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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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Saturday, 04 September 2021

We've both been sound asleep

Cornish apple orchard by Adrian Paul Allinson (British, 1890-1959)

"Supreme Court Allows Extreme Texas Abortion Ban To Go Into Effect: S.B. 8 offers private citizens a $10,000 bounty if they successfully sue anyone 'aiding or abetting' abortion-seeking patients in Texas The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed a restrictive Texas law to go into effect that criminalizes abortion at six weeks and deputizes citizens to enforce the ban. S.B. 8 effectively bans abortion at six weeks, a time at which many people don't yet realize they're pregnant. The bill is more extreme than laws in states such as Alabama and Ohio due to a clause that financially incentivizes private citizens to sue anyone 'aiding or abetting' abortion-seeking patients in Texas. If someone successfully sues a person aiding and abetting the medical procedure, they could receive a bounty of $10,000 and have all of their legal fees paid for by the opposing side." Gosh, it's like the Fugitive Slave Act all over again. (Lawyers, Guns, and Money has more details with Sotomayer's dissent.) Pelosi responded by scheduling a bill codifying Roe v. Wade in law.

"Prop. 22, the gig worker exemption for Uber and Lyft, is ruled unconstitutional; Proposition 22, which exempts gig work companies like Uber and Lyft from treating drivers as employees, is unconstitutional, a judge ruled Friday. The measure, which 59% of state voters supported last fall, illegally 'limits the power of a future legislature to define app-based drivers as workers subject to workers' compensation law,' Alameda County Superior Court Frank Roesch ruled. The judge's order found that Section 7451 of the measure is unconstitutional because it 'defines unrelated legislation an 'amendment'' to the measure, making the entire measure unenforceable. The section states that any future laws related to collective bargaining for app drivers must comply with the rest of Prop. 22, which violated the requirement that ballot measures focus on a single subject, Roesch ruled. 'It appears only to protect the economic interest of the network companies in having a divided, ununionized workforce, which is not a stated goal of the legislation,' he wrote." There's a fuller version of the judge's statement here: "A prohibition on legislation authorizing collective bargaining by app-based drivers does not promote the right to work as an independent contractor, nor does it protect work flexibility, nor does it provide minimum workplace safety & pay standards for those workers. It appears only to protect the economic interests of the network companies in having a divided, ununionized workforce which is not the stated goal of the legislation."

"The Supreme Court launches a 'political torpedo' right at the Biden administration On Tuesday night, the Supreme Court announced a consequential decision that amounted to an aggressive assertion of judicial authority against President Joe Biden. In a four-sentence order, the justices left in place a lower court's injunction preventing the Biden administration from ending Donald Trump's 'Remain in Mexico' policy, which left many asylum-seekers unable to enter the United States as their cases proceed through the long and arduous process. Essentially, the court is saying Biden has to continue to Trump's policy because he didn't end it in the right way. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who was appointed by Trump, had previously ordered Biden to continue the policy on the grounds that the decision to reverse it was 'arbitrary and capricious.' The Supreme Court has upheld that procedural move, which is now expected to stay in place as the litigation proceeds. The initial ruling and the injunction were highly criticized when they came down, with many critics arguing that they represented extreme overreach by a conservative judge trying to undermine a politically opposed administration. Vox's Ian Millhiser said Judge Kacsmaryk didn't even understand the law he referenced [...] Now, the Supreme Court's conservatives have said that the judge's injunction will remain in place, fulfilling Milhiser's fears. All three liberal justices on the court dissented from the decision, though there was no written opinion of the court nor any dissents. 'Absolute insanity. SCOTUS' conservative majority repeatedly cleared away lower court injunctions so that Trump could implement his immigration agenda. Now it lets a single district court judge dictate foreign policy for the Biden administration. This is beyond outrageous,' said Slate's Mark Joseph stern. Many critics echoed the point that the court was generally deferential to the Trump administration on immigration and foreign policy. It left in place Trump's ban on migrants from Muslim countries, despite clear evidence that it was inspired by racist animus."
Vox: "The decision upends the balance of power between the elected branches and the judiciary. It gives a right-wing judge extraordinary power to supervise sensitive diplomatic negotiations. And it most likely forces the administration to open negotiations with Mexico, while the Mexican government knows full well that the administration can't walk away from those negotiations without risking a contempt order. With this order, Republican-appointed judges are claiming the power to direct US foreign policy — and don't even feel obligated to explain themselves.

"Black police groups call for ex-Black Panther jailed for 48 years to be released: Officers' groups say 84-year-old Sundiata Acoli, convicted of murder of New Jersey state trooper, poses no threat to public safety [...] The intervention of the Black groups underscores a rift within police officer organizations. Powerful white-dominated law enforcement associations have been at the forefront of the battle to keep former Black Panthers incarcerated for decades. [...] Acoli, who was born Clark Edward Squire, was given a life sentence in 1974 for the murder of New Jersey state trooper Werner Foerster the previous year. Acoli had been driving along the New Jersey Turnpike together with two other members of the Black Liberation Army, Assata Shakur (born JoAnne Chesimard) and Zayd Malik Shakur (James Costan) when they were stopped by a state trooper, James Harper, over a defective taillight. In the ensuing melee, shots were fired. Foerster was struck with four bullets and died, and Zayd Malik Shakur was also killed. Harper was wounded, and both Acoli and Assata Shakur were arrested after a police chase. Shakur escaped and fled to Cuba, where she was granted asylum by the Cuban government. In 2013 she became the first woman to be put on the FBI's 'most wanted terrorists' list, and at age 74 she faces a $2m reward for information leading to her capture." Wait, did I read that right? They decided to put her on the "most wanted" list when she was 74?

"Amazon installs huge lockers on a Chicago park's sidewalk, confusing and frustrating neighbors, annoying residents not just with their obstruction and unsightliness, but with the outrage of public land being given over to this use. Then they were even angrier when they found out that the "Amazon Lockers Will Net Park District $137,600 At Most For First Year, Contract Shows," a remarkably paltry sum for the city.

"Private Equity's Potential Payday From Build Back Better: Hundreds of billions of dollars are scheduled for industries private equity dominates. Advocates want to make sure workers and families benefit, not financiers. Legislation with the size and scope of the $4 trillion 'Build Back Better' agenda is like a Bat-Signal for lobbyists, urging them to swarm Capitol Hill without delay. Literally thousands of companies, organizations, and trade groups have lobbied on one or more of the bills in this package. But one industry's representatives keep showing up over and over again, whether in formal lobbying sessions in Congress or more informal meetings: private equity. 'At every point, private equity lines up at the trough,' said one observer close to the discussions. 'There's just somebody in every fucking meeting.' [...] Given that the private equity model involves extracting as much value from portfolio companies as possible, regardless of the quality or success of that underlying business, critics fear that we could end up with a situation where a large amount of money is sent out by the government as a sitting target for fund managers to pilfer. This could end up making these services even worse for the families that use them and the workers who perform the tasks, despite the large federal investment."

RIP: "Ed Asner, who played Lou Grant in two hit shows, dies aged 91: [...] The part brought three best supporting actor Emmys and two best actor awards. He also won Emmys for his roles in the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man (1975-76) and Roots (1976-77). He had more than 300 credits and remained active throughout his 70s and 80s. In 2003, he played Santa Claus in Will Ferrell's hit film Elf. He was John Goodman's father in the short-lived 2004 CBS comedy Center of the Universe and the voice of the elderly hero in the hit 2009 Pixar release, Up. More recently, he was in such TV series as Forgive Me and Dead to Me. [...] Asner remained politically active for the rest of his life and in 2017 published the book The Grouchy Historian: An Old-Time Lefty Defends Our Constitution Against Right-Wing Hypocrites and Nutjobs." The Guardian's fuller obituary is here. "As a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, he remained outspoken in a very conservative industry. 'Socialist means a thing that will curb the excesses of capitalism: the increasing wealth of the rich and decreasing wealth of the poor,' he said. 'I'd like to see a national guarantee of health, a national guarantee of education (through college), fair housing, and sufficient food.'" Ronald Bergen, who wrote the on-file obit for them, died last year.
"The Ed Asner 90th Birthday Tribute"

RIP: "US music star Don Everly dies aged 84 [...] Considered one of pop music's greatest vocal partnerships, Phil and Don Everly had worldwide hits in the late 1950s and early 1960s, including "Bye Bye Love" and "All I Have to Do Is Dream". Their unique vocal harmonies, coupled with ingenious guitar arrangements and timeless material, had a revolutionary impact on the Beatles, the Hollies, Simon and Garfunkel, the Beach Boys, the Byrds, and Crosby, Stills and Nash." I think I've seen or heard quotes from every one of them saying so, too. They were much loved.

RIP: "Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts dies aged 80: Musician's publicist says he died peacefully in a London hospital surrounded by his family" The confirmation was necessary because there was actually a Charlie Watts death hoax on the net just a few days earlier.
"Charlie Watts: Jazz man who became rock superstar: Drummer Charlie Watts, who has died at 80, provided the foundation which underpinned the music of the Rolling Stones. The band became a by-word for rock and roll excess but for Watts, playing with the Stones did not become the ego trip that drove Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. A jazz aficionado, Watts vied with Bill Wyman for the title of least charismatic member of the band; he eschewed the limelight and rarely gave interviews And he famously described life with the Stones as five years of playing, 20 years of hanging around."
bmaz also had a nice little appreciation which includes a nice live version of "Gimme Shelter" you oughta hear, too.
"TOP 10 CHARLIE WATTS ROLLING STONES SONGS"
And a little tribute by The Rolling Stones.

RIP: "Carol Carr (1938-2021): Author Carol Carr, 82, died September 1, 2021 of lung cancer. Carr was the author of several short stories, widow of author and editor Terry Carr, and wife of author Robert Lichtman, who survives her. Carr began publishing short fiction with 'Look, You Think You've Got Troubles' in Orbit 5 (1969), and her work also appeared in F&SF and Omni. She collaborated with Terry Carr on 'Some Are Born Cats' (1973) and with Karen Haber on 'First Contact, Sort Of' (1995). Her stories and some non-fiction were collected in Carol Carr: The Collected Writings (2013)." I was closer to Terry than to Carol, but she was someone special.
"A few photos over at File 770.

RIP: "Stanley Aronowitz, Labor Scholar and Activist, Dies at 88: As a self-described 'working-class intellectual,' he declared that direct action was more potent than collective bargaining or conventional politics. [...] 'We've been relying for so long on politicians to solve problems,' he told the magazine In These Times in 2014, 'that the union membership no longer really relies on its own power.' [...] Complaining that 'almost nobody in the social sciences deals with the question of power,' he said: 'What we do not have is an organized left. If you do not have an organized left, you do not have an organized political public intellectual.'"

40 years ago Ronald Reagan was undermining the foundations of our country. Watch "When Reagan Declared War on Working People — Max Alvarez". (32 minutes)

"The Great American Science Heist: How the Bayh-Dole Act Wrested Public Science From the People's Hands ON THE MORNING of June 6, 1979, Navy Adm. Hyman G. Rickover, the longest-serving officer in the history of the U.S. armed services, sat down before a Senate subcommittee on the Constitution. Famous as the father of the nuclear submarine program, Rickover had recently emerged as that rarest of Washington breeds: a top-brass crusader against waste and corruption in defense contracting. On this day, he deployed his reputation and characteristic bluntness to stop a bill called the University and Small Business Patent Procedures Act. At stake was the government's long-standing proprietorship of patents on inventions resulting from the research it underwrote. The proposed legislation would hand patents over to the private contractors that conducted research at government expense, essentially gutting the government's ownership stake and paving the way for monopolization. The bill's supporters — those in favor of removing this block — included drug companies, venture capital firms, university patent offices, and the nascent biotech industry. Those opposed to this sweeping change in federal patent policy were led by a fading Democratic coalition committed to New Deal ideas about antitrust regulation, patents, and public science controlled in the public interest. Rickover was a lone but strong military voice for this coalition: a war hero with the authority of having overseen the construction of the first nuclear propulsion systems, one of the most complex government science programs since the Manhattan Project. Speaking before the subcommittee, Rickover railed against the proposed policy changes. 'Government contractors should not be given title to inventions developed at government expense,' he said. 'These inventions are paid for by the public and therefore should be available for any citizen to use or not as he sees fit.'

"Clintonism's Zombie: Making sense of Josh Gottheimer's attempts to sabotage the Democratic agenda [...] It would be one thing if Gottheimer were a rogue, independent political outsider, but he's a nightmare of the Democratic Party's own making, a creation of the Clinton White House from his days as a college undergraduate. Gottheimer joined up ahead of the 1996 re-election campaign on the rapid-response team, the same year that Clinton's signature welfare reform package was signed into law, setting in motion a process that increased poverty, lowered income for single mothers, ballooned the number of people in homeless shelters, and empowered states to eliminate welfare entirely. After Clinton rode that welfare reform, signed just three months before Election Day, into a second term, Gottheimer went to work as the president's youngest speechwriter, serving in the White House alongside Terry Edmonds and Michael Waldman until Clinton termed out in 2001. [...] Gottheimer seems to be the most zealous holdover of a bygone era of the Democratic Party, one that opposes expanding the welfare state, celebrates high-dollar fundraising through close proximity to Wall Street, and cares little for the overall well-being of the party as a whole. While Bidenism struggles to renew New Deal democracy, Gottheimer is working to reinstate a version of Clintonism that many presumed to have passed. That has been richly rewarding for Gottheimer himself, but it remains a lonely campaign. The Congressional Progressive Caucus has a substantial voting edge over Gottheimer and his eight disciples, and Pelosi has given no indication she'll cave to his demands. But it's a rough reminder of the persistence of Clintonism's sway over some Democratic politics and some Democratic pols—largely gone, but not forgotten."

"The Ides of August [...] I was there. Afghans did not reject us. They looked to us as exemplars of democracy and the rule of law. They thought that's what we stood for. And what did we stand for? What flourished on our watch? Cronyism, rampant corruption, a Ponzi scheme disguised as a banking system, designed by U.S. finance specialists during the very years that other U.S. finance specialists were incubating the crash of 2008. A government system where billionaires get to write the rules."

What's amazing about this is not so much what it says as that it's being said by Jonathan Chait, someone who normally acts like nothing in the world is better than "moderate" Democrats. "9 Moderate Democrats Threaten to Tank Entire Biden Presidency: The party has managed to work together, until now. Joe Biden's success to date has owed itself to many factors, the largest of which is the willingness of congressional Democrats to compromise with each other. The narrow margins of the party's majority means almost any member in either chamber can blow up any bill, and just as the dynamic of mutually assured destruction prevented the Soviets and the United States from obliterating each other, it has muted the traditionally fractious Democratic caucus. That dynamic is beginning to change, and the instigators are easy to identity: a handful of moderate House Democrats who have been issuing increasingly aggressive demands, culminating in a new letter threatening to withhold their votes from a budget resolution that will contain Biden's signature domestic legislation and the basis of the party's campaign." And then he actually makes it clear that they are being destructive to the party and their strategy stinks anyway. So Chait's favorite politicians seem to be losing Chait.

From 2015 in The Nation, "This Long-Lost Constitutional Clause Could Save the Right to Vote: This Long-Lost Constitutional Clause Could Save the Right to Vote [...] But an important tool remains unused, all but forgotten in a dark and dusty corner of the shed. Dating back to Reconstruction, it has the great merit of being already enshrined in the Constitution. According to Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment, any state that denies or abridges the right to vote for any reason must have its congressional representation reduced in proportion to the number of citizens it disenfranchises. Arguably the most radical clause in the Constitution, it was designed to remake the government and the country. It has never been enforced."

"The Problems Solved by Debutantes: On class, power, whiteness — plus Pride & Prejudice and the Kardashians as "one giant Lydia" [...] So, yes! The original problem the Reformation created was a glut of daughters. Fathers had always married off their daughters to the best possible suitors to keep their wealth as concentrated as possible and to create powerful strategic alliances. Until the Reformation, many rich European families would invest all their money in their 'best' daughter and send the daughters they deemed less valuable to convents to avoid having to dilute their fortunes by providing each one with a dowry. The family would pay a nominal fee for the daughter to live in respectable seclusion, which some young women preferred given that they were not choosing their husbands. When Henry VIII separated from Rome and dissolved all the Catholic institutions in England, these fathers were no longer able to cloister their unmarriageable girls and had to find ways to pair them off. Because marriage was the only remaining respectable path for women, a daughter's failure to marry could embarrass her family and keeping her at home was more expensive than the convent. So, by the time Mr. Bennet throws up his hands in exhaustion about 'what's to be done with all these girls?' in the early pages of Pride and Prejudice, the daughter problem had already been brewing for several hundred years. "

A couple of primers:
George Monbiot in 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?"
Stephen Metcalf in 2017, "Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world: The word has become a rhetorical weapon, but it properly names the reigning ideology of our era — one that venerates the logic of the market and strips away the things that make us human."

"Melt the Crown: How the myth of the genius director has erased the careers of some very talented women, and why it's time for the 'auteur' to be tossed out entirely." Isn't it interesting how many "auteurs" lost their spark as directors as soon as they got rid of the wives who helped them make the films that made them famous?

WSWS has a tribute on their website to commemorate "100 years since the birth of Jean Brust", who became a socialist activist back in 1937 and is why our friend Steve gets to call himself a red-diaper baby.

This is one of the more fun ads I've seen in a while, for DirectTV Stream.

"Elvis Costello Plays Penny Lane for Sir Paul at the White House" is kinda sweet.

And this is just plain smashing: Night Music: Jools Holland & Doctor John as the "Boogie Woogie Twins" And for a real surprise, "Liberace Boogie Woogie"

The Everly Brothers, "Wake Up Little Susie"

22:41 GMT comment


Saturday, 21 August 2021

You're trying hard not to show it

Villa Belza Biarritz by Maria Vasilevich is from the Biarritz Holidays collection.

"Election 2020: Myths About (Liberal) US Media Still Strong...And Dangerous: It is an enduring belief that the vast majority of US media are 'liberal' or 'leftist.' This is a powerful myth, used by the political right to convince citizens that a secular, urban elite pushes a leftist agenda on the nation via television, newspapers and Internet. This notion wasn't invented by Trump. But Trump has, more than any other President, leveraged that pre-existing distrust and taken it to new depths. As we watch Trump openly fight democracy post-election, it is worth considering how this myth is perpetuated, even internationally." This article totally understates the case.

And nothing proves it like the pull-out from Afghanistan. Let's not forget that it was Trump, and not Biden, who made the deal to quit Afghanistan. Biden delayed somewhat but really had no choice, and somehow managed to officially start the retreat. He actually made a fairly decent speech (for an American Exceptionalist, it was actually way, way better than could be expected) in which he admitted that staying and fighting would not make things better and seemed to have made things worse. So, officially, at least, we are pulling out of Afghanistan.

But make no mistake, we lost this the moment we went in. As some of us pointed out at the time, we didn't even have a reason to be there in the first place, but even if we had, letting Bush, Cheney, and their gang of crazies do it was sheer insanity. It was perfectly clear what their values and priorities were. There is a way to get a positive outcome from the takeover of a country and we know that because we've done it before, but like the whole raft of weirdo neocons and neoliberals, they had a massive allergy to doing anything FDR did right. I'm sure a lot of ordinary people who had grown up knowing about the Marshall Plan that turned two very different enemy nations into thriving democratic allies must have assumed that, sure, since we know how to do this, that's what they'll do. But anyone who'd been paying attention to the careers of Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, and that whole crowd of loonies could see that this was not what they were going to do. This was all about money, from buying loyalty to stuffing their pockets. The last thing they wanted was democracy - in Afghanistan, or in the United States. Afghanis tried to form unions and the Randian weirdos the Bush administration sent in put a stop to that, and any other actions to form a civil society, fast. And then they gave us torture and Guantanamo and people started to suspect that maybe this wasn't what they'd hoped for.

I think my favorite tweet over the last week has been the person who pointed out that it had taken four presidents and billions of dollars to replace the Taliban with the Taliban. (I also like the tweets pointing out how Carter and Reagan pretty much created the Taliban in the name of anticommunism.)

None of which our "liberal" media will tell you, because they are busy completely erasing the entire history of what happened in Afghanistan to have a quick argument about whose fault it all is and, as Margaret Sullivan puts it, "The Afghan debacle lasted two decades. The media spent two hours deciding whom to blame. Here's the predictable headline on Miranda Devine's column in the Murdoch-owned New York Post: 'Joe Biden's defeat in Afghanistan will echo for eternity.' She trashes Biden — 'the reverse Midas touch' in all things so far — and admiringly quotes former president Donald Trump on what a great job he would have done. (It does seem like he had his chances, though, doesn't it?) There it is: the loser and the forever, would-be winner."

Of course, this may have something to do with the fact that being willing to shore up American Exceptionalism and oligarchy is pretty much literally part of the job description for working in major America media. As Atrios said of these Asymmetries:

The Right gets a deferential hearing on every issue, no matter how out of touch it is (anti-vax, for example). Not just deferential, but coverage which implies it is the majority view, that Democrats should be on the defensive and conciliatory.

The Left can't even get that treatment when its views are, actually, the clear majority view (Forever war in Afghanistan is bad).

Any normal person hearing Biden's speech nodded and felt relieved that at least one nightmare was ending, at last. The polls showed overwhelming support from the public. But the Washington press corps all agreed with the Fox News view, weirdly contradictory as it was, that Biden should not be ending this disastrous failure of a war.

Not that I want to let Biden entirely off the hook, of course. Because unlike those of us who were screaming, "No, don't do this, it'll be a disaster!" Joe Biden was cheering on this stupid war 20 years ago. The "respectable" media did not defend her while she was excoriated mercilessly on Fox, and her colleagues on "our" side of the aisle did not have her back, but only one person in Congress proved not to be a coward on that day: Barbara Lee.

* * * * *

"Infrastructure Summer: Bipartisan Bill Boosts Corporate Giants: In broadband and other areas, the corporate dominance that has been an impediment to progress emerges unscathed. If Tuesday's passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act leads to even a significant portion of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda through budget reconciliation, it will herald a new age of government investment and intervention in the economy, and a reversal of decades of pullbacks in public spending. But in another sense, the IIJA—and potentially the companion reconciliation bill—also carries on a tradition from the Clinton and Obama years of sidestepping big fights with corporate interests. It is not enough for Democratic lawmakers to have relearned how to spend money if they also continue to shy away from breaking power. One of the clearest examples of this is how broadband is treated in the IIJA. On the surface, a $65 billion investment in broadband, with an emphasis on getting low-income and rural households connected and closing the digital divide, is an unalloyed positive. But how much of that money will actually go toward meeting these goals, and how much will funnel into the coffers of incumbent telecom companies that for decades have resisted spending much money on rural and low-income deployment?"

"Texas Democrats fail to show up to state legislature and file lawsuit against Republican governor over voting bill: Democratic lawmakers from Texas allege Governor Greg Abbott has infringed their constitutional rights in a new lawsuit. Texas Democrats have again failed to show up to the state Capitol as Republicans began their third attempt at passing new voting laws. It prolonged a monthslong standoff that escalated in July when 50 Democratic state lawmakers fled the state and hunkered down in Washington DC." But so many of the Republican delegation has been exposed to covid that they'll be in quarantine and still won't be able to make a quorum.

"The USPS awarded a $120 million contract to a company with financial ties to the postmaster general: The U.S. Postal Service has secured a $120 million, five-year deal with XPO logistics, a major logistics contractor with financial and personal ties to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, The Washington Post reports." Why hasn't Biden fired this guy already? Or is it pointless to ask why Biden seems content with yet another of Trump's actions?

"'Borderline illegal': Courtesy tows remain Philly's persistent parking nightmare: Drivers who get sucked into the bureaucratic vortex describe it as city-sanctioned auto theft, sometimes followed by punishing fines from the Philadelphia Parking Authority. Gary Isaacs returned home from a trip to California in January to discover his car missing from its Center City parking spot and two alarming letters in the mail. The Philadelphia Parking Authority, in a letter dated Dec. 22, informed Isaacs that it had towed and impounded his car. And a notice from the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, dated Dec. 30, warned him that the car was scheduled to go on the auction block. 'YOU ARE HEREBY GIVEN NOTICE,' the court wrote, 'that the vehicle listed below will be sold at auction and your legal and equitable interest in that vehicle will be extinguished. ...' Isaacs was mystified. He'd last parked his 2005 BMW on Camac Street, within the area covered by his parking permit —not in a loading zone on Lombard Street, as the PPA was contending in its letter. The next day, he called the parking authority, hoping to clear up the misunderstanding. A woman there said his car had apparently been 'courtesy towed' from Camac to Lombard because while he was gone, his original parking space had been declared a temporary no-parking zone, reasons unknown. 'I had never heard of a 'courtesy tow,'' said Isaacs, 61, who runs a small nonprofit that fights homelessness. 'It sounds like a generous thing to do. Except they towed it to a place where it was illegal to park. And then they ticketed it, and impounded it, and put it up for auction.'"

"The Tragic Case of the Wrong Thomas James: Two men with the same name. A murder, a manhunt, and a chilling question: Did a Florida court hand down a life sentence because of a mistaken identity? [...] 'Thomas James,' the judge read aloud. James stood. But before the judge could detail the charges, the court clerk sitting below the bench reached into a large accordion folder and pulled out a document. 'Your honor,' he recalled the clerk saying, 'there's a warrant out for him for first-degree murder.' James raised his eyebrows. This was a mistake; he hadn't murdered anybody. He assumed his file had gotten mixed up with that of one of the other guys on the docket. The warrant spelled out the particulars: Seven months earlier, near Miami's Coconut Grove neighborhood, a robbery had gone bad and a man was killed. Hearing all this, James was stunned but not yet scared. They can't be talking about me, he thought. He lived 15 miles from Coconut Grove and had been there only once or twice in his life, and that was years ago. None of this made sense to him. But a mistake this egregious would surely get straightened out quickly." But that never happened, and the wrong Thomas James has been incarcerated since 1990.

Doctorow, "Utilities governed like empires: Tech companies' "mission statements" are easy to dismiss as BS, but they're deadly serious and surprisingly successful in their aspirations to dominate the digital world. That's how we've ended up in a situation where a single company might control your email archives, family photos, business's cloud drives, home security system, mobile devices and media collections. But these companies don't act like they've deliberately coiled their tendrils around every aspect of your digital life; they act like you're just a customer whom they can kick off the platform the way a bartender would 86 you after last call."

Also Doctorow, "Elite debt hits record heights [...] When you are very rich, you can borrow money at interest rates that are next to zero; you can also take your income in stock, rather than cash. Stock is only taxed when you sell it, and then at the lower capital gains rate, because the IRS rewards gambling and punishes work. Put those two facts together, and you've got wealthy people who effectively never "earn" any taxable income — instead, they stake their assets as collateral on tax-free loans at sub-1% interest. The Propublica stories even reveal wealthy people illegally taking deductions on the loan interest, which the IRS doesn't seem to punish. Why would they? The rich are different from you and me. We pay tax. They don't."

And Doctorow: "End of the line for Reaganomics [...] Prior to Reagan, US antitrust enforcers relied upon a theory of "harmful dominance," cracking down on monopolies when their scale allowed them to hurt workers, or the environment, or suppliers. Harmful dominance is the theory that unaccountable power is dangerous — that giving corporate leaders control over the market lets them pervert the political process and inflict harms on the rest of us in ways that are hard to detect and even harder to prevent. That principle created a policy that was designed to keep companies weaker than the democratically accountable state, rather than allowing them to grow so large that the could capture their regulators and start to write their own regulations. Reagan nuked "harmful dominance," replacing it with radical theories from one of Nixon's top crooks, Robert Bork, whose book THE ANTITRUST PARADOX advances a conspiracy theory about US antitrust — that the framers of these laws never meant to protect us from monopoly at all."

"The granddaughter of anti-LGBT+ crusader Anita Bryant, who described gay people as 'human garbage', is marrying another woman: Bryant, 81, is a former celebrity singer and orange juice spokesperson, who in the 1970s turned her attention to anti-gay activism, ending her career in the entertainment industry. [...] Her granddaughter has now spoken out about her struggle over whether to invite her grandmother to her same-sex wedding."

Clay Risen's obit for Glen Ford in the NYT without the paywall, with a very early photo, "Glen Ford, Black Journalist Who Lashed the Mainstream, Dies at 71."

Good thread from Ron Knox about how monopolies rob us: "1. Hello. For 40 years, our economic regulators told us big corporations were not necessarily bad, and corporate industrial power was actually good for regular folks. We've known that was wrong. Regular folks aren't better off. But now we have data to back it up. A thread. 2. The data shows that, since the 1950s, the amount of wealth dominant companies take from shoppers, workers and the rest of us has grown by two orders of magnitude. That money leaves our wallets and our paychecks and ends up in the bank accounts of executives and shareholders. 3. Again, we've known this, but until now it wasn't clear the extent to which this has happened, and the kinds of companies and industry structures that are responsible for it. As always, the history is important here." Go read the rest.

"If the BBC is politically neutral, how does it explain Andrew Neil? He symbolises the rightwing domination of our media. Yet a politics presenter as aligned to the left would not be tolerated. Imagine this. The BBC appoints a prominent radical leftist, a lifelong Bennite, the chairman of the publisher of a prominent leftwing publication no less, as its flagship political presenter and interviewer. This person has made speeches in homage of Karl Marx calling for the establishment of full-blooded socialism in Britain, including a massive increase in public ownership, hiking taxes on the rich to fund a huge public investment programme, and reversing anti-union laws. They appear on our 'impartial' Auntie Beeb wearing a tie emblazoned with the logo of a hardline leftist thinktank. Their BBC editor is a former Labour staffer who moves to become Jeremy Corbyn's communications chief. They use their Twitter feed — where they have amassed hundreds of thousands of followers thanks to a platform handed to them by the BBC — to promote radical leftist causes. This would never happen. It is unthinkable, in fact. If the BBC establishment somehow entered this parallel universe, the British press would be on the brink of insurrection. And yet, the strange case of Andrew Neil, the ultra-Thatcherite former Sunday Times editor who is the BBC's flagship political presenter, is an instructive example about how our media works."

"It's No 'Mistake' That Bill Gates Was Palling Around With Jeffrey Epstein: In a new interview, Bill Gates apologized for his ties with Jeffrey Epstein even as he downplayed their relationship. That's self-serving nonsense: their friendship was a grotesque demonstration of what happens when you give a small group of people unfathomable wealth and power. Bill Gates's long-overdue fall from grace has been a rare silver lining in an otherwise ghastly year. But he doesn't seem to be enjoying it as much as the rest of us. Deservedly dogged by bad press for his stalwart defense of pharmaceutical profits over COVID-19 patients in poor countries, sexual harassment of Microsoft employees, and his apparently extensive ties to multimillionaire and sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein, Gates tried for some damage control in an interview last week with CNN's Anderson Cooper. [...] But the pervasiveness of Gates funding doesn't justify its angelic sheen: it means that a slice of Bill's ill-gotten goods has been reallocated to address the misery that he and his ruling-class allies played no small part in creating. The 'diseases of poverty' the foundation combats are called that for a reason — they persist because global capitalism churns out a handful of gazillionaires while dooming millions a year to die of conditions that are curable or manageable using resources controlled by for-profit companies. The medicines Gates is ostensibly magnanimous enough to dispatch to desperate places overseas are unattainably expensive, thanks to an international intellectual property regime that has arguably benefited Bill Gates more than any other human being on Earth." And which Bill Gates fought hard to impose on us.

"The Democrats' new cult of the popular: Why 'talk about popular issues' is not the magic answer the party is looking for: How should the Democratic Party position itself to win? One option embraced by a faction of the party is to become "shorpilled," referring to the contrarian data guru David Shor. He advocates a position that writer Aaron Freedman intelligibly dubbed "survey liberalism," which Shor has explained this way: "You should put your money in cheap media markets in close states close to the election, and you should talk about popular issues, and not talk about unpopular issues." Concretely, that means placating the racism of white voters, avoiding slogans like "defund the police," being cautious on immigration reform, heavily means-testing welfare programs, and so on —basically the suite of policies moderate Democrats already support —because that's what polls say most voters like. Other prominent believers in this doctrine include writer Matt Yglesias, former President Barack Obama, and reportedly members of the Biden White House. I am skeptical. [...] This isn't just about individuals, either. Consider Gallup, one of the oldest and most-reputable polling firms on earth. For years now it has been conducting a set of polls on Social Security that are wildly biased and ideological —smearing the program, implying it will disappear soon, and asking how benefits should be cut rather than if they should be cut at all. One poll has this prompt: "Next, I'm going to read a list of problems facing the country .. How much do you personally worry about the Social Security system?" Another: "Which of these statements do you think best describes the Social Security system —it is in a state of crisis, it has major problems, it has minor problems or it does not have any problems?" Another: "How long do you think it will be until the costs of the Medicare and Social Security programs create a crisis for the federal government[?]" [...] This is because of a well-funded, decades-long neoliberal propaganda campaign to cut the program, explained well in an old Slate article by Yglesias, of all people. "Important People absolutely despise Social Security," he wrote, because "Taxing working people to hand out free money so people don't need to work is antithetical to the spirit of capitalism." Eventually the Gallup pollsters internalized the notion that Social Security is a problem as neutral and non-ideological, and started writing polls reflecting that thinking. (More welfare-friendly polls have naturally found much more positive results for Social Security.) A similar abuse of polls and the rhetoric of political "realism" was a key part of the strategy neoliberals used to take control of the Democratic Party in the 1970s and 1980s. When George McGovern got smashed by Nixon in 1972, they declared that the New Deal was dead, and Democrats needed to pivot to the right to win. This argument was facially dubious —every Democratic presidential candidate who lost between 1980 and 1988 was some kind of neoliberal, yet somehow their ideas were not blamed for the loss —but when Bill Clinton finally won, they closed the rhetorical circuit. From that day forward the Democratic leadership has hectored its own base that leftist ideas are always unpopular and doomed (so as to keep them off the policy agenda) and that the most important characteristic by far in a politician is their ability to get elected. [...] The policies Democrats run on will face a coordinated attack from extremely loud and well-funded liars, no matter what they are."

Here's a handy little video you can pass along the next time someone tries to tell you that the government can't do anything: "Capitalism Didn't Make the iPhone, You iMbecile."

It seems like pre-history, now, but Margaret Thatcher, who was a scientist before she was Prime Minister, once sounded the alarm on climate change. But then she stopped and built a world where heeding those warnings became impossible.

Rude Bitch is now online. So I read it, and honestly, I can't believe we ever wrote that stuff. Maybe I shouldn't even post the link.

The Righteous Brothers, "You've Lost That Loving Feeling"

04:20 GMT comment


Saturday, 07 August 2021

Give me some space so I can close my eyes

Milky Way rising over Tres Picos State Park, Brazil

"The Eviction Crisis Is a Rental Assistance Crisis: A law designed not to work has put millions at risk of losing their homes. The day before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) eviction moratorium expired and millions of renters were faced with the sobering possibility of being tossed out of their homes, President Joe Biden issued a statement that would be darkly comic if it weren't so tragic. 'I call on all state and local governments to take all possible steps to immediately disburse' rental assistance funds, Biden declared, referring to the $46.5 billion made available in two coronavirus relief packages. 'There can be no excuse for any state or locality not accelerating funds to landlords and tenants that have been hurt during this pandemic.' In the previous five months in which that rental assistance has been available—we have statistics going back to February, when state and local governments began receiving funding, through the end of June—about $3.25 billion has been delivered to tenants and landlords. Biden was calling for 13 times that to be delivered in one day. It was like a souped-up version of the movie Brewster's Millions, where Richard Pryor has to spend $30 million in 30 days to get a larger inheritance. And it begs the question: if state and local governments had the capacity to get rental relief out with that kind of speed, why wouldn't they have done it from the beginning? [...] This has been a constant theme for several months. There have been countless articles about it. Tenants have been screaming about waiting for rental assistance that has never come. It should not have suddenly dawned on either the White House or Congress that there was a deep problem with rental assistance that would necessitate extending the moratorium to prevent eligible tenants who couldn't access relief from being evicted. In fact, at the time of passing the law it should have dawned on any sentient policymaker that delegating rental assistance to the states, and requiring them to meet the various demands and veto points put into the law, were a recipe for disaster."

"'We Can't Reach Him': Joe Manchin Is Ghosting The West Virginia Union Workers Whose Jobs His Daughter Helped Outsource: She got a $30.8 million golden parachute in a corporate merger. Now, they're being laid off and the medicines they produced are set to be manufactured overseas. Will anyone step up to save their jobs, and protect America's drug supply? On July 31, one of America's largest pharmaceutical-manufacturing plants is scheduled to shut its doors. Set on 22 acres in Morgantown, West Virginia, the plant, built in 1965 by the once-storied American generic-drug company Mylan Laboratories, has made 61 drug products, including a substantial portion of the world's supply of levothyroxine, a critical thyroid medicine. Its 1,431 highly trained workers—analytical chemists, industrial engineers, and senior janitors among them—are represented by the steelworkers union. All are slated to be laid off by month's end. The Biden administration has a stated goal of increasing domestic production of pharmaceuticals, and the Morgantown plant is one of a dwindling number of facilities on home soil that produce vital and affordable medicine for the U.S. market."

"Lessons From The Nina Turner Race? I admit, I don't know much about Shontel Brown. She was never the point; Nina was. The Israel lobby got another scalp of another Black progressive daring to challenge it. A little history... In 2002, Earl Hilliard, the first Black person to have served Alabama in Congress since Reconstruction, was getting close to a decade of seniority. The year before, Hilliard voted against a bill funding increases in military support to Israel and opposing criminalization of Palestinians. He was defeated by a shameless, AIPAC-financed political hack and careerist, Artur Davis, a viciously homophobic Blue Dog who voted against Obamacare, switched to the GOP, then back to the Democratic Party again to run, unsuccessfully, for office again and then back to the GOP. Davis was followed by another obedient, conservative Democrat, New Dem Terri Sewell. In 1992, the same year Hilliard had been elected to Congress, Cynthia McKinney became the first-ever Black woman to represent Georgia in the House. In 2002, AIPAC got her too and replaced her with another pointless hack, Denise Majette, who was heavily supported by white Republicans in the black majority district. McKinney ran and won again two years later. In 2006 she was forced into a runoff with DeKalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson, who beat her and isn't a bad member the way Artur Davis and Terri Sewell have been. Still, Israel was rid of a very sharp thorn in its side."

"In the Race Against Nina Turner, GOP Donors Fund Shontel Brown: With one week left in the Ohio primary, Republican donors have picked their Democrat — and the pro-Israel PAC supporting her."

"Nina Turner's Loss Is Oligarchy's Gain [...] Scarcely mentioned in media coverage of this race is that Ohio has an 'open primary,' and Republicans received public encouragement to cross over and vote in the Democratic primary. We may never know how many GOP voters took the emphatic advice from the likes of right-winger William Kristol and voted for Brown to help beat Turner. 'Reminder: Tuesday's Democratic primary is effectively the general election, and all registered voters can vote in the Democratic primary,' Kristol tweeted on July 29. 'Just request a Democratic ballot.' After sending out a similar tweet on Sunday, he got more explicit via Twitter at dawn on Election Day: 'To Akron, Beachwood, Cleveland, Shaker Heights, etc.: Today's OH-11 primary is in effect the general election. The choice is a radical leftist or a Biden Democrat, @ShontelMBrown. Any registered voter -- including independents & Republicans -- can request a Democratic primary ballot.'"

"Nina Turner Lost to the Redbox: How Shontel Brown used questionably legal campaign finance tactics to take a House seat As recently as June, the special election to replace Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge in Ohio's 11th Congressional District looked like a non-event. According to the only available polling, Nina Turner, a well-known progressive running a fairly standard Democratic campaign, led the next closest challenger, moderate city councilmember Shontel Brown, by a 50 to 15 margin. In an exceedingly low turnout primary for a deep-blue seat that went for Biden in 2020 by 60 points, the broader outcome was hardly up for grabs. But help was on the way. A couple months prior, Brown posted "redbox" messaging on her website, a section full of negative talking points about Turner enclosed in bright red, just in case any 'independent' super PAC felt so inclined to spend lavishly on attack ads but was unsure of how best to craft the messaging. ('Redboxing' is a term used by campaign operatives, describing the method by which candidates and political parties publicly share messaging strategy with political action committees, despite being barred from coordinating directly.) To send home the appeal, Brown featured quotes from Mark Mellman, president of the Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), a famed anti-progressive super PAC, atop her endorsements section, ahead of endorsers with actual name recognition like Hillary Clinton. As The Intercept reported at the time, they made for the 'least subtle messages sent to a super PAC since the outside money groups were legalized' a decade ago."

"The Lines of Connection: States make millions off phone-call fees from incarcerated people, but the cost can be even higher for their families." But Connecticut just became the first state to make inmate's phone calls free. That's a big deal.

"Missouri Attorney General's Office pushes to keep innocent people in prison [...] The attorney general's office has opposed calls for relief in nearly every wrongful conviction case that came before it and has been vacated since 2000, according to an Injustice Watch review of court records and a national database of exonerations. That includes 27 cases in which the office fought to uphold convictions for prisoners who were eventually exonerated. In roughly half of those cases, the office continued arguing that the original guilty verdict should stand even after a judge vacated the conviction. (The office, however, played no role in at least 13 exonerations during that time period.) This year alone, the convictions of three men were vacated after lengthy legal battles with Attorney General Eric Schmitt's office. [...] The office's decades-long pattern of stymieing exonerations has left the wrongfully convicted languishing in prison for years. And its stance on exonerations has persisted as elected attorneys general have come and gone, regardless of political affiliation."

"The Government Says These Missouri Men Are Innocent. It Won't Release Them From Prison: Kevin Strickland, Christopher Dunn, and Lamar Johnson are still paying for crimes that government officials say they did not commit. Kevin Strickland, Christopher Dunn, and Lamar Johnson all have something in common: they all have spent decades in the Missouri prison system, they all maintain their innocence, and the cases that led to their convictions have all fallen apart. Yet the men remain behind bars with no release in sight despite various government actors suggesting they should have their verdicts overturned. [...] But Hickle's finding is not enough to set Dunn free, thanks to a Missouri Supreme Court precedent that holds such 'freestanding' claims of innocence be limited to prisoners on death row. In other words, had Dunn been sentenced to die for the 1990 crime, he would be in a more advantageous position today. Instead, he received life without parole and thus has no recourse. 'To sit there and watch the judge's reaction to everything the witnesses said, I just knew there was a chance I was going to walk out of there,' Dunn told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in April. 'To hear him say I was innocent, but yet he can't free me because I'm not a death row inmate, I didn't understand.' Johnson and Strickland's cases are even more absurd, in that prosecutors agree they are innocent. 'My job is to apologize' to Strickland, said Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker at a press conference in May. 'It is important to recognize when the system has made wrongs—and what we did in this case was wrong. So, to Mr. Strickland, I am profoundly sorry.'"

"Biden Imposes Sanctions on Cuba, Says 'There Will Be More': The Biden administration imposed fresh sanctions against Cuba on Friday, targeting the country's police force and its leadership. The measures are the second round of sanctions since anti-government protests were held in Cuba earlier in July. Considering Cuba is under a decades-old US trade embargo, sanctions against the countries police force will likely have virtually no impact. When announcing the sanctions, President Biden was asked if there will be more to come. 'There will be more, unless there's some drastic change in Cuba, which I don't anticipate,' he said. Biden said the US is 'expanding our assistance to political prisoners and dissidents' in Cuba. The Biden administration is also exploring options for ways to provide people in Cuba with internet access. It's not clear how this plan would work, as the Cuban government would be against the plan since the US has a history of using social media to stir unrest in the country. One thing Biden has not done is ease the trade embargo on Cuba or restrictions on remittances to the country, which would make it easier for Cuban Americans to send money to their families. Western Union shut down its money-sending service to Cuba last year due to sanctions reimposed by the Trump administration."

"The Bay of Tweets: Documents Point to US Hand in Cuba Protests: The U.S. government can cause economic misery for the Cuban people, but it cannot, it appears, convince them to overthrow their government. AVANA — Cuba was rocked by a series of anti-government street protests earlier this week. The U.S. establishment immediately hailed the events, putting its full weight behind the protestors. Yet documents suggest that Washington might be more involved in the events than it cares to publicly divulge. As many have reported, the protests, which started on Sunday in the town of San Antonio de los Baños in the west of the island, were led and vocally supported by artists and musicians, particularly from its vibrant hip-hop scene. 'For those new to the issue of Cuba, the protests we are witnessing were started by artists, not politicians. This song 'Patria y Vida' powerfully explains how young Cubans feel. And its release was so impactful, you will go to jail if caught playing it in Cuba,' said Florida Senator Marco Rubio, referencing a track by rapper Yotuel. Both NPR and The New York Times published in-depth features about the song and how it was galvanizing the movement. 'The Hip-Hop Song That's Driving Cuba's Unprecedented Protests,' ran NPR's headline. Yotuel himself led a sympathy demonstration in Miami. But what these accounts did not mention was the remarkable extent to which Cuban rappers like Yotuel have been recruited by the American government in order to sow discontent in the Caribbean nation. The latest grant publications of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) — an organization established by the Reagan administration as a front group for the CIA — show that Washington is trying to infiltrate the Cuban arts scene in order to bring about regime change. 'A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA,' NED co-founder Allen Weinstein once told The Washington Post. [...] As Professor Aviva Chomsky of Salem State University, author of A History of the Cuban Revolution, told MintPress: 'Cuba's current economic situation is pretty dire (as is, I should point out, almost all of the Third World's). The U.S. embargo (or, as Cubans call it, blockade) has been yet another obstacle (on top of the obstacles faced by all poor countries) in Cuba's fight against COVID-19. The collapse of tourism has been devastating to Cuba's economy — again, as it has been in pretty much all tourism-heavy places.' However, Chomsky also noted that it could be a mistake to label all the protestors as yearning for free-market shock therapy. 'It's interesting to note that many of the protesters are actually protesting Cuba's capitalist reforms, rather than socialism. 'They have money to build hotels but we have no money for food, we are starving,' said one protester. That's capitalism in a nutshell!' Chomsky said."

"The Texas Election Bill Contains a New Obstacle to Voting That Almost No One Is Talking About: Buried in the GOP proposal is a requirement that could—whether by intention or just sloppy legislative work—disenfranchise thousands of voters. There's a problem buried inside Texas's latest election bill, and it's not one of the headline-grabbing restrictions that have torn the Legislature apart during the special session. Nonetheless, it could disenfranchise a significant number of the state's voters. Amid all the fighting, most lawmakers have apparently overlooked a provision that would force counties to automatically reject some mail-in ballot applications. Here's why: The Republican-authored legislation would require voters to submit either their driver's license number or a partial Social Security number when applying to vote by mail. That number would then be cross-checked with the state's voter-registration database. Most applicants would be fine, because almost 90 percent of all registered Texas voters have both their Social Security number and driver's license number in the database. However, 1.9 million voters—about 11 percent of the total—have only one of the two numbers on file with the state." And the trouble is, they may not remember which.

"Testing the Georgia Voter ID Law: Results of Attempt to Obtain Voter ID Cards from a GA Registrar: Starting on June 12th, Hope Springs from Field PAC began canvassing in the Black Belt of Georgia, repeating our steps in the Georgia Senate Runoff, with a special emphasis on helping voters without the newly required photo IDs to obtain them. When investigating the kinds of IDs that a voter could use, our intrepid organizers from Albany State saw this, 'An ID card can be issued at any county registrar's office.' For voters without a photo ID, this seemed like an obvious place to go get one. Driver Services offices were notoriously crowded, everyone knows stories of rude or even offensive employees, and no one thought it a good idea to put voters who didn't already have that identification through that. In fact, these kids believed that the biggest reason people in the African-American community wouldn't have the proper ID was the embarrassment factor. Paperwork is also an issue, we've learned as we have started finding voters who need to obtain ID. The offer of a free photo ID that would qualify voters to vote (in person or to request an absentee ballot) is used prominently to defend this new legislation in court. It's not an issue, Republicans say, because anyone can get the required ID at their local county registrar's office. So we asked the Dougherty County Registrar's Office if they were prepared to issue the promised voter cards (see above). And they weren't — but the Secretary of State's office had promised them (the Registrar's Office) that they would have the means to be able to. A month out, we agreed with that office on a date where they said they would be prepared to issue them. We also asked how many voters on their rolls didn't register with a Driver's License, and the response was 'a lot, there are a considerable number.' They had been thinking about it, too. And they made sure that the Georgia Secretary of State, which was supposed to pay for it, knew that they would be getting voters who were going to request Voter ID Cards. For which they were supposed to provide the funding, because it wasn't like this county government agency, in a poor county, had the means to get the equipment and stock to fulfill this state government mandate. On Thursday, 214 Dougherty County Voters came out to request the free Voter ID card. How do we know that? Because the Registrar's Office did a count in order to pass that along to the Georgia Secretary of State. They had enough stock to make 24. We had 38 voters (first) in line who did not have the necessary picture ID, more than the stock the Registrar's office had to make them. We had a feeling, before we even knocked on our first door this summer that the state would not provide enough stock for every voter in Dougherty who needed one of these free cards to get one. When a registrar's employee called the Secretary of State's office to inform them that they had run out of stock, they were told to 'send them to the Driver's Services office. Which was precisely the point. Who would knowingly want to wait in *that* line? But we had proved that the Georgia legislature was trying to suppress poor African-Americans, doing everything they can to keep them from voting. We had the proof.

REST IN POWER: "Glen Ford, Veteran Journalist And Founder Of Black Agenda Report, Dies At 71: Glen Ford, a veteran broadcast, print and digital journalist who hosted the first nationally syndicated Black news interview program on TV before going on to found the Black Agenda Report website, has died, according to reports. He was 71 years old. Ford's cause of death was not immediately reported. Several sources announced his death late Wednesday morning, including Margaret Kimberley, an editor and columnist at Black Agenda Report, the weekly news magazine that offers commentary and analysis from a Black perspective which Ford launched and served as its executive editor. To call Ford a career journalist is a vast understatement. According to his bio on the Black Agenda Report website, Ford was reporting the news live on the radio as early as 11-years-old and went on to enjoy a career in journalism for more than 40 years that included working as a Washington bureau chief as well as a correspondent covering the White House, Capitol Hill and State Department. After getting his start in news radio in Augusta, Georgia, Ford honed his skills at other local news stations and eventually created the 'Black World Report,' a syndicated half-hour weekly news magazine that paved the way for the Black Agenda Report to be founded. Years later, in 1977, Ford helped launch, produce and host 'America's Black Forum,' the first nationally syndicated Black news interview program on commercial television." I'm really proud that I got him as a guest on Virtually Speaking back in the day, although I'm very unhappy to see that the entire archive for the show is now gone so I can't post the link. Damn. (Here's a video of Chris Hedges' interview of Glen a few years ago.)

Unsurprisingly, the front page at Black Agenda Report looks, appropriately, like this (only with lots of pictures):
Ajamu Baraka, BAR editor "Glen Ford and the Black Radical Critical Tradition"
Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, BAR editor and columnist, "Glen Ford: Revolutionary, Friend, Leader, Lover of Black People"
Peter James Hudson and Jemima Pierre, "Glen Ford: In Memoriam"
BAR Poet-in-Residence Raymond Nat Turner, "...For Brother Glen"
Nellie Bailey, "Glen Ford, Presente!"
Nia Ford, "Power to the people!"
Pascal Robert, "Glen Ford and the Need for Black Radical Analysis"
And there's more.

"The Political Economy of Racial Inequality: The material causes of racial inequality can be overcome only with massive economic distribution. [...] In recent years, some liberals and even a stratum of leftists have come to embrace metaphors that serve to naturalize racism. When racism is described as our nation's 'original sin' or 'part of our DNA,' ideological or cultural attachments take on a life of their own. If racism is so ingrained, there's nothing much we can do about it. Such constructs have become especially appealing in recent years because they allow us to sidestep the material causes of racial inequality, which can be overcome only with massive economic redistribution. [...] Since 2016, constructs like systemic racism and diversity have drawn attention to racial injustice, but they have also been deployed against egalitarian political projects that would benefit poor and working-class Americans, who are disproportionately black and brown. In the 2016 Democratic primary campaign, for example, Hillary Clinton presented herself as the anti-racist candidate while attacking Bernie Sanders's calls for banking regulation, tuition-free higher education, and other redistributive policies. Clinton said she wanted 'white people to recognize that there is systemic racism,' but she failed to adequately address her complicity in the 1994 crime bill or the subprime mortgage crisis, both of which hurt black people worse than whites. A similar pattern emerged following the brutal murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020. Multinational corporations embraced concepts like intersectionality and structural racism, which provided executives like JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon with a way to treat racial disparities as if they stemmed from fixed identities instead of capitalist processes."

"The Destructive Hidden Costs Of Child Care: Child care in America is criminally overpriced and out of reach for too many of us. Not only is it driving poverty upward and slashing social mobility, it breaks up families and discourages younger Americans from starting new families."

"The Time Tax: Why is so much American bureaucracy left to average citizens? Not long ago, a New York City data analyst who had been laid off shortly after the pandemic hit told me she had filed for unemployment-insurance payments and then spent the next six months calling, emailing, and using social media to try to figure out why the state's Labor Department would not send her the money she was owed. [...] This time tax is a public-policy cancer, mediating every American's relationship with the government and wasting countless precious hours of people's time. [...] Taken as a whole, the time tax is regressive. Programs for the wealthy tend to be easy, automatic, and guaranteed. You do not need to prostrate yourself before a caseworker to get the benefits of a 529 college-savings plan. You do not need to urinate in a cup to get a tax write-off for your home, boat, or plane. You do not need to find a former partner to get a child-support determination as a prerequisite for profiting from a 401(k). The difference is so significant that, as shown by the Cornell political scientist Suzanne Mettler, many high-income people, unlike poor folks, never even realize they are benefiting from government programs. [...] How did the world's wealthiest, most productive, and most powerful country end up with not just an ungenerous system of social policy but a convoluted, punitive, and technologically inept one? One that hurts the people it purports to help? On purpose and by design is the answer. It is one legacy of the half-millennium-old custom of separating the 'deserving' and 'undeserving' poor."

"Who Actually Gets to Create Black Pop Culture? A closer look at the economics of Black pop culture reveals that most Black creators (outside music) come from middle-to-upper middle class backgrounds, while the Black poor are written about but rarely get the chance to speak for themselves. [...] A decade of unprecedented interest in Black arts and letters has now passed—the greater portion of it bought with footage of people possessing Floyd's particulars lying dead on the tar—and still you cannot walk into a bookstore to find a shelf named for Black authors raised in poverty. That category of experience remains absent amidst the dozens of shelves now labeled for Black authors of every other identity and intersection. I accept that Floyd's final suffering becomes a political currency for the many, but I struggle with the fact that it purchases opportunities for the Black middle- and upper- classes, without securing a pen or a publisher for the children of Cuney Homes, without an expectation that it should, and without condemnation that it doesn't. Those born into better conditions owe it to the injured to at least recognize that participation in this wave of Black creativity, which is intended as recompense for the dead, requires that you first be employed by it—you do not gain a share of the payout otherwise."

"Larry Summers Holds Positions With Numerous Financial Bottom-Feeders: The online, often predatory lending companies benefit from lower-income Americans needing emergency cash. That aligns with Summers's concern trolling about an 'overheated' economy. Larry Summers has spent the Biden presidency in a state of perpetual concern. He is convinced that the trillions in pandemic relief, with perhaps more fiscal spending on infrastructure to come, will overheat the economy, leaving policymakers unable to contain runaway inflation without triggering a deep recession. In March, the former Treasury secretary described the state of affairs as 'the least responsible macroeconomic policy we've had in the last 40 years.' [...] But who exactly is Summers concerned about? The ordinary laborer paying more for a bucket of chicken wings while possibly making more in wages, or the people who have preoccupied Summers for virtually his entire career: bankers and financiers? The answer may be found in his client list. Summers has been diligently laundering his reputation on behalf of 'fintech' lenders, real estate startups, and Bitcoin plays, including several businesses that would benefit from an economy that values lower inflation over full employment."

This is rather astonishing, in that Bobo Brooks himself is admitting he got it totally wrong: "How The Bobos Broke America: The creative class was supposed to foster progressive values and economic growth. Instead we got resentment, alienation, and endless political dysfunction. [...] Third, we've come to dominate left-wing parties around the world that were formerly vehicles for the working class. We've pulled these parties further left on cultural issues (prizing cosmopolitanism and questions of identity) while watering down or reversing traditional Democratic positions on trade and unions. As creative-class people enter left-leaning parties, working-class people tend to leave. Around 1990, nearly a third of Labour members of the British Parliament were from working-class backgrounds; from 2010 to 2015, the proportion wasn't even one in 10. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the 50 most-educated counties in America by an average of 26 points—while losing the 50 least-educated counties by an average of 31 points. These partisan differences overlay economic differences. In 2020, Joe Biden won just 500 or so counties—but together they account for 71 percent of American economic activity, according to the Brookings Institution. Donald Trump won more than 2,500 counties that together generate only 29 percent of that activity. An analysis by Brookings and The Wall Street Journal found that just 13 years ago, Democratic and Republican areas were at near parity on prosperity and income measures. Now they are divergent and getting more so. If Republicans and Democrats talk as though they are living in different realities, it's because they are. The creative class has converted cultural attainment into economic privilege and vice versa. [...] I wrote Bobos in Paradise in the late Clinton era. The end of history had allegedly arrived; the American model had been vindicated by the resolution of the Cold War. Somehow, we imagined, our class would be different from all the other elites in world history. In fact, we have many of the same vices as those who came before us."

"Black Fragility As Black Strength? Try These Books Instead. The next entry in the KenDiAngelonian universe is out. But why not branch out?" I absolutely agree with him about DiAngelo and Coates, on the one hand, and Reed on the other, but I'm utterly baffled by what would make him describe Sowell as he did and I wish he'd expanded on it.

"Organizing vs Mobilizing — focusing your campaign to win" — Most people don't get the difference between mobilizing and organizing, and many seem to have it backwards. I wish more people would think about that.

John Lennon said he admired this track so much that he openly swiped the riff in homage to Bobby Parker's "Watch Your Step".

04:33 GMT comment


Tuesday, 27 July 2021

The world keeps revolving

"Sweet Peas From My Garden", photograph by Hazel Ashworth.

"On the Political Marriage of Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders: Progressives cannot and should not be satisfied with the policies of the Biden presidency. Yet breakthrough achievements should not be denied. So far, most of the Biden presidency has been predictable. Its foreign policy includes bloated Pentagon spending and timeworn declarations that the United States should again "lead the world" and "sit at the head of the table." Many corporate influence peddlers have settled into jobs in upper reaches of the executive branch. The new administration has taken only baby steps toward student debt relief or progressive taxation. On health care, the White House keeps protecting the interests of insurance companies while rebuffing public opinion that favors Medicare for All. And yet—Joe Biden is no longer on the narrow corporate road that he traveled during five decades in politics. President Biden's recent moves to curtail monopolies have stunned many observers who—extrapolating from his 36-year record in the Senate—logically assumed he would do little to challenge corporate power. Overall, Biden has moved leftward on economic policies, while Sen. Bernie Sanders—who says that "the Biden of today is not what I or others would have expected" decades ago—has gained major clout that extends into the Oval Office." But how well this executive order works still depends on Biden filling those jobs that will carry out the order. And some of those slots are still mysteriously empty after six months. So it's going to take more than just cheering. Cory Doctorow talks about this here, and it's well worth listening to.

Alterman, "Altercation: Israel Fumes at Ice Cream Company: Ben & Jerry's decision to stop selling in the West Bank exposes the hypocrisy of Israel's right-wing defenders. [...] There is therefore an unholy alliance between Israel's right-wing supporters who wish to see Israel continue what numerous human rights groups (both inside Israel and globally) have named apartheid, and those BDS-supporting groups that wish Israel would just somehow disappear and be replaced by a peace-loving, Kumbaya-singing 'Free Palestine From the River to the Sea.' Ben & Jerry's targeted boycott has therefore exposed the hypocrisy of so many who profess to support a two-state solution where Israel and some future Palestinian mini-state can live side by side. The boycott supports this vision, by insisting on the maintenance—if only psychologically—of a line of separation between Israel and its illegal, anti-democratic, and morally destructive military occupation of the population it has consistently sought to displace. This is exactly what is undermined by statements like that of Marc Stern, chief legal officer for the American Jewish Committee, who argues that 'selective boycotts are just as illegal as total boycotts.'" Peter Beinart also has a few words about "Israel's Lunatic Response to Ben and Jerry's".

"Media Play Up Protests, Play Down Effect of US Sanctions in Cuba" — They even had to use pictures of pro-goverment crowds and pretend they were anti-government. Ironically, the media has tried to give the impression that the protests are against "communism". Which is odd, since one of Cuba's current problems is that it decided to open up to more capitalism and then the one-two punch of Trump increasing restrictions on Cuba and then Covid put a big hole in that. (Anti-Cuba twitterbots insist that it's an oppressive government because there is a photo of a protester being arrested. I have no doubt that Cuba's government has repressive elements, but a lot of this weird anti-Cuban propaganda looks like it's aimed at people who don't know what's going on in the United States. One bot posted four photos of alleged poverty in Cuba which looked like they could have been taken in many parts of the US — although a number of comments pointed out that some of those photos came from an article about the Dominican Republic. This has been going on for days.)

"Mystery Group Promoting Infrastructure Privatization Boosted By Toll Road Lobbyists: Let's Build Infrastructure is preparing a six-figure TV ad buy to push the bipartisan infrastructure deal.LET'S BUILD INFRASTRUCTURE is preparing to launch formally in Washington, D.C., next week with a six-figure advertising blitz focused on pressing lawmakers to use privatization, rather than taxation, to pay for the infrastructure proposals debated in Congress. The organization touts public-private partnerships and a process known as 'asset recycling,' in which the government finances new construction and repairs by selling or leasing roads, bridges, water utilities, parking lots, and other infrastructure assets to private contractors instead of paying for them with public funding. The private operators in turn recoup costs by adding tolls or increasing user fees, such as water bills or parking fees." Yeah, thieves, in other words.

"The Big Law Cartel: How Antitrust Lawyers Help Their Clients Break the Law: Big law is a corrupting influence on our policymakers. The new FTC is dusting off an old legal tool to fight back. [...] Echoing Baer, Vodova added that the pipeline deal was 'representative of the type of transaction that should not make it out of the boardroom.' Then she cryptically offered a threat to aggressive antitrust lawyers who knew this merger shouldn't have been proposed, noting that the FTC 'will be actively exploring its options on how to curtail this type of re-review to better deploy the Commission's scarce resources.' Why would firms propose obviously illegal mergers? And why would antitrust lawyers let them do so? Sure, lawyers work for clients, but aren't they also supposed to uphold the law? To put it differently, lawyers should defend their clients if there are charges of criminal or illegal activity, and they should give them advice on the best way to legally accomplish some business objective. But they aren't supposed to help their clients plan a bank robbery. So why are lawyers pushing crazy and obviously illegal mergers?"

Pierce, "Haiti Is a Testament to a Hundred Years and More of Destructive United States Policy: The assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise is the latest chapter for a nation completely destabilized. Here at the shebeen, we have left alone the story of the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise because, frankly, we were waiting for a break in the weird. Every day, there was another strange twist in what was a strange enough story to begin with. But there seems to be a bit of a lull—I believe the eye of the Crazy may be passing over the story—so the New York Times helpfully catches us up on what we know to this point. It seems that we have the modern equivalent of William Walker's raids on Central America—from which we get the modern word 'filibuster'—combined with Operation Mongoose from the 1960s and a rejected script from the old Mission: Impossible TV show."

"Santa Fe Church Forgives Medical Debt in New Mexico and Arizona: St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Santa Fe, NM is reaching out to families crushed by medical debt through a big gift and a big partnership. Through donations, the parish wiped out nearly $1.4 million of medical debt for 782 households. St. Bede's worked with RIP Medical Debt, a well-respected organization that identifies households whose incomes are less than twice the poverty level or are insolvent, and owe medical debt. Then they buy the debt at a fraction of face value (as a collection agency otherwise would) and pay it off using donations from people such as us. Furthermore, they write the affected parties a letter telling them they no longer owe the debt, and equally important, contact credit agencies to verify the debt has been paid, clearing the debtor's credit history. The letter recipients receive identifies St. Bede's as the donor."

"Master's Degrees Are the Second Biggest Scam in Higher Education: And elite universities deserve a huge share of the blame. Last week, the Wall Street Journal published a troubling exposé on the crushing debt burdens that students accumulate while pursuing master's degrees at elite universities in fields like drama and film, where the job prospects are limited and the chances of making enough to repay their debt are slim. Because it focused on MFA programs at Ivy League schools—one subject accumulated around $300,000 in loans pursuing screenwriting—the article rocketed around the creative class on Twitter. But it also pointed to a more fundamental, troubling development in the world of higher education: For colleges and universities, master's degrees have essentially become an enormous moneymaking scheme, wherein the line between for-profit and nonprofit education has been utterly blurred. There are, of course, good programs as well as bad ones, but when you scope out, there is clearly a systemic problem."

"The Congressional Black Caucus's Ideological Primary: Time and again, the CBC has opposed Black progressive candidates in primary races. The latest example is in Ohio. The 2020 election cycle was both influential and embarrassing for the Congressional Black Caucus. Former CBC chair Jim Clyburn is widely credited with having turned the Democratic presidential primary in Joe Biden's favor with his endorsement ahead of South Carolina's voting day, after Biden had suffered blowout losses in the first three states (though the Democratic South Carolina electorate that chose Biden was majority-white for the first time in well over a decade). In return, the eventual president was broadly perceived to have chosen from a small handful of CBC members for vice president, which yielded Kamala Harris as the second-in-command. But the CBC's other forays into elections didn't go quite so well. The caucus endorsed Lacy Clay, a ten-term incumbent CBC member, in his primary race against Black activist Cori Bush, and Bush defeated him in Missouri's First District. While that endorsement may have been defensible, given that Clay was a CBC member and Bush was not, the CBC's endorsement in New York's 16th District was harder to explain. There, the CBC endorsed white moderate Eliot Engel (not a member) in a race against a Black challenger in Jamaal Bowman, which resulted in an even higher-profile defeat than Clay's. It wasn't the only time: Two years prior, the CBC endorsed white, non-member incumbent Michael Capuano over Black challenger Ayanna Pressley, who also won. Now, the CBC is getting into another hotly contested congressional race: Ohio's 11th, a solid-blue district in Cleveland with a special election to replace Marcia Fudge, Biden's Housing and Urban Development secretary. The August 3rd primary between progressive Bernie Sanders surrogate Nina Turner and centrist Shontel Brown has quickly turned into an all-out Democratic Party proxy war, where the party's factions are looking to settle scores more than five years in the making. [...] Meanwhile, the CBC's signature legislative contribution, the police reform bill, is now months past the one-year deadline for completion and remains wholly unresolved. Clyburn could spend his time, money, and energy drumming up public support for that, although he's actually spent more energy undercutting the bill on the cable news circuit than demanding its passage. Meanwhile, the Democrats' various attempts at voting rights bills, one of which is named for former CBC member John Lewis and which aims to preempt Jim Crow-style Black disenfranchisement, is all but dead, and the CBC has flexed little muscle to save it."

"Democrats Are Fighting To Hold Onto Democracy-- Where's Joe Biden? Reminder: Biden Is Jim Clyburn's Fault: In this morning's NY Times, Katie Rogers and Nick Corasaniti noted that enthusiasm for democracy and voting rights is chipping away at Biden's support. His conservatism is more and more showing for those who have missed it since the early 1970s. Rogers and Corasaniti wrote that Biden 'is increasingly at odds with leaders of the voting rights movement, who see a contrast between his soaring language and his willingness to push Congress to pass federal legislation.' In other words, idealistic grassroots Democrats are starting to confront the fact that Biden is full of shit. On Thursday, in a polite but pointed letter from 150 grassroots organizations, Biden was urged to use that soapbox that comes with the presidency 'to push for two expansive federal voting rights bills that would combat a Republican wave of balloting restrictions.'"

Erica Payne of Patriotic Millionaires in The Hill, "Lobbyists, moderate Democrats rely on debunked arguments against tax hikes: Now that the Biden administration has decided to pursue tax hikes on corporations and the wealthy separately from a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, lobbying groups have launched a full-court press to derail the tax increases. As Democratic leaders in Congress are hoping to pass the tax reforms through the budget reconciliation process that would require no Republican votes, lobbyists — including many ex-staffers from congressional Democrats' offices — are focusing their efforts on turning moderate Democrats against Biden's plan."

"What Amazon and Facebook Get Wrong About FTC Chair Lina Khan: The tech giants have accused her of bias against them, but that misunderstands her antitrust analysis. Last week, Facebook filed a motion with the Federal Trade Commission demanding that its chair, Commissioner Lina Khan, recuse herself from any decisions involving Facebook. Two weeks earlier, Amazon filed the same request, with both tech giants arguing that her previously expressed views on concentration in the tech industry, coupled with her work in Congress investigating Silicon Valley, rendered her too conflicted to fairly regulate the industry. It's a brazen claim on one level, as companies never suggest that regulators who cheer on the success of major companies are equally biased in the opposite direction, and if the logic were accepted, it would create a situation in which only allies of Big Tech or those wholly unfamiliar with the industry would be allowed to regulate it. [...] The article is often used to claim that Khan is hostile to Amazon itself, when in reality her paper was grappling instead with the intellectual underpinnings of 40 years of antitrust policy. The introduction to Khan's paper makes that clear, noting that the article 'argues that the current framework in antitrust—specifically its pegging competition to 'consumer welfare,' defined as short-term price effects—is unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy.'"

"Call Me a Traitor Daniel Hale exposed the machinery of America's clandestine warfare. Why did no one seem to care? [...] No one owns a secret state, and no one answers for it. There was a moment in 2012, 2013, when various people outside Yemen and Pakistan and Afghanistan began to notice that inside Yemen and Pakistan and Afghanistan, the U.S. was waging constant, secret war under a set of rules known to few. It was May 2013 when Obama finally felt it necessary to give his big drone speech, in which he acknowledged that drones were morally complicated, promised to 'review proposals to extend oversight,' deemed them an unfortunate necessity for the safety of Americans, and generally gave the impression that he would make the program accountable. But everything of note that happens in this story happened after such gestures were forced, and made, and forgotten. [...] Together, Scahill and the leaker created a moment in which the media acknowledged the existence of wars waged in secret with a clumsy ineptitude counter to promises of 'precision.' 'Our source was someone who is directly involved with the assassination program. And this person got to a point where they felt like they couldn't not speak out,' Scahill told NPR. What few people knew, at the time, was that the government almost certainly knew who the Second Snowden was and, for mysterious reasons, did nearly nothing about it either before or for years after the Drone Papers were published." But now it's time for the government to get its revenge and teach a lesson: "US Government Seeks Harshest Sentence Ever In Leak Case Against Drone Whistleblower: The sentencing memorandum from the U.S. government reflects the vindictive posture of US prosecutors, particularly since he pled guilty." (And by the way, if you really want to know how much whistleblowing you never hear about is going on, it's worthwhile to follow The Dissenter.)

"Democratic Super PAC Condemned for 'Sleazy' and False Attacks on Nina Turner: One reporter described a new mailer, which falsely accuses Turner of opposing universal healthcare and a higher minimum wage, as 'wildly dishonest.' A Democratic political action committee with close ties to the right-wing pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC is sending mailers to Ohio voters suggesting that Nina Turner—a candidate vying to fill the open U.S. House seat in the state's 11th district—opposes a higher minimum wage, universal healthcare, and immigration reform, an overtly false claim that drew outrage from progressive activists and lawmakers." I'm really starting to think of these "pro-Israel" groups as the Democratic equivalent of the NRA—still cynical lairs who will attack progressives, but for the blue team.

Matt Taibbi (video), "Is Another Financial Crisis Coming? Interview With Wealthion: Do we hear echoes of 2008? Discussion with Adam Taggart, who asks: 'Did the villains win?'"

"Does the Fate of Ivermectin As a Covid-19 Treatment Rest in the Hands of the Deeply Conflicted Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation?: One of the world's biggest vaccine proponents and strident defender of intellectual property rights is funding, directly and indirectly, large trials into cheap, off-patent, off-label COVID-19 treatments, including ivermectin. [...] The potential for conflicts of interest is huge. If a cheap, off-patent drug like ivermectin were approved for use against COVID and if it worked as effectively and as safely as most trials suggest, it would pose a direct threat to novel treatments being rolled out by pharmaceutical companies whose safety data is no match for ivermectin's. It could also even jeopardise the emergency use authorisation granted to the COVID-19 vaccines, one of the basic conditions for which is that there are no alternative effective treatments available for the disease. As such, if ivermectin or some other promising medicine were green-lighted, the vaccines could be stripped of authorisation." Will they be gaming the trials?

"Nancy and Paul Pelosi Making Millions in Stock Trades in Companies She Actively Regulates: The Speaker, already one of the richest members in Congress, has become far richer through investment maneuvers in Big Tech, as she privately chats with their CEOs. [...] And ever since ascending to the top spot in the House, Pelosi and her husband, Paul, keep getting richer and richer. Much of their added wealth is due to extremely lucrative and 'lucky' decisions about when to buy and sell stocks and options in the very industries and companies over which Pelosi, as House Speaker, exercises enormous and direct influence."

"Revealed: leak uncovers global abuse of cyber-surveillance weapon: Spyware sold to authoritarian regimes used to target activists, politicians and journalists, data suggests: Human rights activists, journalists and lawyers across the world have been targeted by authoritarian governments using hacking software sold by the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group, according to an investigation into a massive data leak. The investigation by the Guardian and 16 other media organisations suggests widespread and continuing abuse of NSO's hacking spyware, Pegasus, which the company insists is only intended for use against criminals and terrorists."

"Biden Advisers Ride on Pegasus Spyware: The NSO Group, now part of a Washington Post exposé, has for years enlisted powerful consultants to save its reputation. A new investigation by The Washington Post and a consortium of 16 international news outlets reveals that software from an Israeli company named NSO Group has spied on hundreds of journalists, activists, executives, and government officials. Its infamous product Pegasus can crack into encrypted phones without a trace and is used by autocrats. The findings are part of the Pegasus Project, which has already presented evidence of the spyware being used to hack the slain Mexican journalist Cecilio Pineda Birto as well as two people close to the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But NSO Group has been deflecting from its relationship with authoritarian governments for years. After its surveillance tech was caught being used to target dissidents, the notorious Israeli company sought the assistance of WestExec Advisors, the consultancy founded by now—Secretary of State Tony Blinken and staffed by prominent national-security experts from the Obama administration.

"Michael Brooks on Why the War on the Poor Must End: Two years ago, our late friend and comrade Michael Brooks wrote an unpublished piece about his family's experience with food stamps and Trump's assault on the SNAP program. We publish it today, the anniversary of Michael's passing, as a tribute to his memory."

Audio: "Chapo Trap House (ft. Leigh Phillips & Michal Rozworski) - Walmart Proves Planned Economies Work" — The authors of The People's Republic of Walmart discuss.

ROT IN PERDITION: "William Regnery II, Reclusive Millionaire Who Financed American Fascists, Dead At 80: The avowed white nationalist inherited millions from his prominent Republican family and used the money to fund the rise of the so-called alt-right. William H. Regnery II, a racist, reclusive multimillionaire who used his inherited fortune to finance vile white supremacist groups in the hopes of one day forming an American whites-only ethnostate, died earlier this month, his family and associates confirmed. He was 80 years old. Regnery, whose family amassed riches from its right-wing publishing empire, died on July 2 in Florida after a 'long battle with cancer,' his cousin Alfred, the former head of Regnery Publishing, confirmed to HuffPost. Asked if he'd like to comment on his cousin's life and legacy, Alfred Regnery replied: 'No, it's all been said before.' "

"I Tried to Make Claims About Election Fraud So Preposterous Trump Fans Wouldn't Believe Me. It Was Impossible. I was acting as Trump and his minions do: free to say anything, no matter how ridiculous, with no basis in observable fact."

"Watch a Never-Before-Aired James Baldwin Interview From 1979: Buried by ABC at the time, the segment reveals a unique glimpse into Baldwin's private life——as well as his resounding criticism about white fragility, as blisteringly relevant today as it was in 1979."

A few years ago, Undulating Clouds were claimed as a new cloud formation classification. Here's a cool picture someone just took of some in Kentucky.

Was this Melbourne concert in 1964 the best Beatles performance ever? You be the judge.

Buddy Guy, "Crawlin' Kingsnake"

Propellerheads, featuring Miss Shirley Bassey, "History Repeating"

23:09 GMT comment


Friday, 09 July 2021

We are amazed but not amused

Mominet Sadia Roland's "Kremlin" from a collection on public squares.

"The Roberts Court's Nullification of the Voting Rights Act: I've seen some people try to downplay Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee because Arizona isn't one of the very worst vote suppression offenders, but this is a serious mistake. Alito's opinion has, as everyone should have expected, rendered Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act essentially unenforceable [...] To pause briefly, as Kagan observes in her dissent, the 'equal sovereignty of the states' bullshit Roberts made up for the occasion has yet to make another appearance, as if it was a bunch of ad hoc bullshit thrown up to achieve one particular result rather than an actual legal doctrine. [...] Kagan's opinion is very good on this point, but Alito's opinion really does exemplify that tired phrase 'legislating from the bench.' The Republican justices on the Trump Court doesn't like the choices Congress made, so it's decided to just enforce a different statute instead [...] 'We cannot enforce the statute as written because it would stop too much vote suppression and we like vote suppression' is almost literally the holding of Alito's opinion."

"Biden delivers Right to Repair via executive order: Right to Repair is a no-brainer. You — not manufacturers — should have the right to decide whom you trust to fix your stuff, even (especially) when that stuff is "smart" and an unscrupulous repair could create unquantifiable "cyber-risk." And yet...dozens of state R2R bills were defeated in 2018, thanks to an unholy coalition of Big Ag, Big Tech, and consumer electronics monopolists like Wahl. That supervillain gang reassembled to fight and kill still more bills in 2020/1. [...] Right to Repair advocates never lost hope. May's "Nixing the Fix" report from the FTC establishes a factual record in support of the right to repair across many sectors, but especially agricultural equipment. Big Ag is a particularly odious repair troll, and John Deere is its standard-bearer. The company has been trying to felonize farmers' repairing their own tractors since at least 2015. They told the US Copyright Office that farmers don't own their tractors — because tractor firmware is copyrighted, it is licensed, not sold, and farmers must abide by the company's license terms. At the same time, Deere started pushing the insulting story that farmers are yokels, too stupid to fix their tractors. This despite Deere's long history of turning farmers' modifications of their equipment into money-making features in new tractors. [...] The fight's not over yet. The devil is in the details, those rules the FTC and Ag develop. But with superheroes like Lina Khan running the FTC, there's reason to believe that we're going to get good, evidence-based and fair rules. This is huge, a massive vindication for R2R activists and their long, tireless struggle."

"Big Oil and Gas Kept a Dirty Secret for Decades. Now They May Pay the Price." Well, everyone is suing them, and we know they've been lying for decades, but I find it difficult to see them paying a price unless the pitchforks and torches come out. But obviously, there's a lot of scrambling to do damage control after Exxon's 'Senior Director for Federal Relations' was caught on video saying what we already knew out loud.

" Biden Could Have Taken the War on Drugs Down a Notch. He Didn't. A little-noticed law could make it easier to punish people for low-level drug crimes — and put them in prison for longer with less proof. Last month, President Biden quietly extended a policy that critics call a betrayal of his campaign promise to end mandatory minimum sentences. The new law concerns 'class-wide scheduling of fentanyl analogues.' It may sound like a wonky snooze-fest, but the measure could land more low-level drug dealers in prison for longer and with less proof than is usually required — while kingpins and chemists who manufacture and distribute these new drugs don't tend to get caught."

"Biden Will Enact Rule Proposed by Trump That Enables Big Pharma to Price Gouge [...] Under the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, which governs the transfer of federally-funded research to the private sector, the government retains 'march-in rights' that allow it to seize the patents for taxpayer-funded drugs and other inventions when 'action is necessary to alleviate health and safety needs which are not being reasonably satisfied' or when they are not being 'made available to the public under reasonable terms' and license them to responsible third parties to provide competition. It's one of the main ways the executive branch could address excessive drug prices without needing action from Congress, which has been deadlocked on drug pricing reform measures for years. Once finalized, the new rule would say that the government cannot use march-in rights solely because a government-funded drug or other product is being sold at an excessive price. The change has been a major lobbying aim of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and other industry groups that have seen more and more voters tell pollsters that the high cost of prescription drugs is among their top concerns. 'This rule takes away the government's power to act to curb that price abuse by authorizing generic competition, and we think that's 180 degrees the wrong move at this time,' said Peter Maybarduk, director of the access to medicines program at the nonprofit Public Citizen. 'We expect Biden to use this power during his tenure rather than repeal it, given the scale of the problem.'"

Pretty sure the answer to Shaun King's question is "No," since this is hardly the first time a cop has killed a white kid without it seeming to wake the crowd up, but what I find particularly strange about the story of this cop killing a white kid for no reason is that the cop who killed Hunter Brttain, though he appears to have been fired, still hasn't offered a reason for why he shot the kid.

"The empire strikes back: Mainstream Dems try to crush the left in Buffalo and Cleveland: Progressive Black women are poised to win in two struggling heartland cities — and old-line Democrats aren't happy The two biggest cities on the shores of Lake Erie are now centers of political upheaval. For decades, Buffalo and Cleveland have suffered from widespread poverty and despair in the midst of urban decay. Today, the second-largest cities in New York and Ohio are battlegrounds between activists fighting for progressive change and establishment forces determined to prevent it. For Buffalo's entrenched leaders, a shocking crisis arrived out of the blue on June 22 when socialist India Walton won the Democratic primary for mayor, handily defeating a 15-year incumbent Byron Brown, who has a deplorable track record. "I am a coalition builder," Walton said in her victory speech that night. But for the city's power brokers, she was a sudden disaster."

"'The Tax Break Industrial Complex Has Not Been Challenged': CounterSpin interview with Greg LeRoy on Texas corporate subsidies. [...] There are many myths, of course, but an important one is that if we give corporations tax breaks, they'll just turn that gift right around and support the community with, first and foremost, jobs. And if you don't give them that break, well, they'll just take all those benefits to someplace that will. That narrative is unraveling right now in Texas, where a massive and particularly perverse subsidy program known as Chapter 313 is set to expire, thanks to the work of a range of groups and reporters, particularly at the Houston Chronicle. [...] And, in many cases, we're barely getting any jobs out of many of these deals. Because when you subsidize making a plant more capital intensive, well, by definition, that can often mean fewer jobs over time. They also looked at the financial impact on public services. And they looked at the long-term impact that's creeping up on the state costs. It was a soup-to-nuts investigation, and they basically said, by every measure, what we think we're supposed to get out of these things—which is, top of the list obviously, these jobs and additional tax revenue—we're actually not getting much of either, and we're losing a lot of revenue."

"Dems Launch Proxy War On Medicare For All: Dems bankrolled by Big Pharma are suddenly targeting Nina Turner right after she aired an ad touting Medicare for All. [...] A 2018 poll showed that Medicare for All is wildly popular in Northeast Ohio — and Turner is running in a district that has been represented for nearly 30 years by lawmakers who have supported legislation to create a government-sponsored single payer health care system. That includes Marcia Fudge, who left Congress to serve in President Joe Biden's cabinet. Pledging to carry on that legacy, Turner on June 15th launched her television spot entitled 'Worry,' in which she talks about how her family's struggle to pay health care bills led her to support Medicare for All. The very next day, corporate lobbyists held a Washington fundraiser for Turner's primary opponent, Shontel Brown. Among those headlining the fundraiser was Jerome Murray — a registered lobbyist for the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers Association, which has been backing a nationwide campaign to reduce support for Medicare for All. [...] The fundraiser followed Brown slamming Medicare for All, amid a pandemic that has seen more than 1 million Ohioans lose their employer-sponsored health care." And then Hillary Clinton endorsed Brown, which generated lots of fund-raising magic for Nina on the day. No new polls have come out since before the push began, but at that time, Turner was way, way out ahead of Brown. Jim Clyburn, also a beneficiary of big pharma funding, has joined the push against Turner, predictably

"Dear National Public Radio: The Stock Market is not the Economy — Tell us about Hunger and the Real Unemployment Rate. [...] Every month at least one of the stock market reports should be replaced with the real unemployment rate. That number would include part time workers seeking full time and discouraged workers. At the end of February it stood at about 11%, almost double the headline figure. Interestingly at the height of the world financial crisis the real unemployment rate reached 22%, only 3 percent less than the peak of the Great Depression. (This may be an apples and oranges comparison as I have been unable to establish the l930s definition of unemployment. Nonetheless the Great Recession is surely well named.) Just as important as whether one has a job is what is happening on that job. Periodic news releases from the Bureau of Labor Statistics include data on occupational health and safety. The following highlights could be updated and presented several times a year."

"Have you ever heard of "civil asset forfeiture"? You're never going to think about the police the same way again." I know you're already aware of civil asset forfeiture but here's a nice simple reminder that it is out-and-out theft of a higher order than anything committed by official robbers who the cops would call "criminals". There is absolutely no reason in the world the police should be allowed to do this.

Management at The Appeal shut the site down when workers formed a union, so the workers are creating their own site and asking for help to get it going. They are currently unpaid while they set up and can use your donations.

"A Cyber-Culprit Other Than Russia? [...] Speaking of false-flag attacks: It is not widely known that the CIA has an array of versatile offensive cybertools called Vault 7, one of which, "Marble Framework" enables the CIA to hack into computers and servers, disguise who hacked in, and attribute the hack to others. Vault 7, including "Marble Framework" was leaked to WikiLeaks, which revealed and described in 2017 several of the offensive cyber tools. The developers, it turned out, worked with five languages to enable eventual attribution: Chinese, Korean, Persian, Arabic, and — you guessed it — Russian. And Marble was used at least once during 2016."

"NHS GP practice operator with 500,000 patients passes into hands of US health insurer: Merger with Centene Corp covers 500,000 patients fuelling calls for inquiry into 'NHS privatisation by stealth' [...] The merger is expected to create the largest private supplier of GP services in the UK, with 58 practices covering half a million patients. A coalition of doctors, campaigners and academics has voiced concerns in a letter sent this week to the health secretary, Matt Hancock, asking him to order an investigation by the Care Quality Commission. [...] Objectors are concerned because they claim the change of control was approved for eight practices in the London boroughs of Camden, Islington and Haringey in a virtual meeting on 17 December that lasted less than nine minutes, during which no mention was made of Centene and not a single question was asked."

I learned of Rumsfeld's death just as I was about to send my last post, and I thought, "Does he deserve more? No." But I hate to ignore all the scathing commentary from those who had the energy to do the scathing:
Pierce, "You Go to Hell With the Alibis You Have: Donald Rumsfeld died on Wednesday. He was 88 years old, an age thousands of Iraqis will never reach because of him."
Jon Schwarz, "Farewell to Donald Rumsfeld, Dreary War Criminal: Rumsfeld managed to do terrible things throughout his life while remaining tremendously banal."
Ben Burgis, "Donald Rumsfeld, Rot in Hell: Bush administration Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is dead at the age of 88. It's a tragedy that Rumsfeld died before he could be put on trial for crimes against humanity."
Special mention of Teen Vogue for not leaving it out of the headline like all the big media organs did: "Donald Rumsfeld, Former Defense Secretary and Accused War Criminal, Dead at 88: Rumsfeld is considered an architect of the U.S. invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq."

"US Censorship Is Increasingly Official: The Biden administration made headlines last week as it moved to shut down the websites of 33 foreign media outlets, including ones based in Iran, Bahrain, Yemen and Palestine. Officials justified the decision by claiming the organizations were agents of 'disinformation.' The most notable of these is probably English-language Iranian state broadcaster Press TV. Visitors to PressTV.com are now met with the seal of the Department of Justice and the FBI, and a message notifying them that the domain 'has been seized by the United States government.' (The site has since migrated to an Iranian-based domain, PressTV.ir.) [...] Western outlets covering the new seizures did not frame them as an attack on the First Amendment (Washington Post, 6/23/21; CNN, 6/23/21; Fox News, 6/23/21), many preferring instead to discuss the shortcomings of the Iranian media landscape. Slate (6/24/21), for example, reminded readers that Iran 'blocks foreign social media sites, censors critical foreign outlets and jails reporters.' While this may be perfectly true, Slate suggested it was possible for the Biden administration to make a 'clear distinction' between when Iran does it and when the US carries out similar actions; 'disinformation and election interference are serious problems,' it helpfully noted. Decrying the state of press freedoms in official enemy states is a favorite pastime of corporate media (FAIR.org, 11/1/06, 5/20/19, 10/20/19). It is a point of pride in the US that freedom of speech is written into the Constitution. Increasingly, however, if we want to find direct government censorship of speech, we don't have to travel far."

"How Amazon Controls Virtually Everything You Watch: Amazon Web Services delivers almost all filmed media in the United States to your screen of choice. How are they leveraging that power? When Amazon announced that it would buy mini-major movie studio MGM in an $8.45 billion deal, I surmised that the real goal here was to raise the cost of acquiring filmed entertainment for its competitors, making Amazon's bundled Prime Video option look more attractive. I also nodded to the fact that Amazon is a competitor in streaming video and theatrical movie production, while also being a distribution network for streamers. Amazon also sells other streaming services through its website, and through Fire TV, an Amazon device that makes streaming video available. This simultaneous negotiation and competition can create leverage for Amazon in its dealings with rivals, and moves the company closer to taking a cut out of every economic transaction. But there's another side to this: No major streaming service actually delivers its product without the assistance of Amazon. That's true of the major U.S. movie studios as well. And once you understand the totality of Amazon's role in entertainment distribution, you begin to see its encroachment into entertainment content in a whole new light."

"The Man Who Knew Too Much, Julian Assange [...] Distortions linger. How many know Assange sought Pentagon and State Department help in redacting sensitive information, and was refused? That he worked diligently with newspapers to determine information that should be held back, until a newspaper editor published an access password that let everyone pull everything? Or that Robert Mueller found no evidence connecting Assange and Russia? That Paul Manafort never met with Assange in Ecuador's embassy in London? Or that no harm was caused to anyone in other countries who was working with the US government? Media ran faster with narratives ripping Assange than questioning or correcting them. Claiming Assange is outside publishing boundaries is a conceit that who, what, when, where, why and how requires formal training, or an official imprimatur. Never mind the international journalism awards Wikileaks quickly garnered, the uncovered bedrock for important stories that enabled accolades to news organizations building on Wikileaks revelations. A decade ago Daniel Ellsberg, who exposed government lies about the Vietnam War by leaking the Pentagon Papers, told me government's objective going after him was a UK-styled Official Secrets Act that undermines First Amendment protections. Beyond criminalizing leaking classified materials, it would criminalize seeking and publishing them. I recently asked James C. Goodale, who defended the NY Times in that case, if that's still the aim. 'Yes,' Goodale says, 'closing the circle, prosecuting those who receive and publish leaks. The wild over-classification of documents systematically confuses confidentiality with national security, deterring finding out and revealing what government does. It's already put a chill on journalists covering the military establishment, and leaks are drying up. Assange engaged in journalistic endeavors." Goodale is alarmed that despite overwhelming recognition of this by international journalist and human rights organizations, American media remains mostly comatose regarding the peril."

"Democracy Dies At The Washington Post Editorial Board: In the Soviet Union, everybody was aware that the media was controlled by the state. But in a corporate state like the U.S., a veneer of independence is still maintained, although trust in the media has been plummeting for years."

"Norman Finkelstein On Cancel Culture, "White Fragility" plus Andrew Yang's Crucial Mistake: Norman Finkelstein, the prolific (and widely canceled) political scientist, and author of 11 books, joins the show to give us a sneak preview of his new book on cancel culture and identity politics. He explains what makes today's cancel culture new, what makes it not so new, and why it's worse, in some ways, when the Left does it: 'Obviously there's cancel culture on the right. But the cancel culture on the right, or the mainstream, the establishment, whatever you want to call it, for a person of the left, is a given. That's a part of what it means to be on the left. The true Left. You're going to be marginalized, ignored. That's the history of the Left.' He critiques MSNBC's Bernie-bashing and identity-politics-weaponizing—Joy Ann Reid and her body-language expert, who diagnoses Bernie Sanders' self-incriminating 'turtling,' in particular— gives Noam Chomksy his due credit and sings the praises of W.E.B. DuBois. Finkelstein also directs his formidable fire at White Fragility author Robin DiAngelo: 'And what's her message to white people? Her message to white people is every white person... who's laying out in the street because he or she is homeless, which there are quite a lot in my neighborhood. Every white person from that person to Jeff Bezos, they all profit from racism. And then they, the CEOs, they get to play the enlightened ones because they give money to Black Lives Matter. So, the message to white people is be careful what you're willing to give up, because you're benefiting from this system. Every white person benefits from the system. If you let them climb one rung higher, you are going to go one rung lower. So it's a warning to white people to be cautious, careful, wary, of the demands of black people.... '"

"The Zionist assault on Judaism: Zionism has not yet murdered Judaism but it has undermined its moral and historical integrity. By intentionally fanning antisemitism, Israel is a major contributor to Jewish insecurity. [...] Second, building on that blurring, Israel casts all opposition to its policies as 'antisemitism.' At a time when it is increasingly difficult to mobilize even Jews abroad around support for Israeli policies of occupation, apartheid and ethnocracy, turning to the old reliable canard of antisemitism offers a tried-and-true strategy for overcoming political reservations. Here Israel is demonstrating its lack of concern for the well-being of Jewish communities abroad, and its long-standing willingness to sacrifice them for the greater Israeli good. An Israeli-centric 'new antisemitism' was invented by the Israeli government and its supporters in order to delegitimize criticism of Israel as antisemitism. 'One of the chief tasks of any dialogue with the Gentile world,' said Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban in the 1973, 'is to prove that the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is not a distinction at all. Anti-Zionism is merely the new anti-Semitism.' [...] The great danger inherent in Israel's co-optation of Jews and antisemitism in order to maintain an illegal and oppressive regime is found in Israel's need to claim Jewish/Israeli exceptionalism from the rest of humanity. The Fourth Geneva Convention forbids the annexation and settlement of an occupied territory, but Israel, a signatory to the Convention, claims that it doesn't apply because all the land in fact 'belongs' to the Jewish people, despite clear rulings of the International Court of Justice and the UN to the contrary. Jews possess the right of self-determination in Palestine, but the indigenous Palestinians do not, because Israel has decided that there is no Palestinian people."

The GAO did a little study to see how FOSTA is working. It really isn't.

"Why Is Kevin Drum Measuring What Each Party's Voters Say And Not What Each Party's Politicians Do? [...] But why are we measuring polarization this way? Democratic politicians haven't radically expanded abortion access, even in blue states, while Republican politicians have radically restricted access, and nearly every D.C. Republican calls for a total or near-total ban on abortion. How are we stoking a culture war when Republicans are the ones who continually upend the status quo?"

A gratifying read from Nathan Robinson, "Everything Ben Shapiro Says Is Still Worthless: These are just feelings disguised as facts.A few years ago, after the New York Times dubbed conservative pundit Ben Shapiro 'the cool kids' philosopher,' I wrote a widely-shared article showing why he was an intellectual fraud who did not actually believe in 'logic, facts, reason, and debate' as he had claimed he did. (Shapiro has since evaded multiple challenges by leftists to debate him, and when he has accidentally allowed himself to encounter a moderately intelligent interlocutor, he has crumpled almost immediately.) In a rational society where, through the 'marketplace of ideas,' good ideas prevailed over bad ones through an unfolding dialectical process of Habermasian public speech (or, if you're not trying to use rapid-fire big words to sound smarter than you are, people talking to each other about important politics stuff), there would be an inverse relationship between the number of times Ben Shapiro has been proven wrong and his popularity as a public intellectual."

OK, this made me a little nuts, watching Bosch and hearing this version of "What a Wonderful World" rather than the one we all know by Louis Armstrong. Since Bosch is a big jazz fan, I wondered who it was and why it was chosen, but all of the "official" lists of music from the show gave the Louis Armstrong version, so it took a while to finally locate a list that actually gave the right one.

"The Royal Canadian Navy - Sinking you, but politely"

Stevle Wonder, "You Haven't Done Nothin'"

23:15 GMT comment


Friday, 30 June 2021

This play is run, my love

Laura Rowe photographed this supercell in Texas on 17 May 2021

"Reality Winner, Whistleblower On Russian Hacking, Is Released From Prison: Winner, who received the longest-ever prison sentence for serving as a journalistic source, has moved to a federal halfway house in Texas. [...] The injustice of her case was highlighted when Marina Butina, a Russian national, received an 18-month sentence in 2018 for trying to influence American political figures without registering as a foreign agent. It struck many observers as dumbfounding that an actual Russian agent would receive a lighter jail sentence than an American trying to reveal a secret Russian effort to alter the outcome of an election. Winner was even denied compassionate release during the Covid-19 pandemic — and subsequently contracted the disease. Although Winner was prosecuted by President Donald Trump's Department of Justice, the decorated Air Force veteran has not received any favors from President Joe Biden. She has been released according to a normal schedule that takes account of her good behavior while behind bars, her lawyer said in a statement. Winner's request for a pardon and commutation of her sentence has not been granted."

"US seizes three dozen websites used for 'Iranian disinformation': Seized sites include Press TV and Houthi and Palestinian outlets. Move comes amid tense efforts to revive nuclear deal. [...] Visitors to leading Iranian media sites such as Press TV and Al-Alam, the country's main English language and Arabic language broadcasters, as well as the Al-Masirah TV channel of Yemen's Houthis, were met with single-page statements on Wednesday, declaring the website 'has been seized by the United States Government' accompanied by the seals of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Commerce Department. [...] State-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) accused the United States of repressing freedom of expression and joining forces with Israel and Saudi Arabia 'to block pro-resistance media outlets exposing the crimes of US allies in the region'."

"First-Ever Congressional Bill To Decriminalize All Drugs Announced Ahead Of Nixon Drug War Anniversary: Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) and Cori Bush (D-MO) are sponsoring the legislation, which aims to promote a public health- and evidence-based approach to substance misuse. The bill is titled the Drug Policy Reform Act (DPRA) and was drafted in partnership with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). The proposal would end the threat of incarceration for people caught possessing drugs for personal use. Courts would still have the option of imposing a fine, but that could be waived if a person couldn't afford it. Importantly, the measure would make it so the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—rather than the Justice Department—would be responsible for classifying drugs, with the intent being to shift that role to a health-centric model. [...] But that's where another key component comes into play: the bill would withhold federal funds for law enforcement through the Byrne and COPS grant program for states and cities that continue to enforce criminalization of simple drug possession. The threat of losing that money could be enough to incentivize states and municipalities to stop locking people up for drugs." The chances of a bill getting through even on the Democratic side are pretty small, but it gives activists something to shoot for and starts a much-needed conversation in the halls of power.

I didn't expect to see this from Peter Beinart. "Bernie Sanders Remembers: Over the last two weeks, Bernie Sanders has done two remarkable things—things historians will write about decades from now, even if journalists aren't paying much attention to them today. On June 8, he cast the lone Democratic vote in the Senate against a vast new bipartisan bill aimed at combatting China. On June 17, he penned an essay in Foreign Affairs entitled, 'Washington's Dangerous New Consensus on China: Don't Start Another Cold War.' Today's progressives look back with admiration and wonder at Representative Barbara Lee's lone vote, three days after September 11, 2001, against authorizing the 'war on terror.' Future progressives, I suspect, will look back at Sanders' actions this month in a similar way. The reason is that now, as then, Washington is inaugurating a global conflict that could haunt the United States, and the world, for decades. As Kurt Campbell, Joe Biden's 'Asia Czar,' recently put it, 'the period that was broadly described as engagement' with China 'has come to an end.' Twenty years ago, America 'got tough' on terrorism. Now it's getting tough on Beijing. And Sanders is the highest profile Democrat yelling stop."

The Harvard Radcliffe Institute, "Black Lives Matter Protesters Were Overwhelmingly Peaceful, Our Research Finds: The Black Lives Matter uprisings were remarkably nonviolent. When there was violence, very often police or counterprotesters were reportedly directing it at the protesters. When the Department of Homeland Security released its Homeland Threat Assessment earlier this month, it emphasized that self-proclaimed white supremacist groups are the most dangerous threat to U.S. security. But the report misleadingly added that there had been 'over 100 days of violence and destruction in our cities,' referring to the anti-racism uprisings of this past summer."

Jon Schwarz, "Political System Unites to Condemn Ilhan Omar for Telling the Truth: The frenzied attacks by Republicans and Democrats on the Minnesota representative are about maintaining absolute impunity for the U.S. and Israel. THIS PAST WEEK'S feeding frenzy on Minnesota Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar — including by the Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives — should cause despair among anyone holding on to a faint hope that powerful Americans can discuss the world without engaging in childish lies. It all began with an hourslong hearing Monday by the House Foreign Affairs Committee with the snoozy title 'State Department Foreign Policy Strategy and Fiscal 2022 Budget Request.' Secretary of State Antony Blinken took queries from committee members, including Omar. Omar had a serious, rational question for Blinken about the significance of America's policy toward the International Criminal Court at the Hague. 'You opposed the court's investigation in both Palestine and in Afghanistan,' she noted. 'In both of these cases, if domestic courts can't or won't pursue justice, and we oppose the ICC, where do we think victims are supposed to go for justice, and what justice mechanisms do you support for them?' Blinken had an unserious, irrational answer. 'Whether it's the United States or Israel,' he said, 'we both have the mechanisms to make sure that there is accountability in any situations where there are concerns about the use of force and human rights.' This is insultingly false on its face. To choose one of hundreds of examples, there has been no American prosecution of those responsible for conducting torture during the Bush administration. Even more importantly, former President George W. Bush himself launched an aggressive war against Iraq and now spends his days happily giving speeches to the National Grocers Association and hanging out with former President Barack and first lady Michelle Obama."

David Dayen, "Everything You Need to Know About the Infrastructure Bills Traveling Through Congress: There are eight of them. As a new infrastructure week begins, we've reached the peak confusion stage in Washington. It is genuinely difficult to keep straight all the gangs, working groups, and bipartisan agreements on bills that fall under the rubric of infrastructure. So let this be a public service straightening all that out. There are actually eight infrastructure bills floating out there right now, though none of them appears at this moment to have the votes needed to pass into law. Walking through them can illuminate what the Biden administration's strategy should be going forward."

Also by DDay, "The Problem With the 'BlackRock Buying Houses' Meme: Here's the reality of institutional buyers and the single-family rental market. Over the past week, the American political scene has done the unthinkable: It actually paid attention to the forces shaping our housing markets. Apparently spurred by a viral tweet that caught the eye of hillbilly elegist and would-be senator from Ohio J.D. Vance, political conservatives and liberals alike have been gripped with anger about Blackrock, the world's biggest asset manager, 'buying every single family house they can find,' distorting prices, and locking out families. The topic trended on Twitter for the better part of a week, as liberals and conservatives and those in between bantered, mostly about how the development reinforced their prior thinking about housing markets. Vance decided that the left wouldn't care about Blackrock's antics because of its commitments to ''racial audits' and other diversity BS.' Tucker Carlson committed a segment to how Wall Street speculation was singularly responsible for creating a 'serf class' of renters. The Onion jumped on the trend with a fake news item titled 'Thrilled BlackRock Announces Purchase of 800,000th Dream Home.' Almost none of this is true, not even the spelling of BlackRock, which only The Onion got right by capitalizing the R. A segment of the single-family rental market is indeed controlled by institutional investors, but that started in earnest a decade ago, when homes went on sale in bulk during the foreclosure crisis. The time to care about what this might do to our housing markets was then, not ten years later, when corporate landlords have matured into an entrenched asset class. Nobody should be claiming that this is the sole, primary, or even major reason for soaring housing prices. But it is a serious problem unto itself for the renters unfortunate enough to have to live in these homes. And it's an indictment of political, activist, economist, and media elites for failing to catch on to the trend until it was way too late."

And again from DDay, "Washington Isn't Used to the Left Setting the Agenda: That's why they freaked out over Democrats linking two separate infrastructure bills. But to succeed, the left must also erase privatization from the agenda. [...] Everyone, including Republicans, knows this is happening; even the walk-back acknowledges the process will be exactly the same. It's just confusing to see it play out. The left doesn't set the terms of the agenda as a general rule. That rule has been broken. But it hasn't been fully broken, and there's one more bit of work for progressives. The fact sheet on the bipartisan bill still includes privatization schemes as one of the revenue-raisers. That means that old infrastructure will be sold off to pay for new infrastructure, and that private financiers will be given concessions to run common assets for decades. Wall Street is salivating over this idea, seeing it as their 'big wish granted.' Trump unsuccessfully sought this, and Biden is close to succeeding. This could lead to sales of the Tennessee Valley Authority, Washington Dulles International Airport, and much more."

This is a year old, but still, "Cuba Has Sent 2,000 Doctors and Nurses Overseas to Fight Covid-19: The Trump administration describes Cuba's medical response teams as 'slaves—we asked the doctors for their take. [...] Emergency medical response teams from the island have touched down in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and—for the first time—Europe. In March, the first batch of 51 Cuban doctors and nurses arrived in Lombardy, Italy, at the time the epicenter of the pandemic, to cheering crowds. They join the 28,000 Cuban health professionals who were working in 59 countries prior to Covid-19. No other country has sent large numbers of doctors abroad during the pandemic. The radical intellectual Noam Chomsky last month described the island as the only country to have shown 'genuine internationalism' during the crisis, and the women-led anti-war organization Code Pink is now leading calls for the island's emergency medical response teams to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But these medical brigades have received little media attention in the United States. When they are commented on at all, coverage is usually negative. In fact, for the last three years, the Trump administration has described doctors participating in these missions as 'slaves' and has accused the Cuban government of 'human trafficking.' [...] Such depictions never include the voice of the Cuban doctors who work in these missions. Over the last couple of months, I've spoken to dozens of doctors before their departure. Their words cut sharply against this picture. 'How can I be a slave if I receive a free education from my country?' asked Dr. Leonardo Fernández, who has served in Nicaragua, Pakistan, East Timor, Liberia, and Mozambique. 'How can I be a slave when my family receives my full salary while I'm abroad? How can I be a slave when I have constitutional rights?' Dr. Gracilliano Díaz, a veteran of the campaign against Ebola in Sierra Leone in 2014, dismissed with Caribbean cool the idea that he is a victim of trafficking. 'We do this voluntarily,' he said with a lilt. 'It doesn't matter to us that other countries brand us as slaves. What matters to us is that we contribute to the world.' "

As long as it's not money up-front it's not bribery, even though it is. "Leaked Audio Of Sen. Joe Manchin Call With Billionaire Donors Provides Rare Glimpse Of Dealmaking On Filibuster And January 6 Commission: Manchin urged big-money donors with No Labels to talk to Sen. Roy Blunt about flipping his vote on the commission in order to save the filibuster. [...] The meeting was hosted by the group No Labels, a big money operation co-founded by former Sen. Joe Lieberman that funnels high-net-worth donor money to conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans. Among the gathering's newsworthy revelations: Manchin described an openness to filibuster reform at odds with his most recent position that will buoy some Democrats' hopes for enacting their agenda." I wish they would all be struck by lightning.

"Researcher Uncovers 'Critical Race Theory' Astroturfing Campaign: Berman and Company admitted it is the organization behind a campaign protesting against New York City schools curricula. Rick Berman, an infamous right-wing lobbyist whose organizations have been accused of several astroturfing campaigns—and who is known as "Dr. Evil"—revealed that his firm is behind an organization that claimed to be a grass-roots movement against New York City's prep schools focus on 'diversity education.'"

"The Supreme Court Is Closer to a 9-0 Corporatist Supermajority Than a 3-3-3 Split: No amount of regrouping can obviate the need for Supreme Court reform. [...] So while the language may seem alluring, the ideology of the Court is not experiencing some tectonic shift. The commitment to pro-corporate policy remains intact, the judicial chamber continuing to channel the Chamber of Commerce. In fact, it was another 9-0 decision that tells more about where the Court is at ideologically in its current state. That would be the much tweeted-about Nestlé USA v. Doe, where Obama appointee Neal Katyal argued on behalf of Nestlé (and agricultural giant Cargill) in a case where the companies were alleged to have provided child-slavery-reliant farms on the Ivory Coast with technical and financial assistance and routinely purchased their product, despite that conscripted workforce. [...] No amount of liberal insistence on technicality will make the Court anything else than what it is: a breakaway, anti-democratic faction with a conservative mandate to steamroll any obstacle to corporate power and profit-taking. There's no taxonomical solution to this, and it isn't made better by grouping in threes what should be grouped in nines."

Accidental victory: "A Scheme to Blow Up the Housing Market Backfired Spectacularly at the Supreme Court: Instead of winning billions for shareholders, the plaintiffs handed Joe Biden tighter control over the mortgage industry. [...] The roots of Wednesday's decision in Collins v. Yellen go back to the Great Recession. In 2008, as the U.S. housing market collapsed, Congress created the FHFA to regulate the mortgage industry. The agency placed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into a conservatorship. Under this arrangement, the government gave Fannie and Freddie billions in federal funds—basically, a bailout—and received some money in return. Specifically, under a 2012 deal with the FHFA, Fannie and Freddie sent quarterly payments consisting of nearly their entire net worth to the U.S. treasury. Predictably, Fannie and Freddie's investors were displeased with this deal. It forced the companies to hand the government about $124 billion more than they would have under previous arrangements. And it left nothing for the companies' private shareholders, who sued to recoup the money that, in their view, should've gone to them in the first place. The shareholders alleged that the FHFA had an unconstitutional structure because it was led by a single director whom the president cannot fire without cause. This structure, they asserted, violates the constitutional separation of powers by depriving the president of control over the executive branch. And, they reasoned, the solution is to invalidate the agency's actions—namely, the 2012 deal that sent $124 billion to the U.S. treasury." So the court agreed that the president should be able to fire the (Trump-appointed) director, and Biden promptly did so. This was a pretty serious own goal for the vultures since said director planned to get rid of the conservatorship, which is what these investors wanted in the first place. The new director has a very different set of priorities. So suddenly the Dems have a victory they weren't even looking for.

Atrios found something remarkable in the NYT: "Not a perfect piece, but it's notable because it's rare that "people in cities hate Republicans" is actually presented as a problem for Republicans, instead of proof of the irrelevance of Democrats to REAL AMERICA."

Matt Karp in Harper's, "History As End: 1619, 1776, and the politics of the past: In the age of Sanders and Trump, the Democratic establishment has assumed a defensive posture, concerned above all with holding off various barbarians at the gate. And yet in its consideration of the past, the same establishment has somehow grown large and courageous, suddenly eager for a galloping revision of all American history. For some left-wing skeptics, this apparent paradox requires little investigation: it redirects real anger toward vague and symbolic grievances. No, the Democrats who govern Virginia will not repeal the state's anti-union right-to-work law, but yes, by all means, they will make Juneteenth an official holiday. If this movement only signals a shift from material demands to metaphysical 'reckonings'—from movement politics to elite culture war—then it is not an advance but a retreat. (Ana Kasparian, Nando Villa, and Bill Fletcher have an interesting discussion on this and related topics in "Celebrating Juneteenth w/ Bill Fletcher, Critical Race Theory, & Racist Techno-Policing | Weekends".)

"REALLY BLOODY EXCELLENT OMENS..." Neil Himself on the upcoming sequel to Good Omens.

"Inside Gun-Surrendering Criminal Mark McCloskey's Very Sad St. Louis Rally: Noted local criminal Mark McCloskey played host to a barbecue/political rally on Sunday afternoon, drawing tens of admirers to the sweltering parking lot of a closed outlet mall in St. Louis County to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the time he pulled a gun on a crowd of people who otherwise would never have noticed or cared he existed." Yes, there is more!

RIP: "Mike Gravel, Former Alaska Senator And Anti-War Advocate, Dies At Age 91: SEASIDE, Calif. — Mike Gravel, a former U.S. senator from Alaska who read the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record and confronted Barack Obama about nuclear weapons during a later presidential run, has died. He was 91. Gravel, who represented Alaska as a Democrat in the Senate from 1969 to 1981, died Saturday, according to his daughter, Lynne Mosier. Gravel had been living in Seaside, California, and was in failing health, said Theodore W. Johnson, a former aide." He fought in Congress to end the draft and also introduced legislation for a guaranteed minimum income equivalent to a living wage, "the equivalent of $42,000 in 2019 after adjustment for inflation," according to Wikipedia. And then he became a hero all over again when he ran for president just to be able to tell those people in primary debates what monsters they were.

RIP: "Alix Dobkin: Groundbreaking lesbian activist and feminist folk singer: The musician's work, including 'Lavender Jane Loves Women', was a cult hit among lesbian women and inspired a generation to come out. Alix Dobkin, who has died following an aneurysm and stroke aged 80, was an American folk singer-songwriter who was dubbed 'the head lesbian' by her fans and admitted to being homophobic before becoming a feminist — as a result of joining a consciousness-raising class after hearing Germaine Greer talking on a radio show." Here she is singing "The Woman in Your Life".

RIP: "WKRP's Frank Bonner Dead at 79: Frank Bonner, best known for donning nightmarish iterations of plaid as WKRP in Cincinnati salesman Herb Tarlek, died on Wednesday as a result of complications from Lewy body dementia, TMZ reported. He was 79." Here's a few of Herb's suits now.

RIP: "Ned Beatty, Actor Known for Network and Deliverance, Dies at 83." He was in more things than I want to list here and was in front of us for most of our lives. His genre credit, of course, is Superman, but perhaps his finest moment was as the executive in Network who explains the facts of life.to a stunned Howard Beale.

RIP: "John McAfee: Antivirus software entrepreneur found dead in Spanish prison cell: Catalan's justice department has said "everything points" to suicide after attempts to revive the 75-year-old businessman failed. Antivirus software entrepreneur John McAfee has been found dead in his prison cell after Spain's National Court approved his extradition to the US, the Catalan justice department has said. Prosecutors in the US state of Tennessee had charged the 75-year-old with evading taxes after allegedly failing to report income made from promoting cryptocurrencies while he did consultancy work." This guy had a crazy enough story already and, of course, there is some question about whether this was really suicide.

RIP: Lying warmonger Donald Rumsfeld is dead at 88.

"End the Algorithm [...] At the heart of the problem are powerful machine learning algorithms which favor content that is shocking, surprising or inflammatory. While few older social media networks launched with algorithmically generated feeds of user-created content, every modern social media company is powered by one. Like an artificial intelligence that gets out of control in a sci-fi movie, these algorithms are out of control. Data scientist Cathy O'Neil calls these algorithms 'Weapons of Math Destruction.' However, when they cause destruction, social media companies are shielded from liability. We should end this liability protection, forcing companies to end the algorithms and return content feeds back to the user."

The evil that men do lives after them, and I'm not as optimistic as Zach Carter's title and subtitle suggest, for the very reasons why this particular evil succeeded as he describes in "The End of Friedmanomics: The famed economist's theories were embraced by Beltway power brokers in both parties. Finally, a Democratic president is turning the page on a legacy of ruin." I wish I could believe that, but I don't. And I still can't believe Friedman was so stupid he didn't realize what he was doing. "After two decades on the intellectual front lines of American politics, Friedman was a bestselling author and no stranger to fine living. But he was astonished by both 'the extraordinary affluence of the White community' and the 'extraordinary inequality of wealth' in South Africa. Friedman was not a man to scold opulence, and yet he found the tension permeating apartheid South Africa palpable in both taxicabs and hotel ballrooms. The 'hardboiled attitudes' of Mobil chairman Bill Beck and his friends were difficult for him to endure. The 'complete segregation' of the population was 'striking.'" Why, yes, you'd almost think Keynesianism helps to prevent such huge disparaties. Chillingly good article about how a crackpot named Milton Friedman destroyed our economy.

And on a related subject, in The Atlantic this time, Zach tackles "The Real Problem With Globalization: International crises demand international solutions. [...] These horrors were evident before the outbreak of COVID-19; the pandemic has escalated them all. But this is not the first time globalization has run aground. Seventy-six years ago, leaders of the world's democracies gathered in the mountains of New Hampshire hoping to end the chaos and enmity spawned by the collapse of the global trading system known as the gold standard. Guided by the great British economist John Maynard Keynes, more than 700 delegates from 44 nations sought to establish a new international order in which democracies would cooperatively tame the excesses of high finance in the name of international harmony. The fruits of their labors would become known as the Bretton Woods Accord, and the 25 years of unprecedented prosperity that their effort inaugurated offer profound implications for our own age of calamity. For it is not globalization that has brought us to the brink of the abyss, but the peculiar strain of globalization that emerged in the 1990s—a system in which international financial markets would discipline the bad habits of democratic governments, not the other way around. Instead of linking countries together in shared investment priorities and social goals, the World Trade Organization and other institutions of global commerce have thwarted government interference in the profits of international investors—profits that often come at the expense of public health, environmental protection, and geopolitical stability."

"Meet the Censored: Bret Weinstein: Canceled on campus for speaking his mind, he's now going through a sequel at the hands of Silicon Valley."

"How the CIA created the Unabomber: When mass murderer Ted Kaczynski was a 16-year-old undergraduate student at Harvard, he took part in a behavioral engineering project run by the CIA. It was part of the US government's illegal MKUltra project, which ruined the lives of many innocent and unwitting test subjects around the world."

Peter Coyote, "Pacifica Radio In Peril: Due to years of mismanagement and the role of sectarian splinter groups, the network finds itself on the precipice of either bankruptcy or dissolution. This is not an exaggeration nor is it a fantasy. Let's look at the facts. Four out of the five stations in the network are unable to generate sufficient revenue to pay their staffs and overhead expenses. The only exception is KPFA in Berkeley, California. The network has a $3.1 million loan that comes due in September 2022, and they literally have no money to pay that loan back. How did this come about? Read more about the key facts here. Increasingly, Pacifica turns to fringe conspiracy theories, hate speech, snake oil and infomercials to raise money. Some of the programming not only betrays the Pacifica mission but makes any person of intelligence, conscience and decency cringe."

"Female Luftwaffe Pilots in Combat 1945Beate Uhse had a particularly interesting post-war life. As ex-Luftwaffe, she was forbidden to fly, but she found other work where she heard much from women about their problems and she started publishing information on sexuality and contraception, eventually leading to her career running a famous sex shop. She's regarded as one of the more important figures in sexual liberation in Germany.

Loony Tunes: "Rabbit Hood"

Calamityware: dinner plates for special occasions! Also, silk ties and scarves!

In 2012, The Rolling Stones performed "Lady Jane" live for the first time in 45 years.

23:44 GMT comment


Monday, 14 June 2021

Any time will do

"Belle Soirée Sur Andernos" by Christine De Segonzac

Juan Cole, "Israeli Opposition Unite to Oust Netanyahu: Why proposed new Israeli PM, extreme-right Naftali 'I've Killed a Lot of Arabs; Bennett, is even worse for Palestinians than far right Netanyahu In a prime time address on Sunday evening, right wing extremist Israeli politician Naftali Bennett announced that he intended to join a government of national unity, including left wing and centrist parties, which would unseat long-serving Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The coalition was mainly put together by Yair Lapid of 'There's a Future' (Yesh Atid) Party, but Lapid is willing to have a rotating prime ministership and is willing to let Naftali take the first turn, for two years. Netanyahu himself went on an unhinged Trump-like rant on television calling Bennett a sham for being willing to go into coalition with the Left (which Netanyahu has often done). The move would allow Israel to avoid a fifth election in a little over two years this summer. Bennett had been under pressure from some in the Israeli right wing instead to make a coalition with Netanyahu, but several right wing leaders, including Avigdor Lieberman, have developed a visceral hate of the current prime minister, and refuse to work with him. This split in the Israeli Right is therefore in large part about personality rather than ideology."

"Joe Manchin: Deeply Disappointed in GOP and Prepared to Do Absolutely Nothing: The centrist Democrat believes, despite it all, that bipartisanship is still possible. 'I have to say, keep the faith in this damn Senate,' he told The Daily Beast. When the Jan. 6 commission became the latest casualty of Republican obstructionism on Friday, most Democrats weren't surprised. Joe Manchin was."

"Joe Manchin Can Name 12 Logical Fallacies Preventing Him From Supporting Voting Rights [...] Is it particularly surprising that Joe Manchin is voting against the For the People Act? Of course not. That's what he does. He's a scorpion and that's just his nature. But the way I figure it, if he is going to write an entire article titled 'Why I'm Voting Against the For the People Act,' he should at least have the decency to explain why he is voting against the For the People Act. He does not. In this op-ed, Manchin spends lots of time explaining why he's opposed to ending the filibuster, but the only explanation he gives for why he opposes the For the People Act is that it's 'partisan.' [...] The For the People Act is huge. There is a lot in it. And yet, Manchin does not manage to name one single specific item in the bill that he can say is explicitly "partisan." He may as well have said that he found the bill "derivative" or claimed that it "insists upon itself." It means nothing. Given that this is a major piece of Democratic legislation, one would think he could do us all the favor of being a little more specific. Which aspect of the bill does he find "partisan?" Which part of it does he think would be unfair to Republicans? I think we'd all be happy to hear him out were he able to make that known. Rather than explaining what about it he finds specifically objectionable, Manchin simply assures us that if the bill were good, it would have support from all of the wonderful Republicans in Congress who deigned to agree that the president encouraging a bunch of cafones to storm the Capitol building was maybe bad. [...] It may seem partisan to Manchin simply because it is commonly held wisdom that the more people are able to vote and the easier it is for them to do so, the more likely it is that they will vote for Democrats — but that isn't really a reason for those people to not be able to vote. I'm just saying, if we're gonna arrange things that way, then why go through with elections at all? Why even call them elections? We might as well just dispense with this charade entirely. If we're arranging elections to make it easier for Republicans to win due to fewer people voting, then how is that not just an appointment? Democrats winning elections because everyone is able to vote easily and Republicans winning because it is harder for certain people to vote are not equal scenarios. If Republicans can't win elections with everyone voting, that seems like more of a "them" problem than an "us" problem, no? Am I wrong here? Am I losing my mind? Manchin's main point of contention seems to be that the Act is simply unfair to Republicans because they did not help to write it. It is unclear, however, who it was that was stopping them. Two Republican House representatives in fact proposed amendments to the bill, and yes, they were voted down, but that's how things work. Some amendments proposed by Democrats also failed, because that is also the way things work. Republicans could have participated more, they chose not to. Once again, that is a "them" problem."

Someone actually interviewed the workers, and also employers who have no sympathy with the whiners who are claiming that they can't find workers because unemployment benefits are too generous. "'Breaking Point': Restaurant Workers Push Back Amid Unemployment Benefit Crackdown [...] Weil has sparse sympathy for those in his industry who have changed little since the pandemic hit. 'Look, 90% of restaurant employees were terminated in mid-March last year,' he said. 'They didn't get on unemployment because they're lazy. They got on unemployment because they were fired.' Neither has Weil seen any of the business owners complaining about unemployment payments reject Paycheck Protection Program funds. 'These establishments chose not to use that PPP money to rehire workers for hybrid models, or to-go models — the revenue stream has been so enriched, and yet there's still no willingness to adapt and be competitive,' he said. 'Industry workers didn't opt out of work. They were all terminated by places that were happy to operate without them, until the pandemic was over.'"

"Wrestling With the New Deal: The programs Roosevelt put together may not have met a Platonic ideal of modern progress, but they saved American democracy itself. In 2014, an up-and-coming writer named Ta-Nehisi Coates made a landmark case for reparations in The Atlantic, which took aim at, among other targets, one of the most revered figures in the liberal pantheon: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Detailing the failures of New Deal housing policy for Black America, Coates told readers that 'Roosevelt's New Deal, much like the democracy that produced it, rested on the foundation of Jim Crow.' Cardi B was nonplussed. 'I love Franklin Delano Roosevelt,' the multi-platinum rapper told GQ four years later. 'He helped us get over the Depression, all while he was in a wheelchair — if it wasn't for him, old people wouldn't even get Social Security.' American intellectuals obsess over FDR because, as historian Eric Rauchway demonstrates in his admirable new book Why the New Deal Matters, he saved the American project itself, for better and for worse. The Great Depression that Roosevelt ended was not merely a collapse of gross domestic product and employment figures; it was a full-blown political crisis that toppled regimes around the world and called into question the very legitimacy of democratic governance. Under FDR, Rauchway writes, 'democracy in the United States, flawed and compromised as it was, proved it could emerge from a severe crisis not only intact but stronger.' When we fight over the New Deal, we are really arguing about the very meaning of America. [...] But the New Deal meant more to Black America than housing policy. Had it not, Roosevelt would not have inaugurated the titanic shift in Black voting away from the party of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Even after President Herbert Hoover's disastrous navigation of the Depression, Roosevelt lost the Black vote by roughly 2-to-1 in 1932. After four years of the New Deal, he won the Black vote by nearly 3-to-1 in 1936. This was the beginning of a political realignment that persists to this day."

"Video of police abuses and the NYPD trampling the Constitution reveal inefficacy of 'reform': The people we represent are often subjected to brutal police violence. But perhaps most telling is that all of this is playing out while the world is watching. [...] This week, a video went viral showing the arrest of a young trans woman during a protest. The 18-year-old woman was tackled in broad daylight and then rushed into an unmarked van by plainclothes officers, echoing the terrifying events we've watched play out this month in Portland, Oregon, and paralleling the forms of police brutality we, as public defenders and civil rights attorneys, know happen every day in the communities of those we represent. But this is only the latest in a string of videos that have clearly documented the tragic shortcomings of police reforms that had supposedly been previously adopted by the NYPD."

"When Nice Things Do Cost Too Much [...] "American infrastructure is this costly because of immense, endemic, universal public-private corruption—systems of both direct and financialized graft at every stage of infrastructure development, from the planning to the ribbon-cutting to the use of deferred maintenance to ransack public transportation budgets for cash, year after year, after which the responsible authorities claim that fixing the century-old signals is just too damn pricey. This system of legal fraud begins with the bevies of project consultants, continues through ludicrous private contractor and labor costs, and continues when, years later, high-paid administrative fixers and new armies of consultants and contractors arrive to fix what broke because it was never maintained. It is a system of tolerated kleptocracy that may be the only thing that America still does better than anyone else in the world. It is baked into every assumption about building for the public benefit."

"White House admits CIA involvement in 'War on Corruption' which jailed Lula and elected Bolsonaro: In a White House 'Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials on the Fight Against Corruption', a Biden administration official admitted that the CIA and other parts of the U.S. intelligence apparatus were involved in assisting the 'War on Corruption' which jailed former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and elected Jair Bolsonaro."

"No, Obama Wasn't Mad About Bailing Out His Wall Street Donors: The former president is now trying to pretend he was a finance industry critic, even though he was Wall Street's biggest cheerleader and enabler. Former President Barack Obama wants you to now believe that he was actually mad about giant Wall Street handouts that he voted for, then arm twisted lawmakers to expand — and then rescinded when some of the money might have gone to help homeowners. Obama's foray into pure fiction is not only absurd — it is a reminder that history can repeat itself if we allow reality to be memory-holed. [...] Obama doesn't seem to grant interviews to anyone who might mention these inconvenient facts — he seems only to give access to pundits and news outlets whose obsequiousness guarantees that they'll never dare ask a single follow-up question. On that score, Klein loyally held up his end of the bargain, allowing Obama to pretend he was an enraged bailout opponent, even though he was the driving force behind the handouts to a finance industry that bankrolled his political career. The result here is an economic version of the Iraq War, where all the facts and the lying and the greed are erased, with elite media playing the role of the brain-wiping machine in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind."

"Despite the Headlines, the Gates Foundation Has Evaded Scrutiny: Allegations of financial misconduct against Michael Larson, who manages the foundation's money as well as a portion of Bill and Melinda's personal wealth, should prompt a closer look. Following weeks of allegations that Bill Gates has acted inappropriately toward female employees, The New York Times last week reported that the Gates Foundation's money manager also stands accused of sexual misconduct—as well as bullying and racism. [...] But buried in the Times story is also an allegation of financial misconduct that governance and tax experts say should trigger official investigations into the foundation, and prompt us to rethink governance rules over billionaire philanthropy. [...] Judith Chevalier, a professor of finance at Yale University, says that when billionaires give their money to a private foundation, it no longer is their money—but rather part of a charitable trust that is required to be spent for philanthropic purposes. That the Gates family has continued to exercise such tight control over the foundation's money, Chevalier says, should have raised questions a long time ago. 'They haven't really diluted their control over it in a way which is customary,' Chevalier notes. 'It's just good practice to have a substantial and independent board of directors.'"

Matt Stoller wrote this before the bill in question actually passed, but now it has. "New York State to Revolutionize Antitrust: The Amazon H2Q fight in 2019 woke up the anti-monopolists in New York. Now they are moving forward with a new stronger trust-busting law. Today's issue is about a ground-breaking antitrust bill - New York Senate Bill 933 - that is likely to be voted on in the New York state Senate this week. SB933 is probably the most significant legal challenge to big tech monopoly power in the country, and would overturn the big business-friendly way we currently interpret antitrust law. As the New York Times Dealbook noted last week, with this bill, 'New York may change how America does antitrust.' In this issue, I'll both explain the legislation and do an interview with the sponsor of the bill, New York Deputy Majority Senate Leader Michael Gianaris."

If we can put one billionaire in space, why can't we put all billionaires in space? Especially since he's going on our dime.

There was plenty of real-time reporting on the ground with first-person accounts from the victims when a church was aggressively cleared with flash-bangs and tear gas just in time for Trump to do a photo op. But suddenly the headlines are going the other way with the release of a report by an inspector general at Interior saying the Park Police didn't clear the area just for Trump's photo-op. Which not only contradicts what the White House itself said at the time, but conveniently refers only to the Park Police, who were not the only cops on the scene. "Skepticism Mounts Over IG's Report on Lafayette Park Attack on Protesters [...] The 41-page report by Inspector General Mark Lee Greenblatt, an appointee of Trump's, stated that U.S. Park Police (USPP) did not force protesters to leave using violent methods on June 1, 2020, for the former president, but rather did so in order to install anti-scale fencing to deter property damage in the park."

Alan Grayson is running for the Senate again, and the bad guys have revived The OTHER False Grayson Smear [...] First, looking at the incident in question from 2014, here are the facts of the case. His ex-wife, Lolita Carson-Grayson, did submit a handwritten statement with the allegations that she later withdrew completely. Actual video from the scene provided to police only showed her hitting him, and on a 911 call made after Grayson left, she said she wanted to report Grayson for disturbing her peace. When asked to clarify, she said 'he came over to my house,' and when asked if there was an altercation or if he hit her, she replied that she hit Grayson. An affidavit from Grayson's daughter also stated Alan never hit the mother of his children. The video was widely disseminated demonstrating that the allegations were false from Grayson's perspective, as filmed by another witness. But more than that, Lolita Carson-Grayson publicly recanted the allegations a day later and issued a written apology. Eventually, the domestic violence case was dismissed. In the divorce case, Lolita Carson-Grayson was subsequently held liable for Grayson's attorney's fees, and the judgement included reference to the false domestic violence allegations made. More recently, the judge sanctioned her and she was ordered to pay $200,000 in legal fees by the court." This one keeps cropping up from people who should know better. That doesn't mean there are no issues around Grayson, but they aren't the ones that have been used to smear him.

"Even Wall Street Shills Understand Why the Democrats Failed: A new autopsy of the Democrats' 2020 electoral underperformance supports the Left's arguments about the weaknesses of the party's strategies. The only surprise is where the report came from: Wall Street—funded neoliberal think tank Third Way. [...] More broadly, just as in 2016, Democrats 'leaned too heavily on 'anti-Trump' rhetoric without harnessing a strong economic frame.' The report quotes officials and campaign staff complaining that 'it was the lack of an economic plan that really hurt,' and that leaning on nothing but 'Donald Trump sucks' led to Biden/Republican ticket-splitting around the country, with the GOP painting the party as out of touch with economic concerns. This overlaps with the findings of a Navigator Research survey of three thousand voters, which found that the majority of Biden-Republican ticket-splitters put a higher priority on the economy (and actually tended to side with progressive positions on economic policy)."

"The Great 'Awokening' and Ruling Class Uses for Racial Grievance Discourse [...] This brings us to the second reason this cynical racial grievance discourse is being pushed by the left flank of capital and the centrist Democrats. Such racial grievance posturing is being tolerated to ensure that Blacks en mass do not join the Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders faction of the Democratic party and enter the fight for more public goods government policy. Therefore, the reason why even though the Sanders faction of the party offers the agenda most needed by poor and working class Blacks who are the majority, the Black Political class and it's class acolytes will deem the Sanders coterie as 'class reductionists,' who don't care about racism even though we know this is cover for the fact that the Black political class is wedded to the centrist Democrats for its 'fatback and biscuits' patronage."

Current Affairs, "Biden Is Not Doing Nearly Enough: Democrats need to realize they are in a fight for their lives. Without transformative accomplishments, the right will soon be back in power—and it will be ugly."

From The Roosevelt Institute, "Five Reasons Why the CBO Underestimates Federal Investment: As policymakers invest in infrastructure, jobs, and solutions to the climate crisis, many will be looking at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and its methodology for determining the benefits of public investment. The methodology the CBO uses, like all economic models, has strengths and weaknesses depending on what kinds of questions need to be answered. For many things, such as the projected costs of straightforward spending programs, these methods are sound and have a good record of success. In general, we hope that any assumptions in economic modeling will tend to balance out. But when it comes to investments, especially in climate measures, the methods the CBO uses have a strong bias against public action,.."

"Take Me to Your Leader: The Rot of the American Ruling Class: For more than three centuries, something has been going horribly wrong at the top of our society, and we're all suffering for it."

"America's Cancer Within: Billionaires... And The Politicians They Own: — Nothing you don't already know, but billionaires are making America into a poor country.

"Warren Buffett and the Myth of the 'Good Billionaire' [...] There is no way to be a billionaire in America without taking advantage of a system predicated on cruelty, a system whose tax code and labor laws and regulatory apparatus prioritize your needs above most people's. Even noted Good Billionaire Mr. Buffett has profited from Coca-Cola's sugary drinks, Amazon's union busting, Chevron's oil drilling, Clayton Homes's predatory loans and, as the country learned recently, the failure to tax billionaires on their wealth. [...] In a long statement last week, Mr. Buffett defended himself by pointing to his long advocacy for a fairer taxation system, and then he immediately told on himself by undermining the very idea of taxes in the same letter. 'I believe the money will be of more use to society if disbursed philanthropically than if it is used to slightly reduce an ever-increasing U.S. debt.' In other words: I believe in higher income taxes on people like me, but I'm highly organized to avoid having income to report, and I don't really believe in taxes because I think I should decide how these surplus resources are spent."

RIP: "Patrick Sky, Folk Singer and Bob Dylan Contemporary, Dead at 80" Back in the day, I used to do "Separation Blues" just for fun, and, occasionally, "Nectar of God". And I always loved his performance of "Ira Hayes", still the best version by my reckoning.

RIP: "'Hooked on a Feeling' singer B.J. Thomas dies at 78." Yes, most other headlines named "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head," but it was written for him so B.J. Thomas was the first to record "Hooked on a Feeling" (with the original, uncensored lyrics) way back in the dark ages. He also introduced a generation of pop fans to Hank Williams' music with his rich rendition of "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry", his first hit.

RIP: "Clarence Williams III, The Mod Squad and Purple Rain Actor, Dead at 81: Actor also appeared in Half Baked, Deep Cover, Twin Peaks and Tales From the Hood. Clarence Williams III, the actor who portrayed Linc Hayes on TV's The Mod Squad as well as played Prince's father in Purple Rain, has died at the age of 81. Williams management confirmed the actor's death to Variety, adding that Williams died following a battle with colon cancer.The New York City-born Williams, the grandson of jazz great Clarence Williams, made his acting debut on Broadway and other theatrical productions in the mid-Sixties before he was cast in The Mod Squad, the influential counterculture police series that ran for five seasons on ABC. 'Mod Squad broke new ground,' Living Colour's Vernon Reid tweeted Sunday. 'Clarence Williams III broke new ground. You can draw a direct line from Clarence Williams III to both Denzel & Idris. It's his MF moody blood running through The Kid in Purple Rain that's the furnace of his pain & genius.'" Oh, and I hadn't realized he'd played Jelly Roll Morton, too. Roger Ebert (Matt Zoller Seitz) wrote a highly-appreciative obit where he said: "His ferocity burned holes in the screen, and filmmakers took advantage of that, casting him in roles that shook up the main character's preconceived notions, rattled their complacency, and otherwise pushed their buttons. Williams' performance as a devoutly religious policeman in Bill Duke's classic crime drama "Deep Cover" is a knife in the heart of the film's hero, Laurence Fishburne's cop-posing-as-a-drug-dealer John Hull. There's no irony or doubt in the performance, no self-awareness. The character doesn't just think he's God's instrument, he actually is. The imposter syndrome that the protagonist experiences in scenes opposite Williams' character is indistinguishable from an actor's insecurity at facing a performer who can tuck a scene into his back pocket and walk away with it before his partner can realize what just hit him."

RIP: "F Lee Bailey, celebrity lawyer who defended OJ Simpson, dies at 87" Eventually he went through a phase of teaming up with B.B. King and visiting prisons where King would do music and Bailey would answer inmates' legal questions, which is kinda cool.

"Just How Rigged is the 'Rigged Game'? The Division of Light and Power, the new book by Dennis Kucinich, is an epic chronicle of American corruption: Dennis Kucinich has always been ahead of his time. It's both his distinction and his curse. As a presidential candidate in the 2000s he was ridiculed for backing tuition-free college, single-payer health care, ending the Iraq war, withdrawal from NAFTA and the WTO, same-sex marriage, legalized weed, slashed defense budgets, and a long list of other policies later deemed uncontroversial. When that Kucinich said he would happily nominate a gay or transgender person to the Supreme Court, Jon Stewart guffawed: 'Yes, yes, all rise for the honorable chick with dick!' By 2020 most all of Kucinich's positions were orthodoxy among Democratic voters, yet he remains an outcast to Democrats nationally. In fact, he's been frozen out of blue-state media for the better part of a decade, and welcomed during the same time to a five-year stint as a Fox News contributor. What gives? If even the Washington Post concedes that their former object of ridicule turned out to be 'the future of American politics' — the politics of their own readers — why does the national political establishment continue to keep him out of sight? The answers can be found in The Division of Light and Power, Kucinich's enormous new memoir about his time as the Mayor of Cleveland, and his battle against Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company, or CEI. The book is a surprising tour de force on multiple levels. First, it should immediately take a place among the celebrated ruthless accounts of how American politics really work, recalling jarring insider confessionals like Daniel Ellsberg's Secrets or Robert Caro's illusion-crushing portrait of municipal politics, The Power Broker. Second, it's very skillfully written. Kucinich, always a voracious reader, turns out to be a born writer, with a gift for pace and detail." Matt's also got an interview with Kucinich about the book.

"If you think you're sure the GOP has never hacked an election, then you don't know the saga of Don Siegelman, Alabama's last Democratic governor [...] Siegelman rushed to his office where he was informed that the Baldwin County probate court had quietly posted a different set of returns to its website after telling the media and party observers to go home. According to the time stamp, it was posted at 11:06 p.m. The new results had deleted about 6,000 votes from Siegelman's total, throwing the election to Riley. Baldwin county claimed that Siegelman's earlier results had been inflated due to a computer 'glitch' that had supposedly affected only his race and only his total in only one precinct. Siegelman was concerned. The closest friend of a racist probate judge in a rural county had once told him that they sometimes held back a precinct until the end of the night so that they knew how many votes they would need to fix the result." So yes, they stole the election - and then they put him in jail on false charges to keep him from being able to run again.

"The Trouble with Diversity Management [...] In short, the trouble with diversity management is that it helps to protect the power and legitimacy of the most powerful people in organizations: the bosses. Whether your primary issue in an organization is structural/institutional racism or the capitalist social order, the reality is that diversity management does not pose any risk to the people who primarily determine the culture, policies, and budgets of organizations. As a consequence, it is unclear how the corporate solutions provided by the diversity management industry will lead to the eradication of problems in the workplace."

"Extremely rare, spectacular film about London during WW-II in color [A.I. enhanced & colorized]"

I love this drawing, done with a ball-point pen on paper and looking absolutely photo-real.

And I had no idea how big the Crayola boxes could get now and how many colors they are. (Hex and RGB codes included in this chart!)

"Premakes: The Empire Strikes Back (1950)"

1958: Forrest J. Ackerman, Fritz Leiber, and Bjo Trimble star in the 8-minute short, The Genie.

Clare Torry and Pink Floyd live, 1990, "The Great Gig In The Sky"

03:13 GMT comment


Sunday, 30 May 2021

When you believe in things that you don't understand

Kilnsey Crag, Wharfedale, was photographed by Cliff Ounsley (that's Simon's dad).

What you didn't hear about the pipeline hack was that it wasn't the pipeline that was hacked at all: "Meanwhile, new details are emerging about Colonial's decision to proactively shut down its pipeline last week, a move that has led to panic buying and massive lines at gas pumps. The company halted operations because its billing system was compromised, three people briefed on the matter told CNN, and they were concerned they wouldn't be able to figure out how much to bill customers for fuel they received. One person familiar with the response said the billing system is central to the unfettered operation of the pipeline. That is part of the reason getting it back up and running has taken time, this person said. Asked about whether the shutdown was prompted by concerns about payment, the company spokesperson said, "In response to the cybersecurity attack on our system, we proactively took certain systems offline to contain the threat, which temporarily halted all pipeline operations, and affected some of our IT systems." At this time, there is no evidence that the company's operational technology systems were compromised by the attackers, the spokesperson added." That's right, they deprived people of fuel because they were afraid they might not be able to gouge people accurately.

"Advocates Hail Ruling Striking Down 'Unconstitutional' Georgia Anti-BDS Law: 'This ruling comes at a crucial moment... and makes clear that the Constitution protects participation in the BDS movement.' Free speech and Palestinian rights advocates on Monday hailed a ruling by a federal judge declaring the unconstitutionality of a Georgia law prohibiting the state from doing business with anyone advocating a boycott of Israel. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Cohen's 29-page ruling (pdf) addresses a 2016 Georgia law stipulating that 'the state shall not enter into a contract with an individual or company... unless the contract includes a written certification that such individual or company is not currently engaged in, and agrees for the duration of the contract not to engage in, a boycott of Israel.' After plaintiff Abby Martin—an award-winning U.S. journalist and filmmaker critical of Israeli crimes against Palestinians—refused to sign the pro-Israel oath, a planned paid speaking engagement at Georgia Southern University was canceled. Announcing her lawsuit—in which she was represented by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF)—Martin declared in February 2020, 'I will not forfeit my constitutional rights by signing this pledge.' Cohen's ruling states that Georgia's law 'prohibits inherently expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment, burdens Martin's right to free speech, and is not narrowly tailored to further a substantial state interest.'"

"We promised this vaccine waiver 20 years ago [...] It's not that poor countries can't make their own vaccines. The Global South has a lot of vaccine production capacity. The problem is Big Pharma, which refuses to transfer the patents and know-how to repurpose those facilities for mRNA production. South Africa and India have petitioned the WTO for a vaccine waiver. We should all want this: first, because it is monstrous to doom millions to die in order to preserve the regulatory privileges of a handful of hugely profitable, heavily subsidized pharma companies. But second, even if you don't care about being monstrous, a waiver is needed to ensure all our survival: the longer and wider the virus circulates, the more mutations we'll get, with the mounting risk of a more virulent, more lethal, more vaccine-resistant strain. [...] Gen Xers and their elders will remember the summer of 1999 and the Battle of Seattle, where anti-globalization activists fought for weeks to block the signing of the WTO agreement and its chapter on IP, the TRIPS agreement. The WTO agreement fundamentally changed the way global patents worked. Prior to the WTO, it was common for poor countries to completely ignore the patents issued by rich countries (unless the World Bank or a former colonial power coerced them into recognizing these claims). That's because countries that are net importers of finished goods have no reason to honor their suppliers' claims — doing so merely burdens their own struggling manufacturers by forcing them to pay rent to rich foreigners. [...] Ignoring other countries' exclusive rights regimes — copyright, patent, trademark, etc — is a tried-and-true method to gain self-sufficiency. That's why the Framers of the US Constitution decided that America would ignore foreign patents and copyrights, a policy that persisted for over a century, only ending once the US became a net exporter of ideas and inventions, and thus stood to gain more than it lost." Except, even the WTO agreement promises waivers, which were promised in circumstances like this one — so why the claim now that such waivers would violate the agreement?

"A Euclid Cop Killed a Man Who Had Been Sleeping in His Car. The Cop Can't Be Sued. The City Can't Be, Either. The Supreme Court has a chance to fix this. The stakes are high. A federal court last summer agreed that a reasonable jury could find that Rhodes violated Stewart's constitutional rights when the officer shot him dead—a confrontation set in motion because Stewart had fallen asleep in his parked car. He was never told he was under arrest, nor did Rhodes ever display his badge. Yet in the same breath, the court said that Stewart's estate may not bring their lawsuit before any such jury, because Rhodes was awarded qualified immunity. The legal doctrine prohibits victims from suing government officials for violating their rights unless the precise manner in which those rights were violated has been spelled out as unconstitutional in a prior court ruling. Though it sounds farcical, that's not at all a surprising outcome. Yet there is a shocking part of the decision, handed down in August by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit: They also shielded the municipality from the lawsuit on the grounds that the officer was protected by qualified immunity—something the U.S. Supreme Court specifically ruled against in Owen v. City of Independence (1980)."

"Are States Really Abolishing Qualified Immunity for Cops? Not Exactly. Recent reporting suggests that lawmakers across the country are ending a long-standing legal protection for police officers, but that isn't quite true. [...] There is just one slight hiccup. New Mexico didn't actually abolish qualified immunity. Nor did Colorado. Nor did Connecticut. Nor did New York City. I point this out not to dismiss the significance of the laws that some of these states actually passed. Indeed, some of them are actually more interesting than a straightforward abolition of qualified immunity. But when discussing how to write laws to curtail police abuses, precision is more important than ever. These reports, which greatly exaggerate the demise of qualified immunity, manage simultaneously to misdirect readers and give short shrift to what lawmakers in these jurisdictions are actually doing. [...] So what did these states actually pass into law? That's where things get interesting. In Colorado and in New Mexico, state lawmakers essentially duplicated Section 1983's basic premise—you can broadly sue government officials for violating your constitutional rights—into state law. A Coloradoan or a New Mexican (or a Connecticuter in some circumstances) whose microwave is stolen by our hypothetical police officer can now sue that officer in state court to seek redress. What's more, those states explicitly forbid government officials from seeking qualified immunity in those legal battles."

I can't remember ever having to ask, "What do you pay?" in a job interview because they usually told me in their first paragraph, well before the point where they asked if I had any questions.. Apparently, though, today's employers are unaware that what you'll be paid should have an influence on whether you'll take the job, and think they ask now all because unemployment pays too well.

"Minnesota foundations scramble to save their favored highly-segregated charter schools by defending segregation: IN THESE DAYS OF RACIAL STRIFE it may surprise you to learn that one influential philanthropy based in Minneapolis is paying for arguments in court to allow segregated public schools. Another foundation is leading the charge to remove language from the state's constitution that courts have used to bar segregation in schools. What's going on here? Are the Twin Cities not the 'liberal' bastion people make it out to be?" And there's dirt under the dirt.

No one doubts that there must be human rights abuses in China, but Lee Camp finds it hard to trust "multiple sources" on one claim when they all seem to be founded by the CIA and arms manufacturers.

"The Republican theory of unemployment is classic Marx: Indeed, as Matt Bruenig details at the People's Policy Project, there is no sign that unemployment benefits are actually interfering with labor supply. In the April jobs report, lots of people moved into employment, while only a handful moved onto unemployment. A large number of women, however, dropped out of the labor force entirely (rendering them ineligible for unemployment benefits), suggesting the child care issue is likely the real bottleneck here. But instead of calling for better wages, or setting up child care systems, or anything else, Republicans are trying to fix the problem by starving out people on unemployment — taking their money so they will have no choice but to immediately look for work, and capitalists will once again have the industrial reserve army at their beck and call. It's like conservatives have been reading Marx not to learn why they should overthrow the bourgeoisie, but as a sort of manual for how best to exploit the working class."

"Meet the Florida Judges who believe Cops have an Expectation of Privacy in Public: It was 2009 when PINAC News first broke the story of a mother named Tasha Ford who was arrested on felony 'eavesdropping' charges for recording police detaining her teenage son in the parking lot of a movie theater after accusing him of trying to sneak inside without a ticket. Ford's arrest by Boynton Beach police was one of several high-profile arrests at the time on charges of eavesdropping or 'wiretapping'; an unconstitutional trend in which cops across the country were using outdated felony laws to keep citizens from recording them in public. Several landmark court cases since then have affirmed that citizens have a First Amendment right to record police in public which is one reason why we have been seeing so many police abuse videos in recent years. Turns out, they had a lot to hide during those early years. But on May 5, the Fourth District Court of Appeals in Florida ruled the Boynton Beach cops who arrested Ford had a reasonable expectation of privacy and therefore had probable cause to arrest her, once again denying her the right to sue for damages. Ford first filed the lawsuit in 2010 but has since faced a string of judges who claim that cops have an expectation of privacy in public despite existing case law stating otherwise." I don't know where police or anyone else get the idea that cops are acting as private citizens when they are in fact in public on official business and are supposed to have their names and badge numbers clearly visible so they can be held accountable.

"If Democracy Is Dying, Why Are Democrats So Complacent? Democrats are unwilling to match their language of urgency with a strategy even remotely proportional to it. If you've followed recent Democratic messaging, you'll have heard that American democracy is under serious attack by the Republican Party, representing an existential threat to the country. If you've followed Democratic lawmaking, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the threat is actually a rather piddling one. The disconnect, in this case, isn't attributable to Democratic embellishment, but to inexcusable complacency."

"So Much For "Transformational" Joe Biden: If you haven't heard about the "transformational presidency" for a few weeks, it's because the White House is selling something else at the moment. [...] Biden has the press paper-trained to a degree we haven't seen in modern times. Not even at the height of the media's drooling love affair with Barack Obama — a phenomenon I confess I was part of — did we ever see such enthusiastic, reflexive backing of White House messaging. The Biden press even reverses course on a dime when needed, with the past weeks being a supreme example."

"Larry Summers Is Concerned About Inflation, Again: Larry Summers has a column in the Washington Post warning about inflationary risks to the economy, due to what he considers an excessively large recovery package from the Biden administration. Summers notes the extraordinarily high rate of inflation in the first quarter and warns us that worse is ahead if corrective measures are not taken soon. Starting with the inflation that we have seen to date, it is important to remember that this follows the very low rate of inflation we saw in the pandemic. Much of this is just catch up."

I'm not sure when I noticed that Peter Beinart had changed. He'd been part of a generation of writers who insisted they were liberal but supported the Bush-Cheney invasion of Iraq and were all-out for Israel uber alles, and then...he was not. From this New Yorker profile about that change: "Those emotions had outlasted the crisis which had created them. What was left, Beinart said, was 'this situation in which we're always in 1938.' The problem with this is, he went on, 'if basically we're always on the precipice of the Holocaust, then your only obligation is to survive. You don't have to deal with the moral obligations of how you treat other people. So it gives you tremendous license to do whatever, because, basically, the Palestinians are just proto-Nazis.'"

As I've been saying, if you spend the 2020 campaign talking up your opponents, it's not surprising if they beat you. "Opinion: Can Democrats avoid the pitfalls of 2020? A new analysis offers striking answers. The analysis — which was done by the group Way to Win and was provided to me — suggests large TV-ad expenditures on emphasizing bipartisan outreach do not appear to have paid dividends for House Democrats in the 2020 elections. The analysis also finds that Republicans spent a lot more money on casting Democrats as extremists than Democrats did in making the case against Republican extremism. Democrats, of course, lost a net dozen House seats, underperforming victorious Joe Biden all over the place. The findings suggest Democrats need a rethink of their approach to those conundrums, the analysts conclude. [...] Jenifer Fernandez Ancona, the vice president of Way to Win, said that, in sum, Democrats in 2020 sent mixed messages: They touted their willingness to work with Republicans, even as Republicans called them socialists and extremists." Via Atrios, who had more to add.

RIP: "Gavin MacLeod, Love Boat Captain and Mary Tyler Moore Show Star, Dies at 90: Gavin MacLeod, a sitcom veteran who played seaman 'Happy' Haines on McHale's Navy, Murray on Mary Tyler Moore and the very different, vaguely patrician Captain Stubing on The Love Boat, has died. He was 90." Another actor who seemed to be around my whole life, but we all loved him as Murray.

Watch Defamation: Anti-Semitism, the Movie (2009): In his exploration of modern Israeli life, filmmaker Yoav Shamir travels the world in the hunt for the most recent manifestations of anti-Semitism, and comes up with some startling answers as highlighted in his documentary Defamation. As a Jew raised and born in Israel, Shamir claims he has never experienced first-hand anti-Semitism, so he embarks on a journey to find it. He follows American-Jewish leaders to the European capitals, as they warn government officials of the rising anti-Semitism threat, and tags along with Israeli high school students on a trip to Auschwitz. What Shamir discovers often surprises him. For instance, he accompanies a group of Israeli students on a trip to Poland, in a quest to help open their eyes to the realities of the Holocaust. Yet, the youngsters have been so groomed by their leaders to dread the worst from the local citizens that they wind up envisaging anti-Semitic views where none may really exist. Indeed, his remarkably nuanced and provocative documentary Defamation becomes more of an assessment of the internecine warfare happening amongst the Jews themselves than of the attitude portrayed by the gentiles towards Jews."

"Eleanor Roosevelt's Son Authored Twenty Mysteries In Which His Mother Solves Murders: Yes, that's right. Apparently, Elliott Roosevelt, the son of Franklin Delano and Eleanor Roosevelt, authored a long-running murder mystery series starring his mother as an amateur detective."

On The Politics of Everything, "Music for Nothing: Everyone streams music. Musicians make pennies. Is Spotify to blame? It's easier than ever to listen to practically the entirety of recorded music. But for musicians, it's harder than ever to make money. On Episode 31 of The Politics of Everything, hosts Laura Marsh and Alex Pareene talk about the economics of the music industry with the English musician Tom Gray, who founded the #BrokenRecord campaign, and David Turner, who writes the newsletter Penny Fractions. Did streaming save music, or is it killing it? Should we blame Spotify or the record labels for the industry's problems? And what should be done to make the music business more equitable?" (Audio and transcript.)

"David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash speak: In 1969, the supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young recorded Déjà Vu. It's considered one of the greatest albums of the rock era. When asked what he thinks about it when he hears it now, Stephen Stills replied, 'There's masterpieces in there. Ain't a dog in the bunch!'"

Mark Fiore on Israel/Palestine and How To Start A War In 5 E-Z Steps.

Ruben Bolling puts his finger on how billionaires think.

"Ranked: The Social Mobility of 82 Countries"— The countries with the highest mobility are the ones with the best social programs. Investing in the public pays off for the public. Cutting social services is what you do when you want to reduce the masses to lives of endless servitude.

Everyone knows by now that the bridge over the Mississippi between Memphis and Arkansas has a crack in it, but did you also know that at night it's the Hernando De Soto Bridge LIGHT SHOW - Memphis, Tennessee?

NYC Sitcom Map

Stevie Wonder live on Seseme Street, "Superstition"

02:09 GMT comment


Saturday, 22 May 2021

What more can I do?

Pascale Perrillat's "Les Fleurs Se Sont Ouvertes" from the April selection.

"Biden Bucks the Lobbying, Supports Covid Patent Waiver" — Or does he? Most of the world has been opposed to the US/Bill Gates position on covid vaccine patents, and on the other side, the lobbying to protect "Intellectual Property" over lives has been fierce. Yet the Biden administration has announced that it will suspend pharma's patent protections for a while. But there is still that worrying line in their statement, "Those negotiations will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved." This sounds like double-talk intended to slow-walk the release long enough that it won't happen soon enough to prevent new mutations and outbreaks.

"Humanity Does Not Need Bill Gates: On everything from climate change to global health, the billionaire tycoon is a study in shamelessness. Bill Gates has long been one of the most powerful people in the world. For many years, he was the world's richest man, though he has lately rotated in the slot with Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. Since retiring from his position as Microsoft's CEO in 2000, Gates has become a celebrated figure in world philanthropy, with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) spending astronomical sums on health and education initiatives. The BMGF is the largest private charitable foundation in the world, and spends more on global health each year than the World Health Organization (WHO) and many whole countries. (The BMGF is run jointly by the Gateses, though the effects of the couple's recently-announced divorce are unclear.) [...] But it's also the case that much of the organization's wealth is (1) produced dubiously and (2) spent dubiously. In a five-year period, Schwab reported that the Foundation had earned $28.5 billion, while giving away $23.5 billion in charitable grants. Some of those earnings come from, for example, the profits of private prison companies. In 2002, the Foundation invested hundreds of millions of dollars in large pharmaceutical companies, meaning that the Foundation stands to benefit if it can help boost the profits of Big Pharma, and to lose if Big Pharma loses. The Foundation, when confronted with these dodgy means of enrichment, has rebuffed calls to divest from the prison-industrial complex and said that its investment fund 'is independently managed by a separate entity, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust' and that 'Foundation staff have no influence on the trust's investment decisions.' But this won't wash. Setting up an independent organization to go make as much money as possible for you, and then plugging your eyes and ears about how it's done while imposing no ethical standards, is just as bad as making the decisions yourself. [...] The toilets that have been invented in response to the challenge are cool. If they can get the cost down, they might do a lot of good. But we also see here a problem with Bill's brain that recurs in his climate ideas: Gates believes in new technology as a solution to problems that already have solutions. It's just that the existing solutions would require the kind of transfer of wealth from rich to poor that he sees as unacceptable. "

Scahill at The Intercept, "But What About Hamas's Rockets?: We must be clear: What started this immediate horror was the intensification of Israel's ethnic-cleansing campaign against Palestinians in East Jerusalem. The U.S.-backed, armed, and funded extreme right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu is currently engaged in a systemic collective punishment campaign against the people of Gaza. More than two million of them are trapped in an open-air prison camp with nowhere to run or hide from this scorched earth operation. Children are being slaughtered. Civilian residential buildings are being razed to the ground. Meanwhile ethno-nationalist militias are rampaging through the streets of Israel and terrorizing their Arab neighbors in a campaign of organized mob violence. We must be clear: what started this immediate horror was the intensification of Israel's ethnic-cleansing campaign against Palestinians in East Jerusalem, forcibly evicting people from their homes to hand them over to Israeli settlers. The incendiary situation was then exacerbated during a Ramadan siege by Israeli forces at one of the holiest sites in Islam, the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem."

As always, the Newspapers of Record can be relied upon to get it wrong. "Israel/Palestine Coverage Presents False Equivalency Between Occupied and Occupier: Media coverage of heightened violence in Israel/Palestine has misrepresented events in the Israeli government's favor by suggesting that Israel is acting defensively, presenting a false equivalency between occupier and occupied, and burying information necessary to understand the scale of Israeli brutality. [...] The word 'clash' is frequently employed to avoid acknowledging that violence is overwhelmingly inflicted by one side on the other, as in headlines like Reuters' 'Israeli Police, Palestinians Clash at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa, Scores Injured' (5/8/21). The headline gives no clue that 97% of the injuries were being suffered by Palestinians. [...] For instance, Israel closed Kerem Shalom Crossing on May 10, 'blocking the entrance of humanitarian aid and fuel destined for Gaza's power plant' (Gisha, 5/12/21). Kerem Shalom is also Gaza's main commercial crossing, which means that the closure will further devastate Gaza's economy, already in ruin thanks to the Israeli siege. Between May 10 and May 13, the five newspapers published a combined 114 articles that refer to Gaza. Only two pointed out that Israel has tightened the siege during the bombing campaign. The New York Times (5/10/21) ran an article that noted that Israel 'shut a key crossing between Gaza and Israel,' but said nothing about the consequences of doing so." It's amazing how the "Hamas started it" meme seems to be clinging everywhere, despite the fact that Israel had made multiple movies against the Palestinians in the days and hours leading up to what was acknowledged to be a retaliatory rocket strike by Hamas. And none of these articles are noting that Israel has the "dome" preventing Hamas rockets (which are barely more than firecrackers) from doing much damage, while Israel leveled a 13-story residential building which just happened to house international media including Associated Press and Al Jazeera. They later claimed it was a base for Hamas terrorists but have provided no evidence to back this unlikely story. It seems most likely that Israel deliberately attacked the press. However, as The American Prospect observes, "The Israel-Palestine Narrative Has Evolved," and it's not nearly as one-sided as it has been in the past: On Saturday, May 15, Israel bombarded a 15-story building in Gaza City, the main media building housing local and international journalists alike, including Al-Jazeera and the Associated Press. While this was not the first time Israel had deliberately attacked journalists, Saturday's attack neatly symbolized Israel's desperate efforts to silence the mushrooming discussion of all that is wretched about the Israeli government's policies both inside Green Line Israel and in the occupied Palestinian Territories. The strictly controlled public narrative, handled in the United States not only by Israeli government spokespersons but the lobbying group AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee, and the Anti-Defamation League cheerleaders in America, has snowballed out of their control."

Ian Millhiser says, "Brett Kavanaugh's latest decision should alarm liberals: The Court's new median justice really doesn't care about precedent. [...] Because here's the thing: Edwards did not simply limit the scope of Ramos. Justice Brett Kavanaugh's majority opinion also overruled a 32-year-old decision governing when the Supreme Court's precedents apply retroactively. Kavanaugh did so, moreover, without following the ordinary procedures that the Court normally follows before overruling one of its previous decisions. As Justice Elena Kagan points out in dissent, no one asked the Court to overrule anything in Edwards, and the Court 'usually confines itself to the issues raised and briefed by the parties.'"

"Mississippi court upholds life sentence for pot possession: JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld a life sentence for a man convicted of a marijuana possession charge because he had previous convictions and those made him a habitual offender. Allen Russell, 38, was sentenced to life in Forrest County in 2019 after a jury found him guilty of possession of more than 30 grams (1.05 ounces) of marijuana. In Mississippi, a person can be sentenced to life without parole after serving at least one year in prison on two separate felonies, one of which must be a violent offense. Russell was convicted on two home burglaries in 2004 and for unlawful possession of a firearm in 2015. By law, burglary is a violent offense in Mississippi, whether or not there is proof that violence occurred."

"Steven Donziger Describes Contempt Case as a 'Charade' as Trial Comes to a Close: The environmental lawyer who sued Chevron over environmental pollution faces up to six months in prison. After five days in court and 650 days on house arrest, Steven Donziger, the environmental attorney who helped win a multibillion-dollar judgment against Chevron over contamination from oil drilling in Ecuador, chose not to testify in his own defense in the final day of a trial over contempt of court charges. 'My lawyers said you'd be crazy to testify, so we decided to cut the case short,' Donziger told The Intercept. 'No need to continue to legitimize what's essentially a charade.' As the Intercept previously reported, Donziger was charged with contempt of court for refusing to hand over his computer, cellphone, and other electronic devices in August 2019 and has since been on house arrest in his Upper West Side apartment in New York City. Although no attorney without a criminal record in the federal court system has ever before been detained pretrial for a misdemeanor offense, Donziger has been confined to his home for 21 months for the misdemeanor charge. If convicted, he faces six months in prison. [...] 'We tried again at the beginning of the trial to get a jury, and she denied it again,' Donziger said of Preska. 'Had I had an unbiased fact-finder, that is, a jury of my peers, there's a very good chance I would be acquitted of all six counts.'"

"The Saudi Lobby Moves From K Street to Main Street: By enlisting community members across the US to peddle the best version of the Kingdom, the Saudi lobby has given its brand an American-as-apple-pie shine. [...] Yet, in 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged America, it became increasingly clear that Trump's reelection prospects were dimming and, with them, that guarantee of eternal protection. And so, the question arose: What was an authoritarian government with oodles of lobbying money but dwindling influence in Washington to do as the prospect of a Joe Biden presidency and a Democratic Congress rose? The answer, it turned out, was to move its influence operation from the Beltway to the heartland."

"Jim Clyburn Undercuts the Democratic Police Reform Bill: In the middle of negotiations over eliminating qualified immunity for police officers, Clyburn says it's not needed for the overall bill. Nearly a year has passed since the May 25, 2020, killing of George Floyd, an anniversary that brings with it the informal deadline among Democrats for police reform. Despite having all that time to put together and pass a police reform package, the fate of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a second version of which passed the House in March and stalled in the Senate, remains as muddled as ever. To some on the Democratic side, that's just fine. According to reporting from Axios, the recent conviction of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis officer who murdered Floyd, had congressional aides feeling less urgency to move a reform bill. That congressional comfort with inaction is not a reflection of an American public opposed to police reform. Far from it. Recent polling from Vox and Data for Progress showed that 55 percent of likely voters felt that the Chauvin conviction made the need for police reform even more urgent than before, presumably on the premise that preventing state-sanctioned murder was more important than gaining a measure of accountability for it. [...] The two parties have substantively different, and likely irreconcilable, visions of what 'police reform' looks like, with the fundamental disagreement coming over qualified immunity, the legal shield that makes it impossible for police officers to be sued for wrongdoing even when they knowingly break the law. Most leading Democrats have insisted that qualified immunity must be repealed as part of any satisfactory bill; Scott and the Republican caucus have been less willing. That negotiation was made substantially more difficult for Democrats after House whip, Congressional Black Caucus member, and top ranking Democrat Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) went on the Sunday shows this past weekend and vocally pledged a willingness to give up on qualified immunity reforms entirely. Appearing on CNN's State of the Union, Clyburn said, 'If we don't get qualified immunity now, then we will come back and try to get it later. But I don't want to see us throw out a good bill because we can't get a perfect bill.' Those comments mark a stunning undercutting of the negotiating position of Rep. Clyburn's colleagues, and are a major departure from the position of ranking House and Senate Democrats, as well as civil rights and activist groups. Clyburn waving the white flag on the most crucial sticking point of the police reform bill that Bass, Booker, and others are still in the midst of negotiating puts them in an even tougher position, as they try to wrangle a less and less willing GOP into some sort of consensus."

"Colombians Are in the Streets Against a Violent Neoliberal Order: What began as a massive general strike on April 28 is quickly becoming an open challenge to Colombia's authoritarian neoliberal order. In Colombia, a proposed deeply regressive tax reform bill was the straw that broke the camel's back. Thousands of Colombians have joined protests since April 28, when a massive general strike against the bill became the flash point for mounting unrest with President Iván Duque's authoritarian neoliberal regime. Even though Duque has recently announced he would scrap the tax reform, protesters remain in the streets amid concerns that the Colombian government is simply repackaging a similar bill. In anticipation, the country's largest labor confederations are calling for another general strike on May 5. The situation remains tense in Colombia as police and military repression of the protests begins to escalate. Duque has most recently announced he will impose martial law if the protests continue. But Colombians remain in the streets, and demonstrations are quickly transforming from a denunciation of the tax reform to an outright challenge to the nation's violent, unequal order." But with the help of the US government (under the guise of the War on Drugs, which has heavily-armed government forces in Columbia), I'm sure we'll be able to quash any ideas of democracy. (Some good stuff on that and weird crypto-currency stuff and the rot of the ruling class in this from Jacobin's Weekends show.)

"The Business Class Has Been Fearmongering About Worker Shortages for Centuries: Our so-called staffing crisis hearkens back to the colonial era. THE CURRENT BLIZZARD of stories about a 'worker shortage' across the U.S. may seem as though it's about this peculiar moment, as the pandemic fades. Restaurants in Washington, D.C., contend that they're suffering from a staffing 'crisis.' The hospitality industry in Massachusetts says it's experiencing the same disaster. The governor of Montana plans to cancel coronavirus-related additional unemployment benefits funded by the federal government, and the cries of business owners are being heard in the White House. In reality, though, this should be understood as the latest iteration of a question that's plagued the owning class for centuries: How can they get everyone to do awful jobs for them for awful pay? Employers' anxiety about this can be measured by the fact that these stories have erupted when there currently is no shortage of workers. An actual shortage would result in wages rising at the bottom of the income distribution to such a degree that there was notable inflation. That's not happening, at least not now. Instead, business owners seem to mean that they can't find people who'll work for what the owners want to pay them. This is a 'shortage' in the same sense that there is a shortage of new Lamborghinis available for $1,000."

The Gray Zone is one of those news sites that get treated as whacky conspiracy theorists because they're not consistent with the official narrative, but I've never found any holes in Maté's reporting, so I'm gonna link this: "Challenged on Syria cover-up, OPCW chief lies and US-UK-France evade: Facing new outcry over the Syria cover-up scandal, OPCW chief Fernando Arias has been caught lying, while the US-UK-France are desperately trying to change the subject. Aaron Maté recaps recent meetings at the EU and UN, where the growing Douma controversy was center stage. The US-UK-France bombed Syria in April 2018 after accusing it of a chemical weapons attack in the city of Douma. Leaks later revealed that OPCW inspectors found no evidence of a Syrian government chemical weapons attack. But their findings were suppressed, their original report was censored, and the team was sidelined. Rather than having their concerns addressed, the inspectors have since faced a concerted smear campaign."

These days it's almost like, if you give someone a staff, they will find a way to behave offensively toward them. "It's not their job to buy you cake: Working remotely for the last year has revealed just how much of office culture is accidental, arbitrary, and sexist. On Thursday, The Washington Post ran an op-ed by Cathy Merrill, CEO and owner of Washingtonian Media, in which she expressed her fear that employees will want to continue working from home after the pandemic. I am more bothered by the idea that other media executives think like Merrill. If they do, they are hurting their employees and their companies. The op-ed's original headline was explicit about the connection between working from home and being fired — 'As a CEO, I want my employees to understand the risk of not returning to work in the office' — before being softened to 'As a CEO, I worry about the erosion of office culture with more remote work.' On Friday, the editorial staff of The Washingtonian announced that, in response to Merrill's piece, they are refusing to publish today. [...] The meat of the piece centers around Merrill's weird estimate that '20% of every office job' is devoted to creating and sustaining office 'culture.' [...] Possible labor law violations aside, it's no coincidence that these nice office 'extras' — the things you'll rarely see listed in a journalism job description because historically nobody has considered them worth paying for — disproportionately fall to women and people of color. Think back to the office you used to work from. Who unloaded the dishwasher, stocked the snacks, circulated the get well cards, made the coffee, bought the birthday cakes? Did she get paid for it? And did the man who never did any of those things get paid 20% less than she did? No, because that would be insane, right? Because a mother works for free, right?"

This should come in handy, from Matt Taibbi, "TK Newsletter: Introducing 'Racket of the Week': Scandals are coming fast and furious in Wall Street's bubble economy. TK introduces a shortcut guide to tracking financial scandals: Over a decade ago, when I first started covering the 2008 financial crash, a small sky-blue booklet in a library sale caught my attention. The Man Who Sold The Eiffel Tower turned out to be a biography of early twentieth-century swindler Victor Lustig, often considered the Michaelangelo of con artists (we'd say the Michael Jordan of cons today). Lustig was famous not only for twice pulling off the book's eponymous scam, but also for an ingenious hustle called the 'Rumanian box.' When he sailed across the Atlantic, Lustig would bring a carved mahogany box on board. It had slots on either end, and a mechanical crank inside. Once a crowd gathered, he would feed blank sheets of paper in a slot on one side, and the machine would spit out a $1000 bill. Toward the end of a voyage, he would sell the machine for a fortune, then disappear on land after disembarking, never to be seen again. [...] A lot of ostensibly complicated Wall Street ripoffs were just jargonized versions of simple street cons, many of which were detailed in the Lustig book and others like it. The mortgage securities game had a lot in common with the 'Big Store' scam popularized in The Sting, as well as the 'Thai Gems' hustle. Both involved long lines of characters who were supposed to be strangers or arm's-length actors, but in fact all knew each other and/or were pushing the customer toward a catastrophic investment.The 2008 bailouts were a version of 'The Reload,' a score in which the victim of a ripoff is visited by someone offering to help get his or her money back, for a fee. Some Americans were similarly beaten and re-beaten in the mortgage con, up to three times. Some were induced to buy exotic no-money-down or variable-rate mortgages, then their pension funds invested in mortgage securities, and then, when the markets all went belly up, their tax dollars went to 'save the economy,' which in practice often meant buying up toxic mortgages at cost from guilty banks. Moreover, the entire bubble economy in the years leading up to 2008 was a plain old Ponzi scheme, as the continually ascending prices of mortgage securities relied on an influx of new investors rather than the inherent value of the properties." And this stuff is still going on, and now we have several bubbles all ready to crash down on us.

David Dayen on "The Real Shortages in the U.S. Economy: It's not a shortage of labor, it's a shortage of attentiveness to how the economy has failed its citizens. But there's another set of shortages in the economy, which are less likely to go away quickly. They are actual reductions in the supply of goods and services, which has an impact on the labor market, but also on the psyche of the nation. Matt Stoller of the American Economic Liberties Project wrote over a year ago that the coronavirus would lead to an end of 'affluence politics,' the idea that America is a nation of abundance where any desire is at our fingertips. Since the gas lines of the 1970s, we have lived without shortages, mostly blissfully unaware of changes in production, logistics, and the failures of the financial plumbers and bureaucrats that make the economy run. Now is a moment to confront the fact that we have a problem of inadequate production alongside unequal distribution, and figure out what to do about it. [...] The decades-long illusion that we can outsource, concentrate, and grind down all our production and then immediately spin it back up at our own whim has been shattered. The lack of flexibility in supply means that extreme weather or just shifts in personal habits can leave us wanting. We haven't paid attention to how the economy actually works, and we're living with the uncertain and debilitating consequences. To paraphrase Stoller, being a wealthy society means being able to provide for the needs of our people. Theoretical wealth that cannot meet that challenge is useless paper. Our real shortage is in imagination, in the ability to conjure up a society where everyone is cared for. That's going to require some redundancy in our supply chains, yes, to protect against disaster. But more than that, it's going to require a dismantling of the negligence with which elites have managed our economy."

"A weapon of mass financial destruction: Some things are hard to understand because they're complicated. Some things are complicated so they'll be hard to understand. The harder you look at the finance industry, the more evident it becomes that the complexity is deliberate, a means of baffling with bullshit. Private equity is one of those baffling and mysterious phenomena that only gets worse with scrutiny: how is it possible that a handful of companies are able to borrow vast sums to buy up and then destroy successful businesses? Can that really be their business-model? Yup."

The GOP (and Angus King) are doing the old "We're burdening our children with debt!" scare story again. I assume readers of The Sideshow are already wise to this scam, but Jon Schwarz spells it out here in "The Idea That Deficit Spending Is a Burden on Our Children Is the Dumbest Propaganda: Every time the government sells a bond, it creates a liability for the government. But it also creates an asset for whoever bought it."

Matt Taibbi is justly outraged. In his "On the Hypocrites at Apple Who Fired Antonio Garcia-Martinez," he tells the tale of a ludicrously negative reading of a passage in his book that describes a woman who enthralls the author that was picked up as an excuse to get the guy sacked. It disturbed Taibbi enough to write more and describe an office culture where we have "cases like that of Garcia-Martinez, where 2,000 employees claimed to be literally incapable of sharing a vast corporate structure with someone who once wrote a book containing passages they might have disagreed with, if they'd actually read it."

Nice tweetstorm on the IRS from Doctorow. "It's a restatement of Engels' idea of 'false consciousness,' and it's the result of a deliberate strategy on the part of wealthy people - many of whom believe that they were literally genetically destined to be wealthy - to convince the rest of us that 'anyone can succeed.' Part of the false consciousness program is the money story that goes like this: the US government takes away 'taxpayers' money' from 'makers' to fund 'programs,' the bulk of which go to the 'lazy takers,' who experience the 'moral hazard' of subsidized unemployment. But of course, that's not how money works. Money originates with the federal government (and its fiscal agents, the banks). In order for the public to have money to pay off its tax liabilities, the government must first spend that money into existence. The IRS doesn't take our tax dollars, pile them up, and give them to Congress to spend on programs. When the IRS taxes our money, they annihilate it, removing it from circulation. When Congress spends, new money comes into existence."

RIP: Bonnie Schupp, who was, among many other things, an amazing photographer, but also an amazing woman. I knew her because my friend Dave Ettlin was smart enough to make a life with her, and I have always been grateful that they found each other. I loved her company, I admired her tremendously — but let Dave tell you in his own words (and hers), in "Time has chosen this year for me to begin wrapping up my life."

RIP: "Lloyd Price, Early Rock Pioneer, Dead at 88: Lloyd Price, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer behind such classic hits as 'Personality' and 'Stagger Lee,' has died at the age of 88. Price's death was confirmed by his widow, Jackie. 'I am so touched by the outpouring of love and tribute for the passing of my husband Lloyd Price, who passed peacefully on May 3, 2021 at Schaffer Extended Care in Westchester County, N.Y.,' she explained to Billboard. 'Lloyd's music crossed many boundaries and carried him to all corners of the world. He got the nickname 'Mr. Personality' because of his biggest hit but he also earned that name because he was charismatic, generous, smart, funny, talented with a very kind heart. I am so grateful for everyone who loves his music and have precious memories of his many songs. From the deepest part of me thank you, love to all.'"

"The girl in the Kent State photo: She was only 14. Here's how her life turned out: Last May, when Mary Ann Vecchio watched the video of George Floyd's dying moments, she felt herself plummet through time and space — to a day almost exactly 50 years earlier. On that May 4 afternoon in 1970, the world was just as riveted by an image that showed the life draining out of a young man on the ground, this one a black-and-white still photo. Mary Ann was at the center of that photo, her arms raised in anguish, begging for help.

If you can stand Facebook, there's a good post from John Derf Backderf on the Kent State Massacre: "Since it's the time of year when the events of KENT STATE unfolded, I thought I'd share some items with you. This event didn't end with the massacre. The days, weeks and months that followed were a depressing lesson in cover-ups, political sleaze and media manipulation. In it's own way, it's as shocking a story as the story leading up to the massacre."

I really loved the movie, so I'm interested in this news: "Attack the Block 2 Confirmed, John Boyega to Star." But with some reservations, because it's ten years later and I'm wondering how it can live up to the first movie. And will Jodie Whittaker reprise her kick-ass role?

People were still trying to find some way to keep it alive: "The bells v the boutique hotel: the battle to save Britain's oldest factory: Whitechapel Bell Foundry dates back to 1570, and was the factory in which Big Ben and the Liberty Bell were made. But it shut in 2017 and a fight for its future has been raging ever since." But there's just no way it could happen — if Alan Hughes recognized that there was no continuing, then there just wasn't. He made the decision to make sure his employees had a soft landing and that's what he did. He'll always be a hero to me.

Lloyd Price with Shanana, "Stagger Lee" and "Personality"

02:03 GMT comment


Wednesday, 05 May 2021

You're playing with fire

This acrylic by Claire Morand is one of the pretty pictures in this year's collection for spring.

Proposed: All members of Congress should be required to provide the public with as detailed an account of their assets as any person applying for a welfare program has to provide - and put it on their .gov webpage.

"Brett Kavanaugh's Opinion Restoring Juvenile Life Without Parole Is Dishonest and Barbaric: In an appalling 6-3 decision on Thursday, the Supreme Court effectively reinstated juvenile life without parole by shredding precedents that had sharply limited the sentence in every state. Justice Brett Kavanaugh's majority opinion in Jones v. Mississippi is one of the most dishonest and cynical decisions in recent memory: While pretending to follow precedent, Kavanaugh tore down judicial restrictions on JLWOP, ensuring that fully rehabilitated individuals who committed their crimes as children will die behind bars. Justice Sonia Sotomayor's dissent, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, pulls no punches in its biting rebuke of Kavanaugh's duplicity and inhumanity. It doubles as an ominous warning that the conservative majority is more than willing to destroy major precedents while falsely claiming to uphold them"

"Critics Warn $15 Billion Merger of Global Water Giants Would Create 'Dangerous Corporate Monopoly': 'Veolia's plan to dominate public water services all across the globe is becoming a terrifying reality.'"

A state trooper in Maryland shot and killed a 16-year-old who turned out to have an airsoft gun, but the poorly-written headline says, "Maryland State Trooper Shoots Dead 16-Year-Old with Airsoft Pellet Gun," which isn't the same thing at all.

"Here's the Real Obstacle to Biden's $4 Trillion Infrastructure Bill: Earlier this month, a contingent of centrists in the Senate gave the White House an ultimatum for its impending infrastructure bill: 'It's got to be paid for.' Specifically, Joe Manchin, Jon Tester, and Angus King told the press that their appetite for deficit spending was nearly exhausted by the American Rescue Plan, and that they would only support Biden's next legislative priority if the bulk of it were offset with new taxes on corporations and high earners. But now, moderates in the House have presented Biden with contradictory demand. Representatives Josh Gottheimer and Tom Suozzi told Axios this week that they will not vote for the infrastructure bill unless it includes roughly $357 billion in tax cuts for the affluent (with about $200 billion of that sum going to households in the top one percent). Specifically, these lawmakers — and, if Axios is to be believed, several others who prefer to remain nameless — demand Biden repeal the cap that Republicans placed on the State and Local Income Tax (SALT) deduction. In addition to directly increasing inequality (in defiance of the White House's stated goals), such a measure would exacerbate the difficulty of finding enough revenue to reconcile Biden's ambitions for spending with his pledge to raise taxes on no one except the rich. But there are a lot of rich Democrats in the state of New York — and so Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer reportedly plans to make restoring the full SALT deduction a priority in negotiations with the White House." You'll recall Trump cut the SALT deduction to spite blue states, but that was really a favor that brought revenue into those states. Restoring it would be a bigger tax cut for the wealthy than Trump's big tax cut for the rich.

"The Democratic Party Pay-to-Play Scheme That Keeps Corporations in Charge of Public Policy: Congress is not just corrupt because of human nature. It's also corrupt by Democratic Party design. Two recent pieces caught my eye, the first because it tells an obvious story about Amazon, the labor movement and our happily corrupted Congress, and the second because it reveals the structural Why behind our happily corrupted Congress. Bottom line: Congress isn't corrupt because that's the nature of man or political institutions. Congress is also as corrupt as it is because congressional leaders design it that way and create incentives to make sure it stays that way."

For more details on what pay-to-play really means and what's actually going stale on the table right now as a result, "100 Days of Biden w/ David Dayen & Jennifer Briney" spells it out: "This week, we do a policy deep dive with Executive Editor of The American Prospect David Dayen, and Jennifer Briney of Congressional Dish Podcast, who breaks the pundit mold by actually trying to read all the bills. (Really. All of them.)"

What's going on in Haiti? Dr. Jemima Pierre talked to Sam Seder about the international (US-led) interference in Haiti.

"The fake innovation of gig companies: Over the last several months, Americans have heard hundreds of stories about the horrible working conditions of jobs in the so-called "gig economy." Amazon contract drivers have such brutal delivery schedules that they are sometimes forced to pee in bottles or defecate in bags. Uber drivers are often forced to work ludicrous overtime to make ends meet, much of it waiting for the algorithm to deliver a fare. Doordash paid $2.5 million to settle a lawsuit over allegedly stealing its drivers' tips (though it denied doing so). These stories illustrate an important truth about these gig companies: They are not actually innovative, in the traditional economic meaning of the word. Instead they rely on the most ancient employer technique of all: plain old labor exploitation."

"How the IHRA antisemitism definition became a pro-Israel cudgel: New research charts a five-year campaign by highly partisan, pro-Israel lobby groups to mislead the international community about the nature of what has been widely described as the 'gold standard' definition of antisemitism. According to a report published this week, the campaign has been so successful that political parties, the European Commission, European parliaments, and major public institutions, including universities, have been deceived. They have been persuaded that the new definition of antisemitism is far more expansive than the terms adopted by the international body behind it. As a result, many governments and institutions have wrongly concluded that the definition severely curtails what can legitimately be said about Israel. To date, the most high-profile victim of this campaign to protect Israel has been Jeremy Corbyn, the former leader of the British Labour party. He was widely characterized as presiding over an 'institutionally antisemitic' party based in large part on misrepresentations about the definition. In a foreword to the report, Avi Shlaim, an emeritus professor at Oxford University, observes that 'a definition intended to protect Jews against antisemitism was twisted to protect the State of Israel against valid criticisms that have nothing to do with anti-Jewish racism.'"

"Who Is Aleksei Navalny? NYT Once Knew, but Has Since Forgotten."

An interview with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer by Ezra Klein seems to indicate that Schumer is starting to get it. This could be good — or just another charade..

"How companies rip off poor employees — and get away with it [...] Some major U.S. corporations were among the worst offenders. They include Halliburton, G4S Wackenhut and Circle-K stores, which agency records show have collectively taken more than $22 million from their employees since 2005. [...] Companies have little incentive to follow the law. The Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division, which investigates federal wage-theft complaints, rarely penalizes repeat offenders, according to a review of data from the division. The agency fined only about 1 in 4 repeat offenders during that period. And it ordered those companies to pay workers cash damages — penalty money in addition to back wages — in 14% of those cases."

RIP: "Jim Steinman, Writer of Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell, Dead at 73" He didn't just write the song, but the whole album. It got so for a while you were constantly hearing his deeply dramatic power-tunes blasting out of speakers. First time I heard Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" I thought, "That's the guy who wrote all that stuff for Meat Loaf," because his style was that distinctive.

RIP: "Walter Mondale, former vice president, dies at 93: Mondale was President Jimmy Carter's vice president from 1977 to 1981." He was actually fairly liberal when he started out, but under the Carter administration he transformed, and by the time he ran for president, he was chillingly right-wing. One of a long succession of right-wing Democrats who lost to Republicans and were re-written by "centrists" as having lost for being "too far left".

Spencer Ackerman, "U.S. Captured, Tortured, and Cleared Him. He's Still in GITMO. Abu Zubaydah was a human guinea pig for the CIA's post-9/11 torture. Almost 20 years later, as the U.S. moves on, he's still trying to get out of Guantanamo." Via Atrios, who has more.

It's been interesting watching the slow growth of Brad DeLong. "RHETORICAL QUESTION: Why Do Economists Ignore þe Greatest of All Market Failures? [...] The Chicago School underwent an enormous change between the Midwestern Populist days of Henry Simons, for whom private monopoly was the big foe and large inequalities an enormous menace, & the monopoly-tolerant fundraising paradise that Stigler & co. created. This transformation from Simons to Stigler was possible only by 'othering' the non-rich by every means possible, so that their low weight in the market's Negishi-weighted SWF could be dismissed as deserved."

James Risen at The Intercept, "The Journalist and the Whistleblower: As the government attacks press freedom, reporters must consider their responsibility to sources — and each other. [...] In the 21st century, hatred of the press has become bipartisan, and government leak investigations under both Republican and Democratic administrations have altered the landscape for national security reporting. Starting with the George W. Bush administration in the years after 9/11, the federal government has brought criminal charges in nearly 20 cases related to leaks to the press, virtually all of them involving national security matters. In almost all of those cases, it is the sources who have faced criminal charges, not the reporters who published what the sources told them. As a result, the fate of modern investigative reporting is now on a collision course with high-tech government leak investigations. Being really good at getting people to tell you government secrets — the key to career success as a national security reporter — now brings great danger to a reporter's sources. [...] Most reporters think hard and work tirelessly to protect confidential sources and now widely use encrypted electronic communications. But government leak hunters have the National Security Agency on their side, and reporters don't. Yet arresting and prosecuting a source isn't enough for the Justice Department and the FBI; they also want to make the reporter look bad. That underscores the real goal of leak investigations: They are designed to have a chilling effect on the press, to stop reporters from investigating the government. Embarrass enough investigative reporters and maybe they will stop embarrassing the government. To their disgrace, the rest of the media often plays along with this governmental shaming project. Rather than recognizing that a source is a whistleblower performing a public service, the press invariably buys into the FBI's propaganda that the bureau's agents are investigating a crime and tracking down a traitor."

Things were looking bright — and then, this happened. "America Hasn't Reckoned with the Coup That Blasted the Black Middle Class: If you were a Black person in America in the 1890s, you wanted to live in Brooklyn. Not Brooklyn, New York. No, you wanted to be in the bustling Brooklyn district of Wilmington, North Carolina. At that time, 25,000 people lived in the thronging Cape Fear River port, the state's largest city. More than half of them were Black. In Brooklyn, you could meet Black seamstresses, stevedores, cobblers, restauranteurs, shop owners, artisans, midwives, merchants, doctors, lawyers, bankers, and police officers. The federal customs agent was Black. So was the county treasurer. And even the town jailor. Wilmington was the most racially progressive city in the South. It was America's future. But very soon, it would be awash in blood — transformed into the country's traumatic past. This repressed and unresolved trauma haunts the present in a thousand ways, most recently in the shocking siege on the U.S. capitol. It continues to damage us all." As Yves says in her intro, "The fact that the Wilmington coup was a durable success and no perp was held to account was proof that the white backlash against rising blacks would go unchecked."

Image: There are about half a million people in Wyoming, and they get two U.S. Senators. There are also about 40 million people in California, and they also get two Senators. Or, you could look at it like this, but either way, it's pretty rich when Joe Manchin, who was elected as a Democrat, excuses himself for voting with the already-over-represented Republicans because he wants to protect "the minority".

"If Those Angry Facebook Videos Had An Award Show"

The Rolling Stones, "Play With Fire, Australia 1966

04:51 GMT comment


Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Just like everyone else

Tynemouth abbey ruins by barnyz, who has a lot of wonderful camera work on Flickr.

"Maryland enacts landmark police overhaul, first state to repeal police bill of rights [...] The Democratic-majority legislature dealt Republican Gov. Larry Hogan a sharp rebuke, overriding his vetoes of measures that raise the bar for officers to use force; give civilians a role in police discipline for the first time; restrict no-knock warrants; mandate body cameras; and open some allegations of police wrongdoing for public review. [...] The changes do not go as far as some social justice advocates had hoped: Discipline will now largely be decided by civilian panels, for example, but police chiefs maintain a role. Some activists wanted the panels to act independently of police. Still, the legislation imposes one of the strictest police use-of-force standards in the nation, according to experts; requires officers to prioritize de-escalation tactics; and imposes a criminal penalty for those found to have used excessive force."

"Is Traditional Liberalism Vanishing?: Mighty Ira, a documentary about legendary former ACLU chief Ira Glasser, is simultaneously inspiring and unnerving [...] The film was produced and co-directed by Nico Perrino, Vice-President of Communications for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a modern speech rights advocacy group. Perrino is 31. He met Glasser at the funeral of former Village Voice columnist Nat Hentoff, and didn't know who he was. Once he got to know the former ACLU icon, he realized that his story was 'completely lost on my generation,' but also increasingly relevant, for reasons that become clear minutes into the film. [...] MMighty Ira spends a lot of time on stories like Glasser's unlikely friendship with William F. Buckley, or his tearful meeting years later with Skokie resident Ben Stern, who lost his family in concentration camps and vehemently opposed Glasser in the seventies. 'I love you,' the 96-year-old Stern says. 'I'm so proud of you.' [...] 'The central goal in talking and working with people who you don't agree with,' notes Glasser, 'is to persuade them that there is a common interest between us.' This seems like the main message of the movie. However, the film isn't quite so trite or easy. If you pay attention, you will spot hints of darker issues to come dotted throughout the movie. 1978, and Skokie, turns out to be the zenith of the ACLU's influence, and the brand of liberalism Glasser represents begins slipping from the culture almost from the moment the case ends — kidnapped, seemingly, just like Glasser's beloved Dodgers. Where did it go?"

"Jim Clyburn Is Wrong About FDR and the New Deal: Was the New Deal bad for black people? Rep. Jim Clyburn says it was. He's wrong — and it's time we set the record straight about both the New Deal's real flaws and its overall hugely egalitarian impact on workers of all races, including black workers. [...] In fact, even as some New Deal programs entrenched racial inequality, others assailed it. Public employment programs in the New Deal employed huge numbers of black workers. Administrators like Harold Ickes, in charge of the Public Works Administration, were dedicated foes of racism and actually made sure their programs employed black workers proportionally more than white workers. Other programs contributed to the incredible explosion of black cultural production in the 1930s. Writers like Richard Wright and Arna Bontemps were paid by the Federal Writers' Project to write, supporting them and allowing them to develop their talents. Zora Neale Hurston, who later became a conservative critic of the welfare state and civil rights, was able to publish her classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God in part because she had worked for the FWP chronicling the lives of black Southerners while writing it. At the same time, the fillip the New Deal gave to labor organizing encouraged the formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), made up of unions who broke away from the exclusionary model of craft unionism promoted by the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Though the records of CIO unions on race varied, many embraced a model of civil rights unionism that challenged inequality both in the workplace and in the community. W. E. B. Du Bois said the CIO had been more successful in fighting racial prejudice than any movement in three decades. The New Deal was big and complicated. A comprehensive assessment of its implications for racial equality is the task of a book, not an article. But one aspect of the New Deal deserves special attention, given its neglect in most discussions of this subject — the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC). The FEPC was established in 1941, as the United States prepared for its inevitable entry into World War II. Pressured by black socialist A. Philip Randolph, Roosevelt had issued Executive Order 8802, banning discrimination in defense industries (which in the wartime economy would be a substantial fraction of the whole). The FEPC was the body charged with making this goal a reality."

"House And Senate Democrats Plan Bill To Add Four Justices To Supreme Court: The Constitution allows Congress to set the number of Supreme Court justices." The Court started at six, varied back and forth between five and ten over time, and then eventually settled at nine, but it's all down to Congress. I don't see this happening, but it's entertaining to think about.

"Contrary to What Biden Said, US Warfare in Afghanistan Is Set to Continue: No matter what the White House and the headlines say, U.S. taxpayers won't stop subsidizing the killing in Afghanistan until there is an end to the bombing and "special operations" that remain shrouded in secrecy."

"Not just 'a few bad apples': U.S. police kill civilians at much higher rates than other countries: Police violence is a systemic problem in the U.S., not simply incidental, and it happens on a scale far greater than other wealthy nations." With handy charts and graphs.

"Baltimore Cops Carried Toy Guns to Plant on People They Shot, Trial Reveals: One officer involved in the city's massive corruption scandal said officers kept the replicas 'in case we accidentally hit somebody or got into a shootout, so we could plant them.' [...] Though Ward didn't say whether or not the tactic was ever used, Detective Marcus Taylor—another cop swept up in the scandal—was carrying a fake gun almost identical to his service weapon when he was arrested last year, according to the Sun. The revelation is just one of many egregious abuses that have come out of the sprawling trial that the Sun has called "Baltimore's biggest police corruption scandal in memory." Prosecutors say the squad, which was tasked with getting illegal guns off the streets, abused its power by robbing suspects and innocent people, raiding homes without warrants, and selling confiscated drugs, among other crimes. But the BB gun testimony is particularly disturbing in light of 12-year-old Tamir Rice's death in 2014, the 13-year-old in Baltimore who was shot twice by cops in 2016 after he allegedly sprinted from them with a replica gun in his hand, and the 86 people fatally shot by police in 2015 and 2016 who were spotted carrying toy guns."

"Elite philanthropy mainly self-serving: Philanthropy among the elite class in the United States and the United Kingdom does more to create good will for the super-wealthy than to alleviate social ills for the poor, according to a new meta-analysis."

"Support the Tropes: How media language encourages the left to support wars, coups and intervention. In an earlier piece (FAIR.org, 3/3/21), we explored some country case study examples of how the press helps to manufacture consent for regime change and other US actions abroad among left-leaning audiences, a traditionally conflict-skeptical group. Some level of buy-in, or at least a hesitancy to resist, among the United States' more left-leaning half is necessary to ensure that US interventions are carried out with a minimum of domestic opposition. To this end, corporate media invoke the language of human rights and humanitarianism to convince those to the left of center to accept, if not support, US actions abroad—a treatment of sorts for the country's 50-year-long Vietnam syndrome. What follows are some of the common tropes used by establishment outlets to convince skeptical leftists that this time, things might be different, selling a progressive intervention everyone can get behind." I can still remember how bitter I felt at the claim — by right-wingers who normally scoffed at any discussion of women's rights — that invading Iraq would improve the rights of women there. And then watching as one woman after another was forced to learn to tie a scarf around her head and pack away her "western" clothing, never expecting to be free to wear it again. Seeing how we "freed" Libya should have knocked out any stomach members of "the left" had for this sort of thing, but here we are hearing much the same things about Syria and even Russia.

Putin's treatment of Navalny is being used to fuel more attacks on Russia (even Bernie has joined in), with the establishment throwing on the usual "suppression of dissent" rhetoric to sweeten the story to appeal to "the left". New sanctions are being justified by Navalny being sentenced to prison: A Moscow court has sentenced Russian oppositionist Alexei Navalny to a prison sentence of three-and-a-half years. He was found guilty of violating terms of his probation, which stems from 2014 fraud-related charges. The court counted several months that Navalny has already spent under house arrest towards his latest sentence, so that his imprisonment term was reduced to two years and eight months in a penal colony. His defense team will appeal the sentence. Navalny returned to Russia in January, after having spent five months in Germany, to which he was flown after falling ill on a flight from Siberia to Moscow in August 2020. Navalny, along with the United States and European Union, insists that he was poisoned with Novichok on behalf of the Kremlin. These claims have been riddled with contradictions from the start. Navalny, who was warned by the Kremlin that he would be arrested upon returning to Russia, was detained by the police on January 17 upon his arrival in Moscow." Given how the United States is treating Julian Assange and getting other countries to conspire in its abuse, it's hard to ignore the hypocrisy in America pretending to care about Russia's actions toward someone who is a bit more dangerous to his nation than, say the protesters who are being beaten and dragged to the cells all over American for objecting to police murdering innocent citizens. And anyway, who is Navalny? "The political crisis gripping Russia and manifesting itself in the tensions erupting around Navalny is a symptom of the breakdown of world capitalism more broadly. The bitter internecine conflicts within the Russian oligarchy are fueled, above all, by escalating class tensions. Terrified of mounting class anger in Russia, Navalny and his backers are seeking to channel such sentiments behind a reactionary agenda. Navalny, who maintains well-documented ties to the far-right, speaks for a layer of the oligarchy that is oriented toward more direct cooperation with the US. Sections of the American ruling class view the fueling of separatist sentiments within Russia as a means to extend US domination over the region. It is for this reason that the issue of Putin's wealth has been presented as one of personal corruption, a basis upon which the most reactionary forces, including monarchists and ultra-nationalists, can be mobilized. Meanwhile, any mention of the term 'capitalism' has been banned by the political forces dominating the protests, from Navalny himself to his backers in the Pabloite Russian Socialist Movement."

"The Death of Neoliberalism Is Greatly Exaggerated: The West's economic orthodoxy of the past 40 years has been shaken by the pandemic—but the fight isn't nearly over yet. [...] But the ideology remained. It was what mathematicians called an attractor and astronomers a black hole: a massive blob of thought around which economic policy views revolved. The financial crisis of 2007 to 2009 shook the blob. The complete failure of mainstream economists to foresee the crisis—indeed their denial that it could have been foreseen—was embarrassing. The fact that so many were on the payroll of the perpetrators was even worse. But in the end, the blob survived. In the end, not a single senior economist retired in disgrace nor was a single dissenter or pre-crisis prophet hired to any senior post—and quite possibly not to any junior one—at any of the self-described 'top' academic economics departments."

John Judis with "A Warning From the '60s Generation: Today's progressives have a real chance to reshape American politics. But they're in danger of repeating our mistakes. [...] Will today's new left stumble down the path of my generation's left, growing largely irrelevant and then, eventually, disappearing from sight? Or could it come to dominate American politics over the next few decades? Because of key structural differences between then and now, I actually think their odds of success are better than ours were. But to capitalize on those odds, they will have to learn from the failures of my generation — we activists who succeeded in captivating a noisy subgroup of Americans but never came close to commanding a political majority. And there are already, in my view, worrisome signals that they are repeating some of our biggest mistakes."

Ryan Cooper, The Week, "The pandemic crime surge is a policing problem [...] It's obvious what police unions are really upset about. They don't care that much about crime, they are mad at being criticized and held accountable, no matter how slightly. They want to return to the pre-reform status quo where they had near-total impunity for violent misconduct or outright crimes, got endless opportunities to scam fake overtime from the state, and people were too afraid to sass them. A return to the old ways will accomplish nothing for crime control; if anything it will probably make things worse. [...] But this debate does bear on whether American cities will be able to actually try to control crime. Now, I am not quite sold on the most aggressive arguments for police and prison abolition. In my view, the Nordic countries demonstrate that even with an extremely robust welfare state and generous social services, it will be necessary to have some punishment of criminals. However, that shouldn't mean multi-decade sentences in hellish prisons, as police unions tend to advocate — on the contrary, studies of deterrence demonstrate that the severity of punishment barely matters. The key strategy is catching offenders, so as to maintain the state's monopoly on violence and stop tit-for-tat feuding. In the Nordics, murder clearance rates range from 83 to 100 percent, but the sentences are light and the prisons are comfortable. In concert with all the other government services, the result is far less violent crime."

I keep trying to remind people that it's a mistake to assume the police are acting with insufficient training. They are heavily trained, but the training itself is the problem - it's training to be a goon squad, not peace-keepers. The police are out of control because they are trained to be out of control. "NYPD 'Goon Squad' Manual Teaches Officers To Violate Protesters' Rights."

"The Chauvin trial underscores two very different approaches to policing. At Derek Chauvin's trial this week, the jury heard from Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, the city's former training commander and expert witnesses, all of whom testified that Chauvin's treatment of George Floyd violated widely accepted use of force standards as well as Minneapolis Police Department policy, which calls for commensurate force and requires respect for the 'sanctity of life.' But despite those standards, Chauvin also had a history of kneeling on suspects' necks for long periods of time, and none of those incidents resulted in discipline. It's an apt illustration of how, for about the past 10 years, two contradictory philosophies have been at war in American policing. On one side are the de-escalationists, a product of the criminal justice reform movement. They accept police brutality, systemic racism and excessive force as real problems in law enforcement, and call for more accountability, as well as training in areas like de-escalation and conflict resolution. De-escalationists believe police serve their communities by apprehending and detaining people who violate the rights and safety of others, but must also do so in a way that protects the rights of the accused. The other side — let's call them 'no-hesitationists' — asserts that police officers aren't aggressive enough and are too hesitant to use deadly force, which puts officers and others at risk. They see law enforcement officers as warriors, and American neighborhoods as battlefields, where officers vanquish the bad to protect the good. These are the self-identified 'sheepdogs,' the cops who sport Punisher gear."

"She Noticed $200 Million Missing, Then She Was Fired: Alice Stebbins was hired to fix the finances of California's powerful utility regulator. She was fired after finding $200 million for the state's deaf, blind and poor residents was missing. Earlier this year, the governing board of one of California's most powerful regulatory agencies unleashed troubling accusations against its top employee. Commissioners with the California Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC, accused Executive Director Alice Stebbins of violating state personnel rules by hiring former colleagues without proper qualifications. They said the agency chief misled the public by asserting that as much as $200 million was missing from accounts intended to fund programs for the state's blind, deaf and poor. At a hearing in August, Commission President Marybel Batjer said that Stebbins had discredited the CPUC. [...] The five commissioners voted unanimously to terminate Stebbins, who had worked as an auditor and budget analyst for different state agencies for more than 30 years. But an investigation by the Bay City News Foundation and ProPublica has found that Stebbins was right about the missing money."

"McDonald's, Other CEOs, Tell Investors $15 Minimum Wage Won't Hurt Business" That's the co-published Newsweek link The Daily Poster wanted me to use, but I can't copy their text so back to the original story: "Restaurant Chains Debunk Their Lobbyists' Arguments Against A $15 Minimum Wage: While restaurant lobbyists tell lawmakers it's the 'wrong time' for a wage hike, companies they represent are telling investors they can afford to pay higher wages. [...] 'We share your view that a national discussion on wage issues for working Americans is needed — but the Raise the Wage Act is the wrong bill at the wrong time for our nation's restaurants,' the National Restaurant Association (NRA) wrote in a letter to congressional leaders in February. 'The restaurant industry and our workforce will suffer from a fast-tracked wage increase and elimination of the tip credit.' The following day, a top executive at Denny's, one of the association's members, told investors that gradual increases in the minimum wage haven't been a problem for the company at all. In fact, California's law raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2023 has actually been good for the diner chain's business, according to Denny's chief financial officer, Robert Verostek."

"How Bill Gates Impeded Global Access to Covid Vaccines: Through his hallowed foundation, the world's de facto public health czar has been a stalwart defender of monopoly medicine. [...] When the Financial Times editorialized on March 27 that 'the world has an overwhelming interest in ensuring [Covid-19 drugs and vaccines] will be universally and cheaply available,' the paper expressed what felt like a hardening conventional wisdom. This sense of possibility emboldened forces working to extend the cooperative model. Grounding their efforts was a plan, started in early March, to create a voluntary intellectual property pool inside the WHO. Instead of putting up proprietary walls around research and organizing it as a 'race,' public and private actors would collect research and associated intellectual property in a global knowledge fund for the duration of the pandemic. The idea became real in late May with the launch of the WHO Covid-19 Technology Access Pool, or C-TAP.By then, however, the optimism and sense of possibility that defined the early days were long gone. Advocates for pooling and open science, who seemed ascendant and even unstoppable that winter, confronted the possibility they'd been outmatched and outmaneuvered by the most powerful man in global public health."

RIP: "Ramsey Clark, Attorney General and Rebel With a Cause, Dies at 93: Mr. Clark oversaw the drafting of the Fair Housing Act in 1968 and went on to defend both the disadvantaged and the unpopular. Ramsey Clark, who championed civil rights and liberties as attorney general in the Johnson administration, then devoted much of the rest of his life to defending unpopular causes and infamous people, including Saddam Hussein and others accused of war crimes, died on Friday at his home in Manhattan. He was 93. His niece Sharon Welch announced the death. In becoming the nation's top law enforcement official, Mr. Clark was part of an extraordinary father-and-son trade-off in the federal halls of power. His appointment prompted his father, Justice Tom C. Clark, to resign from the United States Supreme Court to avoid the appearance of any conflict of interest involving cases in which the federal government might come before that bench. To fill Justice Clark's seat, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Thurgood Marshall, who became the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court."

RIP: "Yaphet Kotto, Magnetic Actor With A Long And Varied Career, Dies At 81 [...] It may come as a surprise that Kotto, an actor known for his burly intensity, credited Barbara Stanwyck with being his "guru," after the two worked together in the 1960s TV series The Big Valley. Stanwyck, who played a straight-talking mother (in the traditional sense) on the show, was one of several women whom Kotto said boosted his career."
"Yaphet Kotto: a life in pictures"

Cory Doctorow on "The zombie economy and digital arm-breakers [...] Debts that can't be paid, won't be paid. But as loan-sharks know, fortunes can be collected by applying the right incentives. [...] Improvements to arm-breaking processes — cost-savings on traditional coercion or innovative new forms of terror — are powerful engines for unlocking new debt markets. When innovation calls, tech answers. Our devices are increasingly "smart," and inside every smart device is a potential arm-breaker. Digital arm-breakers have been around since the first DRM systems, but they really took off in 2008. That's when subprime car loans boomed. People who lost everything in the GFC still needed to get to work, and thanks to chronic US underinvestment in transit, that means owning a car. So loan-sharks and tech teamed up to deliver a new lost-cost, high-efficiency arm-breaker. They leveraged the nation's mature wireless network to install cellular killswitches in cars. You could extend an unrepayable loan to a desperate person, and use an unmutable second stereo system to bombard them with earsplitting overdue notices. If they didn't pay, you could remotely cut off the ignition and send a precise location to your repo man." And the list goes on....

Also from Cory, "Minimum wage vs Wall Street bonuses [...] The Fight for $15 started in 2012. The $15 figure represented the fair, inflation-adjusted minimum wage that Americans should have if minimum wage tracked the cost of living. By 2021, the inflation-adjusted minimum wage should have been $24/hour. That means that even if we get around Manchin and Sinema to deliver a fair share to the country's worst-paid workers, we'll still be lagging a true, inflation-adjusted minimum wage. Now, if $24/hour gives you a little sticker shock, here's another number to think about: $44 per hour. That's the minimum wage we'd have today if the minimum had tracked the growth in Wall Street Bonuses."

"The campaign over racism at General Motors and the class character of identity politics: A campaign by African American media millionaires over charges of racism at General Motors concluded last week with an agreement from the auto giant to quadruple its advertising spending with black-owned media over the next four years. The announcement by GM followed the publication of ads in major newspapers denouncing GM CEO Mary Barra as 'racist' for giving black-owned media an insufficient share of advertising dollars. The episode takes to a new level the efforts of the African American bourgeoisie to increase its share of the profits sweated out of the labor of the working class—black, white and immigrant—through the exploitation of identity politics. [...] The open letter to Barra explicitly sought to tie the selfish strivings of the select group of privileged business owners with the interests of the African American population as a whole, declaring GM's alleged snub was 'horrendous considering we as African Americans make up approximately 14 percent of the population in America.'"

Fact-checking Snopes over what should be a dead horse but probably won't be in the mid-terms: "Fact-Checking is Dead, Killed by Snopes over Biden's Broken Promise of $2,000 Checks: I thought the $2,000 check controversy could be allowed to recede into the disconsolate mists of time, as just one more Democrat betrayal, until I heard on The West Wing Thing that Snopes, 'the internet's definitive fact-checking resource,' had rated this claim..." (And somewhere in that thread someone linked to a check written in the new math style the Democrats seem to be claiming to use — by the author of xkcd.)

"Glenn Greenwald Took on the Authoritarian Right in Brazil — and Won: The full story of how Glenn Greenwald revealed the antidemocratic corruption behind Brazil's supposed anti-corruption investigation Lava Jato — which jailed former president Lula da Silva and gave rise to Jair Bolsonaro's far-right presidency — is one of bravery against a violent, reactionary right."

Short video, "NATURE IS SPECTACULAR: Queen Of The Night edition: This cactus blooms between dusk & dawn for 1 night each year, on or near a full moon. In 1-2 hrs, the petals unfold, revealing a big-ass 6"-8" flower that has a sweet fragrance similar to a magnolia. Then it closes by daylight."

A beautiful night sky, explained here.

"America's Forgotten Pin-Up Girl"

"How World War I Got Women to Wear Bras"

Lucinda Williams, "Save Yourself"

02:52 GMT comment


Sunday, 04 April 2021

Teach us to be true

Victor Molev's "City of Wandering Towers" is way outside of my price range but nice to look at, and is part of the Amazing Fantasy Cities collection.

"Recreational Marijuana Is Now Legal in New York: Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana on Wednesday, making New York the 16th state to do so. Cuomo signed the bill a day after it passed in the State Legislature. Parts of the law went into effect immediately..."

The GOP didn't want anyone talking about the popularity of Biden's pandemic relief bill, so they made up another border crisis and that's what the media talked about. All of them. And they moaned when Biden delayed his first presser, but when he finally held one, that's all they asked about. They did not ask at all about the pandemic, or the pending infrastructure bill. But, of course, There is no immigration crisis. As Ryan Cooper put it, "This is nonsense. There is a problem at the border, but it is not remotely a "crisis." It's an administrative challenge that could be solved easily with more resources and clear policy — not even ranking with, say, the importance of securing loose nuclear material, much less the ongoing global pandemic, or the truly civilization-threatening crisis of climate change. The mainstream media is in effect collaborating with Republicans to stoke unreasoning xenophobic panic." There's the seasonal uptick in people trying to cross the border, and no doubt a lot of people who are hoping things will be better with Trump gone, and a number of other things, but the truth is that the number haven't ever been as high as they were under the Bush administration. "The history of unauthorized immigration under Bush is instructive. The media largely ignored it because Republicans didn't raise a fuss, and most Americans barely paid attention because it was objectively a minor issue." But that was before Trump proved they could make hay out of ginning up fear of border-crossings.

"Corporate Dems Show Progressives How To Play Hardball: Progressives politely refused to wield power to secure a $15 minimum wage, now conservative Dems are wielding power to secure tax cuts for the wealthy. [...] The tax issue revolves around federal write-offs for state and local taxes — colloquially called SALT deductions. Donald Trump's 2017 tax bill limited such deductions to $10,000. The move was perceived as a mean-spirited shot at blue states, which often have higher state and local levies to fund more robust public services. But on the merits, the policy serves to limit tax deductions primarily for higher-income households. "

"First 100: The Day One Agenda Has Stalled Out: Biden has failed to act and is even allowing constraints on executive action to move forward. Plus: the SALT battle continues. We have (very) quietly been updating our executive action tracker, which looks at what steps the Biden administration has taken to make progress on its own authority. Frankly, the trail has gone pretty cold. The traditional media has completely swallowed the notion that policy can only come from Congress, and implementation has been completely ignored, to say nothing of regulatory interpretation of policies passed before this year. So you have to be a detective to figure out if Biden is maximizing his power and preventing Mitch McConnell and Congressional gridlock from standing in the way."

"Liberals want to blame rightwing 'misinformation' for our problems. Get real: In liberal circles these days there is a palpable horror of the uncurated world, of thought spaces flourishing outside the consensus, of unauthorized voices blabbing freely in some arena where there is no moderator to whom someone might be turned in. The remedy for bad speech, we now believe, is not more speech, as per Justice Brandeis's famous formula, but an 'extremism expert' shushing the world. [...] What explains the clampdown mania among liberals? The most obvious answer is because they need an excuse. Consider the history: the right has enjoyed tremendous success over the last few decades, and it is true that conservatives' capacity for hallucinatory fake-populist appeals has helped them to succeed. But that success has also happened because the Democrats, determined to make themselves the party of the affluent and the highly educated, have allowed the right to get away with it. There have been countless times over the years where Democrats might have reappraised this dumb strategy and changed course. But again and again they chose not to, blaming their failure on everything but their glorious postindustrial vision. In 2016, for example, liberals chose to blame Russia for their loss rather than look in the mirror. On other occasions they assured one another that they had no problems with white blue-collar workers — until it became undeniable that they did, whereupon liberals chose to blame such people for rejecting them. [...] But, folks, it is happening. And the folly of it all is beyond belief. To say that this will give the right an issue to campaign on is almost too obvious. To point out that it will play straight into the right's class-based grievance-fantasies requires only a little more sophistication. To say that it is a betrayal of everything we were taught liberalism stood for — a betrayal that we will spend years living down — may be too complex a thought for our punditburo to consider, but it is nevertheless true."

Matt Taibbi talked with one of our foremost antimonopoly analyst/journalists, "Alternatives to Censorship: Interview With Matt Stoller: As Congress once again demands that Silicon Valley crack down on speech, the Director of Research at the American Economic Liberties Project outlines the real problem - and better solutions. [...] Questions like Fletcher's suggest Congress wants to create a multi-tiered informational system, one in which 'data transparency' means sharing content with Congress but not the public. Worse, they're seeking systems of 'responsible' curation that might mean private companies like Google enforcing government-created lists of bannable domestic organizations, which is pretty much the opposite of what the First Amendment intended. Under the system favored by Fletcher and others, these monopolistic firms would target speakers as well as speech, a major departure from our current legal framework, which focuses on speech connected to provable harm. [...] As Stoller points out in a recent interview with Useful Idiots, the calls for Silicon Valley to crack down on 'misinformation' and 'extremism' is rooted in a basic misunderstanding of how these firms make money. Even as a cynical or draconian method for clamping down on speech, getting Facebook or Google to eliminate lists of taboo speakers wouldn't work, because it wouldn't change the core function of these companies: selling ads through surveillance-based herding of users into silos of sensational content. [...] 'The question isn't whether Alex Jones should have a platform,' Stoller explains. 'The question is, should YouTube have recommended Alex Jones 15 billion times through its algorithms so that YouTube could make money selling ads?'"

"Did CNN Air a Staged Migrant Crossing of the Rio Grande?: An unusual video has been flagged by activists as deliberately manufactured to present a story of a border crisis, possibly with the participation of the Border Patrol. [...] In the CNN footage, the smuggler leading the boat wears fatigues and a black ski mask. Smugglers typically attempt to blend in with the migrants, to avoid more severe punishment should they be caught. Smugglers also don't normally provide face masks and life vests, nor ferry six boatloads of people across in broad daylight. Migrants also don't typically line up single file along the shore to cross. To Jenn Budd, a former Border Patrol agent, the smuggler's face mask rang alarm bells. 'That told me [the smuggler] knew he would be filmed and he didn't want to be set up,' she said. Marianna Treviño Wright, executive director of the National Butterfly Center, pointed out that her organization goes out on the river at least four times a week and never sees any kind of trafficking operation like this."

"Fast Food Giant Claims Credit For Killing $15 Minimum Wage: The parent company of some of America's largest fast food chains is claiming credit for convincing Congress to exclude a $15 minimum wage from the recent COVID relief bill, according to internal company documents reviewed by The Daily Poster. The company, which is owned by a private equity firm named after an Ayn Rand character, also says it is now working to thwart new union rights legislation. The company's boasts come just a few months after a government report found that some of its chains had among the highest percentage of workers relying on food stamps."

"After crime plummeted in 2020, Baltimore will stop drug, sex prosecutions: State's Attorney Mosby stopped non-violent prosecutions for the coronavirus, but then violent crime dropped 20 percent. Something happened in Baltimore last year. The coronavirus pandemic hit, and State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced that the city would no longer prosecute drug possession, prostitution, trespassing and other minor charges, to keep people out of jail and limit the spread of the deadly virus. And then crime went down in Baltimore. A lot. While violent crime and homicides skyrocketed in most other big American cities last year, violent crime in Baltimore dropped 20 percent from last March to this month, property crime decreased 36 percent, and there were 13 fewer homicides compared with the previous year. This happened while 39 percent fewer people entered the city's criminal justice system in the one-year period, and 20 percent fewer people landed in jail after Mosby's office dismissed more than 1,400 pending cases and tossed out more than 1,400 warrants for nonviolent crimes. So on Friday, Mosby made her temporary steps permanent. She announced Baltimore City will continue to decline prosecution of all drug possession, prostitution, minor traffic and misdemeanor cases, and will partner with a local behavioral health service to aggressively reach out to drug users, sex workers and people in psychiatric crisis to direct them into treatment rather than the back of a patrol car. [...] 'The officers told me they did not agree with that paradigm shift,' Harrison said. He said he had to 'socialize' both officers and citizens to this new approach. Harrison expected crime to rise. 'It did not,' the chief said. 'It continued to go down through 2020. As a practitioner, as an academic, I can say there's a correlation between the fact that we stopped making these arrests and crime did not go up,' though he cautioned that the coronavirus could have had some impact. Mosby noted that the virus did not keep crime from rising in nearly every other big U.S. city last year."

After hearing an attack on his kind on MSNBC, Matt Taibbi makes the challenge that won't be taken up. "Dear Joe Scarborough: Nice Smear. Now Invite Me To Debate Your Network's Russiagate Coverage: 'Morning Joe' says those who reported on Russia errors are a "joke" and might be "on Russia's payroll." MSNBC should break its four-year freeze-out and invite a skeptic to respond

"New Zealand raises minimum wage to $20 an hour: Taxes on the riches New Zealanders are being raised [...] Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's had promised to raise the minimum wage to $20 per hour (£10.15) and to raise taxes on the wealthiest Kiwis. [...] The new changes also impact the top two percent of earners in New Zealand, those on salaries of over $180,000 (£91,238.87), who will now be taxed by 39 per cent."

For the record, Nathan Robinson won April Fool's Day.

However, Caitlin Johnstone's "Biden Passes Alzheimer's Test With Flying Colors, Silencing Doubters" set the bar pretty high.

"Maryland Moves to Repeal Its Bizarrely Pro-Confederate State Song: If your state's song was written before 1995, there's a very likely chance it's racist as hell. The state legislature in Maryland voted on Monday to repeal its state song, which, as of now, is very pro-Confederate." Sure is.

Juan Cole, "Why the Suez Canal, now blocked, is so Important to the Global Economy and World History [...] The Suez Canal was a dream through history. Anyone who ever traveled from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea overland along that route noticed how short the distance was between the two bodies of water. The ancients talked about it. Napoleon Bonaparte, who invaded Egypt in 1798, talked about it."

"Workplace 'Anti-Racism Trainings' Aren't Helping: Donald Trump hysterically considers it a Marxist plot, but corporate "anti-racism training" isn't a practice that anyone should defend. It doesn't actually combat racism and it helps bosses consolidate their power over employees under a veneer of social justice."

2021 FAAn Awards: Winners

RIP: "Larry McMurtry, 'Lonesome Dove' Novelist and 'Brokeback Mountain' Oscar Winner, Dies at 84 [...] His first published novel, 1961's Horseman, Pass By, set in Texas ranching country, became the 1963 Paramount drama Hud, starring Paul Newman, Melvyn Douglas and Patricia Neal. The movie rights were optioned by Newman and director Martin Ritt's Salem Productions "almost before the last period [was] put on the book," he author said." Terms of Endeasrment made me cry.

RIP: "G. Gordon Liddy, unrepentant Watergate burglar who became talk show host, dies: G. Gordon Liddy, the tough-guy Watergate operative who went to prison rather than testify and later turned his Nixon-era infamy into a successful television and talk show career, has died at age 90. Liddy died Tuesday at his daughter's house in Virginia, his son Thomas P. Liddy told the Associated Press. He did not give a cause of death. While others swept up in the Watergate scandal offered contrition or squirmed in the glare of televised congressional hearings, Liddy seemed to wear the crime like a badge of courage, saying he only regretted that the mission to break into the Democratic National Committee's headquarters had been a failure."

"The Origins of America's Unique and Spectacular Cruelty: What Happens When Societies Don't Invest in Civilizing Themselves? [...] Hence, today, there is almost no sphere or arena of American life in which the values of predatory capitalism don't predominate or monopolize. Because society is made up more or less only of predatory capitalism, only those values can ever be expressed. Not even in, say, media, not healthcare, not education — which, in other rich countries, because they are not run for profit, are arenas in which softer and gentler qualities can be expressed, like decency, reason, dignity, purpose, meaning, belonging, truth, care, mercy."

"The Confederacy was a con job on whites. And still is [...] What the flag symbolizes for blacks is enough reason to take it down. But there's another reason that white southerners shouldn't fly it. Or sport it on our state-issued license plates as some do here in North Carolina. The Confederacy — and the slavery that spawned it — was also one big con job on the Southern, white, working class. A con job funded by some of the ante-bellum one-per-centers, that continues today in a similar form. You don't have to be an economist to see that forcing blacks — a third of the South's laborers — to work without pay drove down wages for everyone else. And not just in agriculture. A quarter of enslaved blacks worked in the construction, manufacturing and lumbering trades; cutting wages even for skilled white workers. Thanks to the profitability of this no-wage/low-wage combination, a majority of American one-per-centers were southerners. Slavery made southern states the richest in the country. The South was richer than any other country except England. But that vast wealth was invisible outside the plantation ballrooms. With low wages and few schools, southern whites suffered a much lower land ownership rate and a far lower literacy rate than northern whites."

"Mark Rudd's Lessons From SDS and the Weather Underground for Today's Radicals: Mark Rudd was Columbia's Students for a Democratic Society chapter president in 1968, when the university erupted in protest against the Vietnam War and racism. He then cofounded the Weather Underground. In an interview with Jacobin, he reflects on what radicals like him got right and got wrong, and what today's socialists should learn from his experiences. [...] But another big mistake that I was directly responsible for was eliminating organizing we had done so much of and substituting it with militancy. The last few months of Columbia SDS, a new faction that I led, the Action Faction, took over the chapter from the Praxis Axis, who were the old red diaper babies who taught us to build the base. But we said, 'No, it's action that's important.' We forgot that it took years to get people to the point where they would join SDS. It doesn't happen suddenly — it happens through building relationships."

"Inside the Koch-Backed Effort to Block the Largest Election-Reform Bill in Half a Century: On a leaked conference call, leaders of dark-money groups and an aide to Mitch McConnell expressed frustration with the popularity of the legislation—even among Republican voters. In public, Republicans have denounced Democrats' ambitious electoral-reform bill, the For the People Act, as an unpopular partisan ploy. In a contentious Senate committee hearing last week, Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas, slammed the proposal, which aims to expand voting rights and curb the influence of money in politics, as 'a brazen and shameless power grab by Democrats.' But behind closed doors Republicans speak differently about the legislation, which is also known as House Resolution 1 and Senate Bill 1. They admit the lesser-known provisions in the bill that limit secret campaign spending are overwhelmingly popular across the political spectrum. In private, they concede their own polling shows that no message they can devise effectively counters the argument that billionaires should be prevented from buying elections. A recording obtained by The New Yorker of a private conference call on January 8th, between a policy adviser to Senator Mitch McConnell and the leaders of several prominent conservative groups—including one run by the Koch brothers' network—reveals the participants' worry that the proposed election reforms garner wide support not just from liberals but from conservative voters, too. The speakers on the call expressed alarm at the broad popularity of the bill's provision calling for more public disclosure about secret political donors. The participants conceded that the bill, which would stem the flow of dark money from such political donors as the billionaire oil magnate Charles Koch, was so popular that it wasn't worth trying to mount a public-advocacy campaign to shift opinion. Instead, a senior Koch operative said that opponents would be better off ignoring the will of American voters and trying to kill the bill in Congress.

"Patent troll IP is more powerful than Apple's. And this is where my revelation came: as it is used in business circles, "IP" has a specific, precise meaning. "IP" means, "Any law, policy or regulation that allows me to control the conduct of my competitors, critics and customers." Copyright, patent and trademark all have limitations and exceptions designed to prevent this kind of control, but if you arrange them in overlapping layers around a product, each one covers the exceptions in the others. Creators don't like having their copyrights called "author's monopolies." Monopolists get to set prices. All the copyright in the world doesn't let an author charge publishers more for their work. The creators have a point. But when author's monopolies are acquired by corporate monopolists, something magical and terrible happens."

From the Department of Lessons Unlearned, "The Bubonic Plague in... San Francisco?"

Creative Random Harris is a new e-book Hansen and Langford have put together of Chuch Harris' writings, on behalf of TAFF.

Art in Motion in Paris

Comic: "The Problem With Powerful People

Jim & Jean, doing Phil Ochs' "Crucifixion", with harmonies.

02:35 GMT comment


Saturday, 20 March 2021

You won't have a name when you ride the big airplane

Renee Brown's "Spring Equinox" is from a collection of works by new artists you can find here.

I was in Massachusetts the night the lights went out. I don't remember much about it. I may have been able to read by the moonlight from my window — we had a big full moon that night, as I recall. I don't even remember if the lights were back on by the time I went to bed, but the next morning it was as if it hadn't happened. It was also the only real blackout I've ever experienced, because I moved out of the United States in 1985 and it wasn't until — well, as Greg Palast explains, "Until 1992, the USA had just about the lowest electricity prices in the world and the most reliable system. For a century, power companies had been limited by law to recovering their provable costs plus a 'reasonable,' i.e. small, profit. But in 1992, George H. W. Bush, in the last gasps of his failed presidency, began to deregulate the industry. 'Deregulate' is a misnomer. 'De-criminalize' describes it best. With the 'free market' supposedly setting the price of power, Texas-based Enron was freed to use such techniques as 'Ricochet,' 'Get Shorty,' and 'Death Star' to blow prices through the roof when weather shut down power plants. (This week was not the first game of Texas Gouge'm.)" So you can't even blame Texas voters for what happened to them last month. It goes back way farther than that.

Now we learn what "unity" means to establishment Democrats. "Entire Staff Of Nevada Democratic Party Quits After Democratic Socialist Slate Won Every Seat: The battle between insurgent progressives in Nevada and the Harry Reid machine began building in 2016. NOT LONG AFTER Judith Whitmer won her election on Saturday to become chair of the Nevada Democratic Party, she got an email from the party's executive director, Alana Mounce. The message from Mounce began with a note of congratulations, before getting to her main point. She was quitting. So was every other employee. And so were all the consultants. And the staff would be taking severance checks with them, thank you very much. On March 6, a coalition of progressive candidates backed by the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America took over the leadership of the Nevada Democratic Party, sweeping all five party leadership positions in a contested election that evening. Whitmer, who had been chair of the Clark County Democratic Party, was elected chair. The establishment had prepared for the loss, having recently moved $450,000 out of the party's coffers and into the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's account. The DSCC will put the money toward the 2022 reelection bid of Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a vulnerable first-term Democrat. [...] The Left Caucus and DSA organizers ran a slate of candidates for state party leadership under the name 'The NV Dems Progressive Slate.' All but one candidate on the slate was a dues-paying member of a local DSA chapter. The Democratic Party ran candidates on a slate titled 'The Progressive Unity Slate,' playing on a theme they'd been pushing the entire cycle: The groups angling for change from the left were trying to divide the party, they said, while they were trying to save it."

"Moderate Democrats Strip Stimulus Checks From 12 Million Voters for No Reason: For weeks, a handful of moderate Democrats in the Senate have been fighting to prevent $1,400 COVID-relief checks from reaching their own upper-middle-class constituents. It has never been all that clear to the public — or, by all appearances, to the senators themselves — why they wanted to restrict eligibility for these relief payments so badly. [...] Moderates must stop putting their fringe obsessions ahead of the Democratic Party's best interests. Now is not the time to put centrist ideological purity above political pragmatism."

Since Joe Manchin originally said he would oppose nuking the filibuster, he's had to walk it back just a little, saying he wants those who obstruct to have to work for it and put up a real talking filibuster. Biden agrees it should be like the old days when he got into Congress and obstructors at least had to get up and make their case. Much as I think Manchin is just trying to push his brand as the maverick in town, I have always agreed that a real filibuster would be much better than the pretend one that has allowed Republicans to stop everything cold without even having to stand up to do it. Ryan Grim explains the mechanics in "What is a talking filibuster exactly?"

The Daily Poster seems to have added a new feature — for subscribers only, unfortunately, but I find the subscription worthwhile — and for February 26th it was "YOU LOVE TO SEE IT: Biden Nixes Vile Trump Unemployment Rule: Private equity managers could lose their tax dodge, Michigan progressives are on a roll, and Bernie Sanders scores a win for Costco workers.." Bullet points are:
* "Biden Follows Through On His Promise To Expand Unemployment"
* "Democrats' Bill Would Close Tax Loophole For Private Equity"
* "Wall Street Critic Appointed To Pennsylvania Teachers Pension Board"
* "California State Senators Introduce Bill To Ban Fracking"

"This Last-Minute Provision Blocks GOP Govs from Using Stimulus Money to Subsidize Tax Cuts: The American Rescue Plan's $1.9 trillion of spending represents a significant break with the budget-cutting, deficit-obsessed austerity ideology that has held sway since the Reagan Era. But that's not all it does. A provision tucked into the final bill also aims to halt the anti-tax movement that has drained state and local coffers of resources to fund infrastructure, public education, and other basic social services. The language, slipped into the legislation at the last minute by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, is designed to prevent federal money from subsidizing new tax cuts at a moment when some Republican-led states have been considering them."

On the other hand, Biden seems to be using the time-honored method of making sure the good stuff doesn't happen, pretending they can't overrule a procedural advisory and letting a couple of Senators take the heat for standing in the way rather than just leaning on them to vote for $15. "Stop Pretending Biden Is A Powerless Bystander: An LBJ tale debunks Democratic apologists now pretending Biden has no power to try to shift the minimum wage votes of his party's lawmakers. [...] When a Republican is president, Democratic politicians, pundits, and activists will tell you that the presidency is an all-powerful office that can do anything it wants. When a Democrat is president, these same politicians, pundits, and activists will tell you that the presidency has no power to do anything. In fact, they will tell you a Democratic president cannot even use the bully pulpit and other forms of pressure to try to shift the votes of senators in his own party. A tale from history proves this latter myth is complete garbage — and that tale is newly relevant in today's supercharged debate over a $15 minimum wage. In that debate so far, we have seen Democratic senators prepare to surrender the $15 minimum wage their party promised by insisting they are powerless in the face of a non-binding advisory opinion of a parliamentarian they can ignore or fire. "

The New Republic, "The Democrats Are Blocking a $15 Minimum Wage: Not Republicans. Not the Senate parliamentarian. Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and even Joe Biden are to blame for squandering their party's majority power. "

This clip discusses the office politics behind Democrats voting to tank $15.

"Purging Inconvenient Facts in Coverage of Biden's 'First' Air Attacks: The pretense that the US defended itself by carrying out last week's airstrikes also necessitates glossing over the fact that the country Washington actually bombed, Syria, is accused of neither sponsoring nor carrying out the rocket attacks on American bases in Iraq that should not be there in the first place."

"The Sovietization of the American Press: The transformation from phony "objectivity" to open one-party orthodoxy hasn't been an improvement [...] The breadth of his stimulus suggests a real change from the Obama years, while hints that this administration wants to pick a unionization fight with Amazon go against every tendency of Clintonian politics. But it's hard to know what much of it means, because coverage of Biden increasingly resembles official press releases, often featuring embarrassing, Soviet-style contortions. When Biden decided not to punish Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi on the grounds that the 'cost' of 'breaching the relationship with one of America's key Arab allies' was too high, the New York Times headline read: 'Biden Won't Penalize Saudi Crown Prince Over Khashoggi's Killing, Fearing Relations Breach.' When Donald Trump made the same calculation, saying he couldn't cut ties because 'the world is a very dangerous place' and 'our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,' the paper joined most of the rest of the press corps in howling in outrage."

"New Massachusetts Rules Would Eliminate Handwritten Letters in Prison: 'Paper mail is precious,' Black and Pink Massachusetts Communications and Outreach Coordinator Elijah Patterson testified on January 29 against rules proposed by the Massachusetts Department of Correction (MADOC). The rules would, if approved, formally substitute physical mail for an electronic, scanned copy or photocopy through a third-party vendor." I have to jump in here to express my annoyance at seeing this misuse of "substitute for" that reverses direction, which I have been seeing more and more often. They want to substitute copies or electronic mail for real, hard mail. Which is, of course, outrageous, especially since "third party vendor" probably means they will charge prisoners still more to receive mail. This act of cruelty is being defended on the grounds that it might reduce contraband being smuggled in through the mails, although it seems clear that such materials are coming not through the mail, but via staff.

"A Quiet Return to Government for an Obama-Era Labor Official: Seth Harris, who co-authored an early blueprint of what Uber and Lyft would adopt in California's Prop 22, is back in the White House in a labor policy position. The Biden administration likes to send press releases about new hires. I have been emailed information about the new head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, members of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, the senior director for building emissions at the Council on Environmental Quality, the legislative affairs director for the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the deputy social secretary for the Office of the First Lady, and much more. I think I know the name of everyone who works in the West Wing at this point. But one new White House staffer in a fairly critical issue area had not received this honorific—until I asked the White House questions about it."

Left Reckoning has a discussion of Jackson Water & Ecuador's Election (Pink Tide Returns?) ft. Austin Gonzalez for those of us who are getting insufficient illumination from The Newspapers of Record.

Gaius Publius, now writing under his own name, Thomas Neuburger, has started his own Substack, God's Spies. He's one of the smarter analysts around and, luckily, you can check it out for free and subscribe if you want to.

And Caitlin Johnstone also has a Substack, Caitlin's Newsletter, with interesting pieces like "There's Only One News Story, Repeating Over And Over Again."

David Dayen, "First 100: Whatever Happened to Executive Action? Frustration with the legislative process is inevitable. But there's a work-around. The news broke while I was writing yesterday's edition that the Senate was changing the eligibility rules for direct payments in the American Rescue Plan. The dirty details are here. Everyone making up to $75,000 (individuals) and $150,000 (couples) still gets the full $1,400 check; instead of phasing out fully by $100,000/$200,000, it phases out by $80,000/$160,000. This is bad policy and politics, as Eric Levitz and Jordan Weissman explain. It saves a minuscule $12 billion yet angers a particular group of upper-middle class people whose socioeconomic status matches that of the political journalists who will report on this. The last time we had that dynamic was 2015, when Democrats tried to kill and then quickly retreated on 529 savings plans for college education. This means nothing to the federal government and everything to people affected. [...] There are two reasons to focus on executive action. First, base motivation: the slow grind of the legislative process will wear down supporters (particularly once Biden runs out of reconciliation bills), while progress can still be made under existing law. Second, policy matters: the reason to do this stuff is because it would help people."

This would be a nice start: "Reps Would Have to Resign From Corporate Boards Under Democrats' Ethics Bill: At least 15 House reps currently sit on the boards of private companies. Republican Doug LaMalfa, who represents California's First Congressional District, is a member of the House Transportation Subcommittee on Highways and Transit and is the chief sponsor of a bill that would eliminate the 12 percent excise tax on the sale of heavy trucks, tractors, and trailers. According to the findings section of the bill, the tax adds between $12,000 and $22,000 to the cost of a heavy truck, tractor, or trailer. While he promotes his bill and deals with related issues on the Transportation Committee, LaMalfa is simultaneously CEO of family business LaMalfa Trucking, a position that is uncompensated according to the representative's financial disclosure. As blatantly conflicted as it may seem for LaMalfa to push legislation that would benefit his family business, there is very little stopping House members from using their public offices to further their private business interests. The House ethics rules say that members should not use their positions to make pecuniary gains, but the Ethics manual states that legislation that benefits a whole class or group of businesses—for example, trucking companies—is exempted from the conflict-of-interest restrictions." I still think they should have to completely divest.

"Arkansas governor signs near-total abortion ban into law: LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday signed into law legislation banning nearly all abortions in the state, a sweeping measure that supporters hope will force the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit its landmark Roe v. Wade decision but opponents vow to block before it takes effect later this year. The Republican governor had expressed reservations about the bill, which only allows the procedure to save the life of the mother and does not provide exceptions for those impregnated in an act of rape or incest. Arkansas is one of at least 14 states where legislators have proposed outright abortion bans this year."

It's really rare to see someone who is pro-death penalty admit that an innocent person is about to be executed, but here's one. "As a former Alabama attorney general, I do not say this lightly: An innocent man is on our death row: I have long believed that some crimes are so horrendous as to demand the penalty of death. As the attorney general of Alabama in the 1970s, I led the effort to bring back Alabama's death penalty after the U.S. Supreme Court ended capital punishment nationwide in 1972. As a lifelong defender of the death penalty, I do not lightly say what follows: An innocent man is trapped on Alabama's death row."

"$15 minimum wage would lift millions out of poverty, says ... Wall Street giant Morgan Stanley: Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour would deliver sizable benefits to low-wage workers and lift millions of people in the U.S. out of poverty while having little impact—positive or negative—on employment levels. So says a new report assembled not by a progressive advocacy organization or a left-leaning think tank, but Wall Street titan Morgan Stanley, which found in a 75-page analysis that—contrary to the GOP's branding of the proposed $15-an-hour federal minimum wage as a job-killer—"the wealth of research points to no definitive conclusion on the impact higher wages have on employment." "However," the report adds, "it is evident that the impact to employment... would be minimal, while the social benefits to lifting real wages of lower-income earners and millions out of poverty are substantial."

"UN Rebuke of US Sanctions on Venezuela Met With Stunning Silence [...] Many Western journalists, however, appear not to have seen these overt declarations of collective punishment against the Venezuelan population—a crime against humanity under Article 7 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, according to former UN Expert Alfred de Zayas. Loath to abandon belief in the fundamentally benign nature of Western foreign policy, corporate scribes have typically presented the devastating effects of sanctions as a mere accusation of Nicolás Maduro. 'Maduro...said US sanctions were hurting his administration's ability to buy medicines and foodstuffs' was the next-to-last paragraph of a Guardian piece (3/17/20) on Covid in Venezuela whose subhead read, 'Continuing chaotic situation under Nicolás Maduro leaves hospitals and health services desperately unprepared.' Often, they fail to mention sanctions at all. In June 2019, for instance, the Guardian's Tom Phillips reported that 'more than 4 million Venezuelans have now fled economic and humanitarian chaos,' citing would-be coup leader Juan Guaidó's claim that the country's economic collapse 'was caused by the corruption of this regime,' without making any reference to Washington's campaign of economic warfare. Keeping with tradition, Douhan's damning report has been met with stunning silence by establishment media outlets. Neither the Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post nor BBC reported on Douhan's findings, leaving the task primarily to alternative media (Venezuelanalysis, 2/15/21; Canary, 2/13/21). (CNN—2/13/21—had an exceptional report focused on the UN report, which noted Douhan's statement that sanctions 'constitute violations of international law.')"

"Basic Income as a Policy Lever: Can UBI Reduce Crime?? [...] Such results raise the question of what the broader impacts of a basic income might be. In a recent working paper, I explore one aspect of this question, examining the extent to which the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend affected crime. This Dividend has, since 1982, provided an annual no-strings-attached payment to all Alaskan residents. Its amount has varied considerably year-on-year since it was introduced, as shown in Figure 1."

Glenn Greenwald's "Congressional Testimony: The Leading Activists for Online Censorship Are Corporate Journalists: A hearing of the House Subcommittee focused on anti-trust and monopoly abuses examines the role of the corporate media in these growing pathologies. There are not many Congressional committees regularly engaged in substantive and serious work — most are performative — but the House Judiciary's Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law is an exception. Led by its chairman Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and ranking member Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), it is, with a few exceptions, composed of lawmakers whose knowledge of tech monopolies and anti-trust law is impressive. In October, the Committee, after a sixteen-month investigation, produced one of those most comprehensive and informative reports by any government body anywhere in the world about the multi-pronged threats to democracy posed by four Silicon Valley monopolies: Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. The 450-page report also proposed sweeping solutions, including ways to break up these companies and/or constrain them from controlling our political discourse and political life. That report merits much greater attention and consideration than it has thus far received. [...] While I share the ostensible motive behind the bill — to stem the serious crisis of bankruptcies and closings of local news outlets — I do not believe that this bill will end up doing that, particularly because it empowers the largest media outlets such as The New York Times and MSNBC to dominate the process and because it does not even acknowledge, let alone address, the broader problems plaguing the news industry, including collapsing trust by the public (a bill that limited this anti-trust exemption to small local news outlets so as to allow them to bargain collectively with tech companies in their own interest would seem to me to serve the claimed purpose much better than one which empowers media giants to form a negotiating cartel). But the broader context for the bill is the one most interesting and the one on which I focused in my opening statement and testimony: namely, the relationship between social media and tech giants on the one hand, and the news media industry on the other. Contrary to the popular narrative propagated by news outlets — in which they are cast as the victims of the supremely powerful Silicon Valley giants — that narrative is sometimes (not always, but sometimes) the opposite of reality: much if not most Silicon Valley censorship of political speech emanates from pressure campaigns led by corporate media outlets and their journalists, demanding that more and more of their competitors and ideological adversaries be silenced. Big media, in other words, is coopting the power of Big Tech for their own purposes."

From the Gravel Institute, an explanation of how the richest country in the world is in many ways the poorest, "David Cross: Why America Sucks at Everything"

On the one hand, we have Scott Lemieux dunking on a prof for "reprehensible" statements, with an approving link from Atrios. On the other hand, we have John McWhorter asking a few questions, "So there was a law professor at Georgetown who was a racist. And now she's gone, but wait -- what do we mean by 'racist' these days? And why am I a heretic to even ask the question and want real answers?"

I'd almost forgotten Maureen Dowd was out there, but yeah, it's funny how establishment journalists (like, for example, Maureen Dowd) think we criticize them because we don't understand what reporting is. Particularly when one of our main complaints is that they think "reporting" is telling us what's going on inside their well-protected minds. "What a mess — Maureen Dowd lectures liberals about the press: Anxious to engage in Both Sides whitewashing of journalism failures from the Trump era, some prominent journalists are lashing out at liberals for having the nerve to criticize news coverage of the Biden White House. Leading the defensive charge is New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who penned a condescending harangue over the weekend, claiming liberals are hypocrites for finding fault with the press when a Democrat is in the Oval Office." (I don't know why Eric is still stuck on the Russiagate story, but he's right about this much.)

"'Voting With Your Dollars' Is an Antidemocratic Illusion: The notion that we can change the world by 'voting with our dollars' has become popular among progressives. But it's a fundamentally antidemocratic idea that has more in common with libertarianism than egalitarian politics. Free to Choose, published in 1980 by Milton and Rose Friedman, is a clear and concise introduction to a whole series of reactionary economic arguments. If you're a socialist who wants to understand what the enemy thinks, it's a good place to start. In one crucial passage, the libertarian duo argues that we can exercise more power through consumer decisions than through political action. [...] We vote with our feet when we go on strike. We vote with our votes when we participate in elections. When we 'don't buy' from some companies, we aren't voting with anything —and the idea that we do is an unhelpful distraction from strategies that can actually empower democratic majorities. Don't buy it."

"Aaugh! A Brief List Of Official Russia Claims That Proved To Be Bogus: The Director of National Intelligence releases a report, and the press rushes to kick the football again. [...] With regard to the broader assessment: how many times are we going to do this? We've spent the last five years watching as anonymous officials make major Russia-related claims, only to have those evidence-free claims fizzle."

The Onion, "Facebook Announces Plan To Break Up U.S. Government Before It Becomes Too Powerful: MENLO PARK, CA—In an effort to curtail the organization's outsized influence, Facebook announced Monday that it would be implementing new steps to ensure the breakup of the U.S. government before it becomes too powerful. 'It's long past time for us to take concrete actions against this behemoth of governance that has gone essentially unchecked since its inception,' said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, noting that while the governing body may have begun with good intentions, its history showed a culture of recklessness and a dangerous disregard for the consequences of its decisions. 'Unfortunately, those at the top have been repeatedly contemptuous of the very idea of accountability or reform, and our only remaining course is to separate the government into smaller chunks to prevent it from forming an even stronger monopoly over the public.' Zuckerberg closed his remarks with repeated assurances that despite a likely legal battle ahead, no one government could stand up to the fortitude of Facebook."

RIP: "Carla Wallenda, high-wire artist with famous Flying Wallendas, dies aged 85. She was the last of the original group, and continued to perform into her 70s. One of the few members of the family not to fall to their deaths, she died of natural causes.

1918 was a different country. "Your Old Radiator Is a Pandemic-Fighting Weapon: Turn-of-the-century faith in ventilation to combat disease pushed engineers to design steam heating systems that still overheat apartments today. [...] Health officials thought (correctly) that fresh air would ward off airborne diseases; then as now, cities rushed to move activities outdoors, from schools to courtrooms. When winter came, the need for fresh air didn't abate. According to Holohan's research, the Board of Health in New York City ordered that windows should remain open to provide ventilation, even in cold weather. In response, engineers began devising heating systems with this extreme use case in mind. Steam heating and radiators were designed to heat buildings on the coldest day of the year with all the windows open. Anybody who's thrown their windows open in January, when their apartment is stifling, is, in an odd way, replicating what engineers hoped would happen a century ago."

Are DNA ancestry tests as good as astrology? "Twins get 'mystifying' DNA ancestry test results"

"A Beginner's Guide to Stargazing might come in handy if you've got kids to entertain.

"Edward Gorey's Illustrated Covers for Literary Classics: Between 1953 and 1960, before he was a household name as the master of the cutely macabre, Edward Gorey worked as a book designer and illustrator for Doubleday Anchor. During his tenure, he designed some fifty book covers (and in some cases, drew inside illustrations) for their new paperback series, which was aimed at 'serious' readers and students."

The FANAC YouTube stream now has all four parts of John D. Berry's interview of Ted White posted.

Movie Night: If someone had described The Losers to me, I probably wouldn't have been that interested, but since no one did describe it to me I watched it and thought it was fun. Based on the Vertigo title, it has a rather tidy way of handling violence that I don't expect in action-adventure flicks these days; even the nasty precipitating event doesn't make you look at the blood and gore, and screen time isn't wasted with a lot of punch-ups. A fine acting line-up of some old favorites (Idris Elba and Jeffrey Dean Morgan don't hurt), and some room for Chris Evans to strut his acting stuff in ways he doesn't get as Captain America.

"Lots of us learned classical music from watching old cartoons, so I'm going to identify the pieces that frequently popped up."

Little did I know that the "Trina" referred to in Joni Mitchell's "Ladies of the Canyon" was our old pal Trina Robbins. (You can listen to that here.)

"NASA named the Perseverance rover's landing spot for Octavia E. Butler, the pioneering Black science-fiction author: Though they starred aliens, vampires and time travelers, Octavia E. Butler's celebrated science-fiction novels were often grounded on Earth. Her name and enduring legacy, though, have made it as far as the Red Planet millions of miles away. For her pioneering work in the world of sci-fi, NASA named the site on Mars where the Perseverance rover touched down 'Octavia E. Butler Landing.'"

Moshe Feder says, "The future of jazz is in good hands. These kids are amazing."
Nord Live Sessions: DOMi & JD Beck - Sniff

Some nice photography in "The Hebrides' wild swimming 'real-life' mermaid".

What were their names? Lance Canales & The Flood give them back in this video of "Plane Wreck At Los Gatos (Deportee)" — "In 1948, a plane carrying 32 passengers crashed in the Los Gatos Canyon, California killing everyone on board. The media, including the New York Times, listed the names of the pilots, the flight attendant and the immigration guard but all 28 of the migrant workers (braceros) were labeled as deportees. This angered folk singer Woody Gutherie who wrote a poem about the crash. Almost ten years later, school teacher Martin Hoffman composed a melody to Gutherie's poem and that song became well known with covers by the likes of Johnny Cash, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and many more. Around 2010 Central Valley writer Tim Z. Hernandez discovered the story and soon began a project of finding the names and surviving relatives. Soon after musician Lance Canales joined the journey and composed his own version of the legendary song with Hernandez reading all the names of the deceased workers. Thanks to a fundraiser spearheaded by the two artist a new head stone has been built in the Holy Cross honoring all 32 passengers. The search is still on for any relatives of the braceros, if you are related to one please contact Tim Z. Hernandez:"

02:26 GMT comment


Thursday, 25 February 2021

I want to shake your hand

Debbie Heyer's "Alien Eggs" (New Mexico Badlands) is one of those featured in "The Best Milky Way Photographers of the Year Show the Beauty of Our Galaxy."

I just haven't had the heart. The weeks pass and instead of the $2000 checks that were explicitly promised to "go out the door immediately" during the Georgia Senate campaign, Democrats now pretend that "$2000 checks immediately" was really just "$1400 sometime in the spring, possibly for some means-tested groups." The promised $15 minimum wage is, according to Biden, unlikely to happen. And will he deliver on relief for student debt? Maybe a little bit will be canceled, with a lot of means-testing, but certainly not enough. Bear in mind that the people stopping all of these things are Democrats. Biden could cancel all student debt without Congress' agreement right now. Joe Manchin wants to be the important deciding vote in abolishing the Democratic agenda and stopping $15 — and Biden doesn't seem to want to lean on him about it. Mitch McConnell is not in a position to make Senate rules anymore. It's almost as if the Democrats decided to get started early depressing Democratic turnout in the mid-terms.

Lee Carter does it again: "Virginia all but certain to become first southern state to abolish death penalty: State house's vote makes abolition assured, a historically important step since capital punishment emerged from the south as a legal alternative to lynching [...] The vote in the Democrat-controlled house by 57 votes to 41 makes abolition assured. Virginia's governor, Ralph Northam, has made clear that he will sign the abolition bill, though procedural niceties are likely to delay that final step until April. The decision to scrap the death penalty in Virginia is hugely significant on a number of levels. The commonwealth is now set to become the 23rd state in the union to turn its back on capital punishment, having been the first in the nation to carry out an execution — in 1608 it put to death Captain George Kendall in the Jamestown colony for spying for Spain. [...] Between 1800 and 1920, Virginia executed 625 black and 58 white people. In the more contemporary era, between 1900 and 1969 the state put to death 68 men for rape or attempted rape. In every one of those cases the prisoners who were killed mainly in the electric chair were black. No white man was ever executed in Virginia for rape or attempted rape. Two men remain on Virginia's death row, Anthony Juniper, 50, and Thomas Porter, 46. Should abolition be enacted, they would have their death sentences commuted to life in prison with no chance of parole." Virginia has actually executed more people than Texas has.

"Illinois Becomes 1st State To Eliminate Cash Bail: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill Monday that makes Illinois the first state in the country to abolish cash bail payments for jail release for people who have been arrested and are waiting for their case to be heard. The practice has long been controversial with criminal justice reform advocates who call cash bail a "poor people's tax" that has had a disproportionately negative impact on people of color. It leaves those who can't come up with the money in jail for weeks or longer or even accepting plea deals as a way to get out."

"The Supreme Court just made an important and promising shift on qualified immunity in a case called McCoy v. Alamu — although they did it so quietly that you wouldn't notice if you didn't look closely. Here's the scoop, in a thread..."

"LETTER FROM LONDON: The Matter of Assange's Lawyers Considering a Cross Appeal: Julian Assange's lawyers are considering bringing a cross appeal to the High Court in London disputing parts of District Judge Vanessa Baraitser's Jan. 4 judgment not to extradite Assange to the United States, according to a report by journalist Tareq Haddad. Baraitser refused the U.S. request on narrow grounds, saying Assange's extradition would put his life and health at risk. But Baraitser sided with the U.S. on every other point of law and fact, making it clear that in the absence of the life and health issues she would have granted the U.S. request. That opens the way for the U.S. government to seek the extradition of other persons, including journalists, who do the same things as Assange did, but who cannot rely on the same life and health issues. It also means that if the U.S. wins the appeal it filed last Friday in High Court it can try Assange in the U.S. on the Espionage Act charges that went unchallenged by Baraitser. If Assange's lawyers counter the U.S. appeal with one of their own in the High Court against Baraitser's upholding of the espionage charges, it would be heard simultaneously with the U.S. appeal."

Amazon sues New York to claim immunity from state COVID-19 safety regulations: On Friday, Amazon filed a lawsuit in federal district court against New York state attorney general Letitia James, claiming that the company is not subject to 'state oversight' and is not required to comply with New York's workplace health and safety laws and regulations as they relate to the coronavirus pandemic. The lawsuit is a display of boundless arrogance befitting a conglomerate controlled by one of the world's richest megabillionaires, Jeff Bezos. Amazon's legal theory is that it is not required to comply with New York safety laws or regulations because those are allegedly superseded or 'preempted' by more lenient federal regulations. Until recently, the federal regulations at issue were promulgated by the Republican Trump administration, which ferociously opposed any measure that would protect workers' lives at the expense of corporate profits. This policy has been continued in all essential respects by the new Democratic Biden administration, which is currently engaged in an intensifying campaign to reopen schools, carried over without interruption from the Trump administration. Schools are known to contribute dramatically to the spread of the deadly virus."

"Nevada bill would allow tech companies to create governments: CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Planned legislation to establish new business areas in Nevada would allow technology companies to effectively form separate local governments. Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak announced a plan to launch so-called Innovation Zones in Nevada to jumpstart the state's economy by attracting technology firms, Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Wednesday. The zones would permit companies with large areas of land to form governments carrying the same authority as counties, including the ability to impose taxes, form school districts and courts and provide government services. The measure to further economic development with the 'alternative form of local government' has not yet been introduced in the Legislature. Sisolak pitched the concept in his State of the State address delivered Jan. 19. The plan would bring in new businesses at the forefront of 'groundbreaking technologies' without the use of tax abatements or other publicly funded incentive packages that previously helped Nevada attract companies like Tesla Inc. Sisolak named Blockchains, LLC as a company that had committed to developing a 'smart city' in an area east of Reno after the legislation has passed. The draft proposal said the traditional local government model is 'inadequate alone' to provide the resources to make Nevada a leader in attracting and retaining businesses and fostering economic development in emerging technologies and industries."

Chicagoans voted for a black lesbian mayor and got Rahm Emanuel, Jr., who gave the Covid funding to the police, mishandled the summer's civil unrest, and canceled police accountability. And that's just the headlines for one day.

Great news! "The White House Doesn't Want To Hear From Larry Summers: How Obama's chief economic advisor ended up on the wrong side of the Biden administration Economist Larry Summers has been the kingpin of every economic calamity Democrats have weathered over the last three decades. But Barack Obama's National Economic Council chair during the Great Recession finds himself as persona non grata this week after penning an op-ed undermining the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package President Joe Biden is trying to push through Congress. Summers' treatise spread from wonk to wonk in the White House with the contagion of a venereal disease—and was about as well-received. One aide characterized the response as 'widespread disagreement.' White House economists had already been booked for media hits to discuss the January jobs report, airtime that permitted many administration voices to rebuke Summers in unison."

"Summers turn to fall: For the first major legislative effort of his presidency, Joe Biden proposed a $1.9 trillion Covid relief package, partly made up of billions in state and local aid, billions more for vaccine production and distribution, and direct checks to tens of millions of people, to honor his campaign promise. A group of Republicans countered with their own plan, suggesting he cut it down by more than two thirds. In exchange they'd support the bill and give him the 60 votes he'd need to end a filibuster by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Then something strange happened. Biden met with the Republicans, heard them out, and said no. Democrats have no desire to relive the hell that was 2009. Back then, Republicans strung Democrats along, sometimes for months, only to ditch them at the last minute or, as they did with Obama's stimulus, make it too small to do the job effectively. [...] (The one exception appears to be Larry Summers. The former Obama adviser played a key role in arguing for a smaller stimulus in 2009, and is doing so again, but this time, Biden wisely kept him out of the White House, and people there, up to and including Biden, are flatly rejecting his advice.)"

"Lies, Damn Lies, And Fact Checking: Jeff Bezos's newspaper is weaponizing fact checking to slander Bernie Sanders and defend GOP tax cuts that enrich billionaires and Amazon. Democracy dies in darkness. Jeff Bezos this week announced that he is stepping down from his job running Amazon in order to focus more on his other assets, including the Washington Post. Less than 24 hours later, his newspaper's chief 'fact checker' Glenn Kessler published a screed attacking Bezos's highest-profile political opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, for mentioning that Donald Trump's 2017 tax law benefited rich people and large corporations. This might seem like a simple example of a pundit knowing exactly who pays his salary, but in this case, the pundit in question has his own axe to grind. Kessler is the scion of a fossil fuel baron, which means he has an interest in defending tax cuts that were a particularly big financial windfall for oil companies, including the one linked to his family, according to Kessler's own newspaper."

"A majority of the people arrested for Capitol riot had a history of financial trouble: Trail of bankruptcies, tax problems and bad debts raises questions for researchers trying to understand motivations for attack. [...] 'I think what you're finding is more than just economic insecurity but a deep-seated feeling of precarity about their personal situation,' said Cynthia Miller-Idriss, a political science professor who helps run the Polarization and Extremism Research Innovation Lab at American University, reacting to The Post's findings. 'And that precarity — combined with a sense of betrayal or anger that someone is taking something away — mobilized a lot of people that day.'"

"Malcolm X family demands reopening of murder investigation: The daughters of assassinated US black civil rights leader Malcolm X have requested that the murder investigation be reopened in light of new evidence. They cite a deathbed letter from a man who was a policeman at the time of the 1965 killing, alleging New York police and the FBI conspired in the murder. Raymond Wood wrote his responsibility was to ensure Malcolm X's security team were arrested days before he was shot dead in Manhattan, his family says."

"The Murder of Malcolm X: There was nothing J. Edgar Hoover feared more than a charismatic black radical who could inspire the oppressed to fight back. And that's why, according to a compelling new series, the FBI had its fingerprints all over Malcolm X's murder."

RIP: Anne Feeney, legendary Pittsburgh folk singer and political activist, dies at 69 [...] Born in Charleroi and raised in Brookline, Feeney took early inspiration from her grandfather, William Patrick Feeney, a mine worker's union organizer and a violinist. In 1967, while still in high school, she bought a Martin guitar and did her first public performance, singing Phil Ochs songs, at an anti-war rally in 1969. She was arrested at the Republican National Convention in Miami in 1972 protesting the nomination of President Richard Nixon."

RIP: "Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet and founder of City Lights bookshop, dies aged 101: Poet and countercultural pioneer put on trial for publishing Allen Ginsberg's Howl went on to become a beloved icon of San Francisco." He was important to us for a lot of reasons, just aside from the poetry, of course. I've often joked that I was once kicked out of bed by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, but what really happened was that Martin Luther King had been shot, our neighbors warned us that it might not be safe to stick around on Kalorama Road, and Mark Estrin had volunteered his digs for the night — until Ferlinghetti unexpectedly arrived in the middle of the night and Mark woke us all up and drove our entire household up to my parents' place to give Ferlinghetti room. Bookstore owner, hero of free speech, and the author of "Christ Climbed Down" along with a lot of other things — what's not to like?

RIP: Mary Wilson of the Supremes: "Although she had to wait more than a decade before taking the lead on one of their hit singles, Mary Wilson was the force that held the Supremes together through the episodes of tragedy and internal strife that marked the history of the most successful female pop group of the 1960s. Having endured the removal of one original member, the troubled Florence Ballard, and the defection of another, Diana Ross, to solo stardom, Wilson — who has died aged 76 — worked with their replacements to keep the group's name going." Here she is leading on "Come And Get These Memories".

RIP: "Christopher Plummer, Sound of Music star and oldest actor to win an Oscar, dies aged 91." Just the other night I was watching him in The Return of the Pink Panther. Of course, he gets a genre credit for the Star Trek movie, but most of us knew him first as that guy who didn't like Nazis. Classy guy.

RIP: "Allan Burns: Munsters and Mary Tyler Moore Show creator dies aged 85." Munsters, MTM, Lou Grant, Rhoda, Capn Crunch, Rocky & Bullwinkle - he had a hand in all of them. and also Room 222, a show I'd completely forgotten about until I saw it mentioned in one of his obits and realized I couldn't remember anything about it, so I watched the first episode and thought, wow, this is so strange, I recognize the music, the actors, the characters and their mannerisms (though not their names), but I really don't remember the show. Did I actually watch this thing?

RIP: "Chick Corea, Jazz Pianist Who Expanded the Possibilities of the Genre, Dead at 79: Keyboardist helped Miles Davis usher in the fusion revolution and founded his own game-changing groups, including Return to Forever Chick Corea, the virtuosic keyboardist who broadened the scope of jazz during a career spanning more than five decades, died on Tuesday from a rare form of cancer. A post on his Facebook page confirmed the news. Corea was 79. [...] In the early Sixties, Corea established himself as an A-list pianist, working with Stan Getz, Herbie Mann, and others. Later in the decade, he joined Miles Davis' band and played a key role in helping the trumpeter make the transition to a more contemporary, plugged-in sound on albums like Bitches Brew. Following his work with Davis, he formed his own groundbreaking electric band, Return to Forever, which played some of the most vibrant and dynamic music of the fusion era. In the ensuing decades, Corea threw himself into countless projects, showing off his limitless range — from a refined duo with vibraphonist Gary Burton to his trendsetting Elektric Band. His most recent album, the 2020 live solo disc Plays, showed off his wildly diverse skill set and body of influences, touching on classical pieces, bebop, and more."

RIP: "Bernard Lown, Inventive Heart Doctor and Antiwar Activist, Dies at 99: He created the first effective heart defibrillator and co-founded a physicians group that campaigned against nuclear war, earning a Nobel Peace Prize. [...] While the organization insisted that it had no tilt toward Moscow or Washington and that it regarded atomic war as the ultimate public health disaster that would overwhelm modern medicine, conservative Western critics called its leaders naïve, maintaining that its work played into the hands of Soviet propagandists."

RIP: "Hustler founder and free-speech activist Larry Flynt dies aged 78." I gotta say, I enjoyed seeing him win those lawsuits, but I don't really have much else to say about this.

ROT IN PERDITION: Rush Limbaugh, 70, after decades of filling the airwaves with lies and hate and helping to destroy society in America. Atrios greeted the event with the same words Limbaugh used upon the death of Jerry Garcia: "Just Another Dead Doper." "Point/Counterpoint: Rush Limbaugh" is spot on, too.

"How the Right Won a Postwar Counterrevolution in Economics: The Great Depression thoroughly discredited laissez-faire economics. But over the postwar decades, with the help of generous business funding and political connections, figures like Milton Friedman led a remarkable revival of nineteenth-century economic ideas. They did it by adopting a pseudo-populist rhetoric that celebrated individual choice and autonomy."

"White Fragility Gets Jackie Robinson's Story Wrong: Robin DiAngelo's best-selling book sells a misguided view of baseball integration to her readers and corporate clients. [...] Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey picked Robinson—who grew up in Pasadena and was a four-sport athlete at UCLA—because of his outstanding athleticism and his strong religious faith, college education, and experiences living and playing with white people outside of the South. But anyone with the slightest knowledge of baseball knows that there were Black ballplayers in the Negro Leagues who were as good or better than Robinson when he broke the sport's color line. Moreover, DiAngelo's account entirely omits the protest movement which made it possible for Robinson, and then other Black players, to play in the majors. In DiAngelo's telling, Robinson couldn't play 'before being granted permission by white owners.' This is like saying that women were 'granted' the right to vote by men, instead of acknowledging that women 'won' the vote after decades of movement activism—including lobbying, rallies, public awareness campaigns, and civil disobedience."

"$50T moved from America's 90% to the 1%: Inequality requires narrative stabilizers. When you have too little and someone else has more than they can possibly use, simple logic dictates that you should take what they have. The forbearance exercised by the many when it comes to the wealth of the few isn't down to guards or laws — rather, the laws and the guards are effective because of the story, the story of why this is fair, even inevitable. Think of the story of monarchy and its relationship to the Church: the Church affirms that the monarch (and the aristocracy) was chosen by God ("dieu et mon droit") and the monarchy reciprocates by giving the Church moral and economic power within the kingdom. Capitalism replaced the story of divine will with a story of a self-correcting complex system: humans are born and raised with a variety of aptitudes and tastes, and at any moment, historical exigencies dictate that some individuals are better suited than others to do well."

Cory Doctorow found a gem in his pile of books to be read, and provides an enthusiastic review of Claire Evans' "Broadband [...] I have read a lot of histories of computing, and I had a front row seat for a lot of the events depicted in this book — people I worked with, people I worked against — and yet I was surprised over and over again with details and perspectives I'd never encountered. For example, for some reason, my ninth grade computer science course included lengthy readings on ENIAC, Univac, the Mark I and the Mark II, but none of those mentioned that they were all programmed exclusively or primarily by women. And Evans doesn't just explain this fact, but — because she is a brilliant and lyrical writer — she brings these women to life, turns them into fully formed characters, makes you see and feel their life stories, frustrations and triumphs."

"How The US Legalized Corruption: If you give an American politician $100,000, it's a bribe. If you pay them the same amount for lunch, however, that's a fundraiser. If you wire the incoming Treasury Secretary $1,000,000 that's a bribe. If you put her in front of a lectern, however, it's a speaking fee. Forgive me if I don't understand. White people sure have funny words for bribes."

"These 5 U.S. Towns Are Powered Entirely By Renewable Energy [...] Over the past decade, five locations ? Aspen, Colorado; Greensburg, Kansas; Burlington, Vermont; Kodiak Island, Alaska; and Rock Port, Missouri ? have successfully made the switch to 100 percent renewables."

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine accidentally predicted the 2020s by writing about the 1990s: Income inequality, homelessness, and other social ills of the 2020s — predicted by TV writers looking out their windows in 1995."

Who knew when we got lost in those twisty little passages that we were walking the map of a real cave? "This Woman Inspired One of the First Hit Video Games by Mapping the World's Longest Cave: Patricia Crowther's ex-husband coded her cave maps into one of the first hit adventure games in the 1970s, and she had no idea."

Explore the Bayeux Tapestry online.

"The Beatles as Lesbians" (illustrated).

The Beatles on The Morecambe And Wise Show

Cool Snow sculpture

Comic strip: Milk & Cheese

Eric Clapton & Friends live, "Miss You"

Bet you weren't expecting bluegrass from me, but this is good, and the lyrics fit right in.
Billy Strings, "Watch It Fall"

Anne Feeney, "Have You Been to Jail for Justice?"

00:59 GMT comment


Thursday, 04 February 2021

What a way to make a livin'

Hedge-funders are some of the vilest, most destructive people alive and what they do should never have been legal. It's been nice to see them exposed over the last week. Robert Kuttner at The American Prospect, "What We've Learned From the Robinhood Affair: Let's put parasitic speculators out of business. How about a lead role for Joe Biden's most progressive former top aide, Ted Kaufman? The stock speculation scandal dominating the front pages vividly reveals what critics of extreme financialization have been saying for decades. All of this hyper-trading produces no benefits to the real economy. It creates and then pops financial bubbles, roils markets, harms actual businesses, enriches insiders at the expense of bona fide investors, and leads to extreme concentration of wealth. One of the most astute critics happens to be Ted Kaufman, who was Joe Biden's longtime chief of staff and then spent two years in the Senate filling out Biden's term in 2009 and 2010. Sen. Kaufman emerged as one of the key leaders on the Dodd-Frank bill, and specifically championed reforms of the kinds of issues that have emerged in this scandal, like high-frequency trading. Kaufman has no official role in the Biden administration, other than as part of the kitchen cabinet. But he did lead the Biden transition, and my sources say that the relatively progressive cast of Biden's key financial regulatory appointments reflects Kaufman's continuing counsel. One can hope that he will be chosen to make his voice heard on needed financial reforms going forward. Rather like the New Deal—era Pecora Commission investigating Wall Street's runaway speculation and predatory practices, this time we could have a Kaufman Commission." With Gensler and Yellen on hand, this is a great moment to finally turn back deregulation that's been a big part of destroying our economy. Oh, but wait....

Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper talked Gamestop with David Dayen.

Ana Kasparian and Nando Villa did a decent break-down of the Gamestop story as well as a tutorial on the filibuster and a fine interview with Jeremy Corbyn.

Useful interview with the Roosevelt Institute's economics guy on The Majority Report, "America's Fight with the Invisible Hand w/ Mike Konczal - MR Live - 1/27/21."

"They Pledged to Donate Rights to Their COVID Vaccine, Then Sold Them to Pharma: In a business driven by profit, vaccines have a problem. They're not very profitable — at least not without government subsidies. Pharma companies favor expensive medicines that must be taken repeatedly and generate revenue for years or decades. Vaccines are often given only once or twice. In many parts of the world, established vaccines cost a few dollars per dose or less. Last year only four companies were making vaccines for the U.S. market, down from more than 20 in the 1970s. As recently as Feb. 11, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, complained that no major drug company had committed to 'step up' to make a coronavirus vaccine, calling the situation 'very difficult and frustrating.' Oxford University surprised and pleased advocates of overhauling the vaccine business in April by promising to donate the rights to its promising coronavirus vaccine to any drugmaker. 'We actually thought they were going to do that,' James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International, a nonprofit that works to expand access to medical technology, said of Oxford's pledge. 'Why wouldn't people agree to let everyone have access to the best vaccines possible?' A few weeks later, Oxford—urged on by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—reversed course. It signed an exclusive vaccine deal with AstraZeneca that gave the pharmaceutical giant sole rights and no guarantee of low prices—with the less-publicized potential for Oxford to eventually make millions from the deal and win plenty of prestige."

David Dayen, "Why Katie Porter Isn't on the House Financial Services Committee: Committee Chair Maxine Waters appears to have a problem with fierce questioning and progressive financial reform. [...] Why would Democrats take one of their most celebrated young phenoms and remove her from a committee where she has as much expertise as anyone in Congress? The question might answer itself. An analysis of the Financial Services Committee and Porter's time on it reveals that she wasn't really wanted, perhaps because of the spotlight she garnered and the goals she sought."

Robert Kuttner at The American Prospect warns, "Red Alert: The Return of Cass Sunstein: When I wrote a piece last spring called 'The Biden Do Not Reappoint List,' it did not even occur to me to include Cass Sunstein on the roster of Clinton and Obama horribles such as Larry Summers and Mike Froman. The return of Sunstein seemed inconceivable. For those who missed it, Sunstein under Obama headed a White House office called OIRA, which stands for the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. It was created late in the Carter administration and then used under Reagan as a choke point to kill health, safety, environmental, and labor regulations. If a regulation somehow made it out of an agency, OIRA provided one more chance for industry lobbyists to weaken it or kill it altogether. But of all the heads of OIRA, Sunstein was the one who perfected the art of strangling regulations, using cost-benefit gambits and other devices. He actually bragged that under Obama, thanks to his efforts, there were fewer regulations issued than under Reagan or either Bush. He was especially the nemesis of EPA. [...] So with Biden's policies and Sunstein's record, why on earth is Sunstein telling colleagues that he is in line for a White House job? The answer, for those familiar with the academic term, is that Sunstein is what's called a 'trailing spouse.' Sunstein's wife, Samantha Power, has been named by Biden to head USAID. So Cass, who teaches law at Harvard, needs an appropriately distinguished Washington job. But please, keep this man far away from the seat of power. Give him a fellowship, say, at Brookings, where he can do only modest damage."

I can't even keep up with the zigzagging ups and downs of this thing. "Democrats Ditch $600 Unemployment Boost: Now that Republicans are less of an obstacle, Dems are negotiating with themselves. Democrats have given up on giving unemployed workers an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits as part of a new COVID-19 relief package. Instead, the party seems to be coalescing around President Joe Biden's proposal to add $400 per week. The measure is part of a $1.9 trillion proposal for a pandemic recovery bill that included a host of other Democratic priorities, such as raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour."

Still shady after all these years: "Voting machine company behind so many surprise wins this year raises some questions: After initially focusing on the surprisingly lopsided results of the senatorial election in Kentucky, DCReport broadened our scope to look at the electronic vote-counting software and electronic voting systems that we rely on to tally our votes. This prompted us to raise questions about Electronic Systems & Software (ES&S), America's largest voting machine company. What we found was a revolving door between government officials and ES&S. Voting results in three states that saw surprising majorities by vulnerable incumbent Republican senators—Maine, North Carolina and South Carolina—were almost all tabulated on ES&S machines." Same thing I've complained about for 20 years: privately-owned largely by Republican operatives, can't be audited, deliver weird results, and Republicans fight like hell to prevent any kind of auditability from being required. Why would that be?

Bernie in the Guardian, "Joe Biden must put an end to business as usual. Here's where to start [...] Let us never forget. When Republicans controlled the Senate, they used the reconciliation process to pass trillions of dollars in tax breaks primarily to the top 1% and multinational corporations. Further, they were able to confirm three rightwing US supreme court judges over a very short period of time by a simple majority vote. If the Republicans could use the reconciliation process to protect the wealthy and the powerful, we can use it to protect working families, the sick, the elderly, the disabled and the poor."

"A Massachusetts Democrat Pushed His Party On Its Alex Morse Handling. Getting Called A 'Faggot' Wasn't Even The Worst Response: A meeting of the Cambridge Democratic City Committee is a microcosm of the Massachusetts Democratic Party. ON WEDNESDAY, January 13 — the same day that the University of Massachusetts at Amherst released the results of an investigation into the romantic life of Alex Morse, finding no wrongdoing — the Cambridge Democratic City Committee met to debate a resolution brought forward by a local ward condemning the party for its handling of the situation. It did not go well."

Naomi Klein ponders "The Meaning of the Mittens: Five Possibilities: The symbolic power of Bernie's old pair of mittens was the work of the 'us' in 'not me, us.'" I don't know how it started, but eventually even I was caught up in it. The Mary Sue has a good collection of them, as well as some Mark Hamill collected. And I liked this one and this one. There's also a Star Trek collection. Here's one for the art crowd. And another one. (There are also a ton of Monet Bernie memes.) And more, and much more. And even more.

"Neoliberalism is Fascism with Better Manners: The best use of the New York Times is usually catching up on the CIA's talking points for the day. However, back in June of 2019 it published a surprisingly hard hitting article on Joe Biden's history of crafting and promoting the odious bill that created the modern militarized police and carceral state. The money shot is a quote from Mr. Biden where he seemingly takes credit for mass incarceration: 'every major crime bill since 1976 that's come out of this Congress, every minor crime bill, has had the name of the Democratic senator from the State of Delaware: Joe Biden.' With Mr. Biden currently drafting 'domestic terrorism' legislation, alarm bells should be sounding. Considered along with his contribution to the Patriot Act—the national security and surveillance state wish list passed in the aftermath of 9/11; Mr. Biden appears to be the central protagonist linking domestic political repression to the neoliberal project. Ava DuVernay's film 13th does a good job giving political and economic context to the American conception and political utility of 'crime.' The 1994 Crime Bill written by Mr. Biden created the means by which to force conformity to the dictates of capital. That Mr. Biden appears to have seen law enforcement as a moral endeavor speaks to the hiddenness of its basis in economic production."

Pierce, "The New York Times Has Tied Itself Into Knots With This One [...] Now, I read the NYT nearly every day, so I know that its editors have not been comatose since 2008, when Mitch McConnell first vowed that Barack Obama would not be permitted to do what he'd promised he'd do. It is obvious to the wide world that there is no good-faith partner for bipartisan action in the Congress, and there hasn't been for more than a decade. It is obvious to the wide world that the general welfare of the country is a secondary consideration to the Republican congressional minorities. The new Senate hasn't even been allowed to organize itself yet; as of Thursday, Republicans were still chairing all the Senate committees. The Times doesn't present any solutions, except to note that Biden ran for president as a legislative dealmaker—which was nice, but also was the functional equivalent of running for president as an aardvark. The obvious solution—burning down the filibuster and then legislating like wildfire—is not mentioned, and not even all the Democrats are onboard with it anyway. The Times suggests that the new president keep one foot in political reality and the other on a banana peel. This is no way to run a democratic republic. Tell me something I don't know."

"What the next generation of editors need to tell their political reporters [...] Historically, we have allowed our political journalism to be framed by the two parties. That has always created huge distortions, but never like it does today. Two-party framing limits us to covering what the leaders of those two sides consider in their interests. And, because it is appropriately not our job to take sides in partisan politics, we have felt an obligation to treat them both more or less equally. Both parties are corrupted by money, which has badly perverted the debate for a long time. But one party, you have certainly noticed, has over the last decade or two descended into a froth of racism, grievance and reality-denial. Asking you to triangulate between today's Democrats and today's Republicans is effectively asking you to lobotomize yourself. I'm against that. [...] And rather than obsess on bipartisanship, we should recognize that the solutions we need — and, indeed, the American common ground — sometimes lie outside the current Democratic-Republican axis, rather than at its middle, which opens up a world of interesting political-journalism avenues."

I never doubted it, but "New Documents Suggest J. Edgar Hoover Was Involved in Fred Hampton's Murder [...] At that point, in 1983, after 13 years of litigation, it seemed as if the historical record was complete and the true narrative of the raid established: Chicago police officers, under the command of the Cook County state's attorney, and at the behest of the FBI and its COINTELPRO program, targeted BPP leader Fred Hampton, and assassinated him while he lay asleep as part of a murderous pre-dawn raid during which the police fired more than 90 shots that also killed Panther Mark Clark and left several other survivors badly wounded. And so stood that record, until December 4, 2020, 51 years after the raid, when historian and writer Aaron Leonard received from the FBI a redacted copy of Mitchell's personnel file in response to his 2015 Freedom of Information Act request."

"Meet YInMn, the First New Blue Pigment in Two Centuries [...] Blue pigments, which date back 6,000 years, have been traditionally toxic and prone to fading. That's no longer the case with YInMn, which reflects heat and absorbs UV radiation, making it cooler and more durable than pigments like cobalt blue. 'The fact that this pigment was synthesized at such high temperatures signaled that this new compound was extremely stable, a property long sought in a blue pigment,' Subramanian said in a study about the compound."

RIP: "Hank Aaron, Home Run King Who Defied Racism, Dies at 86 He held the most celebrated record in sports for more than 30 years." I was too young to have seen him play (our household was not sports-oriented in any case), and I didn't really get into baseball until the '70s when I finally realized the significant difference between it and softball (you can't foul out in baseball, so it's a much higher-incentive game), but Hank Aaron was a legend as long as I can remember.

RIP: "Larry King: Veteran US talk show host dies aged 87" — Some people said he just didn't do his homework, but he said he just wanted to hear what they had to say for themselves. I didn't really see his celebrity interviews but I rather liked the idea of not spending a lot of time showing off how much background material he'd read and just interviewing his subjects.

RIP: "Hilton Valentine, Founding Guitarist For The Animals, Dies At 77: Hilton Valentine, the guitarist for British Invasion band The Animals known for his iconic guitar riff on the group's version of "House of the Rising Sun," has died at the age of 77. Abkco Music, The Animals' label, confirmed the musician died on Friday in a statement posted to its website. "We, along with all of the music world, mourn the loss today of Hilton Valentine a founding member of The Animals. Valentine was a pioneering guitar player influencing the sound of rock and roll for decades to come. His death was revealed by his wife, Germaine Valentine," the label said in a statement." Eric Burdon posted a little farewell on Instagram.

"Legitimate Business: How Wall Street Put Organized Crime Out of Business [...] Yet in a sense, I think Gus Alex is alive and well, and not consigned to prison, either. Our economy—our system—is a Gus Alex/Jake Guzik operation. The Outfit, whether it knew it or not, was a blueprint for the future—our present—at a scale unimaginable to the old pot-bellied goombahs who ran things back when. In a stunning twist, the biggest, baddest mobsters of the American underworld, the kingpins who ran things for much of the twentieth century, were pathetically small-time. In the America of 2021, their kind of rackets, their brand of organized crime, has become entirely legal, the exclusive bailiwick of the Brooks Brothers Mafia, well-connected, well-starched, well-financed. [...] Put simply: the massive economic 'reforms' initiated by neoliberal politicians in that era, now responsible for the massive inequality in the world today, also essentially legalized most forms of fraud and vice. Having been bolstered at the expense of everyone else, Big Business found that it could out-compete the mob, purchasing the kind of no-consequence, laissez faire attitude from politicians and police which organized crime had once had—only at a scale of which the wiseguys could only dream."

Taibbi, "We Need a New Media System: If you sell culture war all day, don't be surprised by the real-world consequences. The moment a group of people stormed the Capitol building last Wednesday, news companies began the process of sorting and commoditizing information that long ago became standard in American media. Media firms work backward. They first ask, 'How does our target demographic want to understand what's just unfolded?' Then they pick both the words and the facts they want to emphasize."

"The True Story of Indonesia's US-Backed Anti-Communist Bloodbath: The massacre of the Indonesian left in 1965-66, backed by Washington, was one of the great crimes of the twentieth century. A new generation of scholars has uncovered its long-suppressed history of slaughter of up to a million people in the name of anti-communism."

This is a review of Cory Robin's 2019 book The Enigma of Clarence Thomas. I know I linked an interview about it at the time, but for those who would rather read, this may be more helpful. I was astonished when I learned these things about him.

For the pictures of buildings, "Urban clickbait? Why 'iconic architecture' is all the rage again"

APOD: "The Vertical Magnetic Field of NGC 5775"

An unusual look.

I noticed a long time ago that things were becoming horrible, and they kept getting worse, but I just about burst into tears on learning that Dolly Parton had re-recorded "9 to 5" as "5 to 9".

01:16 GMT comment


Tuesday, 19 January 2021

There was a stone-cold pack of lies

I'm not going to try to comment on the recent incursion into the Capitol, I can't even guess where this goes. A couple of links will be all you get.

"Biden to name Gary Gensler as U.S. SEC chair, sources say: WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Gary Gensler will be named chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by President-elect Joe Biden, said two sources familiar with the matter, an appointment likely to prompt concern among Wall Street firms of tougher regulation. [...] Gensler was chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) from 2009 to 2014, and since November has led Biden's transition planning for financial industry oversight. His appointment as the country's top securities regulator is expected to put an end to the four years of rule-easing that Wall Street banks, brokers, funds and public companies have enjoyed under President Donald Trump's SEC chair Jay Clayton." Now this is good news!

And I hope he really means this: "How Biden Can Move On From the Obama Era: Last week, Joe Biden announced that he would not succumb to deficit hysteria in crafting his plan to lift millions of people out of pandemic-caused economic crisis. 'With conditions like the crisis today, especially with such low interest rates, taking immediate action—even with deficit financing—is going to help the economy,' Biden remarked to press at a transition event. It was an important moment that showed the president-elect's ability to adapt to changing evidence. After 2008, the incoming Obama administration pivoted too soon to deficit politics and austerity, causing significant harm and slowing the recovery. Biden appears to have learned from this mistake, and is determined not to repeat it. [...] The Biden team has some big early tests. It must prosecute the big monopolization cases against Google and Facebook, which revealed collusion in muscling competitors out of the online advertising markets. It has a number of consent decrees, where companies vowed to adhere to various guidelines, that have been violated. Stoller argued that Biden's enforcers could take one broken consent decree and make an example of that company with a big fine or other action, comparing it to President Reagan firing the air traffic controllers. That signaled that capital would be favored over labor. 'The Biden team can do that in reverse,; Stoller said."

It looks like they're trying to blow it, as usual, though, and lose some of those seats they managed to get this time around. "Dems Reject Bigger Survival Checks, Float Tax Breaks For The Rich: Party leaders are backing off a chance to push for a new round of full $2,000 survival checks — while Democratic lawmakers consider new tax breaks for the wealthy."

"Porter loses seat on House panel overseeing financial sector: Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) lost her seat on the House Financial Services Committee after House Democratic leaders on Thursday rejected her request for a waiver to serve on the Financial Services panel and other committees simultaneously, two House Democratic sources told The Hill. The Financial Services Committee is one of five House panels deemed 'exclusive' by Democratic leaders under caucus rules adopted in July 2020. Democrats on exclusive committees are barred by caucus rules from serving on any other committee without a waiver from the party's steering committee, a panel of several dozen lawmakers chaired by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that determines committee assignments. Porter, a former financial law professor known for dressing down administration officials and executives in hearings, was appointed to the Financial Services Committee and received a waiver to serve on the House Oversight and Reform Committee during her first term." Maybe she was too good at her job.

"Why West Virginia's Winning The Race To Get COVID-19 Vaccine Into Arms [...] So far, West Virginia is outpacing the rest of the country. Having delivered vaccine to health workers and completed a first round of shots at all its long-term care facilities, the state is now administering second doses and moving on to other populations, including people age 80 and over, and teachers who are 50 and older. Meanwhile, many other states are still struggling with the complex logistics of distributing the lifesaving medicines. [...] She and other health officials say there is likely a number of reasons behind their early success. For one thing, West Virginia has been charting its own path to vaccine distribution. All 49 other states signed on with a federal program partnering with CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate long-term care and assisted living facilities. But those chain stores are less common in West Virginia, so the state instead took charge of delivering its vaccine supply to 250 pharmacies — most of them small, independent stores."

"Republican AGs group sent robocalls urging protesters to the Capitol. GOP officials now insist they didn't know about it: The day before a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, an arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association sent out robocalls urging supporters to come to D.C. to 'fight' Congress over President Trump's baseless election fraud claims."

"Surprise, Surprise: Off-Duty Cops From All Over the Country Were in D.C. During Capitol Coup Attempt: Several police departments across the country have opened investigations into cops among their ranks to find out if they were involved in the siege on the U.S. Capitol on Washington, D.C. on January 6th. The growing number of probes follows an announcement from the Seattle Police Department on Friday that two of its officers have been put on administrative leave pending an investigation into allegations that they were in the nation's capital during the raucous events. The New York Times reports that cops from Texas, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire are now under similar scrutiny after social media posts placed them near the riots that took place in the nation's Capitol."

Statement from American Thinker: "We received a lengthy letter from Dominion's defamation lawyers explaining why they believe that their client has been the victim of defamatory statements. Having considered the full import of the letter, we have agreed to their request that we publish the following statement:" — Jay Rosen provides the TL;DR: "We just made shit up. Yep. We lied and lied. There was no basis for anything we said. Shouldn't have done it, but you know what? We did do it, violating every principle we have"

"Laura Poitras says she's been fired by First Look Media over Reality Winner controversy. Now she's questioning the company's integrity [...] In their phone call the next day, Poitras says, she was fired — and she says it was in retaliation for speaking to the media about the organization's failure to protect a source who is now serving five years in prison for leaking confidential intelligence documents to one of First Look's publications, the Intercept. [...] In a statement early Thursday afternoon, First Look described Poitras's parting from the company as a 'natural' decision to not renew her contract after she 'decided to step away from her role at the company to pursue her own projects.' The company denied that its decision was based on Poitras talking to the media. Later Thursday, First Look issued another statement that Poitras had 'not been active in any capacity with our company for more than two years. This is simply not a tenable situation for us or any company.' Poitras denied this, saying she had been active on several films in production when she was fired as well as making an online security guide for filmmakers. [...] 'I was told my firing was effective immediately and without cause, my access to email was shut down, and that the company had no plans to communicate my abrupt termination to the public,' Poitras wrote in her letter."

"US police three times as likely to use force against leftwing protesters, data finds: In the past 10 months, US law enforcement agencies have used teargas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and beatings at a much higher percentage at Black Lives Matter demonstrations than at pro-Trump or other rightwing protests. Law enforcement officers were also more likely to use force against leftwing demonstrators, whether the protests remained peaceful or not. The statistics, based on law enforcement responses to more than 13,000 protests across the United States since April 2020, show a clear disparity in how agencies have responded to the historic wave of Black Lives Matter protests against police violence, compared with demonstrations organized by Trump supporters."

"Newark police: No officer fired a single shot in 2020,thanks to de-escalation program: Newark police and city officials say a de-escalation training program is working, especially in a year faced with challenges. Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose says 2020 was the roughest year in his 34-year career in law enforcement. Six of their 1,100 officers lost their lives to COVID-19 with dozens more officers sick after being exposed on the job. They also faced major challenges during the summer's anti-police brutality protests. Through it all, Ambrose says not one officer in the city fired his or her weapon while on duty in 2020."

Craig Murray says Magistrate Vanessa Bararitser's decision to deny extradition of Julian Assange but not to let him go is "Both Tortuous and Torturous".

"How A Flurry Of Suspicious Phone Calls Set Investigators On Rick Snyder'S Trail: The former Michigan governor, his chief of staff, and health director were in close contact in October 2014, when Legionnaires' disease in Flint was setting off alarm bells among officials. FORMER MICHIGAN Gov. Rick Snyder knew about a Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Flint as early as October 2014, when there was still a significant amount of time to save lives. That was the accusation of investigators looking into the Flint water crisis, according to documents compiled as part of a three-year investigation and obtained by The Intercept. On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that Snyder, as well as former Michigan health department director Nick Lyon, and Snyder's top adviser Richard Baird, will be charged by the Michigan attorney general, Dana Nessel, over their roles in the Flint water crisis."

Among the new US postage stamps being released there will be one for Ursula K. Le Guin. (The Sun Science stamps look pretty cool, too.)

RIP: "Storm Constantine (1956-2021): Author and publisher Storm Constantine, 64, died January 14, 2021 following a long illness. She was best known as the author of the Wraeththu series, and as the publisher of Immanion Press, founded in 2003, which published her own work and that of other authors including Tanith Lee, Michael Moorcock, and Brian Stableford." I only had a nodding acquaintance with her, personally, but I enjoyed her books when I read them. I always thought it was cool the way she made herself accessible to her fans at conventions without seeming pushy or having an overblown sense of her own importance.

RIP: "Phil Spector, Famed 'Wall of Sound' Producer Convicted of Murder, Dead at 81: Revolutionary producer behind some of pop music's most enduring songs dies from natural causes while serving prison sentence: Phil Spector, the monumentally influential music producer whose 'Wall of Sound' style revolutionized the way rock music was recorded in the early 1960s, died Saturday at the age of 81. Spector's life was tumultuous and ultimately tragic; as groundbreaking as his studio accomplishments were, those achievements were all but overshadowed by his 2009 conviction for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson. Spector's death was confirmed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. 'California Health Care Facility inmate Phillip Spector was pronounced deceased of natural causes at 6:35 p.m. on Saturday, January 16, 2021, at an outside hospital,' officials said in a statement. 'His official cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner in the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office.' [...] 'A genius irredeemably conflicted, he was the ultimate example of the Art always being better than the Artist, having made some of the greatest records in history based on the salvation of love while remaining incapable of giving or receiving love his whole life,' Stevie Van Zandt wrote on Twitter." He gave us this and so much more, and he inspired Brian Wilson and Bruce Springsteen, and he was a dick. Which I guess just goes to show.

The Comedy of Michael Brooks: "Part 8 of The Michael Brooks Tribute Series: David Feldman, Andy Kindler, Matt Lech, & Sam Seder"

"Vancouver Gave Its Homeless $5,800. It Changed Their Lives. A single infusion of cash helped recipients pay their rent, get to work — and put their lives back on track. [...] Though the formal research has yet to be published, the early results are staggering. Half of the cash recipients moved into stable housing one month after they received the money, compared to 25 percent of the control group. 'That was phenomenal,' says Zhao. Almost 70 percent of them were food secure in one month. Like Ray, they spent most of the money on the essentials — food, shelter, bills. On average, the cash recipients spent a total of three fewer months in a shelter than those in the control group, whose days spent homeless increased. After one year, cash recipients reduced their spending on alcohol, drugs and cigarettes by an average of almost 40 percent, challenging 'the widespread misperception that people in poverty will misuse cash funds,' the report stated. At the end of the year-long study, participants had an average of $1,000 still left in the bank."

"Finland ends homelessness and provides shelter for all in need: In Finland, the number of homeless people has fallen sharply. The reason: The country applies the 'Housing First' concept. Those affected by homelessness receive a small apartment and counselling — without any preconditions. 4 out of 5 people affected thus make their way back into a stable life. And: All this is cheaper than accepting homelessness."

On Zero Hour, RJ Eskow and Matt Taibbi: Time to Bring Back 'Unbiased' Reporting?

"Tcherneva's Talking Points: UBI & JG: On Dec 29, 2020, Pavlena Tcherneva (@ptcherneva) used Twitter to share an elegant and accessible thread of 25 talking points comparing the Job Guarantee with Universal (Basic) Income policies and proposals. I added it to the collection under Response & Commentary 2020 here Added to the still under-developed Tcherneva page for good measure."

I missed this story last year, but it's another case where your first question is, "Why isn't that judge in jail?" "How The Environmental Lawyer Who Won A Massive Judgment Against Chevron Lost Everything: Steven Donziger won a multibillion-dollar judgment against Chevron in Ecuador. The company sued him in New York, and now he's under house arrest. [...] Donziger is not exaggerating. As he was arguing the case against Chevron in Ecuador back in 2009, the company expressly said its long-term strategy was to demonize him. And since then, Chevron has continued its all-out assault on Donziger in what's become one of the most bitter and drawn-out cases in the history of environmental law. Chevron has hired private investigators to track Donziger, created a publication to smear him, and put together a legal team of hundreds of lawyers from 60 firms, who have successfully pursued an extraordinary campaign against him. As a result, Donziger has been disbarred and his bank accounts have been frozen. He now has a lien on his apartment, faces exorbitant fines, and has been prohibited from earning money. As of August, a court has seized his passport and put him on house arrest. Chevron, which has a market capitalization of $228 billion, has the funds to continue targeting Donziger for as long as it chooses. [...] The developments that led to Donziger's confinement were, like much of the epic legal battle he's been engaged in for decades, highly unusual. The home confinement is his punishment for refusing a request to hand over his cellphone and computer, something that's been asked of few other attorneys. To Donziger, who had already endured 19 days of depositions and given Chevron large portions of his case file, the request was beyond the pale, and he appealed it on the grounds that it would require him to violate his commitments to his clients. Still, Donziger said he'd turn over the devices if he lost the appeal. But even though the underlying case was civil, the federal court judge who has presided over the litigation between Chevron and Donziger since 2011, Lewis A. Kaplan, drafted criminal contempt charges against him. In another legal peculiarity, in July, Kaplan appointed a private law firm to prosecute Donziger, after the Southern District of New York declined to do so — a move that is virtually unprecedented. And, as Donziger's lawyer has pointed out, the firm Kaplan chose, Seward & Kissel, likely has ties to Chevron. Making the case even more extraordinary, Kaplan bypassed the standard random assignment process and handpicked someone he knew well, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska, to oversee the case being prosecuted by the firm he chose. It was Preska who sentenced Donziger to home detention and ordered the seizure of his passport, even though Donziger had appeared in court on hundreds of previous occasions."

"When Bill Sienkiewicz Was Interviewed by the Secret Service Over Alleged 'Threats': In the latest Comic Book Legends Revealed, learn the odd tale of Bill Sienkiewicz's visit from the Secret Service over 'threats' made to the president."

"Excerpts From The Sex And The City Revival In Which Samantha Is Replaced With Fran Lebowitz"— The idea thrills me.

"Timelapse of fog that looks like a Tsunami"

And I could look at this all day: "Winter morning drive through Madrid, Spain"

"Smothered: The Censorship Struggles of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour

John Fogerty says his new song, "Weeping in the Promised Land", is the hardest song he's ever written.

Blood, Sweat, & Tears, "Somethin' Goin' On"

02:03 GMT comment


Monday, 04 January 2021

I dropped by to pick up a reason

I really meant for this post to appear over a week ago, but at first I just didn't seem to be collecting many interesting links, and then I noticed I was getting extremely grumpy and gloomy and wanted to spend all my time watching and reading fiction. But, despite my misgivings, I hope you've managed to have decent holiday time and that you have a much better new year than I'm currently capable of envisioning.

And now for the traditional Yuletide links:
* 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

On Christmas day, my provider made a billing error and throttled my internet, pretty much wrecking my day, but at least I got this: "Sanders Rips GOP for Happily Endorsing Trump's Assault on Democracy But Refusing to Back His Call for $2,000 Checks: More than half of the House Republican caucus readily supported President Donald Trump in his last-ditch—and ultimately failed—attempt to overturn the November election through the Supreme Court earlier this month, but the president's endorsement this week of $2,000 relief checks for desperate Americans was a bridge too far for the GOP. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) noted that fact with disgust Thursday, shortly after House Republicans blocked a Democratic attempt to pass $2,000 direct payments by unanimous consent. 'Republicans in Washington are happy to cheer on Trump's bogus conspiracy theories on non-existent election fraud, but refuse to support him when it comes to providing a $2,000 direct payment to working-class Americans facing economic desperation,' the Vermont senator tweeted. 'Pathetic.'"

Senators Markey (D-MA), Merkley (D-OR), Sanders (I-VT), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warren (D-MA), and Wyden (D-OR) tried to filibuster the veto override of the Defense Authorization bill in order to force a vote on $2,000 direct payments. Guess how other Democrats voted. Aw, you guessed.

In the House, progressives negotiated rules changes that waived Pay-Go, and also, "The second win, on the 'Motion to Recommit,' was not secured by progressives alone, but in collaboration with many swing district Democrats, according to members of Congress who were involved in the negotiations. The MTR allows the minority party to introduce an amendment on the floor and get a vote on it. The opposition always uses it for mischief, but Republicans are much better at it, because Democrats like Josh Gottheimer happily join them. Their favorite ploy is to make Democrats cast a tough vote on immigration that later gets used in attack ads, but sometimes they even manage to derail legislation. So Democrats effectively got rid of the MTR, and now it's an actual motion to send the bill to a committee, and can't include any mischievous, extraneous language."

In which Sammy shows us yet another example of how the Biden administration has no commitment to using his powers to make things work, and Emma has a good righteous rant against the sociopathy that is "centrism".

And I really wish I had the energy to do a line-by-line "fisking" of Rand Paul's religious sermon against Covid relief. Sammy barely scratches the surface here but this is nuts.

And definitely read famous economist Duncan Black when he says, "Larry is lying: The important thing about this is that Summers is lying. It isn't that he's wrong about this, it's that he doesn't believe it. He does not think that $2000 checks relative to any baseline or other policies will "overheat" the economy. That was just a reason he grabbed for. If it was some other policy he didn't like he'd put on his frowny economist face and say it had a "low fiscal multiplier," arguing essentially the opposite, that the spending wouldn't boost the economy enough. For something else, he might go full concern troll and argue that the policy wasn't progressive, relative to some other policy he also wouldn't support if it was being offered. Appeals to the astrological charts that only the economist possesses is common, but in this case it's bullshit that even he doesn't believe." There's even more.

Matt Taibbi, similarly impressed, weighs in with "Neoliberal Champion Larry Summers Opens Mouth, Inserts Both Feet: The former Harvard President and Treasury Secretary offers important thoughts on the negative consequences of aid to the less fortunate."

"As Congressional Leaders Strike Relief Deal, AOC Slams Democrats for Trying to 'Lock Their Left Flank in the Basement': Ocasio-Cortez said that while Republicans 'leverage their right flank to gain policy concessions and generate enthusiasm,'Democrats shut progressives out."

Perhaps Ocasio-Cortez was also noticing this story in which immigration reform is being put on the back-burner by Biden's team, apparently because they find activists too uppity. "But a person familiar with transition discussions said it was intentional. He told NPR that the Biden campaign and then the transition team felt that immigration activists had become too adversarial. 'There are a number of people within Team Biden who are just uncomfortable with a lot of the policy initiatives that they recommend, which is why when you saw Biden's four core issues, immigration was not one of them,' he said."

"How a Status Quo Biden Cabinet Pick Would Burn: Ursula Burns, the former Xerox CEO, would carry to the Commerce Department a prodigious amount of baggage. One of the few remaining unfilled slots in Joe Biden's Cabinet is the commerce secretary. The oddball Commerce Department is a strange mélange of different agencies that don't really fit together, but in the hands of someone committed to reviving U.S. industrial policy, it could prove fearsome and important. Leaks to the press, however, have shown Biden flirting with the notion of doing something on the inexplicable/infuriating continuum, picking a Republican to prove his fondness for a party that still isn't certain he won, or a Wall Street—friendly steward to build relationships with a business community that has already staffed much of his administration. In turn, Republican Meg Whitman and Democrat Gina Raimondo have dominated the rumor mill. The 'apolitical' option, as Axios calls it, seems to be former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns. As a woman of color, she would satisfy the Biden administration's diversity mandate; and as a onetime executive, decidedly pro-corporate, she would satisfy the one area where there is no taste for diversity.. [...] It's hard to believe that the business community needs yet another goodwill ambassador within the Biden administration. It's even harder to understand why corporate executives (think Penny Pritzker or Wilbur Ross) are almost always floated for the post of commerce secretary. But adding Burns to the mix would be anything but apolitical. Given her legacy from her time atop Xerox, Burns could very well undermine Biden's credibility on a number of his most important priorities, and bring with her a ton of baggage from some of the most high-profile scandals in the corporate world."

New York Post's Hunter Biden laptop source sues Twitter for defamation" The Mac Shop owner complains he is 'now widely considered a hacker' A computer repair shop owner cited in a controversial New York Post story is suing Twitter for defamation, claiming its content moderation choices falsely tarred him as a hacker. John Paul Mac Isaac was the owner of The Mac Shop, a Delaware computer repair business. In October, the New York Post reported that The Mac Shop had been paid to recover data from a laptop belonging to Joe Biden's son Hunter, and it published emails and pictures allegedly from a copy of the hard drive. After the Post's sourcing and conclusions were disputed, Facebook and Twitter both restricted the article's reach, and Twitter pointed to its ban on posting 'hacked materials' as an explanation. Mac Isaac claims Twitter specifically made this decision to 'communicate to the world that [Mac Isaac] is a hacker.' He says that his business began to receive threats and negative reviews after Twitter's moderation decision, and that he is 'now widely considered a hacker' because of Twitter."

"Bodycam Video Shows 'Mob Mentality' Of Boston Police Who Responded To George Floyd Protests, Lawyer Says: Hours of video given exclusively to The Appeal show police officers bragging about attacking protesters and multiple instances of excessive force and the liberal use of pepper spray. [...] The hours of video, given exclusively to The Appeal by Williams, show police officers bragging about attacking protesters, targeting nonviolent demonstrators for violence and possible arrest, discussing arrest quotas and the use of cars as weapons, and multiple instances of excessive force and liberal use of pepper spray."

Longtime readers will remember that Mark Crispin Miller is an old favorite in the lefty blogosphere. Lately he seems to have run afoul of a propaganda campaign. He explained the details to Matt and Katie on Useful Idiots.

"Larry Wilkerson: No Evidence of Massive Russian Hack— Paul Jay talks to Wilkerson and can't find support for this big headline, but plenty of reasons to be afraid of the neocons.

"Congress Doesn't Care About Your Surprise Ambulance Bill: Dying? Hail an Uber, because lawmakers exempted ambulances from their medical-bill reforms—much to private equity's delight. [...] Unlike the community-based ambulance services of the past—even those that joined forces to form larger firms—private equity firms lack a medical mission. They buy up companies and do whatever possible to extract ever-higher profits from those acquisitions, particularly in cases of 'leveraged buyouts,' in which they saddle a firm with the debt from its own sale. In the case of ambulances, there was an obvious way to cash in: Jack up the prices and hold patients themselves responsible for whatever their insurer wouldn't pay. While Medicare and Medicaid obstructed this strategy by capping reimbursements for ambulance rides at around 60 to 70 percent of what private insurers paid, private equity firms happily billed other plans and uninsured people as much as they could. One patient I spoke to was bilked for $3,000 for a ride of less than a mile during a flare-up of Crohn's disease; another paid $2,400 to be transported seven miles after getting hit by a car. In both cases, the patients sarcastically admitted the very obvious premise that the for-profit ambulance industry is built upon: In the throes of serious health emergencies, they weren't exactly in a position to shop around for deals! And even if they had the ability to do a round of comparison shopping, who the hell would want to?"

Dean Baker has an "Exchange with Siva Vaidhyanathan" on the question, "Is Repealing Section 230 the Way to Fix Facebook?" This sounds more sensible than trusting Mark Zuckerberg and his algorithm to do it for us.

"Did the FBI Downplay the Far-Right Politics of Las Vegas Shooter Stephen Paddock? After Paddock killed 58 people in 2017, the FBI said he had no political motives. The evidence demands a second look. THREE YEARS AFTER the worst mass shooting in recent American history, the FBI has yet to identify a motive explaining what could have driven Stephen Paddock to open fire on a crowded music festival from a Las Vegas hotel window, killing 58 people and injuring many hundreds more. But the FBI, which has been notoriously slow to recognize right-wing threats in recent years, may have ignored a politically inconvenient explanation: Paddock, in our view, fit the profile of a far-right political extremist bent on sowing violence in society."

RIP: "Chad & Jeremy singer Chad Stuart dies aged 79: The folk-pop pair enjoyed success with songs like 'Yesterday's Gone', 'A Summer Song' and 'Willow Weep For Me'. As part of the British Invasion, they found greater success in the US than in their home country, where 'Yesterday's Gone' was their only top 40 single. A statement said the world had 'lost a legend' but his voice would 'continue to touch our lives through his music'. [...] He died from non-Covid related pneumonia after being admitted to hospital following a fall, the statement added."

RIP: "Gerry Marsden, Gerry and the Pacemakers Singer, Dead at 78: Merseybeat singer of hits like "You'll Never Walk Alone," "Ferry Cross the Mersey" and "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying" dies following short illness" I still love those songs, and also the touchingly sweet cover of Bobby Darin's "I'll Be There".

RIP: "Mountain's Leslie West. Dies At 75". And "Mississippi Queen" is still a hot track.

RIP: "Gilligan's Island actress Dawn Wells dies of Covid complications." Good-bye, Mary Ann. Mark only has one small Dawn Wells story, but good point about choosing between Mary Ann and Ginger.

Matt Taibbi presents "The Wokest News Stories of 2020: When editors in 2020 weren't being fired in bunches, they were taking aim at everything from Beethoven to mermaids to skyscrapers."

This is smashing, has some great lines, and also blew my mind a bit when it got to the part about the Shmoos. I vaguely remember them but I guess I wasn't paying much attention to Li'l Abner by then, Al Capp was so...Al Capp. But definitely give it a listen: "Who Counts As Working Class? | The Jacobin Show (12/23/20)"

Caitlin Johnstone at Consortium News, "What's At Stake in the Assange Decision [...] It is absolutely true that this case will have far-reaching implications for press freedoms around the world. The imperial narrative managers have been toiling for years to frame the persecution of Julian Assange as something other than what it is, but in reality this case is about whether the most powerful government in the world is allowed to extradite journalists anywhere on earth who expose its malfeasance. Whether or not the United States should be allowed to imprison journalists for exposing its war crimes."

"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom | Official Trailer | Netflix"
Salon story, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom: Chadwick Boseman's finale performance is stunning: Viola Davis transforms to assume her role, but so does Chadwick Boseman. Together they create something magnificent."

"Milky Way timelapse photobombed by the Aurora Borealis over Loch More in Scotland."

"Watch unseen Beatles footage from Get Back."

"[HD] Fantasia 2000 - Firebird Suite | Oceansize - Ornament/The Last Wrongs"

"Bill Bailey does a perfect impression of Billy Bragg as Billy Bragg looks on"

The live version of Rob Hansen's walking tour of British fanhistory is probably not going to happen again for a while, but thanks to some editing by Edie Stern (and participation by a number of other fans), you can now take the online version.

Buffalo Springfield - For What It's Worth & Mr. Soul - Medley, featuring one of the greatest televised segues of all time.

05:04 GMT comment


Sunday, 20 December 2020

I have no reason to be over-optimistic

Well, it seems Joe Biden hasn't changed a bit. Sit him down with concerned black activists and he shows off his racism, arrogance, and even his apparent belief that he can't exercise his Constitutionally-mandated executive powers because there's this thing called "the Constitution". I can't even believe how appalling this was to hear. (Brie Joy Gray and Katie Halper supply even more cringe-worthy episodes of Biden's arrogance, sexism and racism here. And Krystal Ball wasn't too pleased, either.) We couldn't help remembering this headline from The Onion. Those people were just trying to help him, but he made it clear he wasn't inclined to listen.

Understand, Biden was just full of it. Here's Dayen, "Joe Biden Is Unhappy About the Day One Agenda: But those are the breaks when you're president; people will want you to exercise your power for the general good. [...] Let's take these objections in turn. First, those who've called for executive action, and certainly those of us here at the Prospect, aren't calling on Biden to trample the Constitution. Absolutely nothing in the Day One Agenda would violate constitutional authority. In fact, the agenda adheres directly to the Constitution's Article II powers. A president's job function is, by and large, to take care that the laws are faithfully executed. Everything in our coverage refers to actual laws the president has the authority to implement."

It looks like Bernie Sanders, the House progressives, and Republican Josh Hawley, may have rescued us from the ineptitude of the Democratic leadership's covid negotiations, which looked like this: "Democrats stonewalled all year on a new pandemic relief package. Now they're proposing a new plan that undercuts even Republican proposals, and screws everyone but - get this - defense contractors. A senior Democratic congressional aide is irate tonight. 'The Democrats,' the aide seethed, 'have just done the worst negotiating in modern history.' At issue: a pair of new Covid-19 relief bills, just submitted by a bipartisan group of Senators. Republican Senator Susan Collins gushed that a'Christmas Miracle' allowed the two parties came together on the twin bills, which the press describes as totaling $748 billion and $160 billion, respectively. 'Bipartisanship and compromise is [sic] alive and well in Washington,' clucked West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin. It sure is. With the election over, the Democratic leadership in the space of a few weeks somehow negotiated against themselves, working with Republicans to push the total amount of a Covid-19 relief deal further and further downward, to the point where previous plans offered by the likes of Mitch McConnell and Steve Mnuchin now look like LBJ's Great Society." Jayapal, Hawley, Sanders et al. refused to shut up, and Sam Seder talked about that here.

"Effort To Take On Surprise Medical Billing In Coronavirus Stimulus Collapses: Rep. Richie Neal, who has previously blocked efforts to end surprise medical billing, was once again an obstacle to reform. [...] Slowing and weakening surprise billing reform has been a driving motivation of House Ways and Means Chair Richie Neal, D-Mass., during this past congressional term. The issue fell under the jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee, whose chair, Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, hammered out a tough reform bill on the bipartisan issue with his Republican counterparts. Neal, however, invented jurisdiction for the Ways and Means Committee — the panel has jurisdiction over taxation, and he linked the issue to government revenue in a roundabout way — and put forward his own proposal that was much more favorable to the private equity industry."

"Justin Amash Introduces Bill To End Civil Asset Forfeiture Nationwide: The practice is plainly unconstitutional: Rep. Justin Amash (L-Mich.) on Thursday introduced a bill to end civil asset forfeiture, which allows the government to take property from someone without ever charging them with a crime. Law enforcement on the local, state, and federal levels can seize assets if they were thought to be used in connection with illegal activity. That's often based solely on suspicion, though. Many people never receive their items back, even if they were acquitted or never charged in the first place. Since 2000, state and local governments have robbed people of more than $68 billion. Police often deposit those sums into slush funds for their departments. What's more, the property seized doesn't necessarily have to have been used by the alleged criminal in question. Such was the case with Kevin McBride, who had his Jeep taken by police in Tucson, Arizona, after his girlfriend allegedly used it to sell $25 worth of weed to an undercover cop." There are even more egregious cases. (Not mentioned in this article is the case where the DEA ginned up a possible sighting of a marijuana plant on a large property and murdered the owner in a raid intended to seize the property for themselves. Of course, when the smoke cleared, no one found any cannabis.) I have always been stunned by the fact that this practice was allowed to occur at all, let alone continue under leadership from both parties.

Maybe not everything is bad. "Biden HHS Pick Backed Medicare for All, Pressed Obama For Tough Action Against Pharma: After The Daily Poster's report, one HHS pick backed out and Biden has now picked Xavier Becerra, who touted Medicare for All and demanded Obama use 'march-in rights' to lower the price of medicine. [...] The New York Times reported on Sunday that Biden is nominating former Congressman and current California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to run HHS. The announcement follows Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo abruptly dropping out of consideration for the job, following The Daily Poster's report on her agreeing to health care lobbyists' demands that she provide legal immunity to nursing home corporations during the COVID-19 pandemic."

"Critics Smell 'Economic Sabotage' as McConnell Unveils Covid Plan With $0 for Unemployment Boost, Direct Payments: 'McConnell is making it pretty clear that if Dems don't win the Georgia Senate races, he will cripple the American economy, hoping it will let the GOP win the midterm.' Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday began circulating a coronavirus relief proposal whose contents offer so little assistance to the tens of millions of jobless, hungry, and eviction-prone Americans that critics warned the Kentucky Republican is actively working to ensure the U.S. economy remains mired in deep recession as Biden administration takes charge next month."

"Why Is Marcia Fudge Being Nominated to HUD, if Not Tokenism? The guarantee of safe and affordable housing is too important for HUD to continue being treated as the short straw. [...] Despite HUD's great potential in addressing America's cycle of housing crises, recent administrations have failed to dignify it with leadership experienced enough to hit the ground running. The resumes of the Cabinet picks speak volumes. When they are thin on housing experience, one can often presume a grooming for 'higher' office. Andrew Cuomo, HUD secretary under Bill Clinton, for the eventual job of governing New York. His successor Mel Martinez, under George W. Bush, for one of Florida's Senate seats. Julián Castro, it was rumored, for vice president to former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. For the young and ambitious man, HUD can be a low-stakes stepping stool. Other resumes tell the story of a White House indebted to its pick, though not so much as to hand them the job they really covet. The latter might explain how Dr. Ben Carson, an accomplished medical surgeon with no background in housing finance, found himself at the helm of HUD under Donald Trump. Two years into the job, Carson was still confusing REOs — short for real estate owned properties — with the chocolate sandwich cookie in a very public congressional hearing. A predictable outcome when an agency's mission is an afterthought of the administration. In line with this tradition, the Biden-Harris camp announced on December 8 that it was tapping Rep. Marcia Fudge for secretary of HUD." Fudge would have been a great pick for Agriculture, where she has real experience. But Biden gave it to Vilsack, who really shouldn't be there.

"Nina Turner Files to Run for Congress in Ohio: The former Ohio state senator and Bernie Sanders 2020 national campaign co-chair filed the requisite FEC paperwork on Wednesday. Nina Turner, the former Cleveland city councilwoman, Ohio state senator, and national co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign, on Wednesday afternoon filed a statement of organization with the Federal Election Commission, signaling she will be running to represent Ohio's 11th Congressional District. The filing followed speculation regarding Turner's intentions after President-elect Joe Biden tapped Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), who represents that district, as his nominee for Housing and Urban Development secretary. Progressive leaders and activists hailed the news of Turner's candidacy. Akron City Councilwoman Tara Samples told Common Dreams that 'Nina was built for this.' 'It's the right moment and the right time,' said Samples, a close friend of Turner and former candidate for Ohio lieutenant governor. 'She brings experience, credibility, and is well-versed on the issues. She will fight for the people... She's been a councilwoman and a state senator. She understands government on all levels.'"

"Vilsack at Agriculture: 'Mr. Mon­san­to'?: Numerous media outlets are reporting that Tom Vilsack will be Joe Biden's nominee for agriculture secretary. [...] Jones said: 'Vilsack has made a career of catering to the whims of corporate agriculture giants — some of whom he has gone to work for — while failing to fight for struggling family farmers at every turn. America needs an agriculture secretary that will finally prioritize sustainable family farming and national food security over corporate profits. Tom Vilsack has proven he will not be the agriculture leader we need.' Background: Earlier this year, Branko Marcetic wrote in In These Times that while 'Vil­sack resist­ed Republican attacks on food stamps and upped federal sup­port for organ­ic food—he angered pro­gres­sive groups by letting poultry factories self-regulate, speeding up the approval process for GMO crops, shelving new regulations on big agriculture at the industry's behest, and stepping in to craft an industry-friendly national GMO-labelling bill intended to replace a pioneering stricter standard in Vermont. The move helped earn him the derisive moniker 'Mr. Mon­san­to'... 'Days after stepping down as agriculture secretary [in the Obama administration], Vil­sack spun through the revolving door to the U.S. Dairy Export Council, where he now earns nearly $1 million as the top executive at its parent organization, Dairy Management Inc. The powerful Council boasts a who's who of big agriculture and even pharmaceuticals as members, and last year, Vil­sack urged Democratic candidates not to criticize or tar­get agricultural monopolies, citing the potential of job losses. Vil­sack was also a major booster of the controversial Trans-Pacif­ic Partnership trade deal.'"

Pareene, "Neal Katyal and the Depravity of Big Law: The Democratic lawyer's sickening defense of corporate immunity in a Supreme Court case reveals a growing moral rot in the legal community. The United States has a political class that mistakes its professional norms for ethics. Mainstream political journalists mindlessly grant anonymity to professional liars. Elected officials put collegiality and institutional procedure over the needs and interests of their constituents. And as for lawyers, they have refined this tendency into what amounts to a religion of self-justification. [...] It is that mutated creed that explains why Neal Katyal went to the Supreme Court last Tuesday to argue that children enslaved to work on cocoa plantations should not be allowed to sue the corporations that abetted their enslavement."

"Warner Bros to release all movies in 2021 on HBO Max at same time as theaters: The films will begin streaming on the same day as they are released in US cinemas and will remain on subscription service HBO Max for one month before being removed for a period of time." This is Warner's telling you they don't expect "normal" to be back any time soon.

"Judge Orders Government to Fully Reinstate DACA Program: Up to 300,000 additional undocumented immigrants could be allowed to apply for protection from deportation under a new court ruling. President Trump had sought to cancel the program. [...] Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn directed the administration on Friday to allow newly eligible immigrants to file new applications for protection under the program, reversing a memorandum issued in the summer by Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, which restricted the program to people who were already enrolled. As many as 300,000 new applicants could now be eligible, according to the lawyers who pushed for the reinstatement."

Could Biden really think that "the left" is happy with appointing Neera Tanden, because she's "progressive"? She's got a long history of pushing right-wing policies, being an attack dog against the left, a horrible, union-busting manager who actually outed workplace abuse victims to the entire staff, punching someone she disagreed with, and being the most toxic person on the internet. Here's just a taste from Nomiki.

"New report: A record breaking number of journalists arrested in the U.S. this year: Today, Freedom of the Press Foundation is releasing a report on the unprecedented number of journalists arrested in the United States this year. Based on the comprehensive data compiled by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a project of Freedom of the Press Foundation and Committee to Protect Journalists, our new report shows that there have been at least 117 verified cases of a journalist being arrested or detained on the job in the United States in 2020. The Tracker is also still investigating more than a dozen additional reports of arrests or detentions. The numbers are staggering. Arrests of journalists skyrocketed by more than 1200% in comparison to 2019. In just one week, from May 29 - June 4, more reporters were arrested in the U.S. than in the previous three years combined. Arrests occurred in more than two dozen cities across the country. And more than 36% of the arrests were accompanied by an assault: journalists were beaten, hit with rubber bullets or other projectiles or covered in chemical agents, like tear gas or pepper spray."

From FAIR, "At NYT, Now You See Corporate Influence, Now You Don't: As President-elect Joe Biden begins to assemble his team of cabinet members and close advisers, progressives and others who care about corporate influence in politics are sounding alarms. But the way top establishment media outlets like the New York Times cover the revolving door between government and corporate positions means that those alarms get siloed into 'corporate influence' stories that rarely inform broader political coverage. At the New York Times, two reporters regularly cover issues of money in politics. Reporter Kenneth P. Vogel has worked the 'confluence of money, politics and influence' beat since 2017, and investigative reporter Eric Lipton won a Pulitzer in 2015 for his work at the Times on lobbying and corporate influence. Lipton and Vogel have filed two lengthy reports in recent weeks detailing the conflicts of interest plaguing many of Biden's picks. [...] It's commendable that the Times has two reporters tasked with shedding light on corporate influence in US politics. The problem is that the paper's leadership seems to view this as a way to wash their hands of any obligation to consider such information in any of the other articles the paper churns out regarding the presidential transition and the team Biden is assembling. It's a neat trick: The Times can point to its Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting on corporate influence as evidence of its own independence, yet leave all but the most avid readers largely oblivious to the deep and troubling entanglements of so many government officials."

From Blue Tent, "David Sirota Wants to End the Scourge of 'Brunch Liberalism'" — This is actually a profile of Sirota and The Daily Poster, but has some interesting background on How Podesta and Tanden ran CAP.

Marshall Steinbaum's paper on "The Student Debt Crisis is a Crisis of Non-Repayment: This brief analyzes the increased prevalence of the non-repayment of student debt, primarily due to the increased takeup of the various Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) programs since the middle of the 2000s. It shows deteriorating repayment over time and across borrower cohorts, as well as suggestive evidence of a significant and growing repayment gap between minority and white borrowers. The implication of rising nonrepayment is that the cancellation of a large (and increasing) share of outstanding student debt is inevitable."

RIP: "Ben Bova (1932-2020): Author and Hugo-winning editor Ben Bova died November 29 at the age of 88. Family member Kathryn Brusco announced the cause of death was COVID-19 related pneumonia and a stroke. Tor.com's Andrew Liptak also confirmed the death with a second source ('Legendary Science Fiction Author Ben Bova Has Passed at the Age of 88'.) Bova's first professional sf sale was a Winston juvenile, The Star Conquerors (1959), and his first published short fiction was bought by Cele Goldsmith at Amazing — 'A Long Way Back' (1961). During the Sixties he had nearly two dozen more novels and stories published. He made several sales to Analog before meeting editor John W. Campbell, Jr. face-to-face at a Worldcon in Washington, D.C. After shaking his hand, Campbell provocatively said: 'This is 1963. No democracy has ever lasted longer than 50 years, so this is obviously the last year of America's democracy.' " We weren't friends but we did occasionally try to bait each other and traded quips. Another thread pulled....

RIP: "David Lander, the actor who played Squiggy on Laverne & Shirley, has died at age 73: Lander died on Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after fighting multiple sclerosis for decades, his family said in a statement to CNN. 'David's family hopes his fans will remember him for all the laughter he brought into the world.' the statement read." Michael McKean posted a nice picture of them together on Twitter.

RIP:Chuck Yeager, 97: "American pilot who was the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound It was not until 10 June 1948 that the US finally announced its success, but Yeager was already soaring towards myth. The legend grew, culminating with secular canonisation in Tom Wolfe's book The Right Stuff (1979), a romance on the birth of the US space programme, on Yeager himself, and even on Pancho's (and its foul-mouthed female proprietor, Florence 'Pancho' Barnes). A movie of the same name followed in 1983, with Sam Shepard as Yeager."

RIP: "Bruce Boynton, who inspired 1961 Freedom Rides, dies at 83 [...] Boynton was arrested 60 years ago for entering the white part of a racially segregated bus station in Virginia and launching a chain reaction that ultimately helped to bring about the abolition of Jim Crow laws in the South. Boynton contested his conviction, and his appeal resulted in a U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibited bus station segregation and helped inspire the 'Freedom Rides.'" The NAACP sent him a good lawyer called Thurgood Marshall. But that's just part of a longer story.

RIP: Phyllis Eisenstein (1946-2020): Nebula and Hugo nominated author Phyllis Eisenstein died December 7 at the age of 74 after a year-long struggle with serious neurological problems." She was a fine writer and a good person to know. I've known Phyllis and Alex for pretty much my entire adult life and of course missed running into them at conventions. I don't like knowing I will never see or hear from her again.

"Life Inside a Pre-Release Center: Like Prison, But More Work: '[Passages] is just like jail, except they expect you to live like a regular person while you're in jail, which is pretty much impossible to do.' [...] Pre-release is supposed to be an off-ramp from prison to straight society. Participants must find jobs, pay off their debts to the program, and hopefully start saving enough money to get their own apartments."

"Ronald Reagan Paved the Way for Donald Trump: A new Showtime docuseries reminds us of just how awful Ronald Reagan was and how his brand of demagogic racism became a model for Trump. [...] Memories, how they linger — from calling in the National Guard on peaceful student protesters in Berkeley as governor to breaking the Air Traffic Controllers' strike as president, to forcing disastrous tax cuts, massive military escalation, corporate deregulation, and 'trickle-down economics' upon us. There's even the story about how Reagan got the idea for the delusional and costly 'Star Wars' missile defense system from a ray gun he carried in one of his old B movies — it's all here! But some of the details that you probably forgot — or maybe never knew — will make you groan aloud in pain that this man was unleashed upon the country at such a pivotal moment. And that his legacy, sadly, is seen everywhere today."

"Student Loan Horror Stories: Borrowed: $79,000. Paid: $190,000. Now Owes? $236,000: At 59, Chris pleaded for a renegotiation. "My life expectancy is 15 more years. At this rate, you're not going to get very much...' Their response was, 'So?' [...] Politicians when they talk about student debt usually talk in terms of amounts owed, but the dirty secret is the American system is about streams, not sums. The tension in this game is between borrowers trying to chop their debt into finite, conquerable amounts, and lenders who are incentivized to make the balance irrelevant, turning people into vehicles for delivering the highest possible monthly bill, without the real possibility of repayment."

Alex Sammon interviews State Sen. Erica Smithon "What Went Wrong in North Carolina: If there was one Senate race that Democrats absolutely had to win, it was in North Carolina. Thom Tillis, the incumbent Republican, a Tea Partier and Trump diehard, sported a negative approval rating in his home state, per a July poll from High Point University, and was considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the nation. Outside of sure-thing victories in Colorado and Arizona, this was the highest-priority true flip in the country. It was well within reach; Democrats just had to be sure they didn't screw it up. That was the justification for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and Chuck Schumer intervening swiftly and decisively in the Democratic primary, plucking out of thin air an inoffensive moderate in Cal Cunningham who hadn't held public office since 2003. Schumer bestowed upon him significant financial and institutional support, and he used it to crush his primary opponent Erica Smith, a Black woman and rising star in the state Democratic Party, before the race really began. Smith, despite leading Cunningham in the polls at the time of endorsement, was not worth the risk of letting the voters decide. Cunningham boasted polling advantages over Tillis of better than ten points throughout the summer; he raised a mind-boggling $47 million, more than twice Tillis. But Cunningham stumbled to a disastrous defeat, a failure of his particular candidacy, and one that also featured elements of the party's struggles nationwide. Cunningham ran on his own character, then got popped for prodigious low-grade sexting. Tillis, who isn't even liked in the state (certainly not like Susan Collins is in Maine), put up a bigger margin of victory than Trump, blowing out Cunningham in rural districts and faring shockingly well with minority groups. 'North Carolina ranks number two in the nation in rural geography. In the last three election cycles in the state, Democrats have lost rural and first American [Native American] voters,' says Smith, who represents the state's rural Third District. 'The DSCC pattern of interfering in primaries and often elevating moderates at the expense of progressive people of color is disappointing and ultimately hurt us in multiple races across the nation in the 2020 cycle.'

"How to Counteract the Court: Congress has the power to override Supreme Court rulings based on statutory interpretations. [...] What makes Ledbetter so unusual is that Democrats have not similarly fought equally absurd yet consequential rulings from the Court, instead throwing their hands up in despair at the unfairness of a particular decision and then moving on. But a joint review by The Intercept and The American Prospect of dozens of Court cases finds dozens of statutory rulings similar to Ledbetter's that Congress could overturn simply by tweaking the statute to remove whatever ambiguity the Court claimed to find in its text. Even where the Court has ruled on constitutional grounds, there is often much room left to legislate the boundaries, just as conservatives have done in relation to Roe v. Wade (1973) and abortion restrictions. From salvaging the Voting Rights Act gutted by Shelby County v. Holder (2013) to protecting workers' free-speech rights on the job to safeguarding reproductive rights, the list of cases awaiting a creative Congress runs long."

"NYT Wants to Talk About Higher Wages, but Doesn't Want to Talk About the Real Reasons Wages are Low [...] In fact, a rising profit share only explains about 10 percent of the gap between productivity growth and the median wage since 1979. The overwhelming majority of the gap is explained by rising high end wages — the money earned by CEOs and other top execs, high pay in the financial sector, the earnings of some workers in STEM areas, and high-end professionals, like doctors and dentists. For some reason, the NYT never wants to talk about the laws and structures that allow for the explosion of pay at the top. This would include factors like our corrupt corporate governance structure, that essentially lets CEOs determine their own pay, a bloated financial sector that uses its political power to steer ever more money in its direction, longer and stronger patent and copyright monopolies, and protectionist barriers that largely shield our most highly paid professionals from both foreign and domestic competition. (Yes, this is all covered in Rigged [it's free].) Readers can speculate on why these topics are almost entirely forbidden at the NYT, but if we want to be serious about addressing low wages, we have to look where the money is, and most of it is not with corporate profits. And, just to remind people why this matters, the minimum wage would be $24 an hour today if it had kept pace with productivity growth since 1968."

"Billionaire Wilderness: The Ultra-Wealthy and the Remaking of the American West: Justin Farrell spent five years in Teton County, Wyoming, the richest county in the United States, and a community where income inequality is the worst in the nation. He conducted hundreds of in-depth interviews, gaining unprecedented access to tech CEOs, Wall Street financiers, oil magnates, and other prominent figures in business and politics. He also talked with the rural poor who live among the ultra-wealthy and often work for them. The result is a penetrating account of the far-reaching consequences of the massive accrual of wealth, and an eye-opening and sometimes troubling portrait of a changing American West where romanticizing rural poverty and conserving nature can be lucrative—socially as well as financially."

"Dec. 4, 1969: Black Panther Party Members Assassinated: On Dec. 4, 1969, Black Panther Party members Fred Hampton, 21 and Mark Clark, 22, were shot to death by 14 police officers as they lay sleeping in their Chicago apartment. While authorities claimed the Panthers had opened fire on the police who were there to serve a search warrant, evidence later emerged that the FBI (as part of COINTELPRO), the Cook County state's attorney's office, and the Chicago police conspired to assassinate Fred Hampton."

"What We Don't Learn About the Black Panther Party — but Should [...] Helping North Richmond's Black community demand justice for the killing of Denzil Dowell was one of the first major organizing campaigns of the Black Panther Party. The first issue of The Black Panther newspaper, which at its height around 1970 had a circulation of 140,000 copies per week, asked 'Why Was Denzil Dowell Killed?' Anyone reading the story of Dowell today can't help but draw parallels to the unarmed Black men and women regularly murdered by police. The disparity between the police's story and the Dowell family's, the police harassment Dowell endured before his murder, the jury letting Dowell's killer off without punishment, even the reports that Dowell had his hands raised while he was gunned down, eerily echo the police killings today that have led to the explosion of the movement for Black lives. Yet when we learn about the early years of the Panthers, the organizing they did in Richmond — conducting their own investigation into Dowell's death, confronting police who harassed Dowell's family, helping mothers in the community organize against abuse at the local school, organizing armed street rallies in which hundreds filled out applications to join the party — is almost always absent."

When fascism returned to Britain: "A Rage In Dalston" — the War After the War. "Audio documentary about 1940s London-based anti-fascist organisation The 43 Group. Originally broadcast in 2008."

I found this review of Charlie Ellis' short, Single Gun Theory. I'm pretty sure I once was able to find it on YouTube but there are so many things there now with that title that I can't find the movie anymore. Let me know if you find the link.

Did you ever hear Obama read Trump's inaugural address? It sounds just like any other Obama speech.

I wish I could find it on YouTube, but my favorite episode of Night Gallery is a seasonal favorite, and I believe the first place I ever saw Yaphet Kotto, "The Messiah on Mott Street".

Glenn Miller Band, "Chattanooga Choo Choo" - "Sun Valley Serenade"

The Who, from Tommy, "1921"

03:21 GMT comment


Sunday, 29 November 2020

One seems to hear words of good cheer

Yes, it's Advent again, and time for "Carol of the Bells" to get us in the mood.

A funny thing happened when two Republicans on the Wayne County, MI board of canvassers refused to certify the election results. A couple of hours later, they changed their minds.

The American Prospect is keeping a Cabinet Watch of "Scoops and analysis on each of Biden's administration picks." And anyone who cares what happens to our country is terrified it's going to be Obama 2.0, but without the smooth comic styling.

"Krystal and Saagar: Biden's Floated Cabinet Is RETURN Of The Clinton-Obama Swamp"

This is a nightmare: "Rahm Emanuel under consideration to become Biden's transportation secretary: Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is under consideration to lead the department of transportation, people familiar with the matter say, a move that would enrage progressive activists if the former Illinois congressman and White House chief of staff in the Obama administration was ultimately nominated to join the President-elect Joe Biden's Cabinet. Emanuel has expressed his interest in the post, telling allies that the nation's infrastructure challenges are so dire that a person with experience from the executive and legislative branch would be an asset."

"Philadelphia Apologizes For MOVE Bombing From 35 Years Ago: Thirty-five years ago, a police helicopter dropped a bomb on a Philadelphia rowhouse in a mostly Black neighborhood. Eleven people were killed. Five of them were children. The bomb lit an inferno that burned down more than 60 other houses, leaving hundreds of people homeless. This is now referred to as the MOVE bombing - MOVE for the Black liberation group by the same name that was targeted. Well, last Thursday the Philadelphia City Council passed a resolution that finally issues a formal apology. Philadelphia City Council member Jamie Gauthier, who represents the 3rd District, where the bombing occurred, helped draft the resolution and joins us now."

"How One of the Reddest States Became the Nation's Hottest Weed Market: Oklahoma entered the world of legal cannabis late, but its hands-off approach launched a boom and a new nickname: 'Toke-lahoma.' [...] What is happening in Oklahoma is almost unprecedented among the 35 states that have legalized marijuana in some form since California voters backed medical marijuana in 1996. Not only has the growth of its market outstripped other more established state programs but it is happening in a state that has long stood out for its opposition to drug use. Oklahoma imprisons more people on a per-capita basis than just about any other state in the country, many of them non-violent drug offenders sentenced to lengthy terms behind bars. But that state-sanctioned punitive streak has been overwhelmed by two other strands of American culture—a live-and-let-live attitude about drug use and an equally powerful preference for laissez-faire capitalism. 'Turns out rednecks love to smoke weed,' Baker laughs. 'That's the thing about cannabis: It really bridges socio-economic gaps. The only other thing that does it is handguns. All types of people are into firearms. All types of people are into cannabis.'"

"Disdain and Disbelief After Biden Claims 'Significant' Progressive Presence in Administration: Leftist politicians, pundits, and people also reacted with indignation after a Daily Beast article claimed progressives are satisfied with Biden's selections so far."

"Don't Get In The Van! Progressives Need An Alternative-- Pronto! I get a lot of crap spam every morning. This morning, I went into my spam folder and found an especially repulsive one. The subject line was "Hanging on for Life" and the header was "Jon Ossoff is pleading with Howie." It was sent by an outfit called the National Democratic Training Committee which was founded in 2016 by Democratic Party operative Kelly Dietrich, in coordination with NGP Van and failed DCCC chair Cheri Bustos. Let me come back to that in a moment. Since it was all about fundraising, I want to remind you that all the losing Schumer-backed candidates for the Senate out-raised their opponents, quite massively, this cycle. Basically, the money didn't do them any good. [...] For years I've been hearing a barrage of complaints about the parent organization, NGP Van. They are a monopoly. (The DNC, DSCC, DCCC and the state parties are constantly trying the blackball Target Smart, the closest thing there is to competition.) They are arbitrary about who gets their data-- usually state party chairs (or Democratic governors) decide. They are extremely hostile to progressives primarying incumbents. [...] Their data is uber-over-priced, way more expensive than the GOP charges its candidates. The data is stale to the point of uselessness. The Van itself is inflexible, especially when it comes to non-federal races,w here they don't even try. It gets worse. In a race between Blue America-endorsed progressive Democrat, John Laesch and Republican Richard Irvin for the hotly contested Aurora Mayoral race in Illinois' second-largest city, the Illinois Dems are openly supporting the Republican."

Whether the Democrats can take the Senate depends on convincing people to vote for someone who really shouldn't have even given this interview: "What Are We Supposed To Do For This Guy? Jon Ossoff's Uninspiring Campaign."

Meanwhile... Turns out the Republicans didn't much attack down-ticket "centrist" Dems with "Defund the Police" or charges of socialism, but for their association with Nancy Pelosi, and for corruption of which they were guilty. So, they weren't "too far left".

Bernie Sanders in the Guardian, "How do we avoid future authoritarians? Winning back the working class is key [...] But one thing is clear. If the Democratic party wants to avoid losing millions of votes in the future it must stand tall and deliver for the working families of our country who, today, are facing more economic desperation than at any time since the Great Depression. Democrats must show, in word and deed, how fraudulent the Republican party is when it claims to be the party of working families."

They say they're just censoring "fake news", Alex Jones, and QAnon, but that's not really who they are suppressing. The censorship is aimed at the left. "Meet the Censored: Andre Damon: Increased content moderation has been sold as a tool to control the far right, but the World Socialist Web Site was among the first to sound the alarm. [...] Many Americans didn't pay attention to new forms of content moderation until May, 2019, when a group of prominent tech platforms banned figures like Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopolis. A legend quickly spread that such campaigns exclusively target the right. Long before then, however, the WSWS had been trying to sound the alarm about the impact of corporate speech moderation on dissenting voices on the progressive left. As far back as August of 2017, the WSWS sent an open letter to Google, demanding that it stop the 'political blacklisting' of their site, as well as others. Like many alternative news sites, WSWS noticed a steep decline in traffic in 2016-2017, after Donald Trump was elected and we began to hear calls for more regulation of 'fake news.' Determined to search out the reason, the site conducted a series of analyses that proved crucial in helping convince outlets like the New York Times to cover the issue. [...] At repeated hearings in Washington, figures like Mark Warner and Adam Schiff would demand over and over again that Google, Facebook, and Twitter censor left-wing content. It was all a clear and flagrant violation of the First Amendment, which says that Congress does not have the power to limit the freedom of expression. But here was Congress instigating private companies to do exactly that, and threatening to regulate or fine them if they did not comply."

Mark Steel, "Want a multimillion PPE payout from the government? Apparently, all you have to do is befriend a Tory MP: This year, more than any other, it's been vital to look after our friends and families. That's why it's so touching that the government has done exactly that, by awarding hundreds of millions of pounds' worth of contracts to their friends and families through the pandemic."

Ryan Cooper, with a meaty reaction to Obamaa's latest book in The Week, details the disaster that Obama, Rahm Emanuel, and Larry Summers brought us in "Obama the pretender [...] What went wrong? Obama attempts to grapple with the massive failures of his presidency in A Promised Land, his new memoir describing his rise to power and early presidency, but ultimately the book is slippery and unconvincing. America is circling the political toilet in part because Obama had the chance to fix many longstanding problems and did not rise to the occasion, a fact the former president is still stubbornly unwilling or unable to see. [...] It seemingly never occurred to Obama that responsibly addressing the crisis would have required doing politics instead of acting magnanimous towards a conservative Wall Street banker. Nor did Obama consider the idea that he could have used his leverage to make the bailout better, because Democrats would be making up most of the votes. Reed Hundt, a former Obama fundraiser, got administration economist Austan Goolsbee on the record in his book A Crisis Wasted admitting they could have gotten more concessions. "We could have forced more mortgage relief. We could have imposed tighter conditions on dividends and executive compensation," Goolsbee said. They just thought it would be irresponsible to use that leverage to extract concessions. In reality, it was irresponsible not to use this one chance to cut the banks' profitability and therefore power down to size, so the banking system could be fixed instead of just patched. It is hard to know what to make of all this. Definitely Obama is being dishonest either with the reader or himself in some cases. His record on foreclosures is so horrible that it cannot possibly be defended on the merits. It was morally abominable and politically idiotic. [...] All this blows apart Obama's pat self-justification as being too respectful of norms and traditions to take serious action. He considers and rejects some of the more radical options above, arguing that things like "nationalization of the banks, or stretching the definitions of criminal statutes to prosecute banking executives ... would have required a violence to the social order, a wrenching of political and economic norms, that almost certainly would have made things worse." In truth, letting 10 million people get thrown out of their homes to save a bunch of rich bankers from their own misdeeds did stupendous violence to the social order. Letting bankers get away with an assembly line production of document fraud was a severe wrenching of political and economic norms. It wouldn't have been a "stretch" of statutes to prosecute the thousands of Wall Street crimes — on the contrary, letting banks off with wrist-slap fines blew a ragged hole in the rule of law. It does not preserve our sainted norms and institutions to move heaven and earth to save job-killing financial parasites and then leave John Q. Homeowner twisting in the wind. The false assertion that doing so would have made things worse is straight out of The Rhetoric of Reaction. [...] Obama had a golden opportunity to knit the country back together after a disastrous Republican presidency and a brief moment of Wall Street helplessness. He didn't do so because he couldn't stomach the radical action necessary to heal the nation's wounds and repair the social contract, and instead invented a lot of excuses why he had to sit on his hands and do nothing. The name for such a person is a coward."

Even when he goes long-form, Atrios doesn't go on long, but he's definitely must-read. I'd like to quote nearly every sentence of this one for individual consideration. "I've Got The Feeling That Something Ain't Right: The Trump years have taught me that a lot of powerful people (in various power tracks) don't much believe in the fundamental importance of the consent of the governed. Democracy, I guess you could say. Sure we point at the authoritarian right, but many in the self-appointed Center see pesky voters as an impediment to what they imagine is good governance. They gaze at the militarized racism of the right and a mild redistributionist "social justice warrior" left and declare them to be just the same. Both just different flavors of "populism," you see, which we know is very bad indeed. The core belief of this authoritarian centrism is concern for minority rights. Not the rights of marginalized minorities, but of the elite and powerful. The establishment of a false meritocracy is how they justify it, with legacy admissions to the most elite institutions and widespread basic nepotism the most obvious manifestations of this basic lie. [...] The authoritarian center finds much more common ground with the MAGAs. The joke is they hate socialists more than they hate fascists, but really it's more that they are friendly fascists who tolerate the racists, who ultimately don't threaten them as long as they pipe down a bit, and despise the socialists who do." Really, read the rest.

"Is the Gates Foundation Supporting Child Labor in Africa??" Pretty creepy to see a "sponsored" op-ed in the Guardian in support of the commercial exploitation of children based on the idea that kids learn life skills doing their home chores.

Margaret Sullivan reads Obama's book and remarks on "What Obama gets right — and very wrong — about the media: Everybody's a media critic these days — and Barack Obama is an astute one. But for those who remember certain aspects of his presidency, he's got a bit of a credibility problem. [...] But before we herald the former president as some sort of media visionary, let's cast our minds back to his own administration's record with the press. Here's how I'd sum it up: not great." I was hoping she'd get into it from the other side — not just his lack of serious interviews (he talked to a lot of talk show comics) or even his vicious betrayal of his promise of transparency, but his complete lack of any real push-back on issues. Because he couldn't. Because he had nothing to say. But he was even inept at priming the press in ways that would defend his own policy "triumph", letting the Patient Protectin and Affordable Care Act be called "the Affordable Care Act" and "the ACA" when it wasn't affordable but it did have patient protections, which they should have been emphasizing.

"OPCW cover-ups, Russiagate and US Elections: Polly Talks to Aaron Maté" — I'm pleased to know that Maté won an Izzy Award recently.

RIP: "Diego Maradona: Argentina legend dies aged 60," of a heart attack. Even I, a person who completely ignores all football games, did not confuse him with the singer/actor whose name shares a number of letters with his.

Black Agenda Report, "Biden, the Emcee at the Billionaires' Ball [...] What ordinary people experience as disaster is manna from heaven for the Lords of Capital. 'Disaster capitalism' is only disastrous for those without capital. Every catastrophe consolidates the power of the billionaires, who use these periods to devour the less-rich and reshape the political economy to their further advantage, deepening their dominance of society so that the Joe Bidens of the world jump higher and come quicker when summoned."

"Unlearning the Lessons of Hillbilly Elegy: America's beleaguered poor and working class have a host of problems, but the culture of irresponsibility that J.D. Vance says they're prey to isn't one of them. [...] The problem with those judgments is that you have to erase a lot of history and a lot of experience with policy outcomes to get there. Working-class families and communities are indeed in trouble, but a lot of factors contributed to it. The culprit was not bad choices. It was not lack of personal responsibility or a government that was clueless about how to get to a better economy and society. We are not powerless to address these ills."

"Chris Hedges: The Ruling Elite's War on Truth: American political leaders display a widening disconnect from reality intended to mask their complicity in the seizure of power by global corporations and billionaires. Joe Biden's victory instantly obliterated the Democratic Party's longstanding charge that Russia was hijacking and compromising US elections. The Biden victory, the Democratic Party leaders and their courtiers in the media now insist, is evidence that the democratic process is strong and untainted, that the system works. The elections ratified the will of the people. But imagine if Donald Trump had been reelected. Would the Democrats and pundits at The New York Times, CNN and MSNBC pay homage to a fair electoral process? Or, having spent four years trying to impugn the integrity of the 2016 presidential race, would they once again haul out the blunt instrument of Russian interference to paint Trump as Vladimir Putin's Manchurian candidate?"

"In Case You Missed It, Reagan Was A Scumbag: America's 40th president was a lot of things: a right-wing talk radio host, a Hollywood actor, a Red Scare monger, a charismatic liar. A great leader wasn't one of them but for some reason Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War seems keen to revive that long-standing conservative fantasy. I can only guess how many hours and how many indie game budgets went into meticulously detailing every weathered crack, mole, and discoloration in Ronald Reagan's 70-year-old face so he could tell a room of CIA spooks in a voice of unwavering, fatherly assurance, to go do crimes in foreign countries." He has a nice recap, but left out of the story are the largest single tax hike on the working classes in history, kicking the struts out from under regulations put in place to prevent another depression, destroying the civics curriculum and making war on free universities, among other things.

"The Case For Tammany Hall Being On The Right Side Of History: Historian Terry Golway has written a colorful history of Tammany Hall, which takes a more sympathetic view of the organization than many historians. He says the Tammany machine, while often corrupt, gave impoverished immigrants critically needed social services and a road to assimilation. According to Golway, Tammany was responsible for progressive state legislation that foreshadowed the New Deal. He writes that some of Tammany's harshest critics, including cartoonist Thomas Nast, openly exhibited a raw anti-Irish and anti-Catholic prejudice."

Dinosaur Comics and tales of Robyn.

John Carlson dollhouse and furnishings, 1912

Steam car

The story of Kris Kristofferson, Janis Joplin, and "Me and Bobby McGee"

Watch the Kinks' new video for "Lola".

"Led Zeppelin: Knebworth August 11th 1979 [Fully Filmed Concert]"

23:14 GMT comment


Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Bring it on home

The Electoral Vote map

And David Dayen talked to Sam Seder about what Biden could do right from the start of his presidency — if he wanted to.

"Why Was Corbyn Suspended From The Labour Party? w/ Daniel Finn" It's amazing how much misinformation there has been about the suspension and the report. The latter pretty much vindicated Jeremy Corbyn and proved that the people who pretended to care about antisemitism did not. The narrative about Corbyn hurt the Labour and made worries about antisemitism sound like some dangerous Chicken Little gaming.

"A Blow for Labor Rights in California: Gig workers were barely scraping by even before companies like Uber spent $200 million on the successful campaign to pass Proposition 22. Now, two paths lie ahead: one paved by corporate cash, and the other blazed by the workers behind the wheel. [...] After Prop 22 won with 58 percent of the vote, Moore said, 'we will absolutely fight it. We will fight it in the courts. We will fight it with new laws. We will fight it the way drivers have been most successful, which is with shoe leather and picket signs. We will continue to have a ground fight.'"

"Bernie Sanders takes aim at 'corporate Democrats' blaming progressives for House losses [...] As Sanders notes, every one of the 112 co-sponsors of Medicare-for-all won their elections, and only one of the 98 co-sponsors of the Green New Deal lost their election. In contrast, the vast majority those who lost their seats did not support those progressive policies. "It turns out that supporting universal health care during a pandemic and enacting major investments in renewable energy as we face the existential threat to our planet from climate change is not just good public policy," Sanders remarked. "It also is good politics." Other progressive policies likewise won big in individual states, namely Florida's vote to increase the minimum wage and measures to legalize marijuana across several states. Sanders' rebuttal comes after House Democrats were projected to lose at least six seats from the House and so far failed to flip the Senate fully in their favor. Some moderate Democrats who narrowly retained their seats blamed "socialism" for the losses; Progressives in turn said the Democratic party needs to organize better to regain a stronger majority."

And here's Bernie's op-ed, in which he also lists some of the progressive referenda that passed, even in states that went for Trump.

But I really wish people would say it plain: The Democrats did not campaign for Democrats. They campaigned arm-in-arm with Republicans against Trump and Trump alone. Pelosi and Biden both kept saying things like, "We need Republicans," and "We need a strong Republican Party." They gave voters no reason to vote for Democrats. They kept pretending that Trump was an aberration when he was not, but rather just what the Republicans wanted. As Grover Norquist said, "We don't want a president who can think, we already know what the top 1% want him to do. He only needs to be capable if signing with a pen!"

It looks like the worst elements in the security state and the corporate shills will design the Biden administration: "In 2018, Olsen went to work for Uber as the corporation's chief security officer. Uber joined with other corporations & spent hundreds of millions of dollars to pass Prop 22 in California. It ensures drivers and couriers are exempt from minimum wage. [...] Olsen has contended what NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed had little to do with privacy and civil liberties, a talking point former officials have repeated to discredit him. [...] MacBride oversaw grand jury investigation against WikiLeaks until he resigned from his position as US Attorney in August 2013. He prosecuted CIA whistleblowers @JohnKiriakou and Jeffrey Sterling (@S_UnwantedSpy). [...] MacBride defended a subpoena issued against NYT reporter James Risen in Sterling case. He argued government should be able to compel a journalist to reveal their confidential sources by threatening them with jail if they don't cooperate. [...] Lederman helped draft 2010 "drone memo" that set out "legal basis" for executing American terrorism suspect without charge or trial—Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. [...] Stroul was part of the bipartisan Syria Study Group that Congress appointed, which plotted out the next phase of US regime change policy in Syria. [...] Chris Lu was deputy secretary of labor for President Barack Obama and cheerleader for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). He was vice chair of 2020 Democratic National Convention Rules Committee. [...] As US Attorney in Michigan, McQuade's office was implicated in racial profiling and intrusive surveillance against Arab, Muslim, & Sikh communities. She faced blowback after it became known Dearborn was labeled by security agency as "terrorist hotspot." [...] As US Attorney, McQuade was in charge of prosecuting officials in Michigan, including then-Gov. Rick Snyder, who poisoned the water in Flint. But no one was charged before she resigned after Trump took office."

"Biden state media appointee advocated using propaganda against Americans and 'rethinking' First Amendment [...] The Biden transition team's selection of a censorial infowarrior for its top state media position comes as a concerted suppression campaign takes hold on social media. The wave of online censorship has been overseen by US intelligence agencies, the State Department, and Silicon Valley corporations that maintain multibillion-dollar contracts with the US government. As the state-backed censorship dragnet expands, independent media outlets increasingly find themselves in the crosshairs. In the past year, social media platforms have purged hundreds of accounts of foreign news publications, journalists, activists, and government officials from countries targeted by the United States for regime change. Stengel's appointment appears to be the clearest signal of a coming escalation by the Biden administration of the censorship and suppression of online media that is seen to threaten US imperatives abroad."

On the other hand, Sam Seder reckons Biden's picked the best Chief of Staff to deal with Covid., and Digby agrees — great analysis of the party's failures in this interview, too.

Samuel Alito is not a Constitutional scholar. "Let's Break Down Every Utterly Bonkers Thing Justice Alito Said Last Night [...] How have we let people claim the mantle 'Originalists' when they have no conception of history before the Reagan administration?"

"New documents show Mueller investigation unable to concoct charges against Assange and WikiLeaks: Previously redacted portions of the Mueller report into supposed Russian interference in the US, released this week, have shown that despite every effort, the Justice Department was unable to concoct evidence of any criminal wrongdoing on the part of WikiLeaks or Julian Assange in relation to their 2016 publications exposing the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton. [...] The contents of the new material shows why the Justice Department was so intent on keeping it hidden. The documents disclose that despite a two-year investigation, Special Counsel Robert Mueller came up with nothing to prove the collusion between WikiLeaks, the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence that had been trumpeted by the intelligence agencies, the Democratic Party and the corporate media. This is in line with the character of the report as a whole, which was unable to substantiate any of the 'Russian interference' in the 2016 US election that the Mueller investigation had been tasked with identifying. The new pages reveal that one of the focuses of the Mueller investigation was laying the groundwork for criminal charges against Assange and WikiLeaks under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. This was premised on the assertion that the internal Democratic National Committee (DNC) communications and emails of Clinton's campaign chair, John Podesta, were hacked by the GRU Russian military intelligence agency before being published by WikiLeaks. In May, it was revealed that CrowdStrike, a cyber security company handpicked by the Democratic Party to examine the DNC servers had been unable to find evidence that documents had ever been exfiltrated from them. In other words, there may not have been any successful hack, Russian or otherwise. This aligned with Assange's repeated insistence that Russia was not the source of the material. It lent weight to the claims of WikiLeaks collaborator and former British diplomat, Craig Murray, who has stated that he has personal knowledge of the source of the DNC documents, and that they were provided by 'disgruntled insiders.' Significantly, even though it is based on the discredited Russiagate framework, the newly-released material from the report concluded that there was no basis for laying conspiracy charges against Assange. 'The most fundamental hurdles' to such a prosecution, it stated, 'are factual ones.' There was not 'admissible evidence' to establish a conspiracy involving Russian intelligence, WikiLeaks and Trump campaign insider Roger Stone. To justify the fact that all of the resources of the American state were insufficient to manufacture evidence of the theory that it had promoted for years, the Mueller report pathetically claimed that one of the problems was that WikiLeaks' communications with the GRU were encrypted. 'The lack of visibility into the contents of these communications would hinder the Office's ability to prove that WikiLeaks was aware of and intended to join the criminal venture comprised of the GRU hackers,' the report stated. This is truly clutching at straws and desperately attempting to save face. Mueller was left to claim that the only possible evidence of a conspiracy was contained in encrypted messages that he and the intelligence agencies had presumably never seen!"

Deutsche Bank, the bank of choice for the world's criminals, is irritated that it's having to pay rent on those long leases for buildings that do not currently house their employees, and have come up with a great idea to deflect the eyes of people who think banks should pay their taxes. "Staff who work from home after pandemic 'should pay more tax': Employees who continue working from home after the pandemic should be taxed for the privilege, with the proceeds used to help lower-paid workers, according to a new report. Economists at Deutsche Bank have proposed making staff pay a 5% tax for each day they choose to work remotely. They argue it would leave the average employee no worse off because of savings made by not commuting and not buying lunch on-the-go and fewer purchases of work clothing. Alternatively, the report suggests the tax could be paid by employers who do not provide their workforce with a permanent desk."

"Unelected Officials Override The President To Continue Wars (But Only Kooks Believe In The Deep State) [...] Some mass media propagandists find it hilarious that the US war machine used deceit to thwart the president's attempts to withdraw from its illegal occupation of Syria"

"Centrists" attacked the left, but it isn't the left that's the problem. "'We're not some demonic cult': Democrats fume over faulty messaging: House Democrats have the majority and are ripping each other to shreds. Senate Democrats fell short for the third cycle in a row, but are only grousing about getting out-messaged by Republicans. The two caucuses are going about their soul-searching a little differently. [...] Jones, the sole incumbent Democratic senator to lose, said both party campaign arms need to change their mission. He said Stacey Abrams' work in Georgia should be a model for the party's work in individual states, while he contends the 'DSCC and DCCC spend too much time investing in candidates and not the electorate. They don't invest in House districts, they don't invest in states.'"

"Ocasio-Cortez Dismisses Centrist Attempts to Blame Left for Dem Losses, Calling on Party to Listen to Progressive Demands: 'The whole 'progressivism is bad' argument just doesn't have any compelling evidence that I've seen.' Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did not directly address comments made in Thursday evening's House Democratic caucus call on Friday, but in an extensive Twitter thread the congresswoman discussed multiple reasons for rejecting centrist Democrats' claims that the embrace of progressive policies led to lackluster election results for the party. Support for broadly popular policies like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All and relentless canvassing by progressives in the House—even when Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's campaign declined to campaign in key states—were among the factors which helped unapologetic progressives win elections this year, the New York Democrat tweeted, while centrist candidates lost or came close to losing. [...] Clyburn warned that in congressional elections, if 'we are going to run on Medicare for All, defund the police, socialized medicine, we're not going to win.' In fact, Ocasio-Cortez pointed out, the 2020 election results show that the opposite is true in many cases. [...] Progressive victors in Tuesday's elections include Ocasio-Cortez herself; Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who retained their House seats as well as helping secure Biden's victories in their key states; Rep.-elect Cori Bush (D-Mo.), and Rep.-elect Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), both of whom unseated powerful, longtime corporate-backed congressmen. Democrats who lost include Reps. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), and Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa)—all of whom oppose Medicare for All and reducing police funding. [...] 'Deep canvassing,' in which candidates and campaigners have in-depth conversations with voters in order to learn about the issues that matter to them, has been shown to be 102 times more effective at garnering votes than typical short interactions during door-knocking operations. Pandering to voters whose top concerns are 'law and order' or avoiding a 'socialist' takeover of the government through the expansion of Medicare to all Americans, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, will only serve to alienate communities of color who responded positively to campaigning by progressives this year."

"Tlaib lashes out at centrist Dems over election debacle: 'I can't be silent': Rashida Tlaib isn't apologizing for wanting to yank money away from bad police departments. She has no second thoughts about her embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement, or for wanting to aggressively fight climate change. House Democrats lost seats instead of expanding their majority, underperforming expectations across the board. And moderates have pounced on liberals like Tlaib, the Michigan congresswoman, accusing them of handing conservatives a set of slogans and policies to scare voters. But Tlaib and other House progressives don't want to hear it. It all amounts to unfair blame-casting designed to shame them into staying quiet, they say, right as Democrats gain control of the White House.

"They Are Trying To Silence AOC, Because Money Never Sleeps: We're all exhausted, but in the 24 hours since the election was called, corporate interests and their allies have already started their war on progressives. There is no rest for the weary. We're all exhausted, and understandably so. It's been an unspeakably horrific year. The election psychologically drained everyone, and we all just want a break. But here's the thing: Money never sleeps, and money is already hard at work trying to make sure nothing fundamentally changes in politics — and if nothing fundamentally changes in Washington, then everything is going to change for the worse in the real world. Since the election was called for Joe Biden, there has been a multitiered effort to blame disappointing election results on progressives, even as exit polls and voting results show that progressive organizing rescued Democrats from the jaws of a presidential defeat. While the country was celebrating the defeat of Trump, here's what the voices of Big Money have been doing since the election..."

RIP: "Baron Wolman, Rolling Stone Photographer Who Captured Rock Gods, Dead at 83, of ALS. "During his three years at Rolling Stone, between 1967 and 1970, Wolman caught the rise of rock & roll as few had during the time: an open-mouthed Jimi Hendrix attacking his guitar at the Fillmore West (a 'money shot,' Wolman called it), Janis Joplin relaxing at home with her cat, Smokey Robinson adjusting the do-rag he wore before shows to keep his hair in place, Grace Slick ironically wearing a Girl Scout uniform, Frank Zappa sitting atop a tractor at a construction site, and Jerry Garcia flashing his missing, chopped-off finger for the first time publicly."

"Today and Forever, Rahm Emanuel Is Garbage: By fighting him tooth and nail for seven years, Chicagoans have established that Rahm Emanuel is garbage. No matter what he does next, that stench isn't coming off. Rahm Emanuel will be remembered as a Chicago mayor who adored rich people and hated everyone else. He has all but handed the keys to the city to corporate heads, tech start-ups, and wealthy developers. He has relentlessly attacked public education and the public sector as a whole. He covered up a brutal police killing of a black teenager. Even mainstream retrospectives on his tenure — written in the wake of his surprise announcement yesterday that he will not be seeking a third term as mayor — tried to sound fair and balanced yet couldn't help but coming off as a long list of giveaways to the wealthy while the city's poor and working class suffer or are pushed out." Oh, and when Rahm tells unemployed people to learn code, what he's really saying is, "We want to flood this sector with lots of unemployed coders to drive wages down. And when he says, "Those jobs aren't coming back," he means, "We've decided those jobs aren't coming back." Just like they decided to get rid of millions of jobs back in the '80s and '90s, and they keep right on deciding not to bring them back.

How Bolivian Socialism Defeated The Coup

"America Can Have A Boom Economy Six Months From Whenever It Gets Serious [...] Further, if you can get it going, it will soon have massive support because it will create a truly good economy for the first time in 50 odd years. People will have better things to do than squeal about red state/blue state bullshit, the era will be like the post-war period: people are making money and kids and politics is, in fact, largely consensus driven because everyone sees that what is being done works."

This is utterly confounding. Why is Tucker Carlson doing this populist stuff, unless it's to try to tie the right-wing to genuine populism? I could imagine any of a dozen or three progressive writer-activists doing something like "Tucker Investigates: What is destroying rural America?".

"Non-Competes and Other Contracts of Dispossession: Employers have used non-compete clauses to deprive tens of millions of workers of the freedom to change jobs or start their own businesses. In occupations ranging from home health aide to journalist and sandwich shop worker, employers have used this legal power to their great benefit. Non-compete clauses reduce worker mobility, help employers keep wages and wage growth down, deter small business formation, entrench potentially abusive, discriminatory, or hostile work environments, and fortify market power to the detriment of workers, rivals, consumers, and broader society."

On Useful Idiots, Matt and Glenn both said some smart and true things about Russiagate that people really need to think about.

How Capitalism Really Works (with Anwar Shaikh)

Eugene Debs Was an American Hero.

The Unlikely Coalition That Made the New Deal (with Thomas Ferguson)

Comic strip, "The Spirit of Compromise" by Matt Bors.

Sam Cook, "Bring It On Home To Me"

00:01 GMT comment


Thursday, 12 November 2020

You don't represent me so just try to prevent me

You might as well see my avatar's Halloween costume, appropriate all year long.

"San Francisco voters approve first-in-the-nation CEO tax that targets income gap: Wealthy companies whose chief executive is paid 100 times more than their median worker will pay a higher gross receipts tax. [...] The tax will levy an extra 0.1% to 0.6% on gross receipts made in San Francisco for companies whose highest paid executive makes 100 times or more its median worker's salary. The amount levied will increase in 0.1% brackets proportionally to the pay ratio. A company whose highest paid employee earns 200 times more than its median San Francisco worker will get a extra 0.2% charge on its gross receipts. For companies whose CEO makes 300 more, the charge jumps to 0.3% and son on. The tax caps at 0.6%, and only companies with gross receipts over $1.17 million will be targeted. Under the measure, gross receipts and CEO compensation will include money made from stock options, bonuses, tax refunds, and property, a caveat seen by many as a way to target the tech sector where CEOs are often compensated in non-salaried bonuses. Tech is expected to account for 17% of the tax revenues, according to an estimate by the city's chief economist, while retail and financial firms are expected to account for 23% of the revenues each."

"What If Democrats' Message Just Doesn't Matter?: Florida voters backed a $15 minimum wage. So did Joe Biden—and he lost the state. There are important lessons here for the party. [...] Huge percentages of voters support government-sponsored health care, more state intervention in the economy, and more government support for clean energy. We have, of course, just learned some important lessons about the limitations of public opinion polling, but these majorities are too large to be completely dismissed as mere polling errors. That Democrats cannot translate robust support for their central policies into consistent electoral victories suggests that something is amiss in the democratic accountability feedback loop. It is of course true that on many of these issues, like health care, the Democratic Party firmly rejected the left's popular proposals in favor of a confusing and diluted alternative. That is what Democrats nearly always do. Perhaps that is what the electorate punishes them for. But that same electorate also regularly elects Republicans, who are very vocally opposed to all of those fine, popular ideas." Hmm, Biden didn't exactly campaign on $15 or much of anything else.

"Trump should have lost in a landslide. The fact that he didn't speaks volumes: Blaming the voters simply will not do. This is a failure of leadership. Those responsible for it need to be held accountable. Already, there is talk that they need to embrace tax cuts and run away from the 'socialism' label. In other words, double down on what they were already doing. Those who think that is the lesson may simply be 'unteachable' — a word George Orwell used to describe the old British cavalry generals who still insisted on using horses long after the invention of automatic weapons, and could not be persuaded that a horse is not useful against a machine gun. Today's Democratic leaders are like those generals. If 2016 couldn't persuade them that they were wrong, this won't either. Nothing ever will."

When lackluster Dems complained that Republicans were calling them names and it made getting re-elected hard,AOC pushed back. "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ends truce by warning 'incompetent' Democratic party: New York representative denies Movement for Black Lives and Green New Deal cost seats. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has criticised the Democratic party for incompetence in a no-holds-barred, post-election interview with the New York Times, warning that if the Biden administration does not put progressives in top positions, the party would lose big in the 2022 midterm elections. Signaling that the internal moratorium in place while the Democrats worked to defeat Donald Trump was over, the leftwing New York representative sharply rejected the notion advanced by some Democrats that progressive messaging around the Movement for Black Lives and the Green New Deal led to the party's loss of congressional seats in last week's election. The real problem, said Ocasio-Cortez, was that the party lacked 'core competencies' to run campaigns." It's not really accurate to say she "ends truce", though; the attacks started with the "centrists" who made a big point of attacking progressives immediately after the election was called.

"The Green New Deal Didn't Sink Democrats [...] The fight over the role of progressives in sinking (or not) Democrats' chance at a robust unified government began late last week in a call leaked to Politico. On that call, Rep. Abigail Spanberger claimed she almost lost her race in Virginia because she was accused of wanting to defund the police (she does not). House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn reportedly said, 'we are going to run on Medicare for All, defund the police, socialized medicine, we're not going to win.' That's led some progressives to push back; notably, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who pointed out every co-sponsor of Medicare for All won reelection and that Democrats are still running like its 2000 instead of 2020. Earther looked at the Green New Deal, another bête noire of conservatives and Fox News, to see if it sank Democrats chances. The bill has 101 co-sponsors in the House and 14 co-sponsors in the Senate. Of the 93 House co-sponsors who ran for a seat in Congress's lower chamber in 2020, only one lost reelection."

"Bolivia's President-Elect Luis Arce Attacked With Dynamite: On Thursday night, the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) spokesperson Sebastian Michel denounced that Bolivia's President-elect Luis Arce was attacked with dynamite while he was in a meeting at the party's headquarters in La Paz city. No injuries were reported. The authorities of the coup-born regime led by Jeanine Añez have not commented on what happened so far.

"ICE Medical Misconduct Witness Slated For Deportation Is A U.S. CITIZEN, Says Lawyer: In recent weeks, after Alma Bowman became a key witness for medical misconduct at an immigration jail, ICE moved to deport her. [...] Though she was ordered removed from the country on June 4, ICE only took action to begin her deportation in the last few weeks — after the public became aware of allegations of medical misconduct at Irwin. Following the initiation of deportation proceedings against her, a lawyer finally began reviewing documents for Bowman's immigration case and realized that she had documentation indicating her U.S. citizenship. On Monday morning, ICE denied a stay of removal for Bowman, potentially setting up her deportation. On Monday afternoon, Bowman's deportation was halted, for now, and she was to be returned from Arizona, where she was being prepared for her departure, to a detention center in Georgia, her advocates told The Intercept."

"Venezuela coup plotters met at Trump Doral. Central figure says U.S. officials knew of plan.: In a challenge to denials of government involvement, the ex-U.S. special operations sergeant whose security firm took part in a botched Venezuelan coup last May said two Trump administration officials met with and expressed support to planners of Operation Gideon, a Bay of Pigs-type operation that tried to oust Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro. It's a story of bungling, bravado and cloak-and-dagger plotting, with plans shared in clandestine meetings in the back of limousines while rolling through Miami, in restaurants and even at dusk on the 12th fairway of the Red Course of Trump Doral, the Miami Herald/McClatchy has learned."

TMBS "162 - Chile Victory, Rural Healthcare, & a Labor GND ft. Meagan Day, Ryan Pollock, & Eric Osgoode: From Jacobin's original series Weekends, Nando Vila talks about the Bolivian elections and MAS's victory and Richard Wolff weighs in on Nando's segment."

"Did You Know That Every Single Blue Dog Candidate Was Defeated On Tuesday-- Even Though The DCCC Spent Millions On Their Races? [...] Beyond backing the crap conservative incumbents who lost their seats, the DCCC's biggest independent expenditures this cycle were done, overwhelmingly, on behalf of conservative candidates backed by the Blue Dogs and New Dems. DCCC and House Majority PAC expenditures are still being reported and it will be another week before we can do an accurate systematic audit but look at these races the DCCC (and Pelosi-- let me just refer to the expenditures of both the DCCC and her House Majority PAC , for the sake of this post, as "the DCCC") chose to spend big in-- at the expense of progressive candidates like Mike Siegel, Julie Oliver, Mondaire Jones, Liam O'Mara, Adam Christensen, Audrey Denney, etc, who they chose to not spend any money at all on."

Unbelievable. For the record, in 2000, Congressional aides illegally flew down to Florida and illegally imposed themselves on the facility where votes were being counted, to intimidate vote-counters and stop the vote. I'd say I can't believe The Washington Post printed this revisionist crap, except that I know they printed Michael Kelly's crap that revised the record even as it was happening.

TMBS: "0:15 / 53:39 Jeremy Corbyn Suspended From Labour Party - Griscom Stream." And speaking of revisionist crap, the leader of the Labour Party is making it up to please the party right-wingers.

RIP: "Veteran journalist and author Robert Fisk dies aged 74: Veteran foreign correspondent and author Robert Fisk has died after becoming unwell at his Dublin home on Friday. It is understood the journalist was admitted to St Vincent's hospital where he died a short time later. He was 74. Fisk was one of the most highly regarded and controversial British foreign correspondents of the modern era and was described by the New York Times in 2005 as 'probably the most famous foreign correspondent in Britain'. [...] He reported extensively on the first Gulf War basing himself for a time in Baghdad where he was fiercely critical of other foreign correspondents whom he accused of covering the conflict from their hotel rooms. He also covered the US-led war wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and frequently condemned US involvement in the region. Fisk was one of very few western reporters to interview Osama Bin Laden, something he did on three occasions in the 1990s. He also covered five Israeli invasions, the Algerian civil war, Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait and the 2011 Arab revolutions. He worked in the Balkans during the conflict there and more recently covered the conflict in Syria. He received numerous awards over the course of his career including the Orwell Prize for Journalism, British Press Awards International Journalist of the Year and Foreign Reporter of the Year on multiple occasions." It would probably be hilarious now to go over the attacks on him from right-wing bloggers who would make line-by-line attacks on his articles critiquing the Bush administrations lies and war crimes, from which they created the term "fisking". Those articles could be "fisked" mercilessly now that he has so manifestly been proven correct.

RIP: "Ron Cobb, Underground Cartoonist and Influential Production Designer, Dead at 83: Ron Cobb, an underground cartoonist as well as the concept and production designer who helped craft the aesthetics of Total Recall, Alien and Back to the Future, has died. Via The Hollywood Reporter, Cobb's wife of 48 years, Robin Love, reported that he had passed away of Lewy body dementia on Monday — his 83rd birthday — at his home in Sydney. A political cartoonist, Cobb's drawings captured the radical anti-establishment spirit of the 1960s and '70s. His long and varied career brought him from counterculture cartooning to drawing album covers to designing some of the most iconic starships in film history." I can still remember, so long ago, learning to keep R. Cobb and R. Crumb separate in my mind when I first started seeing their stuff in undergrounds. He died in December, but I didn't see it until Langford picked it up (and I got around to reading the October Ansible.).

RIP: "Marge Champion: Actress who was model for Disney's Snow White dies at 101: The actress was also well known for starring alongside her husband and dance partner Gower Champion in a string of MGM musicals in the 1950s. She later won an Emmy Award for choreographing the 1975 TV film Queen of the Stardust Ballroom. [...] When Disney's animation team were working on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, they studied a young Marge's movements on a sound stage in order to make the character move more realistically. From the age of 14, Champion would work with them for one or two days per month for two years, during which time she was paid $10 per day. [...] Champion also served as a model for the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio, Hyacinth Hippo in Fantasia, and Mr Stock in Dumbo."

RIP: Sean Connery, 90. I liked Langford's obit for Connery the best: "Sir Sean Connery (1930-2020), utterly famous and multiple award-winning Scots actor in seven James Bond films — with many more genre credits including Zardoz (1974), Time Bandits (1981), Highlander (1986), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) — died on 31 October aged 90." I really loved that spot in Time Bandits.

RIP: Debra Doyle (1952-2020): SF writer Debra Doyle, 67, died October 31 of a sudden cardiac event at home in Colebrook NH. She was best known for work written in collaboration with her husband, James D. Macdonald, including Mythopoeic Award winner Knight's Wyrd (1992) and the Mageworlds space opera series." Jim Macdonald sent me a bunch of the Mageworld books to read while I was waiting for and recovering from my eye surgery way back when, having talked me down from freaking out about the surgery in the first place, realizing that I wasn't going to be able to do much else beside read during the weeks of keeping my face horizontal at all times, and learning that I'd liked the few of those books I'd read so far. Although I'd never had any contact with Debra Doyle myself, she has a place in my heart for those books, and I was very sorry to hear of her passing.

Cory Doctorow mentions a rarely acknowledged problem in "Trump's electoral equilibrium [...] A transformative politician who turns out the base also flushes out establishment opposition: lavishly funded smear campaigns that suppress your own voter turnout as a necessary cost of heading off voter-pleasing, plute-punishing policies."

George Monbiot, "The US was lucky to get Trump — Biden may pave the way for a more competent autocrat: Only if the president-elect is willing to fight big money and redistribute wealth can he stop the rise of someone far worse than Trump: [...] Obama's attempt to reconcile irreconcilable forces, to paper over the chasms, arguably gave Donald Trump his opening. Rather than confronting the banks whose reckless greed had caused the financial crisis, he allowed his Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, to 'foam the runway' for them by allowing 10 million families to lose their homes. His justice department and the attorney general blocked efforts to pursue apparent wrongdoing by the financiers. He pressed for trade agreements that would erode workers' rights and environmental standards, and presided over the widening of inequality and the concentration of wealth, casualisation of labour and record mergers and acquisitions. In other words, he failed to break the consensus that had grown around the dominant ideology of our times: neoliberalism. Neoliberalism has been neatly described by William Davies, a professor at Goldsmiths College, as 'the disenchantment of politics by economics'. It sees politics as an ineffective or illegitimate means of social improvement. Decision-making should be transferred to 'the market', a euphemism for the power of money. Through buying and selling, we establish a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Any attempt to interfere in the discovery of this natural order — such as taxing the rich, redistributing wealth and regulating business — will inhibit social progress. Neoliberalism disenchants politics by sucking the power out of people's votes. When governments abandon their ambition to change social outcomes or deliver social justice, politics become irrelevant to people's lives. It is perceived as the chatter of a remote elite. Disenchantment becomes disempowerment."

Why this election calls into question whether America is a democracy: At the beginning of the Fight to Vote project, we asked this question. After a year of election battles, voting restrictions and partisan conflicts, we revisit the idea."

Obama Wants Us to Go Back to Brunch After Trump Is Out. That Would Be A Disaster: Democrats are suggesting that we can all tune out and go back to brunch if Joe Biden wins the election. If we do that, we're doomed. [...] To counter Trump's assault, the Democratic campaign this weekend returned to Flint, Michigan — the place the Obama administration left to suffer through a horrific toxic water crisis, exacerbated by Michigan's then-Republican governor (who has since endorsed Biden). During the event, Biden declared that during his last tour of duty as vice president, we 'went through eight years without one single trace of scandal. Not one single trace of scandal. It's going to be nice to return to that.' Biden was joined in Flint by former president Barack Obama, who touted incremental change and preemptively downplayed expectations of economic transformation. 'Government is not going to solve every problem but we can make things better — a president can't, by himself, solve every challenge facing the economy,' he said, adding that under a Democratic Congress 'some folks will get jobs that wouldn't have otherwise had jobs, and some folks will have healthcare that wouldn't otherwise have healthcare.' He also promised that if Biden and Kamala Harris win the White House, 'You're not going to have to think about them every day. You're not going to have to argue with your family about them every day. It won't be so exhausting.' This was the party's flaccid message in the nation's poorest city, a former General Motors manufacturing hub destroyed by deindustrialization and offshoring. The same message was promoted this weekend in the Washington Post by corporate consultant Hillary Rosen, whose firm works for Biden. Rosen told the newspaper that Biden 'is not somebody who is coming in to disrupt Washington. He's coming in to heal Washington.' This is a shrewdly concocted mix of revisionism and expectation management — and if Biden (hopefully) defeats Trump, it sets the stage for a repeat of the events that got us to this horrible moment in the first place. "

2012, "Revealed: how the FBI coordinated the crackdown on Occupy: New documents prove what was once dismissed as paranoid fantasy: totally integrated corporate-state repression of dissent It was more sophisticated than we had imagined: new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall — so mystifying at the time — was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves —was coordinated with the big banks themselves. The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, in a groundbreaking scoop that should once more shame major US media outlets (why are nonprofits now some of the only entities in America left breaking major civil liberties news?), filed this request. The document — reproduced here in an easily searchable format — shows a terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity: in some cases, bearing a single name, the Domestic Security Alliance Council. And it reveals this merged entity to have one centrally planned, locally executed mission. The documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.

Matt Taibbi on "Glenn Greenwald On His Resignation From The Intercept: The Pulitzer winner founded the Intercept to challenge official narratives and protect editorial freedom. When editors abandoned those principles, spiking a controversial story, he was forced to quit. [...] Greenwald becomes the latest high-profile journalist to leave a well-known legacy media organization to join Substack. You'll be able to read the piece rebuffed by The Intercept at his new site here. [...] It's a long story, but the punchline is that the self-editing journalists at the Intercept somewhere along the line began to fall for what will look, years from now, like a comically transparent bait-and-switch operation. They were suckered into becoming parodies of their original incarnation. In the Obama years, progressive journalists were infuriated by the disclosures of whistleblowers like Snowden and Chelsea Manning, and aimed their professional ire at the federal government for war crimes, drone assassination, and mass abuse of surveillance authority. The bugbears of the day were intelligence officials who ran these programs and deceived the public about them: people like CIA directors Hayden and Brennan, and Director of National Intelligence Clapper. These intelligence community leaders only a few short years ago served an administration that sought a 'reset' with the systematic human rights violator that was Vladimir Putin's Russia, a country then-President Obama dismissed throughout his tenure as a 'regional power' that acts 'not out of strength, but out of weakness.' The consistent posture of the Obama administration — the Obama-Biden administration — was that Russia ranked far below terrorists as a potential threat to the United States. After 2016, however, these officials presented themselves as norms-defending heroes protecting America against the twin 'existential' threats of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Russia, just a few years ago described by Rachel Maddow as a harmless 'gnat on the butt of an elephant,' was now reinvented as an all-powerful foe mounting an influence campaign of unprecedented reach, with everyone from Trump to the Green Party to blogs like Truthdig and Naked Capitalism, to congresswoman and war veteran Tulsi Gabbard, to Bernie Sanders, all potentially doing the bidding of a Cold War foe bent on 'sowing discord' on our shores. [...] As press enthusiasm for the Trump-Russia story widened, progressives began to invite old enemies back into the fold. People like 'Axis of Evil' speechwriter David Frum and Weekly Standard editor and key Iraq War proponent Bill Kristol became regular guests on CNN and MSNBC, while ex-spooks like Brennan, Clapper, Hayden, and a long list of others were given TV contributor deals, now serving as the press instead of facing criticism from it." But Greenwald didn't fall in line. And why should he? Clapper had lied to Congress 200 times not so long ago, and the Russia story kept turning out to have no basis in fact. Glenn's demand for evidence was met with hostility from the Clintonites and increasingly vile attacks on him. He gave up a highly-paid and well-protected position to walk away from The Intercept, something I wish he hadn't done, but people are even claiming, ludicrously, that he did it for fame and fortune. Be that as it may, I wish he hadn't considered the Hunter Biden story important enough to do it over, and I wish he'd stayed to fight his corner.

Ian Welsh, "Seven Rules for Running a Real Left-wing Government [...] Your First Act Must Be a Media Law. Break them up. Take them over. Whichever. Ignore the screams about media freedom from the usual suspects in the West, this is a case of 'freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.' In all three countries, the media conglomerates remained in the control of oligarchs (update: to be clear, Venezuela did eventually expropriate them, but only after many years), and in all three cases, the majority of the media remained relentlessly hostile to the left. This is just as true in countries like Britain, Canada, or the US as it is in Argentina, Venezuela, or Brazil, by the way. There is a reason why the post-war liberal regimes put strict media controls in place—including size limits—and there is a reason why those limits were removed by the neoliberal regimes that replaced them. You can win 'against the media' for a time, but if you leave it in the hands of your enemies, they will eventually use it to bury you."

"Watch the Rolling Stones Tear Through 'Sympathy for the Devil' in 1968: Performance is off newly remastered footage from Rock and Roll Circus"

"40+ Rare Historical Pictures That You Probably Haven't Seen Before

Insect Trust, "Declaration of Independence"

00:45 GMT comment


Saturday, 31 October 2020

And I'm all hung up on music

"Data from Bolivia's Election Add More Evidence That OAS Fabricated Last Year's Fraud Claims: The MAS Received More Votes in Almost All of the OAS's 86 Suspect Precincts in 2020 than in 2019. [...] We can't go back to 2019, or erase the racist violence unleashed on the population following the coup. On Sunday, Bolivians showed their courage, and the power of organized social movements, in righting the wrong of 2019. But that victory shouldn't allow us to forget about 2019, or the role that international actors played in overthrowing a democratically elected government. Those 226 tally sheets never showed fraud, as the OAS asserted. They do, however, reveal how the OAS disenfranchised tens of thousands of Indigenous Bolivians in its galling attempts to justify the undemocratic removal of an elected leader."

The thing is, though, the US has been trying to overthrow Morales' government for quite some time. "Bolivian democracy vs the United States: The elusive truth of on armed raid in eastern Bolivia leads Matt Kennard into a major investigation of the efforts by Washington and its local allies to undermine the radical government of Evo Morales."

"After Socialist Victory in Bolivia, Media Still Whitewash Coup: When the Wall Street Journal (10/19/20) reported on the MAS victory, for example, it kept to the usual line (FAIR.org, 11/11/19, 11/18/20) about the previously elected president from MAS, Evo Morales, having been 'driven from power' in November 2019 after 'an election that observers said was marred by irregularities'—avoiding referring directly to Morales' military overthrow as a 'coup.' Instead, the Journal wrote that 'Bolivians rose up against Mr. Morales' after he 'had grown increasingly authoritarian' and already 'ruled' for 14 years."

"Jubilation as Chile votes to rewrite constitution: Chileans have voted overwhelmingly in support of rewriting their constitution, which dates to the dictatorship of Gen Augusto Pinochet. With nearly 90% of the vote counted, 78% of people had voted "yes" in a referendum that was called after mass protests against inequality. [...] The referendum asked Chileans two questions - firstly, if they wanted a new constitution, and secondly, what kind of body they would want to draw it up. A large majority have voted for the new constitution to be drafted by a convention made up entirely of elected citizens, as opposed to one that would also include lawmakers."

"Jeremy Corbyn suspended by Labour leadership in latest outrage during Blairite anti-Semitism witch-hunt: The suspension of Jeremy Corbyn is a vicious and antidemocratic action by the right-wing cabal in control of the Labour Party. The political pretext on which the suspension was carried out, claiming the existence of widespread 'left anti-Semitism' in the Labour Party under his leadership, is a slander not only against Corbyn, but of countless party members. It is a political witch-hunt designed to justify the enforcement of the policies of British and US imperialism in the Middle East, built around the dishonest and illegitimate identification of anti-Semitism with principled opposition to the policies of the Israeli state."

David Dayen, "Sources: Gina Raimondo Being Considered as Biden's Treasury Secretary: The Rhode Island governor would not be a popular selection among progressives or organized labor. Joe Biden's transition team has informed Democratic officials that Gina Raimondo, the centrist governor of Rhode Island, is under consideration as the next Secretary of the Treasury should Biden win the election, multiple sources have confirmed to the Prospect. Raimondo, in her second term as governor, dazzled Biden's campaign in interviews to become his vice president back in June. A former venture capitalist who took the governor's mansion on the strength of millions of dollars in Wall Street donations, Raimondo's name will stir the long memories of union leaders. They have held a grudge with her for years over her tenure as state treasurer, when she cut pension benefits for public employees, while steering over $1 billion in state money to hedge fund investments. But recalling those hard feelings may be the point. One source theorized to the Prospect that leaking Raimondo's name could make Federal Reserve governor Lael Brainard, until now seen as the leading possibility for Treasury Secretary, seem more palatable. Brainard, who worked at Treasury under Tim Geithner, has been attempting to portray a more liberal public image as the decision approaches."

"Quietly Signed Trump Order Denounced as 'Declaration of War' Against Federal Employees: The order sets up Trump's 'cronies to burrow into permanent jobs in the U.S. government," said one critic. After years of complaining that career federal employees are part of the "deep state" and aim to undermine his administration, President Donald Trump this week took a major step toward remaking the federal government as one without nonpartisan civil servants—signing a little-noticed executive order that would strip potentially hundreds of thousands of government employees of their job security. Under the order, signed late Wednesday, career federal employees could be fired with little or no cause, lose their right to due process, and potentially lose union representation. "

Glennzilla quits: "My Resignation From The Intercept: The same trends of repression, censorship and ideological homogeneity plaguing the national press generally have engulfed the media outlet I co-founded, culminating in censorship of my own articles."

"Times Editorial Lets Slip Joe Biden's Latin America Policy: More Obama-Style Coups: Figures on both the right and the left are presenting Biden as a progressive champion, the reality though, is that he has always represented the right-wing of the Democratic Party, and his Latin America policy is no exception."

"10 Ways to Call Something Russian Disinformation Without Evidence: How do you call something 'Russian disinformation' when you don't have evidence it is? Let's count the ways. We don't know a whole lot about how the New York Post story about Hunter Biden got into print. There are some reasons to think the material is genuine (including its cache of graphic photos and some apparent limited confirmation from people on the email chains), but in terms of sourcing, anything is possible. This material could have been hacked by any number of actors, and shopped for millions (as Time has reported), and all sorts of insidious characters - including notorious Russian partisans like Andrei Derkach - could have been behind it. None of these details are known, however, which hasn't stopped media companies from saying otherwise. Most major outlets began denouncing the story as foreign propaganda right away and haven't stopped. A quick list of the creative methods seen lately of saying, 'We don't know, but we know!'"

"Facebook and Twitter Cross a Line Far More Dangerous Than What They Censor: Just weeks before the election, the tech giants unite to block access to incriminating reporting about their preferred candidate. THE NEW YORK POST IS one of the country's oldest and largest newspapers. Founded in 1801 by Alexander Hamilton, only three U.S. newspapers are more widely circulated. Ever since it was purchased in 1976 by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, it has been known — like most Murdoch-owned papers — for right-wing tabloid sensationalism, albeit one that has some real reporters and editors and is capable of reliable journalism. On Wednesday morning, the paper published on its cover what it heralded as a 'blockbuster' scoop: 'smoking gun' evidence, in its words, in the form of emails purportedly showing that Joe Biden's son, Hunter, traded on his father's position by securing favors from the then-vice president to benefit the Ukranian energy company Burisma, which paid the supremely unqualified Hunter $50,000 each month to sit on its Board. While the Biden campaign denies that any such meetings or favors ever occurred, neither the campaign nor Hunter, at least as of now, has denied the authenticity of the emails. The Post's hyping of the story as some cataclysmic bombshell was overblown. While these emails, if authenticated, provide some new details and corroboration, the broad outlines of this story have long been known: Hunter was paid a very large monthly sum by Burisma at the same time that his father was quite active in using the force of the U.S. Government to influence Ukraine's internal affairs. [...] BUT THE POST, for all its longevity, power and influence, ran smack into two entities far more powerful than it: Facebook and Twitter. Almost immediately upon publication, pro-Biden journalists created a climate of extreme hostility and suppression toward the Post story, making clear that any journalist even mentioning it would be roundly attacked. For the crime of simply noting the story on Twitter (while pointing out its flaws), New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman was instantly vilified to the point where her name, along with the phrase 'MAGA Haberman,' were trending on Twitter. [...] The two Silicon Valley giants saw that hostile climate and reacted. Just two hours after the story was online, Facebook intervened. The company dispatched a life-long Democratic Party operative who now works for Facebook — Andy Stone, previously a communications operative for Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, among other D.C. Democratic jobs — to announce that Facebook was 'reducing [the article's] distribution on our platform': in other words, tinkering with its own algorithms to suppress the ability of users to discuss or share the news article. The long-time Democratic Party official did not try to hide his contempt for the article, beginning his censorship announcement by snidely noting: 'I will intentionally not link to the New York Post.'"

"Liberals Are Losing the Journalism Wars: As major media outlets erect paywalls, conservative publishers are flooding the country with free right-wing propaganda paid for by Republicans. The University of North Carolina's Hussman School of Journalism and Media recently released a report titled 'The Expanding News Desert,' which showed that over the last 15 years, more than a fourth of America's newspapers and half of its journalists have 'disappeared,' turning thousands of communities into 'news deserts' no longer served by anyone who can provide a comprehensive and accurate description of what is happening in those communities. Into that vacuum of community news-gathering, other things have flowed." Local news reporting shuts down, big news organizations go behind paywalls, and right-wing money rushes in to fill the internet with right-wing "news" sites, available for free. Not that there aren't Dem-side grifters, but they're small-bore and definitely not left. "The fact that we are all watching, in real time, as the institution of journalism is replaced by corporate P.R. and right-wing propaganda is not a problem in need of solutions from business schools, consulting firms, or Silicon Valley. It is a democratic problem, in need of a democratic solution. The paywall will save The Atlantic. It has already failed to save American journalism."

"Department Of Homeland Security Sued For Chemical Weapons Use: Federal agents employed 'a vast arsenal of weapons,' including toxic smoke grenades, against protestors in Portland. [...] Among the weapons mentioned in the complaint are rubber bullets; CS tear gas; OC spray, also known as pepper spray; and hexachloroethane smoke grenades. As The Intercept reported earlier this month, the U.S. military began phasing out the smoke grenades years ago because of their toxicity. Along with a thick smoke, the grenades release chemicals associated with short- and long-term human health effects, including nausea, vomiting, central nervous system depression, kidney and liver damage, and cancer."

"It is all just a metaphor: The New York Times attempts yet another desperate defense of its discredited 1619 Project: On October 16, New York Times Magazine editor Jake Silverstein issued a new defense of the 1619 Project in which he now argues that its best-known claim—that the year 1619 and not 1776 represents the 'true founding' of the United States—was a metaphorical turn of phrase not intended to be read literally. Further confusion is attributed to an editorial error arising from the difficulties of managing a 'multi-platform' media operation. Published under the title, 'On Recent Criticism of The 1619 Project,' Silverstein's essay is a convoluted lawyer's argument that attempts to palm off historical falsification as merely minor matters of syntax, punctuation, and a somewhat careless use of metaphor."

In honor of Trump's attack on Mr. Rogers, we present, "Thor Meets Mr. Rogers".

RIP: "Spencer Davis dies of Pneumonia at 81: Spencer Davis, whose eponymous group provided a springboard for Steve Winwood's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame career, has died after a bout with pneumonia. He was 81. 'He was a very good friend,' Spencer's agent Bob Birk told the BBC. 'He was a highly ethical, very talented, goodhearted, extremely intelligent, generous man. He will be missed.' Founded in 1963, the Spencer Davis Group reached No. 7 in the U.S. with "Gimme Some Lovin'" in 1966, while topping the U.K. charts with "Keep on Running" and "Somebody Help Me." Winwood, who was only 14 when he first started fronting the group, left in 1967 to co-found Traffic. He later was part of the short-lived supergroup Blind Faith before establishing a celebrated solo career."

RIP: "Richard Lupoff (1935-2020): A longtime fan who worked as a technical writer, or when feasible a full-time sf pro, Lupoff with his wife Pat (and Bhob Stewart) edited the Hugo-winning fanzine Xero. They were among the founders of the Fanoclasts, and of New York's Eastercon. Dick participated in APA-F and the New York Futurian Society. As a pro, he produced 20 novels and enough short fiction to fill several collections. He edited hardcover editions of Burroughs books, wrote a biography of Burroughs, and other nonfiction books drawing on his expertise in pulp, comics and sf history. [...] During that period he also wrote the short story '12:01 P.M.' (1973), adapted as the Oscar-nominated short film 12:01 pm (1990) and the TV movie 12:01 (1993). (Lupoff appeared in both films as an extra.) The major plot device is a time loop, so similar to that of 1993's Groundhog Day that Lupoff and Jonathan Heap, director of the 1990 film, were 'outraged' by the apparent theft of the idea..." Don Thompson and Dick Lupoff's All in Color For A Dime is still always where we can find it easily in our house.

RIP: "Jerry Jeff Walker, Outlaw Country Architect and 'Mr. Bojangles' Songwriter, Dead at 78: Walker's 1973 live album '¡Viva Terlingua!' is a cornerstone of the Austin, Texas, cosmic cowboy sound. Jerry Jeff Walker, the 'Mr. Bojangles' songwriter and a pioneer of the 'cosmic cowboy' sound that would evolve into outlaw country, died Friday after a long battle with throat cancer. He was 78. Walker's publicist confirmed his death to Rolling Stone. Born Ronald Clyde Crosby in Oneonta, New York, in 1942, Walker made his way south, living for a time in the Florida Keys and in New Orleans, where he took his stage name. In 1971, he landed in Austin, Texas, and became a fixture of the local music scene, where artists like Willie Nelson, Doug Sahm, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Michael Martin Murphey were performing a new progressive style of hippie-country." David Bromberg, who used to play with JJW, tells the story of the song in his own performance of it.

"Why privilege theorists mock poor white people—with five examples

"How Democrats Can Learn Hardball From the Republicans of 1861: Sometimes restoring democracy requires rewriting the rules. If you're looking for a historical example of a revanchist political minority that kept its foot on the neck of a growing and restive majority, look no further than the defenders of slavery in antebellum America. In the interest of keeping Black people in a state of intergenerational servitude, pro-slavery politicians in the antebellum period trampled flagrantly and frequently on the civil liberties not only of Black Americans, but of white people who opposed slavery's expansion. They shut down the right of abolitionists to use the U.S. Postal Service and the halls of Congress to proselytize against the Peculiar Institution. They deployed violence and voter fraud to rig elections. To maintain property in human beings, they perverted the institutions of American democracy. It wasn't until the Civil War, when many of those pro-slavery politicians rebelled to fight for the Confederacy, that the anti-slavery Republicans had their chance to reverse the damage. And they did it by playing hardball."

"Mighty Ira: Ira Glasser, Free Speech and the ACLU - System Update with Glenn Greenwald: For this special episode of System Update, Glenn is joined by Ira Glasser, former executive director of the ACLU from 1978-2001 and the subject of a newly released documentary, Mighty Ira. Glenn and Ira discuss why civil libertarians must defend the rights of those they despise, the apparent abandonment of free speech commitments by some of the liberal left, and the role of the ACLU in US politics -- traditionally and now."

I haven't read it yet, but it warmed my heart to hold it in my hands: "The Return of Hyper Comics Paperback — August 7, 2020: The Return of Hyper Comics, the last project of legendary underground cartoonist and Hugo Award-winner Steve Stiles, who passed away in 2020, is a September release from Thintwhistle Books, a company formed by Steve's widow, Elaine Stiles. Packed with more than 150 pages of Steve's classic work from Hyper Comics, Heavy Metal, Stardate, and a host of other publications, it's an essential part of any cartoon collector's library."

This Dick Cavett interview with Dick Van Dyke took place in 1974. He's talking about his alcoholism, but I just found it fascinating to look at him. And then I realized how long ago that was and he's still amazing today.

"Stevie Wonder Releases First New Music in 15 Years: Hall of Famer unveils 'Where Is Our Love Song' and 'Can't Put It in the Hands of Fate' on Republic Records, his first non-Motown release."

Fairytale cottages

Spencer Davis Group, "I'm A Man"

18:33 GMT comment


Tuesday, 20 October 2020

And the forests will echo with laughter

"Bolivia election: Evo Morales's leftwing party celebrates stunning comeback: Exit polls for presidential election project win for Luis Arce as rival concedes defeat. Evo Morales's leftwing party is celebrating a stunning political comeback after its candidate appeared to trounce rivals in Bolivia's presidential election. The official results of Sunday's twice-postponed election had yet to be announced on Monday afternoon, but exit polls projected that Luis Arce, the candidate for Morales's Movimiento al Socialismo (Mas), had secured more than 50% of the vote while his closest rival, the centrist former president Carlos Mesa, received about 30%. Mesa conceded defeat on Monday lunchtime, telling supporters that a quick count showed a 'very convincing and very clear' result. 'There is a large gap between the first-placed candidate and us ... and, as believers in democracy, it now falls to us ... to recognise that there is a winner in this election,' Mesa said"

"The Unprecedented And Illegal Campaign To Eliminate Julian Assange: Assange would never receive a fair trial in the U.S., but he's not receiving one in Britain either. OVER THE 17 DAYS of Julian Assange's extradition hearing in London, prosecutors succeeded in proving both crimes and conspiracy. The culprit, however, was not Assange. Instead, the lawbreakers and conspirators turned out to be the British and American governments. Witness after witness detailed illegal measures to violate Assange's right to a fair trial, destroy his health, assassinate his character, and imprison him in solitary confinement for the rest of his life. Courtroom evidence exposed illegality on an unprecedented scale by America's and Britain's intelligence, military, police, and judicial agencies to eliminate Assange. [...] The deck was clearly stacked. Assange's antagonists were marking the cards as early as February 2008, when the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Center set out, in its words, to 'damage or destroy this center of gravity' that was WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks, from the time Assange and his friends created it in 2006, was attracting sources around the world to entrust them, securely and anonymously, with documents exposing state crimes. The audience for the documents was not a foreign intelligence service, but the public. In the governments' view, the public needed protection from knowledge of what they were doing behind closed doors and in the skies of Afghanistan and Iraq. To plug the leaks, the governments had to stop Assange. The Pentagon, the CIA, the National Security Agency, and the State Department soon followed the Counterintelligence Center's lead by establishing their own anti-Assange task forces and enlisting the aid of Britain, Sweden, and Ecuador." Everything from direct violations of his human and civil rights to petty cruelties seems to be the order of the day.

"A dueling town halls upside: Media finally focuses on the wide gulf between Biden and Trump: The nation's top political reporters actually focused on the extreme contrast between the candidates, not spectacle. NBC did a terrible disservice to the public by ceding to Donald Trump's demand to counterprogram Joe Biden's ABC town hall on Thursday night. But the net effect on political journalism turned out to be quite positive. The dueling town halls actually forced several top journalists to directly address the extraordinary imbalance between the two candidates and what they represent, rather than get distracted by the spectacle.

Summing up, Max Kennerly tweeted: "As of the last 48 hours, the Trump re-election platform is:
— Mr. Rogers sucks
— I'm annoyed local TV covers severe weather but not a foreign politician talking about me
— there might be a Satanic pedophile cult, haven't found it yet
— I ordered US Marshals to murder someone
"

So, "Is Trump Having American Citizens Murdered Now?" He certainly is claiming to. But there's no question that whoever arranged it, it was murder. "A witness, Garrett Louis, told the New York Times he watched the shooting begin while trying to get his eight-year-old son out of the way. He said the officers began shooting so suddenly that he initially assumed they were criminals gunning down an enemy, not police. 'There was no, 'Get out of the car!' There was no, 'Stop!' ... They just got out of the car and started shooting.'"

Dan Goodspeed did an interesting time-lapse chart of rates of Covid over the course of the last few months according to how "red" or "blue" the states are. The one that keeps getting me is North Dakota — they must be going out of their way to get exposed in such a sparsely-populated state. They're significantly worse than a lot of densely-populated places.

"A Month Before Louisville Drug Warriors Killed Breonna Taylor, They Knew the 'Suspicious Packages' She Supposedly Was Receiving Came From Amazon: The detective who obtained the search warrant cited the deliveries to falsely implicate Taylor in drug trafficking."

"Not News But A Juicy Collection Of Narratives - How The New York Times Failed Its Readers: The New York Times star reporter Rukmini Callimachi had been widely criticized for her exaggerated reporting about the Islamic State and terrorism. But her editors kept supporting and promoting her stories. That finally ended when Canada recently indicted one Shehroze Chaudhry, also known as Abu Huzaifa, for falsely claiming to have been an ISIS member. Chaudhry had made up his blood dripping stories. He had never been with ISIS and had never been to Syria or Iraq. But the unverified stories of Abu Huzaifa al-Kanadi had been the central element of the NYT's ten part Caliphate podcast by Rukmini Callimachi. The failure of her reporting finally was so evident that the NYT had to allow its media columnist Ben Smith to write about the issue. Remarkably his reporting was published in the Business section of the paper."

Dean Baker, "Patent Monopolies in Prescription Drugs Cause Corruption # 43,508 [...] We should be glad that reporters have actively worked to expose the abuses associated with the tariffs Donald Trump has imposed since coming into the White House. But what about the abuses associated with government-granted patent monopolies for prescription drugs? We literally never see a piece pointing out that patent protection creates an enormous incentive for corruption, in fact, one that is far larger than with the Trump tariffs. Just to get some basic orientation, depending on the country and the product, Trump's tariffs were generally between 10 and 25 percent. By contrast, government granted patent monopolies often raise the price of a protected drug by at least a factor of ten and often by a factor of one hundred or more. The impact of this protection is therefore equivalent to tariffs of 1,000 or 10,000 percent." And just think of how this will work for a vaccine..

From Richard Wolff's continuing series on the collapse of "the West", and specifically America, "Global Capitalism: Capitalism's Decline Accelerates [September 2020]".

August J. Pollack says, "LOL: I have lived my entire life in a media narrative that Republicans are simply not supposed to face any consequences for their actions and what we have been witnessing for the last 48 hours is the result of a media completely unequipped to handle exactly that happening. I think that's why there's such a cognitive dissonance between how punditry is reacting to this versus, well, basically the rest of the planet. People are done. They are fucking done with this bullshit. [...] I nearly dropped my coffee cup, like at the end of The Usual Suspects, hearing someone on TV this morning calling this an 'October surprise.' This is the October most expected and obvious thing ever. That's why the media and so many pundits are losing their shit over this now—because there's no spin on this. There's no way, though I know some will try, to blame this on Joe Biden or on Democrats or on the liberal media. Hell, even the folks who want to blame this all on China knows China didn't make 100 people sit shoulder-to-shoulder without masks on."

I know I've complained about this before, but Tucker Carlson's weird populism is an embarrassing scam — embarrassing not just because he's faking it, but because his analysis is one that should be coming from Democrats, with democratic prescriptions instead of whacked-out right-wing nuttiness.

"How Are Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google Monopolies? House Report Counts The WaysIn a sweeping report spanning 449 pages, House Democrats lay out a detailed case for stripping Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google of the power than has made each of them dominant in their fields. The four companies began as "scrappy underdog startups" but are now monopolies that must be restricted and regulated, the report from Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee's antitrust panel says. "These four corporations increasingly serve as gatekeepers of commerce and communications in the digital age, and this gatekeeper power gives them enormous capacity to abuse that power," a lawyer for the subcommittee's Democratic majority said in a briefing with reporters. The lawmakers say Congress should overhaul the laws that have let the companies grow so powerful. In particular, the report says, Congress should look at forcing "structural separations" of the companies and beefing up enforcement of existing antitrust laws."

"Why Liberals Pretend They Have No Power: Elite politicians invoke the rhetoric of national emergency only to behave like hapless passengers trapped aboard a sinking ship. [...] This tension underscores a deeper paradox of liberalism that has arguably reached its apex in the Trump era. Since the president's election four years ago, the political and intellectual leaders of America's supposedly reform-minded opposition have issued warnings about the existential threat that Trump poses to democracy. Amid it all, senior Democrats have mostly maintained both the regular operation of government and a standard of congressional etiquette that connotes normalcy more than it does any state of exception: applauding the president's speeches, approving his military budgets, awarding him new domestic spying powers, and even fast-tracking his judicial nominees. A line from one 2019 CNBC report detailing the overwhelming House approval of Trump's marquee NAFTA renegotiation sums up the absurdity of this posture: 'Democrats also wanted to show they can work with Trump only a day after they voted to make him the third president impeached in American history.' [...] Liberalism in the Trump era has thus become a kind of strange pantomime act in which elite politicians deploy the rhetoric of imminent threats and national emergency only to behave like hapless passengers trapped aboard a sinking ship. Although it has certainly found its most potent expression in Washington, this posture of feigned powerlessness has gradually come to infect the broader culture and ideology of American liberalism as a whole. [...] The contradictory posturing of today's most powerful liberals is not fully attributable to the shock and disorientation brought about by the 2016 election; its roots go back to the Clinton era at least—the period (not incidentally) when Democratic leaders formally abandoned their commitment to the New Deal and absorbed key parts of a Republican agenda. [...] This style found its ultimate expression in Barack Obama, who masterfully paired a sonorous rhetoric of optimism with, to paraphrase the political scientist Corey Robin, a 'moral minimalism' that rendered Democrats not so much unprepared for a fight with their Republican foes as indisposed to the very idea of one. Beginning with the hopeful cadence of 'Yes we can!' and ending, after a slew of congressional defeats, with the election of Donald Trump, the Obama era has served to convince many liberals of the need to compromise even further—anything remotely ambitious being doomed to fail on the altars of conservative partisanship and Republican obstruction. (Rampant opposition to Medicare for All from centrist Democrats despite its considerable popularity has been justified on these grounds for years.) [...] It's all well and good to recognize the structural constraints imposed by America's political system, and the difficulty of passing major reforms in the face of organized opposition. But for too many of America's leading liberal politicians, 'realism' has become an identity unto itself, unmoored from any programmatic orientation toward the future or sustained effort to bring about significant change."

Black Agenda Report, "The Politics That Led to the 'Worst Debate': The incoherence of the Biden-Trump debate will be repeated every election cycle until Blacks and progressives break with the corporate duopoly. There is nothing smart or 'strategic' about falling for the same trick every election cycle. The rich man's media are calling it 'the worst debate in modern American history,' but that's because the truth is often painful to watch. The Biden-Trump confrontation revealed, with crystalline clarity, that the real 'genius' of the American electoral process is its total imperviousness to popular demands for a healthier, more just and less economically precarious society and a peaceful, ecologically stable world."

"The Devastatingly Low Bar of 'Official' Poverty: Poverty numbers leave out far too many who are struggling economically. Shouldn't we reach for more than whatever rests just above abject misery? [...] For a more accurate gauge of poverty, some economists have advocated using the Supplemental Poverty Measure, which includes benefits like food stamps when measuring income, and therefore better reveals the extent to which such programs help people—or, conversely, how dire things become when such benefits are slashed or shuttered. Yet even this expanded definition has its shortcomings; as Center for Economic Policy and Research fellow Shawn Fremstad recently wrote, under this measure, 'two adults raising two children in 2019 needed only $28,881 to not be poor (assuming they rented and lived somewhere with average housing costs).' For context, the average cost of a full-time childcare program was $16,000 that year."

"Newport Beach CEO steps down from company after being charged with child prostitution: Newport Beach resident Ian Charles Schenkel, facing charges of engaging in underage prostitution, has stepped down as chief executive of Haliburton International Foods, according to the company. The statement released by the Ontario-based company does not state the reason for Schenkel's resignation. Dan Glick, a management and financial advisor to the company, was appointed as the new CEO. Schenkel, who founded Haliburton International Foods, is no longer listed on the company's website."

Sorkin has made a movie. Rennie Davis himself had things to say about it. "'I was hit and knocked to the ground': the true story of The Trial of the Chicago 7 One of the defendants portrayed in Aaron Sorkin's Oscar-tipped film talks about the 1968 protest and the dramatic trial that followed [...] 'Certainly none of us want to go to prison for many years, so it's not to say we weren't mindful of the likely outcome, but quite honestly this was a group of people, myself included, who really saw the opportunity to basically speak to the country about the Vietnam war. We had different styles and we came from different organisations but, while the movie characterises us as squabbling and fighting a fair amount, it really wasn't the case.' [...] Davis has mixed feelings about the finished product. 'I was the coordinator of the coalition that went to Chicago and I brought back American prisoners of war from Vietnam at a time when places where I was living were being bombed by US military. In the movie, I'm made out to be a complete nerd who's afraid of his own shadow.' He adds: 'Sorkin was seven years old when the trial was occurring and clearly had no understanding of the defendants or, maybe more importantly, the tens of millions of people that were just passionately supporting us.'" I can't tell much from the trailer, but Sascha Baron Cohen does seem reasonably convincing as Abbie, even seems to have the accent. Looks like a good choice for the part.

RIP: Quilt Lady, or "ql" as she signed herself at Atrios' blog, had the keys to Eschaton like I do, except that she posted every morning while I was sleeping through to the afternoon and not checking to see if a new post was needed. I've been lousy about doing that these last few years, but she was diligent. I met her once and felt kinship with her. I'm going to miss her. Atrios wrote "Morning Thread - In Memoriam".

RIP: Mac Davis, Who Wrote Hits For Elvis, and Had His Own #1 Pop Single, Dies, at 78. He had hits of his own with "I Believe in Music" and "Baby Don't Get Hooked On Me", as well as songs he wrote for Elvis, including "In the Ghetto".

"No, the Nazis Were Not Socialists: The idea that the Nazis were socialists is transparently absurd. Unfortunately, it's also an idea that prominent figures on the Right like Sen. Rand Paul have taken up. So let's all say it together now: no, the Nazis were not socialists. They were, in fact, committed anti-socialists."

"Health Care: The Best and the Rest: Which Country Has the World's Best Health Care? [...] Truman proposed federal grants for hospital construction and medical research. He insisted, controversially, not only that the nation had too few doctors, but that the ones it did have were clustered in the wrong places. And he addressed the 'principal reason' that forced so many Americans to forgo vital medical care: 'They cannot afford to pay for it.' [...] The economist Milton Friedman once described the AMA as 'perhaps the strongest trade union in the United States.' It influenced medical school curriculums, limited the number of graduates, and policed the rules for certification and practice. For the AMA, Truman's proposal not only challenged the profession's autonomy, it also made doctors look as if they could not be trusted to place the country's needs above their own. As a result, the AMA ran a simultaneous campaign congratulating its members for making Americans the healthiest people in the world. The existing system worked, it claimed, because so many physicians followed the golden rule, charging patients on a sliding scale that turned almost no one away. If the patient was wealthy, the fee went up; others paid less, or nothing at all. What was better in a free society: the intrusive reach of the state or the big-hearted efforts of the medical community?"

"We Shouldn't Have to Work So Damn Much—An Interview With Jamie Mccallum: We're working longer hours than in decades. But we don't have to. We deserve a more democratic economy in which we have the free time to develop our talents, hang out with friends and family, and do whatever else we please. [...] However, if you dig into it, you find quite a lot of variation. What I found interesting was that low-wage workers have increased their time the most. We're all familiar with white-collar professionals being overworked, but I don't think that's the most interesting part of the story. So there's a trend toward overwork for everyone, but there is an unequal distribution of that rise in work time among different classes of people. Another dimension is increased unpredictability and volatility of schedules and hours, which is mostly the case for low-wage service-sector workers. In other words, their schedules became increasingly controlled by their managers and by technology. Unpredictable hours are volatile by design, not just happenstance. And they create an incredibly stressful and hectic work life. The last dimension is the rise in people simply not having enough hours, which is connected to the volatility. Because most employers require forty hours of availability to work, even if you only get twenty hours of work, it's hard to find a second job that you can also work out in a reasonable way. As a result, many people are suffering from involuntary unemployment."

Compare this article to the ones we saw about the "BernieBros": "Kamala Harris Has A Vibrant Online Fan Club. But It Also Has A Toxic Side: The KHive aims to amplify and support the Democratic vice presidential nominee, but some of its members have crossed the line from ardent fandom to overt harassment."

Peter Falk's Acceptance Speech for COLUMBO | Emmys Archive (1972), because I needed something to cheer me up.

"Graham Nash's 1960 meeting with the Everly Brothers set the path for his life in music."

"IF DONALD GOT FIRED - Randy Rainbow Parody (featuring Patti LuPone!)"

Heart with Jason Bonham "Stairway to Heaven" Led Zeppelin - Kennedy Center Honors HD — and some proud daddies in the audience.

04:19 GMT comment


Wednesday, September 30 2020

What hijacked my world that night?

I see a lot of people talking about Trump's Supreme Court nominee's weird and anti-constitutional religious views, but she also seems bent on creating the kind of society that God always liked to "smite" in the Bible. "Barrett Crushed Gig Workers Weeks Before Likely SCOTUS Nomination: In August, the likely Trump nominee delivered a key ruling blocking many gig workers from suing in court when tech companies deny them overtime pay. That ruling was one of a number of cases in which Barrett helped corporate interests prevail over workers. Her highest-profile business-focused actions on the federal bench have limited the enforcement of age-discrimination laws, restricted federal agencies power to punish companies that mislead consumers and reduced consumers' rights against predatory debt collectors, according to a recent report from the Alliance for Justice." She would be the third member of the Supremes to have helped Bush steal the 2000 election, with Roberts and Kavenaugh.

And wait, there's more! Nathan Robinson read all her court decisions and they told him "Why Amy Coney Barrett Should Not Be On The Supreme Court

"If You Think Amy Coney Barrett Is Extreme, Meet Judy Shelton: Trump's nominee to the Federal Reserve has gotten a lot less publicity. But her desire to return the US to the gold standard and eliminate federal deposit insurance could destroy the economy. [...] But Shelton doesn't believe in the idea of a Federal Reserve system, or indeed any power of government to determine the value or supply of money. In her 1994 book Money Meltdown, Shelton argued that the United States should 'repeal all current federal legal tender laws,' (p. 301) which would return the US financial system to its crazy-quilt pre-Civil War status, when states, banks, and companies could all issue their own money. She advocates eliminating the Federal Reserve's open market operations and ending the Fed's ability to hold government debt—the very tools that Powell and previous Fed chairs have used to try to keep and get us out of recessions. All of these extremist views are in service of reinstating a version of the gold standard, in which the dollar is tied to a specific amount of gold (as was the case in the Bretton Woods international financial system, which ended in 1971) and gold coins would be widely circulated. [...] Shelton has also taken the scary position that the US government should not guarantee bank deposits, a confidence-boosting safeguard that dates back to the Great Depression; some version of deposit insurance exists in every major economy in the world. To Shelton, federal deposit insurance 'undermines the integrity of the banking industry in the United States by steering it in the direction of excessively risky loan portfolios.' As for your savings account, Shelton wants to disabuse you of 'the mistaken notion that funds deposited in interest-bearing accounts at banking institutions can be thought of as being safe.'(pp. 305-6) Or at least that's what Shelton wrote in her 1994 book. When questioned during a February Senate hearing, Shelton said 'I totally support federal deposit insurance. We've had it since 1933.' Little wonder that senators accused her of a 'confirmation conversion.'"

"Pelosi Can Save Obamacare With a One-Line Amendment: By repealing the individual mandate, which is now functionally inert, the House Speaker can invalidate a push to eliminate the Affordable Care Act."

"Khaled El Masri stands up to CIA on intimidation, supports Assange during extradition trial: El Masri declared, 'I record here my belief that without dedicated and brave exposure of the state secrets in question what happened to me would never have been acknowledged and understood.' He added threats and intimidation are 'not diminishing but expanding for all concerned.' 'I nevertheless believe that the exposure of what happened was necessary not just for myself but for law and justice worldwide. My story is not yet concluded.' As El Masri noted, he submitted testimony because 'WikiLeaks publications were relied on by the [European Court of Human Rights] in obtaining the redress' he received."

Workers' rights are on the ballot in California — and on the table everywhere. Fascinating interview with Marshall Steinbaum on The Michael Brooks Show.

Thomas Frank is giving interviews on his latest book, The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism, and did a great free-wheeling interview with Sam Seder on The Majority Report, and another with Anton Jäger at Jacobin. I had fun listening to them.

"Gas Companies Are Abandoning Their Wells, Leaving Them to Leak Methane Forever: Just one orphaned site in California could have emitted more than 30 tons of methane. There are millions more like it

"A new report showing that US state-level voter databases were publicly available calls into question the narrative that Russian intelligence 'targeted' US state election-related websites in 2016. [...] In fact both un-redacted and redacted state voter files are obviously widely available on the dark web as well as elsewhere on the internet. Meduza, a Russian-language news site based in Riga, Latvia, published the Kommersant story along with an 'anonFiles' download portal for access to the Michigan voter database and a page from it showing that it is the officially redacted version. The DHS and the FBI both acknowledged in response to the Kommersant story that 'a lot of voter registration data is publicly available or easily purchased.'" I'd wondered about that myself, since I didn't have to sign in or offer any personal information to check my registration online.

"US Poverty Measure Fails to Meet Government Standards of Reliability, Accuracy, Timeliness, and Objectivity There are many reasons why the Census Bureau's statement is utterly unreliable and inaccurate, but here are the two most important ones. The poverty line used by the Census Bureau to produce this figure is 1) much lower than the amount of income most Americans say is needed to not be poor in today's America; and, 2) much lower than any reasonable expert estimate of the goods and services it takes to not be poor today." I believe I've remarked before on how ridiculously low the so-called "poverty line" is.

Craig Murray and others have been doing daily coverage of the extradition hearing of Julian Assange. Day 9: Things became not merely dramatic in the Assange courtroom today, but spiteful and nasty. There were two real issues, the evidence and the procedure. On the evidence, there were stark details of the dreadful regime Assange will face in US jails if extradited. On the procedure, we saw behaviour from the prosecution QC that went well beyond normal cross examination and was a real attempt to denigrate and even humiliate the witness. I hope to prove that to you by a straightforward exposition of what happened today in court, after which I shall add further comment."

"FinCEN Files: All you need to know about the documents leak: Leaked documents involving about $2tn of transactions have revealed how some of the world's biggest banks have allowed criminals to move dirty money around the world. They also show how Russian oligarchs have used banks to avoid sanctions that were supposed to stop them getting their money into the West. It's the latest in a string of leaks over the past five years that have exposed secret deals, money laundering and financial crime."

"Global banks defy U.S. crackdowns by serving oligarchs, criminals and terrorists: The FinCEN Files show trillions in tainted dollars flow freely through major banks, swamping a broken enforcement system."

"Strategic Aims Behind The War On Armenia" — I don't even want to write about this, but you might want to read it. It's all just too depressing.

"No Parks for the Poor: In the face of budget cuts, some land management agencies are ramping up user fees — and betraying the egalitarian promise of public lands. Livingston, Mont.—A while back I was loaf­ing around a camp­fire with a group of friends and strangers on the bank of one of this state's famous­ly beau­ti­ful rivers when the con­ver­sa­tion turned to the over­crowd­ing prob­lems on anoth­er of this state's famous­ly beau­ti­ful rivers. 'Is it too much to ask that we pay a small fee to use the pub­lic access sites on the riv­er?' offered a well-mean­ing and com­fort­ably wealthy retiree. 'I sure wouldn't mind.' Well, I do mind, and I think a lot of oth­er peo­ple do mind, too. Under­stand that it's not because I'm against con­ser­va­tion, or because I believe in human use of land above all else. In some cas­es I sup­port restrict­ing access to pub­lic land if it's cru­cial to pro­tect­ing wildlife habi­tat. What I'm against is con­ser­va­tion or facil­i­ty main­te­nance that depends on weed­ing out the poor."

"Bill Gates' Global Agenda and How We Can Resist His War on Life: Gates' 'funding' results in an erasure of democracy and biodiversity, of nature and culture. His 'philanthropy' is not just philanthrocapitalism. It is philanthroimperialism.

RIP: "Helen Reddy: Australian singer of feminist anthem 'I Am Woman' dies, at 78, "Reddy, who had Addison's disease and was diagnosed with dementia in 2015, spent the last years of her life in a celebrity care home in Los Angeles. She had a string of pop-rock hits in the 1970s, but is best known for the 1972 anthem 'I Am Woman' - which became prominent in the women's liberation movement."

RIP: "Stephen F. Cohen, Influential Historian of Russia, Dies at 81, of lung cancer. His wife, Katerina vanden Heuval, has a more personal tribute at The Nation.

RIP: Ruth Bader Ginsburg: US Supreme Court judge dies of cancer, aged 87." I know a lot of people loved her, and I certainly don't look forward to the GOP getting another one of their lunatics on Supreme Court, but she was a "moderate", which means she was really pretty conservative, and a lot of her votes did harm to America. So, no, I didn't cry when I heard the news. She was no Thurgood Marshall, no John Paul Stevens. Back in 2016, David Kinder wrote a review of Notorious RBG, "The Rise Of The Ruth Bader Ginsburg Cult: How a wizened, middle-of-the-road jurist became a T-shirt icon for millennial feminists," and made a convincing case that she wasn't all that. It's full of tidbits like this: "In Slate, Mark Joseph Stern contrasted Sotomayor's perceptiveness about police and prisons issues with Ginsburg's indifference: 'When it comes to understanding the systemic flaws and violent behavior of America's criminal justice system, there's no one quite like Justice Sonia Sotomayor... Sorry, Notorious R.B.G. groupies, but [Ruth Bader Ginsburg] has a bit of a law-and-order streak.' (This despite Sotomayor being an ex-prosecutor, while Ginsburg worked for the ACLU.)"

"Anosognosiogenesis @pookleblinky on Twitter: "Every heartwarming human interest story in america is like "he raised $20,000 to keep 200 orphans from being crushed in the orphan-crushing machine" and then never asks why an orphan-crushing machine exists or why you'd need to pay to prevent it from being used."

"The radical mysticism of identitarian reductionism: A sect of liberalism seems to reject any influence of the material economy on human behavior. [...] It is hard to overstate how historically and ideologically bizarre — how breathtaking in its counterintuition and metaphysical ambition — this doctrine of identitarian reductionism actually is. This is not just the usual identitarian claim that there are causal forces in our politics that cannot, ultimately, be traced back to the material economy. This is a second declaration: that somehow, the material economy is not also playing a role in our politics. At all. The fear, misery, and bitterness of poverty; the anxiety over one's precarious standing in the so-called middle class; the insular luxury and jealous ambition of wealth; the concentration of wealth, the evaporation of jobs, and so on — none of this, evidently, plays any role whatsoever in the emergence of demographic tribalism, in interpersonal attitudes, in voting behavior, and so on. This is obviously not the socialist position, but it is not even an ordinary capitalist position. From Adam Smith to Rand Paul to Elizabeth Warren, liberals have always admitted a role for economic 'incentives' in shaping human behavior and political outcomes. 'It's the economy, stupid' was considered a central insight of Democratic politics for more than two decades. On the contrary, the sort of ontology one would have to construct to rationalize an absolute analytical bias against material causality seems to have little precedent outside of certain genres of religious mysticism. As noted, I think that identitarian reductionism is probably best understood as a historical consequence of Clinton 2016's campaign messaging: it is what happens when liberal pundits with massive corporate platforms popularize hardline, hyperbolic criticism of 'class reductionists' out of rhetorical convenience. This is not, in other words, some inevitable expression of liberal ideology — it's even weirder than that. And regardless, we're going to be living with it for a long time.

"Four Steps to Transform the Pharmaceutical Industry and Survive the Pandemic: Dealing with the Covid crisis will require taking the profit motive out of our health systems. Here's how."

At Black Agenda Report, "The Democrats' Supreme Failure [...] The Supreme Court is supposed to be the issue that ends all arguments. The fact that the Democrats mishandled this situation so badly is one of the reasons they have deified the late justice Ginsburg. They have to divert attention from the mess they created. The federal courts would not play such a large political role if the Democrats were serious about winning and keeping legislative majorities. When Barack Obama was president they lost more than 900 seats in state legislatures, the House of Representatives and the Senate. The loss of the Senate was particularly devastating. Ginsburg should have stepped down when Obama still had the Democratic Party control needed to nominate a replacement. Instead, the 80-year old who had already been diagnosed with cancer was supremely arrogant. In 2014 Ginsburg was dismissive of prudent calls for her to retire and said so publicly . 'So tell me who the president could have nominated this spring that you would rather see on the court than me?' Thanks to her hubris, Democrats are now caught in a mixture of panic and overly deferential mourning."

Scary interview (text and audio), "Fool Me Twice: How Democrats Risk Repeating The Mistakes Of The Financial Crisis In The Era Of Covid-19: Economist James Galbraith explains what the U.S. economy will need to get back on its feet.. [...] They believe that what they did in 2008, 2009, and 2010 worked; that they can pull the economy out through a short-term program of stimulus and then shift to retrenchment of one kind or another in the following years." And this is why it has been making me crazy for years to hear people insist that Obama heroically "saved" the economy when, in fact, he screwed the pooch on the financial crisis.

Katie Halper and Matt Taibbi did a terrific interview with Glenn Greenwald on Useful idiots where Glenn makes a lot of great points about the vapidity and unreliability of our discourse. One point worth emphasizing is that the same people who were outraged when the Sanders campaign posted a clip of Joe Rogan (who'd once had the temerity to wonder whether mtf transsexuals could fairly compete with female athletes) saying he was probably voting for Bernie were nevertheless happy to embrace Rick Snyder's endorsement, despite the fact that he is the man who poisoned the water in Flint, MI. Glenn also explains exactly what really happened with Reality Winner and why the version of the story most people have heard is nothing like the truth.

"The Prochoice Religious Community May Be the Future of Reproductive Rights, Access, and Justice: There is a vast prochoice religious community in the United States that could provide the moral, cultural, and political clout to reverse current antiabortion policy trends in the United States. Most, but not all, of this demographic are Christians and Jews. There are also deeply considered, theologically acceptable, prochoice positions and, therefore, prochoice people and institutions within all of major world religious traditions present in the United States, including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Chinese traditions.1 Taken together, they have vast resources, institutional capacity, historic and central roles in many towns and cities, and cadres of well-educated leaders at every level—from national denominational offices to local congregational leaders, current and retired. This cohort is often measured by reputable pollsters and may actually comprise the majority or near majority of the religious community. Nevertheless, it is not well identified or sought out by the organized prochoice community, the media, and elected officials. What's more, this wide and diverse constituency is insufficiently organized by the prochoice religious community itself. But it could be. This essay will show that this demographic, and the institutions and traditions that inform it, may be the best hope for restoring and sustaining abortion rights, access, and justice in the United States at a time when the Christian Right and its allies in state and federal government are undermining and seeking to eliminate them."

This interview with George Farah, author of No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates is infuriating. Also includes an interview with Steve Silberstein on the fight to get rid of the Electoral College.

From 2014, "How the Rich Conquered the Economy, in One Chart" — The bottom 90% used to take the lion's share of income growth during expansions, but after 1980, this reversed, with the 90% getting a smaller and smaller bite of the growth until we get to the Obama years, when the 90% actually lost ground during the "expansion".

2017 in The Atlantic, "The Lost History of an American Coup D'état: Republicans and Democrats in North Carolina are locked in a battle over which party inherits the shame of Jim Crow. By the time the fire started, Alexander Manly had vanished. That didn't stop the mob of 400 people who'd reached his newsroom from making good on their promise. The crowd, led by a former congressman, had given the editor-in-chief an ultimatum: Destroy your newspaper and leave town forever, or we will wreck it for you. They burned The Daily Record to the ground. It was the morning of November 10, 1898, in Wilmington, North Carolina, and the fire was the beginning of an assault that took place seven blocks east of the Cape Fear River, about 10 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. By sundown, Manly's newspaper had been torched, as many as 60 people had been murdered, and the local government that was elected two days prior had been overthrown and replaced by white supremacists." Suzanne Mettler revisited this story on Tuesday's The Majority Report with Sam Seder.

The Straw Hat Riot: "A fashion faux pas turned violent in NYC's Straw Hat Riot. A bizarre incident in 1922 when the fashion police were supplanted by fashion vigilantes, out for blood. Like wearing white after Labor Day, wearing a straw boater after September 15 was a faux pas in 1920s America, and it was common practice for teenagers to knock straw hats off people's heads and stomp on them after that date. When, in 1922, a bunch of teenagers decided to start a few days early, things escalated quickly."

Noticed the old link that was there until maybe a few months ago has disappeared, but found a different one for "Operation Ignore".

The Avengers of Oz

Twilight Zone, the Lost Episode, with Jack Benny and Rod Serling.

"Nihilistic Password Security Questions"

Ray Manzarek on creating "Riders on the Storm"

Steve Cropper tells the story of how "Green Onions" came to be. And "Green Onions", 1962.

The Pretenders 2020, "Back on the Chain Gang". Chrissy Hynde was born in 1951.

23:48 GMT comment


Wednesday, 16 September 2020

I'm thinking about the fireworks

Must-listen: I hate making a video the top news item, but Richard Wolff's discussion of what our leaders have planned for us is absolutely terrifying. Not only are we already in a downward cascade, but they're pulling out all the stops on how miserable your life can be made by the same creatures who are no longer dependent on us as consumers since they are now directly funded by the government. Ah, but don't worry, Nancy Pelosi made sure that you get...74¢.Meanwhile, the CPFB has just announced a new rule allowing your dead relatives' creditors to harass you 40 times a week, while our government pours billions into corporations to play in the Big Casino. And neither Democrats nor Republicans are willing to discuss a jobs program. "USA political and economic collapse".

"Despite DNC focus on winning 'Biden Republicans,' poll suggests beating Trump is about Dem turnout: 'So much for going all out to get Republicans and shunning progressives.' Progressives are raising alarm over new poll results from CBS News out Tuesday, which suggest the Democratic Party's courting of moderate so-called "Biden Republicans" while sidelining popular progressive proposals and voices has not so far resulted in a groundswell of support for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden from disaffected GOP voters. In a poll taken between August 20 and 22, after the Democratic National Convention wrapped up last week, CBS found that just 5% of self-identified Republicans said they plan to vote for Biden in the November election; 93% said they were planning to vote for President Donald Trump. The president also led by 10 percentage points among Independent voters, who make up a plurality of U.S. voters. Justice Democrats spokesperson Waleed Shahid tweeted that the poll showed an "interesting dynamic" following a national convention at which the party gave more speaking time to anti-Trump Republicans including former Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Secretary of State Colin Powell than they did to popular progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), as well as largely ignoring a number of key progressive policy proposals. [...] Biden's support within the GOP is now lower than the number of Republicans who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to the CBS poll, as well as those who voted for former President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012."

Remember when Obama promised single-payer advocates a "compromise" of a public option, but it turned out he was just playing 11-dimensional chess against us? Well, "Biden's flexibility on policy could mean fierce fights if he wins: WILMINGTON, Del. — When Joe Biden released economic recommendations two months ago, they included a few ideas that worried some powerful bankers: allowing banking at the post office, for example, and having the Federal Reserve guarantee all Americans a bank account. But in private calls with Wall Street leaders, the Biden campaign made it clear those proposals would not be central to Biden's agenda. 'They basically said, "Listen, this is just an exercise to keep the Warren people happy, and don't read too much into it,"' said one investment banker, referring to liberal supporters of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). The banker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private talks, said that message was conveyed on multiple calls."

"House Democrats, Working With Liz Cheney, Restrict Trump's Planned Withdrawal of Troops From Afghanistan and Germany: The bipartisan commitment to using Russia for endless war and imperialism remains vibrant. THE U.S. MILITARY HAS BEEN fighting in Afghanistan for almost nineteen years. House Democrats, working in tandem with key pro-war GOP lawmakers such as Rep. Liz Cheney, are ensuring that continues. Last night, the House Armed Services Committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of an amendment — jointly sponsored by Democratic Congressman Jason Crow of Colorado and Congresswoman Cheney of Wyoming — prohibiting the expenditure of monies to reduce the number of U.S. troops deployed in Afghanistan below 8,000 without a series of conditions first being met. The imposed conditions are by no means trivial: for these troop reductions from Afghanistan to be allowed, the Defense Department must be able to certify, among other things, that leaving Afghanistan 'will not increase the risk for the expansion of existing or formation of new terrorist safe havens inside Afghanistan' and 'will not compromise or otherwise negatively affect the ongoing United States counter terrorism mission against the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and associated forces.'"

"KY Prosecutors Offer Breonna Taylor's Ex-Boyfriend Plea Deal to Name Taylor in Drug Case: In Louisville, Kentucky, prosecutors reportedly offered Breonna Taylor's ex-boyfriend a plea deal if he named Taylor as a member of an alleged 'organized crime syndicate' in return for leniency on drug charges. Jamarcus Glover turned down the plea deal. Prosecutors on Monday denied naming Breonna Taylor as a co-defendant in Glover's case and argued a document leaked on social media was just a draft as part of early negotiations. An attorney for Taylor's family who posted the photo on Facebook said it was a 'desperate' attempt by prosecutors to justify Taylor's killing. Protests have been ongoing to demand justice for Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician, who was fatally shot by Louisville police in her own home in March. The officers involved in her killing have not been charged."

"Elon Musk Thinks His Treatment of Workers Is a 'Trade Secret': A wonky California legislative fight is a test of whether green jobs will be good jobs, too. Leave it to Elon Musk and his ilk to show that paying companies to create good, green jobs is easier said than done. Right now, his companies are opposing a California bill that will allow the public to access data on wages, benefits, and working conditions that they already provide to the state as a condition of public subsidy and procurement contracts. From the Green New Deal to Joe Biden's campaign platform, any measures proposing to pay corporations to create well-paid clean energy jobs would need public oversight to ensure follow-through. But as this tense, wonky fight in the Californian statehouse is showing, even the greenest parts of Corporate America may not be up for such transparency. Until now, companies with state and local contracts in California have claimed that wages, working conditions, and other hiring and employment information constitute proprietary 'trade secrets' exempt from state disclosure rules and the California Public Records Act, or CPRA. Senate Bill 749 aims to close that loophole, making the information companies already provide to state agencies as a condition of public subsidies and procurement contracts subject to public records requests. Opposition to SB 749 has been led by the California Manufacturers Technology Association, a trade lobby including Musk's Tesla, as well as the California Chamber of Commerce, SpaceX, and several defense contractors, including Raytheon and Northrop Grumman. In addition to complaints about making alleged trade secrets public, they've argued through public letters and calls to legislators that such rules could require companies to disclose 'potentially dangerous information related to the supply chains, staffing, and even the location of specific projects with national defense implications,' according to a floor alert about SB 749 sent to legislators by groups opposed to the bill. But the state's public records rules already include several protections against disclosing information with national security implications, which aren't under the purview of the trade secrets loopholes contested by SB 749."

"Appeals court temporarily halts protections for journalists, legal observers in Portland: A three-judge panel on Thursday temporarily halted protections for journalists and legal observers covering the unrest In Portland, Oregon. Last week, federal Judge Michael Simon ruled that journalists and legal observers were exempt from federal officers' physical force, arrest or other treatment if the officers "reasonably know" that a person is a journalist or legal observer. But in a 2-1 decision, the judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, agreed with the government that Judge Simon's initial ruling was too broad. 'Given the order's breadth and lack of clarity, particularly in its non-exclusive indicia of who qualifies as 'Journalists' and 'Legal Observers,' appellants have also demonstrated that, in the absence of a stay, the order will cause irreparable harm to law enforcement efforts and personnel," two of the three judges wrote. "This means that journalists could be subjected to the same physical force as that of the individuals participating.'"

"The Pentagon has ordered Stars and Stripes to shut down for no good reason: Even for those of us who are all too wearily familiar with President Donald Trump's disdain for journalists, his administration's latest attack on the free press is a bit of a jaw-dropper. In a heretofore unpublicized recent memo, the Pentagon delivered an order to shutter Stars and Stripes, a newspaper that has been a lifeline and a voice for American troops since the Civil War. The memo orders the publisher of the news organization (which now publishes online as well as in print) to present a plan that 'dissolves the Stars and Stripes' by Sept. 15 including "specific timeline for vacating government owned/leased space worldwide.' 'The last newspaper publication (in all forms) will be September 30, 2020,' writes Col. Paul Haverstick Jr., the memo's author."

"How millions from Uber and Lyft are funding the harassment of a critic: Veena Dubal has spent much of her professional career examining and writing about the rise of the gig economy and the loss of employment rights by workers in that sector. An associate professor at UC Hastings law school, Dubal has been an outspoken supporter of AB5, the California law designed to rein in those employment abuses, including those by the ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft. She's also a critic of Proposition 22, the initiative funded chiefly by Uber and Lyft aimed at overturning AB5. As a result of her criticism of Uber, Lyft and the gig economy business model, Dubal has become the target of harassment on Twitter, some of it obscene and some of it overtly encouraged by the Yes on Proposition 22 campaign, which is heavily funded by Uber and Lyft. Her home address has been published online, which prompted her local police department to start regular patrols around her home. She has been falsely accused of having written AB5 and having had a 'hand' in the 2018 California Supreme Court decision that led to AB5."

What if Trump could do something to give red meat to his base and piss off the libs - and it would be a good thing? "Trump orders crackdown on federal antiracism training, calling it 'anti-American': Memo directs officials to identify spending related to training on "critical race theory' and "white privilege'" — It would be a blessing to get rid of this stuff, which does nothing but treat minorities as "others" who have to be constantly placated while distracting from the larger issues that make the concrete lives of minorities (and many whites!) miserable.

"What is happening to Portland?: Summer, which was once characterized by waterfront festivals, is now just the time of the year when right-wing provocateurs come here looking for trouble. These demonstrations are planned in advance, many times calling for people to attend from across the nation, and often it is Patriot Prayer who organizes them. Patriot Prayer is a far-right group that the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as containing 'violent extremists' and, like many other far-right groups that stage these events, most of their members do not live in Portland. Instead, the monthly (and sometimes weekly) far right demonstrations held here are typically full of out-of-town individuals, many of whom are armed with weapons. And once assembled, they shout insults and slurs at nearby locals. And that's on a good day. Many times these events also devolve into violence. If the goal was to recruit and persuade the people of Portland, it is a poor strategy. But that does not appear to be their purpose. Rather, the goal appears to be provocation and intimidation."

"Under Trump the NLRB Has Gone Completely Rogue: An agency founded to defend workers' rights is dismantling them just when workers need them most. [...] The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is a New Deal agency established by Congress to implement and enforce the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the law giving most private-sector workers the right to join together and take action, whether through forming a formal union or not, to improve their pay, benefits, and working conditions. These rights are more relevant now than ever, as demonstrated by the recent wave of strikes and job actions by health care workers and workers at Amazon, Instacart, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and other companies. Workers have taken to the streets, started petition drives, and made bargaining demands in an effort to get their employers to provide safety equipment and institute other measures to protect them from workplace exposure to the Covid-19. Even before the Covid-19 crisis, worker interest in organizing unions was on the rise, with the percentage of nonunion workers saying they would vote for a union if given the chance up 50 percent from a similar poll 25 years ago. The board is currently composed of three white male NLRB members and another white male general counsel (prosecutor)'all Republicans, three with careers representing corporations and one as a Republican Capitol Hill staffer. Both Democratic seats are currently vacant. There is nobody currently on the NLRB with experience representing workers or unions. Through these appointees, an agency that is supposed to protect workers' right to organize has taken the law in exactly the opposite direction. In decision after decision, the NLRB has stripped workers of their protections under the law, restricted their ability to organize at their workplace, slowed down the union election process to give employers more time to campaign against the union, repealed rules holding employers accountable for their actions, and undermined workers' bargaining rights.

"Possible evidence found for life on Venus: The best evidence for life beyond Earth has been found in the most surprising of places — the atmosphere of Venus. A team led by Jane Greaves, who is a professor at Cardiff University, has detected the presence of phosphine gas in Venus' clouds. The intriguing thing about phosphine, which is a molecule formed of three hydrogen atoms and one phosphorous atom, is that on Earth its only natural source is from some anaerobic (i.e., non-oxygen breathing) microbial lifeforms. No known geological mechanism or non-biological chemical reaction produces it on our planet, although it is produced deep inside gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn where hydrogen is plentiful and the temperature and pressure extremely high."

RIP: "David Graeber, anthropologist and author of Bullshit Jobs, dies aged 59: David Graeber, anthropologist and anarchist author of bestselling books on bureaucracy and economics including Bullshit Jobs: A Theory and Debt: The First 5,000 Years, has died aged 59. On Thursday Graeber's wife, the artist and writer Nika Dubrovsky, announced on Twitter that Graeber had died in hospital in Venice the previous day. In a statement, Graeber's publisher, Penguin Random House, said that the cause of death was not yet known. Renowned for his biting and incisive writing about bureaucracy, politics and capitalism, Graeber was a leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement and professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics (LSE) at the time of his death. The historian Rutger Bregman called Graeber 'one of the greatest thinkers of our time and a phenomenal writer', while the Guardian columnist Owen Jones called him 'an intellectual giant, full of humanity, someone whose work inspired and encouraged and educated so many'. " This is a terrible shock, he had sounded healthy and vital in recent interviews and to have him gone at a mere 59 years of age is really distressing. He was a hero for some of us.

RIP: "Diana Rigg, Avengers and Game of Thrones star, dies aged 82: Actor who played Emma Peel in hit spy series and James Bond's only wife was diagnosed with cancer in March." We loved Mrs. Peel and she was wonderful as Lady Tyrell. One great, great Dame.

RIP: Shere Hite, 77, "'She began the real sexual revolution for women': The pioneering feminist Shere Hite, known for her research on female sexuality, has died at the age of 77. She was best known for The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality, which has sold more than 50m copies since publication in 1976." She was important, although it didn't exactly answer my prayers to now have guys obsessing on muff-diving in an effort to give me an orgasm. I hate it when guys think they know how to "pleasure a woman", as if we were all identical. Reality is that most guys may like sloppy kisses but some guys don't, and most women don't like sloppy kisses although some women do, and sex is like that all over the place and you can't read a book and know what that particular person is going to like. But bless Shere Hite for telling the world that reproductive sex isn't necessarily the optimal road to female orgasm.

RIP: "Joan Feynman, Who Shined Light on the Aurora Borealis, Dies at 93: Joan Feynman grew up in the shadow of her older brother, the brilliant scientist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman. When she expressed interest in following in his footsteps, her mother crushed the impulse. 'My mother warned me, "Women's brains can't do science,"' Ms. Feynman recalled in a 2018 speech at the California Institute of Technology. Despite those discouraging words, Ms. Feynman went on to become a world-famous astrophysicist. She predicted sunspot cycles and figured out how many high-energy particles were likely to hit a spacecraft over its lifetime, allowing the space industry to design satellites and capsules with greater longevity. Her crowning achievement was understanding solar activity and its influence on Earth, including auroras, those dazzling, psychedelic displays of colors — known as the aurora borealis in the Northern Hemisphere and the aurora australis in the Southern — that inflame the night skies."

"People worry that 'moderate' Democrats like Joe Biden are the same as Republicans. Our study suggests they may be right [...] When it comes to addressing climate change, Eric Levitz of New York Magazine argued that 'a major [obstacle] is the tendency of moderate Democrats to mistake their own myopic complacency for heroic prudence'. Political researcher David Adler found that across Europe and North America, centrists are the least supportive of democracy, the least committed to its institutions, and the most supportive of authoritarianism. Furthermore, Adler found that centrists are the least supportive of free and fair elections as well as civil rights — in the United States, only 25 percent of centrists agree that civil rights are an essential feature of democracy. [...] This IDEALS finding is on par with a recent Gallup study encompassing over 29,000 interviews with American adults, which revealed that moderates and conservatives remain closely aligned in their ideological preferences. This raises important questions heading into the election: Is a moderate male candidate a bait-and-switch for Democratic voters? Are they actually casting their votes for a conservative?"

Branko Marcetic on the RNC, "Last Night's GOP Insanity Proves How Much the Two Parties Need Each Other: The lunacy on display at last night's Republican National Convention is what keeps frightened liberal voters satisfied with the meager crumbs of progress offered by the Democrats — and the meagerness of those crumbs is what keeps working-class whites inside an increasingly lunatic GOP."

"The carbon footprint sham: A 'successful, deceptive' PR campaign" — You're not the big polluter, but the big polluters sure want you to think so.

"Michael Hudson: How an 'Act of God' Pandemic Is Destroying the West: The U.S. Is Saving the Financial Sector, Not the Economy: Yves here. Michael Hudson explains how the American fixation on protecting creditors is making our bad response to the coronacrisis even worse. And unlike the 2008 crisis, this time the damage to the real economy is overwhelming, meaning the logic of putting financial firms at the head of the line is even weaker than back then. Before juxtaposing the U.S. and alternative responses to the coronavirus's economic effects, I would like to step back in time to show how the pandemic has revealed a deep underlying problem. We are seeing the consequences of Western societies painting themselves into a debt corner by their creditor-oriented philosophy of law. Neoliberal anti-government (or more accurately, anti-democratic) ideology has centralized social planning and state power in 'the market,' meaning specifically the financial market on Wall Street and in other financial centers."

"Democrats Have Failed Urban Black Americans: The Republican critique of misrule in American cities has some merit, and it's not clear that Joe Biden's party is prepared to meet the need: On the first night of the Republican National Convention on Monday, viewers were treated to a taped speech by Kimberly Klacik, a young, Black candidate for Maryland's 7th House district, which includes a large share of Baltimore. She won't be among the convention's best-remembered appearances, but she did manage to capsulize much of Trump's message for Black urban voters in just two short minutes. 'Let me remind you that Democrats have controlled this part of Baltimore City for over 50 years,' she said. 'And they have run this beautiful place right into the ground. Abandoned buildings, liquor stores on every corner, drug addicts, guns on the street—that's now the norm in many neighborhoods. You'd think Maryland taxpayers would be getting a whole lot since our taxes are out of control. Instead, we're paying for decades of incompetence and corruption. Sadly, this same cycle of decay exists in many of America's Democrat-run cities.' [...] It goes without saying that nothing in Klacik's 300-word platform would solve the deep problems facing Baltimore or any city. Tax incentives that flow largely to well-off neighborhoods and school choice policies aren't going to undo decades of socioeconomic and structural decay in poor communities. We know this because Democrats have tried them; the failures Klacik points to have been efforts to do exactly as she recommends now. We know too that the dismantling of the federal welfare state and mass incarceration failed to revive poor communities and that the Republican Party remains a central obstacle to federal urban investment. The question is what Democrats will attempt now to turn the page."

"The New Face of Union-Busting: Anti-labor strategies with a liberal twist [...] Over the years, the anti-union industrial complex has evolved into a lucrative field unto itself; it's not all brash targeted firings and stuffy, captive audience meetings anymore. Some solutions are quieter, sneakier, and more suited to the image that outwardly progressive or even 'social justice'-oriented organizations seek to convey. Whether it's hiring a very specific kind of law firm, chiseling away at a new union's bargaining unit to lessen its impact, or forcing workers to jump through the hoop of holding a secret ballot election instead of just voluntarily recognizing their union, these more genteel tactics can be just as effective as those wielded by old-fashioned strikebreakers, even if they're no longer quite as violent."

"Larry Flynt: My Final Farewell to the Falwells: When I heard that Jerry Falwell Jr. had resigned the presidency of Liberty University in disgrace, it struck me as the belated ending to a long personal saga with the Falwell clan— and an essential footnote to the role of religion and free speech in America. For those unfamiliar with ancient history, it began in the 1970s, soon after I started publishing Hustler."

This is a few years old from Steve Brust, but it's a pretty sharp retort to the claim that Obama was helpless because of the Republicans. "President Obama's Legacy in his Own Words Except Not."

"Mick Jagger demanded penis apology from Keith Richards as 'prerequisite' to Rolling Stones reunion." It's not really a very interesting story but it was just amusing to have that headline show up on my screen.

"One American Wrote Most of Scots Wikipedia. And They Got It All Wrong. [...] A wiki with tens of thousands of entries in what's supposed to be the Scots language — and they were nearly all written by one, very prolific and very American person. A person — who does not speak Scots. [...] 'This is going to sound incredibly hyperbolic and hysterical but I think this person has possibly done more damage to the Scots language than anyone else in history.'"

Terry Carr's last public appearance at ConFederation, the 1986 Worldcon, in Atlanta.

"The Glorias | Official Teaser

The Pretenders, "Don't Get Me Wrong" (official music video)

01:01 GMT comment


Monday, 31 August 2020

He knows that all his hopes and dreams begin and end there

Senator Bernie Sanders' complete remarks at 2020 Democratic National Convention may be the only speech from the DNC that causes anyone to vote for Biden who might not have.

Obama also spoke at the DNC, and listening to him say these things as if they were about Republicans rather than himself and his cronies was absolutely infuriating.

Michael Moore makes his case: "Ep. 113: I'm Voting For Joe Biden Because I Don't Believe Him | Rumble w Michael Moore podcast."

The Majority Report's crew looks at the possibilities for Congress and says, "No Such Thing As An Unwinnable Race In 2020."

In Minnesota, Michigan, and Arizona, Biden's numbers look too close for comfort.

"Biden suggests he'd nominate Obama to Supreme Court." Imagine wasting a Supreme Court seat on the only president ever to claim he had a right to kill American citizens without charges or trail - and did it, for speech he didn't like.

Meanwhile, "Chuck Schumer isn't an 'angry centrist' anymore" — or so he claims. Is he still getting his polling from that imaginary couple? (I'm not making this up.)

"Carter Center to launch first-ever US election initiative, citing 'erosion' of democracy: Exclusive: Democracy promotion group founded by Jimmy Carter will launch US-focused initiative for first time in its history. [...] 'We are now at a point where we have taken an institutional decision to explore some direct engagement on US election issues. And this is a departure from our whole history trying not to do that,' David Carroll, director of the centre's Democracy Programme, told The Independent. In the past, he added, the centre has prioritised countries where there is 'a significant potential for an important change in the quality of democracy', or where democracy is 'under severe threat'. 'Until the last 10 years, we wouldn't have thought of the US in that category. But it's been increasingly the view of the Carter Center that the state of democracy in the US has been eroding.'"

"The Police Are Pretty Sure They're Going to Get Away With It: In Portsmouth, Virginia, cops have been systematically using their state power to tyrannize political enemies. As my colleague Adam Weinstein noted a few weeks ago, it has become a minor cliché in American political rhetoric to ask your audience to imagine how the media would cover some domestic development if it were taking place overseas, in one of the countries we consider less 'free.' But the device does make clear the extent to which we are willing to tolerate authoritarianism and petty tyranny here in the United States. How can anyone accurately describe what is happening in Portsmouth, Virginia, for example, without lapsing into the language of the foreign correspondent? The security forces are threatening to detain their political opponents. In June, protesters beheaded a few Confederate statues in Portsmouth and tore down another, which landed on and injured a demonstrator. Several months later, Portsmouth police, taking advantage of Virginia's magistrate system, which bypasses elected prosecutors in these decisions, charged various local civil rights leaders, public defenders, and the president pro tempore of the Virginia Senate, Louise Lucas, with felony charges of conspiracy to injure a monument. [...] The Virginian-Pilot's Ana Ley and Gary A. Harki reported that 'elected officials, activists and historians' have identified a 'clear pattern' in which Portsmouth's 'majority-Black population pushes its government to repair strained police relations, spend more tax dollars on children and pass countless other measures to make Portsmouth more equitable,' only for that majority to find its representatives hounded out of power by the police."

Sirota, "Team Biden Now Signals Austerity, Despite Campaign Pledges: Biden's top adviser made a hugely important declaration -- and almost nobody noticed it. The Democratic convention has sucked up all the political oxygen in America — so much so, that most people missed Team Biden signaling that it may back off the entire agenda it is campaigning on. This monumental declaration went almost completely unnoticed for an entire day — which is a genuinely disturbing commentary on how the biggest of big political news gets routinely ignored. To review the situation: earlier this month, Bloomberg News reported that Biden's 'campaign rolled out a $3.5 trillion economic program over the past month' — one that 'promises to invest in clean energy and caregiving, buy more made-in-America goods, and start narrowing the country's racial wealth gaps.' This, said the news service, was proof that Biden no longer adhered to an ideology of austerity and deficit hawkery — which would be good news. But then on the eve of Biden's convention speech, the Democratic nominee's top aide suggested to Washington reporters that, in fact, that's not true. [...] Economist Dean Baker goes over exactly how destructive and insane this ideology is. As he says: 'The idea that we would not address pressing needs, like climate change, child care, and health care because we are concerned about the debt burden is close to crazy. As long as the economy is not near its capacity, there is zero reason not to spend to address these priorities.' I encourage you to read his piece. [...] This is not the first time there's been silence on stuff like this — less than a month ago Biden explicitly promised his Wall Street donors that despite his public campaign promises, he will not be pushing new legislation to change corporate behavior. That happened and it basically went unreported. You didn't see it on MSNBC or hear it on NPR. You didn't see it anywhere, except for right here at TMI (this is the kind of reporting you are supporting when you become a subscriber). [...] Nathan Tankus reacts to the Biden statement: 'This is completely unacceptable. I don't want a qanon president in 2024. The fiscal policy we need is much greater than short term stimulus and committing to 'long run' austerity is horrendous and amounts to a commitment to cut medicare and social security.'"

"The Burden of the Debt: Lessons for Biden Adviser Ted Kaufman: Top Biden adviser, and long-time personal friend, Ted Kaufman was seen in the Wall Street Journal warning that the debt run up by the Trump administration will seriously limit what Biden will be able to do as president. This is wrong big time, and it is the sort of silly thing that no one in a Biden administration should ever be saying. The government's ability to spend is limited by the economy's ability to produce, not the debt. If the government spends too much, it will lead to inflation. When we have a period of high unemployment, as is the case now and almost certainly will still be the case if Biden takes office in January, we are very far from hitting the economy's inflation barriers. It takes some very deliberate head in the ground economics to argue that we are somehow limited by the size of the government debt. Japan provides a great model here. Its ratio of debt to GDP is more than 250 percent, more than twice the current U.S. level. Yet, the country is seeing near zero inflation and has a 0.03 percent interest rate on its long-term debt. The interest on its debt is near zero, since much of its debt carries a negative interest rate. The idea that we would not address pressing needs, like climate change, child care, and health care because we are concerned about the debt burden is close to crazy."

"I Have Spent My Career Advocating for Fair Housing. It's Good to See Obama's Rule Go: The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, as adopted by the Obama administration and scrapped by the Trump administration, didn't include the policy tools necessary to achieve fair housing in the United States, according to this opinion piece. [...] Many civil rights advocates have decried the Trump administration's actions, accurately noting that it reflects Trump's hostility to equal justice generally and Black Americans in particular. But they shouldn't complain. Withdrawing the rule represents a crucial first step in breaking down racial segregation—for reasons completely opposite to Trump's intentions. The final AFFH rule under Obama was almost comically weak. It literally contained no rules for how state and local governments were actually supposed to "Affirmatively Further Fair Housing." It only promised an "Assessment Tool" for how cities were supposed to evaluate the impacts of their policies. Note the word "promise": the rule did not even contain the Assessment Tool itself. It simply said that at some point in the future, HUD would present the Assessment Tool. [...] If the Obama rule was weak but the Trump Rule is awful, why does it matter? Decrying the demise of the Obama rule sets us up for a terrible outcome in the event that a Biden Administration takes power next year. A Biden-led HUD that merely reinstates the Obama rule might proclaim it a great triumph. It is anything but. Celebrating the Obama's AFFH rule presents the real danger that it will become a ceiling rather than a floor for future fair housing policy."

"NYT Urges Biden to Shun His Party's 'Left-Leaning Brand': As the Democratic National Convention kicks off, election season is finally heating up again—which means it's time for corporate media to get back to flogging their 'move to the center' horse when covering Democrats. This week's edition comes from New York Times reporter Reid J. Epstein, in an article headlined, 'How Biden Could Learn From Conor Lamb's Victory in Trump Country' (8/16/20). Lamb won his long-shot House race in a 2018 special election, in a district in southwestern Pennsylvania that went for Trump in 2016 by around 20 points."

"Media Show Little Interest in Israeli Bombing of Gaza: Israel is bombing Palestine again, although you likely wouldn't guess that from watching TV news. For the eleventh straight night, Israeli Defense Force warplanes have been bombing the densely populated Gaza Strip. Israel's bombs have caused considerable damage, forcing the shutdown of the area's only power plant. But US corporate media, focused on the coronavirus and election coverage, have shown little interest in the renewed violence in the Middle East. Searching for 'Gaza' on the websites of NBC News, CNN, MSNBC and PBS elicits no relevant results. Nor has Fox News addressed the bombings, although it did find time (8/18/20) to cover the archaeological discovery of an old soap factory in Israel's Negev Desert."

"RAY McGOVERN: Catapulting Russian-Meddling Propaganda: The New York Times is leading the full-court press to improve on what it regards as Special Counsel Robert Mueller's weak-kneed effort to blame the Russians for giving us Donald Trump. [...] The recent release of a 1,000-page, sans bombshells and already out-of-date report by the Senate Intelligence Committee has provided the occasion to 'catapult the propaganda,' as President George W. Bush once put it."

"Terrible Rumor: Donald Norcross, A Conservative Democrat From New Jersey's Most Corrupt Political Family Is Being Vetted As Biden's Labor Secretary: Neoliberal Democratic presidents do a little balancing dance when they pick their first cabinets. They give a grotesque Wall Street whore the Treasury job and they gave a real progressive the Labor Secretary job. JFK's first Secretary of Labor was Arthur Goldberg, a Steelworkers general counsel who was appointed to the Supreme Court. JFK didn't even pretend when it came to the Treasury Secretary; he gave the job to conservative Republican and Wall Street bankster Douglas Dillon. Bill Clinton gave the Labor job to Robert Reich and then appointed 3 for the most conservative assholes to Treasury imaginable: Lloyd Bentsen, Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers. Obama gave Labor to Hilda Solis-- another outstanding progressive-- and Treasury to Wall Street creep Tim Geithner. There's no reason to imagine Biden isn't going to find a nightmarish conservative for the Treasury job. Bank on it. And I think he intends to pick a progressive for Labor-- but not a real progressive. A rumor has been circulating in New Jersey and DC that he has his mind on a crooked pro-labor conservative congressman, Donald Norcross. How can Norcross be called a progressive? Well, he can't-- except that Mark Pocan sold him a spot in the Progressive Caucus and made him vice chair for labor. Norcross doesn't have an "A" rating from Progressive Punch, nor even a "B" or a "C." He doesn't even have a "D." Nope-- pure "F." That's Pocan's idea of a progressive-able-to-write-a-check. And Biden's people honed right in on it.

RIP: "Chadwick Boseman: Black Panther star dies of cancer aged 43: The actor died at his Los Angeles home after being diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago." @fpaulwilson tweeted: Chadwick Boseman...let me get this straight: He made "Black Panther," "Avengers: Infinity War," "Avengers: Endgame," "21 Bridges," "Da 5 Bloods," and "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" while undergoing multiple surgeries and chemo without letting anyone know he was sick. That's a mensch."

"White Vigilantes Have Always Had A Friend In Police: New data shows that far-right vigilantes, often with support from cops, have threatened protesters nearly 500 times since police killed George Floyd [...] The dataset, which Ross shared with HuffPost, documents a staggering amount of violence directed at protesters by the far-right, including 64 cases of simple assault, 38 incidents of vigilantes driving cars into demonstrators, and nine times shots were fired at protesters. All told, six protesters were hit by vigilante bullets in this summer's violence. Three died from their wounds. Ross' dataset also includes 387 incidents of intimidation, such as people using racist slurs, making threats and brandishing firearms. 'There just isn't really anything to compare it to,' Ross told HuffPost. 'I've never seen anything like this in my life.' "

Bloomberg, "INSIGHT: The Simple Fix For Corporate Income Tax—Tax Stock Returns: The 2017 tax law didn't accomplish what it promised, writes Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. The author says the main problem with the current system is that it is focused on the wrong target. Instead of taxing corporate profits, we should be taxing stock returns."

"You can't trust the media on Evo Morales: Socialists are being taught an important lesson in skepticism towards international reporting. When the BBC broke news this morning that exiled Bolivian leader Evo Morales has been accused of rape, I didn't believe it. I wasn't skeptical of the charge because I had any countervailing evidence about what had happened. I didn't harbor doubts because of some personal judgment about Morales himself, though as far as I can tell he seems to be a profoundly decent and honorable man. And I didn't even dismiss it because of something suspicious about the reporting, which on its face seemed quite damning. The reason I was skeptical about this news is simple: the right uses fabricated allegations of crimes and atrocities in order to advance its agenda all of the time. And this is particularly true in the international arena, where tales of horrors perpetrated by Official Enemies of the beltway blob and its corporate sponsors bubble up constantly. At first these narratives can seem extremely convincing, and the pressure to accept them and condemn their targets is always extraordinary — yet time and after time, it turns out that they were exaggerated, or outright fabricated. That appears to be the case once again with Morales."

Why should anyone vote for this? "Joe Biden's Platform for 2020: Anti-Populism: By criticizing the views of both Berniecrats and Trumpites, Biden is positioning himself as the antidote to populism in all its forms and flavors."

I'm not sure how many people haven't figured out yet that Politifact has a right-wing bias, but "PolitiFact's 'Trump-O-Meter' is an embarrassing encapsulation of the problem with modern media: On Monday, fact-checking organization PolitiFact tweeted a link to one of the entries in its 'Trump-O-Meter' campaign-promise tracker. In doing so, the organization highlighted a longstanding problem with its own work."

Jeff Sharlet in Vanity Fair, "'He's The Chosen One To Run America': Inside The Cult Of Trump, His Rallies Are Church And He Is The Gospel: Trump's rallies—a bizarre mishmash of numerology, tweetology, and white supremacy—are the rituals by which he stamps his name on the American dream. As he prepares to resume them for the first time in months, his followers are ready to receive. [...] Jones is only the second person I've met at the rally, so I don't yet know just how common this perspective is. Through a season of Trump rallies across the country, before the global pandemic forced the president to retreat for a while from the nation's arenas, I spoke with dozens of Trump supporters who believe that the Democratic establishment primarily serves as a cover for child sex trafficking." Sharlet tells Sam Seder in an interview that he once told people that fascism couldn't happen in America, but after attending Trump rallies and talking to Trump's supporters, he's realized his mistake. Well, part of it - I don't think he recognizes the material reasons why cults like this can come to dominance. But his explanations in the interview of what his supporters believe and how well Trump plays to them is downright spooky. And I'm sure the relationship between Epstein and Bill Clinton just underscores their belief that Democrats are sex-trafficking cannibals.

"How the 'Useful Idiots' of Liberal New York Fueled Income Inequality: Kurt Andersen, founder of Spy magazine and the author of Evil Geniuses, on how affluent lefties slept through the escalating inequality crisis. Including him. In his new best-selling book, Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America: A Recent History, the author and cultural critic Kurt Andersen performs a deep excavation of the country's inequality crisis. He finds the roots not only in the balance-tilting schemes of Wall Street and the champions of right-wing political economics but also in the obliviousness of the liberal professional class. For decades, these liberals have been the useful idiots, as he calls them, in the plan that has funneled financial spoils to the tiny percentage of Americans now riding out the current catastrophes in Hamptons compounds, and left everyone else scrambling. Kurt, a former colleague at Time magazine (and by colleague, I mean boss), cops to his own part in the profound social reordering that has taken place since the 1980s."

Another great interview of John Nichols by Nomiki Konst, "Henry Wallace Was the OG Bernie Sanders"

Bhaskar Sunkara interviews Harvey Kaye about Thomas Paine.

Reminder: "Free Trade is a Myth." Or more to the point, it's a lie that "free trade" has lifted millions out of poverty.

FiveThirtyEight , "The Moderate Middle Is A Myth."

Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey is why, although it was already widely-used in Europe, Thalidomide was never approved for use in the United States. She didn't like the look of existing data so she withheld approval despite continued pressure from the manufacturer, and then, "In November 1961, reports began to emerge in Germany and the United Kingdom that mothers who had taken thalidomide during pregnancy were now having babies with severe birth defects. Dr. Helen Taussig learned of the tragedy from one of her students and traveled to Europe to investigate. By testifying before the Senate, Tauusig was able to help Kelsey ban thalidomide in the United States for good. At least 4000 children in Europe were affected by the drug, but thanks to Kelsey's rigorous professionalism a similar tragedy was averted here in America.."

Christo and Jean-Claude's The Gates, Central Park, New York City, 1979-05

"Announcing the winners of Portrait of Humanity 2020"

Gary U.S. Bonds, "The Pretender"

02:37 GMT comment


Tuesday, 18 August 2020

But the post office has been stolen and the mail box is locked

My avatar went touristing in Second Life and found this plant display restful. If you're bored being cooped up, you might want to try this sort of thing.

"Former Attorney General Holder Suggests Postmaster General Should Be Prosecuted: As Democrats increasingly decry what they have characterized as President Donald Trump's assault on the U.S Postal Service, some are warning of possible legal consequences for the administration's actions. Among them is former Attorney General Eric Holder. On Saturday morning, law professor and legal analyst Barb McQuade pointed out that obstructing mail is a federal offense and wondered who would prosecute Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in the Department of Justice headed by William Barr. 'The next, real, Justice Department,' Holder replied. Earlier, Holder posted a tweet that simply stated the law regarding the fines and imprisonment of up to six months that anyone who 'willfully obstructs or retards the passage of the mail' can face. Holder has been posting quite a bit on the Postal Service lately and in that sense is like a lot of Democrats who have taken up the issue that was simmering for weeks in the news cycle but seemed unable to break through amid the coronavirus disaster. Now, Democrats increasingly seem to realize that Trump's actions regarding the Postal Service gives them an opportunity to coalesce behind a message that might even help them win over new voters." Pelosi should be calling the House back from vacation immediately to start impeachment proceedings, of course. No need to wait for Mitch McConnel to convict, just have hearings with people getting up every day and pointing out that the president has admitted he is rigging the election and that his Postmaster General is committing a federal crime, apparently under Trump's orders. Make sure Americans turning on their TVs know what they're up to and to forget about getting their birthday cards and medications and other necessities in the mail until these swine are kicked out of government. Trump doesn't have to still be in office to be impeached and convicted. If the election goes well for the Democrats, they can do both after the new Congress is seated. Of course, this is Pelosi and Schumer we're talking about, so they might not do a bloody thing.

"The Left Needs to Stop Falling for Absurd Sex Panics: The absurd allegations against progressive Congressional candidate Alex Morse have now been exposed as a hoax. But they couldn't have been better calculated to excite a Left prone to mindless sex panics. Alex Morse, 31, is just the kind of Democratic candidate progressives usually love. The young, gay mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts is challenging a corrupt, centrist incumbent, Richie Neal, for Congress. Backed by the Squad-making Justice Democrats, Morse is a supporter of the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. And the Left did love him — that is, until the College Democrats of Massachusetts figured out a brilliant way to take him down: make absurd sexual allegations against Morse and watch the Left lose its collective mind. Last Friday, just a couple weeks before the primary, the College Democrats — who received $1,000 from Rep. Neal, Morse's opponent, in April — launched the scandal with a letter disinviting Morse from all their future events. The missive, which was given to the Daily Collegian, University of Massachusetts's student newspaper, made three accusations against the insurgent candidate. [...] No one ever came forward as a 'survivor' of any of Morse's heinous acts of Instagramming, but in one case, according to the College Democrats' letter, a young man hooked up with Morse and found out later that Morse was the mayor and felt weird about that. (This would appear to be a comically ineffective use of his 'status.') [...] It turns out the Left got played. For days, agonized online discourse parsed acceptable behavior for consenting adults and trafficked (disgracefully) in stereotypes about predatory gay men. Thankfully, the Intercept's Ryan Grim stepped in to reveal that there weren't even any 'victims' of 'discomfort' or 'power dynamics.' Messages Grim obtained show that the College Dems planned the whole thing deliberately, as one of the group's leaders was hoping to get an internship with Rep. Neal, Morse's opponent."

Alex Pareene, "A Government Too Broken to Write $600 Checks: The president and the Senate majority leader weren't even in the room for the failed negotiations to save the economy. [...] The sticking point in the negotiations, besides the overall price tag, was apparently that the White House (meaning Meadows) refused to budge on aid to state and local governments; in other words, the White House wants to see crushing, pointless austerity cuts across the entire nation at the level of government where the effects of austerity will be clearest to middle- and working-class Americans. This makes some amount of sense in terms of the conservative project, but it makes very little sense in terms of the political prospects of President Donald Trump. He has no personal allegiance to conservative fiscal policy. Surprisingly for a rich guy, he has never been particularly interested in dingbat rightwing economics. (A money launderer, for example, doesn't care what the top marginal tax rate is; he cares about how rigorously money laundering is being investigated and punished.) Perhaps 20 years ago, he would have been canny enough to realize that bailing out the states would benefit him politically, just as he still had enough wits to figure out that signing 'Donald Trump' on stimulus checks was good politics regardless of the budgetary math. But the Donald Trump we have is the one who believes meaningless or imaginary executive orders will substitute for congressional action for the same reason that he believed Covid-19 would go away on its own. As he understands it, the important thing is that he was seen on television promising relief. The idea that people might notice if that relief never came, or was inadequate when it did, is as foreign to him as the idea that people might notice that their neighbors or parents had died of Covid-19 even if none of them could get a test to confirm the diagnosis."

"Bernie Sanders introduces bill to tax 60% of millionaires' earnings during pandemic to pay medical costs: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk would all be taxed tens of billions under bill Senator Bernie Sanders has announced legislation that would impose a 60 per cent tax on the wealth gains of billionaires from 18 March through the end of 2020 for the purposes of funding Medicare and paying all Americans' out-of-pocket health-care needs for a one-year period. Mr Sanders said the tax hike was meant to help people who are struggling financially during the coronavirus pandemic. 'The legislation I am introducing today will tax the obscene wealth gains billionaires have made during this extraordinary crisis to guarantee healthcare as a right to all for an entire year,' Mr Sanders said in a statement.

We have the worst party leaders. Sam Seder wonders, "What Is Nancy Pelosi Even Trying to Do?"

Taibbi in Rolling Stone, "Big Pharma's Covid-19 Profiteers: How the race to develop treatments and a vaccine will create a historic windfall for the industry — and everyone else will pay the price [...] The CEO noted a study by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a division of the National Institutes of Health, showing that Covid-19 patients taking remdesivir recovered after 11 days, compared with 15 days for placebo takers. In the U.S., he wrote, 'earlier hospital discharge would result in hospital savings of approximately $12,000 per patient.' The hilarious implication seemed to be that by shortening hospital stays by four days on average, remdesivir was worth $48,000 a dose."

So, continuing with his policy of adding insult to injury over and over, Joe Biden announced Kamala Harris as his running-mate. This woman was so unpopular that she couldn't even place in her own state during the primaries, and now there are New Questions About Harris's Record On Antitrust & White-Collar Crime,

Democrats have gotten really good at promoting people who have no idea that the obvious consequences of their actions will actually occur. Like, if you pass a law that puts people in jail, it comes as a big surprise that some people go to jail. "Kamala Harris regrets California truancy law that led to arrest of some parents [...] Speaking on the liberal podcast Pod Save America, Sen. Harris said the arrests and, in some cases, jail sentences of parents in multiple California counties were an 'unintended consequence' of the statewide law, which built on her tough-on-truancy approach as San Francisco district attorney."

Columbia Journalism Review, "MSNBC public editor: A strained symbiosis with Obama: MSNBC was not and is not about to call Obama out for having broken his campaign promises of transparency, for permitting nine million people to lose their homes in the mortgage crisis, for failing to jail even a single banker, or for having failed to call the butchers of Iraq to account. There is no cable news station broadcasting today that is willing to state the blindingly obvious, to wit, that a less corrupt, less wealth-enslaved, less warmongering Democratic Party—a party that had paid more than lip service to the needs of working people over the previous eight years—would have walked away with the 2016 election. "

"Denounced as Going 'Too Far' When Sanders Said It—American Bar Association Backs Full Voting Rights for Incarcerated People: 'This Resolution follows a long American Bar Association tradition affirming and supporting the expansion of Americans' right to vote.' [...] At its annual meeting earlier this month, the ABA adopted a resolution stating the organization would urge all levels of government to 'repeal laws that disenfranchise persons based upon criminal conviction [and] restore voting rights to those currently and formerly incarcerated, including those on probation, parole, or any other community-based correctional program.' The national lawyers' association further said (pdf) that 'no person convicted of crime' should be disenfranchised in the U.S. because of failure to pay fines, court fees, or other payments as a result of their conviction."

"Popular Viral Video Firm Sues Facebook over Russian Propaganda Label: The company behind In The Now, Soapbox and Waste-Ed is taking on media giant Facebook, who it claims is falsely labeling it as Russian state-controlled propaganda. [...] Go to any of the Maffick-owned Facebook pages, including In The Now (4.9 million followers), which focuses on light-hearted news and social justice issues, Soapbox (320,000 followers), featuring politically opinionated videos, or Waste-Ed (216,000 followers), with content on environmental topics, and you are greeted with a warning from Facebook: 'This publisher is wholly or partially under the editorial control of a state.' Maffick strenuously denies this, noting that its sole owner, Anissa Naouai, is a U.S. citizen living in California. 'In doing all of these actions, Facebook has acted fraudulently, with actual malice and in reckless disregard for the truth,' the complaint alleges."

"The Disconnect Between the Stock Market and the Real Economy Is Destroying Our Lives: Stocks are the wall that protects the rich from the consequences of this crisis [...] The glaring disconnect between the real economy, of working humans with jobs and bills to pay, and the investor class economy, embodied by the stock market, is one of the most brutal and devious political issues of this age of crisis in which we're living. Though free marketeers like to boast of the fact that more than half of Americans now own stocks, the fact is that most of them own too few stocks to matter to their day-to-day economic lives. Half of all stocks in America are owned by the wealthiest 1% of people. They are the stock market's target audience and prime movers. The primary effect of high stock prices today is to insulate the rich from the consequences of the wrecked real economy. So long as stocks are doing okay, there is no need for the class of people who control most of America's institutions to feel much urgency to save the lives of everyone. A strong stock market is like a sturdy wall around the rich and powerful. You can stay outside and lose your job and starve and die, and it won't penetrate their serene bubble very much at all."

Not all of this is right, but there's a lot of truth here: "What Democrats Can Learn from the Republicans about Political Power [...] This is problematic because voters, despite their liberal tilt, have few firm and informed opinions about public policy, and no coherent ideology to speak of. Public opinion and the political landscape can be moved by powerful rhetoric and political leadership. Democrats, however, take the political landscape as a given and do little to change it. They build political strategies upon sand, while conservatives build political strategies premised on shaping that sand to suit their needs, and then mixing it into semi-concrete."

Matt Stoller interviews David Dayen about America's Folksiest Predator: One of the more important figures in American capitalism over the last forty years is Warren Buffett, the legendary investor who is now the fourth richest man in the world. Buffett is an icon, the 'Oracle of Omaha,' who lives a simple lifestyle based on folksy wisdom, eating Dairy Queen ice cream, and drinking Coca Cola. Or so goes the myth. In this issue, I'm going to do an interview with an author who presents a very different side of Buffett, the side that is key to his wealth and power. Specifically, the monopolist side, and how Buffett's way of investing has been a multiplier force for dominant corporations." (Text only). Man, that guy is a horrorshow.

Part Three of Paul Jay's interview with Thomas Frank, reprinted at Naked Capitalism, "Thomas Frank: Liberal Elites Will Create Conditions for Another Trump: Yves here. On to the last part of Thomas Frank's discussion of his new book, The People, No. Here Frank focuses on the danger to the US of demonizing populism."

"Covid Vaccines with Dr. Robert Gallo, Plus the Democrats' Campaign Strategy | Useful Idiots" — Remember him? The AIDs guy? It was interesting to hear him meandar,but he's also got an idea that the Sabin oral polio vaccine might be an interesting place to look for help with Covid — but no one will give him funding to investigate it.

Interesting Interview with Lee Camp, who reminds us that in 2016 while the American mass media was treating Trump like a big joke and giving him massive media promotion, it was possible to find real political criticism of Trump in Lee Camp's videos - on RT.

"Of Guns and Men: In Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore made the case that the number of guns and the availability of guns is not causal in the number of gun deaths, There are plenty of examples where a country has as many if not more guns per capita than the US (e.g., Canada) yet they have nowhere near the rate of gun deaths. So if the proliferation of guns isn't the cause; violent movies are not the cause; and bloody video games are not the cause, what then is the cause of the gun violence that puts America literally off the charts? Michael Moore believed it was fear: rampant fear and fear-mongering on the part of the media and the culture. Gun sales spiked in 2008 following Obama's election. Why? FEAR. More and more women (including Adam Lanza's mom) have guns for 'personal protection.' Why? FEAR."

"25 Years Gone: The Day Jerry Garcia Died Remembered by Bill Walton, Bruce Hornsby, Perry Farrell, Warren Haynes"

"Carbonatite: 'Sandcastle' Structures in Calcium Carbonate-Rich Tanzanian Volcano"

Painstakingly restored video, "[4k, 60 fps] San Francisco, a Trip down Market Street, April 14, 1906" — ends with a brief view of what it looked like four days later.

Bob Dylan, "Memphis Blues Again"

00:11 GMT comment


Sunday, 09 August 2020

Burns like a red coat carpet

"Down Goes Clay: Cori Bush Knocks Off Half-Century Dynasty: Cori Bush's defeat over 19-year incumbent Rep. Lacy Clay in St. Louis, Missouri, is Justice Democrats's latest upset." As I said a couple years ago, I don't expect these young challengers to win their first time out, but when they try again, it's not surprising to see them win. Meanwhile, Twitter was full of gleeful Hillarystans cheering for Rashida Tlaib to lose her seat, but she's pretty popular in her district.

"Marquita Bradshaw scores upset win in Tennessee Democratic Senate primary: NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Memphis environmentalist, Black activist and single mom Marquita Bradshaw won the Democratic primary for an open U.S. Senate seat in Tennessee on Thursday. Bradshaw defeated Nashville attorney and former Army helicopter pilot James Mackler, who had snagged an endorsement from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and others. Bradshaw will face former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty, who defeated Nashville trauma surgeon Manny Sethi in the Republican primary. Bradshaw and Hagerty are seeking to succeed Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, who is retiring. Republicans have held both Senate seats in Tennessee since 1994." Not only did Chuck Schumer and the DSCC (and a couple million bucks) back her opponent, but Bradshaw only had $8,200, and still won.

"'History Will Not Judge This Kindly': DNC Platform Committee Votes Down Medicare for All Amendment: 'It's like opposing the New Deal during the Great Depression. Unforgivable.' A Democratic National Committee panel on Monday voted down an amendment that would have inserted a plank supporting Medicare for All into the party's 2020 platform, a move progressives decried as out of touch with public opinion and a slap in the face to the millions of people who have lost their health insurance due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The DNC Platform Committee rejected the Medicare for All amendment introduced by longtime single-payer advocate Michael Lighty by a vote of 36-125 during a virtual meeting Monday. The committee also voted down separate attempts to include support for expanding Medicare to children, dropping the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 55, and legalizing marijuana."

And that's not all, the Platform Committee bottled out on a lot of things before announcing it was "the boldest Democratic platform in history." No, it really wasn't, and I've seen GOP platforms that were further to the left. But, as John Nichols told Sam Seder, it has some good stuff in it. Still, "Democrats Miss HUGE Opportunity To Push Platform Ideas During Biden's Surge In Polls."

"Portland sees peaceful night of protests following withdrawal of federal agents: Thursday night's protest passed off without major incident or intervention by the police in the absence of federal officers. The withdrawal of federal agents from frontline policing of demonstrations in downtown Portland significantly reduced tensions in the city overnight.Protesters in support of Black Lives Matter once again rallied near the federal courthouse that became a flashpoint, and the scene of nightly battles amid the swirl of teargas, after Donald Trump dispatched agents to end what he called anarchy in the city after weeks of demonstrations. But in the absence of the federal officers, Thursday night's protest passed off without major incident or intervention by the police."

Matt Stoller, "The Day Big Tech Stopped Being Untouchable [...] Today I'm going to write about we learned on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week. In sequence, Wednesday was the day of a historic Congressional hearing on big tech monopoly power, Thursday was when these firms announced blow-out earnings even in the midst of an economic collapse, and Friday saw Donald Trump announce he might ban the social media firm TikTok. That's democracy, monopoly, and national security in sequence."

I was really pleased that Michael Brooks had this guy on the show. I think it was the last interview he ever did. How Can We End Corporate Media? ft. Robert McChesney (TMBS 148)

"TMBS Doc: Labor Power & The New Deal ft. Harvey Kaye"

"Michael Brooks takes a question on Israel."

"Jeremy Corbyn accuses Labour officials of sabotaging election campaign: Jeremy Corbyn and his former leadership team have openly accused disgruntled Labour officials of potentially costing the party the chance of victory by sabotaging the 2017 election campaign in a factional dispute. In a joint statement that shines a light on the scale of continued Labour splits, Corbyn, the former shadow chancellor John McDonnell and seven other former shadow ministers and aides have for the first time formally endorsed claims made in a party report leaked in April. In their submission to the party inquiry called to examine the leaked report, Corbyn and his former colleagues claimed the alleged diversion of some party funds during the 2017 election could even constitute fraud."

As you may recall, Zach Carter has recently written a book about Keynes, and David Dayen has recently written a book about monopolies, and now they've interviewed each other in a single podcast, Keynes and Corporate Power: David Dayen in Conversation With Zach Carter.

Dan Froomkin at Press Watch, "The New York Times has a misogyny problem, too: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez makes some people very uncomfortable, and apparently that includes some editors and reporters at the New York Times. So rather than report on how Ocasio-Cortez's riveting, viral speech on the House floor on Thursday was a signal moment in the fight against abusive sexism, Times congressional reporters Luke Broadwater and Catie Edmondson filed a story full of sexist double standards and embraced the framing of her critics by casting her as a rule-breaker trying to 'amplify her brand.'"

"Bill Clinton Used John Lewis's Funeral to Disparage the Black Freedom Struggle: Bill Clinton has a penchant for overstepping, for going too far and for being too cocky, especially when it comes to Black people. He assumes a kind of insider posture that is, quite frankly, offensive. This posture was on full display yesterday when, while eulogizing the late civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis, Clinton took the liberty to render his opinion about who was a good Black leader vs. who was a not-so-good Black leader. In referring to the political differences between Lewis and Kwame Ture (formerly Stokely Carmichael) — both former leaders of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) — Clinton backhandedly disparaged Ture. [...] Another section of Lewis's 1963 D.C. speech came to mind as I listened to Clinton and other opportunistic politicians sing Lewis's praises in recent days. He warned: 'This nation is still a place of cheap political leaders who build their careers on immoral compromises and ally themselves with open forms of political, economic and social exploitation.' That statement was true in 1963 and it remains so in 2020." Mr. Clinton also thanked Jim Clyburn for destroying the Sanders campaign, although he hardly did it without help from the media.

"Yale Antitrust Scholars Resign Because Director Advises Apple, Amazon: A leading antitrust crusader revealed she was getting paid by companies facing antitrust scrutiny by federal and state authorities, as well as her own antitrust research project. Two fellows at Yale's Thurmond Arnold Project, an antitrust research organization at the university, have resigned after it was revealed that a leading antitrust scholar and director of the project has been taking paid advisor roles for Apple and Amazon. Both companies are facing multiple antitrust investigations.

"A Huge Wall Street Scandal Just Exploded In Kentucky: GOP law enforcement officials are targeting Stephen Schwarzman, the billionaire who bankrolls Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump's political machine. The lawsuit breaks open a major financial scandal that threatens the world's largest private equity firms — with global implications. In a landmark case with potentially global implications, Kentucky's newly elected Republican attorney general is targeting some of the world's largest financial firms in a new lawsuit alleging that teachers, firefighters, and other government workers have been systematically bilked by Wall Street's rampant fraud and self-dealing, which has created a massive financial crisis in the state. [...] As TMI previously reported, the US Supreme Court recently blocked workers and retirees from suing these kind of firms because the high court said they did not have legal standing. A Kentucky court then quickly cited that ruling to short-circuit retirees' case against Wall Street giants Blackstone and KKR, which said the firms' investment schemes had fleeced the state pension system. But in an extraordinary move on Monday, Kentucky's GOP Attorney General Daniel Cameron intervened to sue on behalf of the state government — a maneuver that likely renders the standing issue moot. The suit alleges that the firms misled the state into funneling retirees' money into investments that were 'secretive, opaque, illiquid, impossible to properly monitor or accurately value, high-fee, high-risk gambles with no historical record of performance.' The suit asserts that these were 'absolutely unsuitable investments for a pension fund in the particular situation [Kentucky] was in, and violated the applicable laws, codes and standards.'"

Thread from Cory Doctorow: "States across the US have enacted cruel, unconstitutional abortion laws that require doctors to sexually assault women seeking abortions and lie to them about the health impacts of abortion. Some laws require funerals for foetal remains. These laws were pushed by ALEC, the corporate-backed 'legislative exchange' that pushes 'model legislation' through a network of slick lobbyists in state-houses across the country. ALEC purports to be in favor of 'liberty' and 'small government.' Enter the Satanic Temple, a federally recognized religion whose members do not believe in Satan or supernatural phenomena. They believe 'that religion can, and should, be divorced from superstition.' The Temple has a fantastic schtick. They go to places where theocrats have gotten laws passed that shove their weird, apostate version of 'Christianity' down everyone else's throats and point out that the First Amendment requires nondiscrimination among faiths. Wanna put a giant stone Ten Commandments in front of your courthouse? Sure. But they're gonna put a giant statue of Baphomet right next to it. The court challenges they mount aren't cheap, but they're slam dunks. The US Constitution is pretty clear on this. Now, in 1993, Chuck Schumer sponsored the 'Religious Freedom Restoration Act' which lets Americans sue governments over laws that 'substantially burdens a person's exercise of religion.' Religious maniacs LOVE the RFRA and its progeny, like SCOTUS's Hobby Lobby decision, which broadened the RFRA's provisions and allowed corporations to claim exemptions from Rendering Unto Caesar where that interfered with the owners' faith. Guess what you get when you combine the RFRA, ALEC's restrictive abortion laws, and the Satanic Temple? That's right...SATANIC ABORTIONS. A Satanic Abortion is a religious ritual that is totally indistinguishable from a normal, medical abortion, except that the participant says a few self-affirming words about her bodily autonomy. Oh, also: the ritual absolutely forbids, as a bedrock matter of religious conviction, any waiting periods, the withholding of medically necessary advice, mandatory counseling, required readings, and unnecessary sonograms. Also forbidden: mandatory fetal heartbeat listening sessions and compulsory fetal burials. If you want an abortion and the doctor tries this bullshit, hand them one of these exemption letters explaining how the law doesn't apply thanks to the RFRA. Now, the religious right could fight this. But if they win...they overturn the RFRA, and Hobby Lobby has to provide its employees with contraception and all the other theocratic exemptions go poof, too." There's a bit more, and you can go to the tweet to get Cory's links to citations.

RIP: "Pete Hamill, celebrated New York newspaper columnist, dies aged 85: Self-taught 'giant of journalism' wrote on everything from baseball to the war in Vietnam and mixed with America's elite. Pete Hamill, the self-taught, streetwise newspaper columnist whose love affair with New York inspired a colorful and uniquely influential journalistic career and produced several books of fiction and non-fiction, died on Wednesday morning. He was 85. Hamill died at a Brooklyn hospital from heart and kidney failure, his brother Denis confirmed in an email. [...] Hamill found his way on to President Richard Nixon's 'enemies list'. In a column, Hamill said the president shared the blame for the 1970 shootings at Kent State University by calling campus dissenters 'bums'. Vice-President Spiro Agnew called the column 'irrational ravings', and Hamill borrowed the phrase for the title of a 1971 collection of his columns."

RIP: Olivia de Havilland, Golden Age of Hollywood star, dies at 104 [...] De Havilland's career spanned more than 50 years and almost 50 feature films, and she was the last surviving actor from Gone with the Wind (1939)." And oh, how we loved her in Captain Blood. (The other headliners in GWTW died a lifetime ago. Leslie Howard was gone a decade before I was born, and Hattie MacDaniel died in my first year of life. Clarke Gable died in 1960 and Vivian Leigh was the last to go, in 1967, until now. That's a helluva span for a helluva woman.)

RIP: Peter Green, 73: Peter Green, who has died aged 73, was one of the guitar-playing greats of 1960s blues-rock as well as a gifted songwriter. He was a founder of Fleetwood Mac and although he was with the band for less than three years they became one of Britain's leading acts during that time. Their singles of that period, including the Green compositions "Black Magic Woman", "Albatross", "Man of the World", "Oh Well" and "The Green Manalishi", remain some of the most cherished releases of the era and the band was beginning to display major international potential by the time he quit in May 1970."

RIP: "John Saxon, Enter the Dragon, Nightmare on Elm Street Actor, Dies at 83 [...] Saxon died of pneumonia in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, his wife, Gloria, told The Hollywood Reporter." I can remember when John Saxon seemed to be in just about everything, from science fiction movies to medical shows to those teen movies with Sal Mineo. He was even in Bonanza a few times and Gunsmoke a few more. He did The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rockford and pretty much everything else that was going at one time or another.

RIP: Sir Alan Parker, director, writer, and producer, at 76: "Although Parker directed only two bona fide British productions — Bugsy Malone (1976) and Pink Floyd: The Wall (1982) — in 1998 he was appointed chairman of the board of governors of the British Film Institute (BFI) and in 1999 first chairman of the Film Council."

RIP: Annie Ross, jazz singer, at 89: "It was her spirited marriage of the instrument-mimicking 50s 'vocalese' singing style that set her musical career alight as a 22-year-old in 1952, with a version of Wardell Gray's instrumental song 'Twisted'. Ross added a sardonically funny lyric that reflected both her abandoned-child anxieties and her self-possessed intelligence, featuring lines such as: 'My analyst told me that I was right out of my head/he said I'd need treatment but I'm not that easily led'."

Matt Karp interviews Matthew E. Stanley about the AbeBros: "Lincoln's Paramilitaries, the Wide Awakes, Fought Slavery"

"How To Pretend That You Are Smart: There is a difference between assertion and argument, but a lot of highly credentialed people do not notice when they're just stating their prejudices rather than proving anything. Today we are going to look at two examples of men with PhDs from Harvard making asses of themselves without realizing it. We are going to see how things that are wrong, unproven, nonsensical, or bigoted are presented as insight, and Very Smart Men are often not actually very smart at all. That will probably not come as a surprise to you, but what I want to demonstrate here is how easy it is to disguise one's unfounded opinions or prejudices as scholarly musings."

"The Reason Americans Don't Trust Experts — Economists [...] Specifically, the fact that economists told middle America since at least the 1980s that free trade would be good for everyone in America, and that anyone who said otherwise was an ignorant rube who didn't understand basic economic 'science.' The economists who incessantly proffered this view were 'experts' from the most prestigious schools in America—Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton, Georgetown, the University of Chicago, and the like. They claimed it was a settled argument, and that economics had 'proven' it beyond the shadow of a doubt through equations as surely as we had proven the movements of the stars and planets. Even the way they framed the argument backed this up. They invoked the 'Law' of comparative advantage, suggesting that this was a law of the universe on par with those of physics or chemistry. Anyone who disputed it might just was well believe that water runs uphill or the earth is flat, they claimed (although they weren't above invoking a little magic on occasion) [...] Businesses that had been the cornerstones of communities for many generations began to disappear left and right. They either lost out in the newly globalized struggle for profits and went under; moved most of their operations overseas to take advantage of cheaper labor; or were bought out in the accompanying wave of financialization and were 'restructured.' In each and every instance, these businesses—formerly the sources of prosperity for so many Americans—were gone, never to return. This happened throughout the eighties and nineties."

Matt Taibbi reviews Thomas Frank's The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism: Author Thomas Frank predicted the modern culture war, and he was right about Donald Trump, but don't expect political leaders to pay attention to his new book about populism. [...] Since the establishment of this template, Frank notes, 'virtually everyone who writes on the subject agrees that populism is 'anti-pluralist,' by which they mean that it is racist or sexist or discriminatory in some way... Populism's hatred for 'the elite,' meanwhile, is thought to be merely a fig leaf for this ugly intolerance.' Trump and Bernie Sanders both got hit with every cliché described in Frank's book. Both were depicted as xenophobic, bigoted, emotion-laden, resistant to modernity, susceptible to foreign influence, and captured by 'unrealistic' ideas they lacked the expertise to implement." And Matt and Katie interviewed him about populism on Useful Idiots.

"The Unraveling of America: Anthropologist Wade Davis on how COVID-19 signals the end of the American era [...] For the first time, the international community felt compelled to send disaster relief to Washington. For more than two centuries, reported the Irish Times, 'the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the U.S. until now: pity.' [...] At the root of this transformation and decline lies an ever-widening chasm between Americans who have and those who have little or nothing. Economic disparities exist in all nations, creating a tension that can be as disruptive as the inequities are unjust. In any number of settings, however, the negative forces tearing apart a society are mitigated or even muted if there are other elements that reinforce social solidarity — religious faith, the strength and comfort of family, the pride of tradition, fidelity to the land, a spirit of place. But when all the old certainties are shown to be lies, when the promise of a good life for a working family is shattered as factories close and corporate leaders, growing wealthier by the day, ship jobs abroad, the social contract is irrevocably broken. For two generations, America has celebrated globalization with iconic intensity, when, as any working man or woman can see, it's nothing more than capital on the prowl in search of ever cheaper sources of labor."

"Reaganland Is the Riveting Conclusion to a Story That Still Isn't Over: Rick Perlstein's epic series shows political history and cultural history cannot be disentangled. [...] The Carter years, and Reagan's place within them, are the subject of historian Rick Perlstein's latest book, Reaganland: America's Right Turn, 1976-1980. At more than 1,100 pages, Reaganland is the fourth and final volume of Perlstein's massive, sweeping history of American conservatism in the postwar era, following Before the Storm, Nixonland, and 2014's The Invisible Bridge, which tracked Reagan's trajectory from the early 1970s up to his own unsuccessful primary challenge of Gerald Ford in 1976. Reaganland is terrific, a work whose characteristic insight and soaring ambition make it a fitting and resonant conclusion to Perlstein's astounding achievement. I think most Americans, regardless of political affiliation, would agree that the effects of the Reagan Revolution are still with us and that in many senses Reaganland is still the place we all live."

Petition for the emoji the internet needs.

"As a cop, I killed someone. Then I found out it happens more often than we know: I'm a former officer who studies police violence. Most databases vastly undercount the number of civilians killed by US police."

"Chris Frantz: 'If you knew David Byrne, you would not be jealous of him': The ex-Talking Heads drummer talks about his revealing new book Remain in Love and a contentious relationship with the band's frontman."

"My Science Fiction Rabbi: How the prolific writer Barry N. Malzberg showed me my passion was just Judaism in a spacesuit."

"#BillBlur Bill Burr - Black Friends, Clothes & Harlem REACTION" - Black kid watches white guy comedian talk about....

"Is Betty Boop black? Yes and no."

Alex Ross: Making the Marvel Mural

It's truly the best dance routine of all time, and I've watched it over and over in black and white, but this colorized version looks even sharper. "Stormy Weather in color - The Nicholas Brothers and Cab Calloway | Colorized with DeOldify".

Well, this just totally tickled me.

The Rolling Stones, "Gimme Shelter"

02:00 GMT comment


Saturday, 25 July 2020

It's the terror of knowing what this world is about

RIP: Michael Jamal Brooks. I knew someone major had died when Monday's The Majority Report suddenly ground to a halt with Sam saying they needed to end the show. It never once crossed my mind that it was Michael. He was young, healthy, energetic, constantly creating new projects, and he was the best Obama and Bill Clinton impressionist ever. His right-wing Mandela and Nation of Islam Obama had me cracking up the moment I heard them. I was amazed by how good that boy was. And then the way he created new stuff to work with - and promote - other insightful people he knew, or knew of. He was spreading the word, talking people up. He was doing everything right. (And I don't mean he never put a foot wrong - I was hoping someday to tell him where he screwed up on something that I thought mattered, but I knew he did it with the best will in the world, and now it doesn't matter.) He gave history and world politics an immediacy few have managed to convey. I've spent the week wondering who is going to pick up the slack, there was so much he was involved in that never would have happened without him.
*—Variety, "Michael Brooks, Political Commentator and Podcast Host, Dies at 37"
*—Jacobin, "Remembering Our Friend and Comrade Michael Brooks"
*—Anna Kasparian's tearful farewell with Cenk in a TYT video, "Remembering Michael Brooks"
*—The Humanist Report, "Remembering Michael Brooks..."
*— Even the Independent and the Standard have pages up.
*—Matt Binder (aka Old Matt) did a tribute on his show that included some of those hilarious impressions, "For Michael Brooks (1983-2020)".
*—And of course, Remembering Michael Brooks (1983 - 2020) - MR Live - 7/21/20, where Michael's sister discussed their last conversation the night before he died and explained the "medical condition" that killed him.

"US Supreme Court rules half of Oklahoma is Native American land: The US Supreme Court has ruled about half of Oklahoma belongs to Native Americans, in a landmark case that also quashed a child rape conviction. The justices decided 5-4 that an eastern chunk of the state, including its second-biggest city, Tulsa, should be recognised as part of a reservation. Jimcy McGirt, who was convicted in 1997 of raping a girl, brought the case. He cited the historical claim of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation to the land where the assault occurred. What does the ruling mean? Thursday's decision in McGirt v Oklahoma is seen as one of the most far-reaching cases for Native Americans before the highest US court in decades. The ruling means some tribe members found guilty in state courts for offences committed on the land at issue can now challenge their convictions."

"Privatizing Our Public Water Supply: Private water companies want to use the infrastructure bill to accelerate privatization. Why is Tammy Duckworth carrying water for them? In order to recover from the COVID economic depression, America will need a massive public infrastructure effort. This will do triple duty—in addition to providing stimulus and jobs, it will modernize our museum-quality public facilities, and accelerate an overdue green transition. The House Democrats have made a good start with HR2, the Invest in America Act—but with one weird exception: A provision slipped into the bill by the water privatization industry and its Congressional allies would create incentives to privatize America's water supply systems, one of the few essential services that are still mostly public thanks to the heroic struggles of our Progressive Era forebears, who worked to assure clean and affordable water via public systems."

"Federal Law Enforcement Use Unmarked Vehicles To Grab Protesters Off Portland Streets [...] Blinded by his hat, in an unmarked minivan full of armed people dressed in camouflage and body armor who hadn't identified themselves, Pettibone said he was driven around downtown before being unloaded inside a building. He wouldn't learn until after his release that he had been inside the federal courthouse. [...] Pettibone said he was put into a cell. Soon after, two officers came in to read him his Miranda rights. They didn't tell him why he was being arrested. He said they asked him if he wanted to waive his rights and answer some questions, but Pettibone declined and said he wanted a lawyer. The interview was terminated, and about 90 minutes later he was released. He said he did not receive any paperwork, citation or record of his arrest."

"We Reviewed Police Tactics Seen in Nearly 400 Protest Videos. Here's What We Found.: We asked experts to watch videos showing officers using tear gas, pepper balls and explosives on protesters. Police actions often escalated confrontations."

"Who Actually Wants Trump to Send in the Feds? Police Unions. Protesters say local cops and the feds are clearly colluding on the spooky crackdown that began in Portland and could soon spread to Chicago and other cities. PORTLAND—Leaders of cities like Portland and Chicago publicly say they don't want federal law enforcement policing protesters. But as President Donald Trump threatens to send in the troops to a handful of America's largest cities, some of those same locales' police unions appear to be circumventing elected officials to work with the feds."

The map at Electoral-vote.com of state-by-state polls sure looks like a strong Biden win, with FL, MI, PA, and WI all blue outside the margin of error. Interestingly, even TX, NC, and GA are edged in blue, although too close to be convincing.

David Dayen in The American Prospect, "A Leader Without Leading: Nancy Pelosi is an expert at obtaining power. But what does she want to use it for? Nancy Pelosi was upset. Her blitz of cable news appearances as a high-profile counterpart to Donald Trump had taken her to CNN in late April. And Jake Tapper had the temerity to question that which is not typically questioned: Pelosi's legislative acumen. Congress had just passed its fourth bill responding to the coronavirus crisis. Republicans wanted more money for forgivable loans for small businesses. Democrats had a host of liberal priorities left out of prior legislation that could have been paired with the extension. But Pelosi and her Senate colleague Chuck Schumer chose to go along with the Republican framework, leaving everything else for later. Immediately afterward, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hit the pause button on future legislation. It felt like the Democrats were played. And governors were sounding alarms about the lack of federal aid to cover massive state and local government revenue shortfalls, which triggered a loss of 1.5 million jobs in April and May alone. 'Was this a tactical mistake by you and Senator Schumer?' Tapper asked Pelosi. 'Just calm down,' she replied sternly, pivoting to tout getting more small-business money than McConnell even wanted. (As of mid-June, about $130 billion in authorized funding had not been claimed, and a May survey found that half of all small businesses expected to fail, even with federal support.) Pelosi vowed to obtain state and local fiscal relief eventually. 'There's no use going into what might have been.' [...] During the pandemic, Pelosi centralized control to an unprecedented degree, placing responsibility for crisis governance entirely in her own hands. Yet the result mainly protects corporate interests while throwing temporary life rafts to everyone else. The caucus dominance and tactical savvy and leverage over Republican opponents failed her in this case. It's worth wondering why, which is inextricably tied to one question: What does Nancy Pelosi really believe?" Most politicians have at least one issue they get into politics to fight for. Pelosi's issue has always been...fundraising. She raises funds. That's all she's for. Dday also talked about the article on The Rising, "David Dayen: Why Pelosi is TO BLAME for coronavirus economic disaster"

Natalie Shure at In These Times, "What's Missing From the Biden-Bernie Task Force Plan? Medicare for All. The recommendations are an improvement on Biden's previous healthcare plans, but a public option won't cut it. We need free, universal coverage. [...] Unsurprisingly, the task force did not endorse Medicare for All, which would essentially liquidate the existing version of private health insurance and replace it with a single public system that covers everyone and provides all necessary and effective care free from the point of use. But the presence of former Michigan gubernatorial candidate and single-payer advocate Abdul El-Sayed as well as Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.)—who each endorsed Sanders, and the latter of whom is the lead sponsor of the Medicare for All bill in the House—was evident in more left-leaning measures than Biden has previously embraced. If the healthcare platform as presented were to be fully implemented under a future President Biden, it would amount to a significant improvement on the status quo—albeit with persistent gaps that can't be resolved without abolishing private health insurance as it's currently constituted." This was predictable, of course, but a public option will improve things, because losing 150,000,000 of their customers will weaken the insurance industry considerably, which means they will hate it just as much, which means they will put out lots more ads with spurious talking points and campaign against it just as hard as they did against single-payer. But it's getting harder and harder for politicians to explain why they haven't done it yet (especially since it's the remedy they keep trying to substitute for single-payer when they are arguing against it), and if current projections hold true, Democrats are going to have an even harder time explaining it.

"Senate Democrats' Machine Spent $15 Million To Destroy Progressive Primary Candidates: The Democratic establishment has successfully blocked progressive Senate candidates in primaries, with the help of labor unions, Wall Street tycoons and corporate interests. [...] With the help of the party, its major donors, and the Senate Majority PAC (SMP) -- a super PAC funded by labor unions, corporate interests and Wall Street billionaires -- candidates endorsed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have won contested primaries in four battleground states. While the DSCC's chair, Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, said last year the party would support progressive incumbent Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey if he faced a primary challenger, he hasn't seen any outside help yet from the DSCC or SMP in his tough battle with Rep. Joseph Kennedy III. [...] Overall, the top donor to SMP so far this cycle has been Democracy PAC -- a super PAC that's bankrolled by billionaire George Soros and the Fund for Policy Reform, a nonprofit funded by Soros. Democracy PAC has contributed $8.5 million to SMP."

Pareene, "Throw the Bums Out: We are in the midst of a world-historic failure of governance. Why isn't anyone in charge acting like they are responsible for it? Earlier this month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled the Covid-19 mountain, a three-dimensional foam mound representing the pandemic's toll on his state. He had used the 'mountain' metaphor before and had apparently decided to make it tangible. Referring to the chart of daily new infections statewide, he said that New Yorkers had climbed the 'mountain.' Now, with that number declining to seemingly manageable levels, he turned the chart into a monument to the state's collective achievement. In a functional democracy with any standard of democratic accountability—a country where elected officials expect to be held responsible for outcomes they could have controlled or influenced—a governor would only have unveiled such a bloody monument if he needed an explanation for his immediate resignation. Cuomo, instead, had the mountain recast as a commemorative poster, which he revealed at a press conference on Monday afternoon. [...] If Donald Trump loses in November, our political system's last true believers will think that the system worked precisely as it is supposed to: It held him accountable. But this is an ongoing catastrophe of government as a whole. Every day brings a new reason to feel outraged or numbed by the scope of the disaster. We haven't begun to grapple with the breadth of it. Governors, big-city mayors, public health officials, and congressional leaders should be resigning in disgrace, firing those responsible, groveling for forgiveness, or fleeing town under cover of night."

Harold Meyerson, "Trump, DeVos, Scalia, and the Depraved Indifference Presidency: To constitute depraved indifference, the defendant's conduct must be so wanton, so deficient in a moral sense of concern, so lacking in regard for the life or lives of others, and so blameworthy as to warrant the same criminal liability as that which the law imposes upon a person who intentionally causes a crime. — Legal definition of 'depraved indifference'" DeVos got on national TV and said school districts should google to figure out if they should open or close, because she can't be bothered to do her job.

ProPublica, "How McKinsey Is Making $100 Million (and Counting) Advising on the Government's Bumbling Coronavirus Response: For the world's best-known corporate-management consultants, helping tackle the pandemic has been a bonanza. It's not clear what the government has gotten in return." No-bid contracts. There is nothing about McKinsey's view of the world that suggests it could have done anything right in this, and no reason to expect it would be anything else but a shambles. "Over decades, McKinsey's approach became self-reinforcing. As successive administrations chipped away at the civil service, politicians who advocate small government got the dysfunctional bureaucracy they had complained about all along, which helped them justify dismantling it further."

"The War on Logic: Contradictions and Absurdities in the House's Military Spending Bill: There is simply no logic to it—other than the inexorable logic of war profiteering and global control. The House Armed Services Committee just passed a defense appropriations bill filled with moral contradictions and illogical absurdities. Consider: It removes some racist symbols in the military, but preserves Trump's ability to use the military against anti-racist demonstrators. It abdicates Congress' responsibility to declare war, but prevents the executive branch from moving toward peace. It was passed by elected officials, but gives a single general the ability to overrule an elected branch of government. It requires officials to state definitively that removing troops won't harm security interests, but not to say whether keeping them there will—despite the destabilizing and destructive impact of our troop presence to date in the Middle East. It is supported by deficit hawks, but would result in 50 percent higher military spending than the last Cold War budget."

"What the Coronavirus Proved About Homelessness: Britain's efforts to house thousands of people amid the pandemic prove that even the most intractable problems are solvable—with enough political will. [...] For Britain, the answer was simple: 'Bring everyone in.' Within days of imposing its national lockdown on March 23, the British government told local authorities to shelter any person in need of accommodation. It was an extraordinary task—one requiring millions of pounds, not to mention the efforts of huge numbers of officials and charities. But it worked. Thousands of unhoused people were placed in vacant hotel rooms, student dormitories, and other forms of temporary housing. A goal the government had given itself years to accomplish was achieved much more quickly."

Forbes, "The Highest-Paid CEOs Are The Worst Performers, New Study Says: Across the board, the more CEOs get paid, the worse their companies do over the next three years, according to extensive new research. This is true whether they're CEOs at the highest end of the pay spectrum or the lowest. 'The more CEOs are paid, the worse the firm does over the next three years, as far as stock performance and even accounting performance,' says one of the authors of the study, Michael Cooper of the University of Utah's David Eccles School of Business."

Bloomberg, "Banker Pay Theory Upended by Harvard Expert Who Studied Sweden: Campbell says staff at Handelsbanken were highly motivated despite the absence of bonuses for all but a tiny group. What struck him was 1) how flat Handelsbanken's corporate hierarchy is, and 2) how important branch managers are. 'Handelsbanken just stood out as a really interesting example because they have really unusual levels of empowerment,' Campbell said in an interview via Zoom. What's more, he says the Swedish bank has 'had these really unusual performance outcomes that normally don't go along with that level of decentralization.' [...] 'We would normally think that the level of decentralization that they have ... would lead to things like higher loan losses, would lead to less efficiencies in their cost structure,' Campbell said. 'Yet here's this bank that has operated this way since the 1970s and has had higher returns on equity than its peers, not just on average over those years but literally every single year, going back that far, and has also had a fraction of the loan losses of their competitors in any given year, including in years where there were major economic crises."

Remember that 90% of Americans oppose Social Security cuts, so the proper description of someone who supports such cuts is "extremist" and "radical". Don't let anyone call them "a moderate". "Unsanitized: Mitt Romney Wants to Use the Crisis to Cut Your Social Security: A Bowles-Simpson-style process to cut benefits could end up in the Republican economic relief bill. This is The COVID-19 Daily Report for July 23, 2020.

"The New York Times's 1619 Project: A racialist falsification of American and world history [...] Its aim is to create a historical narrative that legitimizes the effort of the Democratic Party to construct an electoral coalition based on the prioritizing of personal 'identities'—i.e., gender, sexual preference, ethnicity, and, above all, race. [...] The essays featured in the magazine are organized around the central premise that all of American history is rooted in race hatred—specifically, the uncontrollable hatred of 'black people' by 'white people.' Hannah-Jones writes in the series' introduction: 'Anti-black racism runs in the very DNA of this country.' This is a false and dangerous conception. " Why are these people trying to convince us that racism is immutable and that slavery is all about race-hatred and not about economics or anything else?

Will Shetterly pointed out on Facebook that Newsweek didn't have the guts to simply post this as news and branded it "opinion", but it's got all the hallmarks of actual news. "Private Equity Captures Rather Than Creates Value [...] Wealth can be a sign that tremendous value has been created for investors, customers and society more broadly. But wealth can also be captured rather than created. And while that works well for the capturer, the game is zero-sum, or even value-destroying, in aggregate. The private equity industry offers a fascinating case study in the importance of distinguishing between these scenarios. [...] Fortunately, such data exist. In American Affairs, private equity veteran Daniel Rasmussen asked and answered the question, 'Do Private Equity Firms Improve Companies' Operations?' If the industry's claims are true, he writes, 'we should see results in the financials of the portfolio companies, such as accelerated revenue growth, expanded profit margins and increased capital expenditures. But the reality is that we see none of these things. What we do see is a sharp increase in debt.' In most transactions, 'revenue growth slowed' and '[capital expenditure] spending as a percentage of sales declined.' [...] Massive paydays have drawn entrepreneurs and managers, who might once have built, into the game of buying and selling. Meanwhile, performance in the real economy—among the operating companies they buy and sell—has degraded. Economic growth and dynamism have slowed, productivity growth has come nearly to a halt and wages have stagnated. Bizarrely, with so much 'investment' going on, actual investment has plummeted. Assets get shuffled and reshuffled, profits get made, but relatively little flows toward actual productive uses. 'Net private domestic investment,' observes a report from Senator Marco Rubio's Project for Strong Labor Markets and National Development, 'fell from nearly a tenth of U.S. Gross Domestic Product as late as the mid-1980s, to less than half of that amount by the end of 2018. As a percent of corporate profits, it declined from nearly 100 percent in the early 1980s to less than 40 percent today.'"

RIP: "Rep. John Lewis, Civil Rights Icon, Dies At Age 80: The Georgia Democrat who helped organize the March on Washington and was called the "conscience of Congress," has died. The Georgia Democrat announced in December 2019 that he had been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

"A Side of Franchise: There are many books about McDonald's that criticize the company for its many sins, and author Marcia Chatelain has read all of them. But her book comes at this famous fast-food restaurant from a different angle and with a much wider lens. In Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America, Chatelain offers a critique of racial capitalism and a long history of trying to address social problems with business-based solutions."

"David Shor's Unified Theory of American Politics" — There's a lot of interesting things to read here, but I think he has a couple of blind spots. For one, he doesn't seem to realize that the Clinton administration orchestrated worldwide changes in banking laws so the US wouldn't have to compete with healthier systems when it weakened our own. For another I don't think he gets the distance between "racial resentment" and "racism" when Democrats seem to be working just as hard as Republicans to give the impression that they are helping black people, but not white people. But Shor is right that it's a mistake to assume "the demographics are on our side." They're not.

Michael Harriot did a little tweetstorm on how Big Government solves problems that Small Government creates — and how Small Government stole money from black people to give it to white people.

The Atlantic, "Ronald Reagan's Long-Hidden Racist Conversation With Richard Nixon: In newly unearthed audio, the then-California governor disparaged African delegates to the United Nations. The day after the United Nations voted to recognize the People's Republic of China, then-California Governor Ronald Reagan phoned President Richard Nixon at the White House and vented his frustration at the delegates who had sided against the United States. 'Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I did,' Reagan said. 'Yeah,' Nixon interjected. Reagan forged ahead with his complaint: 'To see those, those monkeys from those African countries—damn them, they're still uncomfortable wearing shoes!' Nixon gave a huge laugh.

Teen Vogue, "Ronald Reagan Wasn't the Good Guy President Anti-Trump Republicans Want You to Believe In: In this op-ed, politics editor Lucy Diavolo responds to a recent ad attempting to distance Ronald Reagan from Donald Trump by assessing how much the two Republican presidents have in common."

It's a bitter joke that the Democrats can't pass anything because Republicans don't agree with them. It's just amazing how much the Democrats and GOP agree on. "How Congress Maintains Endless War - System Update with Glenn Greenwald"

"Monopolies Make Their Own Rules: Zephyr Teachout's new book lays bare the private legal system that shores up their immense power—and hides it from public view. [...] Teachout's thesis is provocative and simple: that monopolistic corporations operate a despotic parallel governmental system, or as she writes in her refreshingly brusque style, 'monopoly is tyranny.' It is a system of coercive, private power that rivals, and often surpasses, the power of the state. (And they know it: 'In a lot of ways, Facebook is more like a government than a traditional company,' Mark Zuckerberg once chirped to Ezra Klein.) You might think that a monopoly is strictly defined as one firm totally dominating a single market, but this isn't true. Teachout observes that when Standard Oil (considered one of the biggest monopolies ever) was broken up in 1911, it controlled only 65 percent of the oil market. And antitrust action has been brought against firms controlling just over 5 percent of their market. A monopoly, Teachout proposes, is simply 'any company that has so much power that it sets the terms of an interaction.'"

Adolph Reed, "The Surprising Cross-Racial Saga of Modern Wealth Inequality: Why the 'racial wealth gap' fails to explain economic inequality in black and white America. [...] 'Racism' is an alternative to a concrete explanation; it doesn't tell us how inequalities are produced, and in lieu of that only gives us a name by which we can group, and stigmatize, them. Patterns of racial difference in outcomes can occur for many different reasons, some of them random. Knowing what produces the truly ongoing and germane unequal outcomes behind the wealth gap is the only way we can hope ultimately to address and correct them. What's more, recognizing that racial economic inequality is in large part a product of 40 years or more of upward redistribution and intensifying concentration of income among the already wealthy creates a different set of necessary political responses. To eradicate the racial wealth gap, we need to link up the pursuit of justice and equality for African Americans to the broader campaign to bring justice and equality to all working Americans."

An entertaining thread on how Jeff Bezos is a black hole.

I had a moment of nostalgia watching the Rolling Stone interview with Al Gore and wondered for a moment why, forgetting everything else, Joe Biden is our nominee instead of this guy.

Everything you know is wrong, volume 168: "Michael Parenti: Reflection on the Overthrow of Communism"

"Data-mining reveals that 80% of books published 1924-63 never had their copyrights renewed and are now in the public domain: This January, we celebrated the Grand Re-Opening of the Public Domain, as the onerous terms of the hateful Sonny Bono Copyright Act finally developed a leak, putting all works produced in 1923 into the public domain, with more to follow every year -- 1924 goes PD in 2020, and then 1925, etc. But there's another source of public domain works: until the 1976 Copyright Act, US works were not copyrighted unless they were registered, and then they quickly became public domain unless that registration was renewed. The problem has been to figure out which of these works were in the public domain, because the US Copyright Office's records were not organized in a way that made it possible to easily cross-check a work with its registration and renewal."

Annie Lennox with Queen and David Bowie, "Under Pressure"

03:20 GMT comment


Thursday, 09 July 2020

It's always the living that are haunting my nights

The Onion, "Nancy Pelosi Calls Jamaal Bowman To Scold Him For Winning Primary: WASHINGTON—Following the progressive challenger's victory over 16-term incumbent Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi phoned Jamaal Bowman to scold him for winning his primary race, sources confirmed Wednesday. 'I just wanted to call and personally reprimand you for your victory,' said Pelosi, extending her sincerest indignation to the former Bronx middle school educator, who is expected to easily win the general election in his heavily Democratic congressional district. 'I understand there are some mail-in ballots that still need to be counted, but it appears you won big last night and energized a lot of first-time voters and young people we absolutely did not want voting in this primary. So allow me to extend my sincerest fuck-you for everything you've done. Obviously, we're going to be working together soon, so I look forward to crushing you the first chance I get.' Pelosi added that when things became official in November, she would call again to express how frustrated she was to welcome Bowman to Congress."

Photo: Heroic MA Senator protects his constituents: "This is my favorite photo of Senator Ed Markey. He's the guy in the middle of the photo in the dorky shirt. This United States Senator showed up at the #SayHerName BLM protest in Boston yesterday to bear witness and be an ally. See how he's standing alone, listening respectfully to the speakers? He did that *the entire event*. Markey did not take a mic. He only spoke to reporters when they approached him. He did not have an entourage. None of the marshals were assigned to keep an eye on him. He just showed up, took a knee, and marched behind the POC who organized the event. What he did do, was use his presence to keep the people at that event safe. You better believe Boston Police knew a United States Senator was walking in the noisy, unruly mob that was our protest yesterday. And not one cop hassled us. Not one White Supremist made a run at us. Markey quietly used his presence to protect his constituents. And THAT, ladies and gentlemen is how a true public servant behaves. Vote to re-elect Senator Ed Markey on September 1."

"In Colorado, Progressives Had A Chance At Real Power. They Let It Go.: John Hickenlooper swept the Democratic Senate nomination with little fight from the left. [...] Hickenlooper, the popular former governor and failed 2020 presidential candidate, routed Andrew Romanoff, the former state House speaker who ran firmly to Hickenlooper's left, in the race to take on Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in November's election. Gardner is among this cycle's most vulnerable GOP incumbents, meaning the Democratic primary presented the opportunity for progressives to place an ally in the Senate. But in letting Hickenlooper claim the nomination with a margin of close to 20 percentage points, they lost any hope of having a candidate who might actually rally around some of their biggest policy ideas, including the Green New Deal and Medicare for All."

Supreme Court hands big win to Trump on expelling immigrants seeking asylum: The 7-2 ruling allows people to be deported without judicial review of their cases. WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday gave a victory to the Trump administration on the president's signature issue of immigration, ruling that some people seeking asylum in the U.S. can be deported without additional court hearings. In a 7-2 vote, the court said people who fail to make a valid case for asylum in their initial screenings, by credibly claiming that they fear persecution at home, can be fast-tracked for deportation and cannot challenge that decision in federal court. [...] Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said that form of relief is intended to be used for those seeking release from detention, not as an avenue to get into federal court. And other constitutional rights of due process do not automatically apply to migrants simply because they set foot on U.S. soil and have not been legally admitted. In their dissent, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan said the court was wrong to rule that constitutional protections don't apply to asylum-seekers "who challenge the procedures used to determine whether they may seek shelter in this country or whether they may be cast to an unknown fate." The decision 'increases the risk of erroneous immigration decisions.'"

"Supreme Court Rules Taxpayers Must Subsidize Religious Schools [...] In other words, the Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue decision means that public dollars will go to private religious schools, in a clear violation of the separation of church and state, and a direct attack on public education."

"The Supreme Court Just Gave Corporations A License To Steal: The courthouse door was just slammed shut on workers and retirees whose pension plans get bilked. [...] Now here's the punchline: Rather than weighing in on the allegations of theft, Kavanaugh and the other conservative justices slammed the courthouse door on the plaintiffs and every other plaintiff like them, thereby creating the conditions for an undeterrable crime spree."

"Supreme Court Lifts Limits on Trump's Power to Fire Consumer Watchdog: The case concerning the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was part of a politically charged battle over presidential authority. WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the president is free to fire the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau without cause. The decision, rejecting a federal law that sought to place limits on presidential oversight of independent agencies, was a victory for the conservative movement to curb the administrative state. The ruling puts to rest a decade of doubt over whether the bureau and its leadership structure, in which the director is appointed by the president to a five-year term and cannot be dismissed without a substantial reason, were constitutional. While the narrow decision validates the agency's existence, it could also open it to greater politicization, effectively turning its director into something akin to a cabinet member who serves at the pleasure of a president."

"'Monumental Victory': Tribes and Climate Activists Celebrate Court-Ordered Shutdown of Dakota Access Pipeline: 'If the events of 2020 have taught us anything, it's that health and justice must be prioritized early on in any decision-making process if we want to avoid a crisis later on.'"

"'Vindication': Bayer Reaches $10 Billion Settlement Over Roundup Cancer Lawsuits: The deal includes $1.25 billion to cover potential future settlements. Agribusiness giant Bayer announced Wednesday that it reached a more than $10 billion deal to settle thousands of lawsuits that claimed exposure to Monsanto's Roundup caused cancer. A statement from Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in 2018—and thus inherited lawsuits targeting the widely used weedkiller—said the settlement affects "75% of the current Roundup litigation involving approximately 125,000 filed and unfiled claims overall."

"A Federal Judge Is Really Tired Of GM And Fiat Chrysler's Shit: GM sued Fiat Chrysler in November, accusing it of corrupt contract negotiations, which led to higher labor costs for GM. In light of events since then, a federal judge is extremely tired of the suit already. The judge's order—for GM CEO Mary Barra and FCA CEO Mike Manley to meet in person and alone—is a good reminder that legal disputes are often only about five or ten percent of actual law and in fact more like regular disputes in real life. Lawsuits are cloaked in legal language—95 pages of it, in GM's original civil complaint—but it doesn't follow that resolutions have to be especially complex. That, of course, doesn't stop some civil proceedings from going on for years at a time, seemingly only to the benefit of the lawyers getting paid to argue them. Which is just the kind of proceeding Judge Paul Borman foresees happening in the GM-FCA case. On Tuesday, he ordered Barra and Manley to meet in person before July 1 to resolve things, explicitly tying the case to the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement."

"SEC Regulators: Private Equity Is on a Crime Spree: Securities and Exchange Commission regulators recently issued a scathing report that reads like a last-ditch plea for help in reeling in private equity billionaires, who have all but free rein to fleece whoever they want, whenever they want. [...] In a little-noticed ruling last week, the Supreme Court restricted the SEC's power to punish private equity firms. With the agency successfully neutered, Trump is now trying to move Clayton into the job of US Attorney, overseeing Wall Street."

"An Entire Pro Softball Team Quit After Their GM Tried to Use Them as Racist, Pro-Trump Propaganda: A few weeks ahead of the slated return of most U.S. sports, pro women's softball held its first game in Melbourne, Florida this week. Shortly after the game ended, every member of the Texas-based Scrap Yard Fast Pitch quit the team. Every single one. At some point during the game, the team's general manager Connie May tweeted a picture of the players standing during the national anthem. The tweet tagged Donald Trump, declaring, 'Everyone respecting the FLAG!' According to the New York Times, the team returned to their locker room after the game to find a bunch of texts and notifications about the picture, which was posted without their knowledge or consent to promote a political message they say was not their intention. May's implication is that by standing for the anthem, the team is showing opposition (or at the very least, indifference) to the Black Lives Matter movement, making it a sort of anti-protest protest in itself. And the team made it clear they were not okay with that message."

"The Marijuana Superweapon Biden Refuses to Use: Legalizing marijuana is extremely popular. So why won't Joe Biden embrace the idea? Democratic political consultants dream of issues like marijuana legalization. Democrats are overwhelmingly in favor of it, polls show. So are independents. A majority of Republicans favor it now too. It motivates progressives, young people, and Black Americans to vote. Put it on the ballot, and it's proved a sure way to boost turnout for supportive politicians. It's popular in key presidential-election states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Florida, Arizona, and Virginia. There's no clear political downside— although marijuana legalization motivates its supporters, it doesn't motivate its opponents. For the Democratic presidential nominee, the upsides of supporting it would include energizing a very committed group of single-issue voters and making a major move toward criminal-justice reform and the Bernie Sanders agenda. Joe Biden won't inhale."

"Chelsea Manning's Jailer Is Running For Congress -- As A Democrat: James Averhart confined the Iraq War whistleblower to a tiny cell 23 hours a day -- and now could end up as the Democratic Party's nominee in Alabama [...] James Averhart, who is competing in a July 14 run-off election for an Alabama congressional seat, also oversaw a Bush-era military push to track down and punish veterans who deserted the Vietnam War -- an initiative seen as an attempt to discourage soldiers from deserting during the Iraq War."

"Who To Believe on Afghan Intelligence: CIA, NSA, or Pentagon?: Digging below the bombshell headlines and MSM chyrons on the current Russian-bounty-on-US-soldiers-in-Afghanistan allegations, it seems three separate US government (USG) agencies — the CIA, the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Pentagon — have different assessments as to the veracity of this story. [...] I can easily see this Russian-bounty story — to the extent the CIA's intelligence is creditable — being concocted by corrupt local officials and/or USG employed Afghans to keep their gravy train going in an effort along with Deep State operative to derail Trump's troop-withdrawal plans. Thus, I place very little credence in the CIA's in-country human intelligent sources who supposedly are the source of the CIA's Russian-bounty story. [...] Contrarily, the NSA — which strongly disagrees with the CIA's assessment on the Russian-bounty story — relies on so-called signal intelligence for making its intelligence assessments. [...] It is also important to note the Pentagon's statement on Tuesday: '... the Department of Defense [DoD] has no corroborating evidence at this time to validate recent allegations regarding malign activity by Russian personnel against US forces in Afghanistan ....' [...] Getting back to reality, the real rationale behind the MSM's and the Washington War State's latest Russia-gate story can be explained in two words: Bagram Airbase. As I cover in an article I wrote in September 2019 ("The Real Reason the US is Staying in Afghanistan"), the pushback Trump has gotten throughout his presidency on removing all US troops in Afghanistan as he campaigned he would do as president has nothing to do with keeping Americans safe from jihadi terrorism, installing a democratic government in Kabul, or advance human (particularly women's) rights in Afghanistan. As I state in this article: The real reason for the pushback by the Washington national security establishment against getting all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan is the guiding maxim of our post-World War II "War State" (the military-industrial complex and pro-war political establishment President Eisenhower warned about) that has grown into a $1-trillion/year enterprise with a worldwide empire of over 800 foreign military installations: never give up a military base in a strategic location."

In Consortium News, "LEE CAMP: Connecting the Dates — US Media Used To Stop The 'Threat' of Peace [...] Now, I'm not implying Trump is some kind of hippy peacenik. (He would look atrocious with no bra and flowers in his hair.) No, the military under Trump has dropped more bombs than under Obama, and that's impressive since Obama dropped more bombs than ever before. However, in certain areas of the world, Trump has threatened to create peace. Sure, he's doing it for his own ego and because he thinks his base wants it, but whatever the reason, he has put forward plans or policies that go against the military industrial complex and the establishment war-hawks (which is 95 percent of the establishment). And each time this has happened, he is quickly thwarted, usually with hilarious propaganda. (Well, hilarious to you and me. Apparently believable to people at The New York Times and former CIA intern Anderson Cooper.) I know four things for sure in life. Paper beats rock. Rock beats scissors. Scissors beat paper. And propaganda beats peace. All one has to do is look at a calendar."

I found this clip from The Michael Brooks Show pretty scary since it confirms all my worst fears, "Pentagon's 'Zoomer Rebellion' War Games ft. Joshua Kahn Russell.

"On Stonewall anniversary, the NYPD launched a brutal unprovoked attack on LGBTQ people: The NYPD may have apologized last year for raiding the Stonewall Inn, spawning days of riots and police brutality, but they apparently haven't decided to stop the behavior. As Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted about honoring Stonewall, the cops were unleashing pepper spray on LGBTQ people dancing in celebration. Yesterday, as the Queer Liberation March wound down and participants celebrated in nearby Washington Square Park, police charged into the crowd, swinging batons, shoving people to the ground, and arresting a handful of participants. The officers kept their badge numbers covered."

"I'm Black and Afraid of 'White Fragility' [...] White Fragility also reinforces the belief that the responsibility for racism lies with individual workers' attitudes and invisible phenomena including implicit bias rather than the policies and practices authorized by employers. If I were an employer, why wouldn't I want to hire a specialist to train workers to believe that their own identities and unconscious biases are the main sources of inequality, instead of exploitative workplace practices? Simply put, DiAngelo continues to be paid by schools and firms across the country for the same reason that employers pay any professional or manager: it advances their material interests as opposed to the interests of their personnel."

Matt Taibbi wrote about the subject and later discussed it with Katie Halper on their podcast, ""White Fragility," Plus Adolph Reed on Identity Politics | Useful Idiots."

"How to Be an Anti-Intellectual: A lauded book about antiracism is wrong on its facts and in its assumptions. [...] Kendi's goals are openly totalitarian. The DOA would be tasked with 'investigating' private businesses and 'monitoring' the speech of public officials; it would have the power to reject any local, state, or federal policy before it's implemented; it would be made up of 'experts' who could not be fired, even by the president; and it would wield 'disciplinary tools' over public officials who did not 'voluntarily' change their 'racist ideas'—as defined, presumably, by people like Kendi. What could possibly go wrong? [...] For one thing, he doesn't believe that people can be persuaded out of racism. 'People are racist out of self-interest, not out of ignorance,' Kendi writes. Thus, racists can't be educated out of their racism. 'Educational and moral suasion is not only a failed strategy,' he laments, it's a 'suicidal' one. This is a tough claim to square with the rest of the book, which contains story after story in which Kendi gets persuaded out of his racist beliefs—including one where a friend named Clarence reasons him out of believing that white people are extraterrestrials. Indeed, what makes Kendi's personal story so compelling is precisely the fact that he's constantly changing. That said, when reflecting on his college days, Kendi describes his former self as 'a believer more than a thinker,' so perhaps not everything about him has changed."

"It Wouldn't Be 'The Chicks' If Their Comeback Didn't Piss Off Some People" — They dropped the "Dixie" part and have a new album, Gaslighter.

In which Nathan Robinson totally disagrees with Matt Taibbi: "Has The American Left Lost Its Mind?: No. Once again critics of the left are misstating the facts and distracting us from consequential issues."

This is Ted Rall in WSJ, which is surprising enough, but he's right. "Police Brutality Affects Us All: Advocates for police reform have emphasized brutality's unique burden on black Americans. A better approach might be to emphasize that police officers rough whites up, too. The point isn't to diminish the black experience but to convince everyone they're in the same boat. More whites would join the struggle against police brutality if they believed the police were dangerous to them as well. Support for funding AIDS research expanded after activist groups convinced Americans in the 1980s that the 'gay plague' threatened straight people. It was oversold: A 2015 study found homosexuals were more than 20 times as likely to be infected as heterosexuals. But 1/20th isn't zero. Anyone can contract the virus. Similarly, there's no dispute that black Americans bear more than their share of police violence. In 2019, according to Statista, officers killed1,004 civilians nationwide: 370 whites, 235 blacks, 158 Latinos and 241 of other or unknown ethnic origin. Adjusting for population, the odds of an African-American dying at the hands of police is about 2.5 times as high as for a white person. Even so, 370 is far from zero. [...] If you're white, you should know you may get shot and brutalized by cops. That knowledge could save your life—and it will help you empathize with black victims of police violence."

Dean Baker, "NYT Argues Workers Should Get More, but Gets Some Important Facts Wrong I hate to be nitpicky when the NYT writes a very strong editorial arguing that we need more money going to ordinary workers and less to the rich, but it is important to get the story right. Unfortunately, the editorial misses much of it. First and foremost, there has not been a major shift from wages to profits during the period of wage stagnation. [...] The piece also implies that stock returns have been extraordinarily high through the last four decades. This is clearly wrong. While returns were very high in the 1980s and 1990s, they actually have been well below long-term averages for the last two decades. In this vein, the piece also proposes banning share buybacks as a way to reduce returns to shareholders. It is not clear what it hopes this would accomplish. It is hardly better for workers or anyone else if companies pay out money to shareholders through dividends rather than share buybacks. [...] The piece also is very modest in suggesting that the minimum wage should be raised to $15 an hour. While this is a good near-term target, if the minimum wage had kept pace with productivity growth since 1968, it would be over $24 an hour today. [...] In order to be able to raise the minimum wage back to its productivity-adjusted level from 1968, and not see excessive inflation, we would have to take steps to reduce high-end wages. This would mean things like fixing the corporate governance structures so CEOs could not ripoff the companies for which they work. This would mean they might get $2 million to $3 million a year, instead of $20 million. We would have to eliminate the waste in the financial sector, thereby ending the exorbitant pay in this sector. We would also have to weaken the importance of patent and copyright monopolies, making it less likely that Bill Gates types could get $100 billion. And, we would have to subject doctors and other highly paid professionals to competition, bringing their pay in line with their counterparts in other wealthy countries."

RIP: "Carl Reiner, Actor, Director, Writer, Producer And Mensch, Dies At 98. In 1950, comic actor Sid Caesar hired Reiner for the pioneering live TV sketch comedy program, Your Show of Shows. Reiner was a writer alongside Woody Allen, Neil Simon and Mel Brooks. He also acted as a supporting player. 'Being a second banana to such a massive first banana ... wasn't a comedown at all for me,' said Reiner. 'I realized I was working with the best.'" I can't even imagine my life without Carl Reiner. Especially, I can't imagine my life without The Dick Van Dyke Show and moments like this. But, as Alan Sepinwall said in Rolling Stone, "The Dick Van Dyke Show would be Carl Reiner's one inarguable masterpiece, if it weren't for all the others."

Some fascinating history of the south's Black Belt from Jacobin's podcast series: "Robin D. G. Kelley: How Depression-era Communists Fought to Organize Alabama.

"Mapping Paramilitary and Far-Right Threats to Racial Justice: We have been tracking reports of paramilitary and other far-right actors who are showing up at or adjacent to protests demanding an end to racist policing and a transformation of our carceral state. This map seeks to right-size the threat of paramilitaries to our social justice movements, neither exaggerating nor minimizing. We have confirmed 136 reported incidents since the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on May 25, 2020, and with new reports daily there are dozens more as of yet unconfirmed incidents to review. Given the variety of groups and factions involved and types of incidents, we have divided the data into a few broad categories of actors/ideologies on the one hand and actions and tactics on the other. In most cases, the underlying data preserves more nuance and can be used to make finer distinctions. "

From Harper's in 2008, Thomas Frank, "The Wrecking Crew: How a gang of right-wing con men destroyed Washington and made a killing Republicans and Democrats may fight over how big government should be and exactly what it should do, we tell ourselves, but surely everyone shares those baseline good intentions, that simple devotion to the public interest. [...] But the truth is almost exactly the opposite, whether we are discussing Abramoff or the wider tsunami of corruption that has washed over the capital in recent years. It is just this: Fantastic misgovernment is not an accident, nor is it the work of a few bad individuals. It is the consequence of triumph by a particular philosophy of government, by a movement that understands the liberal state as a perversion and considers the market the ideal nexus of human society."

Rolling Stone interviews Ringo Starr for his 80th birthday.

"Lord of the Rings Director Peter Jackson Pens Moving Tribute to Ian Holm: Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson penned a moving tribute to the late Ian Holm." There are a few interesting behind-the-scenes touches in here.

"Meet The Real Mrs. Maisel: Jean Carroll [...] Although she was revered as the top 'comedienne' (the quaint term for a woman comic) of her day, had her own sitcom on ABC, appeared on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' nearly 30 times and headlined at every major theater in the United States and London, she is notably absent from most histories of comedy."

Someone from the Draft Jesse Ventura movement is appealing to my love of Legos.

David Gilmour has a new song, "Yes, I Have Ghosts".

05:34 GMT comment


Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Though we really did try to make it

People were surprised by the first two rulings out of the current Supreme Court session. Right-wingers hate them, the rest of us are relieved, but many of us are wondering how these same opinions will later be used as foundations for some pretty terrifying right-wing rulings: But for the moment, we are generally seeing them as a good thing.

"US Supreme court rules employers cannot discriminate against LGBTQ+ workers: Court rules 1964 civil rights law bars employers from discriminating against workers based on sexual orientation or transgender status. [...] 'Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear. An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids,' justice Neil Gorsuch wrote."

"US Supreme Court rules against Trump in 'capricious' DACA case: Court ruling allows 650,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the US as children to remain and work. The US Supreme Court dealt US President Donald Trump a major setback on his hardline immigration policies, ruling against his bid to end a programme that protects from deportation 650,000 immigrants, dubbed "Dreamers", who entered the United States as children without documentation. The justices on Thursday upheld lower court rulings that found Trump's 2017 move to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme, created in 2012 by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, was unlawful."

"Corporations Are Bankrolling US Police Foundations Without Public Oversight: As calls to defund the police gain traction, bloated police budgets are coming under scrutiny for siphoning public resources away from Black and Brown communities. While police budgets are typically public documents that must be approved by elected officials, there are other institutions in place with the sole purpose of funneling even more resources toward law enforcement. Police foundations across the country are partnering with corporations to raise money to supplement police budgets by funding programs and purchasing tech and weaponry for law enforcement with little public oversight. Annual fundraising events and parties like the St. Paul Police Foundation's 'Blue Nite Gala' and the Chicago Police Foundation's 'True Blue' event are huge moneymakers. The NYC Police Foundation reported that it raised $5.5 million from its annual benefit in 2019. If police departments already have massive budgets — averaging 20% to 45% of a municipal budget — why do these organizations exist? Police foundations offer a few unique benefits to law enforcement.

"Unsanitized: The Federal Reserve Can End the State Fiscal Crisis Today: With Congress inert, the Fed can solve the economy's biggest looming threat. This is The COVID-19 Daily Report for June 12, 2020.. [...] The MLF is a $500 billion fund. Under the self-imposed rules of the emergency credit facilities (governed by Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act), the $454 billion stake from Treasury authorized by the CARES Act must absorb losses from the loans they make. So they could shut down the other credit facilities entirely and tweak the MLF, eliminating the interest rate and making principal payments optional or extending the maturities to 200 years or some other function that makes them effectively grants, with Treasury eating the losses. In other words, the $500 billion that the National Governors Association wants is mostly available, from the Fed, and all it would take is a simple announcement to distribute it." But you know what's really going to happen."

Pareene, "Abolish These Police Departments: Minneapolis's police force has forfeited its right to exist. So have other cities'. [...] Before telling activists and protesters to abandon radical slogans for more targeted reforms, consider that Minneapolis has already tried a number of reforms—it has reached for nearly every piece of low-hanging fruit. It would be great if police departments could more easily fire bad officers, and other police departments could not hire them. But the Minneapolis Police Department couldn't even implement a plan to identify problem officers. Any attempt to do so—to identify problem officers and then fire them—would require an entirely different police culture. It would require, in other words, dismantling the Minneapolis Police Department. Of course, if you come to believe that, because of its unique history and resistance to previous reform efforts, the Minneapolis Police Department has forfeited its right to exist, it is difficult not to apply the same logic to nearly every other urban police department in the nation. Chicago needs public safety; does it need the police department responsible for murdering Laquan McDonald and detaining thousands of people in the Homan Square black site? People who argue that Baltimore needs more and better policing should explain why that policing ought to come from the irredeemable Baltimore Police Department, one of the most fundamentally rotten and corrupt institutions in the country. Public figures have debated what to do about Baltimore's horrific homicide rates for years. The criminal mob that has been wreaking havoc there, while also not preventing or solving very many of those murders has, I think, lost the right to participate in that debate. If the reasons to disband these particular urban police departments are all quite similar, maybe the problem with policing in this country is the way that we have built the modern urban police department. Maybe the problem is the way we conceive of policing. Maybe the problem is the police."

Handy advice from Teen Vogue: "Tear Gas and Pepper Spray: What to Do if You're Exposed: Whether it's tear gas or pepper spray, find out what to do if you're exposed."

Help from Vox, "How to fight an outrageous medical bill, explained: Five patients tell us how they pushed back — and won."

A lot of these warmongering conservative Democrats just don't seem to get that "democracy" thing: New York Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel on Sunday scolded firebrand lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for backing his progressive primary challenger — going so far as to accuse her of acting like a dictator." Endorsing conservadems is just fine, but endorsing progressives is "a dictatorship".

"Beltway Dems Are Trying To Prevent A Progressive Senate: Party leaders are desperately trying to buy the Colorado Senate primary for a scandal-plagued opponent of Medicare for All and a Green New Deal. [...] For years, Democratic party leaders have publicly insisted they follow a 'just win, baby' playbook that leads them to support any candidate -- liberal or moderate -- best positioned to win GOP seats. But activists have come to suspect that, in fact, party leaders are actually willing to prioritize crushing progressive candidates, even if that might risk losing general elections to Republicans. Democratic leaders' heavy-handed behavior in Colorado seems to confirm those suspicions -- and it could now jeopardize the entire effort to take back Congress from Donald Trump's party."

"Football Leaks' Rui Pinto in prison with hard-drive passwords in his head: Website provided evidence that led to Manchester City's ban but Pinto has more information and 'authorities are afraid' Lisbon's Judiciary Police prison is situated just down the road from Eduardo VII Park, one of the Portuguese capital's most popular tourist attractions that is famed for its spectacular views of the city and the River Tagus. With only around 25 tiny cells and based in the depths of the giant white building which is the headquarters of the country's antiterrorist and serious crime authorities, the high-security facility is usually reserved for only the most dangerous criminals. For almost the past year, however, it has also been home to Rui Pinto. The 31-year-old, who created the Football Leaks website which provided some of the evidence that led to Manchester City's Champions League ban and numerous other investigations into tax evasion and corruption in football and beyond, is still awaiting trial for alleged extortion, violation of secrecy and illegally accessing information despite being extradited to his homeland from Hungary in March 2019. Last week, his lawyers filed a complaint to the European Commission over inconsistencies in the original arrest warrant that accused Pinto of only six offences before that was increased to 147 while he was in custody."

"The Great Seed Piracy: A great seed and biodiversity piracy is underway and it must be stopped. The privateers of today include not just the corporations — which are becoming fewer and larger through mergers — but also individuals like Bill Gates, the 'richest man in the world'. When the Green Revolution was pushed in India and Mexico, farmers' seeds were 'rounded-up' and locked in international institutions, which used these seeds to breed green revolution varieties which responded to chemical inputs. The first two institutions were the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) in Mexico. These institutes took diversity from farmers' fields and replaced the diversity with chemical monocultures of rice, wheat and corn."

"Racism and the Working Class: When I tell other middle-class professionals who don't know me well that I'm writing a book about working-class culture, it's amazing how often they respond approvingly that 'white racism' is an important subject. My reaction, depending on the circumstance, ranges from embarrassment to rage. It's frustrating that 'working class' reads as all white to so many people who should know better. And it pisses me off that so many educated people assume that the white part of the working class is either uniformly racist and/or that racism is the most distinctive part of their culture. And it often seems there is a background assumption that little or no racism exists among the educated middle class, that all white racism is contained within the working class."

When you think about how hard (and effectively) the United States government has worked to prevent or destroy democracy in the rest of the world, it's hard to believe they wouldn't stop it at all costs in America, too. "The Jakarta Method: Washington's Anticommunist Crusade w/ Vincent Bevins - MR Live - 6/9/20. [...] Bevins shares the untold story of the US's role in promoting slaughter across Indonesia in the name of securing western capitalist."

"In 1918, there was an anti-mask league in San Francisco: In 1918, there was an anti-mask league in San Francisco, which objected to wearing masks to prevent the spread of influenza. They held meetings of thousands of maskless people. San Francisco was ultimately was one of the cities that suffered most from the Spanish Influenza pandemic."

It's one thing when Republicans call you a conspiracy theorist for suspecting them of cheating, but it's another thing when Democrats agree with them. How did that happen? The voting machines are still suspicious, and so are the outcomes of elections. If you can't do a full manual recount and you can't audit, you should assume someone is rigging elections. "There's No Way to Know If ANY U.S. Elections Are Legitimate." (Full show: "Jennifer Cohn talks to Nomiki - Our Democracy Is Eroding.")

Touré Reed is giving interviews for his new book. "The Pitfalls of Liberal Antiracism and Woke Neoliberalism: "Tonight we're speaking with Professor of history at Illinois State University, Touré Reed, about the political implications of seeing racial identities, separated from material relationships, as the engine of American history. Instead, he spells out why the road to a more just society for African Americans broadly is inextricably linked to that of poor and working-class Americans and coalitions built around their material needs." He makes the important point that, contrary to claims of neoliberal identitarians, the New Deal did a lot for black America. And universal programs usually do.

"Adolph Reed, Cedric Johnson, Willie Legette & Michael Brooks 'Bernie, South Carolina & Black Voters'" — Personally, I found this most gratifying to watch because it horrified me to watch otherwise smart people constantly putting pressure on Sanders about being more race-centered, something he did well to avoid in 2015-16 but succumbed to by 2019-20,sadly.

"Antiracism Campaigns: Twenty Years of Making Racism Worse: Studies over twenty years come to the same conclusion: Antiracism fails because it reduces complex problems to race, which strengthens the idea that race matters enormously."

"The Pitfalls of Liberal Antiracism and Woke Neoliberalism (Stay At Home #12) Tonight we're speaking with Professor of history at Illinois State University, Touré Reed, about the political implications of seeing racial identities, separated from material relationships, as the engine of American history. Instead, he spells out why the road to a more just society for African Americans broadly is inextricably linked to that of poor and working-class Americans and coalitions built around their material needs. His latest book out from Verso is titled Toward Freedom: The Case Against Race Reductionism."

Republicans are certainly a big part of the problem, but there's still the other part: [...] When it comes to the problems with policing in this country, Democrats seem fundamentally unable to conceive of themselves as a big part of the problem. At best there is an argument about the Republicans being worse — which is true, and is almost universally true — that is used to deflect criticism. It is necessary to face up to the reality that many of the places with the worst problems with police violence are, and have been, controlled by Democrats at the local level for a long time. If you look at protesters and don't understand why they burn property rather than channel their anger into voting, the very obvious answer is that there is no imaginary future in which voting for Joe Biden and whoever they just elected Mayor will actually solve the problem. Republicans offer pure authoritarianism — they actively *encourage* police to be brutal — while Democrats have done nothing to stop them, or in many cases abetted them."

Taibbi, "The American Press Is Destroying Itself: A flurry of newsroom revolts has transformed the American press. [...] The leaders of this new movement are replacing traditional liberal beliefs about tolerance, free inquiry, and even racial harmony with ideas so toxic and unattractive that they eschew debate, moving straight to shaming, threats, and intimidation. They are counting on the guilt-ridden, self-flagellating nature of traditional American progressives, who will not stand up for themselves, and will walk to the Razor voluntarily. They've conned organization after organization into empowering panels to search out thoughtcrime, and it's established now that anything can be an offense, from a UCLA professor placed under investigation for reading Martin Luther King's 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail' out loud to a data scientist fired* from a research firm for — get this — retweeting an academic study suggesting nonviolent protests may be more politically effective than violent ones! Now, this madness is coming for journalism. Beginning on Friday, June 5th, a series of controversies rocked the media. By my count, at least eight news organizations dealt with internal uprisings (it was likely more). Most involved groups of reporters and staffers demanding the firing or reprimand of colleagues who'd made politically 'problematic' editorial or social media decisions." There's been other crazy stuff he doesn't mention here, but I actually think James Bennet should have lost his seat at the NYT because he didn't do his job, which is to read stuff before publishing it.

"RAY McGOVERN: How an Internet 'Persona' Helped Birth Russiagate: Guccifer 2.0 turns four years old today and the great diversion he took part in becomes clearer by the day, writes Ray McGovern. Four years ago today, on June 15, 2016, a shadowy Internet persona calling itself 'Guccifer 2.0' appeared out of nowhere to claim credit for hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee on behalf of WikiLeaks and implicate Russia by dropping 'telltale' but synthetically produced Russian 'breadcrumbs' in his metadata. Thanks largely to the corporate media, the highly damaging story actually found in those DNC emails — namely, that the DNC had stacked the cards against Bernie Sanders in the party's 2016 primary— was successfully obscured. The media was the message; and the message was that Russia had used G-2.0 to hack into the DNC, interfering in the November 2016 election to help Donald Trump win. [...] Adding to other signs of fakery, there is hard evidence that G-2.0 was operating mostly in U.S. time zones and with local settings peculiar to a device configured for use within the U.S., as Tim Leonard reports here and here.) Leonard is a software developer who started to catalog and archive evidence related to Guccifer 2.0 in 2017 and has issued detailed reports on digital forensic discoveries made by various independent researchers — as well as his own — over the past three years. Leonard points out that WikiLeaks said it did not use any of the emails G2.0 sent it, though it later published similar emails, opening the possibility that whoever created G2.0 knew what WikiLeaks had and sent it duplicates with the Russian fingerprints. As Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) told President Trump in a memorandum of July 24, 2017, titled 'Was the 'Russian Hack' an Inside Job?': 'We do not think that the June 12, 14, & 15 timing was pure coincidence. Rather, it suggests the start of a pre-emptive move to associate Russia with anything WikiLeaks might have been ready to publish and to 'show' that it came from a Russian hack.' 'The recent forensic studies fill in a critical gap. Why the FBI neglected to perform any independent forensics on the original 'Guccifer 2.0' material remains a mystery — as does the lack of any sign that the 'hand-picked analysts' from the FBI, CIA, and NSA, who wrote the misnomered 'Intelligence Community' Assessment dated January 6, 2017, gave any attention to forensics.'"

"Vast neolithic circle of deep shafts found near Stonehenge: Exclusive: prehistoric structure spanning 1.2 miles in diameter is masterpiece of engineering, say archaeologists [...] Four thousand five hundred years ago, the Neolithic peoples who constructed Stonehenge, a masterpiece of engineering, also dug a series of shafts aligned to form a circle spanning 1.2 miles (2km) in diameter. The structure appears to have been a boundary guiding people to a sacred area because Durrington Walls, one of Britain's largest henge monuments, is located precisely at its centre. The site is 1.9 miles north-east of Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain, near Amesbury, Wiltshire."

"Cycling Into London As Comic Shops (And Everything Else) Open Up: I took a socially distanced bicycle ride into London this morning. Today is the day that the UK government has decreed that non-essential shops are allowed to open across England, and that includes comic shops. Boris Johnson has read all his Tintin books three times over and was clearly in need of something new. So on my Boris bike, I whizzed in, filming as I went..." Lotsa photos and a video.

Boogaloo WTF?

RIP: "Ian Holm, Shakespearean actor in Lord of the Rings, Alien, Chariots of Fire, dies at 88: [...] His agent confirmed the death to the Guardian newspaper in England: 'It is with great sadness that the actor Sir Ian Holm CBE passed away this morning at the age of 88. He died peacefully in hospital, with his family and carer,' adding that his illness was Parkinson's related. 'Charming, kind and ferociously talented, we will miss him hugely.'"

RIP: "Dame Vera Lynn: Forces' Sweetheart dies aged 103" — BBC. "Singer known as the 'Forces Sweetheart' whose recordings of We'll Meet Again and The White Cliffs of Dover shaped the national mood in wartime BritainGuardian

Some favorite commentary on the events of the day from Atrios:
* — "Seems Bad: Remember when the Bush administration fired US attorneys and most people in the press refused to believe it because it was too bad to imagine and now George Bush paints dogs so he is good. I bet you don't recall."
* — "Owning The LIbs: As with any policy, it's reasonable to ask just what the enforcement mechanism is. I don't think cops (especially our glorious boys in blue who don't personally seem interested in any kind of responsible behavior such as mask wearing) should be arresting people for not wearing masks. Even if there is precisely zero enforcement of any kind, simply having a rule means that many people will follow it. Most people are rule followers! Signal people should wear masks, and a lot of people will wear masks! Though conservatives arguing one minute that black people deserve to be murdered for not obeying even the mental commands of cops, and then screaming TYRANNY over the unlikely possibility a cop might tell them to wear a mask is, well, you know what it is. These people who aren't wearing masks specifically to OWN THE LIBS, the plague spreading version of rolling coal, are deeply fucked up individuals. Like most efforts to OWN THE LIBS it doesn't make us mad the way they think it does, because we actually aren't the triggered-by-stupid-shit snowflakes they imagine we are. It makes us a bit worried that people are going to die and the whole damn country is going to collapse into the hellmouth."
* — "Bold: Back the dark ages of the internet, even pre-blog time, there was a little online magazine called Slate, which over time got a reputation for "contrarian" thinking. They did do the "that thing you like is actually bad" kind of contrarian stuff, but mostly it was simply a rhetorical ploy, a way of presenting dominant mainstream positions as being rebellious." (There's more.)
* — "Why Won't The Protesters Take Advice From Me [...] It's clear by now that while there unsurprisingly hasn't been some amount of opportunistic theft (looting is loaded word, also, too), the people escalating violent situations are the people tasked with preventing violence. Calls for "nonviolent protest" place the responsibility on the people who are almost entirely not responsible for any violence. Direct it at the people in power." (Do read the rest.)

"On the Groundbreaking Documentary That Brought the Birthplace of Chicago Blues Alive: It Wouldn't Have Been Possible Without 'Guitar King' Michael Bloomfield. [...] 'You gotta make a movie about Maxwell Street, Mike,' Bloomfield said. 'The hustlers, the pimps, those alte kaker businessmen, man, it's real street action. And the music! Blues, gospel, street corner shouters— it's all down there on Maxwell.'

"Make 'This Land is Your Land' the U. S. National Anthem.."

Mr. Sideshow has just stumbled upon a cache of old R. Crumb comics he forgot he had somewhere which included an issue of HUP with a six-page story from 1989 featuring the kidnapping and forced "interview" of "one of the most evil men alive, real estate tycoon Donald Trump!" (Cover)

"Mel Brooks: Why Blazing Saddles Is the 'Funniest Movie Ever Made'

David Malki's Wondermark is an entertaining comic strip.

Smashing socially-distanced performance by Steve Martin and the Philadelphia Orchestra of Martin's "Office Supplies"

Oh, wow, look at these beautiful redwoods in the snow

Audio of the 1978 WorldCon (Iguanacon) Fans to Pros panel with Terry Carr, Harlan Ellison, Richard Lupoff, Bob Silverberg,Ted White (pt.1), illustrated.

Eyeball in the sky: Halo of the Cat's Eye

Carole King & James Taylor, "It's Too Late" (Live at The Troubadour 2007)

04:33 GMT comment


Saturday, 13 June 2020

I hear the voice of rage and ruin

The Kirsi by Maria Susarenko is from this collection of seascapes. (More Susarenko here.)

"There, I Fixed It for You...: Corporate media headlines revised as though they were journalism."

Atrios calls this "The world's scariest graph".

"We Crunched the Numbers: Police — Not Protesters — Are Overwhelmingly Responsible for Attacking Journalists: WE ARE WITNESSING a truly unprecedented attack on press freedom in the United States, with journalists are being systematically targeted while covering the nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. The scale of the attacks is so large, it can be hard to fathom. At the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a project of Freedom of the Press Foundation and the Committee to Protect Journalists, we catalogued 150 press freedom violations in the United States in all of 2019. We are currently investigating 280 from just the last week. The crisis has rightly generated international outrage. Some have pushed a narrative — fueled by commonly used phrases like 'journalists are being attacked by police and protesters alike' — that police and protesters are attacking journalists at relatively equal rates. Our data shows this is incorrect. Police are responsible for the vast majority of assaults on journalists: over 80 percent."

"Minneapolis SF Bookstore Burned, Another Vandalized: Two Minneapolis science fiction landmarks were caught up in the wave of vandalism that struck the city amid protests against the death of George Floyd. Don Blyly's Uncle Hugo's bookstore has been burned, and Greg Ketter's DreamHaven was broken into and damaged. Uncle Hugo's, in business since 1974, and neighboring mystery bookstore Uncle Edgar's since 1980 (also burned), are located near the corner of Lake and Chicago, Uncle Hugo's is the nation's oldest surviving sf bookstore." Damn. I think Uncle Hugo's is where we bought our copy of The Motion of Light in Water. Wendy at Dreamhaven posted an update on the clean-up. Here's a photo of what the storefront looks like now.
Greg Ketter was interviewed on local television.

"Who Will You Believe, de Blasio or Your Lying Eyes?: Bill de Blasio didn't have a good morning, and that's fair, because neither did I or anyone else in his city. When he showed up as usual for Brian Lehrer's weekly 'Ask The Mayor' segment, the venerable WNYC host asked him some thrilling questions. 'I think there is one dominant topic for you this week,' Lehrer said. 'It seems, from a lot of reporting, that the city has a problem of the protests against too much police violence being met with too much police violence, or heavy-handed police tactics. Do you accept the premise?' 'No,' the mayor said. People are deeply hurt, he added. There's anger. There's pain. There are problems in policing we all have to fix. But minus a few unfortunate incidents, he continued, 'the police have shown a lot of restraint.' Citing reality, Lehrer pushed back. Here's all the reporting, he told the mayor. But the mayor dug in. No, no, no. Not happening, not here."

"Nothing Is Certain But Death, Taxes, And Police Infiltration Of US Protests: A video has been circulating of a white man casually smashing the windows of a Minneapolis shop with a hammer during protests against the police murder of George Floyd. The man is clearly trying to hide his identity by wearing a gas mask, carrying a large umbrella, and wearing full-length black clothing. Protesters can be seen intervening to stop his destructive behavior in the video. 'Are you a fucking cop?' one asks."

Tucker Carlson goes all-in for the Irony Award: "Did you watch that? How many more nights like this can we take? How many more nights like this before no one in America will serve as a police officer? It's not worth it. The people in charge hate you. The job doesn't pay enough. At that point, who will enforce the laws? Who will be in charge? Well, violent young men with guns will be in charge. They will make the rules, including the rules in your neighborhood. They will do what they want. You will do what they say. No one will stop them. You will not want to live here when that happens." That's already happened, Tucker, that's why people are protesting!

"'All an act': Norma McCorvey, the Jane Roe plaintiff in Roe v. Wade, says she was paid by right-wing groups to publicly turn against abortion [...] But in what she describes in the documentary as her "deathbed confession," McCovey characterizes her antiabortion activism as "all an act," telling a number of friends — and the public — that she was paid to repeat antiabortion talking points, according to reviews of the documentary in The Daily Beast and the Los Angeles Times. When she's asked if the antiabortion evangelical movement used her "as a trophy" in their cause, she says, 'Of course. I was the big fish ... I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money, and they took me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say. That's what I'd say.' [...] The documentary makers found that McCorvey had been paid at least $456,911 worth of "benevolent gifts" by the antiabortion groups she affiliated herself with, The Daily Beast reported."

"The NYT Admits Key Falsehoods That Drove Last Year's Coup in Bolivia: Falsehoods Peddled by the U.S., its Media, and the NYT: IN NOVEMBER, 2019, Bolivia's three-term left-wing President, Evo Morales, was forced by the country's military and police forces to flee to Mexico after Morales, the prior month, had been officially certified as the winner of his fourth consecutive presidential election. It was unsurprising that Morales won. As the Associated Press noted in 2014, his governance was successful by almost every key metric, and he was thus 'widely popular at home for a pragmatic economic stewardship that spread Bolivia's natural gas and mineral wealth among the masses.' While Morales' popularity had marginally waned since his 2014 landslide victory, he was still the most popular politician in the country. On the night of the October 21, 2019, vote, Bolivia's election board certified that Morales' margin of victory against the second-place candidate exceeded the ten percent threshold required under Bolivian law to avoid a run-off, thus earning him a fourth term. But allegations of election fraud were quickly voiced by Morales' right-wing opponents, leading to his expulsion from the country on November 11."

Michael Brooks et al., "Bolivia's Coup Government Cancels Elections, What Happened To 'Restoring Democracy'?"

Not feeling too positive about her right now. "Stacey Abrams: Pragmatic Democrat in a Red State: Stacey Abrams is a proud ex-bureaucrat who also loves the novel Atlas Shrugged; she works with Republicans but sometimes frustrates her Democratic colleagues; she grew up on food stamps and co-founded a beverage company for children; she has worked as a tax attorney and written several romantic suspense novels on the side."

"Democrats are fueling a corporate counter-revolution against progressives: Democrats in Washington are not just passively failing to mount an opposition to Trump. They are actively helping Republicans. [...] This corporate counter-revolution is easiest to see in Democrats' enthusiastic support for Republicans' legislative response to the coronavirus crisis. Democrats' entire 2018 electoral campaign told America that the opposition party needed to win back Congress in order to block Trump's regressive agenda. And yet, when the Republicans proposed a bill to let Trump's appointees dole out government cash to their corporate allies with no strings attached, this same opposition party mustered not a single recorded vote against the package. Not one. Thanks to that, Trump appointees and the Federal Reserve can now hand out $4tn to politically connected corporations as they lay waste to our economy and steamroll progressive reforms. Private equity firms and fossil fuel companies get new tax breaks as they buy elections and try to lock in permanent climate change."

After publishing a shameful op-ed (with the excuse that he hadn't read it!), "James Bennet Resigns as Editor of The New York Times: The New York Times came under fire last week after publishing Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton's 'Send in the Troops' op-ed, a frighteningly fascist take on the George Floyd protests. Many readers and journalists at the Times were infuriated by the incendiary and downright dangerous screed, which lacked facts and credibility. In response, over 300 employees staged a virtual walkout, and every contributor of color tweeted the message that Cotton's article put their lives in danger." His replacement might even be good: "Katie Kingsbury was previously the managing editor at the Boston Globe. In 2015 she won a Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing for a series of articles that exposed the unfair working conditions facing restaurant workers."

"Coming Soon: Bipartisan Deficit Hawks Calling for Austerity: Right now, government money is flowing. But soon the self-appointed guardians of 'fiscal responsibility' will call for cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and SNAP, while leaving the defense budget and large tax breaks for the wealthy intact."

"43 Million Americans Are About to Lose Their Health Insurance Because of Our Employer-Based Health Care System: Opponents of Medicare for All have cast it as a political nonstarter since it would 'force people off their health insurance.' Now, as millions of laid-off workers lose their employer-provided insurance, the cynicism of that claim is being laid bare.

"Protestors Criticized For Looting Businesses Without Forming Private Equity Firm First: MINNEAPOLIS—Calling for a more measured way to express opposition to police brutality, critics slammed demonstrators Thursday for recklessly looting businesses without forming a private equity firm first. 'Look, we all have the right to protest, but that doesn't mean you can just rush in and destroy any business without gathering a group of clandestine investors to purchase it at a severely reduced price and slowly bleed it to death,' said Facebook commenter Amy Mulrain, echoing the sentiments of detractors nationwide who blasted the demonstrators for not hiring a consultant group to take stock of a struggling company's assets before plundering. 'I understand that people are angry, but they shouldn't just endanger businesses without even a thought to enriching themselves through leveraged buyouts and across-the-board terminations. It's disgusting to put workers at risk by looting. You do it by chipping away at their health benefits and eventually laying them off. There's a right way and wrong way to do this.' At press time, critics recommended that protestors hold law enforcement accountable by simply purchasing the Minneapolis police department from taxpayers."

Atrios with a "Serious Question: I know some people get annoyed because I criticize the good guys a bit too much. Sometimes I have good explanations for their behavior even if I disagree. But Jared went around the country literally stealing PPE shipments, giving it to his friends, and letting them sell it for a big profit. I bet most of the country is not even aware of this. Why are they not on teevee, or even the twitter, talking about this constantly?"

"Toward Freedom: The Case Against Race Reductionism w/ Touré F. Reed - MR Live - 5/27/20"

RIP: "Larry Kramer, Normal Heart Playwright and AIDS Activist, Dies at 84: Best known for his devastating chronicle of the early days of the AIDS crisis, he also wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for Women in Love. [...] Kramer died Wednesday morning in Manhattan of pneumonia, his husband, architect David Webster, told The New York Times."

RIP: "Singer Bonnie Pointer, of The Pointer Sisters fame, dies aged 69: Singer Bonnie Pointer, best known as a member of the Grammy-winning group The Pointer Sisters, has died at the age of 69, a representative has said. She died on Monday, according to her sister and fellow singer, Anita. No cause of death was revealed. In a statement to the PA news agency, Anita said: 'It is with great sadness that I have to announce to the fans of The Pointer Sisters that my sister, Bonnie died this morning.'"

"Tipping Point: Thomas Piketty's new history of global inequality [...] Capital and Ideology is a different kind of book. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer, it moves from an account of wealth accumulation in the most advanced economies over the last few centuries to a sprawling exploration of inequality worldwide going back to the Middle Ages. In the process, Piketty wades a few steps further into the forbidding waters of politics. Opening with a look at the feudal societies of the premodern era and surveying the development of capitalism and colonialism, he then turns to communism and the heyday of social democracy in a brief study of the post-World War II era before ending with a chapter that outlines a 'participatory socialism for the 21st century.' This was the same set of proposals that he defended against Lordon in January and has been championing in the French press since the book's release last September. In both its ambition and tone, Piketty's socialism is not all that different from the parliamentary socialism of the early 20th century, but it marks a considerable move left for someone whose first forays into politics fell firmly within the mainstream of France's Socialist Party, which by the 1990s had abandoned any pretense of breaking with capitalism. "

This is a long piece, I'm just pulling quotes out at random. "David Graeber on harmful jobs, odious debt, and fascists who believe in global warming [...] Capitalist evangelists always insisted the global financial system was the better, free market version of central planning: like a five year plan, in that it decides how resources will be allocated and invested to optimize future production, basically, to ensure that future people get what they want, to ensure long-term prosperity, happiness, well-being. No it doesn't. [...] I always find it slightly amusing that people always say 'oh my God, we can't get rid of the police, because if we get rid of police, everybody will just start killing each other!' Notice they never say 'I would start killing people.' 'Hmm, no police? I think I'll get a gun and shoot someone.' Everyone assumes someone else will. Actually as an anthropologist I know what happens when police disappear. I even lived in a place in rural Madagascar where the police had, effectively, disappeared some years before I arrived. It made almost no difference whatsoever. Well, property crime did increase, if people were very rich, they sometimes got pilfered. Murder if anything decreased. When police vanish in the middle of a big city, where property differences are much more extremely, burglary increases, definitely, but violent crime is entirely unaffected. But when it comes to organization — well, what we need to ask ourselves is why we think it's necessary to threaten to hit people over the head, or shoot them, or lock them in a dingy room for years, in order to maintain any form of organization. People who think that really don't have much faith in organization, do they?"

"Bernie Lost Because America Doesn't Have a Strong Labor Movement [...] The political Left does not need to be forever frustrated by the process of using campaign speeches to drag a skeptical or disinterested 18% of the public into enlightenment every four years. Elections are not the time to magically instill mass class consciousness; that has to be done between elections. And it will not be done by politicians, no matter how good they are. It can only be done by giving millions of people the firsthand experience of class consciousness in their own lives."

"You Don'T Understand, Or You Do, And In Either Case We're All Dead [...] Look, this isn't a case where you can split the baby (AND THE FUCKING POINT OF THAT STORY IS THAT SOME COMPROMISES CAN'T BE MADE JESUS CHEESY FRIES CHRIST)."

This article is worth reading every word of. "Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop [...] Reading the above, you may be tempted to ask whether cops ever do anything good. And the answer is, sure, sometimes. In fact, most officers I worked with thought they were usually helping the helpless and protecting the safety of innocent people. [...] The question is this: did I need a gun and sweeping police powers to help the average person on the average night? The answer is no. When I was doing my best work as a cop, I was doing mediocre work as a therapist or a social worker. My good deeds were listening to people failed by the system and trying to unite them with any crumbs of resources the structure was currently denying them. [...] What I mainly provided was an 'objective' third party with the authority to document property damage, ask people to chill out or disperse, or counsel people not to beat each other up. A trained counselor or conflict resolution specialist would be ten times more effective than someone with a gun strapped to his hip wondering if anyone would try to kill him when he showed up. There are many models for community safety that can be explored if we get away from the idea that the only way to be safe is to have a man with a M4 rifle prowling your neighborhood ready at a moment's notice to write down your name and birthday after you've been robbed and beaten."

I'm going to link this article, which Biden deserves, even though if I were Joe Biden and some black interviewer asked me if I was going to nominate a black woman as VP and suggested I should do this because the black community would want something from me, I'd have to smack him and say, "Are you telling me that all the black community wants is a token?" Not that Joe Biden would even be able to say it, but seriously? You're talking to a guy whose legislation kept segregation in place, put a bullseye on every young black male who walked down the street, put an extraordinary number of them in prison, made it impossible for them to discharge their debts, and increased the likelihood that their homes would be foreclosed on, and you're telling him that what the black community wants from him is just a token black woman? Really, slap him with a fish. But anyway, "Black Americans are in an abusive relationship with the Democratic party: An offensive comment by the Democratic presidential candidate is a reminder that black people — all people — deserve better than Joe Biden. I am very tired of Joe Biden. My vote for him was already hanging by a thread before his disastrous interview with Charlamagne tha God on Friday. Interrupting the Breakfast Club host's explanation that black people needed assurances that our communities will benefit from his presidency, Biden asserted: 'If you've got a problem figuring out whether you're for me or for Trump, then you ain't black.' Again, I am very tired of Joe Biden. Not because I am a purist, or have inflexible ideological commitments of what it will take to remove Donald Trump from office. But rather because Biden's condescension towards black communities is intolerable." Yes, Biden shouldn't have said it, but really, this is Joe Biden, and even if it weren't, if nominating Stacey or Kamala is all Charlamagne thinks black people need, he is out of his tiny little mind. Do we need to remind people that they had a whole black president and that guy let the banks wipe out black middle-class wealth? Jeez, get a clue, man.

"Touchscreen Voting Machines And The Vanishing Black Votes: Votes from predominantly black precincts have mysteriously vanished from touchscreen voting machines in both Tennessee and Georgia in recent elections. Georgia replaced the touchscreen system it had been using since 2002 with yet another controversial touchscreen system, rejecting the advice of most election security experts, who note that hand-marked paper ballots are less vulnerable to both tampering and error. A political battle is now raging in Shelby County — Tennessee's most populous county — over whether it will follow in Georgia's footsteps or switch to hand-marked paper ballots for the general election in November."

I'm pretty sure I must have linked this at the time, but worth remembering why we don't see the same kind of investigative reporting on the corporatocracy as we do of government. Mark Ames, "Seymour Hersh and the dangers of corporate muckraking," from five years ago.

"There's Nothing Good About Phyllis Schlafly: Mrs. America, the new miniseries about Phyllis Schlafly, doesn't want us to come away with a harsh view of its subject. But we should: Schlafly's right-wing views were consistently monstrous, doing untold damage to the country."

Woody Allen had a new movie out that in the rest of the world was very successful, but it has no American distributor. He's giving interviews. "'Do I really care?' Woody Allen comes out fighting: The 1992 accusation that the film-maker sexually assaulted his young daughter has made him a pariah, yet he was never charged. In this exclusive interview, he explains why he is done with treading carefully. [...] 'It doesn't pay to sue. Do I really want to be tabloid fodder for two years and go to court? And do I really care?' he says. Given that he lays out the allegation and ensuing drama in searing detail in his memoir, I would wager he cares quite a lot these days." Anyone who is really interested in the details should watch By the Way, Woody Allen Is Innocent, a feature-length (longish) documentary that I think makes a convincing case for its title. It's got a lot of interesting points but honestly, it just confirmed what I've felt all along from what I'd seen.

Eleven years ago, Bill Moyers sat down with Harvey J. Kaye and Richard Brookhiser to talk about Thomas Paine, on the 200th anniversary of his death. "Paine's extraordinary life was both glorious and tragic. He was not revered as some of our other founding fathers — and during his lifetime he was often feared and lampooned — and under threat of prison and even death. Harvey J. Kaye, who recently told his story in Thomas Paine and The Promise Of America, notes that Paine has again become currency in political debate because of a revolutionary idea that spread from the colonies to France and around the globe: 'That the common people...that Americans could be citizens and not merely subjects. That people had it within themselves not only to listen to their superiors, but literally to speak to each other and deliberate and govern themselves.'"

I hadn't realized Trina Robbins was that much older than me (and she sure looks different in that photo since the last time I saw her), but there's a nice little profile in a non-genre publication, San Francisco Senior Beat, "'I'll show them:' After a career challenging sexism, pioneer and icon of underground comix for 'wimmin' fends off ageism."

Seriously zoomed-in photo of Orion over Argentine Mountains.

Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Bad Moon Rising"

02:12 GMT comment


Sunday, 24 May 2020

Staring down this broken land

"FBI 'mistakenly reveals Saudi official linked' to 9/11 attackers: Mistake was made in a declaration by an FBI official in response to lawsuit by families of 9/11 victims, report says."

"With Move to Remote Voting, House Alters What It Means for Congress to Meet: The House's vote on Friday to allow lawmakers to work from afar will fundamentally change how Congress operates." This is a welcome turnabout from the games Pelosi has been playing. I'm hoping it's the first step in admitting that we don't have to restrict the number of Reps voters have to how many can fit under the Capitol Dome.

Must-listen: Nomiki Konst's smashing interview with John Nichols about The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party: The Enduring Legacy of Henry Wallace's Anti-Fascist, Anti-Racist Politics, the fascinating history from FDR to the present of a fight that never ends. Along the way, he mentions this 2016 article by the late Ron Dellums about how to fight Trump and what he says is the best Democratic Convention speech ever, by an exciting black politician named Jesse Jackson. (I remember that speech, getting little chills when he said, "but your patch is not big enough.")
Similarly good Nichols interview from Michael Brooks on The Majority Report with more details.

"UnitedHealth Lobbyist Announces Pelosi Fundraiser As She Begins Backing Off Pub Option: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the first time yesterday suggested she may be backing off her support of the public option. According to CNN, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid 'said they would support any provision that increases competition and accessibility for health insurance - whether or not it is the public option favored by most Democrats.' When 'asked if inclusion of a public option was a non-negotiable demand — as her previous statements had indicated Pelosi ruled out any non-negotiable positions,' according to CNN. This was also corroborated by the Associated Press, and by Pelosi's own words, as quoted in those stories. This announcement came just hours before Steve Elmendorf, a registered UnitedHealth lobbyist and the head of UnitedHealth's lobbying firm Elmendorf Strategies, blasted this email invitation throughout Washington, D.C. I just happened to get my hands on a copy of the invitation from a source - check out this OpenLeft exclusive: ..."

The Brownshirts are here. "Michigan Cancels Legislative Session to Avoid Armed Protesters: Michigan closed down its capitol in Lansing on Thursday and canceled its legislative session rather than face the possibility of an armed protest and death threats against Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The gathering, meant to advocate opening the state for business despite the coronavirus pandemic, followed one April 30 that resulted in pictures of protesters clad in military-style gear and carrying long guns crowding the statehouse. They confronted police and taunted lawmakers."

"Why Armed Right Wingers Were Able To Shut Down Michigan's Legislature [...] Let us understand the context: protesters from the left-wing in legislatures are routinely arrested. The charge is generally something like 'disturbing the peace.' Police can always find a way and excuse to clear protesters if they want to. The police have SWAT teams, they can call in the national guard if necessary. They could wait for the next time the armed protesters come and arrest them. There's a chance of violence, of course, but there are ways to do this that protect legislators. This is clearly intimidation of elected officials. It would not be tolerated from the left, but it has not only been tolerated from the right, it has been allowed to succeed. [...] So there are two likely reasons the Michigan legislature gave into violence. One: they think that right wing violence is legitimate. Two, they don't trust the police or national guard to stop right wingers they sympathize with and support."

"Democracy Wins in New York—and Bernie's Back on the Ballot!: Andrew Cuomo and state Democrats should acknowledge their mistake and stop trying to show Trump and the GOP how to call off an election. Last week, the Democratic commissioners of the New York Board of Elections did something unprecedented in election law: They threw legally qualified candidates off the ballot without their assent. Yesterday, a district judge held that what the board had done was unconstitutional and ordered it to reinstate the presidential primary for June 23. Judge Analisa Torres's decision was a lucid, thorough 30-page destruction of the board's argument. It was an especially important decision given that Donald Trump, whose disrespect for the law and desire for power are well established, might use any precedent to justify canceling or closing down elections later this year." I'm sure this was Cuomo trying to depress progressive turnout and allow him to reinstate his awful faux Democrats to put the Republicans back in power. Good on the New York Yang Gang and Sanders delegates for suing.

A longer than usual post from Atrios says, "We'll Know Better Next Time: I don't have the entirety of The Discourse jacked into my head, but I see very little acknowledgement from the people in power, or even people with big microphones, that this is an unfolding disaster that can't be remedied with the equivalent of a few band aids. Things are fucked - short term, long term, structurally - and they can't easily be unfucked. Fixing the Great Recession was easy and "they" failed at that. Fixing this one is hard and even with unimaginable unemployment numbers coming in there doesn't seem to be much urgency. It's been 8 weeks since Mitch McConnell took his 3 day weekend and Democrats pretended to be mad about that. Pelosi won't let the House do anything except vote for bills she hands them 5 minutes before, and we have evidence from minute one that Pelosi and her people are bad and incompetent about what needs to be done. Just a reminder: [See post for embedded Tweet from Drew Hammill.] That's Pelosi's Deputy Chief of Staff. Anyone knew that one way or another trillions were about to go out the door to save THE MARKET (through the Fed, Treasury, etc.) and they were worried about whether Don Jr's $1200 check might be too generous for him."

"Heroes Act Delivers A Win To The Health Insurance Industry: THE HEROES ACT, the new coronavirus relief bill introduced by House Democrats on Tuesday, includes protections for employer-sponsored insurance plans, which the health care industry has been lobbying Congress on for weeks. The proposed legislation includes subsidies for continued coverage for furloughed workers and people using COBRA, a continuing health coverage plan for those who have lost work, even if they don't pay their premiums. The bill also creates avenues for premium assistance for certain categories of people who want to pay those premiums anyway and would open a special insurance enrollment period a week from the date it's enacted into law. It also provides nine months of premium payments to health insurance plan administrators who don't receive them during the ongoing pandemic. The push to protect insurance premiums comes as some health care companies, like UnitedHealth, Humana, and Cigna, have reported profits during the pandemic amid record-high unemployment levels and have boasted that they don't expect to take a financial hit. "

"Dems Nix Anti-Recession Policy After Learning It Would Help Too Many People: The bill has many laudable provisions. But it also suffers from baffling omissions. Chief among them, the absence of any proposal for what we in the wonk business call 'automatic stabilizers.' An automatic stabilizer is (more or less) any fiscal policy that mitigates the severity of an economic downturn without Congress having to take any new action. Medicaid and food stamps are two prime examples: When the economy weakens, the number of people who qualify for public health insurance and food assistance goes up, and spending on those programs automatically increases in response. This helps to (modestly) stabilize household incomes and demand for groceries and medical services. Unemployment benefits serve a similar function."

"A Guide to the Nightmare of Getting Health Insurance in a Pandemic: It's really simple, unless you live in the United States of America. Losing your health insurance when you lose your job is confusing in the best of times and even more so during the coronavirus crisis. In addition to needing to deal with all the inherent complexities of our system, there are now numerous additional economic, political, and health factors that make it very difficult to know what is financially the best choice."

"Democrats Are Now Retreating On A Public Option Amid The Pandemic: An emblematic example of how even in a blue state, health care industry propaganda and lobbying can kill a modest reform at the worst possible time. In theory, a public health emergency like coronavirus should prompt lawmakers to do whatever they can to lower the cost of medical care for millions of people who lose their job-based health insurance. In theory, something like a public insurance option should be eminently achievable particularly in states that are completely controlled by Democrats. But then there is the real world of a democracy that is dominated by corporate interests. In an emblematic turn of events in one blue state, the pandemic is now being cited as the rationale to kill rather than pass a state public health insurance option, after the health care industry spent millions of dollars successfully intimidating the Democratic Party into retreating."

"'The American friends': New court files expose Sheldon Adelson's security team in US spy operation against Julian Assange: An exclusive investigation by The Grayzone reveals new details on the critical role Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands played in an apparent CIA spying operation targeting Julian Assange, and exposes the Sands security staff who helped coordinate the malicious campaign. As the co-founder of a small security consulting firm called UC Global, David Morales spent years slogging through the minor leagues of the private mercenary world. A former Spanish special forces officer, Morales yearned to be the next Erik Prince, the Blackwater founder who leveraged his army-for-hire into high-level political connections across the globe. But by 2016, he had secured just one significant contract, to guard the children of Ecuador's then-President Rafael Correa and his country's embassy in the UK. The London embassy contract proved especially valuable to Morales, however. Inside the diplomatic compound, his men guarded Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, a top target of the US government who had been living in the building since Correa granted him asylum in 2012. It was not long before Morales realized he had a big league opportunity on his hands."

"Time for Progressives to Seize the Means of Production of House Relief Bills: Pelosi's bill proves Democratic leadership won't do what needs to be done. There is no upside to moderation in the face of a disaster. Asking for only half as many fire trucks as necessary to rush to the scene of a fire does not make you a wise leader; it makes you someone who let the house burn down. No matter how many times we are forced to learn this the hard way, the lesson has not sunk in for the leaders of the Democratic Party. [...] As soon as Pelosi's bill was announced, Republicans called it 'dead on arrival.' The Democrats knew this would happen. Their bill is meant to send a message about what needs to be done. Or that is what it should have been. Instead, they have already started negotiating against themselves, before the real negotiations have even begun. This losing dynamic will continue until the progressive faction of the party forces its leaders to be just as ruthless as the Republicans are—not in the interests of donors, but in the interests of the 300 million other Americans. Unfortunately, we are a long, long way from there now. And those 300 million other Americans will continue to suffer in the meantime."

"Andrew Cuomo Uses Budget To Cut Medicaid, Settle Political Scores: The New York governor's response to the COVID-19 pandemic has made him a star, but progressives say the new state budget shows his true colors. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has struck a deal with state lawmakers to enact a budget that cuts billions of dollars a year from the state's Medicaid system and other social programs, and punishes his political enemies in the progressive Working Families Party."

"Federal Judge Calls For McConnell To Be Investigated For Improperly Pressuring Judge To Retire: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) could soon find himself under investigation for improperly pressuring a judge to retire so he could fill the opening with a 37-year-old protégé."

"It's Not a 'Chinese Virus.' The Correct Name Is 'The Capitalism Virus': The novel coronavirus is new, but greed is an ancient disease.

As far as I can tell, the main difference between Trump and Biden is that Trump lies more often, and the reason he lies more often is that he addresses the public more often. He seems to be pretty compulsive about it anyway, his Twitter account is famous and prolific, and I don't even know if Biden has ever had a Twitter account for personal use, or written a single Tweet himself. Biden is not an internet kinda guy, but he has to make campaign speeches and he also used to make speeches on the Senate floor when he was trying to promote one of his odious policies. But he doesn't call in to radio or TV shows, he never had a gig as a TV game show host, he's never bothered to play the celebrity unless you count having to make the occasional campaign appearance. So, though he will lie constantly to promote his agenda, his agenda isn't merely to get elected, but to pass lots of horrible policies — or prevent good ones. Since he's not president, of course, he also isn't getting up and doing daily chats with the press that are covered by every network. Basically, Trump lies more often because he talks more often. "If Trump is a Pathological Liar, What Type of Liar is Biden? When I began researching this piece, I knew that Joe Biden told lies, but my expectation was that I would be able to make a clear distinction between Biden and Trump with respect to the type of liar each is. With the exceptions of the staggering amount of Trump falsehoods, and the fact that Biden has admitted to some of his lies, I can't find much difference between them. Sorry, Blue Team. Biden's well-publicized record of lying should be well-known to those who pull the strings of the Democratic National Committee (DNC)—those who have been orchestrating Biden's nomination. This compels several questions: Is the DNC so stupid so as to not realize what a gift a Biden candidacy is to Trump, who can easily use the facts of Biden's lying to suppress the Blue Team vote? Is it not obvious that many Blue Team voters will stay home rather than vote to replace one liar with another? Or is the DNC and its masters so evil that they really don't mind having Trump win again? So evil that opting for an alternative to Biden who could beat Trump but who is slightly less oligarchy-friendly than Biden was out of the question for them?"

Dday, "Dr. Jekyll, or Mr. Biden? The presidential hopeful has a choice to make: restoring the corporate centrism of the past, or attacking the stunning inequities highlighted by the coronavirus crisis. [...] The longest episode of the first six features presidential historian Jon Meacham, who gave what amounted to a lecture on FDR's leadership. 'American history from 1933 to 2016,' Meacham tells Biden, can be seen as 'a figurative conversation between FDR and Reagan. You were on a field that was marked off by Reagan on one end and FDR on the other.' How a Biden presidency will proceed, and succeed, depends upon his placement on that field. Does he stay on the 50-yard line, splitting the difference between anti-government conservatism and progressive populism, and cutting bipartisan deals? Or does he surge toward the end zone with 'Roosevelt' written on it, transforming the nation through 'bold, persistent experimentation' that fills in all the cracks the coronavirus exposed? A good reporter is supposed to supply a definitive answer. But I've talked to a dozen people inside the campaign and out, those with the ear of the president and those being wooed by his team, and it's too soon to know how this will break. Not even Biden knows yet. Judging by his personal record, you could envision his presidency as another round of triangulating disappointment. Hopes over the campaign's widespread outreach to progressive leaders and adoption of liberal policy planks are tempered by the presence of Larry Summers at economic-policy meetings." Sam Seder talked to David about this article on The Majority Report.

"Democrats Have Abandoned Civil Liberties: The Blue Party's Trump-era Embrace of Authoritarianism Isn't Just Wrong, it's a Fatal Political Mistake [...] The acts at issue are calls Flynn made to Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak on December 29th, 2016 in which he told the Russians not to overreact to sanctions. That's it. The investigation was about to be dropped, but someone got the idea of using electronic surveillance of the calls to leverage a case into existence. In a secrets-laundering maneuver straight out of the Dick Cheney playbook, some bright person first illegally leaked classified details to David Ignatius at the Washington Post, then agents rushed to interview Flynn about the 'news.' [...] Remember George Papadopoulos, whose alleged conversation about 'dirt' on Hillary Clinton with an Australian diplomat created the pretext for the FBI's entire Trump-Russia investigation? We just found out in newly-released testimony by McCabe that the FBI felt as early as the summer of 2016 that the evidence 'didn't particularly indicate' that Papadopoulos was 'interacting with the Russians.' If you're in the media and keeping score, that's about six months before our industry lost its mind and scrambled to make Watergate comparisons over Jim Comey's March, 2017 'bombshell' revelation of the existence of an FBI Trump-Russia investigation. Nobody bothered to wonder if they actually had any evidence. Similarly Chelsea Manning insisted she'd already answered all pertinent questions about Julian Assange, but prosecutors didn't find that answer satisfactory, and threw her in jail for year anyway, only releasing her when she tried to kill herself. She owed $256,000 in fines upon release, not that her many supporters from the Bush days seemed to care much. [...] I can understand not caring about the plight of Michael Flynn, but cases like this have turned erstwhile liberals — people who just a decade ago were marching in the streets over the civil liberties implications of Cheney's War on Terror apparatus — into defenders of the spy state. Politicians and pundits across the last four years have rolled their eyes at attorney-client privilege, the presumption of innocence, the right to face one's accuser, the right to counsel and a host of other issues, regularly denouncing civil rights worries as red-herring excuses for Trumpism."

"The tyranny of the Congressional Budget Office" - People think of the CBO as "non-partisan", but that doesn't mean it isn't ideological, and it certainly doesn't mean they don't actually change their language and way of calculating numbers depending on whether they want to make it look "too big". "To begin, the CBO "scores" legislation by estimating its budget cost over a 10-year window. Right out of the gate this is a misleading way to do things. When thinking about the price of something, logically what one should consider is the qualities of the item relative to one's ability to pay. That requires additional thought in the case of the government, because it has the best credit in the world, and borrows in a currency it can print. For some proposed federal program, therefore, the wise place to start is not the headline figure of required spending, but the size of spending relative to the whole economy. [...] None of this is accidental. The CBO was originally set up in the 1970s by the late Alice Rivlin, a neoliberal deficit scaremonger who got her start as a sort of colonial viceroy over the District of Columbia, imposing austerity by fiat and coring out the city's political sovereignty. She positioned the CBO as a nonpartisan agency that would fairly adjudicate bills from both parties, and while it has produced damaging estimates about Republican bills, its bias is overwhelmingly against big social reforms. She inserted the agency in the center of budget politics as part of an ideological crusade against the national debt and social welfare programs, as David Dayen writes at The American Prospect. She's a person who worked with Paul Ryan on an appalling scheme to privatize Medicare. [...] It's hard to say whether or not Pelosi and company would behave any differently without the CBO — they could just be hiding their austerian preferences behind the agency. But this kind of thinking is going to do stupendous damage to a Democratic presidency if the party wins in November. If stabilizers aren't passed in the next few months, President Biden is going to burn up most of his political capital trying to get additional rounds of aid past Republican congressional obstruction. Democrats really need to stop worrying and learn to love big, beautiful programs."

"New Banksy artwork appears at Southampton hospital" — and he's not the only artist to honor the NHS, as the video below the article shows.

RIP: "Jerry Stiller, star of Seinfeld and father of Ben, dies aged 92," none of which are what I know him for since to me Stiller & Meara were famous long before I ever heard of Ben (or Amy) Stiller or Seinfield. The NYT obit is better.

RIP: "Former NSS president Barbara Smoker dies at 96: The National Secular Society is deeply saddened to report the death of one of its longest-serving presidents, Barbara Smoker, at the age of 96 after a long illness. Barbara was president of the NSS from 1972 to 1996 and a consistently forthright campaigner on issues such as faith schools and religious restrictions on freedom of expression." I think I met her once or twice when her other organization, the Humanist Society, gave Feminists Against Censorship a refuge at Conway Hall for our meetings when pro-censorship groups were trying to ensure that we were denied space.
"Humanists UK mourns Barbara Smoker (1923-2020), prolific activist for humanism, secularism, abortion rights, peace, and the right to die."

RIP: "Phil May, frontman with the Pretty Things, dies aged 75: Singer revered by David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix had complications in hospital following hip surgery. [...] He died in hospital in King's Lynn, Norfolk, from complications following hip surgery after a cycling accident, that are not related to coronavirus. [...] They were revered by artists as diverse as Jimi Hendrix, Aerosmith, the Ramones and Kasabian, and while there were spells of inactivity, the band never split up, enjoying a 55-year career. They played their final concert in 2018, with guest appearances by David Gilmour and Van Morrison."

RIP: "Dave Greenfield: The Stranglers keyboard player dies at 71: The Stranglers keyboard player Dave Greenfield has died at the age of 71 after testing positive for Covid-19. Greenfield died on Sunday having contracted the virus after a prolonged stay in hospital for heart problems. He penned the band's biggest hit, Golden Brown, a song about heroin, which went to number two on the UK singles chart in 1982. The Stranglers bass player Jean-Jacques 'JJ' Burnel paid tribute to Greenfield as a 'musical genius'."

RIP: "Betty Wright, US soul, funk and R&B singer, dies aged 66: Singer with remarkable vocal range had been sampled by generations of hip-hop and R&B artists, including Beyoncé and Mary J Blige" She was 17 when she charted with "Clean Up Woman" in 1971.

RIP: "Little Richard, Founding Father of Rock Who Broke Musical Barriers, Dead at 87: Little Richard, a founding father of rock & roll whose fervent shrieks, flamboyant garb, and joyful, gender-bending persona embodied the spirit and sound of that new art form, died Saturday. He was 87. The musician's son, Danny Jones Penniman, confirmed the pioneer's death to Rolling Stone. The cause of death was bone cancer, the musician's lawyer Bill Sobel told Rolling Stone." There's nothing I can say that you don't already know, so have some essential songs.

I've still been trying to crystallize my thoughts about China, though I admit it's been on the back-burner, even though it's an important element in what's been going on (by which I mean for the last 40 years, not Trump or pandemia). This is a fascinating discussion on the subject between Glenn Greenwald and a China scholar whose name I already can't remember, and with Matt Stoller. Recommended. "System Update with Glenn Greenwald - Is China a Competitor, an Adversary or an Enemy?"

This review of Morris Berman's work is, well, it's hard to argue with Berman's conclusion. "It's All Over but the Shouting [...] Having studied the downfall of other empires, Berman saw the window for American reform closing. He warned that if America did not drastically transform its public policies, ideology, and working conception of citizenship, its troubles would only intensify and calcify, bringing a once-promising civilization past the point of no return. In the two books that followed—Dark Ages America and Why America Failed—Berman meticulously demonstrated that America's myopic focus on profit, at the expense of everything else, its zest for war — at home and abroad — and its lack of self-awareness and insight had escalated, making recovery virtually impossible."

Another review, of Zachery Carter's The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes, "Still in thrall to John Maynard Keynes [...] It is our good fortune, then, that at this most Keynesian of moments, Zachary Carter has produced a spectacular new biography that paints a rich and textured portrait of the great economist and locates his ideas within the broad sweep of economic and intellectual history. [...] Carter's perspective is that of a 21st-century American who sees a parallel between Britain's decline and fall as an economic superpower, starting in 1914, and a similar fall from economic grace that he fears has begun in his own country. In Carter's telling, everything Keynes did as an economist, journalist and public official was motivated by his determination to preserve Britain's place in the global hierarchy. The tragic irony of his remarkable career was that his ideas were rejected before they were belatedly embraced. At the Paris Peace Conference that convened at the end of World War I, Keynes failed to persuade his own delegation, and those of the other Allied powers, not to saddle Germany with reparations so large that they would crush the German economy. Not only would the money never be paid, Keynes warned prophetically, but the punishment would invite social unrest and a nationalist resurgence that could lead to another war. Dejected, he returned to London early and penned 'The Economic Consequences of the Peace' — a 'furious tirade against autocracy, war and weak politicians,' as Carter describes it — which became an instant bestseller and established Keynes as Britain's best-known and most influential economist. In the period between the wars, Keynes could not persuade Britain and other countries to abandon a gold standard that forced too many nations to raise interest rates to protect their currencies, thereby driving their economies into recession. In 'The End of Laissez-Faire,' he laid out the argument that markets were neither self-correcting nor self-sufficient enough to deliver the right balance of economic efficiency, social justice and individual liberty to save capitalism from its own shortcomings and excesses. [...] Frustrated by his attempts to shape policy, Keynes retreated to Cambridge to write his magnum opus, 'The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money,' which laid out a new economic belief system, one that acknowledged the irrationality of economic actors, the imperfection of competition, the inherent instability of finance and the possibility that vigorous pursuit of individual self-interest can result in collective economic failure." The review is laudatory right up to the last two paragraphs which fall apart into completely ahistorical nonsense in defense of neoliberalism.

"The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months: When a group of schoolboys were marooned on an island in 1965, it turned out very differently from William Golding's bestseller, writes Rutger Bregman. [...] 'One day, in 1977, six boys set out from Tonga on a fishing trip ... Caught in a huge storm, the boys were shipwrecked on a deserted island. What do they do, this little tribe? They made a pact never to quarrel.'" The year turns out to be a typo, but the story is really marvelous, and tells a much brighter story than Golding could have imagined.

I really enjoy Matt Taibbi & Katie Halper's Useful Idiots show, and this one has an interesting interview of Aaron Maté about how Russiagate has totally deflated.

"Is Harley Davidson Dying?"

Zoomable map of Medieval trade routes

If Escher had computers

I can't bring myself to make this the Bra of the Week, but in sweaty weather it's a temptation.

Mr. Monk in Quarantine

Chris Whitley, "Living With the Law"

00:35 GMT comment


Sunday, 03 May 2020

We won't be at brunch

This painting by Lily Van Bienen is from the Artists Support Pledge pages

A political party is a weapon. If it's pointed at you, you want to wrest it out of the wielder's hand and get control of it. You have no power to overcome the GOP, but you might be able to get the Democratic Party to aim at them instead of at us. Remember that no matter what happens in November (and right now the polls are a lot better for Biden than they were for Hillary Clinton), there will never be a moment when everyone can just relax, when things will suddenly be good. You gotta know that it's always time to organize, it's always time to fight.

"Biden Sides With Trump, Bolton, and Pompeo in Backing Coup Effort in Venezuela: Democratic frontrunner characterizes effort to overthrow elected government of President Nicolas Maduro at gunpoint just another benign effort to "restore democracy" in Latin America. [...] But what Biden embraced as an effort to "restore democracy," many foreign policy experts—ones not willing to give the benefit of the doubt to people like national security advisor John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and President Donald Trump—called something else entirely: a violent effort by Venezuela's rightwing elites, led by Juan Guaidó, to overthrow the elected government of President Nicolas Maduro."

"Democrats' Big Coronavirus Idea Is to Subsidize Health Insurers: Instead of pushing for public health solutions, Democrats want to cover COBRA premiums. [...] But subsidizing overpriced premiums just sends money directly to private insurers and providers, without eliminating deductibles or copays. It also does nothing to help the millions of people who never had employer-sponsored health insurance in the first place."

"Dems Give Unanimous Consent To Trump: Traumatized a generation ago, party leaders' default setting during a crisis is fear-driven acquiescence. Why do Democrats want to win Congress if they don't want to use power? What is the entire point of Democrats raising money and ginning up activist energy to win control of the U.S. House, if when a crisis hits they just pass whatever Mitch McConnell sends them? Is there anything they'll actually negotiate for? And why won't they flip the script and force McConnell to vote yes or no on their own agenda? [...] McConnell is using the same tactic he's always used -- he rams legislation through the Senate, and then shuts the Senate down, daring the House to reject it. At the same time, Trump airs an ad equating Nancy Pelosi to Marie Antoinette, effectively pressuring her to back down -- which she already has. And so it goes. Pelosi depicts this all not as Democratic weakness or ineptitude, but as some genius game of 5-dimensional chess. She insisted that when it comes to desperately needed aid to states, 'We could relent on some of that because we know this next bill is going to happen very soon.' But McConnell is already laughing at her: the Senate Republican leader who just gave a $500 billion check to Steve Mnuchin to dole out to GOP campaign donors is now suddenly citing the national debt as reason there may be no next bill at all. It doesn't have to be this way."

"Medical Staffing Companies Owned by Rich Investors Cut Doctor Pay and Now Want Bailout Money: Companies that employ emergency room medical personnel, many owned by private equity firms, say they are reeling from vanishing demand for non-coronavirus care. But critics worry that bailout money would be a windfall for rich investors."

This is Yglesias: "Joe Biden's health care plan, explained: It's not Medicare-for-all, but if it happened it would be a big, um, deal. Joe Biden has a health care plan that, while not going nearly as far as 'Medicare for all' in initiating a single big-bang transformation of the American health care system, would nonetheless, if implemented, arguably be the most dramatic piece of new social legislation since the Great Society. [...] But the form of public option described in a fact sheet about the plan that the Biden campaign released to reporters is considerably more ambitious than the public option that was considered — and ultimately rejected — by congressional Democrats during the ACA debate. Not coincidentally, while health care provider groups generally liked Obamacare (more people with health insurance meant more customers), the main industry group that was founded to oppose Medicare-for-all also blasted Biden's proposal Monday morning, saying it would 'ultimately lead our nation down the path of a one-size-fits-all health care system run by Washington.'" Whenever you hear someone use the "one size fits all" line, stop them immediately and ask them what they mean, since we're talking about something where one size really should fit all. This isn't bathing shorts we're talking about; if it's a plan to make sure you don't have to worry about how much money you need to see a doctor and get treated, that fits everyone. Of course, that's not what Biden is proposing, but it's a lot better than Obamacare. "The main difference between Biden's plan and Medicare-for-all is a BidenCare transition that would be more gradual and much less costly in terms of explicit tax increases. That likely makes it more politically palatable (though still almost certainly unrealistic in terms of congressional politics) but also much less likely to deliver some of the simplification and cost containment benefits of Medicare-for-all. All told, however, both Biden and his more progressive rivals are somewhat downplaying exactly how much more left wing than the ACA this idea is — while the industry groups, facing a different set of incentives, are having a more telling reaction." (Bear in mind that the insurance industry will still hate it and still campaign vigorously against it. I have absolutely no reason to believe that a Biden administration would do any of it. It's much more likely that Biden's "olive branch" of lowering the Medicare age to 60 would happen, since the insurance industry would love to take those high-risk over-60s off their rolls.)

And the real Biden is the one who's actually running, and hanging out with none other than the man who caused the financial crisis. "Do You See What Happens, Larry? Biden signs up Larry Summers, after Summers destroyed the world and now wages a campaign against a wealth tax and against worker power. Joe Biden infamously promised his big donors that if elected, 'nothing would fundamentally change' for them. The news that Biden is being advised by Larry Summers suggests the presumptive Democratic nominee is dead serious about fulfilling that campaign promise — which is very bad news. Summers was the architect of major corporate trade policies that ended up offshoring America's manufacturing capacity -- a development that left the United States in the unenviable position of begging China's authoritarian regime to help produce the basic goods we need during the coronavirus emergency. Summers also sculpted Wall Street deregulation and was billed as one of three members of a 'committee to save the world' -- a committee that ended up destroying the world when its bank-coddling policies culminated in the financial crisis. That didn't stop Summers -- he took a lucrative trip through the revolving door into a reportedly part-time job at a hedge fund that netted him $5 million. After that, he went back into government and fought against proposals to protect homeowners and crack down on the financial industry that had destroyed the global economy. He was also terrible on climate change."

The allegations of Joe Biden's sexual assault on a former staffer have finally, just after Sanders suspended his campaign and Biden became the nominee-presumptive, becomes fodder for the news media and a source of further contention on the Democratic side. The hypocrisy alone is sickening, but many people are so committed to the belief that anything is better than Trump that they are happy to play along. Biden's accuser, much like any other victim of sexual assault, is imperfect and leaves just enough room for doubts and smears, but hearing this reprise of all the GOP lines used against Christine Blasey Ford coming from Democrats is too much for some. But, lest anyone get the impression that the charge of being a sexual harasser is sudden and new, it might be worth recalling the shadow Biden cast back in 2008, from right-wing corporate hatchet-man to trespasser on women's personal space: "Biden is a notorious flapjaw. His vanity deludes him into believing that every word that drops from his mouth is minted in the golden currency of Pericles. Vanity is the most conspicuous characteristic of US Senators en bloc, nourished by deferential acolytes and often expressed in loutish sexual advances to staffers, interns and the like. On more than one occasion CounterPunch's editors have listened to vivid accounts by the recipient of just such advances, this staffer of another senator being accosted by Biden in the well of the senate in the weeks immediately following his first wife's fatal car accident."

"Black Caucus seeks to squash liberal insurgents: The Congressional Black Caucus is defending 4th-term Rep. Joyce Beatty against a progressive challenger, Morgan Harper, in Tuesday's Ohio primary. Senior black Democrats are mounting an aggressive defense of Rep. Joyce Beatty in Tuesday's delayed Ohio primary, hoping to quash not only her left-wing primary challenger but the liberal insurgents gunning for a number of their colleagues. Leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus have framed the fight as greater than just defeating Beatty's opponent, Morgan Harper, a well-funded attorney backed by the progressive group Justice Democrats. They are eager to show they can smack down any primary challengers nationwide who conspire against senior members of color who have spent decades fighting to the top.

Taibbi, "Why Did Democrats Nominate Donna Shalala to the Bailout Oversight Panel?: With the Congressional Oversight Committee, Democrats had a rare opportunity to reverse public perception about the party's closeness to Wall Street. Instead, they punted again [...] Late the next day, Pelosi announced her choice: Donna Shalala, Florida congresswoman and former Health and Human Services Secretary under Bill Clinton. Phones buzzed. WTF? I heard a variety of confused exclamations over Shalala's appointment this weekend, ranging from 'baffling' to 'curious' to 'fucking absurd.' The popular choice among lobbyists and staffers was financial services and oversight committee member Katie Porter (D-CA), who had actually sought the job. If it was not to be Porter, it was assumed the choice would be someone with expertise in banking, derivatives, or financial investigation. 'You have to really know your shit to have a chance at doing anything here,' is how it was put to me." But Shalala doesn't. In fact, Shalala has some serious conflicts of interest in her resumé."With the massive Trump tax breaks of two years ago and now a CARES Act rescue package that appears designed to repeat the 2008 pattern of saving the economy by hurling money indiscriminately at Wall Street, Democrats had an opening to turn the tables. The COC could have been a prime perch to lament the use of public treasure to rescue the financial markets at the expense of main street. Thus putting a big-name Clinton apparatchik with millions invested in the very financial markets that stand to rise from bailout programs seems like a major unforced error, to put it mildly. Even if Democrats just wanted to ineffectually complain about the unequal distribution of bailout funds, they'll have a harder time doing even that now, with a millionaire BlackRock customer leading the minority review team. It's a weird, bad look. Again."

"After Revelations of Improper Stock Sales by Rep. Shalala, Groups Demand Pelosi's Pick for Bailout Oversight Step Down: "Not understanding disclosure is a pretty bad look for the member of Congress chosen to force disclosure out of the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve on its lending programs." Progressive groups on Wednesday demanded House Democratic leadership pressure Rep. Donna Shalala to step down from a committee on oversight of the appropriation of billions of dollars in coronavirus stimulus funds after it was revealed Saturday by journalist David Dayen that the Florida Democrat failed to follow the law on disclosing stock transactions in 2019."

David Dayen has been doing regular updates on the multiple scandals surrounding (or embedded in?) the Covid crisis, like this one: "Unsanitized: Why Relief for Mortgage and Student Loan Borrowers Must Be Automatic: Also, Donna Shalala admits to breaking the law, and the Democrats' sad strategy. This is The COVID-19 Daily Report for April 22, 2020. [...] . If Joe Biden knows your program is bad, it's bad. But he's blaming the Trump administration, not Congress, where the blame belongs."

"Billionaire-Backed Human Rights Watch Lobbies for Lethal US Sanctions on Leftist Govts as Covid Rages: Human Rights Watch, the leading so-called rights organization in the United States, has actively lobbied for Washington to impose suffocating sanctions on leftist governments in Latin America. The group has even praised the Donald Trump administration for ramping up its aggressively destabilizing regime-change measures. NGOs like Human Rights Watch (HRW) depict targeted sanctions as a more palatable alternative to military action, although these measures are widely recognized by international legal experts to be a form of economic warfare that have led to the deaths of many thousands of civilians, destroyed the livelihoods of countless people, and devastated entire nations' economies. As the coronavirus pandemic spread across the globe, HRW operatives took credit for new sanctions the Trump administration had imposed on Nicaragua's democratically elected leftist government. Among those cheering on the escalation of economic warfare was HRW Australia development and outreach manager Stephanie McLennan, who chirped that the fresh round of sanctions were 'great news!'"

"Yes, Section 215 Expired. Now What?: On March 15, 2020, Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act—a surveillance law with a rich history of government overreach and abuse—expired. Along with two other PATRIOT Act provisions, Section 215 lapsed after lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on a broader set of reforms to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). In the week before the law expired, the House of Representatives passed the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act, without committee markup or floor amendments, which would have extended Section 215 for three more years, along with some modest reforms. In order for any bill to become law, the House and Senate must pass an identical bill, and the President must sign it. That didn't happen with the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act. Instead, knowing the vote to proceed with the House's bill in the Senate without debating amendments was going to fail, Senator McConnell brought a bill to the floor that would extend all the expiring provisions for another 77 days, without any reforms at all. Senator McConnell's extension passed the Senate without debate. But the House of Representatives left town without passing Senator McConnell's bill, at least until May 12, 2020, and possibly longer. That means that Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, along with the so-called lone wolf and the roving wiretap provisions have expired, at least for a few weeks."

"Labour antisemitism investigation will not be sent to equality commission: A report found factional hostility towards Jeremy Corbyn amongst former senior officials contributed to 'a litany of mistakes'." The internal investigation shows that anti-Corbyn forces within Labour deliberately sabotaged not just Corbyn, but the election.

CEPR, "The Washington Post's Debt Cult: The Washington Post is always telling us that debt, especially government debt is bad, very bad. It's not quite sure why or how, but debt is definitely bad. We got the latest confused entry from the Post's debt cult today, warning us about some 'tipping point' that we are at risk of passing. The notion of a tipping point on government debt had its shining hour when a paper by Harvard professors Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff purported to show that when a country's debt-to-GDP ratio crossed 90 percent, it led to sharply slower growth. While this paper was used to justify austerity in countries around the world, it turned out that the result was driven by an Excel spreadsheet error, as shown in a paper by University of Massachusetts economists Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash, and Robert Pollin. When the error was corrected, the data showed no 90 percent tipping point."

So, how bad is election fraud from the machines, really?

"How a Trump media dump mainstreamed Chinese lab coronavirus conspiracy theory: A conspiracy theory about Covid-19 escaping from the Wuhan Institute of Virology is the Trump administration's Iraqi WMD. And the Washington Post's Josh Rogin is playing the role of Judith Miller." Proving once again that there is not much distance between Fox News and "the liberal media".

More reasons to end the existence of billionaires: "Gates' Globalist Vaccine Agenda: A Win-Win for Pharma and Mandatory Vaccination: Vaccines, for Bill Gates, are a strategic philanthropy that feed his many vaccine-related businesses (including Microsoft's ambition to control a global vaccination ID enterprise) and give him dictatorial control of global health policy. Gates' obsession with vaccines seems to be fueled by a conviction to save the world with technology. Promising his share of $450 million of $1.2 billion to eradicate polio, Gates took control of India's National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI), which mandated up to 50 doses (Table 1) of polio vaccines through overlapping immunization programs to children before the age of five. Indian doctors blame the Gates campaign for a devastating non-polio acute flaccid paralysis (NPAFP) epidemic that paralyzed 490,000 children beyond expected rates between 2000 and 2017. In 2017, the Indian government dialed back Gates' vaccine regimen and asked Gates and his vaccine policies to leave India. NPAFP rates dropped precipitously. [...] In 2010, when Gates committed $10 billion to the WHO, he said 'We must make this the decade of vaccines.' A month later, Gates said in a TED Talk that new vaccines 'could reduce population.' And, four years later, in 2014, Kenya's Catholic Doctors Association accused the WHO of chemically sterilizing millions of unwilling Kenyan women with a 'tetanus' vaccine campaign. Independent labs found a sterility formula in every vaccine tested. After denying the charges, WHO finally admitted it had been developing the sterility vaccines for over a decade. Similar accusations came from Tanzania, Nicaragua, Mexico, and the Philippines. A 2017 study (Morgensen et.Al.2017) showed that WHO's popular DTP is killing more African than the disease it pretends to prevent. Vaccinated girls suffered 10x the death rate of unvaccinated children. Gates and the WHO refused to recall the lethal vaccine which WHO forces upon millions of African children annually. Global public health advocates around the world accuse Gates of — hijacking WHO's agenda away from the projects that are proven to curb infectious diseases; clean water, hygiene, nutrition and economic development."

Jeremy Scahill on "The Moral and Strategic Calculus of Voting for Joe Biden to Defeat Trump — or Not [...] The public still does not know the full story of how Mike Pence ended up on the ticket as Trump's running mate, but when it was announced, it was clear that the professional Republicans and the extremist evangelical lobby had their inside man. With Mitch McConnell running the Senate and Pence babysitting the president, Trump could focus on barking for the crowds in between golf outings and Twitter rants while the political hitmen in Washington dust off every extreme right-wing initiative they've cooked up for decades and which they work day and night to methodically ram through. Trump has had his signature moments, but much of his policy has been outsourced to craftier and more sophisticated policymakers. [...] Donald Trump's presidency is not an aberration of U.S. history in substance. His rise to power and the policies he has implemented are, in many ways, the logical product of the U.S. as a failed state, politically and functionally. Trump says the quiet parts about the system out loud, but his agenda is firmly rooted in the bloody history of this republic. And his rise was made possible by the failed two-party system and the corporate dominance of electoral politics in the U.S. Also, let's not pretend that congressional Democrats have not enabled Trump by regularly voting for his obscene military budgets and sweeping surveillance powers while simultaneously calling him the most dangerous president in history. What would happen if Trump wins the election in November? In practical terms, it would be a nightmare. Trump would emerge emboldened beyond imagination. What minuscule restraints that currently exist would be wiped out entirely. [...] There is an abundance of justification to oppose a Biden presidency. And principled people are right to ring loud alarms over Biden's record, policies, and some of his personal conduct. At the same time, it is not honest to imply there would be no difference between a Biden and Trump administration."

"Anti-Corbyn Labour officials worked to lose general election to oust leader, leaked dossier finds: Call for investigation into 'possible misuse of funds' by senior officials on party's right wing Labour party officials opposed to Jeremy Corbyn worked to lose the 2017 general election in the hope that a bad result would trigger a leadership contest to oust him, a dossier drawn up by the party suggests. A huge cache of leaked WhatsApp messages and emails show senior officials from the party's right wing, who worked at its HQ, became despondent as Labour climbed in the polls during the election campaign despite their efforts."

"Editorial: Red Light Rationality [...] What this boils down to: crimes that are punishable by fine are legal for the rich." My main problem with this is her scale. I think a $200 fine is a hell of a lot for a minimum wage worker, and $2,000 is not even noticeable to Jeff Bezos.

Anis Shivani at Naked Capitalism, "#DemExit Now: How the Democratic Party Cheated Bernie Sanders Out of the Nomination [...] The Democratic party would much rather see Trump reelected by nominating a flawed neoliberal candidate with as much baggage and who is as associated with the recent Clinton failure as is Biden. Think about it: the party we're supposed to get behind actually prefers fascism over the mildest concessions to social democracy, in order that the entire power structure might persist unchanged. For the sake of denying the slightest help to poor, debt-burdened, sick and unemployed people, this party would rather have untrammeled white nationalism, immigrants in concentration camps, and accelerated income inequality, as though we could sustain any more of it than we already have."

At Afflict the Comfortable, "Older and Wiser, and Vote-Shaming [...] And then, I just saw this, 'an open letter from the old left to the new left,' and it's deeply saddening. This missive, lecturing and condescending, came from alumni of the Students for a Democratic Society and other partisans of the 'New Left.' (See Staughton Lynd and C. Wright Mills on the New Left). Without going into exhaustive detail, SDS was one of the most important organizations of the tumultuous 1960s, dedicated to bringing a 'participatory democracy' to the U.S., not a contrived political system in which simply voting for elite-chosen candidates was one's only civic role. And the New Left was a large and amorphous description for scholars and radicals who took on the Capitalist state and, most importantly for us here, developed the idea of Corporate Liberalism."

Sirota's post-mortem, "The Tyranny of Decorum: A look back on the 2020 primary: If you've read the autopsies of the Bernie 2020 campaign in the New York Times, the Huffington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Politico, Buzzfeed or CNN, you've probably read a version of a story that goes something like this: pollster Ben Tulchin, co-chair Nina Turner and I were fire-breathing monsters aggressively pushing Bernie to 'attack' Joe Biden, Bernie refused to do it, and that's why Bernie lost. There are some nuggets of truth in here, but there's also some fiction — and so it is worth separating the facts from the fantasy, in order to understand a huge-but-little-discussed problem plaguing the Democratic Party that I call the tyranny of decorum. "

"Moderate Democrats Suggest Working with Coronavirus to Find Common Ground [...] 'It's our priority to find a solution everyone is happy with,' revealed Sen. Chuck Schumer. 'Nancy [Pelosi] and I have been meeting with the Coronavirus to try to work out a plan that both saves lives and kills people. We can't afford to be partisan or idealistic, and we have to be willing to make concessions. If that means giving up everything we want, so be it.'"

I don't really have a pullquote from Atrios' "Robot Chicken Frightener," but I never tire of his critiques of the punditry, especially Tom Friedman.

Fun with maps: Why is the Mercator map so top-heavy? Contrast and compare! "Mercator Misconceptions: Clever Map Shows the True Size of Countries"

History, from Rick Pearlstein in 2013, "Right and Left in Democratic Politics: The Long View: The party has always harbored conservatives and sell-outs to big business and pro-austerity boosters. The point is not to deny them, but to beat them."

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Dolly Parton Was Secretly a Producer." Who knew?

RIP: I don't know how I missed this, but I guess being deluged with really horrible stuff all year may be a distraction. I just don't know how nothing I was reading told me, "'We Lost A Giant': Remembering Former Black Panther Party Member Bruce A. Dixon, Co-Founder Of The Black Agenda Report," According to The Florida Courier, "Black Agenda Report (BAR) managing editor Bruce A. Dixon, a lifelong and unapologetically Black community activist, died June 28 as a consequence of a multiple myeloma, a rare blood-borne cancer. He was 68." So very sorry to learn this.

I'd never heard of this comic but someone sent me the link and drew my attention to the third image down in the middle column and it made me laugh.

Rolling Stone video, "Roger Waters: RS Interview Special Edition: We spoke with Pink Floyd founder, stadium-filling solo artist, and activist Roger Waters about Donald Trump and COVID19, his postponed tour, John Prine, a failed Pink Floyd peace meeting, and aging artists on tour."

Great little APOD video of the night sky Around the World at Night, and also a neat photo of the new comet Swan.

"At-Home Gala: Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin: The Met Orchestra, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, performs the Prelude to Act III of Wagner's Lohengrin in a video assembled from individual takes and shown during the April 25, 2020, At-Home Gala. Edited by Pete Scalzitti." (I think this means the playing was simultaneous, but each person had one recording of themselves and they had to be patched together into a single video.)

Quarantined stuntmen

Teaser for HBO's Perry Mason

Approach Saturn from Cassini.

Explore Pharaoh Ramesses Tomb.

Temptations, "Get Ready"

00:07 GMT comment


Friday, 10 April 2020

But they turned us out and they closed the doors

Bernie suspended his campaign. He went on TV and congratulated Biden. When the media showed the clip of him doing so, they portrayed it as a virtual attack on Biden. The Onion, of course, had the honest headline: "'I Congratulate Joe Biden, A Very Decent Man,' Says Bernie Sanders In Unprovoked Attack On Democratic Party Unity."

"Bernie Sanders Was Right: Goodbye to an honest man's campaign. Bernie Sanders has ended his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, which is a tragedy, because he was right about virtually everything. He was right from the very beginning, when he advocated a total overhaul of the American health care system in the 1970s. He remains right now, as a pandemic stresses the meager resources of millions of citizens to their breaking point, and possibly to their death. He was right when he seemed to be the only alarmist in a political climate of complacency. He is right now that he's the only politician unsurprised to see drug companies profiteering from a lethal plague with Congress's help. In politics, as in life, being right isn't necessarily rewarded. But at least there's some dignity in it."

"Nomiki Konst: Breaking: Where do we go now that Bernie is out?" — Organize, of course.

You can check delegate counts for the Democratic primaries on this page. Biden is roughly 300 ahead, and needs about 700 more, with 1,719 still available and half the electorate still waiting to vote. Sanders says his name will remain on the ballots in all the states that haven't voted and he still wants to collect delegates for leverage with the party.

"'Why the Unnecessary 6?': Medicare for All Advocates Warn Biden That Lowering Age to 60 Solves Nothing: 'These policies are what I would expect from Republicans. This is not a 'big overture' by any stretch of the imagination.' Progressives on Thursday were quick to call foul after it was reported that Joe Biden, now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, put forth a pair of policy proposals—one lowering the Medicare age to 60 and the other a student debt relief program—purportedly designed to win over supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders who instead saw the plans as woefully insufficient." Lowering it to 60? As a trade-off for Medicare for All? And this is his charm offensive to Sanders supporters? Is this a joke?

Elie Mystal, "SCOTUS Just Set the Stage for Republicans to Steal the Election: In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court blocked Wisconsin from extending the absentee voting deadline, disenfranchising thousands and creating a terrible precedent." To add insult to injury, the number of polling stations in Milwaukee had been reduced from 180 to five.

"By a 5-4 Vote, SCOTUS Lets Wisconsin Throw Out Tens of Thousands of Ballots: The conservative majority just approved one of the most brazen acts of voter suppression in modern times. [...] The court will nullify the votes of citizens who mailed in their ballots late—not because they forgot, but because they did not receive ballots until after Election Day due to the coronavirus pandemic. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in dissent, the court's order 'will result in massive disenfranchisement.' The conservative majority claimed that its decision would help protect 'the integrity of the election process.' In reality, it calls into question the legitimacy of the election itself."

"Cuomo Calls New State Budget 'Robust,' Progressives Call It 'Republican Austerity Warfare' [...] In fact, the $177 billion budget dilutes major criminal justice reforms passed last year and abandons legalizing marijuana, gives the executive branch extraordinary authority to slash funding for municipalities without raising any taxes on the wealthy, enacts substantial cuts to Medicaid, and creates a public campaign financing system that threatens the survival of third parties in New York—including the one that is most critical of Governor Cuomo. For years, advocates for government transparency have criticized the secretive way that New York's budget has been created: the governor creates a framework, and he and the two legislative leaders hash it out, often cramming in consequential legislation that has little to do with state finances without allowing for any real public debate. 'It's worthy of Vladimir Putin and the Saudi government,' one lawmaker told us last year."

"Cuomo Helped Get New York Into This Mess: The governor's position on health care spending looked starkly different a couple of months ago. As the novel coronavirus rages in New York, killing more than a thousand and locking down millions, Governor Andrew Cuomo has emerged as the hero of the moment. On television, he is everything Donald Trump is not: calm, coherent, and blunt, in a strangely reassuring way. He is becoming a #resistance hero. Some people are (literally) falling in love with him. But the same Cuomo who is racing to expand New York's hospital capacity and crying out for more federal resources is quietly trying to slash Medicaid funding in the state, enraging doctors and nurses, and elected officials of his own party. The same Cuomo who holds press briefings at a major New York City convention center, now the home of a temporary 1,000-bed hospital, presided over a decade of hospital closures and consolidations, prioritizing cost savings over keeping popular health care institutions open. It's the same Democratic governor—every liberal pundit's tried-and-true Trump antidote—who is doing damage to his state's health care system at the worst possible moment, in the eyes of the critics who follow him most closely."

Lyta Gold in Current Affairs, "Stop Trying To Make Andrew Cuomo Happen. You don't want him as president. You don't really want him as governor either." With a handy and detailed list of reasons why.

"The Truth About Governor Andrew Cuomo: Nomiki dusts off her old notes on Andrew Cuomo, who she reported on and organized against for years. Turns out, when the cameras are off, he does a lot of bad things for working people and protects a lot of corporate interests and wealthy people."

Famous economist Duncan Black says we need to pass this or we are doomed: "Priorities for the Next Coronavirus Relief Package" from Bernie Sanders.

"Republicans Are Using the Covid-19 Crisis to Kill Abortion Rights: GOP governors have begun banning abortion during the Covid-19 crisis, creating a precedent that might be too cruel for conservative judges to pass up. [...] Within the last few weeks, the governors of Texas, Ohio, Iowa, and Alabama—Republicans all—have taken advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to issue orders further restricting the rights of women. Their excuse? Abortions are 'elective' medical procedures and therefore have to be put on hold alongside all the other elective procedures that are being suspended during the crisis. As if a woman's right to her body is akin to getting a nose job."

"North Carolina Republican operative charged in election fraud scheme: (Reuters) - The North Carolina Republican political operative at the center of an absentee ballot fraud scheme that led the state to order a rerun of a congressional election was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice on Wednesday, officials said. The operative, Leslie McCrae Dowless, was charged with three felony counts of obstruction of justice, two counts of conspiring to commit obstruction of justice and two counts of possession of absentee ballots, according to court documents. Allegations that operatives working for Dowless illegally collected, and sometimes filled in, absentee ballots on behalf of Republican Mark Harris' campaign emerged shortly after the Nov. 6 election. They caused the state to hold off certifying Harris' apparent narrow victory over Democrat Dan McCready."

"The Far-Right Helped Create The World's Most Powerful Facial Recognition Technology: Clearview AI, which has alarmed privacy experts, hired several far-right employees, a HuffPost investigation found. [...] Even if you've never heard of Clearview, you likely have an online presence — maybe a friend or a relative has posted a photo of you to Facebook — which means you're probably in its database. Clearview's CEO and co-founder, Cam-Hoan Ton-That, and his associates chose to mass-violate social media policies against scraping accounts to build an image warehouse of unprecedented size, as several outlets have noted recently. What hasn't been reported, however, is even scarier: Exclusive documents obtained by HuffPost reveal that Ton-That, as well as several people who have done work for the company, have deep, longstanding ties to far-right extremists. Some members of this alt-right cabal went on to work for Ton-That."

The Financial Times practically endorsed Bernie without mentioning his name in "Virus lays bare the frailty of the social contract [...] Radical reforms — reversing the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades — will need to be put on the table. Governments will have to accept a more active role in the economy. They must see public services as investments rather than liabilities, and look for ways to make labour markets less insecure. Redistribution will again be on the agenda; the privileges of the elderly and wealthy in question. Policies until recently considered eccentric, such as basic income and wealth taxes, will have to be in the mix."

"It's Time for Democrats to Go Big—Really Big [...] The worst-kept secret in Washington is that there is plenty of money to help working people. All we need is the political will to deliver it to them. Whatever this bill costs, the price of failing to meet this moment will be larger in every respect, from human suffering to the long-term economic costs of cratering consumer demand in an economy reliant on it, than the up-front cost of relief." Yes, we need — and can afford — those FDR policies that Bernie has been talking about. But this article fails at the end by saying Democrats must level with the public about how we got here. The trouble is that they can't, because they have been part of the problem. Sure, Trump's particular response in this particular moment has been not merely atrocious but criminal, but the thing is, even if Hillary Clinton had won, we would still be unprepared for a disaster like this, and it was Democrats who truly led the way.

Jon Schwarz, "The Democratic Party Must Harness the Legitimate Rage of Americans. Otherwise, the Right Will Use It With Horrifying Results.: THE POLITICAL POSSIBILITIES of this moment are different than anything we have ever experienced. We possess a once in a lifetime opportunity to make the United States a more humane country. But if we fail to seize it, we will face mortal danger from the right. That's not hyperbole. The anger of Americans, once they figure out what's being done to them right now, is going to be volcanic. The fallout from 9/11 and the great recession of 2007-2010 will be imperceptible in comparison. Not long from now, almost everyone will have a family member or friend who died of Covid-19, many of them suffocating in isolation wards with insufficient treatment, perhaps deprived of a ventilator that would have saved their lives. Huge swaths of the country are plummeting into desperate penury, even as they witness large corporations unlock the U.S. Treasury and help themselves to everything inside. [...] What we know from history is that someone always shows up to harvest this level of ambient rage — but it can go in two directions. If people can be made 'angry at the crime,' as Steinbeck wrote, there can be huge positive political changes. During the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt and unions organized the anger and used it to create the New Deal and the largest middle class in history. In unluckier countries, like Germany, Italy and Japan, the political left failed. The fury was organized by fascists, and directed at innocents."

Mindy Isser in Jacobin, "Workers Are More Valuable Than CEOs: The coronavirus pandemic has revealed a simple fact: it's low-wage workers that make our society run — not bankers, landlords, or CEOs. [...] But what does it say about our country when the jobs that are most critical to sustaining life at its basic level are also some of the lowest paid and least valued? Grocery store workers and first responders are exposing themselves to a massive health crisis in order to keep the rest of us functioning as normally as possible. Many of them work for minimum wage or close to it — and without health benefits — meaning that they could contract coronavirus and get stuck with either a massive bill or no health care at all. Meanwhile, with many school districts closed indefinitely, parents are missing the critical and challenging work done every day by nannies, childcare workers, and educators of all kinds. These workers have a right to higher wages, full benefits, health and safety guarantees, and strong unions — just like every other worker."

"What Everyone's Getting Wrong About the Toilet Paper Shortage" — If everyone is home, they aren't using toilet paper at work, in restaurants, wherever. They are using it at home, and it's not even the same kind of toilet paper. The shelves are emptying because people actually need more consumer toilet paper rather than the crummy industrial stuff you find in giant rolls in restaurants or at work.

"Reality Has Endorsed Bernie Sanders [...] Thus far, the Trump Administration has predictably bungled the response to the coronavirus. But the Democratic Party's response has been hampered by its shared hostility to unleashing the power of the state, through the advance of vast universal programs, to attend to an unprecedented, devolving catastrophe. About half of American workers receive health insurance through their employer. As job losses mount, millions of workers will lose their insurance while the public-health crisis surges. In the last Democratic debate, former Vice-President Joe Biden insisted that the U.S. doesn't need single-payer health care because the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy proved that it doesn't work. Strangely, he simultaneously insisted that all testing and treatment of the virus should be free because we are in crisis. This insistence that health care should only be free in an emergency reveals a profound ignorance about the ways that preventive medicine can mitigate the harshest effects of an acute infection. By mid-February, a Chinese government study of that country's coronavirus-related deaths found that those with preëxisting conditions accounted for at least a third of all covid-19 fatalities."

"76 Percent Of Democrats Say They'd Vote For A Socialist For President, New Poll Shows: Just over three-quarters of Democratic voters said that they would vote to elect a socialist president, according to poll results from Gallup released Tuesday. The poll, conducted between January 16 and 29, asked respondents whether they identified as Republican, Democrat or independent and questioned them about their willingness to vote for candidates with "diverse characteristics." "Between now and the 2020 political conventions, there will be discussion about the qualifications of presidential candidates—their education, age, religion, race and so on," read the poll question, according to Gallup. "If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be [characteristic], would you vote for that person?" 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."

"Adolph Reed Jr.: Here They Come Again-The Kind of Neoliberal Democrats Who Prefer Trump to Sanders: I wrote the essay in disgust after Bill Clinton concluded his and other New Democrats' deal with the devil by signing the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act—welfare reform—that ended the federal government's sixty-year commitment to direct income provision for the indigent. That emphatically punctuated Clinton's bulldozing of the left in Democratic politics and ushered in the bipartisan neoliberal regime under which we've lived ever since. Welfare 'deform,' as many characterized it at the time, was a culmination of the year that began with Clinton using his State of the Union address to declare that 'The era of big government is over.' As New Labour neoliberal Tony Blair was, by her own account, Margaret Thatcher's greatest achievement, Bill Clinton consolidated Reaganism as hegemonic in American politics, defined the neoliberal regime of upward redistribution and repression of the poor as the unchallengeable horizon of political aspiration. The essay comes to mind at this moment because so many liberal Democrats now in their dismissals and attacks regarding Bernie Sanders' campaign for the party's presidential nomination seem to be rehearsing the kind of smug, self-righteous, and backward arguments they made then about why it was necessary to sacrifice poor people—ultimately variants of a contention that commitment to egalitarian principles is naïve."

More reasons why anyone who advocates for anything like a "public-private partnership" should be shunned and driven out of town, "Taxpayers Paid Millions To Design A Low-Cost Ventilator For A Pandemic," but for some reason we just don't have them. "Five years ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tried to plug a crucial hole in its preparations for a global pandemic, signing a $13.8 million contract with a Pennsylvania manufacturer to create a low-cost, portable, easy-to-use ventilator that could be stockpiled for emergencies. This past September, with the design of the new Trilogy Evo Universal finally cleared by the Food and Drug Administration, HHS ordered 10,000 of the ventilators for the Strategic National Stockpile at a cost of $3,280 each. But as the pandemic continues to spread across the globe, there is still not a single Trilogy Evo Universal in the stockpile. Instead, last summer, soon after the FDA's approval, the Pennsylvania company that designed the device — a subsidiary of the Dutch appliance and technology giant Royal Philips N.V. — began selling two higher-priced commercial versions of the same ventilator around the world. [...] 'That's the problem of leaving any kind of disaster preparedness up to the market and market forces — it will never work,' said Dr. John Hick, an emergency medicine specialist in Minnesota who has advised HHS on pandemic preparedness since 2002. 'The market is not going to give priority to a relatively no-frills but dependable ventilator that's not expensive.'"

"If you imagine that a local business making surgical face masks is working 24/7, guess again: An owner at the North Texas plant is frustrated that his dire warnings went unheeded. [...] The story of Bowen's unhappiness is a cautionary tale about what can happen if Americans searching for cheaper prices send entire industries offshore to countries like Mexico and China. Everything Bowen has warned about has come true. He warned that allowing another country to serve as our main supplier of personal protection equipment has the potential to become a national security nightmare."

"Gavin Newsom Declares California a 'Nation-State': The state is at odds with the federal government over coronavirus plans and much else. California this week declared its independence from the federal government's feeble efforts to fight Covid-19 — and perhaps from a bit more. The consequences for the fight against the pandemic are almost certainly positive. The implications for the brewing civil war between Trumpism and America's budding 21st-century majority, embodied by California's multiracial liberal electorate, are less clear. Speaking on MSNBC, Governor Gavin Newsom said that he would use the bulk purchasing power of California 'as a nation-state' to acquire the hospital supplies that the federal government has failed to provide. If all goes according to plan, Newsom said, California might even 'export some of those supplies to states in need.'"

"Man In Center Of Political Spectrum Under Impression He Less Obnoxious: MT. VERNON, OH—Loudly explaining to anyone within earshot that both the left and right were ruining the level of discourse in this country, Jesse Levin, a man firmly in the center of the political spectrum, is under the impression that he is less obnoxious than those with more partisan viewpoints, sources reported Friday. 'We're never going to get anywhere in this country if you lunatics keep foaming at the mouth about some one-sided fantasyland,' said Levin, 32, who despite characterizing those who do not stand precisely equidistant between two ideological extremes as 'raving fanatics' and repeatedly interrupting people before they can fully explain their 'nutjob' beliefs, reportedly seems to think he is, in fact, much more civil. 'If you idiots stopped throwing temper tantrums every time some little thing doesn't pass your precious purity test and came back down to the real, complicated world with the rest of us, we'd all be a lot better off.' At press time, Levin was butting in on a lively social media debate to tell two total strangers that they were 'everything that's wrong with this country.'"

Matt Taibbi is developing an independent media site. "Announcement to Readers: I'm Moving: Substack is now my full-time job." Matt says he wants to do a lot more actual reporting and get outside of the current media tendency toward reporting from partisan points of view. He wants to go back to covering financial reports as well as campaign coverage that steps away from the ordained narratives of mass media. It will be interesting to see if he can make it work.

"Bill Gates's Philanthropic Giving Is a Racket: Bill Gates recently resigned from the board of Microsoft to focus full time on philanthropy. It's a perfect time to remember: billionaire-funded philanthropy is a public-relations scam. [...] But Bill Gates and his foundation are the perfect picture of why this model of billionaire philanthropy is so flawed. Gates's foundation was originally cooked up as a feel-good gloss to cover up his shredded reputation during Microsoft's antitrust trial, putting him in the long tradition of obscenely rich people using the occasional generous gift to try justifying their enormous wealth and power. [...] The business press has observed how 'Twenty years ago, people associated the name Gates with 'ruthless, predatory' monopolistic conduct.' However, 'after taking a public relations beating during [the Microsoft antitrust] trial's early going in late 1998, the company started what was described at the time as a 'charm offensive' aimed at improving its image .?.?. Mr. Gates contributed $20.3 billion, or 71 percent of his total contributions to the foundation .?.?. during the 18 months between the start of the trial and the verdict.' A wealth manager frankly states, 'his philanthropy has helped 'rebrand' his name.' Indeed, philanthropy by the very richest men and women globally is one of the main arguments their defenders have — sure, Gates and other billionaires make a lot of money, but then they use it to help us. So generous! And look, he's smarter than our racist TV president! But often it's a fig leaf for ruling-class dominance."

Glennzilla: "Nonvoters Are Not Privileged. They Are Disproportionately Lower-Income, Non-White and Dissatisfied With The Two Parties.: NOT EVEN TWENTY-FOUR HOURS have elapsed since Bernie Sanders announced that he was suspending his presidential run, and already a shaming campaign has been launched against those who are contemplating abstaining from voting due to dissatisfaction with the two major-party candidates. The premise invoked for this tactic is that only those who are sufficiently 'privileged' have the luxury of choosing not to vote — meaning that nonvoters are rich and white and thus largely immune from the harmful consequences of a Trump presidency, which largely fall on the backs of poorer and non-white Americans."

"Elite Media Dismiss Voter Suppression on Grounds That It's 'Complicated': Some voters—disproportionately black and brown ones—waited in line for several hours on Super Tuesday to cast their ballots in the Democratic primary, and media paid attention. But their love for a good visual doesn't always correspond with a love for connecting the dots, and so most of the coverage downplayed any suggestion that there might be voter suppression going on in 2020."

Ian Welsh, "It's Biden's World [...] Joe Biden was there every step of the way, creating a world in which young people live in poverty, poor black (and white) men are in prison, and in which the rich get richer and everyone else scrambles to even keep up. By any rational consideration, Biden is a bad man. Evil, even. Let us move briefly to Sanders. Bernie's key planks were Medicare-for-all and student debt forgiveness, with a large climate change plan. There are now great cries that Sanders supporters should support and vote for Biden. People supported Sanders so ferociously because his policies meant they could actually have health care they could use (Medicare-for-all) and might be able to not spend decades in debt, and thus start families and maybe even own a home. In other words, Sanders policies would make them more likely to NOT DIE and to be able to live a decent life. Biden's policies do not do that. Period. So when you see upset Sanders supporters, understand that they're angry that people who voted Biden don't seem to care if they die or live in poverty."

RIP: "Bill Withers, influential soul singer behind Ain't No Sunshine, dies aged 81: Bill Withers, the influential US soul singer who wrote Lean on Me, Ain't No Sunshine and Lovely Day has died aged 81 of heart complications, according to a statement from his family. Withers wrote and recorded several other major hits including Use Me and Just the Two of Us, before retiring in the mid-1980s and staying out of the public eye." And here's a nice live version of "Lean on Me" with Stevie Wonder and John Legend.

RIP: "John Prine, One of America's Greatest Songwriters, Dead at 73: Grammy-winning singer who combined literary genius with a common touch succumbs to coronavirus complications."

"Jane McAlevey: We Desperately Need a Mass Strike Against the Billionaire Class [...] If it's Trump, it's war. Any union left having a residual concern about what it means to strike if Trump becomes the president again needs to be taken out to the woodshed. He's already taken us back to the 1960s in terms of the progress we've made. There's going to be nothing left of the country if unions don't unleash the biggest firepower in the history of the universe against a second Trump administration. If it's Biden, unions would have to fight like hell to get anything."

Historical document from 2018"The Egregious Lie Americans Tell Themselves [...] There's a verbal tic particular to a certain kind of response to a certain kind of story about the thinness and desperation of American society; about the person who died of preventable illness or the Kickstarter campaign to help another who can't afford cancer treatment even with 'good' insurance; about the plight of the homeless or the lack of resources for the rural poor; about underpaid teachers spending thousands of dollars of their own money for the most basic classroom supplies; about train derailments, the ruination of the New York subway system and the decrepit states of our airports and ports of entry. 'I can't believe in the richest country in the world. ...' This is the expression of incredulity and dismay that precedes some story about the fundamental impoverishment of American life, the fact that the lived, built geography of existence here is so frequently wanting, that the most basic social amenities are at once grossly overpriced and terribly underwhelming, that normal people (most especially the poor and working class) must navigate labyrinths of bureaucracy for the simplest public services, about our extraordinary social and political paralysis in the face of problems whose solutions seem to any reasonable person self-evident and relatively straightforward."

Time for one of my favorite quotes from Tony Benn, "Every generation must fight the same battles again and again and again.."

Historical document from 2017, "Forclosed: Destruction of Black Wealth During the Obama Presidency" by Ryan Cooper & Matt Bruenig.

Before 2016, I only ever saw articles like this one about Republican candidates, because it was a Republican dirty trick.

Viral art: "Street Artists Take On Coronavirus Pandemic With Powerful, Poignant And Witty Pieces

Sandford police Dalek keeps people in their homes

"Town Hall Live! From the Archives: Legendary Ladies of the Screen - Bette Davis (2/11/73)"

I accidentally clicked on this picture and it took me a minute to realize I recognized those faces. The odd thing was who I recognized first.

James Mcmurtry, "We Can't Make It Here Anymore"

23:51 GMT comment


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,