Scholar, an Arabic-speaking polyglot, and an Afghanistan veteran. If you know anything more than that about Pete Buttigieg, you probably live in South Bend, Indiana. This is a little strange: These are all facts about him, but they don't tell us much about what he believes or what he advocates. The nationwide attention to Buttigieg seems more to be due to 'the fact that he is a highly-credentialed Rust Belt mayor' rather than 'what he has actually said and done.' He's a gay millennial from Indiana, yes. But should he be President of the United States? When he is asked about what his actual policies are, Buttigieg has often been evasive. He has mentioned getting rid of the electoral college and expanding the Supreme Court, but his speech is often abstract.

[...]

But it's not fair to fully judge a person by a single comment in an interview. Pete Buttigieg has just published a campaign book, Shortest Way Home: One Mayor's Challenge and a Model for America's Future, that gives a much fuller insight into the way he thinks about himself, his ideals, and his plans. It has been called the 'best political autobiography since Barack Obama,' revealing Buttigieg as a 'president in waiting.' Indeed, I recommend that anyone considering supporting Buttigieg read it from cover to cover. It is very personal, very well-written, and lays out a narrative that makes Buttigieg seem a natural and qualified candidate for the presidency

It also provides irrefutable evidence that no serious progressive should want Pete Buttigieg anywhere near national public office.

[...]

If you come out of Harvard without noticing that it's a deeply troubling place, you're oblivious. It is an inequality factory, a place that trains the world's A-students to rule over and ignore the working class. And yet, nowhere does Buttigieg seem to have even questioned the social role of an institution like Harvard. He tells us about his professors, his thesis on Graham Greene. He talks about how interesting it is that Facebook was in its infancy while he was there. But what about all the privilege? Even Ross Douthat finds the school's ruling class elitism disturbing! Buttigieg thought the place fitted him nicely.

[...]

Okay, pause for a moment. If you are Pete Buttigieg, at this point in your life you have the ability to take almost any job you want. These schools open doors, and you pick which one you go through. (Ask yourself: If I could do anything I wanted for a living, what would I do?) Pete Buttigieg looked inside himself and decided he belonged at... the world's most sinister and amoral management consulting company.

He also doesn't like Snowden and was "troubled" when Obama let Chelsea Manning out of prison. And there are other problems, too.

"Democratic Hopeful Pete Buttigieg Makes Faith 101 Misstep: If you don't understand that the Religious Right's conservatism does not stem from honest differences in faith, if you don't get that it's about particular structures of power, you badly misunderstand the situation, and you are not ready for prime time." Pete doesn't seem to get that, despite their absence from mass media, there already is a vibrant religious left.

And, at Jacobin, Liza Featherstone says, "Have You Heard? Pete Buttigieg Is Really Smart [...] It's oddly banal, the culture of smart. Like most of the detritus of 'smartness' culture, from Freakonomics to TED Talks to NPR, BOOTedgedge is politically underwhelming. What good ideas he has are shared by other candidates in the crowded field, some originating from politicians to his left, like Bernie Sanders. His bad ideas are hardly edgy, either: capitalism can be good while government regulation can be bad. [...] But the obsession with his kind of ostentatious intelligence is deeply unserious and anti-democratic. 'Smart' is not going to save us, and fetishizing its most conventional manifestations shores up bourgeois ideology and undermines the genuinely emancipatory politics of collective action. Bernie Sanders, instead of showing off his University of Chicago education, touts the power of the masses: 'Not Me, Us.' The cult of the Smart Dude leads us into just the opposite place, which is probably why some liberals like it so much."

* * * * *

Robert L. Borosage, "Centrists Are Using Calls for Civility to Silence the Left [...] 'We should not eat our own,' cautioned David Brock, which is rich coming from a professional hatchet man servicing both sides of the aisle at different points in his career. In reality, the ones doing the eating are primarily centrist pundits using high minded postures to skewer Bernie. Sanders has been assailed by a former Clinton staffer for using private planes while stumping for Hillary in 2016. He's been attacked for hiring David Sirota, a respected left-leaning journalist who got his start in Sanders's House office twenty years ago. (Sirota was raked over last week for supposedly hiding his conflict of interest while at The Guardian, a claim that turned out to be simply false). Tomasky presumptuously issued a 'personal plea' to Bernie to rein in his supporters, while saying nothing about the Clinton advisers publicly vowing to unleash their oppo research from 2016 on Sanders."

At Bloomberg, "Warren Buffett Hates It. AOC Is for It. A Beginner's Guide to Modern Monetary Theory: An overview of a once-fringe school of economic thought that's suddenly of the moment."

"How corporate America invented 'Christian America' to fight the New Deal: The 2016 annual meeting for the Organization of American Historians (OAH) will feature a session focusing upon the provocative book One Nation Under God by Princeton history professor Keven M. Kruse. In One Nation Under God, Kruse argues that the idea of the United States as a Christian nation does not find its origins with the founding of the United States or the writing of the Constitution. Rather, the notion of America as specifically consecrated by God to be a beacon for liberty was the work of corporate and religious figures opposed to New Deal statism and interference with free enterprise. The political conflict found in this concept of Christian libertarianism was modified by President Dwight Eisenhower who advocated a more civic religion of 'one nation under God' to which both liberals and conservatives might subscribe."

"The Christian Jail Monopoly: The Supreme Court recently ruled on two nearly identical cases involving prisoners and religion, and reached two different conclusions. In February, SCOTUS decided it was okay to execute a Muslim prisoner in Alabama without an imam present, as the prisoner had requested. In Alabama, only Christian ministers are allowed in the death chamber, and apparently that was okay with the SCOTUS. This week, SCOTUS stopped the execution of a Buddhist prisoner in Texas until the state provides a Buddhist clergyperson to be present during the procedure. Texas provides Christian and Muslim ministers for executions, but not Buddhist ones."

David Dayen, "Chuck Schumer Neglected To Name A Democratic Commissioner For The SEC. Now It'S Open Season For Wall Street, Bank Lawyers Crow: LAST SUMMER, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer failed to name a candidate for a minority position on the Securities and Exchange Commission, and now Wall Street lawyers are celebrating a virtual amnesty that they think could last the rest of Donald Trump's term. In a remarkably candid editorial, five partners with the D.C. law firm Debevoise & Plimpton have confidently predicted that the SEC will refrain from imposing financial penalties on corporations for securities violations 'for the remainder of the current presidential term.' This benefits the large trading and securities interests that employ Debevoise for legal defense work. The editorial amounts to Debevoise informing their clients that the coast is clear. The reason for the expected decrease in enforcement has to do with a fatal delay by Schumer to name a minority commissioner and the Trump administration's unprecedented exploitation of this mistake." If this was just a mistake on his part, he should be led away to the glue factory. If it wasn't — which is believable — he should be tarred and feathered.

Wendell Potter, "Democrats on the take: New DCCC Chair is a best friend of health insurers: Here's a headline you can bet my former colleagues in the health insurance business were thrilled to see last week: 'DCCC chief: Medicare for All price tag "a little scary."' That headline topped the lead story in the March 6 edition of The Hill, a newspaper widely read by Congressional staff and lobbyists and others in the influence-peddling business in Washington."

"Nobel secretary regrets Obama peace prize: Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to US President Barack Obama in 2009 failed to achieve what the committee hoped it would, its ex-secretary has said. Geir Lundestad told the AP news agency that the committee hoped the award would strengthen Mr Obama. Instead, the decision was met with criticism in the US. Many argued he had not had any impact worthy of the award." Also, Arafat apparently enjoyed Tom & Jerry.

Brian K. Bullock at Black Agenda Report, "A True Defense of Smiley and West: Two men with track records of advocacy and activism were kicked to the curb in favor of a man with practically no history of Black advocacy. Tavis Smiley and Cornel West faced tremendous criticism from large sectors of the African American population for daring to stick to their own political principles and attempting to hold Barack Obama, the U.S. empire's first Black head of state to account to said principles, in the grand tradition of Black activists, intellectuals and media. By attempting to remain true to their own political positions, and to positions most of their critics themselves held prior to the election of Obama, the two men, one a media personality, the other an academic and activist, fell from grace in elite black circles and in the popular opinion of the black masses.

Jonathan Pie gets serious about Brexit. He's actually not wrong, and this could just as easily be applied to some other national leaders we could name not so far from home.

"Millennials Are the Most Indebted Generation. They Can Thank Joe Biden: Joe Biden is trying to appeal to younger voters as he is expected to launch his bid for the presidency. However, for years, Biden made it his mission to block student debt forgiveness, leaving many young people facing a lifetime of debt."

"Inside Biden and Warren's Yearslong Feud: On a February morning in 2005 in a hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Joe Biden confronted Elizabeth Warren over a subject they'd been feuding over for years: the country's bankruptcy laws. Biden, then a senator from Delaware, was one of the strongest backers of a bill meant to address the skyrocketing rate at which Americans were filing for bankruptcy. Warren, at the time a Harvard law professor, had been fighting to kill the same legislation for seven years. She had castigated Biden, accusing him of trying 'to sell out women' by pushing for earlier versions of the bill. Now, with the legislation nearing a vote, Biden publicly grappled with Warren face to face. Warren, Biden allowed, had made 'a very compelling and mildly demagogic argument' about why the bill would hurt people who needed to file for bankruptcy because of medical debt or credit card bills they couldn't pay. But Biden had what he called a 'philosophic question,' according to the Congressional Record's transcript of the hearing that day: Who was responsible? Were the rising number of people who filed for bankruptcy each year taking advantage of their creditors by trying to escape their debts? Or were credit card companies and other lenders taking advantage of an increasingly squeezed middle class?" It was the latter, and Biden made it even easier for them.

Matt Taibbi, "16 Years Later, How the Press That Sold the Iraq War Got Away With It; In an excerpt from his new book Hate Inc., Matt Taibbi looks back at how the media built new lies to cover their early ones.' [...] They had it backwards. Large portions of the public were skeptical from the start. Only reporters were dumb enough, or dishonest enough, to eat the bait about WMDs. Moreover, American reporters on their own volition rallied to the idea that Saddam was a Hitler-Satan whose 'exceptional' evil needed immediate extinguishing. [...] The WMD episode is remembered as a grotesque journalistic failure, one that led to disastrous war that spawned ISIS. But none of the press actors who sold the invasion seem sorry about the revolutionary new policies that error willed into being. They are specifically not regretful about helping create a continually-expanding Fortress America with bases everywhere that topples regimes left and right, with or without congressional or UN approval." Matt does note that Knight-Ridder was the one news organization that got the Iraq story right, but doesn't mention that there was a reason for this: They didn't have "access". Without the personalities whispering in their ears, they weren't fooled into thinking they had trusted sources. As I said 16 years ago, Saddam had never tested a nuclear device and had no delivery systems, as was well known. So when Tony Blair said that Saddam could hit us in 45 minutes, it was obviously ridiculous on its face. That he said it, and that the administration repeated it, was all the proof anyone ever needed that the whole case for invading Iraq was pure horse manure.

Adolph Reed in Common Dreams, "Vietnam to Venezuela: US Interventionism and the Failure of the Left: The modern U.S. empire has run roughshod over the interests and desires of foreign nations and their people for more than a century, but that history should call for pause as the bipartisan interventionist consensus gears up once again, this time in an effort to topple the legitimately elected government of Venezuela."

"The DCCC Is A Powerful Source Of Great Evil And Corruption Inside The Democratic Party [...] Two stories came out yesterday that we must get into: Ally Mutnick's for National Journal--House Democrats Move to Hobble Primary Challengers-- and Akela Lacy's for The Intercept-- House Democratic Leadership Warns It Will Cut Off Any Firms Who Challenge Incumbents. [...] The DCCC's move also creates a new niche business, paradoxically, opening the door for consultants who don't want to be under the thumb of the party. 'From here on out let's refer to the DCCC for what it is, the White Male Centrist Campaign Protection Committee (WMCCPC),' said Sean McElwee of Data for Progress. 'My e-mail is seanadrianmc@gmail.com. Any challenger looking for firms to work with them can feel free to reach out. There are plenty.'

"Elizabeth Warren Wants the Government to Make Prescription Drugs You Can Afford [...] On Tuesday, Massachusetts senator and likely 2020 presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren introduced a bill that would create a new office within the Department of Health and Human Service to manufacture generic drugs at lower costs. This is another way of saying she is trying to design a public drug manufacturer. 'HHS would manufacture or contract for the manufacture of generic drugs in cases in which no company is manufacturing a drug, when only one or two companies manufacture a drug and its price has spiked, when the drug is in shortage, or when a medicine listed as essential by the World Health Organization faces limited competition and high prices,' Warren explained in Washington Post op-ed touting the release of the bill. As David Dayen reports at The Intercept, the bill is seen as a complementary effort to legislation introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ro Khanna last month, which would crack down on 'excessively priced' drugs by removing the drug manufacturer's patent protections and allowing competitors to manufacture generic versions. But because the generic market itself is broken and pushes up prices — 40 percent of generic drugs are made by a single company — Warren's plan would step in by having the government make generic drugs and sell them at a 'fair price.'"

I can't believe they're still whining about Bernie's taxes. No one ever cared about Bernie's taxes because his income is mostly public record and he's one of the poorest guys in Congress. In 2008, Hillary Clinton was still refusing to release her taxes until she was the nominee, and the only reason people were asking about them is that they wanted to see her taxes because she'd gotten so rich from capitalizing on her time in government. Bernie doesn't have that kind of history. In 2015 the question came up not because anyone cared about Sanders' taxes, but because he'd called for Clinton to release her speeches and she clearly didn't want to, so, knowing that Trump would not release his taxes, she said she'd release her speeches when everyone in the race released their taxes. It was clearly intended as a way to dodge accountability for herself, not because anyone, anywhere, thought there'd be anything interesting in Senator Sanders' taxes.

"White Nationalism's Deep American Roots: A long-overdue excavation of the book that Hitler called his 'bible,' and the man who wrote it [...] The concept of 'white genocide' — extinction under an onslaught of genetically or culturally inferior nonwhite interlopers — may indeed seem like a fringe conspiracy theory with an alien lineage, the province of neo-Nazis and their fellow travelers. In popular memory, it's a vestige of a racist ideology that the Greatest Generation did its best to scour from the Earth. History, though, tells a different story. King's recent question, posed in a New York Times interview, may be appalling: 'White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?' But it is apt. 'That language' has an American past in need of excavation. Without such an effort, we may fail to appreciate the tenacity of the dogma it expresses, and the difficulty of eradicating it. The president's rhetoric about 'shithole countries' and 'invasion' by immigrants invites dismissal as crude talk, but behind it lie ideas whose power should not be underestimated. [...] And to say that most people in employer-sponsored plans are happy with their coverage ignores this growing problem: because insurers and employers are shifting more of the cost of care to their workers every year in the form of higher deductibles, millions more of us are winding up in the ranks of the under-insured. They have coverage but many can't use it because of what they have to pay out of our own pockets before that coverage kicks in. The Commonwealth Fund just last week released a study that showed that 28 percent of people in employer-sponsored plans are now under-insured."

I try not to link to Robert Reich much, but this is right: "Democrats once represented the working class. Not any more: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama helped shift power away from the people towards corporations. It was this that created an opening for Donald Trump."

I don't pay enough attention to Alterman these days to know if and when he completely lost his mind, but anyone who can write, "Sanders turned so negative toward Clinton that it hurt her in the general election," either has serious emotional problems or has let that money from CAP really turn his head. Sanders was "so negative" against her that he almost actually campaigned against her, but anyone who's seen a primary campaign before should have been disappointed by the lack of Clinton blood in the water. (Unless you count her self-inflicted wounds.) Further, he says, "Even though he campaigned for her after he lost the nomination, roughly 12 percent of Sanders's supporters switched to Trump, and enough of the rest supported Jill Stein's kamikaze candidacy that it helped tip key states to Trump." Alterman apparently believes that in other primaries, fewer than 12% of supporters of the nominee's opponents defect - maybe even 0%! - but of course, 12% is a pretty low number.

"No fantasy, no future: Great interview with sci-fi writer Kim Stanley Robinson by @willmenaker, @jamie_elizabeth & @spaceprole."

Photos Of The Political Organization — Black Panther Party: Yuri Kochiyama, Japanese member of the Black Panther Party. In 1960, Kochiyama and her husband Bill moved to Harlem in New York City & joined the Harlem Parents Committee. She became acquainted with Malcolm X and was a member of his OAAU, following his departure from the Nation of Islam. She was present at his assassination on Feb. 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, and held him in her arms as he lay dying."

I saw this too late to include in the mention of Hal Blaine's death last time, but Mark Evanier found a neat little video montage of some of the hits he'd played on, and man, there were a lot of them - and this is by no means all of them. There were a few I hadn't realized he'd been on, too. He wasn't just in my music since I was a kid, he was in my mom's music, too.

"A woman in the men's room: when will the art world recognise the real artist behind Duchamp's Fountain?: Evidence suggests the famous urinal Fountain, attributed to Marcel Duchamp, was actually created by Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. Why haven't we heard of her, asks Siri Hustvedt."

"Vienna's Unpredictable Vegetable Orchestra" - playing with produce.

Little did I know that, in homage to the Beach Boys, The Flintstones featured The Fantastic Baggies (P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri) performing the awfully familiar-sounding "Surfin' Craze."

That free Joe Bonamassa album sounds pretty good.

The Everly Brothers live, "On the Wings of a Nightingale"

02:53 GMT comment


Sunday, 17 March 2019

I don't know where but she sends me there

The Bernie Sanders rally in Brooklyn was notable for many things, but Nina Turner's speech was the best playlist I've seen in years and had me raising my hands at my desk. Wow, love that woman! Shaun King did a nice job of filling out Bernie's background, too. (MSNBC lied about Bernie's speech, of course, in that "Oh, he didn't talk enough about racism and sexism" way we've come to expect from establishment partisans.)

Freshman Congresswoman Katie Porter gets Equifax CEO to admit that releasing private data causes harm. Not only does this embarrass him, but it can now be used by litigants in the case against Equifax.

I haven't seen anyone much talking about it, but this is a big deal. Charlie Pierce, "The Supreme Court Just Stopped Local Sheriffs From Carjacking to Pay the Bills. And it was a unanimous ruling. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court unanimously decided the case of Timbs v. Indiana. The decision was an auspicious one, and it was auspicious for two reasons. The first was that the decision was written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg so, yes, she's back, sports fans. The second is that it was a harpoon sunk deeply into the scam that is the civil forfeiture procedure."

Scott Lemieux, "Police abused civil forfeiture laws for so long that the Supreme Court stepped in. But one ruling won't end it. Arbitrary state actions are exactly what the courts should be checking, and the Timbs decision provides a way to challenge many such abuses. [...] On Tuesday, in its unanimous ruling in Timbs v. Indiana, the court for the first time held that the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on 'excessive fines' also applies to state and local governments. And, even more importantly, the court rejected Indiana's argument that, even if the excessive fines clause applies to the state, it does not apply to the civil forfeiture of the assets of criminals (or suspected criminals.) In her relatively brief opinion for the Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rejected the conclusion of the Indiana Supreme Court that the civil forfeiture was lawful. Ginsburg — speaking for eight of the court's nine members — held that, like the vast majority of the Bill of Rights, the excessive fines clause is a fundamental right that applies to the states under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment. And, since the court had already held in a 1993 federal case that civil forfeitures that are even partly punitive are governed by the excessive fines clause, applying the clause to the states made the case easy."

"W.V. teachers' rapid strike victory shows why progressives must join fight against privatization: West Virginia's most recent statewide teacher walkout came and went so quickly there was too little time and attention to comprehend and appreciate the impact the teachers' actions will likely have long-term on changing the narrative of the teacher movement and how politically progressive advocates and candidates relate to it. In the very first day of the strike, teachers squelched new state legislation they objected to and then held out an additional day to ensure it would die. The day after schools reopened, the teachers got what they wanted — a 'clean' bill increasing teacher pay five percent.But, unlike their largely successful labor action from last year, this time the teachers weren't making pocketbook issues the focal points of their demands. Instead, it was all about stopping school privatization through charter schools and a new voucher program. The point of the strike was to oppose a Senate bill that included bringing charters and a voucher program to the state even though the measure included the pay raise teachers wanted. Teachers accompanied their protests in the capitol building with chants of 'Hey-hey, ho-ho, charter schools have got to go.'"

Jeez, Lee Camp covers a lot of stuff, much of which I didn't see highlighted anywhere else. This week's 1-minute rundown has things no one on else on social media even mentioned. Also, Venezuelans have food and toothpaste, thanks.

TMBS - 79 - Venezuela, Haiti, and the New Imperialism ft. France Francois

"Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez chew out House Dems who vote with the GOP in tense closed-door meeting: report: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tore into fellow Democrats for voting with the GOP on procedural votes during an emotional closed-door session Thursday. Politico reported that Pelosi warned moderate members of the caucus that they could lose financial support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee if they kept voting with the opposite side of the aisle." And AOC said she'll be watching their votes and making sure voters knew what they did.

Ryan Grim, "The Special Interests Behind Rep. Pramila Jayapal's Medicare For All Bill Are Not The Usual Suspects: THE MEDICARE FOR ALL legislation unveiled Wednesday by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington state, was written with the help of a broad swath of lobbyists and special interest groups, if perhaps not the kind associated with typical health policy legislation on Capitol Hill. The key outside groups involved in the drafting included nurses, doctors, disability rights activists, and advocates for the elderly, as well as public interest organizations such as Public Citizen and the Center for Popular Democracy. The result is legislation that, within one year of its passage, would provide improved Medicare coverage for everyone 19 and under, as well as everyone 55 and over. Within two years, it would cover everyone between the ages of 19 and 55, as well." (Later: The Sanders/Jayapal proposal just got more inclusive.)

"Michael Hudson: The Shape of the Venezuelan Economy, from Chavez to Maduro and Beyond: Venezuela was an oil monoculture. Its export revenue was spent largely on importing food and other necessities that it could have produced at home. Its trade was largely with the United States. So despite its oil wealth, it ran up foreign debt. From the outset, U.S. oil companies have feared that Venezuela might someday use its oil revenues to benefit its overall population instead of letting the U.S. oil industry and its local comprador aristocracy siphon off its wealth. So the oil industry — backed by U.S. diplomacy — held Venezuela hostage in two ways. First of all, oil refineries were not built in Venezuela, but in Trinidad and in the southern U.S. Gulf Coast states. This enabled U.S. oil companies — or the U.S. Government — to leave Venezuela without a means of 'going it alone' and pursuing an independent policy with its oil, as it needed to have this oil refined. It doesn't help to have oil reserves if you are unable to get this oil refined so as to be usable. Second, Venezuela's central bankers were persuaded to pledge their oil reserves and all assets of the state oil sector (including Citgo) as collateral for its foreign debt. This meant that if Venezuela defaulted (or was forced into default by U.S. banks refusing to make timely payment on its foreign debt), bondholders and U.S. oil majors would be in a legal position to take possession of Venezuelan oil assets. These pro-U.S. policies made Venezuela a typically polarized Latin American oligarchy. Despite being nominally rich in oil revenue, its wealth was concentrated in the hands of a pro-U.S. oligarchy that let its domestic development be steered by the World Bank and IMF. The indigenous population, especially its rural racial minority as well as the urban underclass, was excluded from sharing in the country's oil wealth. The oligarchy's arrogant refusal to share the wealth, or even to make Venezuela self-sufficient in essentials, made the election of Hugo Chavez a natural outcome."

"Billionaire dies during Paris penis enlargement operation: Billionaire diamond trader Ehud Arye Laniad's pursuit of a plentiful penis has ended in his death. The 65-year-old big wheel died of a heart attack at a private Paris hospital where he was undergoing a penis enlargement procedure."

Michael Brooks started his show Tuesday with clips of Joe Biden making a series of claims about criminals that were not true but sure helped him get that horrible crime bill passed.

"No Joe! Joe Biden's disastrous legislative legacy" — Joe liked to reach across the aisle to Strom Thurmond, among others, and tie his name to other horrible GOP ideas. "Despite pleas from the ­NAACP and the ­ACLU, the 1990s brought no relief from Biden's crime crusade. He vied with the first Bush Administration to introduce ever more draconian laws, including one proposing to expand the number of offenses for which the death penalty would be permitted to fifty-one. Bill Clinton quickly became a reliable ally upon his 1992 election, and Biden encouraged him to 'maintain crime as a Democratic initiative' with suitably tough legislation. The ensuing 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, passed with enthusiastic administration pressure, would consign millions of black Americans to a life behind bars."

Reparations have entered the 2020 presidential race. It's a serious question that no one has really come up with a solid answer for. I don't just mean the candidates, most of whom have never supported it at all, but the pro-reparations activists who've struggled with it for decades. Briahna Gray says, "Bernie Sanders Asks the Right Question on Reparations: What Does It Mean?" Ryan Cooper says, "Democrats aren't serious about reparations." To me, Sanders' policies are reparations for everyone who's been screwed by the aristocrats, and build new structures that will help women and minorities — and most everyone else — and make much more sense to talk about. When most people are hanging on by their fingertips, it's bad politics to spend much time talking about programs that only help black people. And besides, Sander's policies are right in line with the NAACP's.

"ACLU sues Texas schools, AG over Israel boycott law: The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Ken Paxton, two universities and two school districts Tuesday, claiming a 2017 state law that requires contractors to sign a pledge against boycotting Israel violates the Constitution by forcing workers to choose between their livelihoods and beliefs." Also, "Want a Contract with A&M? Be Ready to Sign a Pro-Israel Loyalty Oath."

David Dayen in The New Republic, "Ilhan Omar's Victory for Political Sanity: The freshman congresswoman was right: The pro-Israel lobby uses financial muscle to influence Congress. That shouldn't be a controversial statement. Would House Democrats censure one of their own for daring to suggest that the deep-pocketed fossil fuel lobby buys influence in Congress? What about a member who said the same about Big Pharma? And yet, Democratic leaders on Wednesday were on the cusp of implicitly rebuking U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar for criticizing the pro-Israel lobby's power. 'I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,' she said a recent event. This was destined to be another example of the impossibility in Washington of deviating from unflinching support of Israel's policies. But then something remarkable happened. The Democrats' resolution against anti-Semitism was tabled after an outcry from members who felt Omar, a Muslim woman of color, was being singled out and that the party should condemn the full spectrum of religious bigotry, including the Islamophobia practiced by President Trump. A powerful lobby tried to suppress criticism of its work, and rank-and-file Democrats spoke their minds."

"This Is How AIPAC Really Works: An AIPAC and Capitol Hill veteran explains the lobby's tactics of reward and retribution. One thing that should be said about Representative Ilhan Omar's tweet about the power of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (more commonly known as AIPAC, or the 'Israel lobby') is that the hysterical reaction to it proved her main point: The power of AIPAC over members of Congress is literally awesome, although not in a good way. Has anyone ever seen so many members of Congress, of both parties, running to the microphones and sending out press releases to denounce one first-termer for criticizing the power of... a lobby?"

"Florida's anti-Semitism bill would go even further in blocking free speech: A Florida 'hate crime' bill with an expanded, Israel-centric definition of anti-Semitism and no mention of other religions, is working its way through House committees. The bill would criminalize criticisms of Israel."

"Joe Biden's Biggest 2020 Problem Is Joe Biden: Despite cultivating a populist image, the former vice president has spent his career championing policies favored by Republicans and the corporate elite. Biden has spent his entire career fighting for the Big Guy against the Little Guy. "Biden was a steadfast supporter of an economic agenda that caused economic inequality to skyrocket during the Clinton years. While the poor and middle class made modest gains as a percentage of their income, a pay increase of 2.5 percent wasn't terribly meaningful for people who didn't make much money to begin with. The fortunes of the rich, by contrast, swelled as Clinton cut taxes on capital gains from real estate and financial investments. While Clinton's 1993 budget raised the top income tax rate from 36 percent to 39.6 percent, the economic gains from his 1997 tax cut were heavily concentrated among the rich. As a result, the top 1 percent's share of the national income grew dramatically. Biden voted for all of it. At the same time, landmark banking deregulation further concentrated the nation's wealth in the hands of a few big players. Biden voted for the Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking Act, which allowed banks to expand across state lines. He voted to repeal Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era law that barred traditional commercial banks from engaging in risky, high-flying securities trades. These laws encouraged Wall Street mega-mergers that created too big to fail and too big to manage behemoths like Citigroup and Wells Fargo. He voted to bar federal or state supervision of credit default swaps, which later became become 'financial weapons of mass destruction' during the 2008 financial crisis. [...] Biden also spent roughly a decade pursuing an overhaul of American bankruptcy law to discourage debt-strapped households from discharging their financial obligations in court. As then-academic Elizabeth Warren warned at the time, Biden's bankruptcy law boosted revenues for credit card companies at the expense of families struggling with job losses and medical bills. Unlike the Clinton-era deregulation, the bankruptcy bill was unpopular with Senate Democrats, who voted against it 31 to 14." And of course, he eagerly went to bat for Obama's Grand Bargain to cut Social Security in exchange for a trivial tax-raise on the rich.

An associate says this about Biden: "And voting for every piece of anti choice legislation he could vote for. He said when Roe was decided that women shouldn't have the right to control their bodies that way. He voted for the Hyde Amendment in 1977 without a rape or incest exception. Hyde has grown to basically deny abortion from insurance companies all over the country. He twice voted for a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe. The Hatch amendment of 82 and 83. He voted for every version of the so called partial birth abortion ban until George W Bush signed it. When Clinton refused to sign the 1993 budget unless rape and incest were included in the Hyde Amendment, which Clinton refused to put in all his budgets by the way, Joe didn't attempt to redeem himself..he voted to have no rape or incest exception. There are proactive, prochoice bills that who the hell knows what this dinosaur would do...Like the The Each Woman Act..to repeal Hyde and prohibit bans on insurance coverage for abortion"

Some interesting words on Biden here, too: The Michael Hudson Interview: Bronze Age Redux - On Debt, Clean Slates And What The Ancients Have To Teach Us [...] When you privatize not only education, but also student loans, that is what has led to the student loan crisis. It was completely unnecessary. But Joe Biden, as senator for the credit card companies centered in Delaware, pushed it through, saying, 'We've got to make education a profit center for the banks. Our purpose is not to educate the population, it's to create a situation where in order to get a job, in order to get a union card, they have to go into a lifetime of debt to the banks that cannot be wiped out by bankruptcy.' That's the Democratic Party policy. And it's what's tearing the country apart." He's got an interesting take on the Biblical support for cancellation of debts, too. "You had a continuation of the original Christianity in the Greek Orthodox Church, or the Orthodox Church, all the way through Byzantium. And in my book And Forgive Them Their Debts, the last two chapters are on the Byzantine echo of the original debt cancellations, where one ruler after another would cancel the debts. And they gave very explicit reason for it: if we don't cancel the debts, we're not going to be able to field an army, we're not going to be able to collect taxes, because the oligarchy is going to take over. They were very explicit, with references to the Bible, references to the jubilee year. So you had Christianity survive in the Byzantine Empire. But in the West it ended in Margaret Thatcher. And Father Coughlin."

"Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez And The New Left: THE INTERCEPT'S Senior Politics Editor Briahna Gray spoke with New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at SXSW about identity, race, and class, and how these debates are likely to play out in the years ahead."

As always, the most honest appraisal of Beto O'Rourke's announcement that he's throwing his hat into the ring comes from...The Onion. Because if there's anything we need right now, it's empty platitudes from some white guy who doesn't remember why Democrats aren't that friendly with GOP ideas.

"Bernie Sanders Is Beating Kamala Harris 2-1 Among Black Democratic Primary Voters, New Poll Finds: THREE WEEKS AFTER launching his presidential campaign, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is leading all other announced candidates in support from black voters, a new poll finds. The only potential candidate who polled better with African-Americans than Sanders, according to the poll by Morning Consult, is former Vice President Joe Biden, who has not announced a campaign. Despite a persistent notion that his supporters are disproportionately white male 'bros,' the new survey suggests that Sanders is actually slightly more popular among black Democratic voters than white ones, indicating that the narrative that developed during the 2016 campaign may no longer hold, if it ever did. Sanders's support among black voters, at 28 percent, puts him in second place among that demographic, behind Biden, at 32 percent. He trailed Biden 31-25 among whites. There appears to be a strong class element at play in the finding. The same poll found that the demographics Sanders is least popular with — at 19 and 17 percent, respectively — are Democrats who make more than $100,000 per year and Democrats who have post-graduate degrees (two qualities that typically, if not always, overlap). Because of structural wealth and income gaps, that population is heavily white. Sanders, meanwhile, receives his strongest support from those making less than $50,000 — a group that is, for the same reasons, much more diverse. The poll found that 30 percent of those with the lowest incomes backed Sanders."

RIP: "Carrie Ann Lucas Dies At Age 47, You Probably Haven't Heard Of Her And That's A Problem: Yesterday, February 24th, the disability rights advocate community lost one of its mightiest members, Carrie Ann Lucas. Lucas was a nationally known disability rights attorney and a mother of four children, each of whom are adopted and living with disabilities. She was only 47 years old. Her death was announced by family and friends on her Facebook page: '[Lucas] died after an arbitrary denial from an insurance company caused a plethora of health problems, exacerbating her disabilities and eventually leading to her premature death.'"

RIP: "Hal Blaine, Wrecking Crew Drummer, Is Dead at 90: He played drums on at least 40 singles that reached No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart," And you know all of them. He actually replaced Dennis Wilson in the recording studio, among many other things. And there are some things that just don't happen with a drum machine. I miss that.

Anti-Bernie Twitter likes to rag about how no one who Bernie endorses or who endorses Bernie ever wins an election. This taunt would be meaningless even if it were true since so many of them are challengers running against incumbents, but when you really look at the record, it's amazing how many actually win.

"The anti-Bernie Sanders campaign being pushed by former Clinton staffers, explained: Former Hillary Clinton aides really want Bernie Sanders to get the Clinton treatment." It's pretty simple: They're bitter. And they want 2020 to be bitter as well.

The Boston Herald says, "Democrats ignore Bernie Sanders at their own risk."

And, interestingly, National Review says, "Don't Laugh, Bernie Can Win: He can talk to working-class voters without the usual Democratic condescension. [...] Some have said that Sanders overperformed in the 2016 Democratic primary because Hillary Clinton is a uniquely bad candidate. (Well, Rich Lowry has said that.) Sanders would fade under closer scrutiny. If it seems like he's a real contender to grab the nomination, people will research the weird things he said in the 1970s and 1980s. Or they'll get more accustomed to his personal quirks and affect. And then he'll fade. A gap between the austerity of his democratic-socialist politics and his relatively comfortable personal lifestyle will overwhelm him. My response: Where have you been the last four years? Polished candidates are out. Candid candidates are in. Voters can and will forgive their politicians almost any verbal lapses, so long as they believe the candidate doesn't hate them. Sanders has the manners not to talk about huge swathes of the American public with disdain or contempt. We know he won't repeat Mitt Romney's 'takers' moment. But, crucially, while Sanders will denounce racism and divisiveness, he won't imply that Trump's supporters are economically useless 'deplorables.' Bernie is not 'intersectional' — at least, not in the alienating way. His declared enemies are the millionaires and billionaires who buy up public policy. He will not be tempted, as some other candidates may be, to mimic or adopt the young-lefty-media views on intersectionality that remain avant-garde and alienating to key swing constituencies. [...] Sanders's version of left-wing politics will ring out as almost nostalgic and comforting to voters lower on the socioeconomic scale. In fact, he may have more crossover appeal. The possibility of 'Obama-Trump-Sanders' voters flipping Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania is a real one. If the age of Clinton has officially ended in the Democratic party, Sanders offers the party a pre-Clintonite identity. His ambitions are to expand on the New Deal and the Fair Deal, to overcome the resistance that national health care met in the famous do-nothing Congress. [...] Finally, and this is an important point: One of Sanders's greatest advantages is his stubbornness. Sometime in the 1990s, Americans got used to the idea that politics is entirely phony. It's all 'spin.' All candidates 'pivot.' Donald Trump has a very unfaithful relationship with the truth. At the same time, Trump's character is transparent. People knew what kind of man Trump really was when they voted for him. Sanders's lifelong adherence to social-democratic politics, his willingness to sit on the margins because of his fidelity to that vision, is his greatest asset. The whole world has grown soft and inconstant. Sanders is a rebuke to that. Republicans and conservatives need to take him very seriously."

Guiliann Di Lauro Valez, "I Was Sexually Harassed on Bernie Sanders's 2016 Campaign. I Will Not Be Weaponized or Dismissed: LAST WEEK, MY experience, and that of some of my female co-workers, became the focus of a New York Times story on the sexual harassment and sexism that took place in the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign. I told my story to bring attention to the sexist environment that is unfortunately endemic to most workspaces, including political campaigns. However, I was disheartened to discover that the takeaway by many pundits was not that sexism and harassment is pervasive, but that Sanders was somehow uniquely culpable. I was also struck by some of the messages and tweets calling into question the character of the women who spoke out. As was the case throughout the 2016 campaign season, my personal experiences as a woman of color were sublimated to serve an establishment media narrative that pretends the progressive movement is all white, all male, and runs counter to the interests of women and people of color. But my story should not be taken to confirm the 'Bernie bro' mythology. It should be taken to confirm the pervasiveness of sexism in professional life and distill the hard truths that all campaigns should learn from."

Neoliberal epiphany: "A Clinton-era centrist Democrat explains why it's time to give democratic socialists a chance." Yes, Brad DeLong has (sort of) seen the light. He's still essentially a neoliberal, but he seems to have discovered that it's pointless to push it at the moment. "We were certainly wrong, 100 percent, on the politics. Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney's health care policy, with John McCain's climate policy, with Bill Clinton's tax policy, and George H.W. Bush's foreign policy. He's all these things not because the technocrats in his administration think they're the best possible policies, but because [White House adviser] David Axelrod and company say they poll well. And [Chief of Staff] Rahm Emanuel and company say we've got to build bridges to the Republicans. We've got to let Republicans amend cap and trade up the wazoo, we've got to let Republicans amend the [Affordable Care Act] up the wazoo before it comes up to a final vote, we've got to tread very lightly with finance on Dodd-Frank, we have to do a very premature pivot away from recession recovery to 'entitlement reform.' All of these with the idea that you would then collect a broad political coalition behind what is, indeed, Mitt Romney's health care policy and John McCain's climate policy and George H.W. Bush's foreign policy. And did George H.W. Bush, did Mitt Romney, did John McCain say a single good word about anything Barack Obama ever did over the course of eight solid years? No, they fucking did not. [...] I'd say we learned more about the world. I could be confident in 2005 that [recession] stabilization should be the responsibility of the Federal Reserve. That you look at something like laser-eye surgery or rapid technological progress in hearing aids, you can kind of think that keeping a market in the most innovative parts of health care would be a good thing. So something like an insurance-plus-exchange system would be a good thing to have in America as a whole. It's much harder to believe in those things now. That's one part of it. The world appears to be more like what lefties thought it was than what I thought it was for the last 10 or 15 years." You're halfway there, Brad.

Too many good quotes in this one from Nathan Robinson in Current Affairs about "The Obama Boys", working in the White House having an empty West Wing-y fantasy life around a man who everyone said was a great progressive speaker though he was deeply regressive and no one can really remember any inspiring quotations from him. Why? It was straight boys in love, but there was nothing there. They just loved him. "Indeed, Litt comes away from an Obama event and says 'yet here's the remarkable thing: I don't remember a word.' He felt 'a kind of patriotic ecstasy' but he doesn't actually seem to have been inspired by the idea of actually doing anything with the power of government. Indeed, Pfeiffer's memoir says that while conventional wisdom in politics is that you should talk about 'issues and policy positions' for Obama 'the campaign was the message.' Paraphrasing Jay-Z ('I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man') the Obama staff concludes that Obama is not a 'message man,' he's the 'message, man.' Pfeiffer says he had 'desperately wanted' something in his life that felt 'more like a cause than a campaign,' and in Obama he found it. But the 'hope and change' they sought consisted of getting Obama elected. Obama 'made our union more perfect simply by entering the White House,' Litt says. After that, it was all a bit 'gauzy but vague' (Pfeiffer's words). No wonder, then, that after being elected Obama disbanded his grassroots organizing apparatus — an act regarded by some as one of the worst political mistakes of his presidency. There was nothing to organize for."

And another billionaire chimes in, "Hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio: 'Capitalism basically is not working for the majority of people'."

"America is not "polarized": it's a land where a small minority tyrannize the supermajority: Writing in the New York Times, Tim Wu (previously) describes the state of American politics after decades of manipulation dirty tricks and voter suppression, where policies with extremely high levels of public approval like higher taxes on the super-rich (75%), paid maternity leave (67%), net neutrality (83%), parallel importation of pharmaceuticals from Canada (71%) and empowering Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices (92%) are nevertheless considered politically impossible. Of course the thing that all these policies have in common is that they would make life vastly better for nearly all of us, while making the super-rich a very little worse off. As Wu points out, this is not a picture of a "heavily polarized" nation, as the pundits would have it. These policies are wildly popular and are outside of the political mainstream because a minority have figured out how to suppress the will of the supermajority."

I've always felt that someone called "Donna Shalala" should have an honorable job singing "Baby, It's You" with the Shirelles rather than spouting anti-Venezuela propaganda.

Stephon Clark speaks truth to power at the Sacramento City Council and doesn't pull any punches.

"Is the Skills Gap Real? Changes in Employer Skill Requirements During the Great Recession: Since the Great Recession, employers have cited a skills gap in which workers lack the education and experience needed to fill vacant jobs. In response, federal and state policymakers have called for increased efforts for training and retraining of workers to alleviate this mismatch in the labor market. While job requirements increased for many openings during the recession, the inverse has happened as the labor market has recovered: some employers have been lowering education and experience requirements to fill open positions. Does a skills gap exist and if so, what should public policy do about it?"

Tom the Dancing Bug, They Were... SOCIALIST INVADERS FROM THE FUTURE!

There's an English children's classic called Swallows and Amazons which I never heard of until I saw this article, which instantly made me think I should show it to my parents until I remembered I couldn't. "Swallows and Armenians: Arthur Ransome's forgotten inspirations revealed : A new art project is exploring how the characters in the English children's classic were modelled on a family from Aleppo."

Gorgeous food carving by Daniele Barresi.

Ridley Scott's Hennessy ad looks like a science fiction film you'd like to see.

A whole album of Hal Blaine drumming: Pet Sounds.

03:25 GMT comment


Tuesday, 26 February 2019

A better world is needed

I have had the kind of cold that definitely isn't the worst I've ever had but man is it making me drowsy. I should be all excited but it's hard to concentrate.

He's in: "Bernie Sanders announces 2020 run: 'We're gonna win'." I particularly liked the part where he responded to being asked about Howard Schultz. He was also interviewed by none other than Thom Hartmann, who didn't ask the dumb questions.

"Leahy endorses Sanders for president: Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Tuesday endorsed his colleague Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for president, hours after Sanders announced his candidacy." Leahy endorsed Clinton last time, but he doesn't have to anymore.

I occasionally muse on the fact that we used to meet up in churches, but so few of us seem to go to church anymore and I wonder what could replace it. Alice Marshall on The politics of laundromats: Where can you reach the working class? Well, lots of places, but laundromats are an under exploited opportunity. This year, 2019, is a year of local elections. The state legislatures in Virginia and New Jersey are up for election as are many city and county governments. Local candidates have a difficult time getting their name out, especially if they are challengers. So anything you can do to raise your candidate's visibility will be of great value. Which brings us to laundromats. We stand in front of libraries and grocery stores handing out literature, but not laundromats, why not?"

Timothy Faust with "The Only Guide to 'Medicare for All' That You Will Ever Need. [...] In the coming weeks, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) is set to release a new 'Medicare for All' bill. I'm generally inclined to distrust the policy gestures of elected officials, but I've read a detailed overview of the bill from Jayapal's office and I'm happy to say that this bill is astonishingly strong, and should become the baseline for federal legislation toward single-payer healthcare. (I'll discuss why in a minute.)" Tim writes a lot about what must be included in the bills. He says all but two are write-offs. The two, of course, are Sanders' and Jayapal's - but even they have problems, It's worth reading the whole thing. But no bill, including Jayapal's, is enough. No bill, on its own, could be enough. For the past hundred years, every time the insiders — the well-meaning senators, the well-meaning policy writers, the well-meaning union or nonprofit leaders — have taken on the insurance industry, they've written a bill and waved it around and tried to gin up support among the grassroots. And then they were beaten by a reactionary establishment that is capable of outmaneuvering, outfoxing, and outgunning health reform. They lost in the '40s, they lost in the '60s, they lost in the '70s, they lost a few times in the '90s, and they lost in the 2000s." This isn't something the wonks can handle. It depends on the grassroots screaming for it. So be ready to scream.

"One click and you're out: UK makes it an offence to view terrorist propaganda even once: It will be an offence to view terrorist material online just once — and could incur a prison sentence of up to 15 years — under new UK laws. The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill was granted Royal Assent yesterday, updating a previous Act and bringing new powers to law enforcement to tackle terrorism. But a controversial inclusion was to update the offence of obtaining information "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism" so that it now covers viewing or streaming content online. The rules as passed into law are also a tightening of proposals that had already been criticised by human rights groups and the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Max Hill. Originally, the proposal had been to make it an offence for someone to view material three or more times — but the three strikes idea has been dropped from the final Act."

Here's Digby and Sam Seder talking about how The Inquirer tried to blackmail Jeff Bezos over some dick pics they got their hands on and he outed them with an open letter. And neither one of them even bothered to wonder what would happen if the owner of The Washington Post went the criminal route against another newspaper for a friggin' felony, ffs, because that's become the sort of thing that is just a side issue in the general scheme of things.

Why Amy Klobuchar is not going on my shortlist. Imagine thinking this is going to get people to vote for you.

"Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer are going after corporate stock buybacks: A large chunk of Republican tax cuts were funneled into companies boosting their own stocks. The pair of senators want corporations to benefit workers instead."

The Myth of Capitalism: Monopolies & the Death of Competition w/ Jonathan Tepper - MR Live - 2/12/19

"Corporate Democrats Aren't Winning Any Swing Voters." Nothing you don't know, but a nice new chart.

Tom Perez says they will have lots of primary debates with two-night panels (randomly-selected) so they don't have too many people in each debate.

And now, several paragraphs from Atrios: "ACA Was A Failure: No, really, a total failure. Yes there were some good regulatory changes. Yes the exchanges make it possible for some people to buy on the individual market (though that insurance is mostly...not good). Yes the Medicaid expansion was great. But the important thing to remember about the Medicaid expansion was that it was a last minute *fix* to keep the price tag down. Think about that. It was cheaper to provide free health care for more people than to throw them onto the subsidized exchanges at subsidy levels that they could possibly afford. If they'd taken it up to 500% of FPL and 600% of FPL it would have been even cheaper! And that became a political problem, because your poor neighbor has free health care and you have to pay for a bronze plan which sucks." (There's more.)

"Common Myths About Porn, Debunked by a Porn Performer On set, the cast and crew are really nice and attentive. But of course, I have to caveat that there can be consent violations on set, like there can be anywhere. It's difficult to exist in the world and not have people be shit occasionally. But in general people are very caring, and they want you to be okay because you don't want someone to leave the set and be upset with you. At the bare bones, that's bad business."

There's a lot of good stuff on this episode of The Michael Brooks Show: TMBS - 76 - Votes Not Cops & Kamala Harris Is Not Your Friend ft. Briahna Joy Gray & Jeffrey Halper. The discussion of Harris is good, but Halper's experience in Israel is a different take than you normally see in the media.

I wonder what message Roger Stone was trying to send by dressing up in a top hat. @spooksperson had a lot of fun with it in this thread, and thank you, Mr. Atrios, for calling it to my attention.

Great tweetstorm by Matt Stoller: "1. Ok, let's talk quickly about Amazon and what I'll call the gangster-ification of American business. In the 1980s, mobsters dominated the gas station business in NY and NJ by not paying taxes their competitors had to. 2. Jeff Bezos built Amazon explicitly around a loophole in the tax code created by the Supreme Court in 1992 that allowed him to skip out on paying sales taxes. It's why he located in Seattle. The tactic was legal, but not technologically driven. Or fair. 3. There is a big difference between legitimate commerce, and coercive tactics masquerading as commerce. We have a long tradition of distinguishing between the two, centered around our antitrust laws but extending outward throughout the administrative state and localities. 4. Hundreds of years of this tradition embedded a basic understanding that crime/monopolization and commerce are different. Crime when it becomes dominant in a culture creates aristocracy/authoritarianism. One way to see the American Revolution was a revolt against monopoly." Read all 19 tweets in the thread.

They are so used to being contemptuous toward progressives that they can't even do better than this: "'Everyone. Needs. To. Watch...' Democrat Dianne Feinstein Explain to Children Why She Won't Back Green New Deal."

"Firefighters respond to cow with chair on its head"

The only thing I know about Andrew Yang is in this interview, which is actually pretty interesting but I don't think he's going anywhere. One reason is that his approach to education is, well, he's not interested in actual education.

RIP: Carol Emshwiller 1921-2019. Reports John-Henri Holmberg: "I must, with great regret, tell those of you who haven't so far heard it that Carol Emshwiller died on February 2. Born April 12, 1921, wife of painter and film maker Ed Emshwiller, an author who Ursula Le Guin called 'a major fabulist, a marvellous magical realist, one of the strongest, most complex, most consistently feminist voices in fiction'. Author of unforgettable stories, beginning with 'Built for Pleasure' in 1954 and, sadly, ending with 'All I Know of Freedom', 2012. In between were masterpieces like 'Sex and/or Mr Morrison', 'The Start of the End of the World', 'I Live With You', and so many others. Read her collections: Joy in Our Cause, Verging on the Pertinent, The Start of the End of It All, Report to the Men's Club, I Live With You, In the Time of War, Master on the Road to Nowhere. Read her novels: Carmen Dog, Ledoyt, Leaping Man Hill, The Mount, Mister Boots, The Secret City. Or get hold of the two volume The Collected Stories of Carol Emshwiller, in my view one of the finest story collections published. Read Luis Ortiz' combined book about Carol and Ed Emshwiller: Emshwiller: Infinity x Two, published in 2007. But above all, read Carol's stories, and remember her as one of the great fantasists, one of the most gracious of persons, one of those few who live up to our potential as humans."

RIP: "Peter Tork, bassist for the Monkees, dies aged 77: Accomplished folk musician and teen star helped move the guitar-pop band beyond their manufactured image." Here's the first song on one of their albums that he sang lead on, "Your Auntie Grizelda", which I admit is not one of my favorite Monkees tunes. Rolling Stone remembers him as the funniest Monkee.

A nice refresher course from Sam Seder, "The Mismeasure of Minds: Debating Race & Intelligence w/ Michael Staub - MR Live - 2/18/19

H. Bruce Franklin (Rutgers), "The American Prison in the Culture Wars: The following talk was delivered at the 2000 Modern Language Association Convention in Washington, DC, on the panel, 'The Imprisonment of American Culture.' [...] 6. The two most menacing institutional sources of the danger described by Freeman were obviously those two great public university systems charging no tuition: the University of California and the City University of New York. Governor Reagan was able to wipe out free tuition at the University of California in 1970, leaving CUNY as the lone threat. The vital task of crippling CUNY was to go on for six more years, outlasting Nixon and falling to his appointed successor, Gerald Ford.7 In 1975, President Ford announced that he would withhold federal aid from New York City, then in a financial crisis, until it eliminated open admissions and free tuition at CUNY. To be financially responsible, Ford declared, New York must no longer be a city that "operates one of the largest universities in the world, free of tuition for any high school graduate, rich or poor, who wants to attend."8 Or, as the President's press secretary explained, New York City had become like "a wayward daughter hooked on heroin": "you don't give her $100 a day to support her habit. You make her go cold turkey to break her habit." Finally in 1976, the assault on public education succeeded in terminating the City University's 129-year policy of not charging tuition, thus wiping out the last U.S. stronghold of free public higher education. The university then fired hundreds of young faculty members hired to implement the open admissions program. [...] 8. Meanwhile, just as the state and federal governments were taking away the funds that could open up the universities, they were beginning to spend far greater sums to build alternative institutions for the poor, with exceptionally easy entrance requirements and lengthy enrollments for people of color. From 1976, the year when free higher education was eradicated, until the end of the century, on average a new prison was constructed in America every week. The prison population went from under 200,000 in 1971 to two million in 2000 as America became the prison capital of the world. The states of California and Texas now run the second and third largest prison systems in the world. By the late 1990s, many states had followed California's lead in spending more money for prisons than for higher education, and across the country far more young black men were in prison than in college.12 Not just coincidentally, the amount removed from public higher education in New York equalled the amount added to the budget for the state's prisons. Felony convictions had stripped the vote from 4.1 million American citizens.13 This proved to be decisive in determining who would soon sit in the White House, for in Florida one-third of African-American men--as many as 204,000 potential Black voters--were disenfranchised.14 The Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been effectively repealed by the criminalization of the poor, especially people of color, through the so-called war on drugs, racial profiling, unleashed police, and felony disenfranchisement. Grotesque experiments in dehumanization are being conducted in the form of 'supermax' prisons. This has been culture war with a vengeance--and with a very effective strategy."

I know I once saw a clip of Colbert looking genuinely shocked when he interviewed Austan Goolsbee and heard him claim that government doesn't create jobs. But I can't find it now, and Comedy Central won't let me see its archives or tell if this is that interview. It would be nice to have for posterity to remind people that this thoroughly right-wing position was expressed in public by a member of the Obama cabinet. [Update: CMike reminds me that it wasn't quite as I remember, but same difference.]

William Binney (former Technical Director NSA) and Larry Johnson (former State CT and CIA), "Why The DNC Was Not Hacked By The Russians [...] Taken together, these disparate data points combine to paint a picture that exonerates alleged Russian hackers and implicates persons within our law enforcement and intelligence community taking part in a campaign of misinformation, deceit and incompetence. It is not a pretty picture."

Quoted: "I can say with confidence that if Bernie gets the nomination a lot of prominent people who spent the last two years blaming Jill Stein for Trump or 18 years blaming Ralph Nader for Bush will find their 'conscience; requires them to vote for a 3rd party run by whichever neoliberal billionaire steps in." — A Friend

Rob Hansen was recently invited to an academic conference on mimeography. He reports: Immediately after my interview they showed footage of the mimeography panel at 1976's MIDAMERICON. Among those in the audience laughing heartily at Jon Singer's impression of a Gestetner was Jonathan Gestetner. The associated exhibition (now extended 'til 23rd Feb) is still going on. Here are photos taken at the launch.

Susie Bright's grandmother is a mystery, but she left all these photos.

Boing Boing has the Frozen II teaser trailer. (And while I was there I saw Chuck Jones - The Evolution of an Artist again.)

"Masqrade" is a 30-year-old mod file that sounds very different from anything I've ever heard done this way. You can download the file but I just streamed it with the "Play with Online Player" link.

I like Danny Boyle, science fiction, and The Beatles, so I was interested to see this trailer for Yesterday.

The Monkees with Peter Tork on lead vocal, "A Better World"

05:00 GMT comment


Monday, 04 February 2019

I've been looking high and low

This photo comes from a page where you can pick your favorite skyscape for a people's choice award at the Royal Museums Greenwich site. Some striking images to feast your eyes on, and one surprising single-shot, no-tricks photo of the Milky Way hanging over suburban homes.

So, he was flipping through the channels and suddenly we were captivated by this documentary on the BBC that we didn't know was on, "The Everly Brothers: Harmonies from Heaven", which brought tears to my eyes. Watch it if you can.

Fears of US-Backed 'Coup' in Motion as Trump Recognizes Venezuela Opposition Lawmaker as 'Interim President': President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela officially cut off diplomatic ties with the U.S. government on Wednesday — and gave American diplomats 72 hours to leave the country — in response to President Donald Trump declaring formal recognition of an opposition lawmaker as the 'Interim President' of Venezuela, despite not being elected by the nation's people for that position. [...] Critics of U.S. imperialism and its long history of anti-democratic manuevers in Latin American expressed immediate alarm on Wednesday after Trump's announcement. And what Trump identified as 'democracy,' critics of the move instead used Maduro's description: 'coup.'" Of course it's a coup - orchestrated from Washington on the heels of years of sanctions imposed by Barack Obama. No doubt because Venezuela has all that nice oil. Centrist hearththrob Justin Trudeau has already recognized the coup leader, Since even the "progressives" seem largely to be supporting the coup, you can be sure that most of what you're seeing in the news about this is false. Is Maduro bad? He's not great, but he's better than the alternative, which is a coup against a Democratically elected leader. Was the election rigged? We don't know, because although Maduro asked for international oversight of the elections, the same people who are staging the coup refused to let them in. When the Bush administration pulled this with Chavez, they managed to convince a lot of people that he was depriving his people of all kinds of rights that Americans don't have, either. But no one points that out. The opposition to Maduro is staging huge, violent events to try to get the government to respond, and after they've stolen some vehicles and blocked thoroughfares and set building on fire for a few hours and the authorities finally show up, then they start filming and claiming it's "government repression". The shortages of food and medical supplies? Well, yeah, those sanctions are working, what did you expect?

Why France's Yellow Vest Protests Have Been Ignored by the US 'Resistance': To the surprise of no one, mainstream pundits have stoked fears of 'Russian interference' behind the unrest. [...] It turned out that a crisis was not averted but merely postponed when Macron defeated his demagogue opponent Le Pen in the 2017 French election. While it is true that the gilets jauneswere partly impelled by an increase on fuel prices, contrary to the prevailing narrative their official demands are not limited to a carbon tax. They also consist of explicit ultimatums to increase the minimum wage, improve the standard of living, and an end to austerity, among other legitimate grievances. Since taking office, Macron has declared war on trade unions while pushing through enormous tax breaks for the wealthy (like himself) — it was just a matter of time until the French people had enough of the country's privatization.

The Political Economy Research Institute, "Economic Analysis of Medicare for All: This study by PERI researchers Robert Pollin, James Heintz, Peter Arno, Jeannette Wicks-Lim and Michael Ash presents a comprehensive analysis of the prospects for a Medicare for All health care system in the United States. The most fundamental goals of Medicare for All are to significantly improve health care outcomes for everyone living in the United States while also establishing effective cost controls throughout the health care system. These two purposes are both achievable. As of 2017, the U.S. was spending about $3.24 trillion on personal health care — about 17 percent of total U.S. GDP. Meanwhile, 9 percent of U.S. residents have no insurance and 26 percent are underinsured — they are unable to access needed care because of prohibitively high costs. Other high-income countries spend an average of about 40 percent less per person and produce better health outcomes. Medicare for All could reduce total health care spending in the U.S. by nearly 10 percent, to $2.93 trillion, while creating stable access to good care for all U.S. residents."

"Wall Street freaks out about 2020: Many of the nation's top bankers want Trump gone, but they're growing anxious about some Democratic presidential contenders." I'm betting it's not Beto or Kamala or Biden who's got them worried. "NEW YORK — Top Wall Street executives would love to be rid of President Donald Trump. But they are getting panicked about the prospect of an ultraliberal Democratic nominee bent on raising taxes and slapping regulations on their firms. The result is a kind of nervous paralysis of executives pining for a centrist nominee like Michael Bloomberg while realizing such an outcome is unlikely from a party veering sharply to the left. [...] "

This Onion headline is absolutely true: "Howard Schultz Considering Independent Presidential Run After Finding No Initial Support Among Any Voter Groups: SEATTLE — Expressing concerns that Democratic and Republican parties no longer represented people like him, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz revealed Monday that he was considering an independent presidential run after finding no initial support among any American voter groups."

"Merkley Calls for FBI Perjury Probe into Homeland Secretary Nielsen After Child Detention Memo Leaked: After releasing a damning draft memo that showed the Trump administration planned to 'traumatize' migrant children with family separations and expedite deportation by denying asylum hearings, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) on Friday called for an FBI investigation into whether Homeland Security Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen lied when she testified before Congress about the policy. In a letter sent to FBI Director Christopher Wray, the senator noted that "compelling new evidence has emerged revealing that high-level Department of Homeland Security officials were secretly and actively developing a new policy and legal framework for separating families as far back as December 2017.' 'Despite this fact,' Merkley continued, 'while testifying under oath before the House Committee on the Judiciary, Secretary Nielsen stated unequivocally "I'm not a liar, we've never had a policy for family separation."' Given the 'conflicting facts,' Merkley formally demanded an immediate investigation." It's interesting to wonder how and why the memo got released, but if you're trying to broadcast to the world that America is a bad place to go if you're not a blonde, you wouldn't want to keep it a secret, would you?

The internet ran wild with rumors that Bernie is ready to run. So here's a timely article in GQ called "The Unfinished Business of Bernie Sanders," which is actually pretty thoughtful. "Indeed, passing the torch could actually be liberating for Sanders — and not just because it would give him more time to spend with his seven grandchildren. 'I do think his DNA, where he's been over the course of his life, is he really likes agitating,' says the senior Democratic strategist. 'There's a freedom to it: the freedom of being an agitator versus the weight of being a standard-bearer. If you're a standard-bearer, you have to start making compromises.' And yet the idea of passing the torch has obvious downsides. For one thing, would any of the Bernie 2.0's — to say nothing of the more centrist candidates, like Cory Booker or Kirsten Gillibrand or Kamala Harris, who are now singing from the Bernie hymnal — be as committed to his issues as Sanders is himself? 'If Bernie's not on the debate stage, the center of gravity shifts,' says one Sanders adviser. 'How much will others stick to issues we care about if they don't feel the need to compete with us?' What's more, even if the other candidates were true believers, would they be as good at spreading the gospel as Sanders? 'No one articulates these issues in the same way as him,' says the Sanders adviser."

Rasmussen, "Voters Mixed on Harris, Don't See Her as 2020 Nominee: California Senator Kamala Harris has announced her intention to run for president, but voters aren't paying the California Democrat much heed. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 37% of Likely U.S. Voters have at least a somewhat favorable opinion of Harris, including 16% who view her Very Favorably. Forty percent (40%) view Harris unfavorably, including 27% with a Very Unfavorable opinion of the former San Francisco District Attorney. Another 24% don't know enough about Harris to offer an opinion. "

Matt Taibbi, "Has the Government Legalized Secret Defense Spending? While a noisy Supreme Court fight captivated America last fall, an obscure federal accounting body quietly approved a system of classified money-moving. October 4th, 2018, was a busy news day. The fight over Brett Kavanuagh's Supreme Court nomination dominated the cycle. The Trump White House received a supplemental FBI report it said cleared its would-be nominee of wrongdoing. Retired Justice John Paul Stevens meanwhile said Kavanaugh was compromised enough that he was 'unable to sit as a judge.' #NationalTacoDay trended on Twitter. Chris Evans told the world production wrapped on Avengers 4. The only thing that did not make the news was an announcement by a little-known government body called the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board — FASAB — that essentially legalized secret national security spending. The new guidance, 'SFFAS 56 — CLASSIFIED ACTIVITIES' permits government agencies to 'modify' public financial statements and move expenditures from one line item to another. It also expressly allows federal agencies to refrain from telling taxpayers if and when public financial statements have been altered."

I have my concerns about both Bernie's and Harris' plans to end money bail. It's absolutely necessary we do that, but I don't want to see it replaced with just another way judicial wisdom or some formula that works against the poor can be used to have the same effect - or worse.

Taibbi, "Taibbi: Forget the Memo — Can We Worry About the Banks? A classic circular kerfuffle in congress this week shifted eyes away from rare bipartisan cooperation on spying powers and bank reform. [...] Predictably, there have been more concerning stories in recent weeks having to do with Republicans and Democrats agreeing, rather than trading dumb accusations. [...] All in all, this whole period has been a classic example of how congress operates. The parties fight publicly about something that's either irrelevant, inaccurate, or far from a resolution. Meanwhile, a quiet consensus pushes forward a handful of unsexy but important bills and amendments, usually economic or deregulatory in nature. Those issues tend to be the ones that demand, but rarely get, the most attention."

"'Historic Day for American Unions': Los Angeles Teachers Strike Earns Victory for Labor, Public Education: Los Angeles public school teachers at the nation's second-largest district ended a six-day strike late Tuesday after union members voted to approve a deal — hailed as a major victory for organized labor — that's designed to raise salaries, cap class sizes and charter schools, and direct more funding to schools for nurses, counselors, and other support staff positions."

"GOP Lawmaker Really Doesn't Want Rep. Rashida Tlaib to Let Lawmakers Know What Life Is Like in Occupied West Bank: Newly-elected Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) wants to offer members of Congress an alternative to the 'sugar-coated' junket to Israel the American Israel Public Affairs Committee-affiliated group offers members of Congress by leading a delegation to the West Bank. For a Republican lawmaker, however, giving lawmakers a view of life in the occupied territory is an 'exceedingly dangerous' plan that must be stopped. In letters he sent Thursday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democratic House committee heads, Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) laid out (pdf) his 'extreme concern' with Tlaib's proposal, first reported by The Intercept in December. Unlike the rite of passage for new Republican and Democratic congress members that some dub the 'Jewish Disneyland trip' — sponsored by American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF) — the proposed congressional delegation by the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress would focus on 'Israel's detention of Palestinian children, education, access to clean water, and poverty,' the news outlet reported at the time."

Rashida Tlaib also upset Republicans by using "strong language" in a bar. "'We're gonna impeach the motherf****r'" I don't remember them getting this worked up when Dick Cheney used similar language on the Senate floor.

Steny Hoyer needs to go, but that has been true since the very beginning of his career when, to our horror, he replaced Gladys Spellman upon her death. It has nothing to do with how old he is or how long he's served - he has never been any better than he is.

"A Swelling Tide of Major Teacher Strikes Is Shifting Our Politics Against the Charter Agenda: When charter schools pull funding from a public school, it damages the school's ability to educate the students who remain. In the latest teacher strike in Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest school system, some 30,000 teachers walked off the job saying unchecked growth of charter schools and charters' lack of transparency and accountability have become an unsustainable drain on the public system's financials. The teachers have included in their demands a cap on charter school growth, along with other demands, such as increased teacher pay, reduced class sizes, less testing, and more counselors, nurses, librarians, and psychologists."

Briahna Gray in The Intercept, "A Problem for Kamala Harris: Can a Prosecutor Become President in the Age of Black Lives Matter? [...] She's running for president as a progressive, but as attorney general of California, she criminalized truancy — making it a crime for kids to be late for school, and dragging into the criminal justice system even more disproportionately low income, predominantly black and latino families. She's overlooked the misconduct of her prosecutors and fought to uphold their wrongfully secured convictions. She defended California's choice to deny sexual reassignment surgery to a trans inmate, and in 2014, appealed a federal judge's holding that the death penalty was unconstitutional. [...] Journalist Jill Filipovic argued on Twitter recently that she judges Harris's history less harshly because black women 'shoulder additional burdens' compared to white men, and because women have to prove that they are 'tough.' Filipovic acknowledges that Harris's race and gender don't 'excuse' her record, but, she insists, 'context matters.' It's difficult to understand, though, how the context matters here except to provide some kind of excuse. I'm not without sympathy for the additional pressures exerted on Harris because she is a black woman — after all, unlike Filipovic, I am one too. But those sympathies do not eclipse the concern I have for the black women who bore the consequences of Harris's prosecutorial misjudgment. Importantly, if Harris had to be tougher on crime because she is black, it wasn't for the sake of some higher ideal. It was because her personal ambitions demanded it. [...] Perhaps the most enduring lesson of Sen. Bernie Sanders's 2016 presidential campaign — during which he earned votes of 43 percent of Democratic Party primary participants despite starting with name recognition in the teens, enduring a corporate media blackout, and declining to take corporate PAC money — is that the traditional rules around how much you have to sell out to get ahead were wrong. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and myriad candidates who won or over-performed in last year's midterms understood this, as do the leaders of the 2020 field, who have largely sworn off corporate PAC money, and who have adopted the bulk of Sanders's 2016 platform. As it turns out, doing the right thing is actually a winning proposition."

Reason has a compilation of her hits, in "Kamala Harris' New Book Tries to Massage Her Record as a Prosecutor, But the Facts Aren't Pretty: The book neglects to mention all the times Harris' office appealed cases that were thrown out for gross prosecutor misconduct."

Teodrose Fikre is celebrating good journalists, with "Evoking Muckrakers: Hannah Giorgis's Devastating Critique of Senator Kamala Harris." Giorgis' article, in The Atlantic, reviews a book. "Kamala Harris's Political Memoir Is an Uneasy Fit for the Digital Era: The senator's new book shows the difficulty of translating short-form virality into a substantive text," she says, noting that Harris' woke-sounding tweets and self-revelation neither explain her history nor are supported by it. "But unlike Harris's many viral #resistance moments and meticulous snapshots of relatability, the memoir itself is a meandering work that lacks verve. More significantly, given far more than 280 characters to deliver a cohesive message, Harris doesn't meaningfully reconcile her punitive track record as a California prosecutor with her more recent activist-adjacent positioning as a national Democratic darling." Harris' purported reason for serving in office has to do with wanting to fight for social justice But, as many have observed, her time in office has shown her to be not merely absent from that fight, but working for the other side. "It is, according to many of her supporters, an admirable goal. And for a career prosecutor, it's a fairly understandable worldview. But the lofty language is a tough fit with Harris's policy track record. As others have noted, her tenure as California's so-called top cop reveals a series of choices that are often incongruous with the social-justice-inflected rhetoric of The Truths We Hold. Under District Attorney Kamala Harris, the overall felony-conviction rate in San Francisco rose from 52 percent in 2003 to 67 percent in 2006, the highest seen in a decade. Many of the convictions accounting for that increase stemmed from drug-related prosecutions, which also soared, from 56 percent in 2003 to 74 percent in 2006. As California's attorney general, Harris pushed a punitive initiative that treated truancy among elementary schoolers as a crime for which parents could be jailed. In 2014, she attempted to block the release of nonviolent second-strike offenders from overcrowded state prisons on the grounds that their paroling would result in prisons losing an important labor pool. The following year, she defended the California state prosecutor Robert Murray after he falsified a defendant's confession that was used to threaten a sentence of life in prison, and sided with state prison leaders in contesting a transgender inmate's bid for gender-confirmation surgery. Twice in 2016, she brought criminal charges related to human trafficking against Backpage.com, an online classified website frequently used by sex workers, and later, as a senator, she co-sponsored federal bills that led to the site's seizure, a move that sex workers and activists said threatens their survival." Giorgis also compares this book with Harris' first, and notes that they seem to contradict each other, with no bridge between them. Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor's Plan to Make Us Safer was a book from Kamala the Top Cop, who showed no interest in the injustice of rounding up loads of people (disproportionately of color, naturally) for non-violent drug crimes and wrecking their lives unnecessarily. This pre-presidential Harris wants us to think she has a history of caring about those effects — particularly on people of color — yet one still has the impression she's really only interested in protecting Perry Mason's clients - falsely accused innocents, respectable, and white. "For those already inclined to find her highly tweetable brand of #resistance rhetoric appealing, the memoir offers up palatably anti-establishment quotes for possible tote-bag screen-printing. If only it presented a holistic political foundation instead."

And even The New York Times has a great article by Lara Bazelon, law professor and former director of the Loyola Law School Project for the Innocent in Los Angeles, "Kamala Harris Was Not a 'Progressive Prosecutor': The senator was often on the wrong side of history when she served as California's attorney general. [...] The senator was often on the wrong side of history when she served as California's attorney general."

David Dayen and Rebecca Burns have a new book out, Fat Cat: The Steve Mnuchin Story, and they gave Bill Scher an interview on it. How did a Wall Street executive and 'foreclosure king' like Steve Mnuchin become the Treasury Secretary for a populist like Donald Trump, and what is he doing to the country now that he's there? David Dayen and Rebecca Burns tackle those questions in their book Fat Cat: The Steve Mnuchin Story (Strong Arm Press, 2018). They trace Mnuchin not-so-humble origins and his recurring presence in companies impacted by the 2008 market crash, which prompted Sen. Elizabeth Warren to call him 'the Forrest Gump of the financial crisis.' They argue that as Treasury Secretary, he has pursued policies that betray Trump's claim to the populist mantle, rolling back bank regulations and performing lax enforcement. And they criticize the tax reform bill that Mnuchin championed, asserting that it helped the wealthy at the expense of the middle-class."

"Michelle Alexander explodes an open secret in the 'NYT': progressives keep quiet about Palestine out of fear for their careers: Everyone is talking about one thing this morning, the outstanding piece by Michelle Alexander in the New York Times, yes, the New York Times, titled, 'Time to Break the Silence about Palestine,' in which she says she can't be quiet about Palestine any longer. The author of 'The New Jim Crow' is a regular columnist now, and she has changed the discourse about Palestine in one explosive swoop, stating that progressives have been silent about Palestine partly because of fear for their careers, but the time has come to end that silence.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy says, "The U.S. Needs a Federal Wealth Tax: A federal wealth tax on the richest 0.1 percent of Americans is a viable approach for Congress to raise revenue and is one of the few approaches that could truly address rising inequality. As this report explains, an annual federal tax of only 1 percent on the portion of any taxpayer's net worth exceeding the threshold for belonging to the wealthiest 0.1 percent (likely to be about $32.2 million in 2020) could raise $1.3 trillion over a decade. Many working families know that a large part of their wealth is their home, which is subject to an annual property tax at rates that, in some states, approach or even exceed one percent. The homes of the very rich typically make up a much smaller share of their overall wealth, meaning state and local property taxes have little effect on them.[1] A federal wealth tax could ensure that the net worth of the very rich is treated more like the wealth held by the middle-class."

* * * * *

Local Ohio blogger Tim Russo reminds us of "That Time In 2005 Paul Hackett Got Sherrod Brown To Let His Mask Slip-- Here We Go Again: Word on the street here in Ohio is that Sherrod Brown has reverted to factory settings as he prepares to run for president in 2020. What are Sherrod Brown's factory settings? Sherrod don't like primaries, that's what. [...] Since Brown benefitted from his bad behavior in 2005-2006, instead of facing a cost, he is repeating it. I can report that today, Sherrod is not content with rigging the Ohio Democratic Party; Brown is now actually attempting to rig processes outside the Democratic Party, in progressive groups naturally leaning toward Bernie Sanders in 2020. Brown is reaching into the internal decision making of every Ohio progressive group he can, to stunt and halt any organizing for anyone who isn't Sherrod Brown. Brown's 2019 efforts seem based entirely on geography-- that everyone in Ohio simply must support fellow Buckeye Sherrod. In short, it's Paul Hackett all over again. Thus, it is highly likely that every establishment Democrat 2020 prospect is repeating this same approach with their own geographic base. Perhaps not with the same...er...fervor that Sherrod displayed in 2005 (and is no doubt unleashing today), but certainly the same intent. Democrats simply cannot stop attempting to rig primaries. They have learned precisely nothing from 2016." Meanwhile, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul went to Canada for surgery.

"How Would A President Sherrod Brown Run The Democratic Party? Like A Corporate Clown Act:"

More from Tim Russo here.

Common Dreams, "Sherrod Brown: Medicare for All Not 'Practical.' Progressives: 'OK. Thank You, Next.': 'Fight for single-payer or get kicked out of Washington trying.' [...] 'I know most of the Democratic primary candidates are all talking about Medicare for all. I think instead we should do Medicare at 55,' Brown said during a question and answer session at the Chamber of Commerce in Clear Lake, Iowa. Brown said that reducing the age or letting people over 55 buy into the existing Medicare system early would have a better chance of getting through Congress. [...] While all the Democratic 2020 candidates will ultimately be pressed on their solution to the nation's ongoing healthcare crisis, Dr. Carol Paris, former president of Physicians for a National Health Program, which advocates for a single-payer system like Medicare for All, told Think Progress this week that anyone who runs must demonstrate they understand that only Medicare for All — a system with "No co-pays, no deductibles, no need for supplemental policies, no private insurance" — has the ability to confront the current system's inherent failure."

Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Crusher of Sacred Cows: With its silly swipes at AOC, the American political establishment is once again revealing its blindness to its own unpopularity. [...] There's a reason aides try to keep their bosses away from microphones, particularly when there's a potential for a question of SAT-or-higher level difficulty in the interview. But the subject elected officials have the most trouble staying away from is each other. We've seen this a lot in recent weeks with the ongoing freakout over newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Lest anyone think any of the above applies to 'AOC,' who's also had a lot to say since arriving in Washington, remember: she won in spite of the party and big donors, not because of them. That doesn't make anything she says inherently more or less correct. But it changes the dynamic a bit. All of AOC's supporters sent her to Washington precisely to make noise. There isn't a cabal of key donors standing behind her, cringing every time she talks about the Pentagon budget. She is there to be a pain in the ass, and it's working. Virtually the entire spectrum of Washington officialdom has responded to her with horror and anguish. [...] I have no idea if Ocasio-Cortez will or will not end up being a great politician. But it's abundantly clear that her mere presence is unmasking many, if not most, of the worst and most tired Shibboleths of the capital. Moreover, she's laying bare the long-concealed fact that many of their core policies are wildly unpopular, and would be overturned in a heartbeat if we could somehow put them all to direct national referendum.

Branko Marcetic in Jacobin, "The Shape-Shifter: Kirsten Gillibrand's name is being floated as a progressive 2020 presidential candidate. But her record shows she's a poor tribune for anti-Trump resistance.Gillibrand — who has consciously positioned herself as an elite face of 'the Resistance' in the wake of Trump's election — has some good spots on her record. She led efforts to curb sexual assault in the military, pushed to get the 9/11 first responders bill passed, campaigned to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act, and has been advancing a paid family leave bill for years. But if we're going to remember Gillibrand's voting record on Trump appointees in 2020, we should also remember some of the less laudable aspects of her political career. [...] Before her appointment to the Senate, Gillibrand was a Blue Dog Democrat through and through. Representing a House district in Upstate New York, she backed the Bush tax cuts and voted to expand government surveillance every chance she got (this continued to 2015, with CISA, a bill that allowed companies to pass their customers' data to the government). She opposed gay marriage and bragged that her voting record was 'one of the most conservative in the state.' As late as 2009, she was referred to as an 'ostensibly non-liberal Democratic congresswoman' and a 'conservative Democrat.' Gillibrand's record on immigration deserves special mention. Before taking up her Senate post, Gillibrand came out against giving undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship and opposed then — New York governor Eliot Spitzer's plan to allow undocumented immigrants access to drivers licenses. In 2007, she cosponsored the SAVE Act, which significantly beefed up border patrols, required all employers to check the immigration status of their employees through a flawed computer database, established monetary rewards for anyone who helped catch an undocumented immigrant trying to obtain falsified documents, and turned local police into an arm of federal immigration enforcement.She supported financially penalizing sanctuary cities, the same thing now on Trump's wish list. And she wanted to make English the United States' 'official language.'" And she's bad on Israel, of course, as well as being tight with Wall Street.

Paul Street at Counterpunch, "'If Bernie Runs?' Wrong Question: [...] Bernie's statements that the Wall Street (neoliberal) agenda 'made Trump possible' is accurate. 'Wall Street Democrats' have repeatedly demobilized and antagonized the majority working-class electorate and thereby opened the ugly barn door to the ever more dangerously reactionary and racist Republican Party. It is thanks in large part to the dismal, dollar-drenched Democrats' corporate neoliberalism that two noxious George Bushes and the terrible Trump have held the White House." But there's a BUT.

Atrios says, "Assert: DC is wired for Republicans and reporters get very confused indeed when they aren't in charge of everything. It's why Newt became President in 1995, and Speaker of the House Bachmann (Tea Party) ran Congress from 2009-2011. Reporters always say that Democrats are just bad at the game of kicking the soccer ball that they all chase, which could be true, but I'd also think that reporters could, you know, not see their role as being manipulated by two teams like a fucking soccer ball. But if it is a game, then Pelosi and the House Dems should be out there pulling crazy shit stunts every damn day. Also serious stuff too! Maybe combine them sometimes. Reporters gotta write about something."

"'We've dug ourselves a really deep hole' — David Neiwert on the rise of the far right: Neiwert has reported on the US far right for decades and watched as the conservative movement has steadily adopted its outlook and ideas." This is an interview in the Guardian with our old friend. Most of it is what we've seen him say before, but also this: "One important step to challenge this would be media reform. He says that the internet and corporate ownership of local media have 'basically gutted the ability of local newspapers to cover local news, gutted the ability of larger newspapers to do consumer and investigative reporting'. Social media, a paradise for conspiracy theorists, is filling the gap." And he goes on to say that the Democratic Party has to get more progressive. Oh, yes, they really have to.

There seems to be a new wave of organized H8% anti-Bernie trolling on Twitter. If you're looking for a source for verbal karate, you might find an answer to some of the complaints about how Bernie was disrespectful to Clinton in Guy Saperstein's 2015 piece about why she didn't deserve so much respect, "The Racial Justice Failures That Hillary Clinton Can't Ignore."

"This just tells people to stay home." Michael Moore on the death knell of democracy as demonstrated by the 2016 Democratic primaries and convention.

Paul Street knew who Barack Obama was before he even ran for the Senate - a deeply conservative, ambitious man who didn't believe in activism or democracy. He wrote about that before Obama was elected, but here he is in 2014 on Tell Somebody discussing the difference between the myth of Obama, and the man, and the truth about modern "progressives". Good explanation of how Democratic leaders have made "liberalism" useless and senseless - and made sure nothing can be improved. (And it's really nice to hear that someone beside me thought Obama was a boring speaker.)

November, 1985, and The Washington Post introduces you to the new rulers of the Democratic Party: "Democrats' New Centrists Preen for '88." Unfortunately, one of them had enough charisma to eventually be elected to the presidency, and it's been downhill ever since. Reading this stuff is so oddly bland and chilling at the same time. "This prospect may distress some, but it delights others. "The vote of Sen. Kennedy for that amendment is one of the most hopeful signs of an evolutionary process that is going on in our party . . . as we cross, however uncertainly, into some post-New Deal configuration," says Babbitt. [...] On his own, each of these '88 "mentionables" would have some trouble filling a firehouse with potential voters outside his home base. So they've banded together, along with the likes of Govs. Bruce Babbitt of Arizona, Charles S. Robb of Virginia, Bill Clinton of Arkansas and Sen. Dale Bumpers (Ark.), into a sort of political road show -- a touring company of like-minded presidential and vice-presidential long shots. They call themselves the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), and since midsummer, they have been following the imperatives of the Electoral College map with a series of headline-grabbing campaign-style swings through Texas, Florida, California and North Carolina. [...] They freely acknowledge that they are a long way from defining, issue by issue, exactly where the center is. But one year after the Democrats' 49-state presidential drubbing, these moderates seem poised to capture the soul of their beleaguered party on the strength of the idea of centrism. This is not a universally applauded development. "Unfortunately, the notion that we have to become a party of crypto-Republicans is selling like hotcakes," says Victor Fingerhut, a longtime labor-union pollster and strategist. "If the meek shall inherit the Earth, these timid voices will be land barons," adds Jim Hightower, the Democratic commissioner of agriculture in Texas, who argues that an out-of-power party makes a strategic mistake when it tries to recapture the national agenda with an offering of me-too-isms. He is one of a band of Democrat populists who want their party to build a new platform around good old-fashioned little-guy-versus-big-guy economic conflicts."

"A Cure For Cancer? Israeli Scientists Say They Think They Found One: [...] 'Our cancer cure will be effective from day one, will last a duration of a few weeks and will have no or minimal side-effects at a much lower cost than most other treatments on the market,' Aridor said. 'Our solution will be both generic and personal.'"

RIP: Comedian Jeremy Hardy dies of cancer aged 57: "Hardy, who featured regularly on BBC Radio 4 panel shows such as The News Quiz and I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue and wrote a column for the Guardian between 1996 and 2001, died on Friday." I'm really sorry to hear this, he was sharp and funny and coming from the right place.

RIP: "Blues musician Mike Ledbetter dies at 33: Blues fans are mourning the death of Mike Ledbetter, a singer and guitar player whose powerful vocals wowed audiences in the U.S., Europe and Russia. He was 33, according to friends. Mr. Ledbetter died of a sudden medical emergency Monday at his Elgin home, and his family is awaiting autopsy results, said his manager Gina McClain. 'He was scrupulously healthy,' said 'Monster' Mike Welch, his bandmate in the Welch-Ledbetter Connection. 'On and off, he was a bodybuilder. There's no lessons about the pitfalls of the road. This is a man who took care of himself, loved his kids, loved his girlfriend Kathy.' Trained in opera, he was 'truly the best vocalist. . . .He was just passionate about American music,' said Tina Terry, his agent. 'For the blues community, it's a huge loss.'" There's another obit at Blues Matters. But here's what you really want to know about him. He was good.

RIP: "Penny Marshall, 'Laverne & Shirley' Star, Director, Dies at 75. Marshall was the first woman to direct a film that grossed more than $100 million, the first woman to direct two films that made more than $100 million, and she was only the second woman director to see her film Oscar-nominated for best picture." To me, of course, she will always be Oscar Madison's secretary.

RIP: Charles Aznavour, French singing star, dies at 94. Yes, I know this was in October, but for some reason I didn't say anything at the time. I knew his name because it was the one my mother always named whenever someone asked if there were any famous Armenians. In those days, Aznavour and the Chipmonkian Ross Bagdasarian were pretty much all there was. (As my sister observed upon Aznavour's death, these days they are all infamous - Dr. Death and the Kardashians. I don't agree with her about Cher, she's still just a singer/actor, and not a bad one.

Mick West has scanned, and Graham West has uploaded to Dropbox, D. West's Fanzines in Theory and Practice. Meanwhile, Dave Langford has made a text version of West's Deliverance on the TAFF site.

Finally watched Ron Howard's Beatles movie, Eight Days A Week, and it choked me up.

Evelyn Evelyn, "Have You Seen My Sister Evelyn"

03:59 GMT comment


Wednesday, 16 January 2019

As I rise, the stakes get higher

Sanders, Cummings and Colleagues Announce Legislation to Lower Drug Prices (video)

"Vowing to Fight Corporate Power on Behalf of Working Families, Elizabeth Warren Announces 2020 Presidential Run: In a move seen as an official signal that she is entering the 2020 contest for president, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) on Monday sent an email to supporters and shared a video on social media announcing that she is forming an exploratory committee to examine her viability as a candidate in the next presidential race."

Tulsi Gabbard also announced, and there was some discussion of that on The Michael Brooks Show, TMBS - 73 - AOC Is Good, Tulsi...?, & Brexit Breaks May ft. Ana Kasparian. (Julian Castro has also announced, and I haven't found a good article about it yet.)

"Celebrating Cyntoia Brown's Clemency, Rights Advocates Vow to Continue Fighting for Human Trafficking Survivors Behind Bars: A decade-long campaign which garnered national headlines in recent months came to fruition on Monday, as Gov. Bill Haslam (R-Tenn.) granted clemency to Cyntoia Brown, a sex-trafficking survivor who has been behind bars for 15 years for murder."

"Minnesota AG's report reveals big telcos are literally letting their infrastructure rot: More than a decade of foot-dragging on fiber rollout has left millions of Americans dependent on taxpayer-funded copper-line infrastructure for landlines and DSL, but it's not like the carriers are plowing their no-fiber savings into copper maintenance, instead, as a report released by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson details, incumbent telcos are literally leaving their infrastructure to rot: wires are draped across customers' lawns (and over their propane tanks!), boxes containing key network gear are left smashed and rusting, and carriers' poles and other furniture are literally propped up with 2x4s, or have random logs placed against their wires to hold them in place. Swanson's investigation follows alarm-bells raised by the unionized telco maintenance staff and customers, who have filed more than 1,000 complaints against Frontier, Minnesota's incumbent carrier. The neglect is takes place in an environment of deregulation prompted by the rise of VoIP services, which gave the carriers and the FCC the excuse they needed to allow the telcos to self-regulate their copper-line infrastructure." Worth clicking just to see the photos.

Theresa May failed again to get her latest Brexit plan through, 432-202. May survived the vote of confidence but she only has until March to get it together, and so far she shows no signs of finding a way to do this thing. Meanwhile, some people wonder why Labour seems to have shown such half-hearted interest in defending Remain. It might help to read "Everything you need to know about Lexit in five minutes" - that's the long-standing left-wing case against the EU. Hint: It's about the ease with which employers can simply move companies or jobs to countries with lower wages and fewer worker protections.

"Supreme Court Blocks ExxonMobil's Effort to Conceal Decades of Documents in Probe of Oil Giant's Climate Deception: The high court's ruling means the company must hand over records to the Massachusetts attorney general for her ongoing investigation"

"Federal Judge Strikes Down Iowa 'Ag-Gag' Law: DES MOINES, Iowa (CN) — Iowa's so-called 'ag-gag' law that makes it a crime for undercover journalists or animal-rights activists to investigate and report on animal abuse in livestock facilities is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Wednesday. U.S. District Judge James Gritzner in Des Moines struck down the 2012 statute passed by the Iowa Legislature aimed at preventing reporters or activists from entering livestock facilities under false pretenses to report animal abuse."

Maté, "Someone Finally Explained the Trump-Russia Story and It Will Make You Question Everything: I think what's going on is a sustained disinformation campaign in the West to convince people in the West that they are susceptible to a massive Russian disinformation campaign. I mean if you look at it, it's a joke. These so-called sophisticated posts that we are supposed to be afraid of are juvenile, stupid, clickbait content that nobody would be talking about and that nobody would even have noticed really unless every single corporate media outlet and all these government officials were making them such a big deal. I mean, it's ludicrous. [...] And what it actually reveals, I don't think people realise this, but it shows what contempt liberal elites have for average voters — this notion — that anybody could have been duped by these stupid juvenile ads, and this idea that these ads could sow discord. I am not joking, the latest headline on this front that I saw was this one from the site Qz: and this is the headline: 'Russian operatives were promoting sex toys on Instagram to sow discord in the US.' And what is amazing is how many grown adults in positions of influence in media and in politics are taking this seriously and are trying to present to us that we should be afraid of all this, when there are so many more problems — there are so many problems out there that decide elections, it's a joke."

"New Poll: US Military Occupations Supported By Far More Democrats Than Republicans: A new Politico/Morning Consult poll has found that there is much more support for ongoing military occupations among Democrats surveyed than Republicans." I couldn't find how this poll was conducted in the linked .pdf.

David Dayen, Ryan Grim, and Aída Chávez, "Progressives Fought For Key Committee Spots, But Centrist New Dems Came Out On Top: REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ failed in her long-shot bid for a seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, according to an announcement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Wednesday evening. Pelosi named a member of the New Democrat Coalition, the centrist wing of the party, to the seat instead, part of a sweeping set of wins by the Wall Street-friendly caucus."

"Bernie Sanders Rebukes Trump for Stoking 'Fear and Hatred' With Lie-Soaked National Address: 'Instead of trying to bring us together as a people, he is trying to divide us up. And, in the process, divert our attention away from the real crises facing the working families of this nation.'"

"Democrats Don't Just Support Medicare for All, 84% in New Poll Want Party Leaders to Make It 'Extremely Important Priority': 'Are you listening?' party Leaders asked as new Politico/Harvard survey shows more than 8 in 10 Democrats think covering everyone 'through taxpayer-fund national plan' should be urgent pursued"

"'Huge Step in Right Direction' as de Blasio Unveils Guaranteed Healthcare Plan for All NYC Residents: One progressive organizer said the bold plan 'clears a path toward statewide single-payer' in New York"

I don't know about you, but I personally found it refreshing that Andy Samberg said in public that the Black Panthers "were all framed and murdered for wanting justice and equality. The world is and always has been a nightmare; it just seems worse now because of our phones." Just sayin'. (Oops, the article is still there but the video disappeared, so try this.)

"Angela Davis 'Stunned' at Award Revocation, But Still Coming to Birmingham: Activist, poet, academic and writer Angela Davis says she was 'stunned' to learn last Saturday that the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute had rescinded its invitation to honor her next month, in her hometown, with the Fred L. Shuttlesworth Award for Human Rights. However, in a statement released Monday, Davis revealed she is still coming to Birmingham. 'Despite the BCRI's regrettable decision,' she said, 'I look forward to being in Birmingham in February for an alternative event organized by those who believe that the movement for civil rights in this moment must include a robust discussion of all of the injustices that surround us.' [...] 'The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI)'s decision to rescind an honor previously extended to Angela Davis is only the latest incident in a well-documented nationwide campaign to censor and punish critics of Israel. Davis joins a long list of scholars and activists who have been censored , fired , de-funded , defamed , harassed and targeted with frivolous litigation because of concerted efforts by the Israeli government and anti-Palestinian organizations in the U.S. to silence debate.'"

"The DNC Is Putting Its Thumb On The Scales Again — This Time In The Right Direction: DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE Chair Tom Perez is setting a kind of cover charge to get onstage for the Democratic presidential primary debates, but not just any money will do. In addition to the usual polling metrics required to join the debate, candidates will also have to meet a to-be-determined criteria for 'grassroots fundraising.' Including small-dollar fundraising as a necessary element for debate participation would have two effects. First, it incentivizes candidates to invest — strategically, financially, and emotionally — in growing a small-donor base. Second, it will force potential billionaire self-funders like Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, and Howard Schultz to demonstrate some level of popular enthusiasm for their campaigns, meaning they can't just flash their own cash and buy their way onstage. This is a remarkable decision for any political party, and it reflects a growing shift in how campaigns are run and won. It also previews what will be an important way to measure the success of candidates in the Democratic primary: not just looking at how much money candidates raise, but how much of their money comes from small-dollar donors."

"In Major Move, Census Bureau Offers Up Citizenship Data For Redistricting: In what could be a major change for voting rights and the distribution of political power between urban and rural areas, the Census Bureau signaled Friday that it is willing to work with state and local officials charged with drawing voting districts if they want citizenship data for the redistricting process. [...] The decision prompted alarm by voting rights activists, civil rights advocates and policy wonks. They believe it will depress the participation of immigrant communities on the census — causing an undercount that would shift political power and resources away from those populations — while also leading to exclusion of non-citizens in legislative redistricting altogether in some states and localities." But a federal court disagreed, though the Supremes might step in to give it the go-ahead again.

Matt Taibbi, "Return of the Neocons! The new 'Bulwark' is the latest signpost on the road back to power for America's most disgraced brand of politics: Neoconservatives, the architects of the War on Terror, are the political version of Jason in Friday the 13th: You can never bank on them being completely dead. They just hide under a log until the next funder appears. The neocon media tribune, the Weekly Standard, did indeed fold recently. In no time they had a new voice: The Bulwark, edited by former Weekly Standard and current NBC/MSNBC contributor Charlie Sykes, with Weekly Standard founder Bill Kristol listed as 'editor at large.' [...] Because they started this Middle East disaster on a lie and even bragged about doing so — 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality' — they undermined faith in a smorgasbord of American institutions, from the news media to the presidency to the intelligence community to their own party. This was a huge reason for the rise of Trump, who ran against 'elites' and capitalized on voters' loss of trust in institutions like the press. Conveniently, neocons had already begun tacking back to the Democrats by then. [...] o, longtime Democratic Party advisers are once again triangulating against their party's own progressive wing, which was the core strategy of the original 'Third Way' Democrats in the early Nineties. Party leaders now want to kick out populist, antiwar liberals in the same way Frum once wanted to excommunicate antiwar conservatives. This overlaps nicely with neocons' efforts to stake out the same turf between Trump and Sanders. This is becoming a little like watching two people pretending not to be attracted to one another even though everyone knows they make each other horny. I'd say the Bulwark neocons and their Democratic allies need to get a room, except they already have MSNBC (as noted by recently resigned reporter William Arkin, who complained the network had become a forum for a 'single war party'). As Glenn Greenwald noted in the Intercept last year, the 'most extreme and discredited neocons' began uniting with Democrats 'long before the ascension of Donald Trump.' [...] If you're not concerned about undead neocons making a comeback while Trump is in office, that's understandable. Many people will take allies against Trump from wherever they can. Just don't be surprised if 'liberal interventionists' are sitting in the White House once Trump leaves the scene. These are determined revolutionaries who've been scheming for years to throw a saddle on the Democratic Party after decades in bed with Republicans. Sadly, they have willing partners over there."

David Dayen at Vice, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Plan to Tax the Rich Is the Opposite of Radical: Her idea of a 70 percent tax on income above $10 million isn't wild, and wouldn't pay for everything the left wants. But that's the wrong way to think about it. Some politicians can move previously fringe ideas into the forefront of the debate without even trying. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's suggestion on 60 Minutes of a 70 percent top marginal tax rate for Americans earning over $10 million has people thinking again about what America could look like rather the oligarchy it currently is. But the real purpose of these ideas has been obscured amid a tired and one-sided argument about balanced budgets: As Ocasio-Cortez would likely tell you, there's a big difference between trying to find revenues and trying to deliver progress to the country. [...] But musing about how to raise money assumes that such revenue is required to 'fund' government operations. We know that Ocasio-Cortez finds such assumptions dangerous. She subscribes to modern monetary theory, which argues that any country with its own currency isn't constrained by federal debt. Just last week, Ocasio-Cortez voted against the House rules package because it contained a 'paygo' requirement that all new spending must be offset by budget cuts or tax increases. In her conception, meeting public needs deserves a much higher priority than the budget deficit. So why, then, would Ocasio-Cortez suggest higher tax rates on the rich? Maybe it's because they could discourage runaway compensation at the top that has triggered skyrocketing income inequality. When the US had a 91 percent top marginal tax rate in the 1950s, hardly anyone actually paid it. But CEOs made far less than they do today; why would they ask for a heavy raise if the government was going to grab most of it anyway? [...] So when you look at Ocasio-Cortez's suggestion on taxes, you shouldn't think about it solely in terms of raising money. Think about it as perfecting our union."

"Ocasio-Cortez's "Not At All Outlandish" Proposal for 70% Tax Rate on Uber-Wealthy Could Raise $720 Billion Over Decade: 'So even as [Republicans] dunk on AOC as stupid or ignorant,' argues Paul Krugman, 'she's talking sense based on reputable economic research, while the whole GOP is talking nonsense from charlatans and cranks.' "

"Sweden Has a 70 Percent Tax Rate and It Is Fine [...] One thing missing from the discussion so far is the point that a 70 percent top tax rate exists, not merely in midcentury US tax codes or in academic papers, but also in the real world right now. Sweden has a 70 percent marginal tax rate and it kicks in, not at $10 million like AOC proposes, but at around $98,000. AOC's proposal is quite modest by comparison."

Wonkette, "Why Are We All Yelling About 'Pay-Go?' [...] First off, let's be clear: Paygo IS a really stupid relic of deficit hawkery. It requires that any legislation be paid for, either by cuts to existing government programs or by new revenues. But it's a damn sight better than what Republicans had in place when they held the House, which was "cut as you go" (or "Cutgo" -- an anime character with a razor), which only allowed the use of budget cuts in one area to offset new spending -- no new revenues of any sort. And of course, the Rs cheerfully waived it when it came to passing its $1.5 trillion Tax Cuts For Rich Fuckwads Act. [...] Ah, this is where it gets complicated: You see, in addition to the House rule, paygo is also enshrined in federal law, as Progressive Caucus co-chair Mark Pocan explained on the Twitter boxes: It sucks, and Dems should get rid of it when they have the Senate and the presidency, but until that's the case, it's better for the House to control how new spending will be paid for, because under the existing law, the executive branch can institute cuts to balance out any deficit spending. This would not be a good thing!"

Matt Stoller, "Congressional Staffing for Dummies: The Pay Go Dispute: There are a lot of people arguing about this thing called Pay Go. Here's my attempted explanation of what Pay Go is and how it intersects with stuff you care about. [...] Well now that I've gotten through the basics, here's what the fight is about. In 2010, the Obama administration and a Democratic Congress passed a law to ensure Congress would be 'fiscally responsible. Nancy Pelosi was the Speaker in 2010 when Congress passed the statute, and she is proud of being fiscally responsible. This law says that if Congress doesn't go through a PayGo process for its aggregate spending and taxing in the full fiscal year, the White House's Office of Management and Budget gets to choose a bunch of programs to cut in a process known as sequestration. Sequestration is in law. It was a law that sort of made sense at the time, because Obama was President and Democrats didn't so much mind if a Democratically controlled OMB got to make a bunch of important decisions. But guess what? Trump is now President, which means he's the one that gets to decide the cuts that happen if Congress doesn't use a PayGo decision-making process."

Ryan Grim and Aida Chavez, "Behind The Pay-Go Battle Is A Central Contradiction That Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez And Her Allies Will Need To Resolve: IN THE FIRST vote of the 116th Congress on Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., was one of just three Democrats who split with their party and voted against a rules package introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and backed by the leadership of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Ocasio-Cortez's political career so far has been largely defined by her willingness to break from the pack, but her dissenting vote alongside just two others highlights the paradox of her position in the House: Her high-profile platform allows her to shape the national conversation, but the same energy that fueled her rise can be met with a very different reaction inside the walls of the Capitol."

Ryan Grim has a blog, by the way, where he has other pieces about Pay-Go, immigration, and that nasty AIPAC bill that's not only reared its ugly head again, but is actually the first bill the new Senate has brought up.

"'Let's Get Our Priorities Right': Outrage as Bipartisan Group of Senators Pushes Bill to Punish Boycotts of Israel Amid Shutdown: 'It's absurd that the first bill during the shutdown is legislation which punishes Americans who exercise their constitutional right to engage in political activity,' declared Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)"

Not from The Onion, but Bloomberg, "Americans Are Dying Younger, Saving Corporations Billions."

"Russian news may be biased — but so is much western media: Manipulation of the news for propaganda purposes is not the prerogative of the west's enemies. It's vital to look at all media, including the UK's, with a critical eye." The difference between Russian media and Western media, as always, is that Russians know they are seeing propaganda, and westerners are oblivious.

I missed this last month - "Every Single Member of US Congress Approved Crushing Sanctions on Nicaragua: After defeating a violent US-backed coup attempt, Nicaragua's elected government faces the NICA Act. The bill aims to force the Sandinistas from power by ratcheting up economic despair." I hoped that headline really meant the House, but no, "On November 27, amendments for the combined legislation were approved with unanimous consent in the Senate. Then on December 11, the changes were unanimously approved in the House without objection."

Trollwatch from The New York Times, "Secret Experiment in Alabama Senate Race Imitated Russian Tactics: As Russia's online election machinations came to light last year, a group of Democratic tech experts decided to try out similarly deceptive tactics in the fiercely contested Alabama Senate race, according to people familiar with the effort and a report on its results." Hm, I thought Correct the Record had done that already. Anyway, "Here's The After-Action Report From the Alabama Senate Disinformation Campaign," Operation Birmingham.

"Senate Report on Russian Interference Was Written By Disinformation Warriors Behind Alabama 'False Flag Operation: Hailed by Congress and the media as defenders of democracy, high-tech Russiagate hustlers Jonathon Morgan and Ryan Fox have been exposed for waging 'an elaborate 'false flag' operation' to swing the 2017 Alabama senate race."

Great episode of Citations Needed on The Neoliberal Optimism Industry: On this episode, we take a look at the ideological project of telling us everything's going swimmingly, how those in power cook the books and spin data to make their case for maintaining the status quo, and how The Neoliberal Optimism Industry is, at its core, an anti-intellectual enterprise designed to lull us into complacency and political impotence. Our guest is Dr. Jason Hickel."

The Majority Report posted some Best of the Year clips while they were on vacation:
MR Best Of 2018: Neoliberalism With Julie Wilson
No Labels Proving to Be a Group of the Wealthy, FOR the Wealthy
MR Best Of 2018: Facing Fascism w/ Henry Giroux
MR Best Of 2018: America's Forgotten Black Pioneers & the Struggle for Equality w/ Anna-Lisa Cox

And here's one from the regular line-up that I want to listen to again so I'm saving it here: Fugitive Slaves & the Struggle for America's Soul w/ Andrew Delbanco - MR Live - 12/17/18.

The first show of the year was pretty good, too, and makes some great points about how bravely Liz Warren faced the Washington establishment. (Worth remembering, again, it took a lot of backbone to steadfastly refuse to endorse a candidate in the 2016 primaries despite enormous pressure from Clinton and the party to give in to her early.) News w/ MR Team - MR Live - 1/2/19

The Michael Brooks Show Final Show Of Another Dumb Year ft. Wosny Lambre

And in the new year, TMBS - 71 - The Difference Between Bernie and Warren (And Everyone Else) ft. Bhaskar Sunkara
TMBS - 72 - LA Teachers Striking For All Of Us & The Advocate NYC Needs ft. Nomiki Konst

12-28-18 Nicole Sandler Show — Our Final Show of 2018 with Dave Johnson

Sirota's tweets and article on Beto O'Rourke's campaign donation sources and record upset Neera Tanden, with the result that long, hateful threads toward Sirota ensued on Twitter. It's not hard to agree with the TYT crowd about this. But the good news is that The Houston Chronicle itself took the article seriously, saying, "Beto and Bernie debate raises questions about Texas' oil economy: Politicians across the spectrum should face this moment as an opportunity to organize their best ideas and smartest policies and present them to the American people. What would an effective carbon tax look like? What would a Green New Deal mean for Houston's refinery workers?"

From GQ, "No Democrat Deserves a Free Pass Just Because They're Not Trump: The completely manufactured "Bernie vs. Beto" fight is a reminder that there's nothing wrong with demanding more from candidates."

"Why did nobody mention that Beto O'Rourke's wife is a billionaire heiress? Bloomberg once estimated the wealth of Beto's father-in-law at $20 billion. But obviously that's not worth mentioning when you profile him." She's a charter school exec, too.

And Katie Halper interviewed Sirota, "The Factual Reporting About Beto by David Sirota That Stirred Epic Freakout [...] Right. And I think it really speaks to is something very sad about our politics, which is that there's an authoritarian tendency to our politics. I do think that there are a lot of people out there on both the right and in the Democratic party who just want a coronation. They don't necessarily believe in the basic fundamentals of democracy. One of the basic fundamentals of democracy is that there are contested primaries. Candidates go back and forth and they debate their policies and they debate their records and this is healthy. This is a healthy discourse and I think there are a lot of people who buy into the argument that it would be better if we just appointed two nominees, had the two nominees run against each other, and that would be it. If I have an ideology, I'm ideologically opposed to the idea that we must coronate candidates and just have uncontested elections where we don't debate the issues. I think that they're terrified off scrutiny. They're terrified of what's going to be revealed." (Note to David: The ceremony is called a coronation but the act is to crown, not to "coronate".)

It's worth reading this one for the little history lesson, "Democrats rev up to offend most of their base, again: Don't you dare look at Beto's voting record! The commonly accepted explanation for Hillary Clinton's 2016 loss was that anyone and everyone who did not vote for her was influenced by a Russian Internet troll farm funded by Putin. The trolls sent out thousands of Facebook and Twitter lies (some of which were true like the DNC's treatment of Bernie Sanders and his supporters) and everyone who failed to support Clinton believed these lies because they're all morons. There's no similar explanation for how Clinton lost to Obama in 2008."

Amazingly, this is from Politico, "Democrats Aren't Moving Left. They're Returning to Their Roots. Many on both sides are worried about the party's leftward swing. They say it's a deviation from the mainstream. It's not. [...] But there's something wrong with this historical interpretation: Truman strongly supported single-payer health care. Moynihan supported a universal basic income in the 1960s. Dating back to World War II, Democrats sought to make a government-paid education available to as many Americans as possible. If Democrats are marching to the left, that road leads directly back to platforms and politicians who, in their day, commanded wide support and existed firmly in the mainstream of political thought."

From The Forward, "Bernie Sanders Isn't Just Another White Male Candidate. His Nomination Would Be Historic. Sanders is white, yes, but he's also Jewish, and last time around he got closer to the presidency than any Jew in history ever had. Based on his standing in early polls, he has a real shot to win the nomination this time. But the response to that history-making prospect, among Jews and non-Jews alike, has been decidedly muted. [...] In February 2016, the New York Times ran an article about the subject, entitled 'Bernie Sanders Is Jewish, but He Doesn't Like to Talk About It,' which began by quoting a New York rabbi who expressed dismay that Sanders had described himself as 'the son of a Polish immigrant who came to this country speaking no English and having no money.' The article went on to describe the contours of Sanders's Jewish identity: the son of an immigrant whose family was murdered in the Holocaust on one side and the grandson of immigrants on the other, Sanders is entirely Ashkenazi Jewish, was born and raised in Brooklyn, does not regularly attend synagogue, is married to a Catholic, defines himself by the struggle for social justice on behalf of all oppressed peoples, and has a left-leaning view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is, in short, probably not very different from a lot of Forward readers."

"Sanders' wing of the party terrifies moderate Dems. Here's how they plan to stop it. Party members and fundraisers gathered for an invitation-only event to figure out how to counteract the rising progressive movement."

Norman Solomon, "Corporate Democrats Are Already Punching Left Ahead of 2020 [...] Such calculated nonsense indicates just how panicky some powerful corporate Democrats are about Sanders' likely presidential campaign — and just how anxious they are to protect corporate-oriented candidates from public scrutiny. The quest is to smother meaningful discussions of vital issues that should be center stage during the presidential campaign."

People keep asking me who I would support for president other than Bernie Sanders. Understand, I still think Sanders is the best choice, but the list of other people who have any time in office and aren't awfully far to the right is really pretty short. I probably wouldn't have to hold my nose to vote for this guy in the general, though: Jeff Merkley's full speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

"It's Time to Bring Back the Corporate Death Penalty: When big companies engage in criminal harm to the public, they deserve serious punishment [...] The good citizens of California have been wondering out loud who killed 86 of their citizens in the Camp Fire, along with dozens of other Californians over the years in other fires. Now both federal and state prosecutors are focusing on a likely suspect: Pacific Gas and Electric. California's largest private, for-profit corporate utility appears to have killed a number of people over the years, in many cases because of negligence apparently prompted by a desire to jack up corporate profits. As a corporation, they play by different rules than you or I. [...] When a corporation does business ethically and legally, it serves its local community, its employees, its customers, and its shareholders. For over a century, American corporations were held to this very reasonable standard."

Thank you, Brandi Collins-Calhoun, for writing "'Surviving R. Kelly' Left Me Sleepless — But I'm Nobody's Victim."

"Bernie's Plan for Racial Justice: The micro-scandals alleging that Bernie Sanders doesn't take racism seriously won't end any time soon. We should call them what they are: cynical attacks on a politician whose commitment to racial justice is intertwined with fighting economic inequality." The Daily Beast gave the H8% some ammo; Meagan Day clears it up.

Stephanie Kelton on Bernie 2020 - and, of course another tutorial. And here's more of her at We Can Have Nice Things.

I got depressed when I tried to read this, so I stopped, but if you are made of sterner stuff, "Dmitry Orlov: How Russians survived the collapse of the Soviet Union."

Alex Pareen, "2018: The Year In Ideas: A Review Of Ideas

"The War To Sell You A Mattress Is An Internet Nightmare: Why did Casper sue a mattress blogger? A closer look reveals a secret, multimillion-dollar battle to get you into bed."

Thanks, Mike and Mark, as always. Also, finally watched all of Leverage, and the final episode made me sad because it wasn't true.

See the pretty: If you haven't been to Maia's Flickr page lately, it's always good for your eyes.

"A song for the overworked and underpaid: Listen to Leyla McCalla's 'Capitalist Blues'"

23:11 GMT comment


Friday, 28 December 2018

Winter greetings

A bit late with this (though I'm still good up to the Epiphany), but let's start with the traditional Christmas links before we lose the holiday spirit:
* Mark Evanier's wonderful Mel Tormé story, and here's the man himself in duet with Judy Garland.
* Joshua Held's Christmas card, with a little help from Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters.
* Brian Brink's virtuoso performance of "The Carol of the Bells"
* "Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime."
* Ron Tiner's one-page cartoon version of A Christmas Carol

* * * * *

Alex Pareen joined The Majority Report's year-end review and Sammy asked the magical question: Why didn't some ambitious DA go after Trump's mob long ago?

"US-funded police linked to illegal executions in El Salvador: The United States has quietly funded and equipped elite paramilitary police officers in El Salvador who are accused of illegally executing gang members, CNN has learned. Successive US administrations have pumped tens of millions of dollars into Salvadoran law enforcement and military to shore up the government's 'Mano Dura' or Firm Hand program, first launched in 2003 but redoubled in 2014 to tackle the country's rampant gang problem."

"US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis resigns," apparently over Trump's announcement that all troops would be withrdrawn from Syria. For an amusing perspective on this issue, try this clip from The Majority Report.

Tim Russo has Brexit Bullet Points for the American Left in 2020. I have no idea whether he's right, but then no one else does, either.

"After McDonogh 35 vote, New Orleans will be 1st in US without traditionally run public schools: Following a hotly contested 5-2 vote on one school's future by the Orleans Parish School Board on Thursday night, New Orleans is slated to become the first U.S. city with virtually all of its public schools run by charter organizations starting next school year. As a packed room of community members chanted, shouted and waved signs in protest, the board gave a thumbs-up to a plan announced earlier in the day by Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. to have InspireNOLA, a high-performing charter operator, temporarily run McDonogh 35 Senior High School, which has been the city's only non-charter public high school." Which means there are now no public schools in New Orleans.

"Democrats Just Blocked Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Push For A Green New Deal Committee: Instead, Democrats are sticking to their original plan, and channeled Exxon Mobil in an announcement refusing to bar members who take fossil fuel money."

"Pro-Bitcoin Ron Paul: It's Time to Abolish Federal Reserve, Embrace Tax-Free Crypto. This would, of course, destroy the value of the US Dollar but allow private interests to control the money supply entirely.

"DNC Chair Tom Perez goes to war with state parties: Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez launched an attack on his own party's state organizations Saturday with a long and angry email over the future of the party's most valuable asset — its voter data file. Just days before an important Tuesday meeting in D.C. on the future of the data operation, Perez sharply criticized a new proposal from state party leaders and singled out prominent state officials by name. [...] The DNC wants to gather all the data points on voters into a new, massive for-profit database but needs to convince state parties on the idea. The state parties have been wary, accusing the DNC of conducting a power grab that could financially benefit a few elite party figures."

"A Texas Elementary School Speech Pathologist Refused to Sign a Pro-Israel Oath, Now Mandatory in Many States — so She Lost Her Job: A CHILDREN'S SPEECH PATHOLOGIST who has worked for the last nine years with developmentally disabled, autistic, and speech-impaired elementary school students in Austin, Texas, has been told that she can no longer work with the public school district, after she refused to sign an oath vowing that she 'does not' and 'will not' engage in a boycott of Israel or 'otherwise tak[e] any action that is intended to inflict economic harm' on that foreign nation. A lawsuit on her behalf was filed early Monday morning in a federal court in the Western District of Texas, alleging a violation of her First Amendment right of free speech. [...] In order to obtain contracts in Texas, then, a citizen is free to denounce and work against the United States, to advocate for causes that directly harm American children, and even to support a boycott of particular U.S. states, such as was done in 2017 to North Carolina in protest of its anti-LGBT law. In order to continue to work, Amawi would be perfectly free to engage in any political activism against her own country, participate in an economic boycott of any state or city within the U.S., or work against the policies of any other government in the world — except Israel." 26 US states have passed laws requiring state employees to take this oath, and 13 others have such legislation pending.

David Dayen, "Sen. Jeff Merkley Wants To Stop Congress Members From Insider Trading By Banning Them From Owning Stocks: SEN. JAMES INHOFE, an Oklahoma Republican recently elevated to chair the Senate Armed Services Committee after the death of John McCain, was implicated recently in what looked to be an insider trading scandal. A few days after meeting with President Donald Trump and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to successfully advocate for a military budget increase, Inhofe purchased between $50,000 and $100,000 of stock in defense contractor Raytheon, which stands to profit from additional defense spending. [...] When compared to corporate insiders, members of Congress are exposed to a much broader array of insider information which implicates a wide range of companies. Given that members of Congress hold a unique position of public trust, Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, both potential Democratic presidential candidates, want to put a stop to all the trading. Last week, they introduced legislation that would permanently ban members of Congress and senior staff from trading individual stocks. 'We should not be in the position of thinking about legislation in the context of personal investment,' Merkley told The Intercept in an interview. 'As long as you own stocks, it's hard to rule out of your mind. And the public sees it as a conflict of interest.' Under the Ban Conflicted Trading Act, all members would have six months after enactment to divest their shares. New members would get six months from their entry into Congress to divest. Members and senior staff could also opt to transfer stocks to an independent blind trust, or hold them for as long as they served in government, as long as they do not sell or buy more stocks. Diversified mutual funds or exchange-traded funds would still be allowed. [...] Another section of the bill prohibits members from serving as officers on corporate boards, which amazingly is not already disallowed. Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., was indicted earlier this year for advising friends and family to dump shares of the biopharmaceutical company Innate Immunotherapeutic after learning that a clinical trial for the company's key multiple sclerosis drug failed. Collins knew about the failure before it was public, because he sat on the company's board. Currently, Senate ethics rules ban members and staff from serving as board members of publicly traded companies, but House rules do not. Even the Senate rules permit board membership of tax-exempt organizations. Merkley believes codifying into law a full prohibition on members of the House or Senate serving on corporate boards would be beneficial."

David Dayen at The American Prospect, "Sears Adds Further Insult to Its Workers -- Bankruptcy Bonuses for Execs: Amazingly, a bankruptcy judge has approved $25 million for 334 senior executives, while tens of thousands of ordinary employees face layoffs. Sears and Kmart workers still have no idea whether they'll have a job after the holidays, as the once-mighty retailer slogs through bankruptcy. But the federal bankruptcy court working through the case has nonetheless delivered a Christmas miracle for one important constituency: the company's executives. Late on Friday, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Drain approved $25 million in year-end bonuses for Sears' top managers, as the company had requested. Nineteen executives would get about one-third of that money, around $8.4 million, if Sears hits certain financial targets in the next six months, or even if it merely pronounces itself on track to reach those goals. Another $16.9 million would be distributed to 315 senior employees in 'retention bonuses,' so they don't leave to join other retailers. [...] This is definitely a situation where the scandal is what's legal. It's common for executives to get bonuses approved during bankruptcy proceedings. The same thing happened at Toys 'R' Us, before the company was liquidated. 'It's an example of how our bankruptcy laws are broken,' said Carrie Gleason, policy director and campaign manager of the Rise Up Retail campaign, which has assisted current and former Sears workers. But the decision from Judge Drain comes just a week after U.S. bankruptcy trustee William Harrington, responsible for overseeing the Sears case on behalf of the government, formally objected to Sears' proposal to pay out the bonuses. Harrington wrote that the idea of enriching a tiny elite at the top of Sears' organization while the rest of the company scrambles would be improper. 'Against the backdrop of running going out of business sales, the shuttering of hundreds of stores, and the presumed termination of thousands of rank-and-file and hourly employees,' Harrington argued, 'the Debtors are seeking authority to pay significant bonuses to their most senior executive officers ' many of whom received pay raises on the eve of the bankruptcy filing.' Viewed this way, the bonuses do not feel like an effort to retain top talent through a difficult period, but a final extraction of cash before the ship sinks."

Read the full version of David Sirota's article at Capital & Main, "Beto vs. Democrats: Texas Lawmaker Frequently Voted to Help Trump and GOP: A rising Democratic star has voted for GOP bills that Trump critics say have aided big banks, undercut the fight against climate change and supported the president's anti-immigrant agenda. Following Beto O'Rourke's spirited run for the U.S. Senate, powerful voices in the Democratic Party establishment have touted the outgoing Texas congressman as a 2020 presidential candidate who, as the party's standard-bearer, would offer a vision of America contrasting against that of Republicans. However, a Capital & Main review of congressional votes shows that even as O'Rourke has represented one of the most Democratic congressional districts in the entire country, he has in many instances undermined his own party's efforts to halt the GOP agenda, frequently voting against the majority of House Democrats in support of Republican bills and Trump administration positions. Capital & Main reviewed the 167 votes O'Rourke has cast in opposition to the majority of his own party in the House during his six-year tenure in Congress. Many of those votes were not progressive dissents alongside other left-leaning lawmakers but were instead votes to help pass Republican-sponsored legislation. In many cases, Democratic lawmakers said that those measures were designed to help corporate interests dismantle Obama administration programs and regulations." A somewhat edited version is at the Guardian, and it also appeared in Newsweek.

"Ringing in a Christian Nationalist 2019 With an Even Larger Legislative Playbook: A Christian nationalist coalition, including the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, has published a new state legislative playbook for 2019 that's 30 percent larger, and 100 percent as committed to a nation that reflects its sectarian values."

"Politicians have caused a pay 'collapse' for the bottom 90 percent of workers, researchers say: Political decisions by elected officials are largely responsible for a 'collapse in pay for the bottom 90 percent' of the labor market since 1979, according to a new analysis of wage stagnation by the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank. While many economists pin much of the blame for wage stagnation on impersonal market forces, such as free trade and technological change, EPI's Josh Bivens and Heidi Shierholz contend that specific policy decisions — including efforts to weaken unions, the decay of the minimum wage and monetary policy that prioritizes low inflation over full employment — are responsible for tilting the balance of power away from workers and toward their employers."

From Current Affairs, "Why Is The Center For American Progress Betraying The Left? As the left tries to fight against inequality and exploitation, the main 'progressive' think tank joins forces with right-wing free market capitalists.... The Center for American Progress is one of the largest and most important think tanks in Washington, certainly the preeminent 'progressive' think tank. It describes its agenda as promoting 'bold, progressive ideas' and releases a number of extremely useful reports and fact sheets. In 2008, TIME branded it 'Obama's idea factory.' CAP has strong ties with both Obama and the Clintons — it was founded by close Clinton confidante John Podesta and its president, Neera Tanden, previously worked for both Bill and Hillary Clinton. The New Republic has described it as 'stuffed to the gills with staffers who have either worked in previous Democratic administrations or will go on to work in future ones.' [...] The Center for American Progress does not just accept shady donations. It also gives them. Journalist Andrew Perez reported that according to financial disclosure forms, CAP donated $200,000 last year to the American Enterprise Institute. The AEI is a right-wing free-market think tank perhaps best known as the longtime home of racist social scientist Charles Murray. " When they asked Neera Tanden what was up with that, she directed them to their website. "Naturally, Current Affairs gladly accepts the invitation to focus on CAP's collaboration with the AEI. I looked at two of the 'reports' that they have produced together so far. First, it is still unclear why CAP is giving AEI $200,000. The reports Tanden links to are a few pages each, more like extended op-eds than scholarly works, and involve no original research. They both focus not on 'authoritarianism' as Tanden says, but on what they call 'authoritarian populism.' This is important, because while Tanden suggests that nobody could object to 'defending democracy from the rise of authoritarianism,' we know that to the American Enterprise Institute, 'democracy' and 'authoritarianism' do not necessarily mean what they mean to you and me. When the AEI speaks of democracy, it means 'laissez-faire capitalism' and when it speaks of 'authoritarianism' it means 'minimum wage laws' or any mildly redistributive social policies that could threaten American Enterprise. Tanden wants to wave away concerns about the collaboration, because after all everyone agrees democracy is good. But the question is — what are we actually 'defending' here?"

Kos was stirring up crap on Twitter again last week. Kos and Armando seem to have made it their mission to denigrate the left in social media lately, so perhaps Dan O'Sullivan's article from early last year is timely again: Requiem for a Lightweight: Markos Moulitsas was once the face of American progressivism. That shouldn't happen again."

Mike the Mad Biologist, "TEH SOCIALISMZ!!! AAAIIIEEE!!!!: With the win of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (full disclosure: I donated to her campaign), there has been a lot of talk about socialism, which led to this hilarious self-own by Sean Hannity, where he displayed the horror that is her platform" [...] But on a more serious note, I'm genuinely puzzled as to how this is any different from what used to be called liberal Democrats (before and during the 1990s — and who were mostly purged from power by the Clinton era New Democrats) would propose. Looking at her site, as well as the DSA site, I'm not seeing anything about the nationalization of companies. No establishment of an activist wealth fund, in which the government has voting shares and uses them — Norway does this, for example. Other than for skyrocketing drug prices (and perhaps rent increases), there are no widespread calls for price controls. So it's really hard to see how what is currently referred to as socialism would differ from Hubert Humphrey's economic proposals."

RIP: Evelyn Berezin, creator of the first word processor and designer of a 1960s online air passenger reservation system: "Evelyn Berezin, who has died aged 93, invented the Data Secretary, the first electronic word processor for secretarial use, and in 1969 founded a company in Hauppauge, Long Island, to manufacture and sell it. She had bumped into the glass ceiling and it was the only way she could get a senior position running a company."

"Self-Presentation in Interracial Settings: The Competence Downshift by White Liberals: Most Whites, particularly socio-political liberals, now endorse racial equality. Archival and experimental research reveals a subtle but reliable ironic consequence: White liberals self-present less competence to minorities than to other Whites — that is, they patronize minorities stereotyped as lower status and less competent. In an initial archival demonstration of the competence downshift, Study 1 examined the content of White Republican and Democratic presidential candidates' campaign speeches. Although Republican candidates did not significantly shift language based on audience racial composition, Democratic candidates used less competence-related language to minority audiences than to White audiences. Across five experiments (total N = 2,157), White participants responded to a Black or White hypothetical (Studies 2, 3, 4, S1) or ostensibly real (Study 5) interaction partner. Three indicators of self-presentation converged: sophistication of vocabulary selected for an assignment, competence-related traits selected for an introduction, and competence-related content of brief, open-ended introductions. Conservatism indicators included: self-reported political affiliation (liberal-conservative), Right-Wing Authoritarianism (values-based conservatism) and Social Dominance Orientation (hierarchy-based conservatism). Internal meta-analyses revealed that liberals — but not conservatives — presented less competence to Black interaction partners than to White ones. The simple effect was small but significant across studies, and most reliable for the self-reported measure of conservatism. This possibly unintentional but ultimately patronizing competence-downshift suggests that well-intentioned liberal Whites may draw on low-status/competence stereotypes to affiliate with minorities."

Have a read of the Editor's Note at the top of this article, and the comments below it, which caused it to be edited after the fact. "Why the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Makes for a Complicated History: Charged with manslaughter, the owners were acquitted in December 1911. A Smithsonian curator reexamines the labor and business practices of the era." The original title of the article was "Was History Fair to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Owners?" and the article implied that they couldn't really be blamed. Not unnaturally, readers were a little peeved. Twitter had a field day.

For the notebook, from 2015: "Joe Biden Backed Bills To Make It Harder For Americans To Reduce Their Student Debt."

Also for the notebook, but from this week, Matt Yglesias says "Beto O'Rourke's voting record is more conservative than the average Democrat's: It's about what you'd expect from someone running a statewide campaign in Texas." This is based mainly on his DW-Nominate stats, but there's nothing else in his record that suggests he is more progressive than those stats would make it appear. It's a reasonable point to make about a three-term member of Congress who just lost a state-wide election bid but for some reason is being talked up as the progressive standard-bearer for 2020.

Nia Hope had her DNA tested and got a nasty surprise.

Making art with books. I found that last one a bit disturbing, though.

Bruce Springsteen - Fenway Park - 8-15-12 - Night 2, their only performance ever of "Knock on Wood".

Gary Clark, Jr., Live at Glastonbury, 2016

04:33 GMT comment


Sunday, 16 December 2018

Baby, it's cold outside

"Defying Trump, US Senate votes to end US support for Yemen war: The final vote of the Yemen resolution was 56-41, with seven Republicans breaking with their party to vote in support of the measure. [...] Due to tactics used by the Republican leadership in the House, the lower chamber will not take up the Senate measure before adjourning, leaving the matter unresolved until the new Congress convenes in January." Well, it wasn't simply due to Paul Ryan's tactics - it was also that five Democrats used those tactics as an excuse to vote the wrong way - they were Jim Costa, Al Lawson, Collin Peterson, Dutch Rupperberger, and David Scott. Peterson's explanation for his vote is priceless. Co-sponsors of the resolution to stop supporting the Yemen atrocity were Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Mike Lee (R-Utah).

"Abrams' New Voting Rights Org, Fair Fight Georgia, Files Suit: Charges Kemp "grossly mismanaged" election and "unconstitutionally purged" Georgia's voter rolls: Stacey Abrams, who refused to officially concede defeat in her bid for Governor, filed suit today in federal court in Atlanta charging the entire election process was hopelessly tainted. Abrams, who has formed a non-partisan voter protection organization, Fair Fight Georgia, cites, among other racially biased attacks on the rights of citizens to vote, the wrongful mass purge of voters by Secretary of State Brian Kemp — who was Abrams' opponent and the presumptive winner."

"Congress may have accidentally freed nearly all banks from the Volcker Rule: A few double negatives buried in legislative text may have inadvertently freed nearly all U.S. banks from a regulation known as the Volcker Rule, which sought to curb risky behavior in response to the 2008 financial crisis. The text in question comes from a package bill passed in May that pared back portions of the Dodd-Frank post-crisis financial regulatory framework. One of the many provisions of the bill offered an exemption from the Volcker Rule to smaller community banks that policymakers felt were burdened by the regulation, which limited banks' proprietary trading, or trading for their own accounts." Hm, "accidentally", "inadvertently", I wonder....

"Supreme Court sides with Planned Parenthood, declines to take case: The Supreme Court on Monday refused appeals from two states looking to end funding to Planned Parenthood, striking a blow to abortion foes. The decision leaves in place lower court rulings that blocked Louisiana and Kansas from banning Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers from the states' Medicaid programs. [...] Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justices Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito, dissented, writing that the court should have taken the cases. Justice Brett Kavanaugh did not sign on to the dissenting opinion."

"'Infuriating': Trump FCC Refusing to Release Data Showing If Telecom Industry Being Truthful About Internet Speeds: 'Without this information, consumers who are lucky enough to have a choice of broadband providers won't be able to make informed decisions about which broadband provider to choose.' Under Trump-appointee Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has continued a program to track whether major companies like AT&T, Comcast, Spectrum, and Verizon are providing their promised internet speeds, but has failed to publish any of its findings — concealment that has raised alarm among tech reporters and former agency officials. 'The only reason I can think of is that the data doesn't promote the chairman's narrative that broadband industry investment and performance allegedly suffered when it was subject to net neutrality rules grounded in Title II of the Communications Act,' former agency lawyer and adviser Gigi Sohn told Motherboard, referencing Pai's defense of a party-line vote that repealed the rules last year."

"In Stunning Power Grab, Wisconsin Republicans Pass Bill Weakening New Governor: Wisconsin's lame-duck, Republican-controlled state Legislature passed on Wednesday a host of measures designed to kneecap Gov.-elect Tony Evers, other Democrats elected to statewide offices and hurt the Democratic Party in general, sending the legislation to the GOP governor Evers defeated ? Scott Walker ? for his signature. One part of the package would prohibit municipalities from allowing more than two weeks of early voting. That presumably would cut down on voter turnout, which generally helps Republicans. Other provisions would give the Legislature full control of a state economic development agency, block the governor's ability to write regulations and allow the Legislature to hire its own lawyers to file lawsuits on behalf of the state. Walker, who narrowly lost to Evers, is expected to sign the package into law. Democrats are already threatening to fight the measures in court." They shouldn't wait for that - they should block a quorum by going into hiding. This didn't work in Texas because, although the Dems managed to hold out for a month, there was no time limit and they couldn't do that indefinitely. In this case, however, there is indeed a time limit, so it could work. (Here's the same story from Mother Jones.) Hear the Ari Berman interview on this at the Majority Report: Republicans Lose, So They Mount Coups w/ Ari Berman - MR Live - 12/4/18.

Also on The Majority Report, Eating NAFTA: Trade, Food Policies, & Destruction of Mexico w/ Alyshia Gálvez - MR Live - 11/27/18

Sam actually got David Dayen into the studio to discuss all the stuff about AOC and the new kids going for the important committees and how Joe Crowley's parting shot to undermine Barbara Lee ended up with Pelosi finding space for Lee and the progressive freshies.

"How Our Government Went to War Against Its Own Citizens w/ Bernard E. Harcourt - MR Live - 12/10/18

And I guess I'm late to the party about Comrade Pamela Anderson.

The Michael Brooks Show really worth a listen, "TMBS - 66 - You Need Marx To Understand Brexit ft. Richard Wolff"

Senator Bernie Sanders on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert saying Medicare For All Isn't A Fringe Idea Anymore.

"Charlottesville: James Fields guilty of murder for driving car into crowd: A jury has found 21-year-old James Alex Fields Jr guilty of first-degree murder for intentionally driving his car into a crowd of counter-protesters at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one woman and injuring dozens. Fields was convicted in the August 2017 crash that killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Her death came after police forced a white nationalist rally to disband after participants clashed with counter-protesters. The jury of seven women and five men began deliberating on Friday morning and took just over seven hours to reach the guilty verdict. [...] Jurors also convicted Fields of eight other charges, including aggravated malicious wounding and hit and run. [...] Fields faces 20 years to life in prison. The jury is set to return on Monday to determine his sentence. He has also been charged with federal hate crime counts, which could carry the death penalty."

"Tennessee Supreme Court rules Cyntoia Brown must serve 51 years in prison before she's eligible for release: The Tennessee Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that Cyntoia Brown, who was 16 years old when she killed a man who solicited her for sex, must serve 51 years in prison before being eligible for release. [...] Brown said she shot and killed her victim, 43-year-old Johnny Mitchell Allan, after she resisted his advances, and after she believed he was reaching for a gun. She then took a gun out of her purse and shot and killed Allan. [...] The unanimous ruling against Brown, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2004, followed a lawsuit in which she argued that her sentence was unconstitutional. Brown had pointed to a 2012 Supreme Court opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court to argue in the suit that being sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders violated the Constitution. The court denying the motion said she hadn't received a life sentence without parole and was just handed a life sentence instead."

"Ammon Bundy Quits Militia Movement in Solidarity With Migrant Caravan" Ammon Bundy is best known as a leading light of the American militia movement (a motley coalition of various different flavors of firearms enthusiasts who hate the federal government). He's famous for getting into armed standoffs with federal agents and violently occupying bird sanctuaries. His friends are the kind of folks who co-chair pro-Trump veterans groups; his father is the kind of man who says, 'I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro' — and proceeds to explain why black people were 'better off as slaves.' So, this being 2018, Bundy naturally just disavowed the militia movement in solidarity with the migrant caravan, suggested that nationalism is actually the opposite of patriotism, and said that Trump's America resembles nothing so much as 1930s Germany." Well, that was certainly unexpected.

Dean Baker at Beat the Press, "Trump and China: Going with Patent Holders Against Workers: While most of us don't have access to the inner workings of the Trump administration to know exactly what is going on with its negotiations with China, given the public accounts and statements, it seems workers have clearly lost. Trump seems to have made the concerns of companies like Boeing, who want more help maintaining their control over technology, his top priority. The impact of an under-valued Chinese currency, which has led to a large U.S. trade deficit, seems to have been dropped from discussion. [...] Most of the media cover this as though Trump is pursuing a genuine national interest in pressing this issue, as opposed to the interest of a small number of large corporations. This is seriously wrong. In fact, if Trump is successful to pushing his 'anti-intellectual property theft' agenda with China, it will actually be bad for most of the nation's workers."

Matt Taibbi, "The French Protests Do Not Fit a Tidy Narrative: The yellow vest protests are more nuanced than American pundits want to admit. 'What's wrong with elitism?' asked Washington Post columnist Max Boot this week on Twitter. Boot posed this in a discussion about the merits of centrism, raised in the context of the 'yellow vest' protests against the government of Emmanuel Macron in France." The confusion about French outrage at rich people imposing austerity on those who can't afford it isn't just for long-time right-wing pundits. Here's alleged "liberal" Neera Tanden on Twitter: I don't understand why any progressive is cheering French protesters who are amassing against a carbon tax." Because it's so hard to figure out that a tax on working people who can't afford it will not even cause any change in the behavior of the corporations who are most responsible for the pollution that is implicated in climate change, and it's just one more straw in a long list of grievances that have increased wealth inequality in France, silly. Matt Taibbi talked to Michael Brooks about this, too.

"Secret Scottish-based office led infowars attack on Labour and Jeremy Corbyn: On the surface, the cryptically named Institute for Statecraft is a small charity operating from an old Victorian mill in Fife. But explosive leaked documents passed to the Sunday Mail reveal the organisation's Integrity Initiative is funded with £2million of Foreign Office cash and run by military intelligence specialists. The 'think tank' is supposed to counter Russian online propaganda by forming 'clusters' of friendly journalists and 'key influencers' throughout Europe who use social media to hit back against disinformation. But our investigation has found worrying evidence the shadowy programme's official Twitter account has been used to attack Corbyn, the Labour Party and their officials."

David Dayen, "White Nationalist Steve King May Have Won, But Iowa Race Shows Republicans Are Losing Ground In Rural Areas: ELECTION ANALYSTS HAVE zeroed in on Donald Trump's weakness in well-educated suburban districts to explain the outcome of the 2018 midterms, in which Democrats won back more than 30 House seats. But the biggest losses of the night for Republicans, in terms of raw vote share, actually happened in rural districts, long presumed to be GOP territory."

* * * * *

Down With Tyranny!
• "The Worst Democraps Who Want To Be President-- Part III, Michael Bloomberg
• "The Worst Democraps Who Want To Be President-- Part IV, Joe Biden"

"New Election After Republicans Were Caught Trying To Steal A House Seat In North Carolina?: By the end of last month, it was already obvious that North Carolina Trumpist, Mark Harris, had stolen both the GOP primary that ousted Robert Pittenger and then the general election in which he-- against all odds-- beat Blue Dog Dan McCready. The final 538.com forecast omg November 6, showed Harris with just a 12.1% chance to win (1 in 8). [...] In an exclusive interview, McCready told Joe Bruno that he thinks Harris not only knew what McCrae Dowless was doing but that he was bankrolling 'criminal activity.' [...] Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, was also on CNN where he hinted that the state party might support a new election if allegations of fraud are proven true and if it impacted the outcome of the race. If allegations of fraud are proven true, the perps shouldn't be allowed to participate in a new election unless it's from a prison cell. Woodhouse: 'This has shaken us to the core. We are not ready to call for a new election yet. I think we have to let the board of elections come show their hand if they can show that this conceivably could have flipped the race in that neighborhood, we will absolutely support a new election.'"

"Republicans Thwarting The Will Of The Voters-- Michigan" — Democrats routed the Republicans, but the lame duck still has time to burn the house down, just as in Wisconsin.

"Wanted: Candidates To Take On Top 2020 Congressional Targets: Bernie is going to need a progressive Congress to help pass his platform in 2020 when he becomes president-- more members like Alexandria Ocasio, Ro Khanna, Raul Grijalva, Pramila Jayapal, Ted Lieu, Rashida Tlaib, Jamie Raskin, Mark Pocan, Mark DeSaulnier, Ayanna Pressley, Katherine Clark, Jim McGovern, Adriano Espaillat... and fewer Blue Dogs and New Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, faux Democrats who oppose Bernie programs like Medicare-for-All, free state colleges, Job Guarantee, the Green New Deal, etc. They will vote with the Republicans against these proposals-- which is why the 2020 cycle primaries, some of which are starting right now-- are so important." By my lights, no matter who wins the presidency in 2020, we need people in Congress who won't cave to right-wing demands, whether they come from Republicans or Democrats.

* * * * *

"Trump Moves to Deport Vietnam War Refugees: The White House again wants to expel certain groups of protected immigrants, a reversal after backing away from the policy months ago."

Zaid Jilani at Current Affairs, "What Does Beto O'Rourke Actually Stand For? What makes anyone think O'Rourke should be president? He is neither a bold progressive nor a distinguished legislator. "

"How Did The Dems Win 7 Red GOP Seats? Ben Ray Lujan And His Band Of Incompetents Want The Credit— But Kevin McCarthy (And Trump) Did More Than The DCCC Did. [...] The DCCC has been running around trying to claim credit for the California wins, where they deserve none at all. Their presence in the state made it more difficult for Democrats and nearly cost the party several districts. The reason for the wins has more to do with Ted Lieu's fundraising strategies for the candidates combined with the immense dislike for Trump and the bumbling of Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, another Californian who himself is lucky the DCCC gave him a pass, allowing a hapless joke candidate to run against him.

"Joe Crowley'S Parting Shot: Ousted By Ocasio-Cortez, He Undermined Barbara Lee In House Leadership Race: THE ELECTION OF Rep. Hakeem Jeffries as House Democratic Caucus chair on Wednesday represented a symbolic and substantive comeback for the wing of the party that had suffered a stunning defeat last June, when Rep. Joe Crowley was beaten by primary challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Jeffries, who represents a Brooklyn district next door to Crowley's, bested Rep. Barbara Lee of California, who had the support of the insurgent movement that had ousted Crowley. A protege of Crowley's, Jeffries is heavily backed by big money and corporate PACs. Less than 2 percent of his fundraising comes from small donors, who contribute less than $200, according to Federal Election Commission records. [...] Crowley, though, wasn't going gently into the night. In the run-up to the vote, he told a number of House Democrats that Lee had cut a check to Ocasio-Cortez, painting her as part of the insurgency that incumbents in Congress feel threatened by, according to Democrats who learned of the message Crowley was sharing. There was a kernel of truth in the charge. Lee's campaign did indeed cut a $1,000 check to the campaign of Ocasio-Cortez, but did so on July 10, two weeks after she beat Crowley. Since then, Reps. Steny Hoyer, Raúl Grijalva, and Maxine Waters, as well as the PAC for the Congressional Progressive Caucus, have all given money to Ocasio-Cortez's campaign committee. It's not an unusual phenomenon — a way to welcome an incoming colleague — but Crowley's framing of it linked Lee to the growing insurgent movement, despite her decades of experience in Congress. "

I keep hoping this will go away, but oh, those "progressive Democrats" are keeping it alive. "Senators Working To Slip Israel Anti-Boycott Law Through In Lame Duck: DEMOCRATIC SEN. BEN Cardin is making a behind-the-scenes push to slip an anti-boycott law into a last-minute spending bill being finalized during the lame-duck session, according to four sources familiar with the negotiations. The measure, known as the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, was shelved earlier amid concerns about the infringement of free speech, after civil liberties groups argued that the original version would have allowed criminal penalties for Americans who participate in a political boycott of Israel. Some of the more aggressive elements of the provision have been removed under pressure, but the American Civil Liberties Union, which spearheaded the initial opposition to the bill, is still strongly opposed."

It looks like we dodged a bullet. "Deval Patrick bows out of 2020 presidential run." Now read this thread about just how sleazy this piece of crapforeclosure monster really is.

"CNN Submits to Right-Wing Outrage Mob, Fires Marc Lamont Hill Due to His 'Offensive' Defense of Palestinians at the U.N. CNN ON THURSDAY afternoon fired its commentator, Temple University Professor Marc Lamont Hill, after right-wing defenders of Israel objected to a speech Professor Hill gave at the U.N. on Wednesday in defense of Palestinian rights. CNN announced the firing just twenty-four hours after Hill delivered his speech. Hill's firing from CNN is a major victory for the growing so-called 'online call-out culture' in which people who express controversial political views are not merely critiqued but demonized online and then formally and institutionally punished after a mob consolidates in outrage, often targeting their employes with demands that they be terminated. Hill's firing, conversely, is a major defeat for the right to advocate for Palestinian rights, to freely critique the Israeli government, and for the ability of journalism and public discourse in the U.S. generally to accommodate dissent. Conservatives claimed to be offended, traumatized and hurt by Hill's political views on Israel and Palestine, which they somehow construed as being anti-semitic, and demanded that CNN fire him as punishment for the expression of those opinions. CNN honored the demands of those claiming to be victimized by exposure to Hill's viewpoints by firing him as a political analyst."

"Ocasio-Cortez Gunning For Powerful Committee, Setting Up Showdown With Long Island Democrat: ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ is making a push for a seat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, according to people familiar with her decision. It's a panel whose jurisdiction over taxes and revenue puts most of the economy within its mandate. For that reason, freshmen are almost never given spots on the panel, but the midterm elections upset the balance of power in the House. Sixty-three new representatives have joined the Democratic caucus, and some 43 Republicans either lost their seats or retired — so there is an unusually large number of vacancies to fill. By custom, New York City effectively has at least one reserved seat on Ways and Means, and Ocasio-Cortez is looking to claim it. Its former occupant was Rep. Joe Crowley, whom Ocasio-Cortez beat in a primary election. Any major piece of legislation — whether it's 'Medicare for All,' a 'Green New Deal,' or free public college — would involve some level of revenue, putting it squarely in the domain of Ways and Means, which makes it a key spot for a legislator looking to have an impact. Ocasio-Cortez is routinely asked how she plans to pay for her aggressive economic agenda, and the first answer begins with securing a spot on the House's key tax-writing committee."

Rep. Marc Pocan (D-WI 2), "'No Labels' Needs A Warning Label [...] Look, I get it. No Labels is slick, and I got duped. But no other current or newly elected member of Congress should fall for its shtick. No Labels is a centrist, corporate organization working against Democrats with dark, anonymous money to advance power for special interests. Period."

"'Lobbyists Are Here. Goldman Sachs Is Here. Where's Labor? Activists?' Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez Pull Back Curtain on Corporate-Sponsored Freshman Orientation: One of the best parts of Ocasio-Cortez's arrival in D.C. as a new leader is that she notices, and is revolted by, the corrupt, corporatist rituals that are so embedded in D.C. culture that most politicians and journalists barely notice them."

"At elite gala with ex-Bush official, Obama implores Wall Street to thank him for making them so much money: Barack Obama urged bankers to thank him for helping make them so much money during his tenure as president. He also boasted of turning the US into the world's largest oil producer, while surrounded by wealthy Republicans in tuxedos. Obama made these appeals for elite adulation at a lavish gala hosted by former Secretary of State James Baker. His comments came just a few hours after he met with former Republican President George H. W. Bush at his home in Texas. [...] 'I know we're in oil country, and we need American energy,' Obama said. 'And by the way, American energy production — you wouldn't always know it — but it went up every year I was president. And that whole, 'Suddenly America is the biggest oil producer' — that was me, people.'" Which is a pretty funny thing to say after delivering lip-service to doing something about climate change. But it seems like just last month, everyone was laughing at Trump for saying he was grateful for himself, and now here's Obama telling Wall Street they should be grateful to him. He's right, too. The rest of us should probably tar and feather them both.

This was probably not supposed to be the funniest story I read all week, but it is. Danielle Paquette in The Washington Post, "Workers are ghosting their employers like bad dates: Economists report that workers are starting to act like millennials on Tinder: They're ditching jobs with nary a text. 'A number of contacts said that they had been 'ghosted,' a situation in which a worker stops coming to work without notice and then is impossible to contact,' the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago noted in December's Beige Book, which tracks employment trends. [...] Keith Station, director of business relations at Heartland Workforce Solutions, which connects job hunters with companies in Omaha, said service workers in his area are most likely to skip out on low-paying service positions. [...] Some employers in Nebraska are trying to avoid unfilled shifts with apprentice programs that guarantee raises and additional training over time." Well, gosh, it seems some of these innovative entrepreneurs have... invented the raise.

"The Ignored Legacy of George H.W. Bush: War Crimes, Racism, and Obstruction of Justice [...] The inconvenient truth is that the presidency of George Herbert Walker Bush had far more in common with the recognizably belligerent, corrupt, and right-wing Republican figures who came after him — his son George W. and the current orange-faced incumbent — than much of the political and media classes might have you believe."

Read this Will Stancil thread about the miracle of black kids going to Ivy League colleges and doing just fine, even though they were just ordinary kids. (via)

Richard Eskow at Common Dreams, "Wall Street Is Leading the Attack on Pelosi — Steny Hoyer Is the Real Barrier to the Progressive Agenda: A Hoyer speakership would be a catastrophe for the left. [...] The anti-Pelosi insurgency is not a movement. It's a cabal, orchestrated by the appropriately hashtagged #FiveWhiteGuys, a group of self-self-interested players with big money behind them. These white males resemble nothing so much as the next-generation terminator played by Robert Patrick in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. They're cunning, aggressive, shape-shifting, and so reflective that anyone who looks at them sees only a distorted image of themselves."

Dave Lindorf in The Nation, "Exclusive: The Pentagon's Massive Accounting Fraud Exposed: How US military spending keeps rising even as the Pentagon flunks its audit.: On November 15, Ernst & Young and other private firms that were hired to audit the Pentagon announced that they could not complete the job. Congress had ordered an independent audit of the Department of Defense, the government's largest discretionary cost center — the Pentagon receives 54 cents out of every dollar in federal appropriations — after the Pentagon failed for decades to audit itself. The firms concluded, however, that the DoD's financial records were riddled with so many bookkeeping deficiencies, irregularities, and errors that a reliable audit was simply impossible."

"Officers pry 1-year-old from Brooklyn mom's arms during arrest; police investigating: BOERUM HILL, Brooklyn (WABC) -- Two peace officers from the Human Resources Administration will be placed on modified duty after shocking video showed an excruciating tug of war between a group of officers and a mother trying to hold on to her baby. It all apparently started because there was nowhere for the young mother to sit. [...] Eyewitness News was told the city agency was slow and crowded, so there were no chairs available, and Headley sat on the floor with her son to wait her turn. [...] Nyasia Ferguson took the video and confirms that both Headley and her son were not blocking any doors or passageways. When security guards ordered Headley to stand, Eyewitness News is told the mother refused because there were no seats and she had her baby. A supervisor was called - and then police."

RIP: "William Blum, Renowned U.S. Foreign Policy Critic, Dead at 85. I know I should remember him, since he was the founder of The Washington Free Press, but I really don't recall ever actually seeing him. "William Blum died in Virginia early this morning on December 9, 2018. He was surrounded by friends and family after falling in his Washington D.C. apartment and sustaining serious wounds 65 days ago. He was 85 years old. [...] in London in the mid-1970s, Blum collaborated with ex-CIA officer Philip Agee and his associates 'on their project of exposing CIA personnel and their misdeeds.'"

"Snowden Speaks Out for Assange: 'If You Would Deny a Thing to Your Enemy, It Is Not a Right': 'You cannot support the prosecution of a publisher for publishing without narrowing the basic rights every newspaper relies on,' says NSA whistleblower."

This is from 2016, but an interesting contribution. "Yes, Immigration Hurts American Workers: Here's the problem with the current immigration debate: Neither side is revealing the whole picture. Trump might cite my work, but he overlooks my findings that the influx of immigrants can potentially be a net good for the nation, increasing the total wealth of the population. Clinton ignores the hard truth that not everyone benefits when immigrants arrive. For many Americans, the influx of immigrants hurts their prospects significantly. [...] Both low- and high-skilled natives are affected by the influx of immigrants. But because a disproportionate percentage of immigrants have few skills, it is low-skilled American workers, including many blacks and Hispanics, who have suffered most from this wage dip. The monetary loss is sizable. The typical high school dropout earns about $25,000 annually. According to census data, immigrants admitted in the past two decades lacking a high school diploma have increased the size of the low-skilled workforce by roughly 25 percent. As a result, the earnings of this particularly vulnerable group dropped by between $800 and $1,500 each year. We don't need to rely on complex statistical calculations to see the harm being done to some workers. Simply look at how employers have reacted. A decade ago, Crider Inc., a chicken processing plant in Georgia, was raided by immigration agents, and 75 percent of its workforce vanished over a single weekend. Shortly after, Crider placed an ad in the local newspaper announcing job openings at higher wages. Similarly, the flood of recent news reports on abuse of the H-1B visa program shows that firms will quickly dismiss their current tech workforce when they find cheaper immigrant workers. But that's only one side of the story. Somebody's lower wage is always somebody else's higher profit. In this case, immigration redistributes wealth from those who compete with immigrants to those who use immigrants — from the employee to the employer."

Norman Solomon, "The 'Pelosi Problem' Runs Deep: Whether our concerns involve militarism, social equity, economic justice, civil liberties, climate change or the overarching necessity of a Green New Deal, the Democratic Party must change from the bottom up."

"Criminalisation of sex work normalises violence, review finds: Sex workers three times more likely to experience violence from client where trade is criminalised, data shows: Sex workers are more likely to suffer poor health, violence and abuse in countries where their trade is criminalised, a major review has found. The review, by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, found that sex workers suffering repressive policing — including arrest, imprisonment and extortion by officers — were three times more likely to experience sexual or physical violence from a client and were twice as likely to have HIV or another sexually transmitted infection as those who lived in countries where sex work was tolerated. Sex workers who fear that they, or their clients, may be picked up by the police are more likely to engage in risky encounters, unable to take the time to talk to a client before getting into a car or negotiate terms in advance, the researchers found."

Pastor to Make Controversial Sculpture Out of Purity Rings: Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber is inviting women who grew up during the purity movement to send her their purity rings so that she can melt them into a 'golden vagina' "

John Dingle, former Democratic Representative from Michigan, says, "I Served in Congress Longer Than Anyone. Here's How to Fix It. Abolish the Senate and publicly fund elections." I think this is simplistic and ignores numerous other causes of the problem. Once the high taxes on the rich were lowered, things were bound to go to Hell.

"US Labor Leader Says Case for Bernie Sanders 2020 Is Simple: His 'Life and Heart and Soul': 'I always say that heroes are not made, they're cornered," says RoseAnn DeMoro, former head of the National Nurses United. "And I've never seen anybody more cornered in my life than Bernie Sanders.'"

Glen Ford in Black Agenda Report, "Bernie Sanders Puts Forward a Program That Could Split the Democratic Party: Bernie Sanders has opened his 2020 campaign with a 10-point program that could bust the Democratic Party wide open — which would be best thing Bernie could do for the world. Bernie Sanders last week unveiled a 10-point legislative agenda that he believes will galvanize the Democratic base in much the way that Newt Gingrich's 1994 'Contract With America' propelled the GOP to its biggest electoral sweep since 1946 . The Vermont senator's wish list is genuinely impressive in sweep , a full-blown progressive domestic platform for his expected second run for the presidency in 2020. But the immediate obstacle to Sanders' proposals for Medicare-For-All, tuition-free public higher education, expanded Social Security, a $15 an hour minimum wage, 'bold action' on climate change, fixing the criminal justice system, comprehensive immigration reform, progressive tax reform, a $1 trillion infrastructure overhaul and cheaper prescription drugs, is not Donald Trump's GOP troglodytes -- it's Nancy Pelosi and her corporate Democrats, who answer to a much higher power: big capital."

Note to self: "19 Examples of Bernie Sanders' Powerful Record on Civil and Human Rights Since the 1950s"
Bernie Sanders voted for the 1994 tough-on-crime law. But it's complicated.

One of the less interesting criticisms I've heard from the alt-center of Bernie Sanders is that his use of the term "revolution" portends violence and horror. This is a deliberate and specious misreading of the word, but it's funny none of them had this criticism of the 1992 Democratic platform.

Okay, I think this looks like mom's irresistible Christmas cookies. I want some.

I was never bothered by the original song anyway, but here's a response to the criticism: "Baby, Just Go Outside".

04:06 GMT comment


Sunday, 02 December 2018

Oh, how they pound, raising the sound

Time to start the war against Bill O'Reilly's war on Christmas, so happy Advent and some traditional music to set the mood and the North Pole Advent Calendar (which now lets you cheat) while you're waiting. I like the funky little jigsaw puzzles.

"Jill Stein wins Election Reform in PA: Today, Green Party 2016 Presidential nominee Jill Stein announced the formal settlement of her 2016 lawsuit against the state of Pennsylvania. The lawsuit called for an end to the use of paperless voting machines known to be vulnerable to hacking, tampering and error, and for the reform of unworkable recount procedures that prevent verification of the vote. The settlement guarantees that Pennsylvania will provide new voting systems using paper ballots by 2020, followed in 2022 by automatic robust audits after every election to confirm the accuracy of the vote before results are certified."

"Senate defies White House on Saudi support in Yemen: The Senate delivered a stunning rebuke to the Trump administration on Wednesday, voting overwhelmingly to advance a measure yanking U.S. support for Saudi-backed forces at war in Yemen. The 63-37 vote, in which 14 Republicans joined every Democrat in voting to move forward on the bipartisan Saudi resolution, came hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis failed to sway key undecided senators with an appeal to hold off lest they upset progress of nascent talks on a cease-fire in Yemen." Or as Ben Norton tweeted: This Sanders/Murphy/Lee resolution would force a withdrawal of US support for this unauthorized war, which created Earth's largest humanitarian crisis and pushed millions into famine." We are all amazed to see that no Democrat actually voted against this bill. All the bipartisanship came from the other direction, for a change - and it's the first bipartisan bill to pass the Senate in a long time that is an unmitigated good. It's reasonable to hope the House may pass it, but if Trump vetoes it, it's unlikely to get past the next Senate.

"Taxpayers — not Big Pharma — have funded the research behind every new drug since 2010: A sweeping study of drug R&D funding shows the public pays for the crucial foundations of medical breakthroughs. So why not let the public have access to them? Something odd happened when the Trump administration submitted the original version of its latest pro-corporate budget: Big Pharma didn't like it. The problem wasn't a tax hike or new regulations: the problem was that the budget included deep cuts to the budget of the National Institutes of Health. If those cuts had gone through, they would have exposed one of the biggest lies told about Big Pharma: that the current system of patents and price-gouging is just an unfortunate necessity to cover the cost of all their brave and noble R&D work. Trump's original spending proposal for fiscal year 2019, released last month, included major cuts to not just to the NIH, but the National Science Foundation as well. It is those two publicly funded entities — not Big Pharma — that support the bulk of the country's basic research into diseases and pathways to new treatments. That's why the cuts were especially unwelcome in the executive suites of drug and biotech companies. Their business models depend on Washington subsidizing expensive, high-risk basic research, mostly through the vast laboratory network funded by the NIH.

Juan Cole at Informed Comment, "Trump cuts Palestinians off at Knees, Ending $5 bn in US AID Support: The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has announced that all operations in the West Bank and Gaza will close by early 2019. Half of the agency's staff are expected to be let go in the coming weeks. USAID is one of the largest aid organizations in the region, supplying around US$5.5 billion to the occupied Palestinian territories for infrastructure, medical and social services, and humanitarian aid. There is currently no alternative in sight. Some US$215 million that the United States was to invest in humanitarian aid and development in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip has been withheld, according to an analysis for the U.S. Congress. U.S. financing for UNRWA has also been blocked as part of President Trump's blackmail tactics against the Palestinians."

"Ukraine Bans All Russian Men, Raising Tensions: Adding to growing tensions between Ukraine and Russia, and the broad Ukrainian hostility toward all things Russian, President Petro Poroshenko announced on Friday that he is banning all Russian men between the ages of 16 and 60 from the country. Officials are trying to tie this to last weekend's maritime incident with Russia, and Poroshenko is claiming it is to prevent Russian soldiers from sneaking into the country to 'destabilize' Ukraine before a war. In reality, it feels like a continuation of Poroshenko's anti-Russia policies which included harsh restrictions on the use of the Russian language, the sort of policies which fueled secessionist fervor in the mostly ethnic-Russian east. In the near term, the impact is mostly economic and cultural. Russian soloist Andrei Merkuriev, from the Bolshoi, reported that he was forbidden from attending a ballet in Odessa, a show which he was staging in the first place. Beyond this, Poroshenko announced new crackdowns on the Russian Orthodox church, ordering raids against important religious sites in the country. This comes amid his government's push to emphasize the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox church."

RIP: "Director Nicolas Roeg dies aged 90." I think I only saw The Man Who Fell To Earth a couple of times, but I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've seen Performance. A friend who worked at the theater slipped me in to see it the first several times ("You gotta see this movie!"). I couldn't stop watching. (Still one of the best soundtracks ever.)

* * * * *

From Down With Tyranny!
"New Series: The Worst Democraps Who Want To Be President-- Part I, Tulsi Gabbard [...] In Hawaii, she earned a reputation among her former colleagues in the State Legislature as one of their most bigoted contemporaries. She defined her local career as an outspoken anti-gay and anti-reproductive rights politician. Volumes of official records from the Hawaii State Legislative Reference Bureau tell Tulsi's story in her own words. Here, Tulsi, then Representative Tamayo, presents a floor speech against a measure supported by local hospitals that resolved to study the needs of LGBTQ students, who suffered the highest rates of suicide in the state...."

"The Worst Democraps Who Want To Be President-- Part II, Kirsten Gillibrand [...] Trump and the GOP will be spending hundreds of millions of dollars eviscerating anyone the Democrats run in 2020. But Gillibrand would be their easiest target to destroy, since she's laid so much of the groundwork herself."

"New Series: Democraps Who Are Calling Out To Be Primaried-- Meet California Blue Dog Jim Costa"

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This is from September but kept forgetting to post it, even though I've listened to it several times since then. Matt Taibbi on The Michael Brooks Show, TMBS - 58 - Ten Years Of Not Jailing Bankers. I particularly liked the parts where they tear up Jamie Dimon (welfare queen) and Ben Bernenke.

"Pennsylvania Case Challenges 'Death By Incarceration' For 18-Year-Olds: Recent Supreme Court rulings have led to a review of life-without-parole sentences for crimes committed at age 17 and younger, but attorneys for Avis Lee say there's no reason to stop there."

Matt Taibbi, "Who Will Fix Facebook? In its effort to clamp down on fake news, Russian trolls and Nazis, the social media giant has also started banning innocent people, proving again it can't be trusted to regulate itself [...] We could have responded to the fake-news problem in a hundred different ways. We could have used European-style laws to go after Silicon Valley's rapacious data-collection schemes that incentivize clickbait and hyper-partisanship. We could have used anti-trust laws to tackle monopolistic companies that wield too much electoral influence. We could have recognized de facto mega-distributors as public utilities, making algorithms for things like Google searches and Facebook news feeds transparent, allowing legitimate media outlets to know how they're being regulated, and why. Instead, this story may be turning into one of the oldest narratives in politics: the misuse of a public emergency to suspend civil rights and concentrate power. One recurring theme of the fake-news controversy has been a willingness of those in power to use the influence of platforms like Facebook, rather than curtail or correct them. Accused of being an irresponsible steward of information, Facebook is now being asked to exercise potentially vast and opaque new powers."

"A group of students at Weill Cornell and Columbia explain why their CEO is wrong to oppose 'Medicare for All'

This is old and maybe I even posted it before and forgot, but I was listening to it just now and it was kinda spooky to hear Robert Scheer and Thomas Frank discussing the Democrats at the 2016 Democratic Convention.

Just sticking this here as a note to self: "What Bernie Sanders Got Done in Washington: A Legislative Inventory"

"Analysis: From Glasgow to Berlin - how strikes, mutinies and revolutions ended WW1: Official commemorations for the end of WW1 refuse to acknowledge how it ended."

Whovian Complaint Form (via)

Someone reminded me to watch the "Ode to Joy - Flash Mob Started by One Little Girl" video again.

You can read all of Will Shetterly's Warpship Victoria comic here.

07:15 GMT comment


Friday, 23 November 2018

Thank you, as always

The colors change, the pages turn, and everything gets harder. There's no way I could ever tell you how grateful I am to you for still being here with me, but believe me, I am.

At this writing, all of the Senatorial elections have been called with the exception of the special election in Mississippi, where Mike Espy (D) and Cyndy Hyde-Smythe (R) are tied at 41% each. Dems picked up AZ and NV, and the GOP picked up FL, IN, MO, and ND.

"Iowa Democrat loses race by 7 votes — but officials refuse to count 29 absentee ballots from left-leaning county [...] 'About 29 absentee ballots from left-leaning Winneshiek County weren't counted. One of those was Liam's, and he says his ballot was mailed ahead of deadline,' tweeted Senapathy. While the ballots may have been mailed by the date, some post offices didn't postmark the ballots, so there was no verification of when the ballot was received. 'Here's where it gets disturbing. According to @52101news (Decorah Iowa News) Winneshiek County Auditor says the 29 ballots without a postmark will NOT be included in the vote totals because of specific rules about how mailing dates may be verified,' Senapathy went on. 'Meanwhile, as Liam explained to me, in neighboring, right-leaning Fayette County, ballots that weren't postmarked were 'accidentally' counted. This is against policy, but the claim is that it's too late to do anything about it. This is some rank BS.'"

Ari Berman in Mother Jones, "These Unheralded Democratic Wins Could Reshape Voting Rights Across the Country: Democrats took control of secretary of state jobs in Arizona, Colorado, and Michigan. Kyrsten Sinema's narrow victory in Arizona's US Senate race may have gotten all the attention, but Katie Hobbs' even narrower victory, declared five days later on Saturday, might say more about the future of the emerging purple state — and of voting rights across the country. Hobbs, a Democrat, will become Arizona's first Democratic secretary of state since 1995. The position is second-in-command to the governor, and it's a common stepping stone to the governor's mansion: Four of Arizona's last nine governors were previously secretaries of state, according to the Phoenix New Times. Just as important, Hobbs campaigned on an expansion of voting rights, and she will now oversee the state's elections, with the potential to reshape the electorate by improving access to the ballot for minority, young, and low-income voters. She was one of three Democrats who took over secretary of state jobs previously held by Republicans, joining Democratic victors in Michigan and Colorado. These races were unheralded next to congressional and gubernatorial races across the country, but these officials now have the power to enforce state voting laws in 2020, advocating and implementing practices that will make it easier to vote in critical swing states. [...] There's still one big secretary of state race outstanding, in Georgia, the epicenter of the fight over voter suppression in 2018. Rep. John Barrow, the last white Democrat from the Deep South in the House of Representatives, who lost his seat in 2014, is running to succeed Kemp. He trailed on Election Day by just 19,000 votes, so he's now in a runoff against Republican State Rep. Brad Raffensperger that takes place on December 4, with early voting beginning next week. Barrow has criticized Kemp's voter registration restrictions as 'plainly illegal' and has been an outspoken opponent of gerrymandering after Georgia Republicans redrew his district to oust him from Congress. 'Any thing we do that makes it harder than necessary for honest citizens to register, stay registered, or vote undermines their right to vote,' he wrote in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday."

"House Progressives Are Facing An Unexpected Problem In The Quest For Committee Power [...] And yet, it's a precarious situation for the CPC. Several key retirements and the blue wave adding between 38 and 40 House Democrats has led to an unprecedented number of open slots on the money committees. The unsettled race for speaker provides a unique opportunity for influence. But if progressives cannot find the warm bodies willing to fill committee slots, they'll have put their reputation on the line in a bid for power, without being able to follow through."

Here's a nightmare scenario: "155 Democrats back Hoyer's bid for majority leader. This amidst complaints about Pelosi from the left while right-wing Democrats attack from the right. Those hot young Blue Dogs want a chance at her seat that they won't get if the party won't move farther to the right.

Another good move that passed at the polls, "What is Ballot Question E? Banning Water Privatization in the City of Baltimore" - "Inalienability of the Sewer and Water Systems". Everybody should do this.

"Somali Workers in Minnesota Force Amazon to Negotiate: Labor organizers and researchers said they had not heard of Amazon previously coming to the table after worker pressure, even for private discussions."

"Amazon Is Kicking All Unauthorized Apple Refurbishers Off Amazon Marketplace: Amazon told independent refurbishers that it will now only allow "authorized resellers" to sell Apple products on Amazon Marketplace. [...] Aaron Perzanowski, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University and coauthor of The End of Ownership, told me in an email that this decision is a dangerous infringement of ownership rights. 'Wow. This is a very troubling development,' he said. 'Given Amazon's dominance as an online retail marketplace, its decision to disregard the first sale rights of resellers will significantly limit consumer choice. The fact that this move was demanded by Apple makes it even more problematic. What we see here are the world's two most valuable companies engaging in a coordinated assault on the lawful resale of consumer devices.'"

Sirota, "Will New York Fund Amazon Subsidies or Student Debt Relief? New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made headlines begging Amazon to site its second headquarters in the state. Now, however, prominent Democrats in the state Senate and Assembly have slammed the idea of offering taxpayer subsidies to the retail giant. [...] Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim announced that he will introduce legislation to slash New York's economic development subsidies and use the money to buy up and cancel student debt — a move he said would provide a bigger boost to the state's economy. The legislation, says Kim, would halt any Cuomo administration offer of taxpayer money to Amazon, which could reap up to $1 billion in tax incentives if it moves to Long Island City. The deal is a goodie bag for Amazon: It includes everything from a $325 million cash grant to a promise that taxpayers will help secure a helipad for Amazon executives."

Okay, this one is actually from National Review? "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Right about Amazon's Corporate Welfare: After a long process, Amazon finally announced that it will locate its new headquarters in New York and Virginia. Following the announcement, Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that 'Amazon is a billion-dollar company. The idea that it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need MORE investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here.' As a result of her tweet, conservative commentators all over twitter and on shows like Fox Business's Varney & Co. are making fun of her. They argue that her reaction is yet more evidence that she doesn't get economics and that doesn't want New Yorkers and Virginians to get the thousands of jobs that will be created there thanks to the new headquarters. I can't believe I'm saying this, but Ocasio-Cortez is mostly correct on this matter, and her conservative critics are wrong. Handouts like this to Amazon and other prominent companies are appalling in their cronyism, pure and simple. I agree that she doesn't understand economics and that her socialist ideal is a recipe for fiscal and economic disaster. But her conservative critics reveal their own economic misunderstanding when they support targeted tax breaks as a means of creating jobs.

Derek Thomson in The Atlantic, "Amazon's HQ2 Spectacle Isn't Just Shameful — It Should Be Illegal: Each year, local governments spend nearly $100 billion to move headquarters and factories between states. It's a wasteful exercise that requires a national solution. [...] Every year, American cities and states spend up to $90 billion in tax breaks and cash grants to urge companies to move among states. That's more than the federal government spends on housing, education, or infrastructure. And since cities and states can't print money or run steep deficits, these deals take scarce resources from everything local governments would otherwise pay for, such as schools, roads, police, and prisons. [...] But there are three major problems with America's system of corporate giveaways. [...] Corporate America is getting all the help it doesn't need. You and I may not like it. But executives such as Jeff Bezos have no reason to care. They are winning by the rules of a broken game."

"Georgia Legislator, Arrested At Work, Says She Was 'Singled Out As A Black Female Senator': Georgia state Sen. Nikema Williams (D-Atlanta) was arrested along with more than a dozen other protesters at the Georgia State Capitol on Tuesday afternoon at a demonstration asking the state to 'count every vote' from last week's gubernatorial election. Protesters shouted 'Let her go!' as Williams was handcuffed while the General Assembly was in session. [...] One of Williams' white male colleagues, state Rep. David Dreyer (D-Atlanta), went to the same protest with Williams for the same reason and was not arrested. He stood outside the jail after her arrest and spoke out about Williams' unfair treatment by Capitol police. Dreyer said he went down to the Capitol about the same time as Williams, 'but for some reason, Sen. Williams was treated differently than I was treated.'

"Ohio House passes 'Heartbeat Bill' restricting abortion after detection of fetal heartbeat: By a vote of 59 to 35, the Ohio House of Representatives once again passed the 'Heartbeat Bill.' The bill, considered by among the most restrictive abortion bills in the country, would ban abortion at the first detectable fetal heartbeat. That could come within the first six weeks of pregnancy. [...] The bill would first have to be voted on in the Senate, something Senate leaders have not yet decided on."

"Abortion clinics on edge after woman who shot Kansas doctor is released from prison: Abortion clinics across the country were taking extra precautions Wednesday after the anti-abortion activist who shot Wichita physician George Tiller in 1993 and committed a string of clinic attacks in several states was released from prison. Rachelle 'Shelley' Shannon, the Oregon woman whose actions once triggered a federal investigation into the possible existence of a national conspiracy of anti-abortion terrorists, had been living in a halfway house in Portland, Ore., since May. She has spent 25 years in custody. [...] News of Shannon's release has clinic operators on edge. In addition to showing no remorse for her actions, they say, Shannon has been visited in prison by several activists who believe that killing abortion doctors is an act of justifiable homicide. Clinic supporters also note that Tiller, a regular target of abortion protesters because he was one of a handful of doctors in the country who performed late-term abortions, was shot to death in 2009 by Kansas City-area anti-abortion extremist Scott Roeder, who had admired Shannon and visited her many times in prison.

Maryland Matters with "2018 Election Cycle's Ups and Downs" reports some good news despite the way Ben Jealous was abandoned by the party.

By the way: Keith Ellison left a safe seat in Congress to run for Minnesota AG, realizing it would be terrible to leave that office to a Republican. He won, 49.1%-45.2%.

Lee Fang and Nick Surgey in The Intercept, "Lobbyist Documents Reveal Health Care Industry Battle Plan Against 'Medicare For All': NOW THAT THE midterms are finally over, the battle against 'Medicare for All' that has been quietly waged throughout the year is poised to take center stage. Internal strategy documents obtained by The Intercept and Documented reveal the strategy that private health care interests plan to use to influence Democratic Party messaging and stymie the momentum toward achieving universal health care coverage.

Right-wingers and Dem Donuts alike love to attack Bernie Sanders because his wife's attempt to save a failing college was not successful, and five years after the event, the head of Trump's presidential campaign complained about it to the FBI. There is actually news on this front that probably still won't shut them up: "Adviser says Bernie Sanders' wife cleared in college land deal investigation: A top adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders said Tuesday that the Vermont independent's wife, Jane Sanders, has been recently told by the US attorney in Vermont that they have closed an investigation into a land deal involving Burlington College during Jane Sanders' presidency." This is exactly the kind of nonsense Ken Starr pulled on the Clintons, but it had even fewer legs. What's weird is not that some right-wingers tried to talk it up, but that Democrats were doing the same thing, which is about like believing that Hillary Clinton killed Vince Foster.

I hate to admit it, but not only is Maureen Dowd right, but it's an article that needed to be written. "Who's the Real American Psycho? [...] Even for Washington, the capital of do-overs and the soulless swamp where horrendous mistakes never prevent you from cashing in and getting another security clearance, this is a repellent spectacle. War criminals-turned-liberal heroes are festooned with book and TV contracts, podcasts and op-ed perches. Those who sold us the 'cakewalk' Iraq war and the outrageously unprepared Sarah Palin and torture as 'enhanced interrogation,' those who left the Middle East shattered with a cascading refugee crisis and a rising ISIS, and those who midwifed the birth of the Tea Party are washing away their sins in a basin of Trump hate. The very same Republicans who eroded America's moral authority in the 2000s are, staggeringly, being treated as the new guardians of America's moral authority. They bellow that Trump is a blight on democracy. But where were these patriots when the Bush administration was deceiving us with a cooked-up war in Iraq? How do you like your norms broken? Over Twitter or in a torture memo? By a tinpot demagogue stomping on checks and balances he can't even fathom or a shadowy authoritarian expertly and quietly dismantling checks and balances he knows are sacred? Before we had Trump's swarm of bloodsucking lobbyists gutting government regulations from within, we had Cheney's. Before Trump brazenly used the White House to boost his brand, we had Cheney wallowing in emoluments: He let his energy industry pals shape ener